Thursday, September 8, 2011

Alice Cooper - Old School box set

It was hard not to think of my dear, departed mother when this box set arrived. Man, she HATED Alice Cooper! It was probably a sentiment shared by many who grew up poor during the depression and listened to Bing Crosby on the radio. As a pre-teen I subjected the poor woman to a steady barrage of Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent and Frank Zappa oozing out from my eternally shut bedroom door. And if she knew how much this box set cost she would rant about what a waste of money it is and that I need a haircut.

The Alice Cooper Old School box is what freaks like me have been dreaming of for years. Two CD’s full of shit you’ve never heard before, an interview CD with all 4 surviving original members (Alice, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Michael Bruce), a DVD that includes rare live footage and interviews, an insanely great live show from 1971 on CD and LP, a 7” single from their pre-Alice Cooper band the Nazz, a fancy hardcover book and a folder full of reproductions of posters, tour programs, etc. It’s all housed in a massive school desk that revives the School’s Out album cover. FUCK YEAH!!!! That’s what I call totally mint deluxe.

The sound quality on the 2 discs of rarities is pretty rough but that’s cool if you’re a big fan. Ever wonder what they sounded like before they recorded their first album Pretties For You? Not only do you get some demos but also some raw live versions of songs from Easy Action. Did you know that “Desperado” from Killer started off as a song called “Tornado Warning?” You also get an inside listen to what it was like when producer Bob Ezrin was recording the kids on “School’s Out.” Fascinating stuff, but again, only for the hardcore.

Without a doubt, the musical highlight is the live CD/LP called Killer In St.Louis from 1971. Killer is my favorite Alice Cooper album and I’ve always wanted to hear a concert from that tour. It does not disappoint. The sound is good for a bootleg, probably a soundboard or maybe from a radio broadcast and the performance is outstanding. It captures the band as they were really becoming a huge phenomenon and the crowd goes nuts when they open up with “Be My Lover.” Alice’s vocals are great and the band is beyond tight. These guys really picked up a lot of pointers from hanging around Frank Zappa and The Doors in L.A. and even more when they moved to Detroit and started playing to crowds weaned on the MC5, The Stooges, Amboy Dukes, Grand Funk Railroad, etc. High energy, weird, offensive and entertaining all at the same time; truly one of the best bands ever to emerge from the USA. Heavy rock songs like “You Drive Me Nervous,” “I’m Eighteen,” and “Long Way To Go” are faster and more intense than the recorded versions. The real treat is hearing a live version of the incredible “Halo Of Flies.” There are no other rock songs like this. Songs like this, “Dead Babies” and “Killer” must have REALLY freaked out the cops and any parents in the building. Alice Cooper was obviously a very visual band but the music holds up completely on it’s own.

Once again, this is not for lightweights or normal people. It’s expensive but if you’re a weirdo you have no choice. Sorry, Ma, I just had to do it.


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