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REPLAY

3 Cheers For Blue Cheer

March 08, 1987|TERRY ATKINSON and FO

This feature spotlights noteworthy reissues and compilations. Band: Blue Cheer.

Album: "Louder Than God: The Best of Blue Cheer" (Rhino).

History: Weird, obnoxious, loud as in L-O-U-D!!! and utterly despised by all but a cult of fans long before it was hip, cool or chic to be despised, obnoxious, etc., this San Francisco trio fired the gun that set heavy metal running--and helped set a sonic standard for future punk, too. Not that Blue Cheer gets much credit--most rock critics and many fans would still put Blue Cheer on a list of the worst rock bands ever. Pure slander, folks. Named after a "brand" of LSD and beginning as a six-piece blues band in 1966, the group trimmed down to bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens and drummer Paul Whaley by '67 and released a hit debut album, "Vincebus Eruptum," in February of '68. If the crude music wasn't enough to make all good people hate 'em, the group's reputation for taking drugs, hanging out with biker gangs and throwing equipment at the end of gigs would have done it. The chaos spilled over into rehearsals, and after a second LP, "Outside/Inside," Stephens split. Subsequent albums, with varying personnel, were a far cry (or whimper) from the first two--though Peterson and Whaley have put together a new Blue Cheer in recent years based on the original approach.

Sound: Sound? You want sound? As in rock noise? Here it is: clumsy but compelling freak-out guitar, gloriously maniacal drumming and Peterson's controversial singing--which cracked too easily but had a strong, raspy center. The cuts on this compilation are well-chosen, emphasizing the first two albums. From the debut: "Summertime Blues" (almost as great, in its daring way, as the Cochran and Who versions), "Out of Focus" with its memorable opening guitar figure, and that incredible, racing-headlong mess they made of Mose Allison's "Parchment Farm." From "Outside/Inside": one dismissable instrumental and four wonderfully strange blues/rock/power-whatsitz including "Come and Get It," a mini-masterpiece that co-compiler Jeff Dahlby in his excellent notes calls the first speed-metal song. The remaining four tracks come from two subsequent albums and only show how the group abandoned its intense form for--could it be?--folky flower-psychedelia. Still dumb, but no fun.

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