The word pioneer has been known to be loosely used in regards to musical artists, but when it comes to Alice Cooper his legacy seems to scream that term; crafting hard rock songs macabre, grim and genuinely frightening while also employing enough ingenious lyrical hooks and melodic appeal to capture an enormous following in the early 70's, Alice was also the consummate showman who could stage visual productions with the best of 'em.
Many artists and rock bands claim to be fans of Cooper's, including KISS, Alice In Chains, U2, Guns N' Roses, Yngwie Malmsteen, Motley Crue, Tool, UFO, W.A.S.P., Michael Jackson, and Megadeath. Ronnie James Dio, Rick Derringer, Joey Ramone, Eddie Van Halen, Jon Bon Jovi, Gregg Allman, and Kurt Cobain have all publicly stated that they admire Alice's work. In a foreward to Cooper's retrospective box set, the Sex Pistols' lead singer John Lydon called the Alice Cooper "Killer" album the greatest rock album of all time. In a 1978 interview with Rolling Stone, no less an icon than Bob Dylan was quoted as saying "Alice Cooper is an underrated songwriter." While his tours may no longer draw the kind of attendance figures that the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith still manage to command, Cooper has certainly not lost the right to be regarded as a rock n' roll legend.
Originally, there was a band called Alice Cooper led by a singer named Vincent Damon Furnier. Under his direction, Alice Cooper pioneered a grandly theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock. Drawing equally from horror movies, vaudeville, heavy metal, and garage rock, the group created a stage show that featured electric chairs, guillotines, fake blood, and huge boa constrictors, all coordinated by the heavily made-up Furnier. By that time, Furnier had adopted the name for his androgynous on-stage personality. While the visuals were extremely important to the group's impact, the band's music was nearly as distinctive. Driven by raw, simple riffs and melodies that derived from '60s guitar pop as well as show tunes, it was rock & roll at its most basic and catchy, even when the band ventured into psychedelia and art rock. After the original group broke up and Furnier began a solo career as Alice Cooper, his actual music lost most of its theatrical flourishes, becoming straightforward heavy metal, yet his stage show retained all of the trademark props that made him the king of shock rock.
Under the helm of producer Bob Ezrin Alice and band came forth with "Love It To Death", a 1971 album featuring the hit single "I'm Eighteen", going gold. The following year brought the album "School's Out", going to number two on the charts with the title song becoming a top ten hit. 1973's "Billion Dollar Babies" came next, going to number one and featuring yet another anthem, "No More Mr. Nice Guy". After their album, "Muscle Of Love", the band as a whole disbanded and Alice went solo. "Welcome To My Nightmare" was his first solo work with the unexpected ballad "Only Women Bleed" topping the charts. "Alice Cooper Goes To Hell" came along in 1976, with another ballad, "I Never Cry" it's centerpiece. Still, Cooper's popularity began to slide at this point, due to the changing music scene as well as his ever deepening alcoholism. "Lace And Whiskey" came next, followed by a live album. Alice entered rehab in 1978, and along with Elton John's lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote the album "From The Inside". Cooper continued to tour and release albums durng the 80's, among them "Special Forces" and "Flush The Fashion", but his appeal continued to wane.
Alice made a successful comeback in the late 80's due to exposure via current metal bands covering his songs and emulating his style, as well as making appearances on film. "Constrictor" began the comeback in 1986, but "Trash" was the album that secured it. Produced by Desmond Child with guest musicians Jon Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, Cooper had a top 20 U.S. seller and his first top ten hit since 1977. Since then Alice has stayed active, stripping down his music to a sound akin to grunge. In 2005 he also began a syndicated radio show, Nights With Alice Cooper.
I saw Alice in 1977 touring for the live album "The Alice Cooper Show" (a perfect album title, because in that period that's what a live Alice performance was, a stage show) a concert in which Alice was beheaded by a guillotine, put to death by an electric chair, walked the stage with a boa constrictor, and held doll's heads by the hair drenched in fake blood. Yes, I was one of those teens who owned everything Alice released up to 1981's "Special Forces" and like many young fans of the day I lost interest in his new musical directions; the industry seemed to be ever changing at the time and rather than sticking with a tried and true formula, Cooper's music was changing with it. Of note is the fact that Cooper is living life on the wagon now, and happily, what we get with this new DVD release is an Alice healthy, if older; a man who these days has licked his 24 year alcohol obsession and replaced it with a profound love for golf.
Listed here is a track listing of the songs performed:
Department of Youth
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Billion Dollar Babies
Be My Lover
Lost in America
I Never Cry
Woman of Mass Destruction
Between High School and The Old School
What Do You Want From Me?
Is it My Body
Go to Hell
The Black Widow
Feed My Frankenstein
Welcome To My Nightmare
Only Women Bleed
Ballad of Dwight Fry
I Love the Dead
Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills
Under My Wheels
Can Alice still rock the house as in days of yore? Emphatically, YES.
He's probably in better shape these days than he ever was in his 70's
heyday, sober for many years at this point. His energy level is solid
, and he runs through the gears as the show progresses,
commanding the stage in the way a performer with almost 40 years of fame
would be expected to be capable of. If anything, Alice warmed up and got
better both vocally and physically as he got deeper into the 90 minute
set. His voice is stronger than ever- the man has the chops to perform
all the stuff from his most notorious years, and for the most part hits
the high notes when the material calls upon him to do so; listen to his
take on one of his softest ballads, "I Never Cry" here as proof of that. At
some points Alice might not perform the songs in precisely the way he
might have 30 years ago, but the guy has been doing alot of this
material for almost four decades now, so that's understandable. Don't go into
this show expecting to see the grand horror show of olden days; the
first half of the show is a straight ahead rock and roll concert, and
Cooper brings the goods to keep the crowd on their feet throughout.
The second act is another matter, with Alice charging through some of
his older, darker and more theatrical material, bringing in the props-
the straight jacket, and of course, the guillotine. Some of the early
material here I had never heard performed live when seeing Alice in the
70's, such as "The Ballad Of Dwight Frye" and "Steven", and it holds up
His band here is top notch- on guitars are Damon Johnson, Ryan Roxie and
Chuck Garric and from the sound and looks of the show they're played
together for some time. They're all well versed in the material and more
than bring the music to life behind Alice. The band's drummer here is
Eric Singer, a long time KISS drummer before the original band's
reunion tours and again afterwards when Peter Criss departed. Also keep
an eye on the lithe, lovely dancer in the second half of the show; that
would be one Calico Cooper, Alice's daughter.
The case lists the aspect ratio for this disc as being "16:9 Screen Format", so I presume this translates to 1.78:1 widescreen. While I did find the picture to be slightly softer than some recent
concert DVDs I've reviewed, it wasn't dramatically so. Colors are deep
and rich, blacks are solid and for the most part this is a good effort.
The choice of audio tracks available here is impressive- DTS Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo. Audio tracks here are tricky. I liked the PCM stereo track, and the DD
5.1 track is okay, but the DTS track seemed substantially more dynamic
on my setup than the other two, with deep thumping bass and the sort of
presence one expects to hear at a live show. The DTS track
definitely fills the room, and its the one I recommend.
Heres where this set- and in fact many recent music/concert DVDs- shines. Included with the DVD is a full audio CD of the concert which contains 19 of the shows tracks. Personally I hope companies like Eagle Rock Entertainment continue this concept. I auditioned the CD in my vehicle and it seems very faithful to the DVD track; dynamic and unsweetened, the sound is akin to the current trend of the raw "Live Now" audio discs one can buy after concerts of shows they have just seen within minutes of their completion.
Here is a track listing for the audio CD:
1.Department of Youth
2. No More Mr. Nice Guy
3. Dirty Diamonds
4. Billion Dollar Babies
5. Be My Lover
6. Lost in America
7. I Never Cry
8. Woman of Mass Destruction
9. I'm Eighteen
10. Between High School and The Old School
11. What Do You Want From Me?
12. Is it My Body?
14. Feed My Frankenstein
15. Welcome To My Nightmare
16. School's Out
18. Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills
19. Under My Wheels
For an insight into the timelessness of Alice's music, I had to wait two weeks to
drag this disc away from my 14 year old rock n' rolling son in order to write
the review for it! Eagle Rock Entertainment is to be commended for releasing a DVD/CD package that gives the buyer a great concert in two media formats, a disc of 'extras' worth
having. Alice Cooper Live at Montreux 2005 is a solid show and any Alice Cooper fan old or young
should pick it up. Recommended.