Alice Cooper

REVIEW: Play It! ROCK – An EMI In-Store Play Compilation – Various Artists (1997)

Play It! Volume Seven – ROCK – An EMI In-Store Play Compilation (1997 EMI promo)

“Woah!  I own ‘Song 2’.  How about that.”

That was my first reaction upon revisiting this old promo CD from the Record Store days.  I really didn’t know that I had that song, and I’m sort of glad that I do.  This was a freebie, and not a bad one as it had some rarities on it.  In fact there’s only one artist on this disc I’d flat-out skip.  Let’s dive on in.

The first track is a rarity:  an unadvertized single edit of “Temptation” by the Tea Party.  “Temptation”, crossing the new sample-driven sounds of the late 90s with classic exotic Zeppelin, was huge.  The single edit snips off the extended intro.  Industrial rock band Econoline Crush is up second, who also had a big album (The Devil You Know) at the time.  “Home” was a memorable fast-paced single, but their big single “All That You Are”  is also included as track #14.  Far more mainstream, “All That You Are” was omnipresent in 1997.  It’s still a little too over-familiar to be enjoyable.

Skip Meredith Brooks.  I’ll be happy if I never hear the novelty song “Bitch” ever again.  Brooks has a second track on this CD, “I Need”, which suffers due to the spoken word verses.  No thanks.  Skip ’em both.  “I Need” reminds me of what I hated about 90s music.

Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong” were two of the greatest singles of 1997.  Fast paced, drums-a-blazing, and perfectly rifftastic.  In ’97 Grohl could do no wrong.  He released one of the few perfect albums of the year.  ’97 was Peak Foo — prove me wrong.  Flawless songs, still not taxing on the ears.  Probably never will be.

Queensryche had a new album in 1997, the ill-fated Hear in the Now Frontier.  “You” wasn’t one of the most notable songs, and here on this mainstream compilation, doesn’t fare well.  I don’t think EMI knew what to do with Queensryche, so hey let’s pick a song with 90’s intonations and throw it on this store play disc.  A second Tea Party song, “Transmission”, is its full unedited length, combining the same ingredients as “Temptation” but at lower velocity.  “Song 2” follows that, I song I’m admittedly not bored with at all.  A second Blur track later down the line, “M.O.B.” boats a cool riff and pop sensibilities.

I Mother Earth were riding a wave with their second album Scenery and Fish.  I’m not a fan of that disc and I can usually do without “Used to Be Alright”.  Fortunately Megadeth bring some metal to the proceedings.  From the underrated Cryptic Writings comes “Almost Honest”, a hard rocking single with nary a glimmer of thrash.  Great song from a period when Megadeth were quite adept at writing mainstream metal.

Rarities ahoy!  Moist’s “Tangerine” is remixed here, a mix that is far more industrial than the album, but that’s why remixes go on weird compilations I suppose.  Always fascinating, Glueleg are up next with “Dragonfly”, one of their catchiest numbers, still maintaining their weird genre-bending tendencies.

Alice Cooper steps in with a live version of “School’s Out”.  This being 1997, that automatically means it’s the one from A Fistful of Alice.  It’s a little strange hearing “School’s Out” on a compilation of all-new material, but I suppose EMI didn’t have confidence that a new Alice song (“Is Anyone Home?”) would attract new buyers.  But they were more likely to hear Radiohead’s “Let Down” and buy OK Computer instead.  It’s a stunning ballad that might have been unfamiliar to those who hadn’t bought the album yet — the exact people this CD was aimed at!  The CD closes on the slide-inflected “Faded” by Ben Harper.  It’s choked by unnecessarily grungy production.

Record companies rarely sent us free CDs, because we were a used CD store and they assumed we’d sell ’em.  What they didn’t realize was that it was usually guys like the asshole at CD Plus that would be selling their free CDs.  We’d try to be educated about what we bought, and avoid the promos like this one.  If a customer left it behind for us to take for free, it was up for grabs.  As a store-play disc, this would have been pretty good, assuming we had all those albums in stock to sell.

2.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Come Out and Play (1985)

“Twisted Sister…come out and play!”  Happy anniversary to Come Out and Play released on this day 34 years ago.

 

TWISTED SISTER – Come Out and Play (1985 Atlantic LP & Spitfire CD remaster)

What was a band at the proverbial crossroads to do? Continue along the commercial path of the 3 million copy selling Stay Hungry?  Or revert to the tried and true heavy-as-an-SMF sound of yore?

There was only one dissenting vote.  Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza felt that putting “Leader of the Pack” on the new album was a mistake.  The other four voted “yes” but some grew to regret it.  Both Dee Snider and J.J. French have since realized the error of their ways.  Today, Come Out and Play is acknowledged as the beginning of the end, though it has its fans and some sturdy tracks to support it.

Twisted Sister recruited Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and enlisted high profile guest stars like Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons.  They were top-loaded onto a old-time rock and roller called “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”, and the gamble backfired immediately when MTV banned the music video for its zombies and ghouls.  It’s an interesting track at least.  You don’t hear a sax solo on a Twisted Sister song every day, nor the kind of plucking that Brian Setzer deals in.

“Leader of the Pack” was a failure as well, actually a re-recording of a track that debuted on the Ruff Cuts EP.  The video (starring the then-hot Bobcat Golthwaite) further painted Twisted Sister as a novelty band.

Tensions, especially between Mendoza and Snider, were amplified.  The songs that sound like they were meant to be “hits” fall far short.  The impression you get from “You Want What We Got” is that it was intended to be a specific kind of hit.  Unfortunately it’s just a repetitive anthem.  “Lookin’ Out for #1” is similarly filler, a song that never quite clicks.

Some tracks maintained a heavy rock presence. They include the anthem “I Believe In Rock and Roll”.  It’s a manifesto for the PMRC generation; a decent attempt that just misses the mark.  “Come Out and Play” features A.J. Pero nailing down a speedy beat, but the production of Dierks neutered the powerful drummer.  Dierks introduced keyboards to some of the tracks, watering them down needlessly.  “The Fire Still Burns” works better than some of the other songs, and despite the production you can hear A.J. is just crushing the kit.  If the backing vocals sound unusually lush, that’s Don Dokken and Gary Holland.  “Out on the Streets” trades the speed in for plaintive melodies, and is the better for it.  Finally “Kill or Be Killed” does what it promises.  Unbelievable that A.J. could play at such a relentless velocity, but he was an absolute beast.

Strangely, some of the best tracks are the ballads.  Dark ballads.  Ballads of depression, of loneliness, of alienation.  “I Believe in You” is the first of two, bolstered by strong melodies and Dee Snider’s enviable pipes.  The one that impresses the most is the CD and cassette bonus track “King of the Fools”.  Although “Kill or Be Killed” ends the album just fine, this coda adds some substance.  Sounding like a man destroyed, Dee sings the melancholy lyrics.

What kind of kingdom has no throne?
No crown or castle do I own,
I don’t have silver gold or jewels,
Yet I’m the king, king of the fools.

It’s surprisingly thoughtful songwriting, complimenting the mournful melodies.  Yet there is a defiant, powerful streak in the choruses.

King of the fools,
Who are these people to cast stones?
King of the fools,
Better a fool than just a clone.

Dee Snider has always resonated with the underdogs, the bullied, the downtrodden.  “King of the Fools” might be the most honest of all those songs.  Some regal guitar melodies by J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda show that they were picking up what Dee was laying down.

Here’s the catch though.  If you’re buying this album, you need “King of the Fools”.  To get it, you’ll want the CD.  But Come Out and Play might be most notable for the album cover you can only get on vinyl.  Open up that manhole cover and out pops Dee Snider in all his…all his…rags.

Heeere’s Dee!

Do what I did.  Get CD and LP, just for the cover.  Everybody needs a pop-up Dee Snider.

2.5/5 stars

#790: Helluva Halloween

GETTING MORE TALE #790: Helluva Halloween

Everybody eventually hits that age, when they are “too old” to go trick-or-treating for candy.  Highschool seemed like a good age to draw the line. Time to start handing out the candy instead of collecting it.  We all have to grow up eventually.

Do we?

Naw, screw that!

In the 10th grade, a new Halloween tradition was inaugurated.  As told in Getting More Tale #548:

We started preparing for Halloween in late August.  We began by making heads out of papier-mâché. Ours were crude, but when dressed up with sunglasses, hats or wigs, did the trick. Then we would begin working on an audio tape. This was a 60-minute long compilation of scary bits from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden albums. We hid some speakers outside and would play the tape on a loop for background scary sounds.   Kids loved it.  Really small ones were scared, so we had to stop the tape and turn on the lights for them, but 95% thought it was awesome (including parents).  We’d see kids across the street, and they’d make a beeline for our house as soon as they saw it.  My favourite costume was the one I made in grade 10:  Alice Cooper.

Oh, that Alice Cooper costume!  I painted flames on a jean jacket so it would look something like Alice’s.  I wore his makeup.  I had fake tattoos (not knowing that Alice didn’t have any).  I had a pair of handcuffs on my belt.  Best of all though, was the sword I wore on my hip.  It was actually a fireplace poker, but you couldn’t tell in the dark.

Making the annual audio tape was a long, arduous process.  We’d fast-forward through our tape collections to record tiny bits of songs, and loop them.  The ending to “Children of the Grave” and the intro to “Powerslave” were perfect.  Occasionally we’d throw in the middle of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with the narration and creepy violin.  Black Sabbath’s “The Dark” was almost custom made for our needs.  As time went on and our collections grew, we had more music to choose from.  Any time one of us would buy an album with music perfect for Halloween, one of us would excitedly phone the other.  In later years I was fond of the middle section from “Nightcrawler” by Judas Priest.  But it was tedious work.  You couldn’t just play the same sections over and over again, you had to space them out so kids wouldn’t get the same bits repeated while you stood there handing out candy.  We spent hours upon hours making this tape that would only be used for one night.  Blank tapes were a commodity.  We were always using them up, and looking for something to erase.  Halloween tapes were first to go.  Besides, we wanted to do it again the following year, but better!

Our scary tapes would be augmented by flashing lights courtesy of…a flashlight.  Eventually, Bob figured out how to hook up a microphone to our primitive audio setup.  We could then speak directly to the kids!

“You…across the street…come here for a treat!  Muahahahah!”

Mom & dad didn’t approve.  To them we just made a big mess and a lot of noise.  Indeed, I can remember trying to wash off that Alice Cooper makeup at the end of the night.  I left a black ring around the tub.  But my dad hated handing out candy, so I hope he appreciated that he was relieved of that duty.  Considering how long we prepared, it was actually a long ongoing mess.  Ever made papier-mâché?  No neat and tidy way to do it.  Those heads were the most work, and we left a trail of destruction in the basement, forming and painting them.  But once they were out on the front porch (either decapitated or as part of a fully clothed “body”) they sure were effective.

Bob eventually went to college, and the traditional Halloween House was discontinued.  I did it a few times without him but all the fun was gone.  The idea was briefly resurrected in the late 1990s, at T-Rev’s place. As told in Record Store Tales Part 148:

T-Rev had this cool “alien head” — he got it back in ’97 or ’98 from a convenience store.  It had alien head suckers inside.  He asked the guy at the store, “how much for the alien head?”  The guy answered, “If you buy all the suckers in it, you can have it.”  So he did.  (The candy was awful by the way.  I did my share, trying to help him consume it all.)  But he got this alien head out of it, and with it, made a cool alien costume.   And for the Halloween party that year, I wore the costume.

I would sit in a chair on T-Rev’s front porch, still as could be.  When a child would approach the door, I would suddenly move and say “Na-nu, na-nu”!  The reactions were priceless.  Some were scared, so I had to unmask and show I was just a regular guy.

“Give some candy to the Jedi over here!” I said, gesturing to the kid dressed as Darth Maul.

“I’m no Jedi!” he protested.  I should have got my terminology right.  I apologized to the Sith lord.

Even the Sith story is from 20 years ago.  Not having kids, today Halloween has fizzled out.  There are no trick-or-treaters in our building.  Most people today doing a “haunted house” experience at home buy expensive decorations at chain stores.  They get featured the in newspaper for having done an awesome job.  That’s terrific.  But we did everything ourselves.  Everything.  Nothing was “store bought”.  We improvised everything with what we had, spending weeks putting it all together.  Too bad the newspapers don’t cover kids who do everything themselves!  We would have been featured every year.

Have a happy Halloween and don’t forget to brush those teeth!

 

#788: Formerly Storemerly

GETTING MORE TALE #788: Formerly Storemerly

I visited an old store recently.  It was the first one I managed.  Well, not exactly.  I visited the location that replaced my old store, a few feet away from its original location in a strip plaza.  I hadn’t been in the moved and refurbished store before.  My first impression was that it felt smaller and cramped, but that could be just an optical illusion.  It could be physically smaller; or it could just have a lot more stock.

The store today includes a lot more DVD and Blu-ray content than before, which was always the goal.  I don’t really buy movies anymore so I skipped ahead.  When I go music shopping, I’m looking for music.  There was a small bargain bin, not as large as the old, but with the same old stock.  Need any Our Lady Peace?

There was a decent bin of used vinyl and this is where I spent most of my money.  Unfortunately, I cannot detail for you what I purchased as it’s all intended for Christmas gifts.  I can tell you that I bought some 12” singles and an interview picture disc.  The interview disc was way overpriced but the singles were cheap.  I also picked up Fleet Street by Fist on vinyl, a surprising find.  I always wanted the album with “Thunder In Rock”.  I paid $9.99 which is a bit on the high side for a copy in this condition.

The CD selection was a lot of same-old-same-old but there were a couple things I always meant to pick up.  One was Alice Cooper’s Classicks for $5.99.  24 years and I never bothered to pick up this compilation.  It’s good to have for the live tracks from the Trashes the World video.  A full Trashes the World soundtrack would be preferable, but I’ve waited long enough.  I knew they always have a copy or two in stock, and they did.

I was disappointed that the soundtracks section had been severely downsized.  Now, historically, soundtracks were one of our worst-selling sections.  It was always too large for the store, bursting at the seams with titles we had in stock for years and years, often in duplicate.  The solution shouldn’t have been to downsize it so severely, but to just get more selective about what to buy.  I did find one score, which was Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: Insurrection for $6.99.  (I wish I didn’t sell my Goldsmith Planet of the Apes score back to the store for nothin’, back in the day. I’m trying to expand my own soundtracks section.)  They could have a great soundtracks section, they just need someone who knows their soundtracks to recalibrate the CD master list.

The store was clean, but I spotted a couple problems that only an ex-manager would see.  These things would have gone down as red X’s if it was the old bosses inspecting me.

  1. Ace Frehley filed under Kiss. That’s fine for most stores, but not the way we did things.  We specifically gave most solo artists their own section so we could be more organised than the competition.  We could only file an artist under their main band if their solo career was minor, or if only one album was in stock.  Otherwise that artist needed their own header card.  Otherwise you’re going to run into filing problems — I know from experience!  Staff are going to file Frehley under both “Misc F” and “Kiss” unless they make a Frehley header card…which we had before…I know because I made it.  Perhaps the rules have changed since the changing of the guard.
  2. Big Brother and the Holding Company filed under Cheap Trick. The album is called Cheap Thrills, hence the mistake.  We used to put this one under the Janis Joplin header card; she was their lead singer.  It’s the one with “Piece of My Heart” on it, Janis’ biggest hit.  It’s always been a problem getting this album filed correctly.  It used to end up lost and forgotten under “Misc C”.  But if you file it under Janis, it sells right away.

Hard to imagine the store getting so lax on filing.  Remember Record Store Tales part 127?

I enjoyed my visit, with some good buys and a couple overpriced records.  It was good to see they were so busy, just like the old days.   Filing is still a problem, just like the old days!  I wonder how that manager does on their surprise store inspections?  Better than I did, I assume!

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – The Breadcrumbs EP (2019)

ALICE COOPER – The Breadcrumbs EP (2019 Edel)

Alice Cooper wanted to do a Detroit garage rock record and pay homage to his roots.  And so we have The Breadcrumbs EP, six tracks of stripped down goodness, ironically produced by Bob Ezrin.  The 10″ vinyl is limited to 20,000 copies.  Somehow, by the grace of the black widow, we scored #48!

For these special songs, Alice is backed by the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, bassist Paul Randolph, Grand Funk’s Railroad Mark Farner, and Detroit Wheel Johnny “Bee” Badanjek. A remake of Alice Cooper’s “Detroit City” (from The Eyes of Alice Cooper) is an appropriate starting point:

Me and Iggy were giggin’ with Ziggy and kickin’ with the MC5,
Ted and Seger were burnin’ with fever,
and let the Silver Bullets fly,
The Kid was in his crib, Shady wore a bib,
and the posse wasn’t even alive.

That’s some rock and roll poetry right there.  Not one of Alice’s finest songs but worthy of a second chance.  Then “Go Man Go” is a new original composition co-written by Wayne Kramer.  It’s punk rock Alice, as authentic as the bands he’s paying tribute to.  Bob Seger’s “East Side Story” closes the side on a steady groove, right out of Hendrix’s version of “Gloria”.

A really funky “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” (Suzi Quatro) is the centrepiece of the EP.  Horns blastin’, Alice hasn’t been this funky since his dance-oriented Alice Cooper Goes to Hell in 1976.  “Devil With a Blue Dress On” (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) is the soulful side that Alice occasionally shows.  It’s merged with “Chains of Love” (J.J. Barnes) which pulls everything back to rock.  Finally “Sister Anne” by the MC5 puts the snot on the nose and the grime in the rock.  Kramer’s simply awesome riff is perfectly complemented by Cooper.

If copies are still available, get one.  Cooper fans will love the change of pace, while rock and rollers will adore the authenticity.

3.5/5 stars

Just Listening to…Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare

I was very enthusiastic for this album when it came out in 2011:  four copies purchased (to get all the bonus tracks) and a 5/5 star rating.  I can hear what I loved about it so much, even if the feelings are faded today.  That’s what makes these “Just Listening” writings interesting!

The original Nightmare is still a favourite and always will be.  Factors that appealed to me about the sequel album are the musical and lyrical callbacks.  These recurring cues unite both albums quite successfully despite the decades that passed.  Musical sequels can be a dicey affair (Mindcrime 2, anyone?) but Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin managed to do the near-impossible.

The standard album runs 52 minutes, and that’s just a tad long.  Although there are no obvious duds to cut, the original Nightmare was more effective because it was more concise.  (You want a longer experience?  Adding in all the bonus tracks more than doubles the album’s length!)  Regardless of the digital age that most of us inhabit, there is something to be said for the length of a standard LP.  It just happens to jive with the natural attention spans of the human mind.  The new Nightmare crams 14 tracks into that 52 minutes, and it plays out as a lot to absorb.  Especially after giving the album a rest for a few years.

Another way in which the second Nightmare is inferior to the first is the overall tone.  Nightmare 2 is far more humorous.  A couple tracks (“Ghouls Gone Wild” and “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever”) are there for the laughs.  That’s fine — Alice Cooper does humour in music better than 99% of those who try.  The original Nightmare had its fun, but the tone of the album was far darker, especially with songs like “Steven” and “Only Women Bleed”.  You’re going to have a preference one way or the other too.  I prefer the darker original Nightmare to the more comedic sequel.

These are all very fine hairs to split.  I still like the album, a lot.  I believe it to be Alice’s best from the last two decades.  There’s very little wrong with it.  I just don’t think it matches the first as much as I once did.

#770: Encore!

GETTING MORE TALE #770: Encore!

I’ve been avoiding downtown Kitchener for the last couple years.  All that construction (five years’ worth) installing our new light-rail transit system…it’s been hellacious.  But that construction is now over, and the LRT train (called the ION) is running every 15 minutes.  Only two years behind schedule!  And guess where one of the stops is?  Right by legendary record store Encore Records.  Perfect!  No need to worry about parking.

Mrs. LeBrain and I hopped on a bus to the mall, and a few minutes later the train pulled in.  Using the free Wi-fi, I live-streamed myself making goofy faces on our new train.  The ride was quiet and fast since it only stopped a handful of times.  These new trains are lovely!  Now that they are finally running, I can see that the headaches will be worth it.  Clean and quick – I’d use the ION again.  It’s a shame but there are still people who hate the train so much that they would actually like to spend taxpayer money on ripping up the tracks!  What a waste that would be.  Let’s give this LRT a fair shake.

We disembarked the train at the City Hall stop, only a brief walk from Encore.  Not only was this my first ride on the train, but also my first visit to Encore since they moved from their old Queen St. location.  The new store, though not wheelchair accessible, seemed bigger and cleaner.  Old pal Al “The” King was there, happily still slinging the rock for us patrons.

We chatted a bit.  Al really enjoyed working at Encore.  There was a guy that I trained at my old Record Store about 15 years ago.  He left shortly after to work at Encore, and he’s still there!  When you find a place you enjoy working, I guess you stay!

Time to go look at music….

It didn’t take long for me to exceed my budget for the day.  First snag was from the new release rack:  The Beaches’ excellent new EP The Professional, $9.99.  A great recording; it will be getting a few spins this summer.  Next:  the used CD racks.  Plenty of stock as usual.  I came looking for old Styx, but there was no used Styx that I needed.  Instead I grabbed three Scorpions remasters:  World Wide Live (with DVD), Savage Amusement (with DVD), and Animal Magnetism.  $20 each.

Whoops!  I already owned Animal Magnetism.  No big deal; looks like some lucky person will be getting a free copy from me.  I really have to keep track of reissues better.  This is happening more and more frequently as my collection grows.

I still wanted some more classic Styx.  I’ve been playing my Styx albums repeatedly.  I needed some more classics to throw in the shuffle, so I moved on to the new CD racks.  There I picked up Pieces of Eight and Crystal Ball.  $9.99 each.  One by one and I’ll get them all.

Continuing through the racks of new stock, I spied two Kick Axe remasters by Rock Candy.  I’ve wanted both these albums for a long time:  Vices and Welcome to the Club, $22.99 each.  I’ve spun through both twice and was impressed with both the music and liner notes.  What an underrated singer George Criston is.  This sparked more Kick Axe purchases later on Discogs and Amazon.  The third album, Rock the World, is coming in the form of another Rock Candy remaster.  And thanks to the excellent liner notes inside Vices, I also tracked down some early Kick Axe on Discogs.  Debut single “Week-End Ride” / “One More Time” from 1981 is inbound!  Also coming, from the same year, is a compilation LP called Playboy Street Rock.  Kick Axe have a live track on that called “Reality is the Nightmare”.  It’s going to be cool hearing those early songs, which had a different singer.

It’s funny about Kick Axe.  One of the first buttons I ever bought for my jacket was Vices.  It only took close to 40 years to finally get the album.

Finally we closed the Encore trip with some vinyl.  A lovely reissue of Alice Cooper’s Zipper Catches Skin, on clear “black smoke” vinyl.  It looks and sounds great, and now I finally have all the Alice Cooper studio albums.

We bid farewell to Al and headed home again on the ION.  Now that the train is up and running, I do believe I’ll be making Encore a fairly regular weekend stop.

5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (2019 3 CD Japanese edition) Part 2 – Live

Part two of a two part review

Check out part one, the studio album Rise, by clicking here.


HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019 Edel Japanese edition) – Discs 2 & 3 Live

How do you do a Japanese edition up right?  How about including 21 bonus tracks in the form of a double live album?  Get your credit cards out, folks.

Hollywood Vampires Live unfortunately lacks any English documentation, but Japanese readers might know when and where this show was recorded.  It focuses on the covers with a handful of originals, the basis of the first Hollywood Vampires album.  Unfortunately a few more fallen heroes have been added to the list of rock casualties, and so Lemmy and Bowie are among the stars honoured.

The original tune “Raise the Dead” (featuring an intro by the late Sir Christopher Lee) opens the show, but it’s just preamble for the better known covers.  “I Got A Line On You” is the first track where you realize you’re listening to Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult) on drums.  He’s unmistakable.  The big surprise is that the bassist is Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)!  Alice first covered this tune back in ’88 and it sounds like it’s one of his own songs now.  “20th Century Boy” has bite, a little more than the studio cut.

Alice pauses to explain the concept of the band.  “We are the Hollywood Vampires,” he asserts.  “We pay homage to all of our dead drunk friends.  And here comes one now.”  It’s Keith Moon and “Pinball Wizard”, a Who cover that was not on the Hollywood Vampires’ debut album.  “My Generation” was however, and here it’s injected with the live fire of the sweaty concert stage.  Jimi Hendrix is honoured next with “Manic Depression”.  Joe Perry playing Jimi Hendrix.  Cool.   Alice Cooper has no problem jumping from style to style, expert performer that he is.

“This one’s for John,” states Alice.  That would be John Lennon, with both “Cold Turkey” and “Come Together”.  Joe Perry, of course, is no stranger to “Come Together” which Aerosmith scored a hit with themselves.  “Come Together” is another nice bonus because it wasn’t on the Vampires album.  It has a different feel from Aerosmith’s take even though it’s the same guitar player.

“Seven and Seven Is” (by Arthur Lee and Love) goes next, which is a late addition to the canon.  The Vampires recorded it as an iTunes bonus track for the debut album where it remains an exclusive.  The live version is a blitz; Matt Sorum’s sticks must have caught fire.  Contrasting that is the band’s interpretation of “Whole Lotta Love”, with Alice and Tommy Henriksen singing lead instead of Brian Johnson.

“I met these guys in 1968.  They were my best friends.  And I drank a little bit with Jim Morrison…”  The Doors are next to be saluted.  “Five to One” and “Break On Through” kick ass; Alice really gives ‘er.  David Bowie gets the nod on “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City”.  It all sounds natural to the Hollywood Vampires.

“As Bad As I Am” is an original song about Johnny Depp, and another track that was only on the iTunes version of Hollywood Vampires.  It sounds a bit like “Reckless Life” by Guns N’ Roses.  Joe Perry takes the next lead vocal on “Stop Messin’ Around”, the old Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac blues number.  It’s an obvious choice since Aerosmith covered it on their 2004 blues album Honkin’ on Bobo.  This one is an extended jam, far beyond what Aerosmith did with it.

“My Dead Drunk Friends” is a Vampires original, sort of their raison d’etre, that being paying tribute to Alice’s deceased drinking buddies.  It pales in comparison to “Ace of Spades” (lead vocals by Henriksen), easily the heaviest song that Joe Perry’s ever played on.  Possibly Alice too.  Check out DeLeo on bass, doing his best Lemmy.  It’s sad that Lemmy Kilmister joined the list of Rainbow regulars who didn’t make it, but holy shit, what a version!

Only now, at the end of the concert, do the Vampires roll out their own past hits.  “I’m Eighteen”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Train Kept A Rollin'” and “School’s Out” sound brilliant.  In particular, to hear “I’m Eighteen” with Joe Fucking Perry playing guitar?  “Sweet Emotion” with Alice Cooper singing?  Sweet Jesus Murphy, is this a fever dream?  As usual, Alice melds “Another Brick in the Wall” to “School’s Out” pretty much making it the definitive “school” song.

Closing the show, Alice reminds us:  “And remember, give blood!  To us!”

If the Vampires keep putting out quality releases, then that’s a distinct possibility.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (2019 3 CD Japanese edition) Part 1

Part one of a two part review


HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019 Edel Japanese edition) – Disc 1

The first Hollywood Vampires was a covers album with a few originals.  The second is an originals album with a few covers!  It’s a little strange and kind of sounds exactly how you think it would.  Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp and pals obviously set out to have fun, which is audible, but there’s also a weird bent that runs through.  Interestingly some of the best songs are the ones that sound like Aerosmith riffs, done up far better than Aerosmith would have lately.

At the outset, the Aerosmith flavour dominates the stew that is “I Want My Now”.  It’s “Draw The Line” meets Alice Cooper.  You can hear what it would have been like with Joey Kramer on drums, Tom Hamilton on bass and Steven Tyler shrieking up front, but instead it’s Alice, who has had a much more consistent output of late than Aerosmith.  In other words, Perry’s riffs are in good hands and the guy deserves to have a lil’ fun.  His guitar work has the looseness that Aerosmith shed years ago.

“Who’s Laughing Now” is psychedelic Alice, which could be the Depp influence. It’s a really good tune accented by 8-string bass (by Tommy Henriksen) and Joe Perry’s unmistakable guitar expertise. It’s also bookended by two weird instrumentals that appear to be Depp creations. Unfortunately all this lead-up ends at the slow and stodgy “The Boogieman Surprise”, probably the weakest tune. This starts a lull. A farcicle “Welcome to Bushwackers”, featuring Jeff Beck, is a token hillbilly country tune that doesn’t live up to its promise. The highlight, obviously, is Jeff Beck.

Course is corrected on Joe Perry’s lead vocal, a surprising “You Can’t Put Your Arm Around A Memory”, the Johnny Thunders song previously covered by Duff McKagan. Joe’s version is poignant and wise. “Git From Round Me” is a pulsing, hypnotic charge through the gates with Johnny Depp sharing vocal duties with Alice and Tommy. Depp takes one by himself on the Bowie cover “Heroes”, a surprisingly outstanding version. According to Cooper, Johnny Depp (who is currently fighting an acrimonious divorce battle with two-way accusations of domestic violence) had a lot of emotion to put into Rise.  Perhaps that’s what gives “Heroes” its weight, though it’s not a heavy song.

The best of the brief instrumentals is by second bassist Chris Wyse, called “A Pityful Beauty”.  The song it precedes, “New Threat”, is OK.  It is not up to the better material, sounding a bit like a stock riff & rhythm.  Fortunately “Mr. Spider” has a classic Cooper atmosphere, brimming with drama and horror.  Also sounding like classic Alice, but a different kind, is “We Gotta Rise”.  It’s “Elected” all over again with a Billion Dollar Babies mold, starring “President” Alice Cooper.  Alice isn’t political, but it’s hard to read these lyrics as anything but:

“We gotta rise, let’s rise,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies,
It’s you and I, it’s do or die,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies.”

Maybe that’s reading too much into it, but it sure does sound like a call to arms.  Regardless, “We Gotta Rise” is the best original song on the album.  Depp’s next lead vocal, the Jim Carroll cover “People Who Died” is just about its equal.  A rockabilly punk rocker, “People Who Died” is catchy as the flu, but better for you.

Rise concludes with an interesting spoken word track called “Congratulations”.  It works because Alice, Johnny and Joe have rich speaking voices.  Tommy Henriksen gets a spoken word portion too, using his more like a beat poet.  What you’d think would be a boring slog turns out to be an album highlight.

It’s hard to fathom where Rise will sit in six months time or a year.  It has moments less than stellar, where fat could have been cut, but the weirder escapades could warrant many returns.  Bad press aside, Johnny Depp is charismatic on record.  Joe Perry sounds like he’s having fun playing rock and roll away from Aerosmith.  And Alice?  When has he ever sounded like he wasn’t having fun?

Rise will probably have more longevity than the Hollywood Vampires’ covers album, it just needs to lose some dead weight.

3.5/5 stars

Come back tomorrow for a look at the Japanese exclusive Discs 2 and 3:  Hollywood Vampires Live.

 

 

#769.5: Paranormal Mail

As birthday celebrations creep into the following week, gifts continue to arrive!

Aaron of KMA fame is known far and wide for his generosity and creativity in finding the perfect gifts.  He was worried about this one.  Sending a digipack CD in a bubble mailer doesn’t always guarantee safe arrival.  He threw some plastic wrap around it as an extra layer of protection from the elements.  His precautions did the trick and now I am the happy owner of a signed copy of Alice Cooper’s Paranormal!

A great album, Paranormal is a fully-loaded deluxe double CD with a smoking live disc.  And now I have a signed copy to top it off.  Aaron and I briefly discussed what the hell would make someone trade in a signed Alice CD?  I didn’t have anything signed by Alice, until now.  This is a first for my collection.  Whatever the circumstances, I’m glad to be the benefactor.

Thanks Aaron — you know my “Paranoiac Personality” very well!