Viewing entries in
Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

Comment

Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

Comment

Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Comment

Alice Cooper – Muscle Of Love (Album Review)

Despite being an album focused on juvenile sexual innuendos, Muscle Of Love is one of the greatest Alice Cooper albums to ever be released. This would also be the last album featuring the original Alice Cooper band lineup and would not include the master, Bob Ezrin, in the Producer's chair. Nevertheless, Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson did a wonderful job of guiding the album, while allowing creative artistry to flourish.

Yes, many of the songs on Muscle Of Love have never been part of Cooper's live set, at least for many years, but I've always found that with Alice Cooper, the best albums, songs, and performances are not the compilation filling or concert played fan favourites. Therefore, I implore you to give Muscle Of Love, as an album, a shot. I have a feeling you won't regret it.

I know I haven't regretted picking up the Friday Music vinyl re-issue from 2013. While the reissue isn't a perfect replica, sonically it is beautiful with a full analogue sound that will impress even the most hardened critic. I have listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams and I have to be completely frank when I say the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition makes me want to cancel my subscription. It sounds incredibly flat and shrill, much like really early CD pressings did, and perhaps TIDAL is using the same master that has yet to be remastered. Yes, Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh worked their mastering magic on the Audio Fidelity quadraphonic reissued SACD, but that mastering is not available outside the now increasingly rare and costly SACD pressing. Truth-be-told, I've lusted over that SACD release for some time, as it also includes a standard stereo mix for both SACD and CD layers from the aforementioned mastering engineers, but I get so much enjoyment from the Friday Music vinyl release that I don't feel the need to check it out. While I may have daggers out for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, the Apple Music stream is beautiful, with a similar mastering to the vinyl record. If there is a difference to report, it would be that the Apple Music stream sounds a little concealed by direct comparison to the vinyl release. What it does show, however, is just because something is portrayed as being lossless, and at CD-quality, that doesn't automatically mean it will be better. Mastering really makes a far more significant difference than higher resolutions.

SIDE I

Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) not only has a great groove, but that psychedelic undertone is superb. I dare you to sit still, without moving a muscle, during this song, I can't do it. The guitar tracking is divine and the inclusion of the violins perfectly suits the song. Plus, that outro = extraordinary!

Never Been Sold Before is your meat and potatoes rock and roll track. I love it! If I had one complaint, it would be that I'd like to hear a 1 to 2-decibel increase in the bass guitar. Just as the addition of strings to Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) enhanced that song, the horn element in Never Been Sold Before is fantastic and has a similar effect.

Hard Hearted Alice is a song that slowly builds with a beautiful atmospheric introduction. This is one song where the quadraphonic mix would likely be astonishing, but the vinyl counterpart is no slouch with a soundstage that removes the speakers, creating a spacious sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Crazy Little Child is a fun song. I absolutely adore the piano element and I love the overall New Orleans Jazz feel. I'd love to see Cooper do an entire jazz album, even one full of standards would do. He certainly has the vocal chops for it.

SIDE II

Working Up A Sweat continues the lighthearted approach to the overall theme of the album. It's a solid song, but not one to write home about as I find Cooper’s vocals are a little distant in the mix, although, the music has an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable rhythm.

Muscle Of Love is a killer tune. The guitar intro and drum beat is superb and I find myself playing the air guitar and drums for hours after listening to this song. Exceptional!

Man With The Golden Gun was originally written and recorded for the associated James Bond film but was sadly never used. When you listen to the song, armed with that knowledge, you can immediately hear the James Bond undertones and one can only wonder how the Man With The Golden Gun’s introduction would have differed with this song. Nevertheless, it’s a solid addition to Muscle Of Love and I'm just glad it was released and not shelved as it really is quite enjoyable, even if it’s not the strongest song on the album.

Teenage Lament '74 has remained somewhat of a fan favourite and while I thoroughly enjoy the song, I feel bemused as to its popularity. I guess it just proves that I should never be asked by an artist, or record label, which songs should be released as a single or be played live.

Woman Machine is an interesting song to close the album on. Yes, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Cooper's catalogue, but I find Woman Machine to be a little repetitive and the outro is a little too much, in my opinion, although I can see the approach Cooper and the band were going for.

Overall, Muscle Of Love is exceptional and is truly one of the best Alice Cooper albums ever recorded. Yes, it helps to have a good mastering of an album and this Friday Music release, that is a prized possession of mine, is said to have been mastered from the original Warner Bros. tapes by Joe Reagoso. After hearing it countless times, I have no reason to doubt Friday Music's claims. It really is THAT good!

Muscle Of Love is available on Vinyl, Quadraphonic SACD, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, Muscle Of Love is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

Comment

Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

Comment

Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

Alice Cooper may have no recollection of writing and recording DaDa, but I personally consider it one of his greatest achievements.

While it pleases me to know Cooper emerged from this era sober, one can't help but consider just how much his alcohol addiction influenced this opus. While I don't condone substance abuse in the name of art, and I’m a teetotaller, one can't deny that the music we have in our culture today would likely not exist should experimentation with mind-altering substances have not occurred. That said, not all of Cooper's intoxicated albums are as special as DaDa. There is something mystical here that truly defies explanation, so much so that Cooper has previously suggested that he has no idea as to the meaning of the album, only declaring that it’s the most frightening album he has ever made. From my perspective, it’s a sonic wonderland and not foreboding at all.

This review is based on the 2018 vinyl reissue from Warner Music. Specific mastering details are omitted, but let me assure you this is one album you simply have to hear to believe just how good it is. Most modern reissues are pressed from high-resolution digital files, but it sounds as though this pressing was sourced from the analogue master tape. It’s incredibly warm with that familiar analogue sound while being totally absent of the sterile and cold reproduction that is often associated with CD and digital music reproduction. The CD release I have (cat: 7599-23969-2) was never bad, but this vinyl pressing is significantly better. Plus, that orange swirl vinyl, which looks more like a splattering, looks really cool and is a value-added proposition for this collector.

Having owned the CD for a number of years, this was one album that I desperately wanted on vinyl. The exquisite cover art simply demands a larger canvas and while the CD-sized artwork still looked excellent, it just isn’t the same. The liner notes on the rear cover pay homage to the original pressings, as does that Warner Bros. Records label. I don't know about you, but all these elements matter to me. It just makes the tactile experience all the more rewarding. Nevertheless, it is ultimately all about the music.

Side One

DaDa is a Bob Ezrin masterpiece. Yes, Ezrin alone wrote this lead song and as the producer and engineer, the entire album certainly has his sonic fingerprint. Ezrin and Cooper are akin to Elton John and Bernie Taupin or Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman; an incredible collaborative team! Largely instrumental, with near incoherent spoken words, DaDa sets a sombre tone that is eerie, yet riveting to listen to. In some respects, this lead-in song is as spectacular as Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hence, I’d have to say that DaDa is one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded.

Enough's Enough changes the tempo quite significantly, but despite this change, it does not sound so different that one may think they were listening to a different album. Enough's Enough is classic rock with a pop-influence. The rhythm is toe-tapping and head-bopping heaven. Dick Wagner's guitar presentation here and throughout the album shines. Enough’s Enough is simply a fantastic song and I find it perplexing that Cooper has never performed this, or any other song from DaDa live. What a waste!

Former Lee Warmer is epic! The musicality is beautiful, as is Cooper's vocals. Such a relaxing song. I could listen to Former Lee Warmer on repeat for hours.

No Man's Land picks up the pace again. While there isn't a bad song on the album, No Man's Land comes close. I say that partially because, as an earworm, it has the tendency to play like a broken record. It’s catchy and a little campy, but it does fit DaDa perfectly.

Dyslexia starts a little slowly, but by the time the first chorus kicks in, the song begins to grow on you. It’s an interesting composition, but to be quite frank, I'm not sure if I like Dyslexia or not. Yet, I can't imagine this opus without it.

Side Two

Scarlet And Sheba is one of Cooper's greatest songs. Absolutely sensational rock and roll and I love the eclectic musical overture that introduces the song. You'll find yourself singing along, as I do. The shifting style between chorus and verse is sensational. The team of Cooper, Wagner, and Ezrin hit the ball out of the park on this song, and quite frankly the entire album. Alice Cooper doesn't get much better than this! If only he would play it live, it would become a fan favourite as it flows seamlessly into I Love America and would seem like a no-brainer when touring stateside.

I Love America is campy 101 and brings a snigger to this non-American. Who knows, perhaps my American friends also find some humor in this song. It isn't bad, quite enjoyable actually, but it is unlikely to ever become an anthem. It’s no Lost In America or Born In The USA, but I still love it!

Fresh Blood is seriously groovy with a rock/jazz feel that is most certainly locked into the 80s sound. They don't make music like this anymore and that's okay as the nostalgic element is extremely satisfying. Nevertheless, it also has a dance/disco feel to it, not unlike many of the songs found on Elton John's excellent Victim Of Love.

Pass The Gun Around takes a while to get going. So long, in fact, that upon the first couple of listens you may think DaDa has come to an end. It’s likely done to separate the varied styles between this song and Fresh Blood. Nevertheless, once the song starts, you’ll be met with an astounding song that simply blows my mind every time I hear it. It is psychotic, yet relatable. The only other song I can think of that has such an effect on my psyche is the Guns N' Roses song Coma. The haunting chorus and overall musicality is magical as it connects with the pleasure centres of the brain. Yes, the song is slightly disturbing, and perhaps it takes a slightly disturbed mind to enjoy it, but it is sensationally hypnotic and makes me want to listen to this entire masterpiece again and again. Although, that inferred bullet shot always shocks me, despite knowing it’s coming. I think that is part of the appeal of the song as it not only brings ultimate meaning to the song but breaks the hypnotic hold it has on you.

While I’ve always been captivated by Alice Cooper and consider his body of work to be amongst some of the very best in recorded music history, DaDa is exceptional. It’s an album I can't live without and I dare say people will be dissecting this record forever, trying to figure out exactly what it’s about and what was going through Cooper’s head at the time. Well, I say good luck to them as Cooper, himself, has no idea. I'm equally naïve, so if you’re reading this via The Wayback Machine, I don’t have the answer either. I just know I love DaDa and if I could only have one Alice Cooper album, it would most likely be this one.

DaDa is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, DaDa is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

Comment

Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

Comment

Alice Cooper – Constrictor (Album Review)

Alice Cooper is a musical genius and one of my all-time favourite musicians. As such, I have spent the last couple of years tracking down some of his albums that are harder to come by, certainly in Australia; Constrictor being one of them.

While I would become a life-long Cooper fan following Trash, and the mainstream popularity of the album’s lead single Poison, my mother forbade me from having Alice Cooper in the house. At one stage, when I wanted the Trash album, she called it trash and asked why I would want that kind of trash. She thought it was a clever play on words, I thought it was ridiculous! Thankfully as the rebellious teenage years approached, I had a job and was able to start collecting some of the greatest rock and roll music in history. At no time did I consider these albums to be bad influences and quite frankly I was so captivated by the music that I spent every last cent buying records, rather than spending that same money on illicit substances like so many of my peers.

Subsequently, I encourage my children to have the same passion for music as I do. I also encourage them to never buy a 'clean' version of an album as it is not what the artist intended. I teach them about artistic license and encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. That said, I don't let them listen to Steel Panther (yet), but I won't stop playing one of their records when they enter the room as I believe it encourages unhealthy taboos that can affect their lives. I've come to this conclusion based on years of psychological damage that an overprotective mother imposed on me. Thus far, it has worked wonderfully and my children understand and respect that some music is not yet appropriate for their maturity level. However, it is important to note that just because Katy Perry and Taylor Swift may both have a girl-next-door persona, it doesn’t mean that their songs are any less provocative than that of Alice Cooper and his peers. My children also know there is no such thing as trash music as it is all subjective and one's opinion does not need to meet with the approval of another.

With that in mind, join me as I give you my opinion of Alice Cooper's Constrictor. I'd love to read your own subjective opinions, so feel free to use the comments section below.

Teenage Frankenstein has some gorgeous guitar work. The overall rhythm is addictive as is the catchy lyrical delivery. Let the head-bopping, toe-tapping, and out-of-tune karaoke begin.

Give It Up is an excellent rock and roll song with a vocal presentation that I absolutely adore. The musicality is riff driven and every time I listen to Give It Up, I enter musical heaven.

Thrill My Gorilla keeps the album rocking with a rock/pop sound that is most definitely a byproduct of the 80s. I grew up through the 80s, so I love it! That era of music is very groove based and I’m so happy that Rob Zombie has taken this style, made it his own, and continues the groove-infused rock and roll sound.

Life And Death Of The Party is exceptional! It is one of Cooper's greatest songs, yet you will not see it on any of Cooper's compilations or live recordings (except for the 1989 live album Prince of Darkness). Such a shame, as it really is that good!

Simple Disobedience is awesome!

The World Needs Guts is riff and rhythm heaven. I find myself singing along to this song every time it plays. Yes, I also warm up my air guitar and dance around the house. The World Needs Guts is another exceptional Alice Cooper performance. However, the cymbals are a little concealed in the soundstage and I would prefer them to be more present in the mix.

Trick Bag is a good song, but it’s most certainly a B-side.

Crawlin' returns the album to the overall rhythmic feel heard prior to Trick Bag. It isn't the strongest song on the album, but I couldn't imagine Constrictor without it.

The Great American Success Story has a promising start, but turns the rock and roll down from 11 to 7 as it enters the chorus. It isn't a bad song, but the chorus irritates me. It is simply too campy!

He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) [Theme from the Motion Picture, "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives") is excellent and a perfect song to close the album with.

I could, and have, listened to Constrictor on repeat for hours on end. While there are a couple of B-sides, I feel Constructor is a very underrated Alice Cooper album and, as such, I hope you will give it a listen as I truly believe it is worth your time.

For this review, I listened to the MCA Records (MCAD-5761) CD. The mastering is a bit of a mixed bag. I like it as it has that warm and fuzzy analogue 80's tape sound, but CD normally has a more clinical tonality. It simply messes with your mind as the analogue and digital streams are being crossed. Personally, I don't mind either tonality, but it is something to note when listening to the album.

From an artwork perspective, I love the cover art. Even with CD-sized graphics, the snake still looks fake! It is frankly comical that way and certainly reminiscent of the Alice Cooper character. What I can't fathom, however, is the use of pink on the rear cover and spine of the CD. I guess all one needs to do is look back at glam rock and professional wrestling in the 80s to remember that pink was the in-colour for hardasses. How fashion and times changed! The liner notes are also printed on an equally questionable yellow, but at least the complete lyrics and production notes are present. It isn’t bothersome, but it just isn't a colour scheme that I have come to expect from Alice Cooper albums. Although, Pretties For You makes me think twice about that statement! Regardless, it is a prized possession in my CD collection and I love it as much for the musicality as I do for the interesting artwork style that beckons me to recall a bygone era of towel hats, short shorts, and long socks, held high with elastic, while wearing sandals. Yes, there are pictures of me from this era, but trust me when I say that nobody needs to see that fashion era again. Nostalgia be damned!

Constrictor is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can check out Alice Cooper's Constrictor on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

Comment

Daily Spin: The Albums I Listened To Today

Comment

Daily Spin: The Albums I Listened To Today

I listen to a wide range of music everyday and what better way to share that with you than a quick daily post highlighting the albums I have listened to, along with a standout track.

Please feel free to add a list of what you have been listening to today in the comments section.  

Alice Cooper – The Last Temptation (CD)

One of Cooper’s greatest albums in my opinion. Lost In America is superb, but sometimes I wish it was Lost In Australia. Bottom line: it is a fun song and an album that must be heard.

Available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto (HFPA Blu-Ray)

I have a sweet spot for Jazz. This somewhat self-titled Getz/Gilberto album is amongst my most treasured and a favourite track is the smooth O Grande Amor.

Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life (HFPA Blu-Ray)

What can be said about Stevie Wonder and Songs In The Key Of Life that hasn’t already been said. Nothing! It is a must listen for all music fans, especially the song Saturn.

Available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators – World On Fire (Vinyl)

This third semi-solo release by Slash is exceptional. The band, both touring and studio, have a great chemistry that culminates in The Unholy.

Available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

Comment