Vincebus Eruptum

Blue Cheer

Mercury, 1968

http://www.bluecheer.us

REVIEW BY: David Bowling

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/02/2009

Blue Cheer was named after a pure strand of LSD.

Dickey Peterson (bass and vocals), Leigh Stephens (guitar), and Paul Whaley (drums) were average musicians and fair songwriters, but they had a vision that would lead to a far different type of rock music than was already being produced in the late 1960’s. They were a quintessential power trio that helped set the foundation for the development of heavy metal music.

Blue Cheer advertised themselves as the loudest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world and history notes that their sound reached near sonic levels. Each instrument had a bank of twenty speakers. They were one of the few groups that Billy Graham banned from ever playing the Fillmore West.

Vincebus Eruptum was their debut album released in 1968. It featured extensive feedback, overbearing guitar, and a sound that was a combination of hard rock and psychedelic. The album struck a resonant chord with the record-buying public as it reached number fourteen on the American album charts. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The classic Eddie Cochran tune “Summertime Blues,” became Blue Cheer’s best-known song and only hit, reaching number eleven on the singles charts. It features a fuzzy guitar sound with a lot of reverb set against a pulsing bass and thundering drums. The sloppy production only served to enhance the track. While it may seem dated today,in 1968 it was groundbreaking.

Blue Cheer always sounded better covering other artist’s material. On “Rock Me Baby,” originally a B.B. King tune, Dickie Peterson’s vocal remained true to the original blues interpretation and runs counterpoint to the guitar lines. Leigh Stephens was not a blues guitarist and certainly not of the caliber of B.B. King; he did know loud and louder, though, and so churns through the song in an interesting, if not technically adept, manner. The old blues song “Parchment Farm,” written by Mose Allison, is moved over to a heavy rock ‘n’ roll sound and becomes a successful interpretation.

Blue Cheer was more hit-or-miss with their three original songs. “Doctor Please” features frenetic drumming but the guitar playing is ponderous. Stephens could produce a heavy guitar sound but never developed a clean technical style. “Out Of Focus” features impassioned vocals and some excellent bass playing by Peterson. Stephens improvises some tasty guitar licks but at times has difficulty returning to the basic melody. “Second Time Around” comes with typical drum and guitar solos and is the best of the Peterson compositions.

Vincebus Eruptum marked the zenith for Blue Cheer. A revolving door of band members and a move toward a more commercial sound pushed the group into the background of the public’s consciousness, and they broke up in 1971. Peterson and Whaley reformed Blue Cheer in 1983 and tour extensively in Europe and released a number of new albums. They continue to tour sporadically to this day.

The Blue Cheer legacy is rooted in their first album. Vincebus Eruptum preceded such groups as Black Sabbath by two years. The song structures, especially on the original tunes, may have been inferior and the playing sloppy; nevertheless, the musical vision was ahead of its time and is their ultimate contribution to rock ‘n’ roll. While their sound is dated now, it is still listenable and historically interesting. So put on the earphones and turn the stereo up really, really loud.

Rating: B+

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Dickie Peterson died on October 12,2009, from Cancer.








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