The Blue Oyster Cult story is a fascinating one for a myriad of reasons, one being the band's level of songwriting depth. Down that paranormal pathway sits - among a veritable army of terrific tunesmiths - the smiling Buddha of the band, Mr. Joe Bouchard. Plier of the fat strings on all of The O'Cult's classic albums, Joe was also a penner of many great tunes (see "Hot Rails To Hell" and "Astronomy" for starters), a live wire of one of the greatest live shows on earth, and also a singer of curious Daltrey-meets-Townsend inauspicious suspicion. Mix in his multi-instrumental talents (toward guitar and keyboard) and his career as music transcriber and prof and classical buff, and Bouchard can be viewed as no less than BOC's wise version of a John Paul Jones, the man helping to grease the wheels of a gleaming machine of a tricked-out team blessed with an embarrassment of riches. O'er to the Bouchard's first true solo album (of which you are now behind the back of, and possibly gleefully spinning as you read), and we find Joe sophisticated and maturing into what even he must admit are his late-mid years of a career that causes glad bemusement to himself and others. Dig into Jukebox In My Head and you'll find this consummate crafter of grown-up pop drawing you into his complex roots system. There's acoustic rock, funkified hard rock, blues, rock 'n' roll, amplified folk, dark melodies and blindingly light and full of life ones, all delivered with passion and humour, but through the lens of a literary acumen that has become tastefully trained and restrained by a decades-honed understanding of song craft. Joe sez his brother Albert has called this some of his best singing ever, and also that Albert is his toughest critic - indeed, the man's vocals and unique voice add to the quirky display of roots music enclosed. And the familiarity of that voice, coupled with the slightly unearthly mood of Bouchard's melodic choices, takes you quick toward the beauty of Blue Oyster Cult's lighter (but with dagger) moments, their smash singles, their foisted flame moments at any given show. It's a testimony to Joe that on Jukebox In My Head, he's firing up and finding those same sorts of magic moods. Here's hoping you find and experience them with him, and that Jukebox In My Head is just the start of a similarly mutually enriching catalogue reaching far into the future... or at least 'til the inevitable reunion with Buck 'n' Eric puts him back behind the bass on bigger stages 'round the globe. Travelin' Freak Show indeed. Martin Popoff (author of over twenty music books and the rock biography Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed!)
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