REVIEW: Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits (1974)

ALICE COOPER – Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits (1974 Warner)

Picture this:  a kid, just turned 17.  An older uncle named Don Don.  Recording tapes off each other in the summertime.  I didn’t know much of Alice Cooper.  “Teenage Frankenstein”, “The Man Behind the Mask”, and “I Got A Line On You” were the songs I knew best.  I heard a bit of a live version of “I’m Eighteen”, and a Krokus cover of “School’s Out”.  That’s all I knew.  But my uncle had Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits in his tape collection, and I had a blank tape.

I recorded Greatest Hits on one side of a 90 minute cassette.  (Eventually I taped Trash on the other side.)  My impressions at that young age were mixed.  The music sounded old fashioned.  Not at all like his 80s stuff.  While some songs (“Desperado”) flat out lost me, after a couple listens, other tunes started to jump out.

Some of the elements that appealed to me were the lyrics.  “She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice, I said ‘listen baby, you really wouldn’t understand.'” (“Be My Lover”.)  “The Reverend Smith he recognized me and punched me in the nose.”  (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”.)   Of course, “Elected” too — that goes without saying.  Simple, comedic and effective lyrics.

The huge orchestration behind “Hello Hooray” hit me where it counts too.  I grew up on soundtracks and orchestras, so anytime a band used a big bombastic arrangement like that in rock song, it immediately appealed to me.  Even then I was aware of Bob Ezrin from his work with Kiss.

My favourite song on the whole thing was “Teenage Lament ’74”.  What is it about that song?  The old-fashioned jangly rock and roll?  The unforgettable “What are you gonna do?” chorus?  Although it’s fallen by the wayside since, “Teenage Lament” is still an Alice Cooper triumph of triumphs.  On the cassette version, it had a place of honour — second song, side one, right after “I’m Eighteen”.  I couldn’t figure out all the words but I got the jist.  I still love what I perceive to be its old-fashioned sound.  Alice Cooper didn’t need to be heavy to be awesome.  I was learning this.  None of Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits would be considered “heavy” by the standards of the time when I first heard it (1989).

“Is It My Body”, “Under My Wheels”, and “Billion Dollar Babies” were the next songs to slowly reveal themselves to me.  “Muscle of Love” and “Desperado” were the last ones to enter into this new Alice love affair.  Before long, they were all memorized.  Then it was time to start collecting the albums!  Billion Dollar Babies seemed like a wise choice, since I liked so many of its songs on Greatest Hits.  And that’s how a greatest hits album is supposed to work.  It is meant to whet the appetite and make you want more.

Today Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits has been supplanted by more recent, more complete greatest hits discs, remastered for the modern age.  That’s fine and well, but Greatest Hits works better as a first Alice.  The track order, the more concise running time (41 minutes), and of course the classic cover art made this something special.  It’s historic as it was the very last product released by the original Alice Cooper group before Vincent Furnier went solo.  Also worth noting:  all tracks were remixed by Jack Richardson, but you probably won’t even notice.  Completionists, pay attention.

Want an awesome first experience with Alice Cooper?  Follow my lead and check out Greatest Hits.

5/5 stars

26 comments

  1. I think Kids in the Hall have genuinely put me off a lot of greatest hits albums, but this truly is a great one.

    It was my first Alice as well. Followed by Love it to Death. I’ve had the classic five from LITD to Muscle of Love (The Penis Album) for a while now. The Zappa ones before those are something else. Still some cool stuff on them, none of which made it to this collection. Understandably so really. They weren’t exactly commercially viable.

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  2. Man Alice’s lyrics were so good in the ’70s, what happened in the ’80s!?

    I would think that putting Trash after this album on a two-sided tape would only serve to highlight the decline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It did. I was disappointed in Trash. I liked the singles, sort of. I like Poison, I liked Only My Heart Talking, and a few of the other album tracks. I hated I’m Your Gun, Trash and a bunch of the other songs. While I still think Poison SMOKES, I believe that album should be considered the kind you buy for one song.

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      1. How could you bring up that album sucking and not mention “This Maniac’s in Love With You”? What a PIECE OF SHIT!

        I agree. The title track’s embarrassing, especially Jon Bon’s lollipop cock innuendo. So stupid and beneath Cooper. Even the best tracks are soured by Desmond Child’s stupid pop cliches. “Poison” is catchy as all hell, and the only two others I can stand are “Spark in Your Ass” and “Bed of Dicks”. Even those aren’t very good. “House of Fire” is putrid garbage shit too.

        Nita Strauss says Trash is her favorite Alice album, so I kind of understand why Coop doesn’t let her write anything.

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        1. Nah, give me Sir Duke, Superstition, Higher Ground, Part Time Lover, I Wish, Masterblaster, and the whole lot in Stars on 45 any day

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  3. Its great how much relatives influence our musical taste. For me, it was my older brothers (hello…Kiss!!). I don’t remember if they had Alice, but I do know this greatest hits and a 5/5 is not good enough!! This was how I got to know the old stuff as well before I went diving in to the old stuff. I appreciate his music more today than I ever have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah me too. As I’ve explored the entire catalogue, and learned more about Alice, I just have so much respect for him. A true artist, I true gentleman, and never ever stopping.

      It’s hard to top these old songs too. Yes he did amazing songs after but these will always be his greatest hits.

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  4. Yeah, this was my first Alice. The tracks on this have always felt different from the album versions. I always assumed that I was better accustomed to the song order, but the remixing makes more sense.

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    1. First Alice! Nice.

      I think I noticed the remixing when I bought the School’s Out album. I think I noticed the title track sounded different from the version I remembered.

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  5. Though greatest hits sets are generally imperfect (like you said, this one has since been replaced by more complete collections) – they can be that perfect starting point for getting to know an artist.
    And this sure sounds like a perfectly imperfect start to an Alice collection!

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