El Paso County Coliseum

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – El Paso County Coliseum – The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980

ALICE COOPER – El Paso County Coliseum: The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980 (2016 Zip City)

At 80:33, the Alice Cooper Texas Broadcast CD release by Zip City is additional proof that you can indeed squeeze more than 80 minutes onto a CD!  The Flush the Fashion tour presented a whole slew of tracks that were rarely if ever played again.  Broadcasts of tours such as this are more than just curiosities to fans who already have all the official live releases.

An instrumental snippet of “Elected” precedes opening number “Grim Facts” from the current album.  It’s not the most outstanding song from an uneven album, but it does have a nice choppy guitar riff and solo.  Then it’s the familiar, slinky bassline that opens “Go to Hell“.  Alice’s vocal is a little erratic but of course you have to remember he’s moving around on stage, playing a part while trying to sing.  The audio is close to official live album quality, with very little excess noise.  From the same album, “Guilty” is a treat.  It’s one of the increasingly fewer rock-and-rollers that Cooper recorded after the original band split.  Alice can’t quite hit the note from the chorus hook, but that’s live music for you.  Better than an overdub recorded six months later in a little studio in another state.

Flush the Fashion boasted some really excellent tunes among the filler, and “Pain” is one of them.  Live it doesn’t punch as hard, but Alice delivers a passionate vocal.  “Talk Talk” is one of the new Alice tunes that took him into a Cars-like New Wave direction.  Filler for some, treasure for others.  Not as good as “Pain” for certain.

The first seriously classic dinosaur oldies rolled out are “I’m Eighteen” and, oddly enough, “Gutter Cat Vs. the Jets”.  Pouring on the melodrama, “Eighteen” is one for the record books, a top-notch version better than some of the official ones.  “Gutter Cat”, though?  What an odd one to pull out of the hat, and as soon as that bouncy bassline and quirky keyboard drop, we’re jumping up and down.  The arrangement’s been slightly modified from the School’s Out original but we’re just glad to hear it.

The set bounces back between old and brand new, and up next:  “Clones”, probably the undisputed best of the new Alice tunes and the only one that could be considered a hit.  Screams fill the air as soon as that synth riff hits.  A tight, feedback-laden version is rolled out in under three minutes.  Then it’s a bit of filler (“Nuclear Infected”) before they revert back to the oldies with “Billion Dollar Babies”/”I Love the Dead”.  Some blistering guitar work on “Billion Dollar Babies” would have you thinking this version was from a far earlier vintage.  Slicker than a weasel indeed!

Alice takes a break while the band do a long jam to some riffs from Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.  When Alice returns it is with an excellent rock & roll version of “Dance Yourself to Death”, far better than the Flush the Fashion original.  One dig at John Travolta snuck in, and from this point forward the Alice Cooper show is all about the classics.  The unmistakable “Only Women Bleed” provides a musical respite with understated drama.  Back to the rock with “Road Rats” from 1977 (OK, not that old by contemporary standards, but definitely of an earlier era).  The ode to roadies is seldom played but shouldn’t be.

“Sick Things”, “Is It My Body”, “Black Widow”, “Elected” and “School’s Out” are the final five, and yes that means Alice neglected a few hits.  There was no “Hello Hooray” nor “Welcome to My Nightmare”.  It doesn’t seem like anybody would have gone home dissatisfied.

The sound quality changes and improves partway through this CD, and a look at the actual setlist for this show reveals why.  Alice played “I Never Cry” that day between “Pain” and “Talk Talk”, and didn’t play “I’m Eighteen” until closer to the end.  He also apparently opened with “Model Citizen”, absent here.  He didn’t play “Billion Dollar Babies” or “I Love the Dead” at that show, but here they are.  That means this CD is not a single complete gig, but has been edited together from additional sources.

Given the rarity of most of the these tracks (many of these were the first time they were ever played live), buying this CD is a slam dunk win for any serious fan.  For the casual, you will hear a slew of well recorded Cooper classics and plenty of songs you won’t know but may end up loving.  It’s like a win-win.  Shame it’s not a full single show, but it’ll have to do for now.

3.5/5 stars