REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)

WELC0ME TO_0001ALICE COOPER – Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)

My sister used to have a tradition.  Because I’ve always been a collector, she would have an easy time buying gifts for me as a young rock fan.  When I was 17 years old,  I only had a few albums by certain artists.  She’d sneak into my room and go over my collection.  She saw that I only owned a few of Alice Cooper’s:  Trash, Prince of Darkness, Billion Dollar Babies, and Greatest Hits.  For Easter of 1990, she got me Alice’s Welcome to My Nightmare.  Not knowing what to except from the Coop, it was pretty much instant love.

I played that cassette a lot and grew to know its track sequence, which was completely different from CD.  Later on I purchased the original CD release, but what Welcome To My Nightmare needed (and the rest of the Cooper catalogue needs) is a proper remaster with bonus tracks.  Rhino took care of that in 2002.

Now the album itself sounds so much better than the original CD. This sounds more like vinyl, the way it should, rich and deep. The liner notes, unfortunately, are somewhat crappy. They basically just explain to the youth of today why Alice Cooper is cooler than the bands they like. There’s not much about the genesis of the album, which is disappointing. This is, after all, the very first solo album by Vincent Furnier aka Alice Cooper. By 1975, the Alice Cooper band (Furnier, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neil Smith, and the late Glen Buxton) was no more. Never again would they share a stage or a recording studio, at least the original five.  The four survivors did finally re-team for a couple songs on 2011’s sequel, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

Welcome To My Nightmare was a revelation to me when I received it, and it is still mind-blowing today. I think that is due to the production talents of Bob Ezrin. The man who later produced Destroyer and The Wall really came into his own on this album. His production is, for lack of any better words, jaw dropping. You can totally tell it’s him, if you know his style well enough: that creepy horror movie piano, all the orchestrations, sound effects, the kids singing. Those are trademarks. My favourite moment for the kids was in the song “Department of Youth”. Cooper and the kids sing in the fade-out:

Together – “We’re the Department of Youth, ahh ahh, we got the power!”
Alice – Who got the power?”
Kids – “We do!”
Alice – “And who gave it to you?”
Kids – “Donny Osmond!”
Alice – “WHAT?”

Loosely, this is a concept album about the kind of nightmares Alice would have.  The result was a collection of remarkably timeless and classic songs:  “Only Women Bleed”, “Black Widow”, and “Escape” for example. “Escape” is the most straightforward rocker on the album, and a joy it is. The rest is often more complex, arrangement-wise and lyrically.

The title track is a fun rollercoaster ride with epic horns.  Same with “Devil’s Food” and “The Black Widow” which work together as a creepy classic featuring Vincent Price.  I would not want to live my life without these songs.  Alice is nothing if not diverse, and then “Some Folks” sounds showtune-y.  “Only Women Bleed” is the famous ballad, often misunderstood, but respected enough to be covered by artists such as Lita Ford, Tina Turner, and Etta James.

“Department Of Youth” and “Cold Ethel” are more rock and roll, and why not?  What better genre to sing about rebellion and necrophilia?  It’s worth pointing out the guitar charms of Steve Hunter and the late Dick Wagner.  These two incredible players, under the guidance of Ezrin, lent Welcome To My Nightmare the rock edge that it needed, lest it be swallowed up by the dramatic tendencies.

Of course, Welcome To My Nightmare features the first-ever appearance of the character of Steven. “Years Ago” has Alice singing in this incredibly creepy little-kid voice, as Steven. Then the song “Steven” kicks in, and it’s even creepier, but very epic in scale. Alice is at his most effective here.  Steven would pop up many times, such as on the next album Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, 1991’s Hey Stoopid, 1994’s Last Temptation, and the more recent Along Came A Spider.  Whether it’s supposed to be the same guy, or just a character who shares the same name, I do not know.

The bonus tracks are alternate versions of “Devil’s Food” (much extended), “Cold Ethyl”, and “The Awakening” with alternate lyrics and more Vincent Price! Not available on the Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper box set! These three tracks alone, to the Cooper collector, necessitate a re-buy.  The improved sound probably would have hooked them in anyway.

I could never say, “If you only buy one Alice Cooper album, buy this one.” The reason I can’t is that almost every album by the original Alice Cooper band was monumental, particularly School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies. However, if you buy two or three Coops, please make one of them Welcome To My Nightmare, remastered!

5/5 stars

* There is also a DVD Audio of this album mixed in 5.1 by Bob Ezrin himself!

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44 comments

  1. I remember listening to his way back when because the guitarists he employed – Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter – were on Lou Reed’s Rock’n’Roll Animal, one of the best live albums in the rock arena. I don’t remember being disappointed! Thanks for the memory.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup. I sold it and ‘From The Inside’, at the time I felt they were too cabaret and not rock enough for me. As I’m not a dumb 17 year old now I might hear them differently.

        I used to have the VHS of the show too.

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        1. I really don’t think School’s Out is all that great, I actually think it’s overrated. I never understood the greatness of the title track and I really can’t think of one song on that album that I’d consider a true Coop classic. Killer has a few good numbers, but for the most, that is an underwhelming album to me. I think Billion Dollar Babies is the first brilliant Coop record.

          Muscle Of Love anyone? Wasn’t that record a huge disappointment as well?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I find School’s Out to be a real winner. It comes off very much as a concept album, and lots of influences from musicals in there. I mean he did an entire song from West Side Story! But it has lots of songs I love, such as Public Animal #9 and Alma Mater. But it’s all taste, isn’t it?

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        1. I second his Killer recommendation, and second Geoff’s thanks, and second HMO’s welcoming.

          It is a killer album, pun intended. I put the song “Halo of Flies” on my Sausagefest list one year, and it made the countdown, and was very well received.

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  2. Totally love this album. An all-time favourite. I liked the reissue too, apart from the crappy liner notes. This is one album I just never seem to get tired of. I never liked Dept. of Youth all that much though but it’s still ok. If that’s the worse song on your album you must be doing something right, put it that way!

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    1. Whoa! Department Of Youth is a killer. One of the best songs on this album, I think. If I was a rock star I’d cover that one!

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  3. A stellar review (naturally) of a monumental album. As you may remember from my series on the Alice Cooper discography, this was my introduction to Alice when I was 9 years old. For a long time it was the only album I knew (and it would be years before I learned that Alice Cooper used to be an amazing band before Vince went solo) and it was a great one to start out with, even though there are numerous other Alice albums that are equally essential. I’m glad you pointed your readers to the expanded remaster. I had it on LP growing up and later the original CD pressing, but Rhino’s version is the definitive one for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated Rich! I’m glad to see so much love for this LP/CD. I’m sure you would agree that the Cooper back catalogue deserves a worthy reissue program. The Billion Dollar Babies deluxe was a brilliant release, and ahead of its time considering now everybody is putting out 2 CD sets. Now we need Love It to Death, Killer and School’s Out done the same way.

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  4. A 5/5 from Lebrain!

    You know, when this first popped up I thought hey! I have this record! But my iTunes says no, and going through my shelves says no… Then I realized it’s all on the Alice boxed set you made for me! Cool beans. Now that this is here, I’m gonna go back and re-listen to those tracks from the set and read-along as I do!

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  5. Great story and a great Review Mike! I think I need to get this one due to your review….I know shame shame shame…..but my Intro to Coop was Constictor on…..gotta go back in time…..

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  6. Great review, Mike. I never bothered much with Alice Cooper until a friend threw a few things my way. Not great, but I was a bit more interested. I’m gonna have to investigate the albums you guys recommend. Starting with this one.

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    1. The thing about Cooper is — he has a few near-flawless records like this. But he also has a larger body of work including a lot of stranger records that have a cult following. I’d be curious which Cooper you heard! Then I might know what you should check out.

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  7. Alice Cooper was one of the few artists my first wife and I had a shared liking for and it was this album we played the most along with “From the Inside,” a very very underrated album.

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  8. This album is a masterpiece. Until this one, his (their) records has been somewhat uneven, I think. Pretties For You and Easy Action were pure crap. The records always had some fantastic tunes but also some really bad ones, but this album is brilliant from start to finish. Billion Dollar Babies was also damn fantastic.
    Great review, Mike. Really spot on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit I don’t like the first two Alice. I can hear that there is genius on them, but sparingly. They’re just not that awesome.

      For me, Alice was damn near flawless from Love It to Death, to Billion Dollar Babies.

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  9. This is an excellent review, Sir!

    I only know Alice Cooper through my Dad. When he was a young teenager – just before he moved out, found my Mum, got married – he bought “Killer”. He would play it constantly to annoy his Mum, playing “Dead Babies” loudly. She would come in, throw the door, and yell at my Dad to “turn the racket off”.

    Years later, he would pass ‘Killers’ onto me, and I love it.

    As per your review, I’m going to dig deeper into Alice Cooper. I only know “Poison”, which is also a good song.

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