Well this was a pleasant surprise. I've enjoyed BOC's "popular" albums since the '70's: Agents, Spectres, Cultosaurus, and On Your Feet, and I saw them on the Spectres tour which I rank as one of the best shows I've ever seen. But I never got around to their first 3 until now. What surprised me even more is the quality of the bonus tracks, at least some of which were recorded when they were known as Stalk-Forest Group and/or Soft White Underbelly. Other than "Stairway to the Stars" EVERY song on here is awesome:
Transmaniacon MC - Starts out with a bang. It's heavy, but what strikes me is that they never let pure heaviness get in the way of a good song. Unlike Black Sabbath they were never ham-fisted. This is one of their biker gang songs (MC stands for Motorcycle Club), it contains drug references and Altamont and seems to glorify violence, topics I'm not particularly drawn to, but the song is so good I don't care. I'll excuse it as Rock Theater, like Alice Cooper glorifying necrophilia when we all know he doesn't really condone such things. Right?
I'm on the Lamb, But I Ain't no Sheep - Something about fleeing Canadian Mounties on a dogsled. Ridiculous, and catchy as hell.
Last Days of May - This song is completely different from the rest. It reminds me of something Springsteen might have written, like Spirits in the Night. It's a classic BOC song, one they really took seriously. A Buck Dharma song, with him on vocals, it's a preview of what was to come with Don't Fear the Reaper. There's so much tongue-in-cheekiness in their music, except this one. It's beautiful.
Stairway to the Stars - This one's stupid. Surprising they used to kick their shows off with it. It rocks out ok, but it is the weakest song and I don't think anyone could deny it.
Before the Kiss,a Redcap - Another one with Buck singing, but it's so different than his usual style I couldn't figure out who it was. I absolutely love the jazzy (?) middle section. Downright bouncy.
Screams - An Allen Lanier song. Sort of the George Harrison of the group, he didn't write or sing as much as the others but his songs were always among the best. This one is psychedelic and sort of spooky. The Floydish keyboards and Buck's guitar solos give me chills. The drumroll at the end segues beautifully into...
She's as Beautiful as a Foot - Hahaha! The lyrics are a joke, and unlike Stairway a funny one, but the music is so freaky it creates this strange contrast that I just love.
Cities on Flame - Classic. This is a rock anthem that should be in a league with other rock anthems, like, let's say Rock & Roll Hoochy-koo. I'm glad it's not or I'd be sick of it.
Workshop of the Telescopes - This one could/should be one of their epics, like The Subhuman or Astronomy, but falls short in execution. Great song, but the production is lacking and I just don't think they arranged it or played it very well. Still, highly enjoyable.
Redeemed - If I didn't recognize Eric's voice I would never guess this was BOC. Almost country/folk sounding. Awesome songwriting and vocal harmonies.
Donovan's Monkey (Bonus) - What an awesome song! Sloppy, fun and goofy. '60's BOC.
What is Quicksand (Bonus) - More '60's BOC. This reminds me of Phish for some reason, probably because they were going for Grateful Dead. Very catchy psych-pop that stands up to many listens.
A Fact About Sneakers (Bonus) - This one sounds very '60's, in the vocal harmonies, Byrds-like guitar, drums all over to one side, name-dropping Spooky Tooth. Would stand up to any song of the era.
Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes (Bonus) - Spirited performance of the oldie. Well done and Buck shows he could play when he was a kid. Interesting glimpse of where they started.