Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Concept Albums: Imaginos

Released in 1988, Imaginos was the last album released by Blue Oyster Cult on CBS, the label that had been their home since their first release in 1972. But, despite the prominence of their name of the album cover, it's pretty easy to argue that Imaginos is a Blue Oyster Cult album in name only.

The story is fairly complicated and extremely plot heavy when compared to other narrative concept albums. Voodoo, European explorers, invisible gods and Lovecraftian fish cults linger at the fringes of a tale that surrounds "an actor in history," a man created by divine (or alien) forces to help shape the destiny of humanity. The punchline to his lifetime(s) of service is World War I, which begins after Imaginos captures a black mirror from a Mayan pyramid and brings it back to England where it slowly poison the dreams of Europe.

And, just in case you had no trouble following the story, the songs are all sequenced out of order to create a "random access myth." Any brain tumors you develop from trying to crack this story are your own problem.

That's the story presented on the album. The story behind the album is kind of unpleasant, too.

The members of Blue Oyster Cult are glorified guest stars on Imaginos. The basic tracks had been recorded by Albert Bouchard, BOC's original drummer (and primary songwriter,) for a possible solo album in the early '80s. Bouchard was kicked out of the band after the release of Fire of Unknown Origin in 1981 but continued to work on the solo project. When it became clear that CBS had no intention of releasing the album with Bouchard's vocals, they suggested he and Blue Oyster Cult reconcile and release the album together.

A few members of BOC recorded overdubs, mostly vocals on many (though not all) of the songs, as well as some new guitar tracks. Additional lead guitars were provided by a number of outside hands, including Robbie Kreiger of The Doors and Joe Satriani, who earned studio time to record Surfing with the Alien by cleaning up tracks for Imaginos. There were so many guitarists present on this album that they are credited under the banner of "The Guitar Orchestra of the State of Imaginos."

The new Bouchard/BOC partnership was brief. In the end Bouchard lost his solo album, Blue Oyster Cult ended their relationship with CBS and they all parted ways for good.

There's a great deal more to this story, some of which can be found on Wikipedia. There's more that might fall under the heading of "gossip" but those stories shouldn't be hard to find if you know which message boards to haunt.

Meanwhile, Albert Bouchard's Imaginos demos leaked onto the Internet a few years ago and they're worth checking out. Included are a few tracks that didn't make the final album, such as the marvelous (and Springsteen-esque) song The Girl That Love Made Blind. It's the closest thing you will ever hear to a Blue Oyster Cult Christmas song.

Track listing:
01 I Am the One You Warned Me Of
02 Imaginos
03 Gil Blanco County
04 Del Rio's Song
05 Blue Oyster Cult
06 Les Invisibles
07 The Girl That Love Made Blind
08 The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria
09 In The Presence of Another World
10 Blue Oyster Cult (reprise)
11 Astronomy 1984
12 Magna of Illusion
13 Magna of Illusion Chorale

You can download the demo album from Megaupload here.


  1. I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no way *anything* can be marvelous AND Springsteen-esque at the same time. They are entirely mutually exclusive, because the vortex of suck created by Bruce's cliché-ridden, cheap macho-mythologizing, leaden, simplistic three-chord lowest common denominator pap is way too potent to let anything good, let alone marvelous, escape.

  2. It's not a Springsteen knock-off in the Bon Jovi sense. In fact, I might even be imagining the similarities, because they're vague at best.

    That being said, I like Springsteen's early work, pre-Born in the USA. I used to live in the same town as him, so I'm culturally obliged to :)

  3. I would have thought your stint in Europe would have freed you from that obligation. ;)


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