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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Alice Cooper: The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper


CD I: 1) Don't Blow Your Mind; 2) Hitch Hike; 3) Why Don't You Love Me; 4) Lay Down And Die, Goodbye; 5) Nobody Likes Me; 6) Levity Ball (studio version); 7) Reflected; 8) Mr And Misdemeanour; 9) Refrigerator Heaven; 10) Caught In A Dream (single version); 11) I'm Eighteen; 12) Is It My Body; 13) Ballad Of Dwight Fry; 14) Under My Wheels; 15) Be My Lover; 16) Desperado; 17) Dead Babies; 18) Killer; 19) Call It Evil; 20) Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets; 21) School's Out; CD II: 1) Hello Hooray; 2) Elected (single version); 3) Billion Dollar Babies; 4) No More Mr Nice Guy; 5) I Love The Dead; 6) Slick Black Limousine; 7) Respect For The Sleepers; 8) Muscle Of Love; 9) Teenage Lament '74; 10) Working Up A Sweat; 11) Man With The Golden Gun; 12) I'm Flash; 13) Space Pirates; 14) Welcome To My Nightmare (single version); 15) Only Women Bleed (single version); 16) Cold Ethyl; 17) De­par­t­ment Of Youth; 18) Escape; 19) I Never Cry; 20) Go To Hell; CD III: 1) It's Hot Tonight; 2) You And Me (single version); 3) I Miss You; 4) No More Time For Tears; 5) Because; 6) From The Inside (single version); 7) How You Gonna See Me Now; 8) Serious; 9) No Tricks; 10) Road Rats; 11) Clones (We're All); 12) Pain; 13) Who Do You Think We Are (single version); 14) Look At You Over There Ripping The Sawdust From My Teddy Bear; 15) For Britain Only; 16) I Am The Future (single version); 17) Tag, You're It; 18) Former Lee Warmer; 19) I Love America; 20) Identity Crisises; 21) See Me In The Mirror; 22) Hard Rock Summer; CD IV: 1) He's Back (demo version); 2) He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask); 3) Teenage Frankenstein; 4) Freedom; 5) Prince Of Darkness; 6) Under My Wheels; 7) I Got A Line On You; 8) Poison; 9) Trash; 10) Only My Heart Talking; 11) Hey Stoopid (single version); 12) Feed My Frankenstein; 13) Fire; 14) Lost In America; 15) It's Me; 16) Hands Of Death; 17) Is Anyone Home; 18) Stolen Prayer.

Release of monstruous, multi-CD box sets for artists whose creative careers still go on is an ethi­cally questionable business. How can you call something The Life Of... when the life in question is far from over? Since the day this boxset came into existence and up to the time when this re­view has been written, Alice has released no less than five additional studio albums, and a sixth one is reportedly in the works. So, who will really need The Life Of... ten years from now, apart from curio collectors? No doubt, it will be superseded at some point by an even fatter, an even more gruesome, and, perhaps, even more senseless collection.

So let us take this review as simply an excuse for a few scattered general and particular remarks. First, Vincent Furnier, even discounting the last decade, has indeed had a long, unpredictable, thrilling, and wobbling career. Perhaps it does take the space of four CDs to prove that, and the selections are well-planned, placing slightly more emphasis on the Alice Cooper Band period than his solo career — reasonably so — but still careful enough to track down fine selections from each and every one of his records, even the ones that were decidedly uncommercial. (I do take offense at the slighting of Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin, and Dada, though).

Second, unlike Bob Dylan, Vincent Furnier does not have a ton of concealed goody-goodies for future generations to uncover and delight in. Rarities and previously unreleased material that are in­cluded contain a few tasty bits, but no forgotten masterpieces. I count three songs exactly — no more — that really interest me as elegant pieces of art rather than curios/novelties. The B-side 'No Tricks', from 1978, written and recorded in the confessional manner of From The Inside, ve­ry much belongs on that album, and should count as one of the four or five most intensely perso­nal songs Alice ever dared to deliver publicly.

The 1982 single 'For Britain Only' was, true to its name, only released in the UK, and is a fine sharp stab at either Britain or those who visit Britain, I have forgotten which, but I do remember it is as hilarious as everything Alice did in those weird days of New Wave. (Two other little-known tracks from that period, movie soundtrack contributions 'Identity Crisis' and 'See Me In The Mirror', are only semi-decent, but at least show that he was still writing bizarre material as late as 1984, so his conversion to hair metal in 1986 must have been quite immediate).

And the 1991 cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Fire', while obviously inferior to the ori­ginal in terms of music (those were the hair metal years, remember?), yields a deli-salaciously sleazy vocal per­for­mance — it fits in perfectly with Alice's dirty sexual escapades like 'I'm Your Gun' or 'Snakebite', but the latter were written by corporate sleazebags, and the former by you-know-who. 'Jimi's rol­ling over', the Coop sneers during the coda, and he most certainly was, but I am pretty sure that, had the Coop included more cover versions like these instead of third-rate outside material from his delivery guys, Jimi wouldn't have minded rolling over a little bit to uphold Alice's artistic re­putation. For all of its campiness, this way of doing 'Fire' is one of the few things that can, to an extent, redeem our nostalgia for the days of The Big Frizz.

Outside that field, the goody-goodies are mostly here to remind us that, apart from the Life side of Mr. Alice, he also had his Crime side — and by that, we do not mean his anti-social stage per­sonality, but rather true crimes, subject to capital punishment, such as:

the agreement to participate in the farce of the Sgt. Pepper movie (a memento of which is left in the form of his strange cover of 'Because');

the silly early days when The Alice Cooper Band were supposed to be The Spiders, but in reality tried to be lame clones of the ques­tionable facets of The Rolling Stones by covering the likes of Marvin Gaye's 'Hitch Hike';

the ir­ritable and malodorous love for B- and C-movie clichés, which led the man to contribute corny Seventies' bubblegum rock to corny soundtracks for cornier, com­ple­tely forgotten flicks like Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women ('Space Pira­tes' is pure delirious idiocy);

the unforgi­vable decision to include two alternate mixes of 'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)' — both of which are superior to the final version, but still not enough to make it into anything non-stinky;

the idea to transform the monster original version of 'Road Rats' from Lace And Whiskey into a whiny, wheezy, synth-heavy, smelly little gnome of a tune, donate it to a movie with Meat Loaf in the title role, and then have the nerve to include it on this boxset instead of the original.

That said, such was his life, and such were his crimes, that the two are hard to separate from each other. At the very least, here is a man that has definitely paid for his crimes many times over in his lifetime — you could say that to every person who has ever wished him to hang for un­lea­shing the likes of Constrictor on humanity, he was happy to donate a personal hanging. Or be­heading. Or zapping. In the meantime, The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper play out like a sensible, reasonable, properly constructed re-enactment of all these things, even though there is very little reason for anyone to waste money on this.

1 comment:

  1. Any plan on taking your time to review Alice's latest album, "Welcome 2 My Nightmare", sequel of the 1975 masterpiece? I would love to see your take on it.