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Vincebus Eruptum

4.5 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 6, 1993
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The deafening 1968 debut from the Bay Area power trio! Includes their over-the-top smash cover of Summertime Blues .

Review

"A heavy metal precursor, Blue Cheer were there at the start and became true pioneers. Their cracking debut, Vincebus Eruptum, sounds primordial, even by today's standards. Lord knows how it must have gone across in 1968. Though entrenched in blues-rock, the Cheer's sheer power broke new boundaries. On this re-issue of the rare, mono mix of the album, the drums retain their chunky presence alongside the thick, stodgy bass. Check out the unlikely hit, Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues.' The same year's follow-up, Outsideinside, tried to retain the force but added panache to the production- and it worked. Each member of the band appeared to be better represented, with their individual talents brought to the fore. Clarity doesn't replace power, though- the word was that parts of Outsideinside literally had to be recorded outside because they were so loud. Leaving the band (as some claim, due to deafness) just two LP's in, co-founder Leigh Stephens subsequently released his debut solo LP. Praised by many, it was slammed by Cheer fans. Moving away from his band's energy storm, Red Weather was more psychedelic, and both inventive and creative enough to survive the shift in focus. As a bonus for hardcore name-trackers, it features uber-session bloke Nicky Hopkins, Blossom Toes' Kevin Westlake and Jeff Beck Band's Mick Waller." -- Record Collector, April 2010

"Just as the German King Tiger outgunned the allied Sherman in World War II, so California's Blue Cheer out-louded their peers with their 1968 debut. These super-dence blues rock tunes owe Hendrix a debt and are prone to powering off Blues Magoos-style, but come in their own special engine oil and LSD marinade (see the surprise Top 20 cover of Summertime Blues). A long-spurned, now essential stop-off on the cakewalk to stoner-rock nirvana. The reissue comes with an embossed sleeve and a poem from Owsley Stanley." -- Mojo, April 2010

This being an audiophile 'zine one might expect that the records appearing herein to be judged with sound quality as perhaps not the main focus of the review, but certainly a major factor when considering whether they should be recommended for inclusion in one's collection. Well, here we have two albums that despite their lack of just about any evidence of audiophile-approved traits (other than the vinyl's modern-day pressing quality and the excellent transfer from original master tapes to vinyl), should be a mandatory purchase for anyone even slightly interested in the conception and gestation of hard rock/psychedelic blues/heavy metal that these landmark albums brought into the world in 1968. These two Marshall-stack-laden slabs are not just forbearers of what would become the genre that is now considered heavy metal, but quintessential examples of excellent rock music, period.

Blue Cheer formed in 1966 in their hometown of San Francisco, and within a year settled into a power-trio of unequaled sonic might. Their first album, Vincebus Eruptum was recorded late in 1967 and released early the next year on Philips, and later in '68 their second album Outsideinside was released. One would think that being located in San Francisco this band would get caught in the torrent of flower-power ideology that was flowing forth in and around the city, but according to Blue Cheer's bassist and vocalist Dickie Peterson, "We were the ugly stepchildren. Everybody in San Francisco scene was all kiss babies and eat flowers. We were sort of kiss flowers and eat babies". This less than hippy attitude is made obvious as soon as the stylus traces the first grooves of either of these two records.

OK, so you're not going to be able to use either of these albums as demonstration discs. But it makes little sense depriving oneself just because at certain points these albums sound as if they were recorded from the next room through an open door. It's a shame that these records don't have the sound quality of say, Led Zeppelin's first two albums that were released during the next two years. One might suspect that the less than state-of-the-art facility that Blue Cheer used for the first album in their native San Francisco might have had something to do with the the less than reference quality sound. Yet the follow-up Outsideinside was recorded at some top flight studios on both coasts, and even sported some pretty famous engineering talent including the illustrious Eddie Kramer. Yet this album's sound quality is also second-rate. It was most likely due to the challenges of recording a band with all of their amp's volume controls set to 11 the entire time. It has been rumored that the band had to relocate to a different studio during one of the recording sessions because of noise complaints from the neighborhood around the facility. Yet despite these sonic limitations, and especially on the mono Vincebus Eruptum, the term "wall-of-sound" is very, very apt. And because of these excellent transfers performed by Sundazed Records, the best I've ever heard from any other pressings on both vinyl and CD. An added bonus is that the album sleeves are also top-notch, the embossed front cover of the first and gatefold of the second are exact reproductions of the originals.

I have the impression that I'm hearing exactly what was on the master tapes as they were recorded. I doubt very much that the band and the studio staff set out to make the resulting sound of these albums anything but what they intended, and with these slabs of wax, at least when being played on my system, it is easy to get the impression that the air in and around the recording studio during these sessions became super-saturated with sound waves--and if you've ever experienced an overwhelmingly loud band in a small space you'd realize that the "P" in SPLs (Sound Pressure Levels) can be brutal.

It would be a shame to purchase one of these albums without the other. But since the best place to start is usually the beginning, Vincebus Eruptum should be spun first. And the fact that it is a monaural pressing is fabulous, not just because back in those heady days stereophonic sound was still in its infancy with regards to rock music. This is not to say that many great stereo rock records weren't released--of course there were. But the the truth is that in most cases they really weren't truly "stereophonic" as classical releases were, it was simply just two-channel sound. This was at least partially because at most four-track tape used in most recording studios, so during mix down it was just a matter of deciding which and how much of these tracks ended up in which of the two speakers. There are some great rock albums from around the same period that had engineers that realized that a nice stereo spread could be obtained by using a pair of overhead mics for the drum set. But many didn't get the memo, and the drums were relegated to one track--and to add insult to injury were panned to one side. The overused practice of pseudo-psychedelic swooping between the speakers, especially the lead guitar hardly makes a record "stereo", so things just ended up sounding just like plain old dual-mono. Sundazed Records' outstanding pressing of the reissue of Vincebus Eruptum from the original mono master tape is practically a revaluation, especially to the ears belonging to yours truly that has only heard the stereo pressing throughout my adult life. The mono version is so much more of an "in your face" experience. As it should be.

Vincebus contains six songs, half of them are cover tunes. Side one starts with the classic Jerry Capehart/Eddie Cochran "Summertime Blues", which was to be Blue Cheer's only "hit" record (it peaked at #14 on Billboard's pop singles chart). Next is the chestnut "Rock Me Baby", and the side ends with the now classic Peterson bruiser "Doctor Please", with his lyrics taking an anti-recreational drug stance and at the same time proclaiming an unrequited love for a member of the opposite sex, but you have to squint your ears to decipher the lyrics under the guitar/bass/drums blitzkrieg. Side two begins its onslaught with Peterson's "Out Of Focus", with its overdubbed guitar lick madness that rightfully earned guitarist Leigh Stephens a fervent underground following. Next up is the requisite "Parchment Farm", but side two ends with the barnburner that is the Dickie Peterson opus "Second Time Around". Thankfully, the concept of a "power ballad" never entered the members of Blue Cheer's minds, so throughout the album's brief thirty-two minute playing time one barely gets the opportunity to come up for air.

Outsideinside's recording quality is a bit better than Vincebus, but it has little to do with it being a "stereo" pressing. Like I said, it was recorded at some noted studios by some renowned engineers but still ends up sounding rather lo-fi. But despite the lack of fidelity the massive sound of the band members in all their glory are still decipherable through one's speakers. Over the years I've met legions of fans of this album, and although its sound quality rarely comes into question, what they do agree upon is that it is one of the best hard rock (electric-power-blues?) recordings ever committed to vinyl. Throughout the years I've gone back and forth in regards to whether it is a better album than Vincebus, but eventually realized that that debate is a waste of my time--they both deserve equal time on my turntable. But I do sometimes favor Outsideinside for a few reasons, and major among those is the more concise, developed songwriting made even more amazing that the album was released such a short time since the first. The songs are shorter, leaving less room for extended improvisation, leading to Mr. Stevens' guitar solos being more focused mini-explosions. And this time eight of of ten songs are original compositions. Immediately upon playing the opening "Feathers From Your Tree" one can hear the confidence not only in its writing, but the massive "whomp" factor coming into play--thanks in large part to the pounding of drummer Paul Whaley. The third song is Peterson's bluesy, flanged, rocking "Just A Little Bit", another of the eight originals that compose the ten masterpieces. It's worth mentioning again that the purchase of both these albums should be mandatory for all even slightly interested in this period of rock 'n' roll. -Tom Lyle -- Positive Feedback Online, Issue 49

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 6, 1993)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Mercury
  • ASIN: B000001DYA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,514 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
When people say that this is one of the noisiest, heaviest, most ear splitting, skull smashing rock albums ever recorded, for the love of all that is holy, LISTEN TO THEM! If you play this too loud you're almost guaranteed ear damage. And make sure you have some good speakers before you crank this monster. I can't even imagine what people thought about this in 1968. By this time folks thought that Hendrix, Cream and The Yardbirds were too much. Lets describe the music for a minute... Chaotic, aggressive, sludgy, heavy, noisy, and years ahead of it's time. The music is very blues based, but the grooves are aggressive and the guitars are transformed by fuzztone and overdrive into monster dinosaur riff makers. One can see that Blue Cheer is another major influence on the current doom/stoner metal scenes. Pretty amazing considering this band predated Black Sabbath by 2 years. Though not nearly as dark as Sabbath, this album is arguably heavier and noisier than "Black Sabbath" and "Paranoid". No doubt this is a hard rock/early metal masterpiece, but it's far from perfect. I rated this album on a basis of how much I enjoy it rather than it's technical merrits. The riffs are almost a-tonal, the guitars are louder and bigger than anything; bass, drums or vocals. The note-blurring distortion makes the riffs almost impossible to not sound sloppy. The guitar solos seem off key at times and the jams sound very random... but that's what makes this record so awesome. It wouldn't be half as good if these guys were proficient, classically trained musicians. This is raw, heavy rock& roll in its purest and most stripped down form. Fuzzed out fury that will rip your face off and leave you in a crumpled heap, twitching and begging for mercy. So if you're into unrestrained, distorted, feedback drenched proto-metal, look no further. If you're looking for something with pristine production, sweet melodies and clean technical proficiency, you might pass on this.
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Format: Audio CD
Blue Cheer released this debut in 1968 when groups and artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf and The Doors were putting out psychedelic rock. Blue Cheer were three guys who played loud psychedelic rock and I can still see those stacks of Marshall amps piled a mile high. These guys had one major hit "Summertime Blues" which has been covered by other artists. Their version stands alone by itself as my favorite. The other songs on this album such as "Out Of Focus" and "Parchment Farm" are pure psychedelic kick a.. rock. This groups follow up album "Outsideinside" was also much of the same. Too bad these guys didn't get the credit they deserved and were lost in the shuffle of all the psychedelic groups popping up in the late 60's. If you're into 60's psychedelic rock don't pass this gem up. Highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD
In the sixties, I had a tendency to pick up albums based on the photo of the band, not what I thought I knew about their music. I pretty much hated pop music so looked for the underground bands. The longer the hair, the uglier they were, the weirdest dressed, that was my incentive. Blue Cheer had very long hair, there was only three of them, and I heard Summertime Blues on the radio. Bringing that album home, I eagerly put it on my mono record player and was shocked. If there was a way to blow the tiny little speaker out of that record player and hit me in the face, this album was the one to do it.
Picture three little guys walking out on stage in front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers (they were not actually little, it just seemed that way in front of those Marshalls). What was then mind numbing volume pounded into your whole body as they played through six songs that were crude, nasty, and so different from the peace and love [stuff] of the time it made your head spin. That impression is what hit me in the head as it came out of that little record player.
Blue Cheer were groundbreakers for the time. To me they are the first-ever heavy metal band. When you put them up against other trios of the time like Hendrix and Cream, there was no comparison. Their loud and nasty sound corrupted my musical tastes forever and at fifty years old, I still listen to heavy metal.
As a guitar player, Leigh Stephens became my hero (over Hendrix and others) and I tried to play every song note for note and came close but am not good enough to play them exactly. I still play Rock Me Baby, Summertime Blues, and Doctor Please regularly.
Blue Cheer slapped blues in the face and created a new sound that has progressed into many new forms. Outside/Inside was similar but too refined in comparison.
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Format: Audio CD
Some groups' debut albums are straight from the garage: Raw, gritty, unrestrained, and yet to be tamed by success. Aerosmith's debut album was that way, as was Velvet Underground's, and The Stooges'. This debut album by Blue Cheer, called "Vincebus Eruptum" (Latin for "Controlled Chaos"--or in this case, lack thereof!) defintely fits that mold. The producer simply flipped the switch and let'em bang out the tunes as hard and as crude as they wanted to--possibly in one take! A lot of the "Blue Cheer sound" was in the equipment they used and the way they used, or abused, it. Certainly, what strikes me the most on this album is the guitar playing of Leigh Stephens. He was to the "whammy bar" what Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton was to the "wah-wah pedal". When describing the Stooges' first album, one critic called Asheton the bands' "wah-wah pedaler". I will thus refer to Leigh Stephens here as this bands' "vibrator". His specialty was to find more ways to use and abuse one part of a guitar more than anyone else ever thought about doing, and that "whammy bar" was his toy on this album! Another thing about Stephens' playing is that it doesn't sound like he used a whole lot of Fuzztone. he just had his Marshall amp cranked, and when he played rhythm, you could tell he was hitting the strings hard to get natural amp distortion (unlike, say, Tony Iommi or Leslie West, who didn't hit the strings as hard, but it came out hard, because of the Fuzztone.Read more ›
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