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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blue Cheer - The Original Human Being (1970 us, terrific hard psych classic rock, 2007 japan and 2017 japan SHM remasters)

The Original Human Being opens with the driving "Good Times Are So Hard to Find," a West Coast version of the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man" that generously lifts from that classic Jimmy Miller/Steve Winwood/Spencer Davis composition. Founding member Dickie Petersen is augmented by horns, of all things, on the blues-pop "Love of a Woman." Blue Cheer sounding like Traffic and Tower of Power in two fell swoops is not what the menacing cover photo would indicate. Indeed, you can't tell a book by its cover. Logically, Blue Cheer should have taught Black Sabbath a thing or two, but the band heads more in the direction of Ozzie's Magic Lantern with its singsong hit "Shame Shame" than the grunge of guitarist Tony Iommi. Titles like "Preacher" and "Black Sun" may be better suited for Sabbath, but for fans of this ultra-cult band from the '60s, 

The Original Human Being is a vast improvement over the band's third outing, New! Improved! Blue Cheer. Keyboard player Ralph Kellogg's "Make Me Laugh" sounds strained in the vocal department, but the band has its act together and the song works. Blue Cheer is so "on" that everything works here, including the instrumental and sole songwriting contribution by drummer/sitar player Norman Mayell. It is the sleeper surprise on this disc. How many listeners wanted to like George Harrison's "The Inner Light"? "Babaji (Twilight Raga" is the blending of Ravi Shankar with pop that the Beatles sought but never found. Hidden here, the last track on side one of a Blue Cheer disc, is that magic formula. Really creative and fun stuff. "Pilot," the first of guitarist Gary Yoder's five co-writes with G.R. Grelecki, is innovative, cosmic, intellectual -- just well-threaded rock ‘n’ roll. 

Blue Cheer was not adverse to changing membership on a frequent basis and trying different formats. If the lyrics on "Pilot" are deficient, the music is distinct and original...truly "the original human being." Close to 46 minutes of music is a healthy 20-plus minutes per side, and where side one of New! Improved! Blue Cheer fell flat, just two discs later we find this album full of revelations. Of course, Petersen is the only holdover from the first two albums to appear on The Original Human Being, which says a lot about the experimentation of lineups. Blue Cheer was a musical version of a baseball team with players coming and going. Still, the groove of "Preacher" has sax weaving in and out, pre-Roxy Music and just as entertaining and enlightening. 

The production by Gary Yoder, Eric Albronda, and Norman Mayell is really fine. "Tears By My Bed" could be the Band, showing a complete shift in Peterson's musical accomplices, crafting a series of albums worthy of study. The Original Human Being and Oh Pleasant Hope are the culmination of serious efforts by Dickie Peterson. The folksy guitar riff coupled with Yoder's harp on "Man on the Run" makes for real '60s period-piece paranoia, perfect for an episode of Route 66 or The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This album is also a good argument for modern rock radio adding classic songs that never got airplay the first time around. "Man on the Run" is everything so-called "modern rock" bands aspire to be. Two more Yoder/Grelecki compositions, the funky/sensual "Sandwich" and "Rest at Ease," conclude this excellent portion of San Francisco rock, "Rest at Ease" with a descending fadeout that shows the band at the peak of its powers. 
by Joe Viglione

1. Good Times Are So Hard To Find (Kent Housman, Norman Mayell) - 3:24
2. Love Of A Woman (Dickie Peterson) - 4:35
3. Make Me Laugh (Ralph Burns Kellogg) - 5:06
4. Pilot (Gary R. Grelecki, Gary Yoder) - 4:48
5. Babaji (Twilight Raga) (Norman Mayell) - 3:45
6. Preacher (Gary R. Grelecki, Gary Yoder) - 4:04
7. Black Sun (Gary R. Grelecki, Gary Yoder) - 3:32
8. Tears In My Bed (Ralph Burns Kellogg) - 2:06
9. Man On The Run (Dickie Peterson) - 3:58
10.Sandwich (Gary R. Grelecki, Gary Yoder) - 5:05
11.Rest At Ease (Gary R. Grelecki, Gary Yoder) - 5:35

The Blue Cheer
*Dickie Peterson – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Gary Lee Yoder – Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals, Harp, Vocals
*Ralph Burns Kellogg – Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Bass
*Norman Mayell – Guitar, Percussion, Sitar, Drums
*Bruce Stephens - Guitar
*Jack May - Guitar
*Doug Kilmer - Bass
*William Truckaway - Synthesizer
*Martion Fierro - Saxophone
*Frank Morin - Saxophone
*Mel Martin - Saxophone
*Bill Atwood - Trumpet
*Pat O'Hara - Trombone

1968  Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum (2007 Japan remaster)
1968  Blue Cheer - OutsideInside (2012 edition)
1969  Blue Cheer - Blue Cheer (Japan 2007 remaster and expanded)
1969  Blue Cheer - New Improved! (2007 japan remaster)
1971  Blue Cheer - Oh! Pleasant Hope (Japan 2007 remaster)
Related Act
1967 Mint Tatoo - Mint Tatoo

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