Since the mid-'90s, Blue Öyster Cult have had their catalog pillaged for hits collections on almost a yearly basis, so the appearance of yet another such beast isn't the welcome return of an old friend that it should be. True, there was a time when a greatest-hits collection was sorely needed, but the double-CD set Workshop of the Telescopes took care of that in 1995, and if that was too massive a retrospective, there was 2000's single-disc Don't Fear the Reaper: The Best of Blue Öyster Cult. Add to those a number of re-recordings and misleadingly packaged live collections and it's hard to justify The Essential Blue Oyster Cult. However, if you look at the collection saga of Blue Öyster Cult as a perfecting of the formula -- a thinning of the herd -- then Essential starts to prove its worth as a lean machine -- all killer, no filler. No BOC collection can stand without their biggest acknowledged hits, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Burnin' for You," and both of those are here. So is the over-the-top madness of "Godzilla" and the cult hit -- yes, cult, BOC is a band whose fan base is so disparate there are mainstream and underground fans -- "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)," which somehow slipped by the previous single-disc collection. Others, like "Veterans of Psychic Wars" and "Harvester of Eyes," carry equal heft and help Essential live up to its name.
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AllMusic Review by Wade Kergan