KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

ALICE COOPER Part 8 – Something To Remember Him By / In Conclusion

Before bidding farewell to the weird, wild, wacky & wonderful world of Alice Cooper, I want to direct my readers to the excellent SickThingsUK website, where you’ll find all kinds of information on Alice’s career. For me their discography provided more detail than any other site I visited, and you’ll also find tour information, photos, lyrics, musician bios, the latest news and so much more. Please show them some love…after reading this post, of course. Thanks.

Alice Cooper - Along Came A SpiderFollowing the garage rock resurgence of The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds, both of which are personal favorites, Alice (unsurprisingly) shifted gears with his next release, the concept album Along Came A Spider (2008). It was a highly anticipated return to the macabre tone of earlier works like Welcome To My Nightmare, Goes To Hell and even portions of Raise Your Fist And Yell, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. I was especially disappointed upon its initial release, and although it improved somewhat after numerous listens this past week, I still rate this as a misfire with a handful of noteworthy songs. The concept centers around a serial killer who dismembers his victims & wraps them in web-like silk to create a human spider (or something like that), and it comes across as the audio equivalent of a mediocre slasher movie that never really scares or shocks the audience. The second half of the album is where most of the highlights appear, so I’ll focus on those first. “The One That Got Away,” co-written with the late Jani Lane (of Warrant), is my favorite song here. It reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins, both in the dense music and Alice’s vocal delivery. You have to love a song that begins, “You look like you’d fit in the trunk of my car, I might let you live, I might go too far.

[Alice Cooper – “The One That Got Away”]

“Wrapped In Silk” has a catchy pop/hard rock chorus: ‘You should be wrapped in silk, you should be bathed in white…I’ll make that dream come true tonight.” “Killed By Love” is a power ballad that’s Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (Alternate Cover)not far from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” with strummed acoustic guitar. The weepy lead guitar and Beatle-y harmonies elevate this track from ordinary to excellent. “I’m Hungry” has a cool guitar riff that reminds me of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “What’s Your Name.” It’s a glam-rock stomper with a bright, poppy chorus (“Gimme gimme gimme gimme something to eat…something so sweet”) and ecstatic “woo hoo HOO” backing vocals. “Salvation” is a moodier, piano-driven tune with synth strings, where the killer questions his choices (“Any chance of salvation, any chance for me, any chance of salvation for eternity”). One earlier track, “Wake The Dead,” is worth noting. It was co-written with Ozzy Osbourne, who adds subtle harmonica, and it’s got more of a ‘60s rock feel with a bass line that recalls The Beatles’ “Taxman” over a modern, synthetic rhythm, and tambourine giving it a lighter feel. Other than Slash providing lead guitar on the generic “Vengeance Is Mine,” there’s not much more to discuss. Lyrically, the story stays in one place (I’m a serial killer, watch out for me), and the music is mostly one dimensional. It’s certainly not a bad album; just unnecessary. Alice can still do better than this, which he would prove on his next studio album (to be discussed shortly).

Theatre Of Death: Live At Hammersmith 2009 (2010) captures a 27-song set recorded in England on the Along Came A Alice Cooper - Theatre Of Death (Live At Hammersmith 2009)Spider tour. With a lineup consisting of guitarists Kerri Kelli & Damon Johnson, bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Jimmy Degrasso, Alice’s voice is raspier than on any of the previous live recordings I’ve heard, often yelling or barking out his vocals. This is more of an observation than a criticism, since he had turned 60 the previous year and his singing style would be difficult for anyone half his age. It does, however, make for a relatively lackluster live album even though there are some excellent performances throughout. I noticed that a lot of songs were shortened, often segueing into one another. It’s a balanced set list, with 11 tracks from the Alice Cooper Band era and the other 16 from seven different solo albums (including just 1 from the most recent release). As someone who’s now very familiar with his catalog it’s an enjoyable listen, yet one I won’t go back to very often. It’s definitely not the right choice to win over new converts to his music.

I love numerous things about Alice’s music, such as his sense of humor, his knack for catchy melodies even on his heaviest tracks, the talented musicians he surrounds himself with, his ability to cover a lot of stylistic ground and his penchant for defying expectations. All of these qualities are on display on his most recent album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011), a sequel to his 1975 Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmaresolo debut. A number of artists have followed up iconic albums with sequels (Peter Frampton, Meat Loaf, Queensrÿche and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson come to mind), to varied levels of success, but I can’t imagine anyone delivering a more satisfying follow-up than this one. It’s especially impressive considering that 36 years separate it from the original. Alice re-teamed with producer & co-conspirator/songwriter Bob Ezrin, and even recorded three songs with the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Band (Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway & Neal Smith; sadly, guitarist Glen Buxton died in 1997), which is a bit ironic since they weren’t part of the original Welcome To My Nightmare. The concept deals with another trip to Hell, making it just as much of a follow-up to Goes To Hell, and it may or may not actually be a nightmare. I’m not too concerned with the story, though, so I’ll just focus on my favorite songs (which comprise nearly the entire album). “I Am Made Of You” is a minor epic, building from an intense & slightly creepy piano intro (hints of “Steven”) to a more bombastic main section with military snare drum & a great guitar solo from old cohort Steve Hunter.  Alice’s auto-tuned vocals are jarring at first but eventually become bearable. I’m guessing he used this modern production trick to make things sound current & radio friendly, and if he’s trying to create an aura of Hell, auto-tune would fit the bill for many old-school rock fans. Alice’s voice is actually very strong, especially at “I was shattered, left in pieces and I felt so cold inside.” “Caffeine” is a silly & fun driving rocker about needing to stay awake so he can avoid his nightmares: “I’m in a desperate way, I’m very near the end, and all I know’s a triple shot of joe is my only friend.”

“Something To Remember Me By” was originally written by Alice with Dick Wagner in the late-70s but never recorded. It’s a gorgeous, ELO-style ballad with traces of Cheap Trick as well. Alice’s vocals are strong with a slight rasp that adds poignancy to the track, and Steve Hunter’s tasteful guitar solo caps one of the best ballads in Alice’s catalog. “Last Man On Earth” is a Tom Alice Cooper Painting (from Welcome 2 My Nightmare)Waits-esque old-time stomping jazz tune, coming across like ghoulish Vaudeville (does that description make any sense?). It’s theatrical, offbeat fun, and features a great hook at “Don’t need to care about tomorrow, I got no pain I got no sorrow.” “The Congregation” is a loud, bouncy rocker with a chorus that’s power-pop meets melodic metal. Alice’s vocals have a late-60s John Lennon feel, as he sings about being welcomed into Hell by “The Guide” (voiced by Rob Zombie). “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” co-written with Neal Smith, features the original band and sounds like an homage to The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” It maintains a single groove through most of the song, until a piano-led interlude that recalls Elton John’s “Grey Seal.” The lyrics describe his female guide in Hell: “She licked her lips, they were bloody red, she had the heart of the living dead.” This character also shows up, voiced by dance-pop diva Ke$ha, in “What Baby Wants,” an immensely catchy, glossy pop-rock song. This dance-oriented tune includes fuzzy rock guitar, coming across like a modern take on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (with Steve Hunter shredding on guitar). Some fans might be turned off by Ke$ha’s appearance, but she fits right in with this awesome, sing-along anthem.

[Alice Cooper with Ke$ha – “What Baby Wants”]

The most divisive song here has to be “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever,” with its programmed dance beat and deep “yo yo yo” vocal refrain. Even if you’re not a fan of dance music, it works within the context of the story, as disco is considered a form of punishment in Hell (“Disco who, disco what, get down on your knees & keep your trap shut”). It shifts gears at around 2:30, going into a driving rock section with John 5 wailing on guitar. “When Hell Comes Home,” co-written with Michael Bruce and featuring the original band, is a heavy, pounding song with serious lyrics about Steven and his dysfunctional family (his father abuses his mother, and at the end he decides to shoot his father). It’s not the catchiest song on the album but it is the darkest. “I Gotta Get Outta Here,” which was co-written by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, is a Steve Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare (Fan Pack Magazine)Earle-esque rootsy rocker, with country star Vince Gill on lead guitar. The lyrics reference other songs on the album as Alice tells the story of his nightmare. The twist before the final chorus comes when the choir asks him, “What part of dead don’t you get?” So, was it a nightmare, or is that the end of Alice? I guess we’ll have to wait for the threequel to find out. “The Underture” closes things out with instrumental quotes of various songs from the original album and this sequel. I also have one bonus track that appeared on my Classic Rock Magazine “fan pack” edition. “Under The Bed” is an effective creepy piano tune that morphs into a straightforward melodic rocker, and has a catchy chorus: “Save me, I can’t take anymore, cuz it’s happening again…” There are also a couple of songs that were exclusive to other versions of the album which I’ve yet to hear. I’ll be curious to find out if those are essential or just curiosities. Considering the quality throughout the album itself, I’m sure they’re worth hearing, so I might have to seek them out. I doubt Welcome 2 My Nightmare ends up being the final Alice Cooper studio album, as he’s still in peak form, but if that were the case it would be a fitting conclusion to a brilliant if often misunderstood discography. I really can’t praise it highly enough.

[For an excellent overview of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, please visit this post from my blogging buddy, Mike Ladano (aka LeBrain), and check out his other reviews & stories while you’re there]

No More Mr. Nice Guy Live! (2012) was originally released as an “Instant Live” recording immediately after this October 2011 concert in London, but was later released as a 2-CD set featuring 21 songs from 11 albums. It may not be in quite the same league as Live At Montreux 2005 or Brutally Live, but it’s still a great document of his current touring lineup that includes guitarists Alice Cooper - No More Mr. Nice Guy Live!Steve Hunter, Tommy Henriksen & Orianthi, bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel (who, according to reader BeeDeeWarner, is rated as “one of the top 5 fastest drummers in the world”). The two most pleasant surprises are the 11+ minute rendition of “Halo Of Flies” (drum solo included) and a rare airing for “Clones (We’re All)” that’s more rockin’ than the new wave original. The performance of “Muscle Of Love” is particularly energetic, with a fiery guitar solo that’s a cross between Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and Van Halen’s “Eruption.” I like how Alice throws in a few bars from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2” into “School’s Out.” The final song is The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’s 1968 classic “Fire” with Brown himself on vocals. It’s not a particularly strong performance, but it must have been a blast for those who attended the concert. This is another live album that works better for existing fans than newcomers.

This has been a very rewarding journey through a lengthy discography that, so far, spans 43 years, 26 studio albums, several live albums and a comprehensive box set. As I’ve pointed out before, I think his stage persona has frightened off some potential listeners who probably pigeonhole him even though Alice Cooper (the man and the original band) is much more diverse than nearly all of his/their contemporaries. Sure, he’s had some missteps along the way, but the more I played each album the more I enjoyed them, and songs that may have passed me by the first time often became favorites after repeated listens. I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir at this point, since anyone who’s read this far is most likely already a big Alice fan. I hope I’ve helped to expose some of his/their lesser-known material and, in the process, made some of you even bigger fans in the process. I know that’s what happened to me over the past couple of months. Thanks for being a part of this series. I look forward to hearing from you.

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61 comments on “ALICE COOPER Part 8 – Something To Remember Him By / In Conclusion

  1. mikeladano
    June 25, 2013

    I used SickThingsUK for my review of the Alice Does Alice EP. Great site! I also have Dale Sherman’s book which helps me with my collecting.

    And thanks for the kind linkage! Obviously I’m well on record for loving Welcome 2. I also have the live album that followed, which as you pointed out is notable for having both Orianthi and Arthur Brown! I sent the Arthur Brown tune to my friend Aaron and his comment back was, “I don’t know who this is but it’s not Alice!” And in a sense he was right!

    I don’t have the other live album. It slipped under my radar. I had forgotten all about it! Things like this, I want to own them. But ultimately I don’t know how much time I want to spend with them. If I only have “X” amount of listening time in my week I usually go for a studio album.

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    • Mike, I was happy to give your site a little promotion. You do great work and more people should know about it. I’m glad we agree on the merits of Welcome 2 My Nightmare. The more I’ve played it the more impressed I’ve been. It’s a whole lot of fun, which is the opposite of Along Came A Spider. I’m curious to hear what you think of that album.

      I know all about “X’ amount of time for listening. Sometimes you have to be choosy, even though you want to hear everything. I’ve said it before, but I’d love to live to at least 200 just to give me enough time to hear everything I want to…and even then it probably wouldn’t be enough. I know you understand that.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        I haven’t played Along Came A Spider in years. I bought it twice: iTunes had 3 bonus tracks, but now I think they’re available on some kind of deluxe. I’m not too sure. But I didn’t play the album much.

        What I like about Cooper though is, if you didn’t like his last album, you very well might like his next!

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      • Very true, Mike. That’s why I wasn’t too concerned when I was disappointed with Along Came A Spider. I knew whatever he came up with next would be different and most likely more enjoyable for me. As always, I look forward to whatever he records next.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        And I look forward to your next series. How do you plan these Rich? Do you have ideas of artists that you want to revisit months in advance? Or is it a case of what you’re feeling when it’s time?

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      • My process is pretty random, although I have a long master list of all the lesser-played artists in my collection that I want to revisit (I think there are at least 70-80 on that list). Sometimes I’ll know who the next artist is before I even wrap up a series, but right now I’m not sure who I’m covering next. I just know that right now I need a brief break, maybe a week or two, so I can focus on other things and listen to the huge stack of newly purchased music sitting by my stereo without taking notes or thinking what I want to write about it. I’m still in awe of the pace of your writing. I don’t know how you write nearly every day.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        I do publish every day, but I do most of my writing on the weekends. I’ve been on break for about a week now actually and I’m itching to listen to something and put my thoughts to paper. In fact, I was just in the selection process now, as I am responding to this!

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      • For me it’s finding the time to write, choose the songs to highlight, locate album cover scans and related photos and (most importantly) listening to each batch of albums multiple times. There are weeks where I listen to nothing but one artist, which is something I’ve never done. No matter how good the albums are, eventually you need a change of pace. The end result, which is getting to know these deep catalogs for the first time, is worth the effort, but it is a lot of work that I’ve chosen to do. My wife is supportive but even she has to scratch her head sometimes. Maybe if I ever figured out a way to monetize it, but that might take the fun out of it. Good luck with whatever you choose to play (and write about) next.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        I’ve decided on Blue Rodeo! So there you go. I haven’t played this particular CD in a couple years, yet it’s one of my favourites. Strange, huh?

        I get you on the burning out thing! I once spent an entire week with Aerosmith. Then I didn’t feel like listening to them again for years!

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      • I’ll be curious to see which Blue Rodeo CD you choose. Only owning three of their albums I need to figure out where to go next with them

        Most of the artists I’ve covered have remained un-played since I wrapped up those series. David Bowie might be the only exception. With Alice, I still want to watch the Montreux 2005 video I recorded last week, but I probably won’t play his albums again for a while. Keep in mind that before I write my posts I listen to each album at least 3 times, and in some cases as many as 5-6 times. It’s very time consuming but the only way I can really get to know them. Playing something once or twice in the background while I’m working doesn’t allow it to sink in.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        Your attention to detail really comes out, no doubt because of the multiple listens. I like to give every album three listens before I commit my thoughts to words. Although I did cheat and listen to Alice in Chains twice. Had to get that one up!

        Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid to do what we love to do? I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.

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      • I won’t tell anyone about your Alice In Chains cheating. The important thing is knowing the music, no matter how many listens it takes. There are some albums that I heard once and felt like I had known all my life. Can’t think of any off-hand right now, but they exist.

        Thanks for confirming that the work I’m putting in is coming through in my posts. And yep, it would be great to get paid for this, but then I would worry about it becoming just another job. Sometimes a labor of love is the best job to have.

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  2. dorian grey
    June 26, 2013

    the incredible thing about music is how two people can have two entirely different opinions about the same collections of music.
    I think “Along Came a Spider” while not as fun, holds together as a “concept” far better than “welcome 2” which really pales when compared to the original “Welcome” even with all the echoes of that earlier work.
    as for the bonus tracks you reference , one is a cover song and the other is simply a heart monitor beeping.

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    • Yep, that’s one of the great things about music…how it’s completely subjective. Everyone’s opinion is shaped by their age, the era they grew up in, their first exposure to an artist, their genre preferences, etc. Sure, the Nightmare sequel isn’t nearly as good as the original, but it shouldn’t necessarily be held up to that high standard just because of the title. When Along Came A Spider was released it felt like a conceptual sequel to Welcome To My Nightmare but, for me, the concept didn’t hold together, and the songs were mostly one-dimensional. Also, it had absolutely no sense of humor, which was a major component of the original Welcome To My Nightmare. The sequel is hilarious, fun and filled with catchy songs. There are elements that I can understand some fans hating (auto-tune on the first track, a disco song and a Ke$ha guest appearance), but those things made the album much more interesting to my ears.

      Thanks for the info on those other bonus tracks. I don’t think I need to make the effort seeking those out.

      I appreciate you stopping by & sharing your thoughts on these albums. It’s always fun chatting about artists we love, even if we don’t love the same things about them.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        I lived the bonus tracks. I liked that Flatline is sort of an alternative ending for those who buy vinyl. Ezrin performed what little music is on it, so I consider it an Ezrin track although still part of the concept.

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      • Mike, you could set up a sub-blog to just focus on the bonus tracks you collect. I give you credit for being so thorough. I don’t have the time or money to seek out every morsel by every artist I like, but I can live vicariously through you. Haha.

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      • mikeladano
        June 26, 2013

        In a way my site is sort of geared towards the bonus tracks — I try to include all possible information available. So folks like yourself might say, “Gee, that bonus track sounds pretty good. For the extra $2 I’ll get that.”

        I haven’t reviewed it yet but I feel that Sabbath’s new bonus tracks are worth it.

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      • I will almost always choose the version with bonus tracks as long as the price difference isn’t too large. The hard part is when there are multiple versions of a particular release, each with exclusive bonus tracks. I try to choose the best, cost-effective option, and then I have no problem finding the other tracks online by whatever means necessary. Until there’s one definitive version, I’m buying one and the rest is up for grabs.

        I’ve only had a chance to listen to the Sabbath album once (the one with the bonus tracks) so I don’t have much of an opinion on it yet. It certainly sounds like Sabbath, but I’ll be curious to see how many of the songs stand up to repeated listens.

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  3. Heavy Metal Overload
    June 26, 2013

    Hey Rich, I’m not able to contribute much to the discussion here as Alice’s career hasn’t really been fully on my radar since Brutal Planet. I’ve tried to get back onboard with his career at a few points. Along Came A Spider didn’t do much for me and I found Eyes of Alice Cooper didn’t either despite all the great things I hear about it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Welcome 2 My Nightmare disappointed me too, I thought there was some great songs on it but on the whole I found it a really patchy, awkward listen.

    But I wanted to chip in to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your series and thanks for your excellent efforts! Like you say, Alice is still on form so I do try to keep an eye on him. He still has great music left in him for sure and, as your posts prove, still plenty of older music that I’m yet to discover!

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    • HMO, I really appreciate the feedback and kind words. The process I put myself through to really get to know each album is time-consuming and occasionally exhausting, but in the end it’s worth it because I finally become familiar with each artist’s discography. If only I had more free time I would cover more artists, but I’ll continue to slowly work my way through various catalogs, one artist at a time.

      As for Welcome 2 My Nightmare, I found it to be an album that gets more enjoyable with each listen. Of course, it depends on your tolerance for the various quirks in the songwriting styles and production choices, but it holds up really well and I will revisit it frequently in the future. I totally understand why many fans didn’t embrace it and I wouldn’t try to change their minds.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        You’re welcome Rich! I’d say I enjoyed Welcome 2 more than most his other recent releases. There were a few great tracks on it and it was really well produced. It was probably the fact that some of the tracks were so good that makes the filler all the more frustrating for me. I loved the mag that came with it though!

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      • Yeah, I’m really glad I spent a few extra bucks for that fan pack edition with the magazine. Classic Rock does a great job with those. I also got the Rush “Clockwork Angels” fan pack…and then got that album on vinyl. Worth every penny.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        I got the Rush one and the Whitesnake “Forevermore” one too. (The Mag for that was especially good). I do like the fan packs but none of the recent ones have taken my fancy.

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      • I saw the Whitesnake fan pack but didn’t pick it up. I’m not enough of a fan, at least of their recent work, to justify the extra expense. I’m glad Classic Rock has been publishing the fan packs, though, and hopefully they continue to do more.

        Uncut magazine has also been doing a great series of issues devoted to the complete works of particular artists, which is perfect for the work I’ve been doing at my blog. So far I used the David Bowie issue for that series, and I have issues focusing on REM, The Kinks, Nick Cave and Paul Weller/The Jam/Style Council…all of whom I hope to cover here eventually.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        I’ve saw those ones. They haven’t covered any artists I’m particularly interested in for a while though… I’m fairly sure I bought one about The Who a while back and it was excellent.

        I buy quite a lot of mags and I intend to try to cut that down. It seems pointless to be spending less on actual music and still buying magazines! Usually I could get a good CD for little over what some of the mags charge for each issue! I try to stick to Classic Rock, Iron Fist (a fantastic new UK metal Mag) and the occasional issue of Guitar World cause I like their sheet music.

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      • I missed a couple of the early issues, like The Who and Pink Floyd. Wish I could get them now for a reasonable price. I love how they do a decent review of each album and reprint old articles & interviews from the archives of several British publications.

        The only magazines I read are Mojo, Classic Rock, Uncut (on occasion) and Prog (formerly Classic Rock Presents Prog). After years of being shunned for loving prog, it’s been great to see it getting mainstream exposure again. I can finally hold my head high again.

        For me these magazines are a resource, helping me to decide which artists (old & new) to check out, and they often act as a reminder of artists/albums I might have forgotten about. I hope print media never goes away.

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        I feel the same way about them. People always ask me how I discover the all the artists I listen to and the answer is pretty simple. Read Magazines! I’ll always support print media for that reason, it’s just that, like with my music buying, I’m just trying to filter down to the best/most useful ones. I’d say Classic Rock and mags like Iron Fist and Terrorizer have always been the best for me as resources and guides. I was delighted when Classic Rock started off as it covered all the prog, AOR etc… that I thought had gone underground forever!

        The Who special did have some fantastic archive articles and interviews, always fascinating especially when it’s Townshend and Daltrey using the press to argue with each other!

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      • A lot of people seem to think that the internet is the only way to discover music these days. The problem is that there’s no real filter, and there’s no separation between knowledgeable writers and a million random opinionated people who now have a forum for their opinions. If you read particular print publications you get to know the writers & reviewers, and you can figure out whose opinions closely match your own. I also rely on several key friends who have great taste in music, and those publications are like an extended network of such friends. Also, and I’m sure you do the same thing, I make sure I read articles on artists & albums I wouldn’t necessarily care about, since I’ll often read something about them that makes me think, “hmm, I should check them out.”

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        Very well put. It’s getting to know the publication and the writers that makes all the difference and trusting their opinion and selections. There are online sources I have grown to trust too but mags are definitely the most rewarding area for me in terms of finding new music.

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      • Would you agree that sometimes the amount of information online, and the number of people who spout their opinions as gospel, can be overwhelming? I have friends on Facebook who post non-stop about “you have to hear this artist” or “this is the best thing I’ve heard all year.” After a while it becomes white noise to me. I have a handful of people whose opinions I really trust & rely on (and vice versa), which allows me to make informed decisions on the music I spend my money on. It’s been a long time since I purchased something I didn’t really like.

        FYI, you’re one of the reliable sources of music information out there. Our tastes don’t always overlap, but I respect your opinions and the diversity of artists you cover. It’s never less than interesting.

        [If anyone’s following these comments, I recommend that you click through to the Heavy Metal Overload blog]

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      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 26, 2013

        Yes I’d say that was true. I only have a few sites that I genuinely trust and visit regularly. Many reviews wildly overrate or hype music while many pan albums unfairly. It’s hard to find discerning, considered opinion.

        Thanks for you compliment and I definitely feel the same way about your blog! In fact, I’ve found blogging to be great for meeting like-minded and interesting listeners. There’s a great music community on WP.

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      • Very true about the music community on WP. You would think that people would only be interested in self-promotion but it’s really more about having fun conversations and sharing information. It’s not like I’m making money writing a blog. It’s just a means of communication and chatting with like-minded fans.

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  4. Mark
    June 26, 2013

    Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a terrific album that grabbed from the first listen. In my opinion, it is his second best album of the 2000’s behind Brutal Planet. I didn’t care for Along Came a Spider either. I like/love almost everying Alice has done but it would rank in my Top 3 or 4 least favorite Alice albums ever (the others are Zipper Catches Skin and Muscle of Love).

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    • Mark, I’m glad we’re pretty much on the same page regarding his output since 2000. I really came to love Brutal Planet this past month, and was pleasantly surprised by how much Welcome 2 My Nightmare improved with each successive listen. It’s hard for me to rank his work during this period, though, since I also love The Eyes Of and Dirty Diamonds. For me Along Came A Spider is the one misstep during this era, and even that one has at least a handful of excellent tracks. I suppose Dragontown was also a slight letdown after Brutal Planet, but even that one had some winners.

      I had such a great time with this series. It was nice to go from casual to devoted fan in about 2 months, and now I’ll be more knowledgeable each time I revisit these albums in the future.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your input.

      Rich

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  5. BeeDeeWarner
    June 26, 2013

    Rich, I have thoroughly enjoyed your review series on the Alice Cooper catalogue. While we haven’t always agreed on our favorites, you’ve been open to new information, and I always want to learn things about Alice that I didn’t know. I will have to pick up the No More Mr. Nice Guy Live CD, as I did go to that show and had a great time! As for the Theatre of Death recording, it helps to have the video. Alice looks really old (he was 61 at the time) but it’s just hilarious, especially on the series of songs “From The Inside”/ “Nurse Rozetta”/ “Is It My Body?”/ “Be My Lover”. It’s very campy and over-the-top, but I love it!

    While I do agree with all you’ve said about Welcome 2 My Nightmare, I have to say I really love Along Came A Spider. He’d begun to work on a sequel to that, calling it Nightshift, but then the opportunity came along to do the sequel to Nightmare and then the covers album, so it’s been put on hold for now. Don’t know if it will ever come to light. Alice has so many ideas, he probably has a hundred songs written, waiting for just the right time to use them.

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    • Thanks. I’m so glad you enjoyed this series. Having you as part of the conversation was an important part of the process. I’ve slowly become enough of a fan over the last 10 years to accumulate his entire discography, but it wasn’t until I delved into each album these past couple of months that I became a devoted fan. I will continue to recommend his music to my friends who are skeptical about him. They don’t know what they’re missing.

      Not sure if I’ll ever have the time to check out the Theatre Of Death video, since I already have a backlog of music to listen to and DVDs to watch (and I still need to watch Live At Montreux 2005 and Brutally Live), but I don’t doubt that the visual aspect would make the performances more enjoyable. Would you agree that the Theatre Of Death CD is geared more to existing fans than to newcomers? I don’t think that’s the case with some of the earlier live material.

      Seems like opinion is split on Along Came A Spider and Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and it’s completely understandable. I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with expecations. With the Nightmare sequel, a lot of fans probably compared it to the original and felt it wasn’t a worthy successor, but I took it for what it was: a conceptual follow-up that’s still a modern-day Alice Cooper record. It shouldn’t be held to the lofty standards of a 36-year-old classic. Sorry we can’t agree on Along Came A Spider. As I said in this post, I don’t hate the album but it doesn’t hold together well for me, either as a concept or as a collection of songs. Only a couple of them might make a hypothetical career-spanning anthology, while I would choose a bunch of songs from Welcome 2.

      Once again, thanks so much for sharing your vast knowledge of Alice’s music. It’s been greatly appreciated. I hope I cover another artist you enjoy that much so we can start another conversation.

      Best…
      Rich

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      • BeeDeeWarner
        June 27, 2013

        Yes, the Theatre of Death CD would have to be more for real fans. As a rule, I don’t care much for live albums, but there are certain artists that I will listen to, especially if I’ve actually seen them in concert. Alice is one, the Moody Blues another one (saw them in 1983 in Phoenix). But I don’t play them very often, even then.

        I don’t like to compare WTMN and W2MN with each other. They’re both great albums, and I listen to them often, but they’re from different times. I did love that they brought back the spooky theme from “Steven” for “I Am Made of You”. That song alone is open for discussion. I’ve seen quite a few comments online about what people think the meaning of the song might be. Certainly, there are some theological overtones there, just as in “Salvation”, from Along Came a Spider, but Alice is never going to hit anyone over the head with his bible. He’s always been the kind to just hint and wink..then let people make up their own minds about it.
        Rich, I will be watching your blog for future reviews, and perhaps I will find some new tunes to buy but I will always love Alice best!

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      • I hadn’t thought much about the lyrics to “I Am Made Of You” before your comment, and didn’t realize that some people had issues with them. Is there a segment of his fanbase that feels like Alice preaches, even in a subtle way, with his songs? He’s such a strong lyricist AND a smart businessman, so I can’t imagine him doing anything intentionally to alienate his fans. I guess I always assumed that song was tied into the nightmare/hell/devil theme that’s the overall concept of the album, like the devil is trying to convince you that there’s a part of him inside of everyone. Based on various reviews I’ve read, the real controversy seems to be about his use of auto-tune on that song, but if there’s anything a self-respecting hard rock fan would consider a musical nightmare these days, it’s auto-tune. Haha.

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  6. BeeDeeWarner
    June 29, 2013

    The way I could see it is that shadows would be made of the person (or monsters hiding under the bed) when they come out into the light, otherwise they’re in darkness. If it’s seen from a theological point of view, it would be that a person is lost in darkness, then comes into the light, when they find God. I’m sure that any Christian (including Alice) would see it that way, but the lyrics are appropriate either way. Like I said, he leaves a lot of things open to interpretation for the listener to make up their own minds. (The comments I’ve seen about this haven’t been from reviewers, but from bloggers on various websites). Even in interviews, he doesn’t always explain the meanings of songs unless it’s just right out in the open, such as many songs on Brutal Planet. You’re right, he wouldn’t intentionally alienate his fans, but many of them (including myself) are Christians, so we’re not offended. If someone is, that’s their problem, and other issues than Alice’s lyrics are at work… The Last Temptation, Brutal Planet, and Dragontown were about temptation and the consequences of evil, and made references to faith. they all had good reviews and the fans ate them up.

    As for the auto-tune, I didn’t have a problem with it. It works here. My musical tastes are eclectic, anyway, and I can listen to anything but rap – I have no use for that at all. But classical, jazz, some country and folk music, as well as hard rock, classic rock, even disco – it’s all listenable. Of course, there are artists I just can’t stand, but that’s normal. I have a problem with Alice touring with Marilyn Manson, because I don’t find him entertaining at all. Maybe if I didn’t have to listen to him and could just watch, ha!, he might be funny.

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    • You really summed up a lot about Alice’s beliefs and the way he incorporates them into his music without preaching in that first paragraph. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons he’s such a likeable personality. I suppose anyone who gets offended is probably looking for something to be offended by. I’d rather keep a positive attitude and simply enjoy good music.

      I’m the same way when it comes to rap. There have been songs here & there over the years that I’ve enjoyed but I would never choose to listen to it. There are too many other genres that I love, many of which I’ve only scratched the surface on, so I don’t feel like I’m shortchanging myself or being close-minded. If Alice did a whole album with auto-tune it might be too much, but I like it as an element on that one song. I’m still surprised that more fans didn’t complain about Ke$ha’s appearance, although I found that song to be one of the highlights of the album (which is why I chose to include that as one of the featured audio tracks).

      Like

      • BeeDeeWarner
        July 1, 2013

        Althought I’m not a Ke$ha fan, she was perfect for this song, and I, too, think it’s one of the highlights of the album. That and “I Am Made of You” ar my two favorites. As for the rap thing, remember that Xibit had an appearance on Dirty Diamonds with “Stand”. I recently found an interview from that time, and Alice specifically wanted someone who stood for good things, not the typical rapper with filthy lyrics and violent subject matter. Apparently, this was done for an Olympics thing. I guess rap can have its’ uses, and I once used it as a teaching tool when student teaching. The kids made up raps using math facts as their subject.

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      • I had no feelings either way about Ke$ha before hearing her performance on this album, although I did initially question his choice ofusing a modern pop singer before remembering that Alice always knows what he’s doing. As for rappers, I didn’t hate “Stand” but it’s not a style I would choose to play on a regular basis. I’m glad that song was included as a bonus track at the end. Didn’t realize there was an Olympics connection. Thanks for sharing that info (as well as your teaching background…very interesting).

        Like

  7. stephen1001
    June 29, 2013

    Great stuff – there`s a show on TVO in Ontario called `the agenda` where it`s an in depth look at a particular topic (not a shouting match like on some news programs). Your artist series reminds me of that format – well researched, strong analysis, and leads to great discussions as shown in the comments section! Looking forward to the next artist.

    Like

    • Thanks, Geoff. I appreciate the compliment. I like the concept of “The Agenda.” I have a group of friends that gathers periodically to discuss music, and even though we have a lot in common there are always artists & genres we argue about…in a friendly way. One of the best parts of writing this blog is hearing from other fans so we can have informed & respectful conversations. Too many writers seem to think that their opinions are the only valid ones, but that’s not my approach. We can all learn something from other fans.

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      • stephen1001
        July 1, 2013

        Agreed – and tastes change too. If I’d started my blog a few years ago, Bob Dylan wouldn’t receive nearly as much praise as he has from me since then. I’d argue if people are too firmly entrenched in an opinion, they’ve put up walls & stopped listening. Good to approach music with an open mind!

        Like

      • That’s the key…having an open mind. I find myself drawn to others who won’t limit what they listen to based on silly criteria, like someone who says “I don’t like country music” or ” I don’t like music with harmonica solos” (I saw that on Facebook last week). It’s okay to not like certain music, but at least give it a chance first.

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      • stephen1001
        July 1, 2013

        haha – I’ve never heard harmonica solos as a dealbreaker!

        Like

      • Yeah, I thought that was a ridiculous comment. When I brought up Stevie Wonder, the guy claimed to be a HUGE fan but didn’t think a single song was improved by his harmonica work. Some people like to wear these opinions as a badge of honor and won’t be budged. For years I had issues with Randy Newman because of his sickly sweet soundtrack songs and silly tunes like “I Love L.A.” and “Short People.” Then last year I listened to some of his early albums and realized this guy is a mega talent. Once again it comes back to having an open mind.

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      • stephen1001
        July 1, 2013

        I definitely jump right to Toy Story or this family guy clip when I hear Randy Newman:

        He’s got two early 70s albums (Sail Away & Good Old Boys) on the 1001 list, so I’ll try to block out the Family Guy clip especially when listening to them!

        Like

      • Love that Family Guy clip (too bad there’s no video), and that’s exactly how I felt about him for so long. Both of the albums on the 1001 list are fantastic. Hope you agree whenever you get to them.

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  8. Hi Rich,
    I have really enjoyed this series – and will pop back and read again when I next revisit Alice. For me, Alice’s best albums were those early ones with his band, but he has always come up with interesting stuff. The Billion Dollar Baby book is a fascinating read of those early days.

    Like

    • Thanks. I can’t argue about those early records with the original AC Band, but I still think there are later solo albums that are almost on the same level of greatness. Wish I had more reading time so I could check out that book. I’ll add it to the retirement reading list. Haha.

      Like

    • BeeDeeWarner
      July 1, 2013

      Billion Dollar Baby is next on my list of reads, assuming I can find it on inter-library loan (can’t afford to buy it – have you seen the prices on that?!) I just finished Me, Alice, also from inter-library loan, and it’s funny, but Alice has said much of it is just “fiction”, so what to believe and what not to believe is the clincher. Some of the stories I can assume are true, as they are repeated in many interviews of the time. Some are so ridiculous that they couldn’t possibly be true. I especially like the introduction written by Alice’s dad. He had good insight into his son’s heart, and his wish that he would return to the faith he was brought up with came true – a smart man.

      Like

  9. BeeDeeWarner
    July 2, 2013

    Alice’s 2007 book, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster is a very good read. I would recommend that one. He really tells some good stories about his experiences and the people he’s known. Of course, he also talks about his faith and how that has been good for his marriage and family life. One I don’t suggest is the the biography that was published last year, called Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare. It’s written by a Brit named Dave Thompson, who obviously doesn’t know squat about Alice, and has relied on urban legend and false information. A few facts are true here, but even some documented facts, such as his legal name change in 1974 and his son’s name are incorrect. If a person is to write a biography, it should be well-researched and double-checked on everything.

    Like

    • Thanks for letting me know about “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster.” He’s such a fascinating man that I would be interested in that..if & when I have the time. At least now I know of one Alice-related book I should avoid. I appreciate the warning. I agree with you regarding factual errors. A writer immediately loses all credibility if certain well-known facts are reported incorrectly.

      Like

  10. BeeDeeWarner
    July 2, 2013

    By the way, Mike – Great video blog on Billion Dollar Baby! I’ve been looking for it, but the prices are way steep. I will reconsider this, as I know this is a must-have for my collection!

    Like

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