Review Summary: Far from BOC at their best but, on reflection, Mirrors has hidden depths.
Throughout the early 1970's Blue Oyster Cult's star was on the rise. Their fanbase grew and grew until by '76 they were an arena act. The band had also enjoyed some critical acclaim and with their hit single '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' exposing them to the mainstream both domestically and abroad and a huge success with their 1978 live album 'Some Enchanted Evening' the band looked poised to hit even higher levels of popularity.
Almost as if they wanted to strike when the proverbial iron was hot the band did away with long time producer and collaborator Sandy Pearlman, brought in Tom Werman and set their sights on the charts. The result was 1979's 'Mirrors'. Gone was the loose and slightly dark, sinister feel of previous releases and in came a pure glossy AOR sound. It didn't quite have the desired effect. The album received poor reviews and more crucially the fans felt let down by a band who had seemingly tried to sell out to the mainstream. Stick the record on and you can see why. Opener 'Dr.Music' is not only one of the group's weaker efforts but is probably one of the cheesiest rock songs ever recorded. Furthermore, if you skip the next song and go straight into the title track you may be forgiven for thinking that the band were doing their utmost to lose any credibility they had built up over the preceding decade. The album also contains one of the most hated BOC songs of all in the guise of 'You're Not The One (I Was Looking For)' - which I actually like in a 'so cheesy it's good' sort of way.
There is a lot to dislike about this album. There are some embarrassingly awful moments and the production is far too lightweight. Indeed, the band must have realised they needed someone with a rather heavier pedigree in future as they employed Martin Birch for subsequent production duties.
But, as is the case with a lot of BOC albums, there is hidden gold. 'The Vigil', in my humble opinion, is one of the best things ever recorded by the band. A small acoustic intro gives way to Buck's gorgeous Gibson lead tone and leads us into one of the classic BOC riffs - chugging, dark and infectious. This carries us through the first couple of minutes until it morphs into a memorable lead motif and a catchy bridging chorus. Suddenly Roeser interposes a lovely descending arpeggio acoustic riff and then, over trademark BOC chanting we are treated to a spine-tingling emotional lead break and then back into the main riff.
To my ears this song is almost definitive BOC and demonstrates how effective Roeser's contributions can be when his melodic sensibilities are kept within the framework of the band and not allowed to totally dominate as on their more commercial songs.
'The Great Sun Jester', one of several collaborations with Michael Moorcock over the years and based upon his 'Fireclown' character, is a beautiful song which builds and builds from an acoustic ballad into a driving pop/rock mini-epic. Buck's lead playing on here is wonderful with his gorgeous liquid tone permeating throughout the second half of the song weaving in and out of the vocals.
'In Thee' is obviously an outright commercial effort and was released as a (rather unsuccessful) single. Having said that it is a really infectious little song with some nice acoustic guitar and some playful soloing from Buck with an almost country twang. His playing is quite reminiscent of his earlier days where he used to show his country music influences more readily (though of course always in that quirky sort of BOC fashion).
'Lonely Teardrops' finds the band almost slipping into dance music. The chorus especially sounds much like some of the stuff one might have heard in the discotheques up and down the USA at the time. A neat little solo from Roeser on here saves it from mediocrity.
'I Am The Storm' is a generic BOC mid-tempo rocker and wouldn't sound out of place on one of their later albums.
So, all in all, a very inconsistent album and no-where near being a definitive release. But when were BOC ever consistent ? ..... and when did they ever make a definitive album ?
Maybe 'Secret Treaties' or 'Fire of Unknown Origin' came close but there is always something not quite complete about their albums.....too many fillers, musical experiments that went horribly wrong or some Spinal Tap worthy lyrics to cringe at. Some of the failures have been musical catastrophes. But to me the charm of the band has always been that for every huge failure there is a huge success.The lows do plumb the depths but the highs are so very high.
For every 'Cagey Cretins' there was always a 'Dominance and Submission'.
For every 'Hungry Boys' there was always a 'Black Blade'
And for every 'Dr.Music' there was always a 'Vigil'.
Give me BOC and their quirky, inconsistent and off-the-wall approach any day with all its warts in preference to the masses of consistently 'quite good' bands that have been remarkable only for being safe and unremarkable over the years (cough..The Eagles...cough).