ALICE COOPER – Old School (1964-1974) (2011)
This might be the last time I obsessive-compulsively buy one of these crazy expensive box sets. With fresh memories of how beautiful the AC/DC Backtracks Deluxe box set was, I eagerly placed my preorder. I mean, Alice Cooper 1964-1974! The golden years! The orginal Alice Cooper Band! When it finally arrived I was blown away by the packaging, bonus goodies, and other finds.
However, musically, this is almost not even worth owning. You have to be a massive, massive, die hard Cooper fan to want to hear a whole five minutes of Bob Ezrin’s kids giggling and singing during the School’s Out sessions. You have to be a masocist to want to hear that horrible loud feedback that just goes on forever during a seven minute run through the same song. The radio ads are nice, but hardly what we as collectors want out of a box set of this stature. Sprinkled in with this junk are the odd good live takes, such as “Under My Wheels” in New York 1973. Unfortunately there are just as many early tracks from the Zappa years that aren’t nearly as good, nor recorded that well. Everything on the first two odds n’ sods discs are either live, rough sketches or demos, studio sessions, or radio ads. Lots of repeat too — there are three takes of “Muscle Of Love”, you will hear “School’s Out” three times in different forms, and “I’m Eighteen” three times as well.
The third CD is, disappointingly an interview disc. It’s a shame to spend this much money and only get three CDs worth of music (the fourth CD is a live one). I did enjoy hearing Alice discuss Muscle of Love and the end of the original band. The other surviving band members, and Ezrin, participate in the discussion.
The only real treasure here musically is the fourth CD, a 10 song set from the Killers tour in 1971. This set is duplicated on a 180 gram vinyl enclosed within. It is from bootleg sources, but where sound quality suffers, the band makes up for it in youth. Lots of static and noise but the band is absolutely on fire in a way that they are not on the first two CDs. I also like that they duplicated the look of 70’s bootleg vinyl with the packaging.
Finally, there is a 7″ single, heavy vinyl, a replica of Cooper’s first single from 1967 as Nazz. The tracks are “Wonder Who’s Loving Her Now?” and “Lay Down And Die Goodbye”. (I only wish that there was a way to download this in mp3 format with the purchase of this set.) See scan below for complete tracklist for the entire box set. LeBrain is nothing if not helpful!
There is a documentary DVD included as well, which although containing lots of fun vintage clips, is very poor value for the money. You are treated to — for the second time now! — the same interview that you just finished listening to! And not only that, but they chose to shoot the interview with the original band in a noisy maintenance room. Why?
Now, packaging wise, this box set is a whole other beast!
The box itself is shaped like a kid’s school desk. The old wooden kind that they had in the 50’s, with the top that opens up and the ink well. It’s hinged and it opens where the school desk would. It is very sturdy and the hinge is metal. Inside are, as discussed:
The 12″ vinyl of the live 1971 show.
The 7″ single reproduction.
1 DVD, Old School 1964-1974
4 CDs, Old School 1964-1974
There is a yearbook, with the whole story told by multiple sources. However, a few things are brushed over, such as the alcohol problems that were setting in. Alice was a full blown alcoholic, a 2 beer first thing in the morning kind of guy. His guitar player Glen Buxton was so wasted that they had him onstage with his guitar turned down to 0, and having a guest guitarist play way off to the side. So none of this is in the yearbook. Great photos though, particular of Alice’s own yearbook. The entire band were a highschool band. All five guys. Lots of great photos from this era, and on to the mid-70’s.
There is a booklet, inside of which is a reproduction concert ticket from 1972 for Wembley. (£1.00 admission back then apparently, imagine that today!) There is also a 1971 tour book (Killers tour), a complete reproduction, and a whole bunch of 8 1/2 x 11 poster reproductions. Lastly there is a replica setlist, which is nothing special. The thing I don’t like about this booklet is that you have to be very careful when you put items back into it, or when you fold everything back together you’ll dogear something.
As I said in the beginning, I think this is the last time I buy one of these box sets compulsively. I knew the music was likely to be iffy and it was. I probably should have saved my money, although the box is a beautiful conversation piece.
2/5 stars, regrettably.