Review Summary: Now this is more like the Alice Cooper we all knowLepreCon Presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Vincent Furnier- ALICE COOPER
Part Three: CUZ I'M EIGHTEEN!
Three records into their career and the Alice Cooper band were still struggling for critical and commercial acceptance, which had eluded them on their previous two efforts. Pretties For You
and Easy Action
were by-products of a dying era, bringing nothing new or significant to the table of trippy psychedelic rock where the band had attempted to find their niche. While these were not terrible albums, a fresh breath of air was needed if this discovery of legendary satirical rocker Frank Zappa were to gain any mainstream credibility. As far as the masses had been concerned up to this point, the Alice Cooper band was just another group of rebellious teens with little more than an unorthodox stage act going for them.
Love It To Death
was, in a sense, the make-or-break album for the band. Still signed to Zappa’s Straight Label, Alice Cooper were not ready to give up just about yet but the pressure to get a successful release was to be their blessing in disguise. The band needed focus and their motivation came to them in the form of new producer Bob Ezrin. The first of his many collaborations with Alice Cooper- both the band and Vincent Furnier’s solo years- Ezrin was largely responsible for the band’s shift in sound from 60’s hippy acid rock to the 70’s hard rock that they would come to epitomise. As such, what resulted was a more straight-up hard rock album than the psychedelic dabblings of Alice Cooper’s previous efforts. The critical and commercial reception that followed showed that this was a very, very good change for the band indeed.
The first thing one notices when listening to the record is the sound and production. Gone is the primitive dry and scratchy sound of old, Ezrin’s excellent production skills cleaning up the messy bits but allowing for the rawness and aggression of Alice Cooper’s songwriting to be conveyed unperturbed. A listener familiar with Alice Cooper’s later works will find themselves in much more familiar territory, and it can be argued that this was the beginning of the shock rock Alice Cooper that had such a major influence on the heavy metal movement that was not to truly kick into high gear for another decade. It was an album ahead of its time and could be best described as a heavier-rocking Beatles meeting The Doors in a dark alley.
The music is much more guitar-oriented than anything the band had released thus far. While the keyboards still played its role, gone for the most part were the psychedelic passages that were entirely dependent upon trippy keyboard effects, and in their place are some truly rocking guitar lines. Thanks to Ezrin’s better production, everyone has his chance to shine as each guitar line and bass pattern is quite distinguishable. The greatest thing of all, however, is the band’s new found knack for consistency. There is not a single bad track to be found on this album, with each song from start to finish having different, interesting aspects and ideas of their own.
Opener Caught In a Dream
is a solid 70’s garage rock tune and sets the scene for the rest of the album. The catchy rhythms and quirky lyrics help the song do its job of hooking the listener, making it the perfect introduction to the record and could have very well been a hit single. The band’s openness to new ideas is also evident in the appropriately titled tracks Hallowed Be My Name
and Second Coming
, which unsurprisingly deal with religious themes. Also to be found on the record is the iconic classic Cooper cut, the awesome I’m Eighteen
. This coming-of-age anthem remains to this day one of Alice Cooper’s best known and most well loved tracks, and has been capably covered by thrash metallers Anthrax, showing just how big an influence Alice Cooper have been on the heavy rock scene. The song Long Way To Go
also has obvious connotations for the band in this respect.
However, not every song depends on hard rocking guitars to deliver its adrenaline rush, as things slow down a bit for the nine-minute epic Black Juju
. Very Doors-like in sound, Black Juju makes use of the band’s psychedelia influences, only this time in a more focused fashion. One cannot help but to jump or at least shiver as vocalist Furnier suddenly and repeatedly screams “WAKE UP!” in the abrupt ending to the song’s subdued mid-section.
Love It To Death definitely has the makings of a classic album, but only just about fails to hit that mark. The reason for this is the last two tracks. The eerie Ballad of Dwight Fry
and the obscure Sun Arise
, while not being bad tracks at all, certainly plod a bit in comparison to previous tracks. But I did mention earlier that the album is quite consistent, and these tracks actually do very little to mar that fact.
Unlike their first two albums, Love It To Death was a critical and commercial success for the Alice Cooper band, so much so that by the second pressing of the record they were signed to big-time label Warner Bros. It was the break they had been waiting for and it was undoubtedly deserved. A string of brilliant albums followed before the band fragmented, but this was the true beginning of a major heavy rock legend that nobody could have predicted. After a shaky start, Alice Cooper were now unstoppable. And we all know where things went after this.
The Love It To Death 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 Four: Killer...