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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL







There are six distinct stages to Alice Cooper's recording career. The 3rd phase, the initial solo years - the Hollywood Vampires age, lasted from 1975 to 1979, and 'Goes to Hell', the second solo effort from 1976 is my favorite. Most folks would put up the first one, 'Welcome To My Nightmare', but for my money, 'Goes To Hell' is the record.

Featuring a who's who of A-list session players as well as the usual suspects in the guitar department - Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, 'Goes To Hell' is a bounty of astounding performances deftly assembled by Bob Ezrin on his 7th consecutive Alice Cooper record.

Whereas 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tries to offer an overall concept - a nightmare, with the songs tying together under a very broad banner, 'Goes To Hell' is much more realised in concept, thru-line, and narrative. Basically, Alice (Steven) is condemned to hell for all the horrible things he's done, and after failing to convince the Devil to let him go, he settles in.

'Go To Hell' kicks it off with a stellar bass line courtesy of Tony Levin. Alice tells of 'Criminal acts and violence upon the stage', for which he 'can go to hell'.

The confounding 'You Gotta Dance' comes next. I used to lift the needle here and skip this one, but in recent years I've come to appreciate the groove and how well it's played. I suppose doing a disco type thing was damning enough for inclusion on the record.

The theme kicks back into gear on the third track, 'I'm the Coolest'. A sultry slow and very smoky jazz feel accompanies Alice as the Devil boasting about his superlative coolness.

'Didn't We Meet' follows, and it's simply majestic. This is the Apex of the Cooper/Ezrin collaboration. Absolutely charming, absolutely wicked.


"Pardon me, but you see, I've seen that face before
I know those eyes, unearthly wise, I feel it more and more
To look at you, Deja Vu, chills me to the core

They say that you are the king of this whole damn thing
But that only confused me
They say I don't stand a ghost of a chance with my host
And it frankly amused me

So let's drink a few
Here's looking at you, I'd swear
Didn't we meet in the night in my sleep somewhere
Didn't we meet in the night in my sleep somewhere"


Side One wraps with the single 'I Never Cry', a touching ballad about loneliness and alcoholism which was a solid radio hit in 1976, and continues the trend of a ballad single started by 'Only Women Bleed' on the previous record ('Welcome to My Nightmare'), and is followed by 'You And Me', and 'How You Gonna See Me Now' on the two ensuing LPs ('Lace and Whiskey', and 'From the Inside' respectively).

'Give the Kid a Break' opens Side Two with a big production number featuring Alice being judged and sentenced by the Devil. Stage ready, Alice and Ezrin expand on Alice's love of theater on this tune.

Alice then accepts his fate, and waxes unapologetic on the good old Rocker 'Guilty' which showcases some outstanding lead guitar, and classic Alice bad boy lyrics.


"Just tried to have fun
Raised Hell and then some
I'm a dirt talking , beer drinking woman chasing minister's son

Slap on the make-up
Blast out the music
Wake up the neighbors with a roar like a teenage heavy metal elephant gun

If you call that guilty, then that's what I am
I'm guilty, I'm guilty"



'Wake Me Gently' brings it down again. Here we find Alice pleading for the rescue that won't be happening, and though it's well done, it's a bit weepy.

'Wish You Were Here' picks it back up again with more stellar guitar, a great groove, and a witty lyric about letters home from hell. Hunter and Wagner outdo themselves on this lost Alice track.


"I sent a postcard, thought it would be funny
I would have sent a souvenir, but they took all my money
It's pretty warm down here, but it ain't sunny

And I'm having a Hell of a time, my dear
Wish you were here

I tried to phone you, tried to call you
Long distance operators; they only stall you
Besides the damn rates are so high, they'd just appall you

And I'm having a Hell of time, my dear
Wish you were here

It started out on a nice vacation, left the station right on time
Now it's turned to pure frustration, I'm just a prisoner in time
Can't get a ticket to get me home dear
They just don't have too many flights from twilight zone dear

And I'm having a Hell of time, my dear
Wish you were here"


'I'm Always Chasing Rainbows', and 'Going Home' wrap up the LP in grand Ezrin pomp and circumstance style, but again, they don't quite stand out against the Rocking of previous tunes. That's the problem with concept albums, the need to reconcile the story line. It often makes for some questionable material.

All in all, though, 'Alice Cooper Goes to Hell' makes for some excellent listening, and it's Jackson recommended.

Comments:
I think I have your Goes To Hell CD.
 
This is another name like Ted Nugent where he's basically just a joke after a certain age. I don't think any of us thought Cooper was a serious musical act growing up. He seemed like a put on.
 
His age or yours?

Alice made some DAMN fine records up to and including Goes To Hell. While Jackson affinity for the post GTH catalog eclipes mine by a long shot (with the exception of From The Inside, that's a great one too), just about everything from GTH backwards is mindblowing.

I'll bet you didn't listen to Kiss either...
 
This needs addressing, Nugent and Stones be damned, Dave, I'm quite sure you need to listen to some serious AC tracks.
 
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