Alice Cooper’s place in rock and roll history was assured long before his massively overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this year. Let’s face it, were it not for Alice Cooper — for better or for worse — there would never have been a Kiss, a Twisted Sister, a Marilyn Manson, or a Slipknot.
Not that any of these latter day “shock rock” bands ever possessed Alice’s unique gift for combining the gender bending, parentally horrifying social outrage of the day with a great pop hook of course (Twisted Sister probably came the closest with “We’re Not Gonna’ Take It”). For that, one only needs to reference original Alice Cooper classics like “I’m Eighteen,” “Be My Lover” and “School’s Out.”
What Alice’s biggest fans also know however, is that by the time of his first solo album, 1975’s Welcome To My Nightmare, the party was pretty much over.
Not that the original Nightmare isn’t a great album.
In fact, when viewed from the rear window of time, the original Welcome To My Nightmare album holds up remarkably well. The makeshift band of studio hot shots assembled for that album — guys like guitar ace Steve Hunter — certainly had the chops. The songs, like “Black Widow,” “Department Of Youth” and Nightmare’s lone hit “Only Women Bleed” weren’t half bad either.
But they never really recaptured the original spirit of the great, though occasionally ragged original Alice Cooper Band as heard on the string of early seventies albums that made Alice a star in the first place. The fact is, what followed the original Welcome To My Nightmare album, was a brief run of TV movies with the likes of octogenarian Helen Hayes, appearances on the celebrity golf circuit and shows like Hollywood Squares. Sadly, this was followed shortly after by a fall from grace marked dramatically by years in and out of rehab recovering from a very severe booze habit which very nearly took Alice Cooper’s life.
You wanna’ talk about an Alice Cooper album demanding a sequel now? That discussion begins and ends with 1973’s masterpiece Billion Dollar Babies.
The best news about 2011’s long-awaited Nightmare sequel is that it reunites Alice with original AC band members Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Michael Bruce for the first time in decades. They still sound pretty great here too. Songs like “When Hell Comes Home,” serve as a musical reminder of what brought Alice’s shock-rock act to the dance to begin with. Longtime Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin is also back on board, and the songs on this album are some of Alice’s best in years.
Sadly, the idea of great hard rock songs with catchy hooks probably comes a few decades too late for the present-day musical climate of here today, gone tomorrow pop stars. Speaking of which, Ke$ha also makes an appearance on this album on the song “What Baby Wants” — which is something I am still trying to wrap my original Alice Cooper fan around.
All minor quibbles aside, Welcome 2 My Nightmare is easily the most listenable Alice Cooper album in years, and proof positive that when the old ghoul puts his mind to it, he can still deliver the goods.
In the meantime, diehard fans like me are still awaiting that Billion Dollar Babies sequel.