Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Alice Cooper album by album

(Working on the knife and blades..... )

Alice Cooper were an American rock band led by Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier). They 
were formed in Phoenix, Arizona in 1964 by Cooper (vocals),  Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards), Dennis Dunaway (bass guitar), and Neal Smith (drums). The band had an elaborate, theatrical shock rock stage show. 
They broke up in 1975, after which Cooper carried on as a solo artist, still using the Alice Cooper name. The band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Alice Cooper band developed out of The Spiders, a mid-Sixties high school band playing British influenced RnB.  They recorded a few singles, their first being "Why Don't You Love Me". Their second single, the  psychedelic "Don't Blow Your Mind", was a local hit. They changed their name to The Nazz, and released the darker psychedelic, Beatlesque "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now" with "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye" on the b-side. As the name The Nazz was already used by Todd Rundren, the band became Alice Cooper.

After two unsuccessful psychedelic albums on Frank Zappa's record label, the band moved to Detroit, changed their style to rock in the manner of local bands The Stooges and MC5, and had some success in 1971 with the single "I'm Eighteen" and the album Love It to Death. Their breakthrough occurred with the single "School's Out", and they became hugely popular, peaked in 1973 with the album Billion Dollar Babies and its tour, which broke box-office records previously held by The Rolling Stones. Relationships in the band broke down, and after  releasing Muscle Of Love in November 1973, the band broke up. Lead singer Furnier continuing as Alice Cooper, while the band continued as Billion Dollar Babies releasing Battle Axe in 1977, which without the Cooper name and the flamboyance and recognisability of Furnier, flopped. 

The Spiders

Furnier's first band was The Spiders, which evolved into The Nazz, and then into Alice Cooper. The Spider's recordings:

"Why Don't You Love Me"
 "Hitch Hike"  (1965)
"Don't Blow Your Mind" "Don't Blow Your Mind" (alternative) / "No Price Tag"  (1966) 

The Nazz
"Wonder Who's Loving Her Now" / "Lay Down And Say Goodbye"   (1967) 


Pretties For You (1969)

Alice Cooper's debut album is in the psychedelic vein they had begun when they were The Spiders, but has Frank Zappa's style on it in places. The album was produced by Zappa, but the band themselves claim he did no producing, so it must be assumed that the Zappa parts were done in homage to him by the band, perhaps either hoping to impress or because they were influenced by him. There's also a loose bluesy feel, a little like near contemporaries Savoy Brown and early Hawkwind. It's kind of an interesting album - of its time, and suggesting a more interesting direction for the band than the straight rock they decided on. The band can play, and are willing to explore, but the music is fairly derivative, and there's nothing that really stands out. It's not bad, it's just not special enough. The song "Reflected" stands out as promising and would be reworked as "Elected" in 1972. The difference in those three years is quite profound. The band have developed the driving riffs and strong simplistic melodic pop-rock approach that would make them hugely successful. It's a double edged success, because while it made them popular, the simplicity of the music and the camp meaningless theatricality of the stage shows meant they were never really taken seriously. A professional band who were a bit of fun and enjoyable, yes; but a band who were something meaningful, or who were challenging or significant enough to make us think and provoke discussion? Nope.  Shame really, as the band were clearly talented.

AllMusic: 7
Score: 4

Easy Action (1970)

This is a transitional album. The band are still on Zappa's label, but no longer directed by him. They are moving out from the psychedelia of the first album into a more straightforward rock, as a result the album is less interesting and weaker, but has more focus and potential appeal. This is more recognisable as the Alice Cooper band that would have that brief but huge success, but the album is a failure, and the band retreated to Detroit to rethink their approach.

AllMusic: 6
Score: 3

Love It to Death  (March 1971)

While in Detroit the band shed their psychedelic approach, and took on the driving hard rock style of local Detroit bands Iggy Pop and MC5.  Zappa sold his record company to major label Warner who were unsure of releasing an album by the band. But after working closely with producer Bob Ezrin, who shaped and tightened the band, they released "I'm Eighteen" as a test single. As the single sold well, Warner agreed to fund an album. The band's visual style and theatricality and music is in keeping with Glam Rock, and Alice Copper, Bowie and Marc Bolan are the three who created it, with Vince Furnier (Alice Cooper's lead singer) saying that Alice inspired Ziggy. It's easy listening straight rock, so quite appealing. I came to it after Killer, so it didn't have quite the impact on me as it perhaps did for those who came to it first.

AllMusic: 9 
Score: 5 

Killer (Nov 1971)

I had this and liked it. I came to it shortly after hearing the single "School's Out", and felt at the time that this was less pop and rougher and more authentic than the Alice Cooper in the charts.  This was "my" Alice Cooper, and I was proud to have this. I tried the earlier albums, and bought Love It To Death, though thinking it less developed and imaginative than Killer, but dismissed the earlier psychedelic albums. This kicks off right from the start and doesn't let go. This is proper rawk, spirited, dirty, sexy, slightly naughty and dark, and very melodic. The band's best album. 

AllMusic: 9 
Score: 7

School's Out (1972)

The school desk cover was clearly stolen from 10cc's first album (released under the name Hotlegs) Thinks: School Stinks.  

This was the band's breakthrough album, largely driven by the success of the "School's Out" single. The album feels tired and superficial compared to the previous albums. The title song is great, but the rest of the album doesn't really compare to Killer or Love It To Death. It feels like the band, in trying to musically match their theatrical stage shows, had turned to the musicals, and turned everything into a show song, even bringing in elements of West Side Story. It doesn't work. The West Side Story reference just shows up the lack of energy and excitement of this album in comparison. I do remember that the album inside the cover was wrapped in white paper panties, which one evening in White Cottage, Tenby, my partner put on and asked me to rip them off her.....

AllMusic: 9 
Score: 3 

Billion Dollar Babies (Feb 1973)

The band were now at the height of their success, so production values are very high. This is a very polished and slick album - for me, too polished, and over dramatic and over done. It doesn't touch me at all. You can hear the Alice Cooper of Love It and Killer, but that playful muscle is buried under melodic swing, theatrical flourish, and orchestral production. The band have never been meaningful, and never pushed musically, but they had been fun and tongue in cheek. This tries so hard that the tongue has pushed through the cheek, and it's not funny any more. Having said that, some songs work for me - Elected has the feel of earlier Alice, and is indeed based on Reflected from their first album.  The Rolling Stones derived "No More Mr. Nice Guy" works fine, especially if you prefer post-Exile Stones, but it's not essential material. "I Love The Dead" is lacking in the musical ambition to carry it off, and has pushed the joke perhaps a little too far, but is listenable. The rest of the album doesn't rise to the mediocrity of these three songs. This is the band's best selling and most popular album.  I assume that for most people this was their first Alice album, as the band were hugely popular at this point,  so is the one they fell in love with. This happens. The other albums are not different enough, or strong enough to switch people's allegiances. Mine is to Killer, but it might have been to this if I'd heard it first.

AllMusic: 9 

Muscle of Love (Nov 1973)

The last Alice Cooper band album. It's a band going through the motions, and it is frankly a very poor album - lacking in energy, ideas and atmosphere - it is quite simply boring. After this the singer, Furnier, left, taking the Alice Cooper name and the success with him. The band continued as Billion Dollar Babies, releasing Battle Axe in 1977, which flopped. 

AllMusic: 5 
Score: 2

Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits (1974)

A good round up of the band's best known songs. Only the one from School's Out

AllMusic: 10 

Solo albums

Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) 

AllMusic: 9 


Pretties for You (1969)
Easy Action (1970)
Love It to Death (1971)
Killer (1971)
School's Out (1972)
Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
Muscle of Love (1973)
Greatest Hits (1974)

Later albums are by Alice Cooper lead singer Vincent Furnier using the name Alice Cooper.

Welcome to My Nightmare (1975)
Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976)
Lace and Whiskey (1977)
From the Inside (1978)
Flush the Fashion (1980)
Special Forces (1981)
Zipper Catches Skin (1982)
DaDa (1983)
Constrictor (1986)
Raise Your Fist and Yell (1987)
Trash (1989)
Hey Stoopid (1991)
The Last Temptation (1994)
Brutal Planet (2000)
Dragontown (2001)
The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003)
Dirty Diamonds (2005)
Along Came a Spider (2008)
Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)
Paranormal (2017)


* Alice Cooper 
* Alice Cooper Archive
* Wikipedia
* AllMusic
* Lyrics 

1554 April 2019