Blue Cheer

The Original Human Being

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Even after cleaning up their act considerably on their self-titled fourth album, Blue Cheer sound positively slick (at least by their standards) on 1970's The Original Human Being. Though Dickie Peterson was still up front on bass and vocals, guitarist Bruce Stephens had left the group and Gary Yoder, who had contributed to Blue Cheer, came aboard on six-strings and vocals, while drummer Norman Mayell expanded his role, playing occasional keyboards, guitar, and even sitar as Blue Cheer belatedly embraced their Eastern influences on "Babaji (Twilight Raga)." A horn section was brought in for "Good Times Are So Hard to Find," "Preacher," and "Love of a Woman," and Ralph Burns Kellogg's keyboards take an even larger role in the arrangements. The Original Human Being is the most polished and professional album of Blue Cheer's career, and there's a lean but muscular proto-boogie groove that infuses most of the album's 11 songs, and the performances sound tight and well-focused throughout. However, tightness isn't what made Blue Cheer a memorable band in the first place, and the cleaner approach doesn't always flatter this music. The Original Human Being is at its best when the group lets their rougher side show, such as on Peterson's slow blues wail "Man on the Run," Kellogg's country-flavored lament "Tears in My Bed," the mean-spirited "Black Sun," and the loose-limbed and surprisingly funky "Sandwich." Most of the time, The Original Human Being feels as if Blue Cheer were trying to build on the lessons learned from their fourth album, but while that record hit just the right note, this one reaches just a bit too far, and it's most pleasing when the players forget trying to impress us and just go for what feels right.

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