Warning: image heavy review!
ALICE COOPER – The Last Temptation (1994)
When this album first came out, the local music geeks and I spent a lot of time discussing it. The foremost argument was, “What influence did grunge have on The Last Temptation?” While this is by no means a grunge album, I think there is a subtle grunge influence, and The Last Temptation is all the better for it.
The Last Temptation was heavier…more serious…more raw in production. These are all trends that grunge helped usher in. Alice had taken a bit of a slip, quality-wise, in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Last Temptation was the album he needed to release in 1994. While it was not a commercial success, it excited the long time fans. It was the kind of thing we’d really missed from Alice, since the 1970’s.
The most obvious grunge influence is that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wrote two songs and co-sings one. “Stolen Prayer”, the best song on the album, is Cornell’s, and his pipes have never sounded so good. Grunge forced a lot of hard rockers to drop the glossy production sheen of the 80’s, get serious a little bit on the lyrics, and write harder songs. This is evident in the world of Alice. This album spends a lot of time on the temptation of drugs, and while many rock fans might cringe at the idea of Alice delivering a “message” to us, this really is nothing new for our favourite masked rock star. He’s been serious before, on some of his finest moments in fact, but he always makes his messages fun to listen to and sing along with. West Side Story has always been a huge influence on Alice as fans know, and The Last Temptation is another album that shows this Broadway influence. “Bad Place Alone”, for example, has a chorus that sounds influenced by musicals.
Alice is nothing if not ambitious. The Last Temptation was Alice’s first “true” concept album since DaDa in 1983. In fact there was a even three-part Neil Gaiman comic book available at the time to help flesh out the story. One edition of the CD came with issue #1. Here you can find images from all three issues.
Marvel went all out on these comics. The covers are hard stock, and the artwork inside by Michael Zulli is detailed and, at times, horrifying. The colour palette evokes autumn (the story is set in October). Even Alice himself appears as the Showman character, but the protagonist is (of course) Steven. These comics were later reissued in a trade paperback, but all are affordable today, running at about $4 each. The most desireable edition is probably the rare one that came backed with the CD: issue #1, with a white border.
Musically, Alice is at the very top of his game here. Gone is the gloss. In fact, the opening track “Sideshow” sounds so much like the 70’s that you could swear it’s from the original Welcome To My Nightmare record. Awesome horn sections, great riff, killer lyrics; you’ll be singing this one for days after hearing it. “Nothing’s Free” rips off “Billion Dollar Babies” somewhat with the opening drum hook, but you won’t be complaining when you hear it. Most likely you’ll be pumping your fists to it. The first single “Lost In America” is a fast, tight rock song with insanely catchy lyrics, very different from a lot of stuff Alice had done in the 80’s.
The rest of the album is strong, with “It’s Me” being the sole ballad. “Stolen Prayer” is an absolute diamond. Chris Cornell sings on the choruses with that classic, incredible 90’s Soundgarden voice. Although the song is largely acoustic and mellow, the best word I can use for it is “epic”. It’s a classic, and I believe that to be the reason that Alice used it to close his comprehensive box set, The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper. (Cornell also wrote the track “Unholy War”, solely — even the lyrics, which Alice used without modification.)
Overall the direction of the album is dark and catchy, with great playing from the entire cast and Alice spitting out the words as only he can. The fact that most of these songs were played live on tour is a testament to the strength of the material and Alice’s confidence that he had made yet another classic album.
The Last Temptation is a record that is sadly unknown to many casual rock fans. However, anybody who loved Welcome To My Nightmare would be well advised to pick this up. They might find that Alice has built a musical time machine, an album that sounds timeless despite its 1994 release date. It may not be a grunge album, but I think we owe a thanks to the grunge movement for helping Alice make the strongest record he’d done since 1975.
What happens to Steven? You’ll just have to listen and find out.
Due to this review I’m gonna have to hunt this one down now. I remember reading about Cornell on it by the co writes but I did not know he was actually on it?!
For some reason at the time I just passed on this perhaps it was the result of the Hey Stoopid hangover so I just moved on.
But Mike 20 yrs later(yikes) it time to go back…..
Just get it and be happy that you did!
Damn it Lebrain, no I want this one. Right now. NOt only for the music, but for Gaiman too. Huge Gaiman fans, over here.
[adds to search list]
Ooo also Dave mcKean’s art. How amazing is THAT guy!?!?
Looks like a 20th anniversary edition coming in Novemeber. Autographed by Gaiman, $50.
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In that case you will need the graphic novel…the CD does not contain all this lovely artwork!
I just saw alice last month at Sweden Rock, got to sit in on his press interview. Dude is one funny guy. His show, as usual, was amazing! Can’t wait to see him again later this month on the Motley Crue tour.
You and me both. I wrote a review of the show here, if you’re interested.
Oh man wish I could have an opportunity like this. Early reviews are the Alice has been AWESOME on the Crue tour…better than Motley.
Doesn’t surprise me that Alice would get great reviews, although I’m looking forward to seeing both of them in November. Got my tickets early this year, plus the VIP meet and greet pass for Alice. Can’t wait!
Holy crap! Seriously!? That is awesome. Let me know how cool Alice is!
I love this album. And it pissed me off that it didn’t sell for shit. This album really sounds like a true Alice Cooper album and the only weak song here is the single, Lost in America, but on the other hand, that song’s lyrics are brilliant. Stolen Prayer, Nothing’s Free, It’s Me and Cleansed By Fire are among the best songs he ever recorded.
I’m not a grunge fan at all, but if it did anything good, it was to tell Coop that he wasn’t Bon Jovi. I love Trash, but this is a lot more authentic and the over all feel is that Alice started his way back to his roots here. Too bad none of the songs here are played live anymore.
I’ll ask you here as well, Mike, what’s your fave AC album and your least fave?
Jeez Jon I’ve been thinking about this all weekend. I don’t really have an answer.
I think fave is either School’s Out, or Welcome To. Least fave? Too many to pick from. Pretties For You, Constrictor, Flush the Fashion…so many I don’t really like a lot.
My fave is From The Inside. 10 songs that are all masterpieces.
I also think that DaDa is his most underrated album. Love that one.
Pretties For You, Easy Action or Raise Your Fist And Yell are my least favourite albums. In case anyone wondered. ;-)
From the Inside is great — a little soft, but brilliant. DaDa is one that I have recently re-discovered. Again it’s a bit soft, but it’s CREEPY!
Yep. I agree.
Dunno if you know this, but the song Former Lee Warmer was actually about his record company Warner Bros that he had just left before the release of Dada. Formerly Warner…
He then, of course, re-wrote the lyrics and it became a creepy song.
I had no idea. I wondered where the name came from, because Former seemed like an odd name for a person.
I think DaDa is brillant! As for my least favorite album, it has to be Muscle of Love. And Pretties for You may not be the best-produced album, but as a musician, I can see the potential the group had. If they had released “Living” as a single, they’d have broken out on their first album instead of their third…I love that song.
Actually BeeDee it’s you and Rich who persuaded me to give DaDa another try!
Scarlet And Sheba. What a killer! He should bring that one into his live show. I think he could do something really cool with that one.
I agree that Scarlet and Sheba would be great in the show. I even wore a red veiled hat to his show last year! Former Lee Warmer could be cool, too. I have some ideas on how to stage that one that would be really creepy…