On paper it probably seemed like a good idea. For the 40th anniversary of Blue Oyster Cult’s breakout album Agents of Fortune, recreate the album by playing all the tracks in front of a live audience. That concept came to fruition with the performance and recording on April 18, 2016 at Red Studios in Hollywood. What could be more exciting than that?
Unfortunately, sometimes great ideas don’t translate into great finished products. The biggest problem with this album is that with the exception of two songs, there is no crowd reaction audible. No cheering, no applause. One song ends in silence, and the next one starts. In addition, there is absolutely no commentary from the stage. No announcement of the upcoming song, no thanking the audience, nothing at all. The result is that the album sounds very dry and mechanical, as if it was recorded live in a studio with no one present except the engineer behind the glass.
The major claim to fame for Agents of Fortune is that is spawned the legendary (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, easily the band’s best-known tune. It’s been played a zillion times on classic rock radio stations, and Saturday Night Live’s parody of the song is legendary. However, there are other great songs on the record that never unfortunately approached that popularity. The Revenge of Vera Gemini, which featured vocals from Patti Smith and Sinful Love are two other standout tracks that have aged very well.
Anyone who is curious as to why Agents of Fortune was so successful should download a copy of the original studio album and indulge in the rich songwriting, musicianship and production. However, unless one is a hardcore fan of the band, this live re-creation will be of little interest other than a curiosity piece.