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Had “Summertime Blues” not gone Top 15 in the spring of 1968, Blue Cheer might not have had the opportunity to unleash their expression over numerous albums through multiple personnel changes. Vincebus Eruptum sports a serious silver/off-purple cover wrapped around the punk-metal fury. Leigh Stephens is nowhere near Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, or Jimmy Page, the skill of a Yardbird is replaced by a thud of bass/drums/low-end guitar. Vocalist Dickie Peterson takes almost six minutes on Mose Allison’s “Parchment Farm” to talk about shooting his arm, shooting his wife, picking cotton, and having sex. Definitely more risqué than Grand Funk Railroad’s “T.N.U.C.,” Abe “Voco” Kesh’s production is almost nonexistent. They certainly influenced the way Grand Funk would take the power trio; you can hear in Peterson’s voice that tonal quality Mark Farner had to employ as well to get the lyrics over the morass of sound. It’s interesting that the Velvet Underground’s classic White Light/White Heat took this attitude up a notch at this exact point in time, going into the studio and unleashing “Sister Ray,” the almost 20-minute scream that was the result of Lou Reed’s shock treatment therapy as a teen. Both bands were influenced heavily by drugs, heroin appearing to be the culprit, and while “Second Time Around,” which closes this album, came in from the West Coast, the Velvet Underground blasted with even higher intensity from the East. Also interesting is that “Doctor Please” on Vincebus Eruptum doesn’t have the crunch West/Bruce and Laing would insert into their own “The Doctor” four years later on Why Dontcha. That power trio showed off their chops while Blue Cheer was looking for their chops on this record. Vincebus Eruptum is a dark power trio recording with punk attitude exploring blues through heavy metal. That a later version of the band would go on to produce “I’m the Light,” a spacy cosmic anthem as delicate as Grand Funk’s “Closer to Home,” says a lot about the musical journey initiated by Vincebus Eruptum. The album is an underappreciated classic with “Rock Me Baby” leaning more toward Ten Years After than Steppenwolf, without Alvin Lee’s technical expertise. Guitar that quivers and roars with a heavy dependence on rhythm à la the Who, Blue Cheer knows that attitude is as important as musicianship in rock, and they exploit that virtue for all it is worth here.

There’s a swagger and aggression to Blue Cheer’s power blues that can be traced through the decades of heavy metal and the post-metal mutations of hard music. The second of only two Blue Cheer recordings featuring the classic lineup of Leigh Stephens on guitar, Dickie Peterson on bass and lead vocals, and Paul Whaley playing drums, Outsideinside, along with its predecessor, Vincebus Eruptum, ranks among the most underappreciated hard rock collections ever. Blue Cheer’s second, more refined offering stands as a testament to the power-for-its-own-sake mentality that helped forge ’70s hard rock out of the blues, psychedelia, and energetic rock & roll. Whaley’s hyper drumming sounds almost punk during a frantic rework of the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” and the instrumental “Magnolia Caboose Babyfinger.” This was quite an accomplishment considering that Outsideinside was released a full year before either the Stooges’ debut or MC5’s Kick Out the Jams. Stephens’ fuzzed-out guitar solos shift and weave through each of Outsideinside’s nine tracks, but the guitars work best as rhythmic support of Peterson’s vocals on the standout tracks “Just a Little Bit” and “Come and Get It.” Unfortunately, Blue Cheer simply did not possess the virtuosity to fight through the record’s more ambitious moments; when the San Francisco trio tries to cop Hendrix in “Sun Cycle,” the music sputters and loses focus. In true metal tradition, critics have generally ignored Blue Cheer’s vast musical influence except for the most derivative of bands. Meanwhile, artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Mudhoney, and the Melvins have consistently covered the group both live and in the studio. Anyone interested in the history of hard music will want to familiarize themselves with this exceptional, innovative release.

-Joe Viglione, Vincent Jeffries, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
VINCEBUS ERUPTUM (1967)
OUTSIDEINSIDE (1968)
320kbps

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