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 Trash. Hey 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.