KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

ALICE COOPER Part 1 – Thoughts On An Artist / Alice Is A Band

Alice Cooper Photo (from Pretties For You)At the beginning, Alice Cooper was both a man and a band. Today many fans think of Alice Cooper as the singer with the ghoulish makeup and the crazy macabre stage antics, but over the course of their first seven studio albums the man formerly known as Vincent Furnier was the vocalist & front man for the Alice Cooper band, which also included guitarists Glen Buxton & Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neil Smith. I will discuss these albums here and in my next post before moving on to the remainder of the Alice Cooper “solo” discography over the next couple of months. So I’ll be referring to Alice as “he” or “they” depending on the reference, or simply as “Alice.” My earliest memory of Alice’s music goes back to 1976 when my father brought home a copy of the Welcome To My Nightmare LP. At the time I was obsessed with the band Kiss (as was seemingly everyone in my age range), and I kept hearing how Alice was Kiss’ biggest influence. I played that album frequently whenever I wasn’t listening to Kiss, and there’s even a recording of me singing the title track, a capella, at 10 years old. I might feature that rarely heard performance when I write about that album. I also knew their song “Public Animal #9” from a Warner Brothers various-artists sampler, and that’s where I could really hear the Kiss connection.

Alice Cooper Photo (Collage from Easy Action)For a number of years, through the late-‘90s, that was the extent of my Alice Cooper knowledge. Of course I knew his/their radio hits like “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Poison” and “Feed My Frankenstein,” and loved his appearance in the first Wayne’s World movie, but it wasn’t until I got a copy of 1999’s career-spanning 4-CD box set, The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper, that I finally started realizing what a great…and diverse…catalog Alice has amassed. A few years later I shared an office with a huge Alice fan who tried to convince me that his new stuff was worth hearing. At first I scoffed, but after reading some stellar reviews for 2003’s The Eyes Of Alice Cooper I had to check it out for myself, and I was blown away. That’s where I went from casual fan to someone who needed to own every official release, and although there are peaks & valleys throughout the Alice discography, it’s worth sifting through them to discover all the gems. For some reason I never bought any Alice live albums. However, recently I borrowed a number of them from a friend & made digital copies for myself, and I will listen to them for the first time as I proceed through this series.

The Alice Cooper band didn’t get off to an auspicious start with their debut album, Pretties For You (1969). Released on Frank Zappa’s Straight Records, it showcases an Alice Cooper - Pretties For Youanglophile band enamored of early Pink Floyd’s psychedelic excursions and Nuggets-style garage rock. Although several tracks are simply experimental and not terribly memorable, there are a number of noteworthy songs that don’t necessarily display their future musical direction. “Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio” rolls along with chugging drums, and finds Alice affecting a British singing style amid some climbing lead guitar runs. It features cryptic psychedelic lyrics like, “But this story starring me had already begun, ‘cuz I had some vision in my sight on the journey to be one,” owing a debt to late-60s San Francisco jam bands. I like the fast waltz section with harmonica & lead guitar. “Living” is a big splashy rocker that recalls The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” without all the studio effects. In addition to the excellent guitar solo, I really like the melody at, “I’m sure that you’re knowing you’re growing…and it’s you.”

[Alice Cooper – “Living”]

“Fields Of Regret” is the longest song, at nearly 5:40, which allows the band to stretch out amid its quirky arrangement. The bass line deserves special mention. “Reflected” is a precursor to their 1973 hit single, “Elected.” It’s not as fully formed as that later song yet it’s still a winner. Featuring fantastic drumming and shredding lead guitar, there are hints of the louder side of Pink Floyd, and most importantly it’s super catchy, especially at “You will be reflected.” “Apple Bush” has a slightly swinging 6/8 feel with excellent jazzy drumming from Smith. Not sure about the lyrics (“Apple bush, apple tree, back to e-ternity, cut you a path with a chance you may fall”), but the music is excellent. “Earwigs To Eternity” has a boom-chick rhythm with various stops & starts and off-kilter yet catchy singing (“All of the time we have, all of the time we have you”). “Changing Arranging” closes the album with hints of their hard rockin’ music to come, but it’s still rooted in the psychedelic ‘60s with the fuzzy guitar tone and splashy/jazzy arrangement. Once again, what’s up with the lyrics: “I like the pie and I sweat all I see, it’s a carbon copy image of me”? The rest of the album often shows how much they love the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd. I’m a big fan as well, but they weren’t at the songwriting level of their British counterparts just yet. It’s a hit-and-miss debut that’s really for completists. Still, I’m glad I finally gave it some serious attention.

Alice Cooper - Easy ActionThey didn’t have to worry about a sophomore slump, and so Easy Action (1970) finds them tightening things up with a nine-song collection (vs. the debut’s 13 freewheeling tracks) recorded by longtime Neil Young producer David Briggs. Apparently he & the band did not see eye to eye, but even though it lacks the punch of their subsequent releases, there are a number of excellent songs with only a few throwbacks to the aimless psych-rock that weighed down the debut. The cleverly titled “Mr. & Misdemeanor” is a bluesy midtempo shuffle with a slight show tune vibe. The raspy voice that would grace many future Alice classics reveals itself here. Highlights for me include the weepy guitar tone and various tempo shifts, making it a memorable album opener. “Shoe Salesman” is surprisingly light & bouncy, even though I believe it’s about a heroin addict, with lovely acoustic & electric guitar and a thick bass line. It’s very melodic with clear nods to The Beatles, especially at “Winking, she pokes me in the side, well we could go for a ride” and “I did not know what to say, do you think those freckles will stay.”

“Return Of The Spiders” chugs along like a train barreling down the track. Alice’s vocals display his soon-to-be-trademark sneer, offsetting the twin lead guitars (one stabbing & the other soloing). The lyrics are simplistic but this one’s all about the relentless music. “Laughing At Me” is a brief, subtly infectious song with circular lyrics (“So I started to end the beginning to end, then I ended the end, yes I ended the end”). I love the lilting melody and subtle instrumentation (notably the jazzy bass & Flamenco-esque guitar). “Beautiful Flyaway” is a pretty piano-led tune that brings to mind Paul McCartney. Even Alice’s low-key vocal delivery recalls McCartney’s early solo work (“Haven’t we always been here sharing one love and one fear? Someday you’ll know that life is really all about you”). “Lay Down And Die, Goodbye” is mostly instrumental psychedelic hard rock, with an emphasis on “hard.” Its extended free-form section shows their label “boss” Frank Zappa’s influence, and at 7-1/2 minutes it’s perfectly placed at the end of the record. These first two albums seem to be overlooked by most fans, critics and even the band, who apparently stopped playing any songs from these records as soon as they had their commercial breakthrough the following year. I wouldn’t consider them lost classics, but listeners with patience and an open mind will find a lot to like.

Alice Cooper - Love It To DeathTheir first acknowledged classic, Love It To Death (1971), earned its reputation, thanks in large part to co-producer Bob Ezrin (who would go on to work with huge artists like Pink Floyd, Lou Reed & Kiss, as well as several more Alice Cooper albums). Ezrin and Jack Richardson brought out the super-tight hard rock band that had been lurking just below the surface on the first two records, allowing the stellar musicianship to shine through while also adding some unique production touches that set the album apart from its contemporaries. Other than the relatively minor & generic “Caught In A Dream” (a Stones-y riff-oriented rocker that opens the album) and “Second Coming” (its tasteful drumming & wonderful guitar work not amounting to much), the other seven songs all made a big impact on me. Their first hit single was the brooding yet anthemic “I’m Eighteen.” The arrangement is airtight (I never noticed the harmonica before) and the lyrics perfectly capture teenage angst (“I got a baby’s brain & an old man’s heart”). “Long Way To Go” is a fast-driving rocker in the vein of T. Rex. The chorus of “We still got a long way to go” seems to be aimed at our society, and that sentiment still applies four decades later. “Black Juju” is not for the faint of heart. Over its 9+ minutes it moves from moody tribal drums that slowly build during the extended percussion intro through an homage to Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” adding Alice Cooper Photo (from Love It To Death)hints of Doors-like intensity and even the melodic flair of The Zombies’ “Time Of The Season.” They show a great sense of dynamics throughout, as whisper quiet passages give way to big blasts of sound.

“Is It My Body” is slinky riff rock with a sparse production that brings to mind Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground. In addition to the biting lead guitar, there’s a great hook during the stop-start “Have you got the time to find out…who I really am?” section. “Hallowed Be My Name” is short & powerful; a driving rocker with heavy organ doubling the guitar riff, and another killer hook at “Cursing their lovers, cursing the bible” and “Yelling at fathers, screaming at mothers.”

[Alice Cooper – “Hallowed Be My Name”]

“Ballad Of Dwight Fry” covers a lot of ground over its 6-1/2 minutes, from the sweet piano intro with a child speaking a few lines through some acoustic strumming and into a brooding, intense section between 4:15 & 5:00 that might be my favorite part of the song. With lyrics about a father who’s in a mental hospital, either missing his family or (more likely) driven there by his family (“See my lonely life unfold, I see it every day”). The album closes with “Sun Arise,” an early ‘60s hit for Australian singer Rolf Harris. I love the big percussion (like a less sparkly Gary Glitter) and mantra-like vocals (“Sun arise…come every morning”). The hippie optimism is unexpected but welcome, and ends things on a positive note. Love It To Death shows that they were well on their way to being one of the best bands of their time.

Richardson & Ezrin returned to produce their fourth album, Killer (1971). Releasing a second album in under a year, you would expect a drop in quality, but other than the fact Alice Cooper - Killerthat there wasn’t a big hit single like “I’m Eighteen,” they solidified their status as a great hard rock band with a collection of eight mostly raunchy, stomping rock songs. “Under My Wheels” has them chugging along with Alice’s sneering vocals, and features an awesome opening line: “The telephone is ringing, you got me on the run. I’m driving in my car now, anticipating fun.” The addition of horns is a nice touch, and the whole tune is just a big blast of fun. “Be My Lover” has a stomping, “Sweet Jane”-type feel in the verses and opens up in the chorus.” Clearly about hooking up with a groupie, Alice slyly delivers lines like, “She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice, I said ‘Listen baby, you really wouldn’t understand’.” “Halo Of Flies” is the longest song, at over 8 minutes, and shows the band flexing their compositional muscles. It’s heavy progressive rock with various stops, starts, tempo shifts, guitar & synth effects and a nearly 2-minute instrumental intro that covers a lot of ground. I like how they sneak in a reference to The Alice Cooper Photo (Back cover of Killer)Sound Of Music’s “My Favorite Things” at “Daggers and contacts and bright shiny limos,” proudly displaying their love of show tunes.

There are a couple of lesser songs, at least to my ears, in “Desperado” and “You Drive Me Nervous.” The former is their tribute to Jim Morrison, with Alice singing/speaking in The Doors’ singer’s husky tone. Although it alternates between two distinct sections (acoustic & rock) and has a cool string interlude before the final rock section, I never fully embraced it. The latter song is simplistic but cool, with a great attitude, but it’s quickly forgotten. Things pick up again for “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” finding them in power-pop territory (think The Raspberries, Badfinger & Big Star) and somehow turning that simple title into a legitimate chorus. It also features great lines like, “You could be the devil, you could be the savior, well I really can’t tell by the way of your behavior.”

“Dead Babies” is dark & mysterious; a bass-driven tune with controversial subject matter (“Dead babies can’t take care of themselves”). For the band’s detractors it probably sounded like they were encouraging child abuse & neglect, but it’s clear that they’re shining a light on the topic as a plea for help. The great heavy guitar riff is not far from Black Alice Cooper Photo (Calendar from Killer)Sabbath territory, and the horns near the end add a nice, Beatle-y touch. The 7-minute album closer “Killer” has a finger-snapping swing with a groovy bass line and tom-heavy syncopated drums. At first his voice is cleaner & huskier, perhaps another nod to Jim Morrison, but he blasts into a higher register at “I came into this life…” Like “Halo Of Flies,” they’re showing off their prog-rock chops, yet it never comes across as contrived or pretentious. I love the twin lead guitars in the jammy & jazzy instrumental section, and the various sound effects were early signs of a distinct Bob Ezrin production touch. The very end of the song sounds like a swarm of bees. It’s unsettling, but I wouldn’t expect anything less on an album called Killer. Their next few albums would take them to greater commercial heights, which I’ll discuss in my next post, but these early records (especially the last two discussed here) are an integral part of their discography and shouldn’t be overlooked.

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64 comments on “ALICE COOPER Part 1 – Thoughts On An Artist / Alice Is A Band

  1. mikeladano
    April 19, 2013

    Man I’ve been waiting for this series!

    Easy action is one of the albums that I still don’t own. For the longest time it’s been expensive/impossible to get, and somehow I just have never acquired it. I had no idea it was produced by David Briggs.

    Funny also that you mention Public Animal #9 sounding like Kiss, because I never thought of that before. But I totally get it! Yes, it could be a Gene song, couldn’t it?

    I love Alice Cooper, but I am missing a few albums that I think you’re going to be talking about (the early 80’s period) so maybe I’d better get my Amazon account ready 😉

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    • Thanks, Mike. I’ve been looking forward to it as well. The 2-1/2 months I spent on Neil Young’s catalog wiped me out, which is why I took a couple of weeks to recharge and focus on those two “Compilation Or Catalog?” posts. Now I’m excited about jumping into the Alice discography.

      As always, I’ll be going chronologically through the catalog, including the ’80s material. I’m sure a few of the albums won’t be as enjoyable as the classics, but he/they always did something worthwhile on each album.

      I’m glad you can see the Kiss connection with “Public Animal #9.” I always heard it as a Gene song, especially with the growling vocals at the end.

      I’m curious to find out which albums you love, and which ones you’re missing, as I progress through this series. Thanks for the quick feedback. Hope you have a fun, music-filled weekend.

      Rich

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      • mikeladano
        April 19, 2013

        I wrote a review a few months ago for Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake. I bought that album, and School’s Out, on the same Columbia House order. Then we went on a vacation to Alberta, Canada…mountains and all that good…and I played both albums for the first time. I fell in love instantly with both. It was a cool experience. Summer holidays, listening to School’s Out, mountains, earphones, the drone of the minivan…

        What’s more, I was about to enter my last year at highschool. So, listening to songs like Alma Mater was pretty surreal!

        But I’m getting ahead of you! I love two of the albums from this period here: Killer and Love It To Death. Love. I picked “Halo of Flies” for my #1 pick one year at our annual Sausagefest. I received many compliments for that selection.

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      • Mike, I love how you have particular memories of where you were & what you were doing when you bought specific albums. It’s the same for me. I can’t tell you how many times I can bring up details of things that happened 30 or more years ago just based on an album I bought at the time. As for your “Halo Of Flies” story, that song would clear many rooms. Not sure who attended your “sausagefest” (a term I would use very carefully), but they obviously have impeccable taste in music.

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      • mikeladano
        April 20, 2013

        Sausagefest is just a weekend camping trip with a bunch of like-minded musical afficianados, a generator, and a sound system! My selection of “Halo of Flies” was given kudos by those who knew the song, and those who were hearing it for the first time. I consider it a huge highlight of this period of Cooper — and both Killers and Love It to Death are 5/5 star albums for me.

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      • I’m sure you’re sausagefest is a lot of fun (even though you’ll never catch me camping), but be careful who you use that term around. Haha. Not sure I would rate Killer or Love It To Death as 5 stars, only because a few songs on each were only okay. For me a 5/5 album has to be brilliant from start to finish. They would both be in the 4.5 range if I gave out numerical ratings. The important thing is that we both love those albums.

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      • mikeladano
        April 20, 2013

        The difference between a 4.5 and a 5 is so minor anyway! I love the whole period between Love it to Death and Welcome to my Nightmare. Go to Hell is the first one that I find spotty. But I’m sure you’ll be getting there soon.

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      • One of the reasons I don’t do a numerical rating system is that it’s so hard to be objective. I think a 5/5 should really be reserved for the best of the best, but there are albums I love that wouldn’t be considered “the best” that I might consider a 5. For example, Rush’s Presto is one of my favorites, but can that really be a 5 when Moving Pictures, 2112, Hemispheres, etc. would also get that grade? I’ll get to Welcome To My Nightmare & Go To Hell in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

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      • mikeladano
        April 20, 2013

        I hear you. When I did my Maiden reviews I was splitting hairs so finely…4.8/5, 4.9/5, it got very difficult!

        Alice has been one of my favourite artists for many years now, so I look forward to every installment!

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      • Thanks Mike. I’m looking forward to discussing the Alice catalog with you over the next couple of months. You probably know some of these albums a lot better than I do right now, but I’ll definitely be getting acquainted with them soon.

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      • mikeladano
        April 21, 2013

        Perhaps but I’m sure I’ll also rediscover some forgotten gems along the way. Alice’s career is chock full of them.

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      • I definitely agree re: “forgotten gems.” Also, if even one person who has dismissed Alice in the past comes here and discovers how good so many of the records are, I’ll be very pleased. I think Alice has a reputation as more of a character or performance artist and the great music created by the original band & Alice as a solo artist gets overlooked. I know that’s the case because I felt that way for a long time.

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      • mikeladano
        April 21, 2013

        I agree with pretty much everything you and HMO have said. We’re just one big agreement party today!

        As I said there I some records that I don’t have yet such as Easy Action, and Zipper Catches Skin…perhaps your overview will inspire me to spend some dollars.

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  2. Hank
    April 20, 2013

    Really glad to see Alice’s entire catalog under review. It’s worth noting that prior to changing their name to Alice Cooper, the group recorded two singles as The Spiders, and another single as the Nazz. Five of these six songs are available on CD on the “Life & Crimes” and “Old School” boxed sets.

    I took my time getting around to finally picking up “Pretties For You” and “Easy Action”, and while the first album was about what I expected…interesting, sorta…I was shocked by how much better “Easy Action” was, considering it, like “Pretties”, really hasn’t had any material show up on any Cooper best-ofs. There is a quasi-bootleg of the band playing live in Toronto in 1969 that has appeared under literally dozens of titles over the years, but there is also a very interesting live album released back in the early 90’s, “Live At The Whiskey A Go Go”, which is also from 1969. I find it especially interesting is that the recording reveals that the crowd is clearly into the music; the band always tells stories about how much the audience hated them during their early days of performing.

    “Killer” isn’t bad at all, but as it came on the heels of a classic album in “Love It To Death”, it suffers mostly from not being as good as either the album before it or the two albums after it. Interestingly, Cooper has performed some of the deeper cuts from “Killer” on recent tours–“You Drive Me Nervous” is on “Brutally Live”, “Killer” is on the Hammersmith 2009 CD/DVD, and no less than an 11-minute “Halo of Flies” is on the 2011 “No More Mr. Nice Guy Live!” set. There is also a full 1971 live show from the “Killer” tour on the “Old School” box.

    What else…the “Reflected” single (b-side, “Living”) was released in a slightly different mono mix back in 1969.

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    • Hi Hank. Thanks for your feedback. Live At The Whisky is one of the live albums I borrowed recently, so I’ll be including it in this series. I usually revisit albums in the order of release, not when they were recorded, so I probably won’t get to that for at least a month. I’ve never heard any live Alice albums (although I’ve seen a few live videos), so I’m looking forward to giving them each a few listens. I actually enjoyed Killer about as much as Love It To Death, but I can understand why it’s not rated quite as highly as its predecessor. I’m glad some of those songs will show up on the live albums. Also, I own the box set, which I played twice when it was released. I remember liking a lot of those early recordings but I don’t remember much about them…other than the fact that they sounded nothing like the later material. Old School is the only officially released collection I don’t own, so I won’t be including it in this series. I’m sure the 25 or so studio albums and 7-8 live albums will give me a good overall picture of their music. Looking forward to getting your input as I travel through the discography. Thanks again.

      Rich

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      • Hank
        April 20, 2013

        I understand–I was just kind of free-associating in the middle of the night. Bottom line is that although the time period represented by these three studio albums is about three years, the band and their music improved immeasurably during this time. I’m also kind of amazed at the amount of early live footage of the band available on a certain website where You can Tube–I mean Tune in to watch streaming video.

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      • I’ll probably hold off on checking out live footage until after I revisit the entire catalog. I want to focus on the official recordings, which will take up a lot of my time. Once I’m done and know the music that much better, I can really appreciate the rare stuff and performance footage.

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  3. Heavy Metal Overload
    April 20, 2013

    Really excited to read your take on Alice’s long and varied career. Great choice for a series.

    I could never get into the first couple although I enjoy the selections on the ‘Life and Crimes’ set and I pretty much mirror your opinion on LITD.

    I think “Killer” is one of the greatest albums of all-time. I don’t think there’s a wasted note on that record! I love everything about it. I was into Alice for a phase when I was young and kind of drifted away. Some years later I had a notion to revisit his/their stuff and picked the “Killer” CD up as it had some of my favourite tracks on it. That album made me really fall in love with the band and I guess it has a special place in my heart for that reason!

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    • Thanks, HMO. Sorry I’m not quite on the same page as you when it comes to Killer. I think it’s great, and certainly the equal of Love It To Death, but there were a couple of songs that didn’t make as much of an impact on me as the others. As I mentioned to Mike earlier, they would both be in the 4.5 out of 5 range if I gave star ratings…which, of course, I don’t. I’m glad you’re a big fan & I look forward to your insight as I learn (&/or get reacquainted with) the Alice discography over the next couple of months.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        April 21, 2013

        That’s part of the fun of these kind of series. Your opinion is so shaped by your own time and experiences. Even when you all agree an album is great there’s still differences in what tracks you think are the best/worst or how an album compares to others… For instance I would never have singled ‘Desperado’ out as a weak track on ‘Killer’. Years ago I might considered ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ as being filler but with recent listens though that has been a song I’ve really enjoyed. And, at the same time, while I view ‘Killer’ as being stronger I still don’t disagree with your assessment as your points are so well considered and expressed.

        This is shaping up to be a great series already. I’m super-familiar with the AC albums I have but I’m missing a fair few too so I might ended up plugging a few gaps as a result of your reviews.

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      • Great points, HMO. It’s such a pleasure to discuss music with other fans who have open minds. I’ve often encountered fans who are very close-minded, and only their opinion is valid. I’ve never been that way, and I find that I’m always learning about artists and albums I’ve previously overlooked by keeping an open mind (and open ears).

        As much as I’m looking forward to revisiting Alice’s classics, I’m just as eager to spend time with the lesser-known albums. It’s going to be a fun couple of months.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        April 21, 2013

        The close-minded attitude is very disappointing. There are no rights or wrongs in music and taste is such an individual thing. It’s always worthwhile to read articulate, thought out reviews even when the conclusion differs from yours.

        I’d say that open ears and open mind will come in very handy when discussing Alice’s career! Reviewing his career is almost like reviewing the history of Rock music, he’s covered so much ground.

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      • mikeladano
        April 21, 2013

        John Cusack said it best in High Fidelity: “How can it be wrong to state a preference?”

        It can’t be wrong, but fellows like us can have lively debates on the why’s and wherefore’s of our preferences, and that’s when it’s fun.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        April 21, 2013

        Totally! And the fresh perspective can help you listen to an album in a new light too which is always good.

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      • mikeladano
        April 21, 2013

        I’ll let Rich know right now, so he can think about this one — DaDa. I wrote a review for it (unpublished) where I called it his worst album.

        I’m willing to rediscover it though!

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        April 21, 2013

        Without getting ahead of ourselves… I quite like that one!

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      • You guys rock. I remember liking at least some of “DaDa,” but we’ll see how I feel after playing it a bunch of times in a few weeks. Mike, thanks for the High Fidelity reference. A great movie and book, and essential viewing for anyone…like us…who’s worked in a record store. My favorite scene is when Dick (I think that’s his name) goes to John Cusack’s apartment to invite him out to a show, but when Cusack tells him he’s rearranging his record collection, Dick offers to stay & help him. I totally understand that choice.

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  4. stephen1001
    April 21, 2013

    His appearance in Wayne’s World is one of the all-time great cameos – Billion Dollar Babies & School’s Out are on the 1001 must hear list, looking forward to those reviews in your next post!

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    • Glad I’m not the only one who loves Alice’s “Wayne’s World” cameo. I’m listening to “Billion Dollar Babies” as I type this, and it certainly belongs on the 1001 list. Looking forward to comparing notes on that and “School’t Out” whenever you get to them. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’ve had a great weekend.

      Rich

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      • stephen1001
        April 22, 2013

        I can’t assign too much credibility to the ‘1001 movies you must see’ list – Wayne’s World didn’t make the cut! Alice is one of my favourite interviews – he’s been on a radio program in Canada named ‘Q’ a few times. Very well spoken, great stories about hanging out with Groucho Marx & preserving the Hollywood sign, not your typical ‘rock star’ image!

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      • I was referring to the “1001 Albums” list, which is what you’re working your way through…right? The “1001 movies” list is probably missing a lot of fun, lightweight movies like “Wayne’s World.”

        Yep, Alice is always a pleasure to listen to, whether it’s his thoughts on music, entertainment in general, world affairs, etc. He’s a sharp guy who does get the recognition he deserves from the general public…and I’m basing that on knowing the Alice catalog only reasonably well. I’ll probably feel more strongly about it by the time I wrap up this series. I think his lyric-writing often gets overlooked, which I want to help shed a light on.

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      • stephen1001
        April 22, 2013

        The 1001 albums is my current project yes! I think the creators have gone with the brand extension and there are now 1001 movies/paintings/books that also ‘must’ be observed.
        I’m only really familiar with Mr. Cooper’s big hits – usually the theatrics get most of the attention, so a lyric exploration sounds good, I’m interested to hear if his articulate-in-interview abilities show up in the songs as well.

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      • I’m just basing this on my initial reaction to his last 5-6 albums as I discovered them, but his lyric writing (or whoever is writing them with/for him) is an unsung part of his artistry. Hopefully I’ll feel the same way about them as I work my way through the Alice catalog.

        I have the book “1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die” by Tom Moon, as well as “1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die” by Robert Dimery. Not sure if they’re from the same series, but the “Recordings” book was more to my liking since I’m more of an album listener rather than a song listener. As someone who owns something like 8,000 albums in various formats, you would think I exhausted everything I would want to hear, but the “Recordings” book did influence me and I tried out numerous artists/albums because of it.

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      • mikeladano
        April 22, 2013

        I believe the words to be most Alice’s. In some cases, other writers did some lyrics (Chris Cornell for example) but my impression has always been that Alice had a deep relationship with the words. And I agree with your impression of them too.

        When Alice and Ezrin come together, I think it’s solid gold. I associate Ezrin with Alice more than any other act that he’s produced, including Kiss and Pink Floyd.

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      • Thanks for confirming my Alice songwriting comment. I seem to remember that the bulk of the lyrics after his hair-metal phase were self-written, but since I don’t like jumping ahead when I’m revisiting a catalog, I’ll have to wait until I get to that era before getting into those details. I’ve been telling a lot of my friends over the last 10 years how good a lyric writer he is, and they usually look at me like I’ve got two heads (one of which has been sliced off by a guillotine, of course).

        Agreed about Ezrin & Alice. They’re more than collaborators…they’re co-conspirators.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Well said.

        Alice and David Lee Roth to me are both underrated wordsmiths. It’ll be fun when you get to the really lyrically intense albums.

        Like

      • Never thought of DLR as much of a wordsmith. I’ll have to listen with fresh ears next time.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Perhaps, I find later DLR to be absolutely hilarious and witty!

        Like

      • I agree that DLR is hilarious & witty, but some of his stuff wears thin very quickly. What I recall of Alice’s work over the last 15 years or so is that he makes sharp observations on all kinds of subjects, making me laugh & think at the same time. Plus, he has a song called “Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me.” It doesn’t get much better than that (haha).

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        And let’s not forget That Was the Day that My Dead Pet Returned to Save My Life!

        And his box set has a song called Look At Me Over There (Ripping the Sawdust From Your Teddy Bear)!

        Like

      • Excellent examples, although I don’t remember those songs. Will get to them soon enough.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        The one of them, you will for sure. Do you plan on talking about the box set? I believe the second song is only on the box set.

        I think you’re going to have me listening along as you go!

        Like

      • If you’re talking about “The Life And Crimes…” box set, then yes, I’ll be discussing it. I don’t have the other box (“Old School”?), and based on reviews I’ve read (you wrote one, I think) it doesn’t sound like an essential purchase for me. I own every studio album and I’ve borrowed nearly every live album, so I’ll have a great overview of Alice’s catalog by the time I’m done. By the way, do you think the “Old School” box set title was a reference to “School’s Out” or to his more recent song, “Between High School And Old School”? The latter seems like a track only dedicated fans would know, but I guess that’s who the box set is aimed at.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Wow, good question…I always assumed School’s Out, because of the box set artwork. But I do love Between the High School and Old School! I believe that’s off Dirty Diamonds, which is so good…I love that CD.

        Life and Crimes is the one I was referring to though. I’m glad you’ll be looking at it. It had so much rare stuff on there. It is one of the best box sets I own. I listen to it frequently.

        Like

      • I remember liking “Dirty Diamonds” but not quite as much as “The Eyes Of Alice Cooper.” That was the album I bought that got me back into his work, and I traveled backwards toward excellent albums like “Dragontown” and “Brutal Planet.” Those are also the albums where the lyrics really jumped out at me. I hope they’re as good as I remember them.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        For me, I really liked the lyrics to the concept album The Last Temptation. I have the Neil Gaiman comics that go with it too…all first printings I believe.

        This is going to be a fun read for me, and I’ll tell you why. Three albums I seldom play are Brutal Planet, Dragontown, and Eyes Of. So I will rediscover as I go. Another one that I seldom play is Along Came A Spider. But with Alice, even if you hate his last album, there is a strong possibility his next album could land in the “love” catagory.

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      • I couldn’t agree more with your last comment.

        I felt that “Along Came A Spider” was a letdown after some excellent albums. He was going for a creepy, “Welcome To My Nightmare” vibe but there was something missing (humor, perhaps?). At least, that was my opinion after playing it a couple of times when it was released. My opinion may be different after listening to it a bunch of times at the end of this series. I was very pleased with most of “Welcome 2 My Nightmare.” I didn’t think it was in the same league as the original, but it’s everything I hoped “Along Came A Spider” would be. You could tell he was having fun writing & recording that album.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Complete agreed. I think I used the word “fun” a few times in my review.

        I understand his next album is another concept album, this one about the Hollywood Vampires, and I also believe he’s working on a covers album.

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      • Don’t know much about the Hollywood Vampires so I’ll go into that one with no expectations. I’m normally not a big fan of covers albums, but depending on the song choices Alice could make one worth hearing. I think you recently did a review on the Anthrax covers album, right? I’ve never been much of an Anthrax fan, but I like to keep an open mind. When I was in a record store recently they were playing that album, and I had no idea who it was. I thought their song choices were unique…and challenging…but in the end it just made me want to hear the superior original recordings.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Yes I did review that recently. Covers are a tricky thing. For example, I am reviewing a Johnny Cash American album next month. Those albums are largely covers. But in some cases, I do prefer the cover versions.

        It’s a rare thing to do a good covers album. Anthrax were smart to keep it at EP length. An album of that is just too long.

        Like

      • I think of those Johnny Cash tunes as “interpretations” rather than covers. I’m a huge Cash fan…have been since I was a kid…and he’s always done a mixture of originals, spirituals and interpretations. The majority of rock/pop/metal artists who record covers rarely add anything significant to make the songs their own. I’m guessing the percentage of covers that improve on the originals is VERY small. Something like Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” is an example of making a song your own. I look forward to your Cash review. Will it just be one of his American Recordings albums? I love all of them.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Yes indeed, I’m reviewing American IV. The impetus was unfortunately a sad one, a friend wanted “The Man Comes Around” for a funeral.

        Cash does interpretations…a very good word.

        Like

      • That’s an excellent…and dark…album. If I remember correctly, it’s the one where Cash’s voice was really starting to show his age, but in many cases it made for riveting performances. It’s not the easiest listening experience but certainly rewarding. I think I prefer the first couple of American Recordings albums a little more. Can’t wait to read your review.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        Thanks Rich! You’ve nailed some of the aspects I want to talk about, with that album.

        Back to Cooper doing covers: He’s got a few neat ones in his bag o tricks that I liked. You probably will get to some when you get to the box set.

        I have one of him doing “Fire” by Arthur Brown. With Arthur Brown. That’s cool.

        Like

      • Okay, I’ll hold the rest of my comments on the Cash album until your review.

        When it comes to artists doing covers, I often prefer a well-chosen cover song on an album or as a b-side over an entire album of covers. It also depends on the songs that are being covered and how familiar I am with them. What album/comp is that version of “Fire”?

        Like

      • mikeladano
        April 23, 2013

        No problem! I could talk all day about that album…

        Looking at the mp3 files, the Arthur Brown cover is from the No More Mr. Nice Guy live album. I also seem to have him doing Jimi Hendrix’s Fire!

        Like

      • That’s one of the live albums I recently borrowed and made digital copies of, so it’ll be included in this series. If you’re gonna do Arthur Brown’s “Fire,” you should do the Hendrix song too. Well done, Alice.

        Like

  5. Phillip Helbig
    April 26, 2013

    I have to work Iron Maiden into this somehow. I now have all the studio albums with Dickinson and some live ones and will be getting some DVDs soon. I have a ticket to a concert in June. There are other artists whose entire catalogue, or most of it, appeals to me and did from the start, and which I still listen to today. That’s also the case with Maiden, but I find that I need to listen several times to a song before I know it well enough to hear it in my head when it is not playing. And I’ve been listening to Maiden almost exclusively in the last few weeks. My suspicion is that the algorithmic complexity of Maiden’s music is close to the theoretical maximum. Amazingly, although I had known about them for almost as long as they have existed, I had never heard a single song until a couple of years ago. I wonder what else I am missing. In this frame of mind, I watched a documentary about Lemmy today, and it just didn’t do it to me. The only good thing was some footage of Stacia. 🙂 (I know musicians in Hamburg who have played with her former husband, Roy Dyke.) Various other talking heads and/or strumming guitars appeared: Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeath, Dave Grohl etc. But none of these guys do it for me. Despite the technical ability in some cases, they seem like real-life versions of Beavis and Butthead, and I find it strange that such music and that of Iron Maiden is even classified in the same general category. I’m seeing Saxon in a few weeks. (And Big Country. And Uriah Heep. And Michael Schenker. And Herman van Veen. And Ian Anderson. And Neil Young. And Rush. And even Bon Jovi. And Blackmore’s Night. And Foreigner. And Steve Hackett. And Rush. And The Watch (playing Seconds Out). And Walter Trout. And maybe Spock’s Beard (with Beardfish opening). And all before the end of July.! Many of these in the same club, which holds maybe 500 people, where I recently saw Wishbone Ash and John Mayall.)

    So, metal experts: Is there any other band which would appeal to me, considering I like Iron Maiden but not really much, if any, other heavy metal bands (excluding bands like The Scorpions, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Rainbow etc which are on the hard-rock/heavy metal divide, which is difficult to define) but do listen to a lot of progressive rock, and English traditional music, and folk rock, and Baroque, and mediaeval, and Renaissance (the time, not the band)? Or are Maiden truly unique in this regard?

    I haven’t listened to him much in detail, but my suspicion is that Alice falls into the Beavis and Butthead camp. 😐 Not sure about Sabbath (I have a ticket for November).

    Like

    • Phillip, you’ve got quite a slate of shows coming up. I used to have that kind of concert schedule when I was younger. Now I just wait for the inevitable DVD release so I can enjoy it in the comfort of my own home. Glad you’ll be seeing Big Country, one of my all time favorites. They’re not the same without the late Stuart Adamson but the songs are still great, Mike Peters is an excellent frontman and drummer Mark Brzezicki is a monster…one of my drumming heroes.

      As for recommendations, I’ll have to wait until I return from my mini vacation next week. I need my collection in front of me. Don’t underestimate the greatness of Alice Cooper, especially the original band. They were as good as anyone in the early ’70s. Are you a Blue Oyster Cult fan?

      Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        April 26, 2013

        I don’t know that much about them. I’ve only heard a few songs and of course Don’t Fear the Reaper many times. I knew someone who was a fan, a long time ago, and heard some stuff then, which didn’t do much for me, but maybe I’ve changed since then.

        When the mini-vacation is over, try to find something interesting for me!

        Like

      • Phillip, sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. I hope you’re still following this thread. Not sure if there are any other bands quite like Maiden, who combine the best of metal and progressive rock with great songwriting and have done it consistently well over so many years. Here are several artists that you probably already know, but in case you’ve only skimmed their catalogs, I think they would fit under “metal” or “hard rock” and have extensive catalogs that are worth digging into: Blue Oyster Cult, Dream Theater, King Crimson, King’s X, Triumph, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Kiss, AC/DC, Smashing Pumpkins, Porcupine Tree. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on these artists. I hope this is helpful.

        Cheers!
        Rich

        Like

  6. Mark
    June 26, 2013

    Love it To Death may be my favorite of the original band’s work. I actually like the Easy Action album and think that is where it actually started coming together. You can’t do wrong with Killer or Billion Dollar Babies either.

    Like

    • Hi Mark. So you’re basically saying that all of those albums are pretty much essential. Hard to argue with that. This is really the place to start for anyone just discovering Alice’s music.

      Like

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