Australian import

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Freedom for Frankenstein – Hits & Pieces 1984-91

Scan_20160306ALICE COOPER – Freedom for Frankenstein – Hits & Pieces 1984-91 (1998 Raven, Australian import)

After a productive spurt of activity in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Alice Cooper laid low for a while.  A fun live album called A Fistful of Alice in 1997 was his first such release in 20 years.  There was then a long wait for the next Cooper studio album (Brutal Planet, 2000).  In the meantime, fans got to snack on interim treats such as the Australian release, Freedom for Frankenstein.

There are already a number of compilations that cover similar periods to Freedom for Frankenstein.  Prince of Darkness (1989) tackled the two MCA albums Constrictor (1986) and Raise Your First and Yell (1987) plus one single B-side. 1995’s Classicks summed up the Epic albums Trash (1989), Hey Stoopid (1991) and The Last Temptation (1994), with the bonus of rare live tracks from the 1989 live home video Alice Cooper Trashes the World, plus the Hendrix cover B-side “Fire”!  With those releases already on the market, does Freedom for Frankenstein offer anything unique?

Hell yeah!

1. “I Got a Line on You”.  Spirit wrote this one in 1968 and Alice Cooper covered it in 1988 for the Iron Eagle II soundtrack.  Alice’s version was released as a cool music video and stands as one of his best tracks from the era.  (You can also get this on the Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper box set.)  Here is an easy way to get the song, a must-own for fans of 80’s Alice.  This was our first look at Alice’s new musical direction: commercial hard rock!  He dropped the splatter horror direction and went full-on for radio and video hits.

2. Four-count-’em-four rare live single B-sides.  These are “Go to Hell”, “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, “Sick Things” and “Only Women Bleed/Wind Up Toy”.  None overlap with the other two compilations.  “Wind Up Toy” was only played on the Hey Stoopid tour.

3. “It Rained All Night”.  It is absolutely inexplicable how this song wasn’t included on the Life and Crimes box set.  An original Alice Cooper/Desmond Child composition, “It Rained All Night” was also too good to be just another B-side.  It backed the single for “Hey Stoopid” but stood as a better track than some on the album.  Perhaps it was nixed for being too ballady on an album that didn’t need any more.  You can get it most easily now by buying the Hey Stoopid 2013 reissue…but if you get Freedom for Frankenstein instead, you won’t need that reissue at all.

By getting this, you will also acquire “Fire”, and a good number of the best songs from this period.  “He’s Back”, “Teenage Frankenstein”, “Freedom”, “Poison”, “House of Fire”, “Hey Stoopid”, and “Feed My Frankenstein” were the big singles, all on one CD.  Then there’s “Side Show”, the incredible opener from Alice’s 1994 concept album The Last Temptation.  In fact, the only weakness with this CD is that there is only one song from The Last Temptation.  Classicks has three — but none of them are “Side Show”.

Freedom for Frankenstein was compiled with the help of Andrew Carpenter, “Australia’s biggest Alice Cooper fan” and archivist.  Full points are awarded for the interesting booklet and rarities in the tracklist.  I think the running order could be slightly tweaked for a smoother ride, but at over 78 minutes long, these hits and pieces provide value for your bucks.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: The Cult – Beyond Good and Evil (Australian bonus track)

Second of a CULT double shot!  Click here for 1994’s The Cult.

THE CULT – Beyond Good and Evil (2001 Atlantic)

When The Cult finally reunited, the rock world rejoiced.  It felt like a long time, in that post-grunge wasteland, since the world had been blessed with any new Cult music.  Not only had they reunited (with their former drummer Matt Sorum, also formerly of Guns N’ Roses) but they had also reunited with producer Bob Rock, for the third time.   Much like his last outing with the band (1994’s The Cult), this Cult album sounds like none before it.  This time, The Cult have gone full-bore ground-shaking heavy metal.  The template was a song the old band were working on before they split “In the Clouds”, from 1996’s High Octane Cult.  The resemblance is uncanny.

BEYOND THE CULT_0003“War (The Process)” invites you to the stage.  Its weight is astounding; Duffy’s guitars crushing while Sorum attacks his kit as he always has.  Duffy’s guitars have acquired a much heavier metallic tone.  Bob Rock applies them in layers, which has always worked well for The Cult.  When “The Saint” enters, your head could be blown from your shoulders.  This is The Cult at their heaviest, but Billy’s melodic sensibilities are intact, and his guitars always sound like Billy Duffy.  Ian, of course, sounds like Ian, howling at the ghosts.

The single from this album was “Rise”, which is no less brutal than the first two tracks.  Its stuttering de-tuned riff recalls Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age. Song after song, the album crushes.  “Take the Power” is a rallying crying over a noisy Duffy arrangement.  This time, the layers of guitars form this wall of awesome that threatens to fall on you at any moment.  Astbury is delivering a lot more melody with his lead vocals than he did on The Cult.

BEYOND THE CULT_0005“Breathe” offers a respite, but it’s only brief.  It soon turns into a mid-tempo groove rocker, but a forgettable one.  “Nico” is a highlight, an “Edie”-esque beauty.  It would have been my choice for a single.  Somebody should really start asking me.

No sooner have you had a chance to relax before “American Gothic” smashes through the wall.  This is one of the heaviest Cult songs to date.  Cult bassist Chris Wyse (back in the band today) has a solid groove but is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the Duffy guitar layers.  “Ashes and Ghosts” too is groove laden and heavy as plutonium.  “Shape the Sky” has a little bit of the old Cult’s prowl, but it’s still pretty heavy like spent nuclear fuel.  Ian has a knack for a cool chorus, and this is one of them.  “Speed of Light” has a bit of that robotic pulse from 1993’s “The Witch” before it descends into a detuned metal riff and chorus.  Then, “True Believers” gives you some breathing room again, although still slammed by electric guitars.  This slow tune is a bit more about the melody than the headache.

BEYOND THE CULT_0004The final song on most editions of Beyond Good and Evil is “My Bridges Burn”.  The Cult bow out on a scorching rocker, blowing the speakers out for those who dare to follow them.   Australia received an additional song, “Libertine”, on which to close.  This song feels like a coda and is powered by an Anthrax-esque stomp.  Top that with a soaring Astbury howl and those patented Duffy guitar melodies and you have a good summation of The Cult 2001.

I think many old-school Cult fans, the kind who think they made a wrong turn on Sonic Temple, would dislike Beyond Good and Evil.  For those of us who don’t mind the Cult when they just fucking rock, I think it’s a brilliant album.  The songs are not designed to be instantly catchy.   They are designed to create a sledgehammer of an album that relentlessly powers its way into your soul.  For me, it worked.  You could listen to it once and say, “Sure, it’s heavy, but there are only a couple memorable songs.”  Keep listening.  Let Beyond Good and Evil pummel you with body blows until all you can do is let it sink in.

4/5 stars

BEYOND THE CULT_0006

REVIEW: AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD)

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD edition, 2000 Warner)

So much music, so little time! I reviewed the AC/DC album Stiff Upper Lip months and months ago. Previously, I only owned the single disc version of Stiff Upper Lip. I knew of the 2 CD Australian version, but I didn’t own it.  I thought and assumed all those bonus tracks were included on the massive AC/DC Backtracks box set. It has pretty much everything else.  However I was wrong, and I promptly bought a copy of the 2 CD version from Discogs, with plans to review it shortly after I reviewed Stiff Upper Lip itself.  That was in July.  Like I said, so much music, so little time!

Backtracks is missing two songs from the bonus CD: “Back In Black”, live from Madrid, is exclusive to this set. So is the 11 minute “Let There Be Rock”. (Meanwhile, Backtracks had plenty more songs from the Madrid show that are not on this bonus CD. Those songs are “Dog Eat Dog”, “Hail Caesar”, and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

Confusing, huh? That’s why I’m here. To help the fans and collectors out there.

The Stiff Upper Lip bonus CD has a mix of live tracks, videos, and one rare studio recording:

      1. “Cyberspace” (Non LP Track)
      2. “Back in Black (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      3. “Hard as a Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      4. “Ballbreaker (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      5. “Whole Lotta Rosie (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      6. “Let There Be Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      7. “Stiff Upper Lip” (Music video)
      8. “Safe in New York City” (Music video)
      9. “Satellite Blues” (Music video)

I don’t care so much about music videos on a CD. Since the early 2000’s, bands tend to include a bonus DVD with their albums instead of videos on an enhanced CD. Plus we have Youtube now, most music videos are available online 24/7 on demand.

Skipping the videos, the most interesting track here is “Cyberspace” which was also a B-side to the “Safe in New York City” single. I hate songs about the internet (see: “Virtuality” by Rush) but thankfully “Cyberspace” kicks real ass. Sonically it’s the same as the rest of Stiff Upper Lip: hard, loud, stripped back. It’s also fast and memorable, making it one of the most interesting Stiff Upper Lip songs. Highly recommended to fans of this album.

Then you get the five live songs, originally from the 1996 concert in Madrid that was released on DVD as No Bull. I always prefer an audio format to a video one. I’ll tell you that the “new” songs from Ballbreaker were awesome live! In particular the title track, but “Hard as a Rock” is relentless and classic sounding. Meanwhile you can’t say anything bad about “Back in Black” or “Rosie”. You could argue that you didn’t need more live versions; I’d argue just to not buy this CD.

Finally “Let There Be Rock” is present in full-on extended live version. Angus wails away like a man possessed, a man in a trance, a man at one with the rock! With the rest of AC/DC behind him, you couldn’t ask for a more solid backing band, which makes the whole thing work.

As a companion piece to the whole Stiff Upper Lip album, I give the bonus CD:

4/5 stars

More AC/DC at mikeladano.com:

Live at River Plate (German import, 3 bonus tracks) – Backtracks (3 CD/2 DVD guitar amp box set) – Bonfire (5 CD box set)- Stiff Upper Lip