Some fine moments, but the end was nigh.
Mark | Peru IL | 12/14/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Out of the original group's LPs, this was probably the last one I bought (I wasn't a fan until after the breakup); and that was for the sake of completing the collection. It wasn't marketed quite as heavily as the previous classics, and there were no awesomely great songs to compel buyers to rush out and get it. Bob Ezrin was unavailable to produce, so The Coopers had to bring in someone else not quite as familiar with them. This has mixed results, with the instruments finally not so buried in the mix, but really long fade-outs for most songs. Plus, horn sections are brought out of the producer's bag o' tricks to "sweeten" the songs up, but that kind of makes them cheesy. High points include "Big Apple Dreamin'", "Never Been Sold Before", "Hard Hearted Alice", "Workin' Up a Sweat", "Woman Machine" (which has one of the more interesting guitar riffs I've heard from ACG), and the title track. "Crazy Little Child" is a Dixieland exercise which channels a "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" sketch, "Man with the Golden Gun" is Alice trying to flex his showbiz chops, and I hate to say it, but "Teenage Lament '74" is only a blatant attempt at recapturing the "I'm Eighteen" Top 40 teen-anthem market.
The band as a whole had exhausted their Esprit De Corps by this point. Glen Buxton, the lead guitar player, was a member in name only (he does not play a note on this album). Michael Bruce wrote nearly every song and his ego was growing to new heights. The rhythm section of Dunaway and Smith remain solid and dependable. However, Dennis Dunaway's usually distinctive and melodic bass playing is toned down, maybe at the behest of the producer.
Alice is very much the star of the show here. And his attitude about his celebrity was very apparent, particularly in the lyrics to "Hard Hearted Alice". Here he lists the hassles of his rock stardom, and states he has to be the maniac because it's what his audience wants. After the "Billion Dollar Babies" tour, he became frightened of the effect his stage persona had on the audience. This album was his first step away from Dwight Fry and his first towards Andy Hardy. Hence the cast of thousands doing guest shots on background vocals like a Scooby-Doo mystery. The "puttin' on the Ritz" vibe throughout. You can almost picture Alice aping Al Jolson at the end of "Big Apple", down on one knee with arms extended: "Ahhh New Yawk we comin, we comin ta see whut yer made of". Each song seems to be a new face Alice is trying on. Soon after this was a turn on "Hollywood Squares" then "The Muppets Show".
Is it a bad album? Not at all. It just isn't a great one. It lacks all the menace Alice built his reputation on (and what he is trying to currently regain), and without the bad attitude, the songs don't have much urgency or bite to them. The rockers are good, but harmless. If you played this for someone who had no idea what it was, I wonder what band they would think it came from.
A lot of "what if's" are wrapped in this album: What if Ezrin had produced it? What if the band had taken more time off instead of being pressured into following up B$B so quickly? In the end, it is what it is. I recommend the album, but only to Cooper fans. It has a special place in my heart because of where it came from, but if this had been done by another band I doubt if I would have bothered.
(UPDATE) I just saw a video of "Behind the Music" on Alice Cooper. During an interview Ezrin says that he resigned as producer during pre-production of this album. Mike Bruce and Neil Smith were apparently wanting to "get back to the music" for MOL and resisted Ezrin's contributions for fear that things were getting too focused on Alice himself. But the genie was already out of the bottle. And while they may have gotten their way with an LP not built around a stage show, the result was a fairly vanilla entry in the ACG's catalog. As a swan song for the original group, they deserved better."
Pretty good, despite all the behind the scenes drama
Dan | Chicago, IL United States | 08/21/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Even though it's the weakest of the original Alice Cooper Group's Warner Brothers releases, it's still a pretty good album. From what I read in Michael Bruce's book, Glen Buxton did not even play on this album despite getting credited. Mick Mashbir made them a different sounding group and it's a shame they did not carry on with him as Buxton's replacement beyond Muscle of Love. There's a lot of good guitar work, and overall the band was still one of the best at this point. It reminds me of the School's Out release, with a mix of different styles and experimentation, but no smash hit single to give people a reason to buy it. I remember how even fans of the group treated it with indifference at the time; I think people had just had enough of Alice's antics and bringing in all those horns and background singers (the Pointer Sisters and Liza Minelli!) didn't help endear it to fans of the group either. The track Crazy Little Child is simply awful, but Big Apple Dreamin' and Hard Hearted Alice are some of the group's best. All the others are pretty good, as well. It's almost spooky how Hard Hearted Alice foretold the end of the band - it's obvious it just wasn't fun anymore. They had a heck of a ride for the three years leading up to this, going from a band that people ran from to the biggest act in show business. They left quite a legacy in a very short time.