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Old 06-21-2006, 06:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
Urban Hat€monger ?
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LOVE IT TO DEATH (1971)
(WEA / STRAIGHT RECORDS)


1. Caught In A Dream
2. Eighteen
3. Long Way To Go
4. Black Juju
5. Is It My Body
6. Hallowed Be My Name
7. Second Coming
8. Ballad Of Dwight Fry
9. Sun Arise

History:So Frank Zappa sells up Straight Records to Warner Brothers & suddenly the Alice Cooper Band find themselves with a major label record deal.The men tasked with turning this bunch of hated , make up wearing surrealist freaks into a commercially viable band were producer Bob Ezrin who would later become one of the most in demand producers of the 70s with the likes of Pink Floyd , Lou Reed & Kiss.And also Jack Richardson who was there more in a supervisory capacity , although it was Ezrin who was credited as giving the band their new sound.
Ezrin doesn`t so much water the bands sound down , but focus it and make it much more structured , stripping it right down to it`s basics & rebuilding it. On March 8th 1971 the new look Alice Cooper Band release Love It To Death , and the album cover is promptly banned due to what looks like Alice`s penis hanging out of his pants (It`s actually his thumb). With the offending thumb airbrushed out the album gets to no 35 in the Billboard album charts and the lead single 'Eighteen' gets to no 21 in the singles chart. The band who just 2 years previous were known as 'the band it was cool to walk out on' had the tools in place ready to take on the world.

Review:The first thing that hits you when you hear this is just how tight the band now sound compared to the previous 2 albums. The subject matter for the first song 'Caught In A Dream' is absolutly perfect. It`s a bold statement of what`s coming about fame , fortune & excess.There`s optimism bursting from every pore of this song, a naive charm about the future. It`s interesting to hear this song and then listen to the Billion Dollar Babies album 2 years later having got that fame & fortune & compare it. It`s much darker & seedier tale of it , but that comes later.It`s a lovely song but it`s just a shame it`s not a bit more spectacular musically , it just sounds like your average run of the mill rock song. 'Eighteen' is up next and what an improvement. A slow burner of a song about growing up , of being mixed up , confused , pissed off .....and loving every minute of it.It`s like a teen angst song mixed with a teen anthem at the same time. Usually something like that would be a bit cliched but Alice Cooper do what Alice Cooper do best , take something and give it a whole new sinister twist to make it stand out from the rest. Teen angst was never so much fun. I think I was about 13/14 the first time I heard this , I knew exactly where Alice was coming from with it. 'Long Way To Go' is up next. It`s a really upbeat song with drums & bass galloping along at a frantic pace. The guitars & hammond organ just add to it.But you can`t help think listening to it that there`s nothing much really going for it.It`s fun while you`re listening to it but forgettable as soon as you move on to the next song.
Speaking of the next song 'Black Juju' is something pretty special. A ten minute epic dealing on the subject of life , death , rebirth , reincarnation , voodoo and the like.It opens with tribal drumming and bongos not unlike the Rolling Stones Sympathy For The Devil , only with bigger, angrier natives. Then you get the spooky fairgroundy hammond organ coming in sounding like something out of a death march from some 1950s horror movie before the guitars come crashing in sounding like they`ve just opened the gates of Hell itself. The tone of the song itself is set with this intro with the bass , drums & organ taking a front seat with the guitars just in the background. Then it all goes quiet with Alice whispering at you to sleep. more gentle drumming before suddenly Alice screams at the top of his voice WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP'.The guitars come crashing in and then that takes us to the outro via a slight unobtrusive guitar solo underneath the organ & the drums being hammered the sh*t out of before Alice wraps it up and the band decend into a creshendo finish.......Absolutley stunning.
The second half of the album switches pace and we have the sleazy 'Is It My Body' This is the Alice Cooper band finally tackling sex as a subject and it`s not half hearted.Forget songs about peace & love , this song is about f*cking , pure & simple. The main riff is so sleazy it makes the Stones sound like a bunch of choirboys , the lyrics are about pure lust and if you`ve ever seen Alice sing this song dressed in a leopard skin leotard rolling around on the floor rubbing his crotch , then it just confirms what you already know really.
The next two songs on the album are interesting in that you hear very little about them yet for me they`re two of the better songs on the album.'Hallowed Be My Name' is a great little song that`s really funky in places.In fact the breakdown sounds like it could be the theme tune to a 70s cop show.'Second Coming' is also a nice little weird song about the second coming (obviously) and walking on water & with angels.It`s backed up by some wonderful military drumming and a nice piano peice but the whole song really is just an extended intro to 'The Ballad Of Dwight Fry' The drums die down and we get a little piano solo before we get a childs voice asking where his daddy is gone before the actual song starts.The Ballad Of Dwight Fry' was based on an actor of the same name (Only Alice changed his surname from Frye to Fry to avoid a lawsuit) who played Dracula`s servent Renfield and many other weird characters in some of the earlier horror movies because in Alice`s opinion those characters are much more scary than the main subject of the movies themselves.The song is about a schizophrenic who is locked into a mental asylum after killing people and having no recollection of it and also doing things like stealing childrens toys. Alice really nails the part of Dwight Fry in the way he sings the song too. He mumbles to himself , he makes himself jump , he shouts at random intervals. During the recording Bob Ezrin apparently piled a load of folding chairs on top of Alice while recording the vocals to make him sound more constricted & boxed in. And it really does sound convincing too. This is the first time that Alice Cooper did who whole horror thing and it`s a resounding success.This song isn`t just a highlight of the album , it`s a highlight of his career and is easily my favourite Alice Cooper song ever.
And then following that we then round off the album with a cover of Rolf Harris`s 'Sun Arise'.......
A total anti-climax to an otherwise fantastic album


Verdict I really do like this album a lot, however..................

I just think that with just a couple of small touches it could have been amazing. The decision to put Rolf Harris`s 'Sun Arise' on it quite honestly baffles me completly ,and especially to close the album with it as well , what on earth were they thinking? Although I did hear that they opened their live shows with it around the time it was recorded , so that may be some sort of explanation. Even more a shame considering they have a wonderful album closer in 'Black Juju' just waiting to happen.
'Caught In A Dream' is a pretty weak opener for such an event changing album and 'Long Way To Go' is a bit lightweight and generic , but thats probably with hindsight of the tougher , heavier , darker albums yet to come. Other than those 3 songs this album is really solid with the commercial stuff on side one (barring Black Juju) and the weirder Cooper of old on side two (barring Sun Arise).And it does contain the greatest Alice Cooper song ever written in 'The Ballad Of Dwight Fry'.
Not quite a classic album but there is bags of potential here for the making of one.The seeds have been sown.
8/10
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