Hey Stoopid

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

#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

It’s #throwbackthursday!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

A couple weekends ago, I had a chance to dig through some old boxes looking for musical memories.   I found that, and a lot more.

I discovered a complete inventory of my entire music collection, that I had made as a kid.  Most of it was on cassette.  There’s no date on it, but thanks to my photographic memory of musical life events, I can easily date this to within +/- a couple months.  Let’s have a look and figure out when I made this inventory.

The first thing I noticed was there are 24 CD titles on this list.  I received my first CD player for Christmas of 1989.  That would place this list a fair bit after Christmas of ’89.

In the section for “Videos”, I only had four VHS titles at the time:  Kiss, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Warrant.  I know I received a Faith No More (You Fat Bastards) video for Christmas of ’92.  So we’re well before December 1992.

Back to the CD section.  The presence of the Led Zeppelin box set helps me narrow it down further.  I know I received that box set for Christmas of 1990.  I also remember getting Slaughter’s Stick It Live tape on December 28th of that year, and that cassette is on this list.

I distinctly recall my birthday in July 1991.  I received Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid on cassette (thanks sis), and Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge on CD (thanks Bob).  Neither are on this list.  Therefore, this was made sometime between Christmas of 1990, and July of ’91.  Just over six months. To narrow it down as tightly as possible, I need to look for purchases that I know I made in early 1991.

In April or May of ’91, I can remember getting the new Mr. Big (Lean Into It) on cassette, and the first Raw M.E.A.T CD.  Neither are on here.  Most definitively however, missing on this list is David Lee Roth’s newest, A Lil’ Ain’t Enough.  I know I got that for Easter of 1991.  Now we’re really close.  Somewhere between January to March of ’91!

I know I bought the uber-rare cassette single for Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” really early in 1991.  Snow was still on the ground, and that cassette single is not listed here.   Therefore: I conclude that I created this list after Christmas 1990 or early in 1991, but probably during Christmas break 1990!  I would have had the spare time to work on it during break.

Some additional observations:

1. Apparently I hadn’t yet discovered alphabetizing.

2. The dollar values printed represent approximate guesses as to retail value.  I later made a revised list that replaced this with 5 star ratings, but I have not as yet found that version.

Here it is, now preserved digitally forever!  And look — I only owned one CD single!*  Final interesting note:  Most of the items on this list are long gone.  I’ve upgraded to CD on all the cassettes and only kept a handful.  I have most of the vinyl, but I gave away my ’45 of the Wrestlers.  I have some of the CDs, but others (Kiss, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Van Halen, Slaughter, Maiden, Motley Crue) have long been replaced by remasters.

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* Iron Maiden’s “Holy Smoke”, bought at Dr. Disc in the autumn of 1990.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid (1991)

First of an Alice Cooper double shot!  Tomorrow, The Last Temptation!

ACHS_0002ALICE COOPER – Hey Stoopid (1991 Sony)

When Hey Stoopid first came out in ’91, fans were still reeling from the disappointment (but commercial success) that was the Trash CD. Fans wanted Alice to get heavier and drop the cheese, and Hey Stoopid was a step in the right direction, to be fully realized on his next album The Last Temptation.

It was the era of the virtuoso, and Cooper certainly knows a good musician when he hears one. To me it was a stroke of genius to have Steve Vai and Joe Satriani record a guitar solo together for the first time, and on a song called “Feed My Frankenstein” no less! Guest shots by Ozzy (barely audible, though), Nikki Sixx, Vinnie Moore, and Slash provided enough hype for the fans to salivate.

Songwriting-wise, Hey Stoopid was a step up from Trash. The title track with its lyrical warnings of drug abuse was a fun catchy rocker with a tasty Satriani solo. The solos on this album are all too brief. Still the players being as good as they are create solos that enhance each track. Other standouts include the mindblowing “Might As Well Be On Mars”, an epic Desmond Child song that just aches before it explodes on the choruses. “Die For You”, written by Alice with Motley Crue’s Sixx & Mars, as well as Jim Vallance, has a chorus that bores its way into your brain and stays there like a parasite.

There’s still a lot of filler, something that plagues almost Alice album from Goes To Hell through to Hey Stoopid. “Snakebite”, “Hurricane Years”, “Little By Little” and “Dirty Dreams” are all songs that Alice will never play live in concert, and for good reason.

Yet there are still lots of hidden gems on this CD, all the way through to the final track “Wind-Up Toy”. A song about insanity, as only Alice can do, it is something that really hearkens back to Welcome To My Nightmare. What’s this about “Steven”?

There are also a couple lesser known tracks that aren’t on the domestic CD that are worth tracking down: “It Rained All Night” is a slowy, groovy track that was a B-side but better than some of the ballads on the actual album. “Fire” was a Jimi Hendrix cover with some fiery (pun intended) guitar playing.

The most disappointing thing about Hey Stoopid is the production by the normally excellent Peter Collins. Yes, Trash was too glossy, and yes, Hey Stoopid toughens the sound with more guitars. However the background vocals in particular are so dense, so saccharine, that even Def Leppard would blush. They are credited to different groups of people, and clearly there are a lot of voices here creating this gigantic mush of sound. It’s too much. I much preferred when Alice stripped it down on Dirty Diamonds, an album that deserves much praise. In 1991, production values just seemed to go to this extreme — witness Europe’s Prisoners In Paradise CD for a similar sounding album.

Hey Stoopid was Alice attempting to find his footing again, and while it stumbled, it did pave the way for Last Temptation. If grunge didn’t wipe out hard rock later that year, maybe Hey Stoopid would be regarded more fondly.

3/5 stars. Not great, but certainly not a failure.

Promotional "Hey Stoopid" memo

Promotional “Hey Stoopid” memo