The Detroit-born hard rock treasure ALICE COOPER (aged 73) famed for his schlocky yet artful stagecraft & showmanship has been busily transducing popular music since 1964 (with the Earwigs) — which means he’s been in the biz of entertaining us for more than 55 years. It makes him one of the most durable and tenacious rockers on the planet. Yep, Alice is the quintessential horror-movie survivor!
Alice released his twenty-first solo album at the tail-end of last month and it’s an honoring and a recognition of his Michigan birthplace (although Furnier was raised in Phoenix, Arizona.)
Of course, Motor City has played a vital role in the development of popular music: from jazz and hip-hop, to punk and from Motown soul to techno. As for rock, MC5, Glenn Frey and Suzi Quatro all hail from the metropolis described by Kiss as Detroit Rock City.
when they found out I was born
in East Detroit… we were home…
“Detroit was the only place that recognized the Alice Cooper guitar driven, hard rock sound and our crazy stage show. Detroit was a haven for the outcasts. And when they found out I was born in East Detroit… we were home…” he says.
“You’d play the Eastown and it would be Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, the Stooges and the Who, for $4! The next weekend at the Grande it was MC5, Brownsville Station and Fleetwood Mac, or Savoy Brown or the Small Faces. You couldn’t be a soft-rock band or you’d get your ass kicked.”
The 2021 Bob Ezrin produced album is titled “Detroit Stories” — and it was released on February 26 via earMUSIC.
Alice collected-up his old posse of chums for the disc, including “Billion Dollar” guitarman Michael Bruce, “I’m Eighteen” bassman Dennis Dunaway, Killer drummer Neal Smith plus Vampire guitarist Tommy Henriksen, as well as names such as MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer and jazz-funk bassist Randolph. Mark Farner, Joe Bonamassa, Tommy Denander and Larry Mullen Jr (among many other stellar musicians) also make appearances.
The first single taken from the album is a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll” — a fitting opening to an album that commemorates the solemn sounds and fundamental connections between neighborhood living and productive performance. Lou Reed’s proto-punk number (that was first recorded in 1970) tells the story of a girl (Jenny) whose life was “saved by rock and roll…”
It is worth noting that Mitch Ryder’s band Detroit — which featured Lou Reed’s future Decatur-born guitarist Steve Hunter (who plays on the new album) — performed one of the first ever versions of this song in 1971, changing the lyrics from “New York station” to “Detroit station.” Fortunately, Cooper’s interpretation of the old number retains that recognizable Lou Reed slur with its raspy subtext of cynicism. The bass burps under an electroluminescence of guitars and there is a crunch of tight rhythms. Overall, though, this is an extravaganza that demonstrates Cooper’s undeniable vocal showmanship. He has never lost it!
“Our Love Will Change the World” arrives via an almost unheard of Detroit band called Outrageous Cherry. It’s a jangly, hippy style shake that sounds as if it was brought by time machine from the sixties, in other words: upbeat and cheerful, with a bubblegummy sweetness. It’s like something that might have been performed by a Brit band in 1962, something that sounds like a version of the DC5, jamming with The Hollies and (pre-Move) Vikings.
“Social Debris” (video shared below) is characteristic Alice, chock filled with juicy riffs and squirty solos it chugs; It snorts, it puffs-out its chest and it swaggers its junket like it don’t care. Of course, this is at the burlesque end of rock and arrives without a hint of self-reproach… and why not?
The newly penned “Don’t Give Up” is an unshakable hymn that brings hope to all those who mourn and grapple with the mess we are currently enduring… “we’re staring at the razors’s edge…” The voice is virtuosic, the words are healing and the music is superfluent.
If you fondly remember the ’70s version of Cooper and you are celebrating almost fifty years since you brought “School’s Out” on vinyl and couldn’t wait to get home to pull the drawers off — this is for you! Bless you. Bless him. Bless Detroit.
Words: @neilmach 2021 ©
Image stills from Alice Cooper about Detroit Stories
1. Rock & Roll 2. Go Man Go (Album Version) 3. Our Love Will Change The World 4. Social Debris 5. $1000 High Heel Shoes 6. Hail Mary 7. Detroit City 2021 (Album Version) 8. Drunk And In Love 9. Independence Dave 10. I Hate You 11. Wonderful World 12. Sister Anne (Album Version) 13. Hanging On By A Thread (Don’t Give Up) 14. Shut Up And Rock 15. East Side Story (Album Version)