Alice Cooper

Raise Your Fist and Yell for these Alice Cooper Deep Cuts

Thank you to Marco from the Contrarians for your awesome contributions to this week’s discussion: Alice Cooper Deep Cuts!  And thanks as always to co-host Harrison the Mad Metal Man!  Harrison really came out of the box with some obscure but still notable songs that you need to check out.  The thing about Alice Cooper is…he’s so prolific, and even on the albums you might not like as much, there are always a standout song or two.  I was surprised to find so much love for certain songs (“Roses On White Lace”, “Aspirin Damage”, “Make That Money (Scrooge’s Song)”, “Fresh Blood” and more).  Alice’s albums were well represented on these lists, with only a handful going unmentioned.  Even so, our runners-up lists covered the shadowy corners of the discography.

More thanks:  Holen & Buried On Mars with two more lists of great songs that need to be heard and appreciated more often.

If you watched this episode live, I appreciate you too!  Another great Friday night for the books!

Alice Cooper Deep Cuts – With Marco from the Contrarians, Harrison and LeBrain!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano and Friends

Episode 107 – Alice Cooper Deep Cuts – Nigel Tufnel Top Ten lists

Tonight, please tune in to a list show over a year in the making!  Harrison the Mad Metal Man has been asking to do this theme for ages now, and we finally got the right trio to do it.  Marco from the Contrarians will be completing the panel tonight as we list off our Alice Cooper Deep Cuts.  No singles, no live concert staples.   Each of us will be listing 11 tracks for the full Nigel Tufnel Top Ten experience.

Think about it a minute.  There are all the classic Alice Cooper Band records, including the obscure opening duo of Pretties For You and Easy Action.  Not long after the classic run, the “blackout” albums that Alice doesn’t remember making.  The late 80s had their fair share of great deep cuts on Coop’s horror-themed Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell.  Then we have Cooper’s entire output for the last 30 years with plenty of hidden gems.  Add in some pretty cool soundtracks and B-sides.  Yes, there will be a wealth of Alice riches tonight.

Your live participation means all the world to us, so I hope you can make it.  Go Leafs?

Friday May 6, 7:00 PM E.S.T.  on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!

 

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Flush the Fashion (1980)

ALICE COOPER ’80 – Flush the Fashion (1980 Warner, Japanese CD)

The early 80s were a tough time for the Coop.  His previous record, From the Inside, was written about getting clean in the loony bin.  Staying clean wasn’t easy and so we enter the “lost years”:  the records Alice doesn’t remember making due to being blackout drunk.  Flush the Fashion is a divisive album, with some fans loving its straight-ahead new wave direction, while others despaired Alice’s temporary abandonment of rock.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  It was the 80s and if that wasn’t obvious by the “ALICE COOPER ’80” title at the top, it definitely was clear by the keyboards and programming.  Roy Thomas Baker of Queen and The Cars fame produced.

With song titles ripped from the National Enquirer, Flush the Fashion contains a number of short, fast, punky new wave songs beginning with “Talk Talk” at barely two minutes long.  You will either love this tough nut of a guitar-driver, or you will be indifferent to it for being light on hooks and brittle in sound.

“Clones (We’re All)”, which was written by outsider David Carron, is the clear album highlight.  It was later covered by Smashing Pumpkins on the B-side to “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, and has seen action in Alice’s live set occasionally over the years.  This fun, keyboard-heavy new wave song really nails the 80s sound Alice was going for.  Programmed beats, a bouncy keyboard, catchy words and you have a keeper.  It went Top 40 and evokes a smile and maybe even a little bit of fist pounding.

The ballad “Pain” is the second in a pair of keepers.  A piano-based mourner with a powerful pound, “Pain” possesses tremendous appeal.  Alice’s interesting lyrics provide a number of metaphors for your own internal pain.   “The loudest one laughing at the saddest wake,” for example, and “the lump on your head when you step on a rake.”  Not overly serious, but suiting the character of Alice the masochist.  There’s a simply wonderful dual guitar harmony in the middle that is worth rewinding several times on its own.

“Clones” and “Pain” together are seven solid minutes of Alice that you simply cannot help but sing along to.  The songs will burrow into your mind until they are a permanent part of your grey matter.  They are the proverbial keepers.  The same cannot be said for the rest of the album, which defies memorability at almost every turn.  Fortunately, all these songs are short.

“Leather Boots” isn’t a great song, but it is at least a fun twangy rocker.  Similarly, “Aspirin Damage” is fun if forgettable.  Regardless of the music, Alice’s lyrics always offer some interesting twist or perspective.  There’s probably something autobiographical happening in the back of his mind here too.

That’s side one in a nutshell, under 14 minutes of music.  Side two is over and out in under 15.  These are short songs!  “Nuclear Infected” has some unremarkable guitar crunch.  “Grim Facts” is cooler.  This steadfast stomper has a certain Cars-like vibe courtesy of Baker.  “Model Citizen” leans a bit more into a punky direction, until the chorus which is kitschy Alice with lush backing vocals while Alice does his sinister speak-sing.  For a more traditional Alice song, there’s “Dance Yourself to Death”, which would probably be a third keeper if you were willing to extend it that honour.  No new wave trappings here, just traditional rock like the Alice Cooper Band of old.  It just…it doesn’t stick.  It’s notable for being one of those good second-last tunes though.  The final song is “Headlines”, which has a variety of different sections and tempos, and one cool riff.

Another listener could probably make a case for a solid 3.5/5 star album.  Others will enjoy isolated moments, but will struggle through.  Which are you?

3/5 stars

VHS Archives #129: Alice Cooper & Kane Roberts ’87

Another in a long line of superb Erica Ehm interviews!  Alice Cooper seems like a pretty easy guy to interview, but in the late 80s Alice was on the cutting edge (pun intended) of horror-themed live shows.  He was a more controversial figure then, but as usual, Erica had a great rapport with her guests.  As a bonus, Alice brought with him Kane Roberts to premiere his new solo album and music video “Rock Doll”.

The two guys banter back and forth like a comedy duo, while Erica peppers them with both fun and topical questions.  This interview is a must-see front to back.  Topics covered:

  • The stage show circa 1987, when Alice was going full-on with the blood and gore
  • Is Kane the Rambo of rock and roll?
  • Alice on Lemmy
  • Jokes about snakes
  • Acting, horror, and John Carpenter using some of Alice’s stage tricks in Prince of Darkness
  • The script that Alice and Kane wrote called Scarebox
  • Drinking and drugs
  • Hilarious “Pepsi ad”
  • Kane on Alice (Several great moments here.)
  • Upcoming bands like E-Z-O, Guns N’ Roses, and Faster Pussycat
  • Tipper Gore!
  • Can rock and roll go to far?

When I was a kid, I watched this interview over and over again.  I even used it in a highschool project on censorship.  This is a full Power Hour episode (sans music) and you want to watch the whole show from start to finish.

VHS Archives #114: Alice Cooper – The Trash Hour (1989)

September, 1989:  I raced home from school to watch the Pepsi Power Hour’s big Alice Cooper interview, called the Trash Hour.  Alice picked the songs, but they are edited out for YouTube.  You can see what he picked for yourself, as Alice literally takes out the trash.

Host Laurie Brown had a great rapport with the Coop.  Driving a brand new Trash Truck, Alice is funny and informative on the following subjects:

  • Trash rock
  • New album and signing with Epic
  • Writing 22 songs with Desmond Child
  • Saving the Hollywood sign
  • Cameos in Prince of Darkness and Shocker
  • Horror as comedy, staged violence
  • Band alumni gone solo

The Trash Hour works out to a tidy 15 minutes without the music and ads.  Make sure you catch the ending.  Have a good Sunday!

#922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

RECORD STORE TALES #922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

A long time ago, in a constitutional monarchy not far away, prices were lower.  The despised goods and services tax (GST) kicked in January 1, 1991.  This federal tax added a 7% levy to your average purchase.  In the before-fore times, in the Canadian province known as Alberta, there was no such thing as a “sales tax”.  What you saw on the sticker was what you paid.  It was an exhilarating time and place to be.  The GST wrecked that, but our last trek out west before the hated tax kicked in was nothing short of glorious.

School was out for summer, and I quit my part-time job packing groceries to hang out at the cottage and take a special trip to Calgary.  It was time for a visit with cousin Geoff, formerly known as “Captain Destructo”.  The most important things to do on any trip were two-fold:

  1. Pack appropriate music for the journey.
  2. Buy music on aforementioned journey.

I had just received two albums that were brand new to me from the Columbia House music clubSchool’s Out, by Alice Cooper, and Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake.  As my newest acquisitions, they had to come along.  I also brought Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare which I was recently obsessed with.  Finally, I carried enough cash from my job that I had just quit, to buy as much music as I could find.  Stuff that none of the stores in Kitchener had in stock.

The clear memory of driving through the mountains with School’s Out blasting in my ears brings a smile to my face.  While some moments were undeniably weird (“Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”), I couldn’t believe how catchy the album was.  I still can’t.  Alice Cooper records were not necessarily designed to deliver catchy songs.  They were twisted, and School’s Out was like a Twizzler.  Regardless, “Gutter Cat” was entertaining while being unforgettable.  I couldn’t wait to share it with my best friend Bob.  He loved cats!  Another track that took me by surprise was “Alma Mater”, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.  The fact that I’d be graduating in a year was scary.  But the roaring “Public Animal #9” just made me sing along.  I also dug “Blue Turk” although I had no idea how to categorize it.  To me it sounded like something from an old musical from days gone by.  Here I was discovering this ancient music for the first time while the Rocky Mountains zipped past me in the back seat of a minivan.  I like to appreciate moments like that.  I just stared out the window while Dennis Dunaway buzzed my ears with bass.

Next up was Whitesnake.  I still love Come An’ Get It; it’s probably my overall favourite Whitesnake.  A few songs don’t click, such as “Girl”, but lemme tell you folks — “Child of Babylon” is another one of those songs that you just have to  experience while driving through the Rockies.  Bob and I were slowly discovering old Whitesnake.  He was the first to have Saints & Sinners, but I was the first to have Come An’ Get It.  It was something of a “blind buy” for me, since I didn’t know any of the songs.  By the end of the trip, I’d already love “Wine, Women An’ Song”, “Come An’ Get It”, and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”.

Two favourites in the making, it was already turning into a memorable vacation.  I enjoyed shopping at corny gift shops.  I bought some goofy round sunglasses with flip-open lenses.  Alberta is dinosaur country, and so I bought a casting of a Tyrannosaurus tooth.  At another gift shop I bought a totem knick-knack.  I remember Geoffrey and I climbing the modest mountains around the hoodoos at Drumheller, and finding a cave near the top where we paused and caught some shade.

When we hit the Calgary Zoo, Geoff showed us how to put coins on the train tracks to be crushed into minature copper and nickle pancakes.  They had a little train that took tours of the park.  It ran on a regular schedule so we always knew about when we should put the coins on the track.  I had heard that copper guitar picks were the best, but they were hard to find, so I crushed a couple pennies.  I turned them into guitar picks once we got home.  We didn’t crush anything more valuable than a dime, but sometimes you’d lose the coin if it went flying off the track.  (Incidentally, you can’t derail a train with a penny, that is a myth.)  We could tell the conductor knew what we were doing and was getting annoyed, so we cut it out.

When we finally hit a music store in a Calgary mall, I was elated.  I was always on the lookout for singles, and here I found a few notable ones.  Aerosmith’s The Other Side EP was an easy “yes”.  It had a number of remixes that, while not great, were exclusives.  It also had something called the “Wayne’s World Theme” live.  What was this “Wayne’s World”?  I knew not, but it wasn’t on the album, so I was happy enough.

Poison were hot on the charts with their brand-new album Flesh & Blood.  Bob was already raving about the album, and one song he pointed out was “Valley of Lost Souls”.  I found the cassette single for “Unskinny Bop” which included this song and an instrumental pretentiously called “Swamp Juice (Soul-O)”.  I never particularly cared for “Unskinny Bop”, but it was the current Poison hit, and “Valley of Lost Souls” was as good as advertised.  I also located Jon Bon Jovi’s solo single “Blaze of Glory”.  I didn’t know it yet but this single had some slightly edited versions of the album cuts — another exclusive.

The purchase I might have been happiest with was a re-buy.  Although it seems ridiculous that at age 18 I was already re-buying albums, it had begun.  My cassette of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny was shite.  For all intents and purposes, it only had one channel.  I owned Rocka Rolla on vinyl, but didn’t really have a good way of playing it and making it sound decent back then.  I knew there was a cassette on Attic records with both albums on one tape, and I found it in Calgary.  I was glad to finally have a copy of Sad Wings that I could properly listen to.  I even gained new appreciation for Rocka Rolla on those mountain drives.  “Caviar and Meths” sounds amazing drifting through the mountains.

Not only did we find some cool stuff we couldn’t easily locate in Ontario, but we paid no tax.  Since Alberta had no provincial sales tax, everything we were buying, we were buying cheaper!

I wanted a cowboy hat.  We went shopping for them, but I was having a hard time deciding and then Geoffrey told me about an Alberta saying.  Something about “everybody in Alberta has an asshole and a cowboy hat.”  Either that or “every asshole in Alberta has a cowboy hat.”  Same difference.  Either way, I was dissuaded.

Geoffrey could be exhausting and I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and listen to some new tunes, so I was granted a couple hours of privacy.  We traded tapes back and forth for listening.  My sister Kathryn had the new single for “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” by Cheap Trick so I listened to that while she borrowed my Poison.

Here’s a funny detail.   For the car trip with Whitesnake and Alice Cooper, I can remember being on the left side of the vehicle.  For Rocka Rolla, I seem to remember sitting on the right.  The view was always great.  Nothing like Ontario.  The air was different, and even the weather was unusual to us.  People left their doors unlocked, we were told by Uncle Phil.

Auntie Lynda spoiled us and took us on all these day trips; it was fantastic.  It was the last great summer holiday.  I know I kept a journal of the trip, which seems to be unfortunately lost.  Great trip though it was, I looked forward to coming home and seeing my friends.  Showing off my new purchases and sharing my new music.  The flight home was uneventful and we arrived late at night and exhausted.  I didn’t sleep much that night — I had recordings of WWF wrestling matches to catch up on.  The last great summer holiday was over, but never forgotten.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Classicks (1995)

ALICE COOPER – Classicks (1995 Sony)

Here’s a bargain basement perennial that you may have missed but might want to reconsider. If you like Alice Cooper — specifically the five year span of 1989-1994 — then this compilation is for you! If you collect Alice Cooper — specifically rare live tracks that have been released on VHS but mostly unavailable on CD — then this compilation is for you!

Classicks isn’t a particularly bad CD, but its limited focus means limited appeal.  Sony only had the rights to a smidgen of Cooper albums so they made due with what they had.  That meant the albums Trash, Hey Stoopid and The Last Temptation, and the home video Alice Cooper Trashes the World.  Of those releases, only The Last Temptation is really given any kind of critical acclaim today.

Classicks begins promisingly enough.  “Poison” is indeed a classic, thanks to that lush Desmond Child vocal production.  The hooks never stop, but “Poison” is the only bonafide classic on the Trash album.  Nothing else comes even remotely close, though “House of Fire” (written by Bon Jovi for New Jersey) has its moments.  Missing is the ballad “It’s Only My Heart Talkin'” with Steven Tyler cameo.

Hey Stoopid‘s guest-laden title track lead single was phenomenal, if not quite as awesome as “Poison” from TrashHey Stoopid was a bit tougher in stature than Trash, and a couple more singles can be found here:  “Love’s a Loaded Gun” and the absolutely massive “Feed My Frankenstein”.  You can thank Wayne and Garth for that one; there is no other way that song was going to be a hit in 1992.  But it was, and you can quote every word of that Wayne’s World scene.  I know you can.

The material from The Last Temptation has stronger bones but not as many candy-coated hooks.  Three tracks total:  smoking first single “Lost In America”, ballad “It’s Me”, and the epic Chris Cornell duet “Stolen Prayer”.  While all three are good ones, “Stolen Prayer” is truly special.  Chris (who wrote the track with Alice) was in peak voice and when he lets it rip at the end, hold on!  An acoustic-electric classic, worthy of far more attention than it gets.

The rest of the CD contains live versions from Trashes the World, all oldies that Sony didn’t have access to otherwise.  The lineup here features some of the guys you saw in Wayne’s World, such as Al Pitrelli & Canadian Pete Friesen (guitars) and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.  Tommy Caradonna and the inimitable Jonathan Mover are the rhythm section for these tracks.  All tracks have those telltale 80s guitar accoutrements.  “Under My Wheels” is rendered a bit faster than usual, but the guitar solos shred.  Likewise with “Billion Dollar Babies”.  “I’m Eighteen” is slower and brooding.  Alice’s opening rap to “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a gas, although the song’s played a little heavy handedly.  “Only Women Bleed” is reliable, and “School’s Out” is “School’s Out” is “School’s Out”.  “You better know this one,” as Alice says.

Tacked on at the end is Alice’s cover of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix, not to be confused with his cover of “Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  This B-side (to “Love’s a Loaded Gun”) wasn’t the best B-side available (that would be “It Rained All Night”) but at least it’s full of energy.  Whoever that is on guitar (Stef Burns?) rocks.

It’s obvious from the tracklist that this album was just Sony trying to cash in.  Cooper’s contract must have been up.  They tossed in the six live tracks to lure in any collectors who wanted them on CD rather than VHS.  Classicks can often by found brand new in the $5 range — pay no more than that.

2/5 stars

Gallery: A closer look at Alice Cooper and Japanese import unboxings

This week’s live show included some cool unboxings.  Here is a closer look at the three new arrivals at LeBrain HQ.

#1 Dokken – The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 Japanese import.  Old unreleased demos polished and finished for release.  This baby has a bonus track called “Going Under”.

#2 Accept – Blind Rage Japanese import.  2014 studio album.  “Thrown to the Wolves” is the name of this Teutonic terror’s bonus track.

# Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” 7 inch picture disc single.  Great to finally have this new Covid-related recording on a physical format.

 

Adventures in Epilepsy – Live LeBrain Train with Guests

Episode 30 – Adventures in Epilepsy

A few technical difficulties with the Facebook feed, but a good show all around.  A more personal show this time, if you ever wanted to know how epilepsy can change lives, then you’ll want to check this one out.  No more concerts, no more movie theaters — such is the new reality that my wife lives in.

But we did more than just talk about epilepsy, much more in fact.  Unboxings, books, and guests — it’s all below.

The live stream feed is much choppier on Facebook so I encourage everyone to watch on Youtube from now on.  The Youtube feed was solid.   People on Facebook were reporting freezing video, so in an effort to fix that, I stopped the feed and started over.  That’s why there are two Youtube videos below.

  • I started with some cool unboxings — Japanese imports and vinyl.  Go to 0:05:10 of the first video to see some metal goodies and rarities.
  • For the start of the epilepsy show, go to 0:18:25 of the first video.  It continues at 0:07:15 of the second video.
  • Old pal and author Aaron Lebold came on to talk about his own history with epilepsy, and his new book Genocide at 0:41:15 of the second video.
  • Kevin Simister aka Buried On Mars stopped in at 1:06:35 of the second video to talk about crappy Amazon shipping and to do a CD unboxing.
  • And finally Rob Daniels came in at 1:20:45 of the second video to hang out, talk music, and his own show Visions in Sound.  He has lots of fun planned for October!

Thanks for watching the LeBrain Train episode 30!

First video – start of show

Second video – continuation and conclusion

REVIEW: Nita Strauss – Controlled Chaos (2018)

NITA STRAUSS – Controlled Chaos (2018 Sumerian Records)

Nita Strauss became a household name touring the world and playing lead guitar with Alice Cooper.  Her natural ability and charisma ensured that the next question would be “when is she putting out a solo album?”  In 2018 Strauss released her entirely instrumental debut Controlled Chaos, playing everything except drums and keyboards.

Her choppy rhythm on “Alegria” soon gives way to extremely melodic (and fast) lead work.  Strauss’ talent seems to be taking a melody and making it as exciting as possible with only six strings.  There are shades of Yngwie, Joe and other assorted big-namer instrumentalists without sounding like any specific one.  The weakness is unfortunately the drums (by Josh Villalta) which are robotic and flat.  “Our Most Desperate Hour” sports blurry fast drum blitzes that should be exciting but instead sound artificial.  Worst track:  “Mariana Trench” due to long stretches of bland double bass.  Fortunately this album is more about the guitar.  Lots and lots of guitar.

Track after track, Nita blazes a tapestry of technique.  Her guitar creates moods — tension is in the air.  But she also does excellent ballads.  “Here With You” is the first.  Guitar instrumental ballads are a thing unto themselves.  She creates a powerful presence on “Here With You” with layers of guitars working together.

“The Stillness at the End” is a an examination of one of Nita’s techniques: densely layered guitars in harmony.  Here she mostly forgoes speed in favour of building up the melodies.  Keyboards are used sparingly, such as the intro to “The Quest” which goes full Yngwie in dragon-hunting mode.  But ballads like “Hope Grows” might give us a better look at Nita’s inner workings.  The sparse arrangement lets you really hear the feeling in her playing.  She has an excellent sense of composition, knowing exactly when to throw on some emphasis.  Indeed, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the ballads are the best tracks.

“Lion Among Wolves”, “Pandemonium 2.0” and “The Show Must Go On” all have their own guitar thrills to enjoy.  “Pandemonium” stands out due to an excellent outro guitar melody.  And if you’re wondering, “Hey, is ‘The Show Must Go On'” the old Queen song?  Indeed it is, featuring Nita sharing the stage with a cello (Tina Guo).  Great choice on which to end the album.  The cello solo is freaky.

Controlled Chaos is a good debut.  The drums are a sonic stumbling block.  As far as playing, composition and entertainment, Nita delivers the goods.  The songs could use a little more variety to give them album some texture, but there is plenty of room for Strauss to grow as her career is just going to get bigger.

3/5 stars