Blue Öyster Cult – Imaginos (Review)

Imaginos LP Cover
Imaginos LP Cover

[Unused Stephen King intro to the album]

BÖC ended their tenure on Columbia with the ambitious concept album, Imaginos. It’s easily one of BÖC’s heaviest efforts in all senses but there were still enough keyboards, reverbed drums and glassy clean guitars to ensure it fit in with the musical trends of the mid-80s. In typical BÖC fashion, however, they added their own eerie and psychedelic quality to the mix. If you ever have a nightmare about the 80s it could easily sound like this!

The album had a long gestation and is really a combination of two projects. It started out in 1981 as the solo project of fired original member, Albert Bouchard. This project was rejected and later reworked as a Blue Öyster Cult project. Even though some of the original BÖC members were no longer in the band, the convoluted saga of the album’s making meant that all original members appear on it, giving the album the illusion of being a reunion effort. There are also many guest musicians and vocalists as a result of its long gestation.

Imaginos CD Cover
Imaginos CD Cover

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that the album sounds so focussed. Del Rio’s Song has hooks to die for and serves as light relief amidst all the mystery and darkness. The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle at Wisseria is explosively dramatic with superb guest vocalist Joey Cerisano channeling Chris Cornell. The album’s concept comes from poems written in the 60s by the band’s mentor and manager Sandy Pearlman. These ideas have featured in many songs throughout BÖC albums and some of this older material appears here in reworked form (including an upbeat, galloping take on the classic Astronomy).

Although the production does seem over-produced compared to the sparser sound of their classic albums, the lavish sound does suit the theatrical concept and feels like an updated version of the band’s dark, arcane style to me. The use of lyrics and music from previous eras also creates the sense of this album as the definitive statement of BÖC’s career and mythology. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the band’s worst seller for the label and would be their swansong as a Columbia act. They wouldn’t release another studio album for 10 years. It’s a real shame because this album is creative, bold and uncompromising: a secret treat for anyone wanting to check out overlooked gems from the 80s.


[Blue Öyster Cult – The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle at Wisseria]

18 thoughts on “Blue Öyster Cult – Imaginos (Review)”

  1. This is a great write-up. Your passion for the album is obvious. Sadly, I’ve not heard much BOC beyond the obvious hits. They really are a band to which I should probably pay a whole lot more attention! I really liked the track you posted.


    1. Thank you so much! It’s a cool album and I’d imagine it’s lack of “success” was more due to the band’s low stock at the time/lack of label support/image etc… It is a bit of a controversial one though, not all BÖC fans dig it. Including the esteemed Martin Popoff! But what does he know? He isn’t the Heavy Metal Overlord!

      They are a band that are best explored beyond the hits. A lot of very creative, varied stuff in amongst the deep cuts. A real album band.


  2. Thanks for this, i really enjoyed reading it. Not a band I’ve had a chance to explore properly yet, I’ve only got their 1st LP – which of theirs would you suggest for a novice?


  3. Missed this – I love this album – and you are spot on about how the album came about. I saw them at Hammersmith Odeon on this tour too.
    It’s their best album of the ’80s, and I think their best since Agents of Fortune..Agree about the production – a bit of a product of its time.
    Nice write up – cheers


    1. Thank you! It’s a great album and that must have been a great gig. It’s definitely one of my favourites of theirs and, on the subject of the production, there was a remixed reissue of it released recently but I’ve not heard it yet.


      1. I’ll have to check that out. I shall also look out for a vinyl copy. I had it on Cassette and it had a long story written in it – looks like the vinyl copy does too.
        The only thing stopping me buying Humble Pie is the knowledge you can pick it up for less than a fiver at most record fairs!


      2. I’d really like a vinyl copy of Humble Pie. I occasionally see cheap copies but never in the kind of condition I’d like. The Imaginos on vinyl was a good find, never seen it since. It does have the story on the sleeve but I’d be lying if I said it made any sense whatsoever haha.


      3. Yes – it was pretty jumbled from memory – like that Kings X “story” on Gretchen Goes To Nebraska”.
        I did look up the Wikipedia page for Imaginos once and it gives a bit of an outline of what it’s all about. It’s all bonkers stuff, however.


  4. Ideally, this is the album that BOC should have recorded/released in 1979 instead of ‘Mirrors’ – considering all the material for it was written by and some of it even demoed in ’77 during the recording of ‘Spectres’ – but certainly without a doubt, it absolutely SHOULD have been the follow-up to ‘Fire of Unknown Origin’… recorded with all five original Cult members, tracks sequenced properly, and released as a full double album as intended, ‘Imaginos’ would undoubtedly have been BOC’s magnum opus… regardless of it’s subsequent commercial performance upon release.
    It boggles the mind to me that only Albert Bouchard wanted to do this album, whilst the rest of the band were disinterested at best and hostile at worst to the very concept, instead thinking that firing their drummer/principal songwriter and going all AOR was a better career move… and look at how that worked out for them!!!
    It’s still a hell of an album… even in it’s compromised state.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ya know, today’s post reminded me that I never came back here to give you credit for my having sought out Imaginos some years back. I have grown to share your enthusiasm for it 100 percent. As I had detoured off the BÖC track after The Revölution by Night, it also sent me forward to Heaven Forbid, which I think is a bit of a hidden gem. Haven’t dared seek out Club Ninja yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got Club Ninja but haven’t listened to yet! Don’t have Heaven Forbid but it’s reissued next month so looking forward to that.

      That’s awesome I got you into Imaginos. Its definitely another hidden gem of theirs.


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