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Rank and File

Rank And File: Alice Cooper

The artist I listen to with the biggest discography, and also my favorite artist of all time (right next to Judas Priest) is the almighty rock ‘n roll villain Alice Cooper. Born Vincent Furnier, he is what got me started on my love for heavy metal and hard rock alike. The appeal of there finally being a villain in a world of rock heroes sat very well with me, and seeing that I discovered him around the age of thirteen while watching a Michael Myers music video compilation, it makes sense. The song “Poison” was being played in the background, and I was hooked instantly. That said, between the Alice Cooper band days and all of the solo albums, there are a total of twenty-seven records to dissect. Those who stick with me through this, I salute you.

But for having so many records, a good majority of them are actually very good, and a lot of them have gotten lost in the timeline of endless releases that get overlooked. Case in point, the new wave era in the early ‘80s is all but forgotten, and I hope to shed some light on those as there is some gold within. I’m not saying that every record is great by any measures, and some are flat out bad. But a lot of them are better than the reception they got. I’ve decided to take on the task of looking at every record individually, ranking them from worst to best.

Original Alice Cooper band

27) Pretties For You (1969)

Wow, what a train wreck! Alice Cooper’s debut Pretties For You is like a psychedelic era Beatles album gone horribly wrong. Weird time signatures and an uncomfortable atmosphere are the names of the game, and that’s all well and good. But there’s no resolution, and all of the songs that take this to the extreme leave me wondering what the hell I just listened to. Sure, there are occasional moments that feel like they’re gonna go somewhere with a Monkees esque splash to them, but they wind up going nowhere like a joke reaching the end without a punchline. The only decent (and I’m being very liberal with that term) thing to come from this is the swinging ride known as “Living” as well as the track that would later become “Elected” titled “Reflected.” Don’t get your hopes up though. While a primitive version of the Billion Dollar Babies classic may seem fun, it leaves a bitter aftertaste and I’m truly giving it too much credit. Also, the album cover is an eye-sore.

Final Grade: F

26) Dragontown (2001)

My advice to you with Dragontown? Listen to Brutal Planet Instead. Hitting the scenes just a year after that industrial and thunderous beast dropped, this one would do exactly the same thing without the solid ground of stellar songwriting. No hooks, nothing memorable, just a bunch of cookie cutter tunes that hardly stand apart from one another. Some songs fall completely flat like “Sex, Death, And Money” that try to capture the reality of what Brutal Planet did but wind up being hollow and cringy. Even that ballad “Every Woman Has A Name” is pretty damn unflattering. Not as atrocious as the debut, but there isn’t anything relatively interesting to be found. It’s like he said, “oh hey that last album was cool, let’s try that again and rush it out!”

Final Grade: D-

25) Zipper Catches Skin (1982)

Ya know, Zipper Catches Skin really could have been a cool extension to the streak of new wave records, but sadly it’s not. Instead, it was obviously crafted by a strung-out-on-alcohol, short-haired Alice that has basically no recollection of this. I’ll confess that there are a lot of catchy moments, but that’s the only thing that it has for support. The subject matter also makes no sense whatsoever. The only notable thing about this is how much “I Better Be Good” sounds like The Violent Femmes’s “Blister In The Sun,” as well as the Halloween film reference in “Tag, You’re It.” Both tracks are pretty lame though. It isn’t what I’d call horrific, but it’s bare minimum regarding effort.

Final Grade: D

24) Lace And Whiskey (1977)

Lace And Whiskey is what I mark as the worst Alice Cooper record of the ‘70s. It may not be as weird as its predecessor, but it couldn’t make less of a difference because what’s leftover is numbing and boring. The majority of this is a total snoozefest with nothing beyond simple and soulless rhythms and repetition, and those that do go over the top overdo it. There is one track, and one track only that truly stands out, and that is the masterful title track “Lace And Whiskey.” Featuring a tight synth lead, a memorable chorus, and hooks, it overshadows everything else offered here. Even the “Ubangi Stomp” cover serves a little point and the Warren Smith hit should have stopped after Jerry Lee Lewis made it famous. “You And Me” is a ballad so watered down that it passes for “easy listening” and although I find myself singing along, it really just sounds programmed sprinkled with lame lyrics. Don’t even get me started on the sheer unflattering jokes known as “My God” or “I Never Wrote Those Songs.” Treat yourself to track number two and take a hard pass on the rest.

Final Grade: D

23) The Eyes Of Alice Cooper (2003)

After back to back industrial records with dropped guitar tuning, The Eyes Of Alice Cooper begins what I see as the start of “modern” Alice, which is basically what he’s still writing today. That said, it is easily a step up from the empty dreck known as Dragontown, which practically fabricated Brutal Planet without any magic. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t incorporate some pop-rock vibes that were big at the time, which can be heard in the singing style of “Between High School And Old School.” I’d also be lying if I said Alice didn’t begin to show aging in his voice and delivery; not that he isn’t still a good singer. There isn’t anything that grabs you by the throat, but “Novocaine” certainly has smooth sailing energy that I kinda dig. Save for the few mentioned points, there isn’t really anything to get out of this. No real crimes here, but it’s quite forgettable. After about six or so songs, it drags on, only to find you’re barely halfway there.

Final Grade: D+

22) Along Came A Spider (2008)

Along Came A Spider starts out very promising. “Prologue / I Know Where You Live” and “Vengeance Is Mine” are both ghoulish numbers that suggest an album that’s gonna be a spider-themed horror story. But it sadly doesn’t keep up the momentum and falls back into the same style as Dirty Diamonds, except there aren’t nearly as many standout tracks. Nothing here is objectively terrible, and the throwback to the “Steven” story is neat, but what the whole concept suggested turned out to be a letdown. Not nearly as cookie-cutter and manufactured sounding as it could be, but if the first few tracks didn’t save it, this would have nothing redeemable about it.

Final Grade: D+

21) Goes To Hell (1976)

Meant to serve as the sequel to the brilliant horror concept known as Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell (or simply Goes To Hell) is a fair collection of tunes, but it certainly doesn’t live up to the previous disc. There are some stand out songs within the herd, as well as a few awkward ones that serve no redeemable value. It doesn’t contain any of the spookiness found in its predecessor, which is disappointing. “I Never Cry” is a really strong ballad steering far from the normal rock softee, and “Didn’t We Meet” is one of my favorite songs of his late ‘70s output with its bursting chorus and bouncy rhythmic bridges. Numbers like “Go To Hell,” “Give The Kid A Break,” and “You Gotta Dance” are very fun for what they’re worth despite being pretty silly. But the rest? Anywhere from poor to alright. “Wake Me Gently,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” and “I’m The Coolest” are bumbling ear-sores that make me forget who I’m even listening to. Not a bad release, but there are certainly some tracks that stain the hell out of it.

Final Grade: C-

20) Paranormal (2017)

See, this is why I never stand behind people saying “they need to just retire.” Even after a slew of unpromising albums, Paranormal is the second 2010s album in a row to feature such beefy songwriting. I’m admittedly a little biased thanks to my excitement upon hearing about it, but the title track is built on steady drum beats and bouncy rhythms, written around paranormal entities personified. “Paranoic Personality” is loaded with bouncy basslines and booming gang-like vocals. It also features Psycho-esque synths to bridge into the solo. Definitely some obvious filler songs here, but the overall output is pretty good. The deluxe edition has two bonus tracks played by what’s left of the Alice Cooper band. “Genuine American Girl” is better than anything on the real album, and had these songs been included, it likely would have boosted my overall opinion.

Final Grade: C

19) Dirty Diamonds (2005)

The thing about Dirty Diamonds is that it’s partially a total comeback after two extremely dull records, but it also has just a bit too much dull void fill itself. Looking at the positives though, it offers some bangers and some innovative ideas that are quite atypical of the rest of the disc. “Steal That Car” is a quick uptempo number that has such a great foundation in riff work, and a catchy chorus that I can’t possibly turn down. “You Make Me Wanna” and “Sunset Babies” are a bit more coated in pop-rock, but they’re so much fun. The title track reflects darker traits to contrast most of the release, but real magic can be found in “Pretty Ballerina” with its haunting delivery using soft licks and a harpsichord. I honestly think this tune reflects the new-wave era a bit. “The Saga Of Jesse Jane” is intriguing, and I give it props for tampering with something different, but the delivery is a bit awkward. The rest of this, although not bad, doesn’t hold much value. As a whole, it’s worth hearing this album because of the select standout numbers.

Final Grade: C+

18) Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)

Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a good release that took some time to grow on me, even though it’s stupidly titled and could really do without the autotune. Although the first sequel to the classic ‘70s horror rock-opera wasn’t exponentially good by any means, this one is definitely better and a huge step up from Along Came A Spider. It doesn’t sound so run-of-the-mill, something that plagued the previous three Alice Cooper records in some way or another, save for half of Dirty Diamonds. “The Congregation” paints on chilling textures in a way that’s still flashy enough to get my attention. “Caffeine” is a pop tune that is overloaded with cheesiness, but “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” does this in a more unique fashion and it’s something I can totally get behind. “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” was quite a surprise with its synth/horror attack. “What Baby Wants” blows my mind, as it actually features Ke$ha, and makes for the perfect blend of “top 40 pop” and spookiness. As a fan of pop music, I loved every part of it, but I can see others having a hard time with this. “The Underture” is the perfect closer, an instrumental medley that borrows from all sorts of spots in Welcome To My Nightmare. Not essential, but a pretty solid release. And hey, I view this as The Coop pulling off synthwave (that may be a stretch).

Final Grade: B-

17) Special Forces (1981)

I like to think of Special Forces as a speedier version of the new wave overload known as Flush The Fashion. Rest assured, I don’t mean speed metal, it’s mesmerizing synth riffs backed by prevalent rolling drum beats. Avoiding one-sidedness, one minute you’ll have “Prettiest Cop On The Block” which is like a rock ‘n roll synthwave track, and the next you have “Don’t Talk Old To Me” which contains booming rhythms and riffs that jump all over the place. There are surprises like “Skeletons In The Closet,” a hidden gem that has such a cartoony-Halloween vibe that I don’t know why it got so overlooked. The harpsichords and layers of keyboards create such a haunted breeze in the air. A live version of “Generation Landslide” with more lyrics that sit surprisingly well is included, and the cover of Love’s “Seven & Seven Is” is brilliant. Admittedly, there are a bit too many inescapable cheese covered songs like “You Want It, You Got It,” but as a whole, this disc is better than most would think.

Final Grade: B-

16) School’s Out (1972)

It’s amazing how the record named after Alice Cooper’s biggest hit actually doesn’t fare as well as you’d think. School’s Out is a worthwhile record, but it’s easily the least of the “band” run save for Pretties For You. Getting past the pop glazed title track, the rest of it highlights anarchy and shenanigans in a very inconsistent manner that still bares fun tunes. “Luney Tune” is a swinging rock ‘n roll number with a sweet taste of cleanliness, easily earning the title of my favorite song off of this. Then you have random jazz numbers like “Blue Turk” that are built on horn sections that have a lot of life but don’t really fit. If that’s not weird enough, “Alma Mater” hones in on purposeful shoddy production with spoken word bursts and western vibes summoned by acoustics. Again, not bad, but oddly placed. “Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets” is a sexually charged number that pays homage to “Still No Air” from Easy Action, held up by Dennis Dunaway’s bass leads. A bit of a mess, but a solid spin overall.

Final Grade: B-

15) Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987)

Raise Your Fist And Yell is like a heavier glammy follow up to Constrictor, and a lot of that is likely due to the fact that it’s mostly fueled by anger. Many of the songs are built around rebellion and protection of the music industry such as “Give The Radio Back.” We can thank things like the PMRC for this one. While not loaded with nearly as many hooks as its predecessor, it’s definitely loaded with shredding thanks to co-writer Kane Roberts on the guitars, who also played on Constrictor and a little bit of Trash. “Freedom,” the opening track is nothing shy of a speed metal shredder with a bombastic chorus and an insane amount of energy. Closer “Roses With White Lace” is an echoed fire track that closes with a bang, riding on speed riffs as well. “Prince Of Darkness” is a slower ditty dealing with the devil in a softer and unsettling way. There are certainly some throwaways like “Chop, Chop, Chop” but overall this makes for a pleasing release. Also the opening to “Not That Kind Of Love” makes me laugh every time.

Final Grade: B

14) Brutal Planet (2000)

Oh boy, this is where the next shark jumper came in. Take a six-year gap between records and let Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie rule the world for a hot minute, and Brutal Planet is what the outcome will be. The guitars are dropped to a deep and burning tone, industrial soundscapes are tacked onto the production, and realistic issues flood the lyrics. “Gimme” definitely showcases the industrial format the most. The title track is incredible; it’s glazed by a horrific tone based on biblical tales that unfold into tragic events, making it feel so real, with more recent catastrophes written in too. “Wicked Young Man” and “Blow Me A Kiss” deal in political madness and racial issues that face the world, coming off in such an angry and hateful way. “Sanctuary” is sped up to a threatening speed, and deals in mundane everyday life and suicide. What makes this so special is that Alice usually deals in monsters and paranormal creatures that aren’t real, or he uses them symbolically to depict reality. But this one is direct and straightforward. Once again, it proves that Alice can pull off just about anything, even if some of the songs drag on. Maybe not essential, but easily worth every minute.

Final Grade: B

13) The Last Temptation (1994)

An easier way to sum up The Last Temptation is that it’s basically Hey Stoopid lite; everything is built with the same architectural ideas but the songs aren’t quite as sturdy. Granted, it has one of the best songs he wrote in the decade with “Sideshow,” introduced by a soothing acoustic lick and breaks into upbeat, major keys that carry the whole six minutes. The effects in the background and lyrics do it wonders. “Unholy War” and “Stolen Prayer,” both featuring the late Chris Cornell are like counterparts with the first being a darker tune crafted with more attitude, and the other being a more somber, rather sad piece. Alice’s deeper and mopier vocals contrast Cornell’s quite well, making for a great ballad. The other ballad “It’s Me” is a bit more traditional but just as solid. The weaker areas of this lie in the lack of innovation in some places. While “Lost In America” is admittedly catchy as fuck, it couldn’t be a more obvious filler track, and the lyrics are stupidly low in effort. Others suffer from this type of thing but thankfully none of them are flat out bad, just lesser in quality. The whole picture is quite wonderful, though.

Final Grade: B+

12) DaDa (1983)

Save for maybe the hideous debut album, DaDa is easily the most far-out-in-left-field release that Alice Cooper has ever dropped. The record sleeve, the title, and the title track itself should be a direct indicator of this. But amazingly, it’s great; better than the two that came before it. “I Love America” is the best song to come out of this entire new wave/alcoholic/short hair/weird era, with shining bright backing guitars and spoken lyrics that have a fluid and poetic flow, and it’s also quite funny. “Enough’s Enough” is one of the more accessible numbers with its flashy breaks and catchy chorus. On the other hand, you’ll find “Former Lee Warmer” which is a song that sounds like it was meant for a musical from hundreds of years ago; and it’s actually pretty intriguing! There’s a general idea of monotone vocals overlapping with advanced instrumentation, which “No Man’s Land” capitalizes on. Fittingly, a lot of these would work as good songs for cheesy ‘80s action films, which “Scarlet And Sheba” fits the shoe of. I really can’t get enough of this. Some may view it as blasphemy to put it this high, but it was a nice step away from the snoozefest that was Zipper Catches Skin and serves such a good purpose. Highly recommended to those who are skeptical.

Final Grade: B+

11) Muscle Of Love (1973)

I’ve always liked to call Muscle Of Love Alice Cooper meets Deep Purple due to a large number of electric organs and similar tones; though nothing on here ever meets their level of heaviness. The final output by the “band” is noticeably honed in on groovy rhythms charged by adolescent/teen struggles and sexual discoveries. “Big Apple Dreamin” reflects this style shift right off the bat, while others like “Teenage Lament ‘74” strip back to the more simplistic days as a killer rock ‘n roll tune with a slight edge and a small folky tint. On the flip side, “Hard Hearted Alice” dives deep into the softer licks and glossy keyboard overtones that flip the tempo halfway through creating a bit of a trippy number. Horns and new instrument additions still get squeezed in. This would never fare nearly as well as its predecessor, but there are very few moments that I dislike. Also, those basslines in the title track though.

Final Grade: A-

10) Easy Action (1970)

I cannot stress how much Alice Cooper stepped up their game in only a year’s time. Going from the disaster known as Pretties For You to the soothing beaut called Easy Action is like jumping into a hot tub after being stuck outside in freezing temperatures. The weird tempos and psychedelic injections are still alive, but they actually go somewhere, most notably in “Still No Air.” Contrasting this are very accessible tunes like one of my favorites titled “Shoe Salesman,” beholding one of the most uplifting guitar solos the band has ever crafted. Longer songs like “Below Your Means” still make their appearances as well as short radio-types such as opener “Mr. And Misdemeanor” and the piano-based “Beautiful Flyaway.” The latter in particular has such an early 1900s vibe that it becomes an instant favorite. The only real flaw is closer “Lay Down And Die, Goodbye,” which is a noisy outro that would have fit right in on the first record.

Final Grade: A-

9) Flush The Fashion (1980)

Hell yes! The album that started the early ‘80s new wave Alice albums, and the best one at that! Like a quick thrill ride, Flush The Fashion is over before you’ve realized it’s even begun due to the short length and the fact that all of the tracks run together (mostly) without space in between. Wavey synth riffs carry almost all of the rhythms as well as integrating loose sounding guitar distortions, some even having a western tone. You will find the occasional harder riff and solo but they aren’t at the forefront. “Leather Boots” is a very fast blast that fits perfectly into the pop numbers of the ‘80s. It also follows my personal favorite “Pain” which uses the same approach but molded to a sadder mood, and it has the such a steady beat, all lead by a nice piano lick. “Clones (We’re All)” was the only song that made it big from this album (and really the only one from the new wave era), which is laced with robotic glows in the melody. The closest banger that hails more from Alice roots is the record closer “Headlines,” another one of my favorites, but even describing it that way is a stretch, as it could come right off of an Elvis Costello record.

Final Grade: A-

8) Trash (1989)

If I could sum Trash up in two words, it would be “sexually charged.” Being the final album with Kane Roberts doing any work, it’s also beefed up with help from Kip Winger, most of Aerosmith, and Jon Bon Jovi as well as Richie Sambora. Steven Tyler does backing vocals on the power ballad “Only My Heart Talkin’” while Jon backs up the title track. Possessing many huge hits including the smashers “Poison” and “House Of Fire,” the memorable guitar lines and melodies are off the chart. Some tracks are a bit more raunchy than others, such as the speed metal-based “Bed Of Nails” being as blunt and straightforward as possible. Most of the glam metal glosses are gone save for hints of it in the rhythms and strong synth work laid onto “This Maniac’s In Love With You.” Really every song sticks in the head, but what keeps this from being perfect is the fact that a lot of the lyrics are super cheesy. At some moments it seems a bit overdone, but as a whole, everything is memorable and flows consistently. Besides, I owe so much gratitude to “Poison” as it got me on the heavy train, and it’s likely Alice Cooper’s biggest hit save for maybe “School’s Out.” Essential listening for sure.

Final Grade: A-

7) From The Inside (1978)

I was very torn on whether this tops Trash or not, despite them being very different; so consider these two interchangeable. What a miracle this was! Following the disaster known as Lace And Whiskey, From The Inside completely redeems everything that the previous record did wrong with anecdotes from The Coop’s time visiting a mental asylum. It would see the return of the hard rock formulas upping the tempo as well as softer emotional ditties with every track having its own identity from the bottom up. “I Wish I Were Born In Beverly Hills,” “Serious,” and the title track deliver everything that this shock rocker was known for with super catchy choruses and strong backing vocals over hard riffs. On the flip side, there’s the eerie acoustic love song about a couple’s murder featuring Marcy Levy on vocals. It encapsulates the darkest of pictures painted by the most welcoming sounding paintbrush, and it’s known as “Millie And Billie.” There’s also a ballad “The Quiet Room” which is piano heavy on the verses and synth-heavy in the chorus. It’s depressing in the best way possible. The songs at the end dip down ever so slightly in quality (although still strong), but the first six tracks are nothing shy of perfection and make this disc essential. It never got the credit it deserved.

Final Grade: A-

6) Hey Stoopid (1991)

Like the disc ahead of it, Hey Stoopid features a lot of other artists, including Slash on guitar, Ozzy Osbourne doing backups, and several Motley Crue members. I also like to think that this is one of the most mature Alice Cooper albums, and his last one that I consider essential listening. It’s on the longer side, but nothing comes through as filler and there’s a lot of emotion in his voice and depth to the musical construction. “Might As Well Be On Mars” is a long power ballad with weeping overlays and soft licks, but it amps up and delivers a strong chorus. This is pretty typical here, as songs like “Dangerous Tonight” or “Love’s A Loaded Gun” do the same thing. “Burning Our Bed” is so reminiscent of The Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” that it’s scary, but it follows the same direction as the others, yielding its own spin. “Die For You” uses this aesthetic towards a happier soundscape, while “Wind-up Toy” draws spookier auras, with heavy guitar leads mixed with a throwback to Welcome To My Nightmare’s story (catch the “Steven” at the end?). And of course, I can’t not mention the beloved title track written against drugs and typical poor teen decisions, as well as the ghoulish banger “Feed My Frankenstein” that was featured in Wayne’s World. Overall, it’s what I view as a more in-depth, mature, and spiced up Trash.

Final Grade: A

5) Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)

The first “solo” Alice Cooper album, and what I like to call one of my favorite albums to spin around Halloween, Welcome To My Nightmare is the first large step away from the classic rock sound coated with heavy metal that based most of the “band” albums. Granted, those all had weirdness of their own, but the concept of this is where it truly upped its game. Being a whole disc based around the nightmares of a child named Steven, side B is where the spooky really settles in. “Years Ago” invokes the exact sensations I’d get as a kid when I was scared in bed, followed by “Steven” with its Exorcist-like piano backing and child-like vocals. It’s topped off with the horrifying “The Awakening” which leads to an upbeat morning feeling with “Escape.” The first half is where the classics lie, focusing on more adult-like concepts save for maybe “The Black Widow” and “Devil’s Food” which is a fabulous duo about a collection of scary critters being presented to the boy. But “Cold Ethyl” and “Only Women Bleed” are personal favorites of mine that detail more realistic nightmares of adult life and are delivered exceptionally. While the former throws back to the earlier “band” styles with plenty of cowbell, the latter is crafted on beautifully placed waves of horns, acoustics, and clarity. I also can’t hear it without picturing Rob Zombie’s Halloween before Annie and Paul are about to get hacked up. I wouldn’t call this a consistent release, but it’s more or less meant to be that way thanks to the story and the general idea behind each one having a different background. Definitely an essential.

Final Grade: A

4) Killer (1971)

Killer is exactly what the title suggests; killer! Dropping the same year as the legendary Love It To Death, this was a concise follow up that focused on scenarios involving killing and death with a slightly tighter production. The special thing about this is that the longer, weirder tracks are the best ones. “Halo Of Flies” is an eight-minute ride featuring drastic shifts in mood with instrumental layers finished by Alice’s melodic rasps. The other one, a far darker “Dead Babies” is a bit shorter but has some of the most grueling subject matter with haunting riffs, all inspired by Cooper’s distaste for careless parents. Others like “You Drive Me Nervous” and “Under My Wheels” bring on a heavier and speedy punch that reaches metal aesthetic, sitting perfectly aside from the classic softer tunes. “Be My Lover” and “Desperado” (not to be confused with the beautiful Eagles ballad) are both slower, cleaner guitar boasted tracks that give off solid levels of emotion. Essential listening in my book.

Final Grade: A

3) Billion Dollar Babies (1973)

Not only is Billion Dollar Babies excellent in the fact that it produced the most hits for Alice Cooper, but it’s also loaded with deep cuts! Based on foul subjects like necrophilia as well as fear and discomfort, the music heavily reinforces these ideas with complimentary note execution. Well, mostly. The horn glazed hit “Elected” takes on a much happier attitude than most of this, as well as the cover of “Hello Hooray,” but the rest generates chills. The title track’s double-vocal tracks and catchy instrumentation give the sensation of actual dancing in an attic with the dead. “Unfinished Sweet” is built around fear (particularly at the dentists) and drives effects into your head (gums?) to create suspense. The closers work together as a sequential horror sequence. This starts with “Sick Things” in its sheer simplicity still doing the job of setting the grotesque tone, following with “Mary Ann,” a piano ditty meant to sound ancient as all hell, and finally “I Love The Dead,” which is the blunt closer about fucking corpses that ends on a gross and unsettling note. Weirdly enough, songs like “Raped And Freezin’” or “Generation Landslide” tell horrid stories but are filled with upbeat attitudes and bouncy bridges, meant to be confusing. And of course, to balance the scale is the obvious classic known as “No More Mr. Nice Guy” which heavily borrows from 1960’s rock ‘n roll aesthetic. There’s a hell of a lot to swallow here, and it’s just brilliant. Essential for sure.

Final Grade: A

2) Constrictor (1986)

Greatly looked at as Alice Cooper’s return to form, I think it’s a return to form and then some. With a three year gap between the last new wave era release DaDa, Constrictor not only goes back to the rock ‘n roll with heavy metal coatings, but the heavy metal form really made itself more recognizable. For the most part, this blends in with the glam metal traditions that were exploding in contrast to the thrash movement. Synthesizers are now used to a harder effect rather than to invoke wavy feelings. “Crawlin’” and “Trick Bag” hit this really hard, allowing the keyboards obvious forefront and identities to stand out. Another plus is the straight up horror love in this, with “Teenage Frankenstein” displaying monstrous images played in a glam metal style done perfectly. “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” does the same, being a tribute to Jason Voorhees, and both of the previous tracks were used in Friday The Thirteenth Part VI: Jason Lives (as well as an unreleased track titled “Hard Rock Summer.” Not to mention, that one has synth-lead sections to the max. Heavy bangers with more grit make their way in with “Give It Up” and “The World Needs Guts,” the latter sharpening the blade bordering thrashy riffs. “Simple Disobedience” slows the tempo down but retains the edgy aura. This one also has some of the best tin-like drum fills, and the entire track is explosive. “Life And Death Of The Party” takes more solemn paths with a cooler atmosphere, which is also achieved with the chanting and backing vocals of “Crawlin’,” “Thrill My Gorilla,” and “The Great American Success Story.” I realize my over-glorification of this is likely tied to me being a total glam head, but everything is crafted very well. And hey, it’s consistent! Obviously, this is a pretty dated effort, but that’s what makes it so incredible, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Essential.

Final Grade: A

1) Love It To Death (1971)

One of the greatest records to ever hit the face of the planet was Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death, the first record by the band that actually peaked real success and launched them into the superstars they would become. It’s also when Glen Buxton would begin laying down more traditional rock ‘n roll riffs, which can be heard in the heavy opening lick of “Caught In A Dream.” This track, along with the other first couple songs are rather misleading since they’re loaded with fun, party like energy. Michael Bruce’s keyboard drenched “Long Way To Go” and the smash hit “I’m Eighteen” wouldn’t try and hide this at all. But the majority of the record takes a drastic turn to darker territory. The duo known as “Second Coming” and “The Ballad Of Dwight Fry” are loaded with pinnacle moments, and are my favorite two tracks. They’re essentially a grizzly horror story regarding an insane man built on piano rhythms that back strong leads. They use suspense to bust into the eventual breakdown of vocals and an explosive ending. The weirdly happy closing cover of “Sun Arise” is the perfect exit of this shocking disc. The middle bulk of songs don’t stray away from the darkness, as the evil sounding church organ in “Hallowed Be Thy Name” sends chills up the spin. The surprise tactics with the long drum build and bass/organ combo in “Black Juju” is phenomenal. That song is what the first record should have been loaded with but failed. And of course, alongside “I’m Eighteen” was the other famous hit known as “Is It My Body,” a tune that I actually prefer to the previous. Tales of death and grim topics that few would touch at the time (save for Black Sabbath and the likes) reigned over this. Truly magical; the layout, the suspense, the darkness, the fun, the heavy metal ground, it’s all there, and nothing about this record falls short of anything but perfect.

Final Grade: A+

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