Archive for October 22, 2011

Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011, Universal Music)

  1. I Am Made Of You
  2. Caffeine
  3. The Nightmare Returns
  4. A Runaway Train
  5. Last Man On Earth
  6. The Congregation
  7. I’ll Bite Your Face Off
  8. Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever
  9. Ghouls Gone Wild
  10. Something To Remember Me By
  11. When Hell Comes Home
  12. What Baby Wants
  13. I Gotta Get Outta Here
  14. The Underture
  15. Under The Bed*
  16. Poison (Live At Download Festival 2011)*

(* bonus tracks for Classic Rock Magazine limited edition fan pack)

Starring:
Alice Cooper – Lead Vocals & Harmonica

Musicians:
Tommy Henriksen – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals, Programming
Michael Bruce – Guitars, keyboards, backing vocals on “A Runaway Train”, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” & “When Hell Comes Home”
Dennis Dunaway – Bass, backing vocals on “A Runaway Train”, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” & “When Hell Comes Home”
Neal Smith – Drums, percussion, backing vocals on “A Runaway Train”, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” & “When Hell Comes Home”
Steve Hunter – guitars on “Something To Remember Me By”, “When Hell Comes Home” & “What Baby Wants”
Keith Nelson – Guitars & backing vocals on “Caffeine”
Dick Wagner – Lead guitar on “The Underture”
Tommy Denander – Guitars on “I Am Made of You”
Vince Gill – Lead guitar on “A Runaway Train” & “Gotta Get Outta Here”
Ke$ha – Guest vocals on “What Baby Wants”
Rob Zombie – Backing vocals on “The Congregation”
John 5 – Guitar on “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever”
Chuck Garric – Bass
Piggy D – Bass on “Last Man On Earth”
David Spreng – Drums on “Last Man On Earth”
Kip Winger – Backing vocals on “Ghouls Gone Wild” & “The Congregation”
Patterson Hood – Guitar on “Gotta Get Outta Here”
Jimmy DeGrasso – Drums on “I Gotta Get Outta Here”
Pat Buchanan – Guitars
Vicki Hampton – Backing vocals
Wendy Moten – Backing vocals
Scott Williamson – Drums
Jimmie Lee Sloas – Bass

Producer: Bob Ezrin

Country: USA

Total Time (including bonus tracks) = 1:02:21

Alice Cooper
Nights With Alice Cooper Radio Show
Sick Things UK

It’s been 36 years since Alice Cooper went solo and released what is possibly his most successful album, the classic and iconic WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE (1975). In that time, Alice has released 17 other studio albums and each one incorporates the horror themes, tongue-in-cheek humor and all out craziness that has become the trademark of his music and image…..but they all owe their conception to the Nightmare. Alice has been on a roll for the last decade releasing albums that have that old school, classic ’70s Alice Cooper Band sound with THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER (2003) and DIRTY DIAMONDS (2005), and the horror film/serial killer epic ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2008), so what does he do? He enlists famed producer (and unofficial sixth member of the Alice Cooper Band) Bob Ezrin, his former bandmates (Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith, Michael Bruce, Dick Wagner & Steve Hunter), and a varied list of guest musicians (Rob Zombie, Ke$ha, Vince Gill & more) to create an album that many people are calling a sequel but, in Alice’s world, it’s a continuation…..WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE (2011). 

After close to four decades after Alice’s original nightmare, his new nightmare is a bit updated but it also gives a nod to the first one. The opening song ‘I Am Made Of You’ starts with a chilling piano that recalls Alice’s classic track ‘Steven’ (the main character and inspiration for the original Nightmare). It’s a very basic song and builds as it moves forward to a bigger sound but with that piano under it all keeping it creepy. Alice puts in a solid vocal and uses some studio effects on parts of his vocal (some may confuse it with Auto-Tune) to add to that creepiness. The guitars and orchestration are added fora grand effect and the song takes on this preview quality of what’s to come. The opening guitar to ‘Caffeine’ sets the manic tone that reflects Alice’s fear of falling asleep…..he’ll do whatever it takes to stay awake so the Nightmare doesn’t begin. “Caffeine, caffeine, amphetamine, a little speed is all I need….“, I think that says it all, he has to stay awake at any cost and you can feel the panic. Alice can’t hold out forever and ‘The Nightmare Returns’ is just that…..Alice starts to fall asleep and it’s almost like he’s singing a creepy lullaby over that chilling piano. For a quick 1:15, the song sets the tone…..Alice is asleep and the Nightmare begins…..

‘A Runaway Train’ is Alice’s reunion with his old Alice Cooper Band bandmates Bruce, Dunaway & Smith along with guitar work from Steve Hunter and a mean guitar solo from country superstar Vince Gill. Alice finds himself stuck on this runaway train heading toward his nightmare at full speed and he’s waiting for the eventual crash. If you listen to the lyrics, Alice is talking to the other passengers on this train to nightmares and he realizes that his fame and fortune will get him nowhere because everyone is equal on this train…..the Nightmare is coming and nothing can stop it and he can’t wake. The song itself sounds like a classic country barnyard hoedown mixed with straight ’70s Hard Rock that eventually ends with the crash. ‘The Last Man On Earth’ has that vaudeville sound mixed with jazz, almost like a marching band…..I could see Alice walking down some deserted street with a ghostly band behind him singing this song at the top of his lungs! Basically, this is Alice immersed in the dream but he’s alone and he realizes he can do whatever he wants…..but is that a good thing? He can’t tell because he knows he’s in his own nightmare. Continuing to ‘The Congregation’, this is classic Beatles if I ever heard it and Rob Zombie is Alice’s guide through the dream. Back on the 1975 record, Vincent Price did the spoken word narrations and now Alice’s good friend Mr. Zombie takes over and he fits in perfectly. I heard someone on a radio show recently say that this song sounded like Cheap Trick but they were Beatles influenced also so it all comes down to the originators and Alice showing off what influenced his musical direction. Alice shows another influence, this time The Rolling Stones (who I prefer to The Beatles), with another reunion song with his old bandmates titled ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off’. The guitar is pure Keith Richards, the tempo is classic Wyman/Watts and you could almost hear Mick singing the song but the lyrics are so not the Stones. Even the piano break in the middle of the song sounds Stonsey, a bit of Ian Stewart (the sixth member of the Stones) from Bob Ezrin (the sixth member of Alice Cooper). Obviously, Alice has met a girl in his dream and she may look nice but she has a dark side.

From The Beatles and The Stones we move into disco…..disco? ‘Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever’ is one of my favorite songs on the album, it has a touch of Rap mixed with a disco dance beat but it moves to straight out Metal towards the end. John 5 guests on guitar on this track and he’s one of the best modern guitarists on the scene. The concept here is that Disco is the antithesis of everything Alice stands for and he can’t make the music, or the people, stop. No matter how many he kills, more show up and keep going, so it turns into a bloodbath…..”Bodies here, bodies there, piles of bodies everywhere…..“. Another favorite of mine is the surf rock sound of ‘Ghouls Gone Wild’…..I love that word play on the title “ghouls” replacing “girls” from that highly successful babefest video series Girls Gone Wild. In Alice’s nightmare, the chicks are there dancing on the beach but they’re all dead and he falls for one of course! It sounds like a B-movie horror film concept and I can only describe it as a “zombie beach a go-go” with that Beach Boys sound from the early ’60s. Great guitar work here from Tommy Henriksen and Steve Hunter, they capture that ’60s surf vibe perfectly, and the background vocals ( especially the oooh-aaahs) from Mark Volman (The Turtles), Ezrin and Kip Winger add that extra detail. Comparing both the original NIGHTMARE and NIGHTMARE 2, you need the seminal ballad. On the first album, it was the classic ‘Only Women Bleed’, a song that became one of Alice’s biggest hits…..on the new record, it’s ‘Something To Remember Me By’. It’s got that same sound, that same style vocal from Alice that was so unexpected 36 years ago, it sounds sweet but you realize Alice is singing to this ghoul from the beach party! Classic Alice! One of the things I like to do with these kind of concept albums is follow along with the lyric sheet and, as I write this review, I’m referring to it to follow the storyline because this nightmare is really a story.

Alice’s nightmare continues to themes of domestic violence in ‘When Hell Comes Home’…..kind of like ‘Only Women Bleed’ from the first NIGHTMARE. ‘When Hell Comes Home’ is creepier, more sinister and definitely one of the heavier songs on the album. This part of the dream/story is from a child’s perspective (a young Alice maybe?) about how his Daddy comes home drunk and likes to take his aggressions on the family…..of course Alice turns the tables on Daddy in the end! The are a ton of guest stars on this album and one of the most talked about is pop diva Ke$ha and her performance on ‘What Baby Wants’. I’ll be honest, upon hearing the news of her involvement I was not a happy metalhead because I felt Alice was pandering to get extra fans from the musically uneducated masses. I know all about Ke$ha because I have two daughters and a wife that love Pop and Dance music and I have no tolerance for it. Does anyone expect anything great from an Alice/Ke$ha pairing? I didn’t but I was proven wrong because ‘What Baby Wants’ is a pretty good catchy tune and Ke$ha sounds more Rock than she does Pop. I thought the concept that she is the Devil in Alice’s dream was kind of funny because I such preconceptions of the duet but it works disguising the Devil as a young good-looking woman, she wants his soul and….”what baby wants, baby gets!”. Another classic track is “I Gotta Get Outta Here’ where Alice basically realizes he has to wake up because this nightmare is out of control but he doesn’t realize that he’s already dead! The choir section and Alice’s lines to them at the end is classic. Now that the Nightmare is over for Alice, we receive ‘The Underture’, the grand instrumental finale that uses instrumentation from songs on both NIGHTMARE records to end it all and forever link the two albums.

Now if you’re a big Alice fan like myself then you like to collect everything Alice records and the Classic Rock Magazine special issue for WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is a really cool deal. I have the original release CD but I also dropped the import price for the special magazine that includes the album with two bonus tracks, poster, Alice make-up, an Alice mask, a School’s Out pin and an issue of Classic rock specially devoted to Alice Cooper. I seem to be buying these up lately, I have this one, the Whitesnake one and I just ordered the Motorhead issue…..they are great collector’s pieces! The bonus tracks include a studio song titled ‘Under The Bed’ and a live version of Alice’s huge hit ‘Poison’ from the 2011 Download Festival. ‘Under The Bed’ is a solid song that is another slow creepy sounding song with that Ezrin piano that gives that scary feel…..it’s all about Alice not wanting to fall asleep because he knows that he’ll have a nightmare and that there are things under the bed that will torment him. It’s a good song and it would probably fit either before or after ‘Caffeine’ in the album sequence. The live ‘Poison’ from Download is a solid performance and, being a veteran of many an Alice concert, the song is a highlight every show. If you were a teen like me in 1989 when TRASH came out, then you know all about the song, the comeback, and the success so the man has to play it and it always fits the theatrical part of his show. It’s a solid recording and performance and I’m hoping that it gets properly released as a live album and DVD and the fact that two more live songs appear on the Canadian deluxe pressing of the album (‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ & ‘The Black Widow’) means that it’s a possibility. Just another quick collector’s note outside the proper album, there are a bunch of different album versions with bonus tracks: the Classic Rock  Magazine fan pack and the Canadian deluxe pressing I mentioned, there’s a deluxe digipak and Japanese pressing that include the other two live tracks but replaces ‘Under The Bed’ with the studio song ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, the vinyl that has the studio track ‘Flatline’ instead of ‘Under The Bed’ and the iTunes bonus song ‘A Bad Situation’. I haven’t heard any of these other bonus tracks so I can’t review them…..but I will be seeking them out.

Bottom Line:
It’s hard to top one of the most iconic albums in Hard Rock & Heavy Metal but Alice Cooper and his cast of musicians and collaborators have come extremely close. I grew up listening to classic Alice albums and WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE (1975) is so good, so famous, so groundbreaking that topping it is next to impossible and I think Alice knows that so why not just continue the Nightmare? That’s exactly what this record does: it continues to dive into the demented world that is Alice’s dreams only that this time around there is no escape! The entire concept of the album serves as the perfect bridge between to eras of Alice’s career but the latest NIGHTMARE can easily stand alone as it’s own entity, if there never was an original NIGHTMARE album, then this new record would stand alone just as strong. I like the fact that Alice is able to keep his current music fresh and exciting but always giving that nod towards his classic ’70s sound. The music, lyrics and production on the album are top shelf but that’s to be expected when you pair up Alice Cooper with Bob Ezrin and the host of guests that either write or perform on the album. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best Alice record of the new millenium era (2000 to present) and there is some stiff competition for that title with the last three albums (mentioned above) and BRUTAL PLANET (2000) and DRAGONTOWN (2001). WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is definitely one of the top releases of 2011 for me and I can easily say that it’s currently battling at the top of my list for the #1 album of 2011.

Favorite Songs:
When you have a concept album with such great songs it can be hard to pick out a few songs as favorites because the songs really blend into each other to tell the story. I’ll be honest, I can’t find a bad song on this album and I really do like them all but, if I have to choose four stand-out tracks they would be ‘Caffeine’, ‘Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever, ‘Ghouls Gone Wild’ and ‘When Hell Comes Home’. The songs all either have the Alice humor, the horror or the freakiness that are all his trademarks. I’m also going to give a quick mention here to the Ke$ha collaboration on ‘What Baby Wants’…..way better than I expected.