Saturday, November 9, 2013

Alice Cooper - Welcome to my Nightmare (1975)

Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier, but changed his name to Alice Cooper in the 1970s for legal reasons. His wikipedia page is filled with all sorts of fascinating facts. Here are a few random ones:
  • Alice Cooper enjoys golf and plays almost every day, with a handicap of two.
  • He hosts a radio show in Vegas, "Nights with Alice Cooper" (we were listening to it, whilst in the 'States and it was like "Wow, celebrities have day jobs too!").
  • After recovering from alcoholism, Cooper went on to support other musicians suffering from addiction, including Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.
  • His oldest daughter, Calico, appears in his stage show (I've seen it, it's pretty brutal)
  • He pays an annual royalty to the original band members for using the name "Alice Cooper" commercially.
I saw Alice Cooper in concert at the epic, 2008 Rock to Wellington. In-a never-to-be-repeated-because-it-cost-more-than-they-made occasion I saw Ozzy, Cooper, Lordi, Poison, Whitesnake and Kiss all take the stage. Cooper was by far the highlight.

Anyhow, now let us go back in time to when I first heard Alice Cooper. It was "Hey Stoopid" and it was on television and I was blown away. From there I tracked down my "friends" with albums, and got my hands on several bootleg versions. This was one of them. Now, I am pleased to say, I legally own my cd copy!

Released in 1975, this was Cooper's first "solo" album. It got mixed reviews, but with its cabaret style structures, dark lyrics and an eclectic cornucopia of compisitions, which will make it all the more fun to dissect. It is a concept album, featuring the nightmares of a young boy called Steven and, I would suspect, his descent into madness. It is theatrical and entertaining.

The cover is indicative of this, with its soft, slate blue background bespectled with pastiline insects, and from a triangular cut-out in the centre rises Alice Cooper himself, resplendent with top hat and suit. It's pretty awesome, and strikes me as being more than a little tongue-in-cheek.

The album opens with "Welcome to my Nightmare"which starts with heavy, almost bluesy guitar chords, dripping with ominous brooding. The vocals are soft, yet eerie in their gentility, growing stronger and increasing in menace. The horns add an almost cabaret-vibe.

Gluggy, rolling rhythms reel us into "Devil's Food" with its echoing vocals. It quickly fades into the awesome Vincent Price and an arachnology lesson extoling the vicious virtues of the Black Widow with deliberate glee.

The creepy, meancing "Black Widow" brings more slow and heavy rhythms in an ode to this, the most venomous of spiders who will rise and dominate the human race. Piano adds to the theatrical style.

More piano, finger-clicking and very much a cabaret sing-along style to "Some Folks".

This leads into the controversial, beautiful and rather melancholic "Only Women Bleed". The gentle, twiddly guitars and Cooper's sorrow-laden vocals add to the atmosphere. This is not a song about menstruation, as was incorrectly assumed by several radio stations (who refused to play it) but rather about domestic violence. An uncomfortable topic, as relvant back in the 70s as it is still today.

We pick up the pace and liveliness for the anthemic "Department of Youth", with shadow of "School's Out" follows.

Then time for everyone's favourite song about necrophilia - "Cold Ethyl" is somewhat macabre yet funny and oh-so-wrong:
"One thing, no lie, Ethyl's frigid as Eskimo Pie..."
Discordant, jerking rhythms as we reach into the madness that is Steven's mind."Years Ago" is haunting and erratic, like the soundtrack to slowly crumbling sanity. Like a broken carnival.

Emotions afflict "Steven" with an overload in the similarly discordant, disconnected and broken track that bears his name.

"The Awakening" is a very creepy piece, short and sinister.

We conclude with "Escape" which seems more like an end-of-the-work-week celebration than anything dark and dire related to the previous tracks.

Overall, I like this cd, it is theatrical and interesting, filled with a variety of songs with varying rhythms - some that send a shiver down my spine and others to which I can sing along. It has menace mixed with playful fun.

I rate it 7/10.

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