Review Summary: Not like anything you have probably heard from Alice Cooper, but far from unlistenable trash, Alice Cooper's psychedelic debut set in motion a rock legend that the world of music is still reeling from to this day.LepreCon Presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Vincent Furnier- ALICE COOPER
Part One: The Madness Begins...
Very few big- name musical artists can boast having (and indeed surviving) a professional career that spans over 40 years. Even fewer are still making music that is anything close to being relevant or interesting in today’s world. For one Vincent Damon Furnier, 1969 was the beginning of a rollercoaster rock n’ roll legend that nobody, least of all the man who would come to assume the name of Alice Cooper himself, could have predicted then.
Back in 1969, signed to the Straight label owned by satirical rock legend Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper was the name of the band itself rather than the moniker of its lead singer, much in the same vein that Jethro Tull was the name of the band and not of any particular member in it. Now, it’s not unusual for artists to change musical direction over the course of their career, be it due to the influence of the times in a bid to stay ‘relevant’, pressure from record companies to become more commercial in order to generate bigger profits or even the desire of the band members to experiment and mix other influences into their sound. Today, Alice Cooper is credited with being a major influence on the establishment of both the sound and image of Heavy Metal.
However, the music of Alice Cooper’s first incarnation was a far cry from what most people would associate with the name today. The sound of this, their debut record, bears the influence of progressive and blues rock artists such as The Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and The Who, all of which were very important and influential bands of the 60’s. This is blended with touches of keyboard-induced psychedelia, not wholly dissimilar to early pre-prog Pink Floyd, poppy hooks and a pinch of Frank Zappa’s tongue-in-cheek, not-afraid-to-offend humour for good measure. The result is a twisted version of a later Beatles record on the brown acid that they would have warned you not to take at Woodstock. The album was, however, a commercial flop at the time of release and not too many people have even heard- let alone own- this album today. The resulting unfamiliarity with the band’s jurassic sound makes their earlier work a head-scratching surprise to many who would hear it now, expecting a more hard rocking sound that the name Alice Cooper is synonymous with.
Sadly, the record has not stood the test of time very well either. Literally recorded live on a low budget within three days, the production is very scratchy and dated. While this may be a plus for some, the sound of the music combined with the primitive production makes the album sound very, very old indeed, even on the remastered reissues. There are, however, some fantastic tracks on this record, such as the harmonica-led Swing Low Sweet Cheerio
, on which guitarist Michael Bruce sings the main vocals, and the slightly more downbeat Fields of Regret
. Furnier’s vocals are of a clean, pop quality and are sometimes harmonized with Bruce’s, sounding quite Beatle-esque more often than not. Instrumentation throughout is solid and sometimes genius, with psychedelic breaks on the longer tracks placing emphasis on the drums and keyboards for some trippy effects, along with some rocking guitar breaks to boot.
For what it is worth, Pretties For You has quite a nice flow, allowing interest to be maintained if the listener is willing to overlook the record’s dated sound and give it a chance. With only the two aforementioned tracks exceeding the 5-minute mark, the record is laden with short but catchy numbers such as the fun Today Mueller
or the humorous BB (Big Boys) on Mars
, between the 3 or 4-minute ‘epics’. There is also a progressive air to the songs with odd time signatures, and phrases are rarely repeated. The lyrics carry an amusing ambiguity as to whether the narrator is sad or happy, but anyone who would take the lyrics seriously would have to be high or at least in need of a head examination. The lyrical matter is not even all that particularly dark or foreboding, unlike later Alice Cooper, though the slightly more sombre Changing, Arranging
is the closest thing on the record to being a ballad of sorts, hence there is no sign of what was to come later for Alice Cooper. The band itself clearly isn’t playing to be a serious act (though what would you expect with Frank Zappa as their boss"), and with some surprisingly clever songwriting they successfully created a genuinely humorous psychedelic record.
Pretties For You is undoubtedly an unusual but enjoyable record for fans of late-60’s rock n’ roll, but is hardly an essential listen for anyone other than Alice Cooper completists like myself. That said, it is a very good album, with only one or perhaps two tracks being altogether skippable throwaways, that one may not regret hearing so long as they are willing to overlook its somewhat dated sound. However, it is hardly a touch on the more focused and harder-rocking sound that the band, and later Furnier as a solo artist, would settle on and that most people would be more familiar with under the name of Alice Cooper.
The Pretties For You Lineup Was:
Vincent Damon Furnier- lead vocals
Glen Buxton- lead guitar
Michael Bruce- rhythm guitar
Dennis Dunaway- bass guitar
Neal Smith- drums
To Be Continued In Part Two: Easy Action...