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Urban Hat€monger ? 04-22-2006 04:52 PM

The Alice Cooper Marathon
 
Right then I thought i`d do something to christen this forum seeing as I was one of the ones who suggested the damn thing in the first place.

So I thought what better way than to work my way through a marathon of all 20 odd Alice Cooper studio albums and review them.Off we go then......

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PRETTIES FOR YOU (1969)
(STRAIGHT RECORDS)


1. Titanic Overture
2. Ten Minutes Before the Worm
3. Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio
4. Today Mueller
5. Living
6. Fields of Regret
7. No Longer Umpire
8. Levity Ball
9. B.B. On Mars
10. Reflected
11. Apple Bush
12. Earwigs to Eternity
13. Changing Arranging

History: Five friends from high school get together and form The Earwigs , a parody of the Beatles.They wear mop top wigs and pay girls to scream at them.After a while they decide there`s somthing in this & start to write their own material.After changing their name to The Nazz they record two singles , one of which 'Don`t Blow My Mind' does OK in their native Phoenix , but little elsewhere.
The band settle of a line up featuring Vincent Furnier , Glen Buxton , Neil Smith , Dennis Dunaway & Michael Bruce and relocate to L.A. where they also change their name to Alice Cooper.There are many stories about how the name came about including it being the name of a witch who was burned at the stake who communicated to the band during a seance.The real truth is they pictured a sweet innocent little girl with a knife behind her back , also they wanted a wholesome American name , making people expect a blonde folk singer to show up if they went to an Alice Cooper concert.During their time in L.A. they became notorious for being the worst band in L.A. At a tribute gig to Lenny Bruce the band cleared the building of the 2000 people who attended.The only two people left were Shep Gordon (Who became their manager) and Miss Christine of the GTOs who introduced them to Frank Zappa.The band were invited to Zappa`s house to audition for a place on his new 'Straight' record label.The band turn up at 7am (Instead of 7pm) and play to Zappa in his underpants & dressing gown. He signs them immidietly and shortly after the band go to the studio to record their first album.

Review: This is one of the strangest albums I have ever heard. At the time of it`s recording the band were sharing a house with members of Pink Floyd and they were really taken with Barrett & co`s sound. So much so that along with the Beatles there is an obvious Pink Floyd influence at work here.The sound of the album is very amateurish garage rock with traces of psychadelia and the rock that they would come to be known for.The Alice Cooper sound is there , but it`s so fractured you really have to listen out for it. It is one of the most unpolished records I have ever heard , the production is raw and the songs (If you can call them that) are extremely directionless full of random time changes , random lyrics ..... basically it sounds like they made up the whole thing up on the spot.
The album opens with Titanic Overture a short simple eerie instrumental peice on an organ part fairground part horror B movie. This goes straight into Ten Minutes Before the Worm which starts off with about a minute of weird bird noises (i`m not making this up.... honest).After that the band start the song proper which can only be described as a really odd Beatles number played by a band who have only just learned to play their instruments.After playing that for a while it`s almost if the band gets bored & then speeds it up , slows it down , stops altogether and then just start hitting random notes with the odd drum fill for good measure , we even get a few seconds of funk guitar.And the song is only 1.36 minutes long in total.
This sets the tone of the album, the next song Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio starts off really nicely with a gentle acoustic guitar & slow bassline , and for the first couple of minutes it`s a really nice song. Listening to it you can hear the Pink Floyd influence I spoke of earlier.In fact this song reminds me very much like Lucifer Sam off Floyd`s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album.But like almost all of this album each song sounds like 3 or 4 songs forced into one, so after a couple of minutes we get Alice giving us a harmonica solo that doesn`t fit in with the song whatsoever, then we get 3 minutes of the usual time changes , random riffs & fake endings. This song is 5 and a half minutes long but it feels like twice that because there`s so much going on.
Today Mueller the next song sums up exactly what`s annoying about this album. it just stops , starts , stops , starts over & over with Alice singing bits in a ridiculously high voice then just sort of stops rather than ends.Again it just sounds like a really bad Beatles song played by a bunch of idiots taking the piss out of it. The fifth song Living ...... Wow , we actually get a properly constructed song. It sounds like a slightly heavier Byrds , a good slice of late 60s American rock.Hell they even keep the song at the same tempo the whole way through. The only thing that really lets the song down is the really awful guitar solo , in fact it`s almost funny how Glen Buxton just sort of stops bothering with it & starts playing the main riff again. The song even ends properly with a fade out.
When you hear the opening bars of Fields Of Regret you instantly recognise there`s something promising in it.This song actually sounds like the Alice Cooper that everybody is familier with. It`s a uptempo heavy rock song , the kind the band would perfect with later albums , however it`s only the Alice Cooper sound in embryonic form and there is still a lot of work to do. The main problem with it is halfway through the song it breaks down into 2 minutes of Sonic Youth style guitar noodling. And again once the song kicks in again there is really bad amateurish guitar solo that thankfully is replaced quickly by another harmonica solo by Alice. No Longer Umpire is just more of the same really , more weird noises , more random time changes that plague this whole album , by this point i`ve had enough & skip it after a couple of minutes.
Levity Ball is probably the most known song on the album , due to the fact that footage from it being sung have appeared on countless documentarys about Alice showing them in the early days , probably because he`s wearing a green & gold dress while he sings it (He wears this on the back cover of the album too). Again there are obvious Pink Floyd comparisons. The song is very much of it`s time , you`re typical hippy dippy light flower power anthem.But it`s still not enough to save it from the random stuff that the band seem to stick in every song just for the hell of it.Also for some reason it`s a live recording and just at a quite bit during the song we hear an obviously overdubbed crash of drums & guitars. Why? I have no idea. Also the sound quality is awful. I`ve heard the original studio recording on the 'Life & Crimes' box set and why they didn`t use it for this album remains a total mystery to me.
BB On Mars is basically just a good riff with a load of other stuff tacked onto it to make it the length of a song , although not that long it`s only a minute & a half long at best. Next up is the most interesting song on the album , Reflected. Interesting because this song was rewritten by the band later on & became Elected. It`s in a really early form of course but it is recognisable in delivery of the lyrics & the main riff.Still not very good though , it still suffers from the band sounding very amateurish. Apple Bush is an oddity as it`s practically a folk song & sticks out like a sore thumb.It doesn`t fit the album whatsoever and it makes you wonder why they included it , but then again the whole album doesn`t fit anything so why not throw it in. Shame really because they did have other songs much better than this at the time they could have used. Earwigs to Eternity is more of the same erratic tempos , high pitched lyrics & stop start endings , finally the album comes to a close with Changing Arranging. It`s good that this song closes the album because it`s one of the better songs on the album & they take the basis of this song for their next album 'Easy Action'.It`s very much like a song by The Doors who would become a bigger influence on their 2nd album.

Verdict: The first time I heard this album about 12 years ago I loathed it & didn`t listen to it for about 5 years. However listening to it now I can see it`s full of ideas & you can really see the bands influences and where they came from.Sadly though most of the songs are totally unlistenable unless you like really challenging music.A couple of songs do hit the mark but only if you`re really generous & a fan of Alice Cooper in the first place. Interesting but basically flawed.
3/10

hiu 04-22-2006 04:56 PM

I <3 Alice Cooper. Great review also for what I would call quite an interesting album. The review almost says what I think of the album in a nutshell although I'd rate it a bit higher than a 3.

jr. 04-23-2006 12:13 PM

I own a lot of Alice Cooper. I went and met him a few months ago and got him to sign a few cds for me. This is one of the ones I never bother to convert from album to cd. LOL. But, reading the review has piqued my interest. I agree, there are moments of the A.C. sound that was yet to come.

The band, I have always thought, was very underrated. They really hit their stride in the Love It To Death-Killers era. What you hear on this album is exactly what you said...raw. In my opinion, if they'd played for anyone other than Frank Zappa, I doubt they'd have ever been signed.

cardboard adolescent 06-15-2006 04:03 PM

Quite a marathon you've got here.

I've been meaning to download some Alice Cooper, and from your description this album sounds interesting, though probably not very representative of the rest of his discography. Hm...

Urban Hat€monger ? 06-15-2006 04:30 PM

shit it`s almost 2 months since I started this , It`ll take me about 5 years to finish at this rate :o:

Urban Hat€monger ? 06-17-2006 02:43 PM

About time I did some more work here .......

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EASY ACTION (1970)
(STRAIGHT RECORDS)


1. Mr. and Misdemeanor
2. Shoe Salesman
3. Still No Air
4. Below Your Means
5. Return of the Spiders
6. Laughing at Me
7. Refrigerator Heaven
8. Beautiful Flyaway
9. Lay Down and Die, Goodbye

History: After the release of Pretties For You unsurprisingly the record buying public at large avoid it like the plague. Undeterred the band continue with their unique outrageous stage show winning many celebrity fans along the way. The culmination of this is reached on September 13th 1969 when the band are asked to play the Toronto Rock n Roll Revival festival alongside John Lennon & The Doors. The then unknown Alice Cooper band take the stage and shock the hell out of the predominantly hippy crowd. During the show a chicken is thrown onstage. Alice , figuring a chicken has wings so it can fly, hurls the chicken back into the audience where it plummets to the ground & is torn to pieces by the crowd. The following day the press report worldwide that Alice Cooper is this weird band who sacrifice chickens live on stage, Even the Who`s Pete Townsend is reported to have been so disgusted he vowed never to have anything to do with Alice Cooper,something he continued to do so up till very recently. An urban legend is born.On the back of this infamy the band return to the studio to record their second album for Frank Zappas Straight label alongside Neil Young producer David Briggs.What resulted is one of the most ambitious & diverse albums the band ever recorded.

Review:Straight from the opening bars of 'Mr. and Misdemeanor' you can tell that this album is a whole different kettle of fish to the debut of the previous year. It`s almost as if the band learned how to actually be a band in the time between Pretties For You and this album. The song itself is a piano led rock song with it`s very Ray Mansarek like sound.In fact there`s a very obvious Doors influence on this album as a whole.The band very much toughened up their sound for this album , probably due to the influence of the Doors , plus Alice himself taking influence from bands like MC5 & The Stooges in his hometown of Detroit.This song is also probably the beginning of the trademark Alice Cooper sneer in his vocals.
'Shoe Salesman' is one of my favourite Alice Cooper songs period , an uptempo almost 'indie pop' style song that almost threatens to become a folk song. In fact you could play this song to anyone and I doubt they would realise it is actually an Alice Cooper song.It`s more the sort of thing you`d expect Belle & Sebastian to come out with.A gentle song with harsh cutting lyrics about ordinary life.
'Still No Air' to me sounds much like a leftover from the first album in that it sounds like 4 songs mixed into one with hundreds of weird time changes , in fact halfway through the song Alice starts quoting West Side Story (This would be followed up in more detail on the Schools Out album).It`s a definate aquired taste but it`s better that a lot of stuff on the first album due to the fact the band sound much tighter.
'Below Your Means' is an odd 7 minute epic of a song. Odd in that it sounds a lot like the classic Alice Cooper that everybody knows & loves , and yet it still has the sound of the first album with time changes galore.But this time it`s much more toned down and you can really see the beginning of the twisted pop songs that the band became famous for. Hell the song almost sounds structured in some naive way.It`s with songs like this you can really see the progression of the band and the ambition in them.Although it does take about a minute too long to finish.The old excesses still have not been totally wiped out.
'Return Of The Spiders' is basically a song built around Neil Smith hammering the **** out of his drum kit at breakneck speed , added to that with the howling guitars it sounds like some sort of demented express train. This is what Kraftwerk`s Trans Europe Express would have sounded like performed by some garage band turning their amps up full blast and just letting loose. Dedicated to Gene Vincent this is an out & out rocker thats really the first time the band had attempted such a thing.There`s no psychadelia , Beatles re-treads or anything of the sort on this song , it`s just full on beginning to end.I would have LOVED to see this song played live.
'Laughing At Me' is your typical 60s/70s guitar pop song , the kind of thing you`d expect Big Star to come out with. It`s obviously album filler but it`s short , sweet & innoffensive song stuff with melody and Alice actually bothering trying to sing.
'Refrigerator Heaven' is a short daft little song about being frozen until a cure for cancer is found. But it hints at what is to come from the band.It`s 2 minutes of stripped down Rock n Roll without loads of pissing around or adding loads of unnessasary noises , extra instruments or random time changes.It`s like the band have discovered confidence in their songwriting and don`t have to hide behind a load of experimentation.Finally we`re getting to see the Alice Cooper band for what they were remembered as.
As if to prove that point we have two radically different songs to close the album , almost as if the band are saying 'here`s two more songs that you won`t hear us do anything like again so enjoy them while they last' 'Beautiful Flyaway' is a piano led uptempo ballad with lots of vocal harmonies, not anything like what you`d expect from Alice Cooper.In fact it`s just the sort of song you could imagine being on Queens 'Night At The Opera' album if it had been sung by Freddie Mercury.
The final song on the album is the total mindf*ck that is 'Lay Down & Die, Goodbye'. This 7 minute 30 second 'epic' (cough) starts off with Alice stating 'You are the only censor, if you don't like what I say you have a choice you can turn me off ' sounding like he is shouting it from the bottom of a swimming pool. We then get about a minute of avant garde jazz rock fusion. At 1 minute 20 we get 25 seconds of the main riff to the Osmonds 'Crazy Horses'(Which hadn`t been written yet). The closing 5 minutes of the song we get guitar fuzz , distortion , weird noises and Alice chanting over the top of it with a really echoey voice. So basically Alice Cooper invented the Mogwai sound 25 years before they did.The album closes with a minute or two of something that sounded like it could have come off the first album as if to show us just how far they`ve come.

Verdict: Easy Action is known as the lost Alice Cooper classic & it`s not difficult to see why. This album deserves a far wider audience and would be the first album I would recommend to anyone who is convinced Alice Cooper is nothing more than a classic rock has been. This album has experimentation just as the first album did but the main difference with this one is they pull it off successfully and not only do they actually bother to write some songs they write some damn good ones.
One of the things I regret the most about this album is I would love to have seen what would have come next had they not gone to Warner Brothers and without the help of producer Bob Ezrin turning them into the mainsteam stadium/classic rock band that they became known for. I would have loved to have seen them carry on in this direction for a couple more albums , but it was not to be.And to be fair what they did become later on was pretty special too. It does suffer sometimes of falling into the same trap as the first album but only in isolated cases hence the 1.5 being taken off it`s final total.
One of my favourite Alice Cooper albums, this one would get easily into my top 5 Alice albums, and well deserved it is too.
8.5/10

shiftael 06-18-2006 04:07 PM

Awesoem review for an incredibly great, and overall underrated album but an even more underrated Cooper one, as you said.. I think I've aid this to you before but the frist two albusm you could possibly play all the way through even to someoen who claims they hate Aluice, and if not knowing who it is already probably wouldn't be able to tell it was really him.

Urban Hat€monger ? 06-21-2006 06:28 PM

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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 :rolleyes:


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

TunesChick79 06-30-2006 09:56 AM

alice cooper! really great review

_Spinning_ 06-30-2006 04:04 PM

Good call on all Three Reviews. Would have given "Love it to Death" probably a 6.5...Didn't do a hell of a lot for me....but then hey...your call...

Keep up the good work :)


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