In the past few weeks, some heavy hitters in the metal and hard rock arena have released hotly anticipated albums (Motörhead, Iron Maiden and Slayer, specifically). So it’s probably understandable if Alice Cooper’s latest offering has been a little lost in the mêlée. But Alice Cooper has been on a roll the past 10 years. After a brief but forgivable foray into more industrial style rock around the turn of the millennium, he effortlessly jumped right back into the straightforward, kick-ass rock n’ roll he excels at with 2004’s The Eyes of Alice Cooper. A few albums later, including a sequel to his classic Welcome to My Nightmare, he serves up the Hollywood Vampires platter. Now, Hollywood Vampires is not actually the title of his new record, but the name of a kind of supergroup that Mr. Cooper fronts. And he’s brought along a pretty impressive stable of musicians and guests. His current band plays on most of the cuts and Johnny Depp joins the fun as well. Not to mention Joe Perry, Perry Farrell, Paul McCartney, Kip Winger (who played guitar for Alice prior to starting up his own band that had a couple little pop metal hits), Brian Johnson, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger and Slash.
The other thing is, this is mostly a covers album. If covers albums immediately turn you off, you probably don’t need to read any further. Otherwise, let’s sink our fangs into this loving tribute to Alice’s old, mostly deceased, group of drinking buddies from the 70s, known fittingly as The Hollywood Vampires.
The album opens with a nice spoken word intro from Christopher Lee, his last appearance on an album before his death, called “The Last Vampire”. The intro jumps right into an ass-kicker of a new tune called “Raise the Dead.” This poses a small problem for me. Since the album opens so strongly with this original material, it makes me want MORE original material, not cover songs. It kinda makes the cover songs feel inadequate now. If the album was only cover songs, then they’d seem just fine right off the bat. But there’s still fun to be had, so don’t worry. “My Generation” gets the covers part of the record started, and it’s good. Serviceable cover of a tune you’ve heard done a hundred times. Always a fun rocker. Next up is “Whole Lotta Love”, with Brian Johnson helping out on vox. This is my least favorite track on the album, but I also don’t care much for the original song or Led Zeppelin in general (blaspheme to some, I know, but I just don’t get them).
“I Got A Line On You” is, fortunately, a newly recorded version and not the one Alice recorded for the Iron Eagle 2 soundtrack. There is nothing wrong with that 1990-ish recording of the Spirit tune, but it’s nice he didn’t just slap on something old for the sake of filling space. The new version is also better, in my opinion. It sounds a lot more vintage and Alice is using his lower registered voice, which he rarely does these days. “Five to One/Break on Through” follows and features Robby Krieger. “One/Jump Into the Fire” is next, also featuring Krieger as well as second vocals by Perry Farrell. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
“Come and Get It” finds our hero teaming up with Sir Paul McCartney for vocal duties (the former Beatle also handles piano and bass). This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, which I thought was strange since I’m a bit ambivalent towards the original. “Jeepster” was the cover I had been most looking forward to hearing. I love T. Rex almost as much as I love The Coop. An excellent tribute to Mr. Bolan, for sure. I would have liked for McCartney to lend his vocals to “Cold Turkey”, just for fun and Beatle-y referencing, but that didn’t happen. Still a good rendition of this Lennon tune. When the album was announced, I remember Alice saying they were going to do “Foxy Lady” specifically to give Orianthi, who was in the band at the time and for a while, a chance to just shred. The cover was included in their tour at the time (I saw him in October 2013) and Orianthi did in fact make with the shredding on Garth’s favorite song. But for the album, they went with “Manic Depression”. And Orianthi is not even on it! (She’s no longer in his band, but she did play on one song here, “Whole Lotta Love”.)
The album is nearing its end with Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park”, which sounds to my ears like a leftover from Welcome 2 My Nightmare—it would not have been out of place as a bonus track or B-side to that album. It’s not one of my favorites here. The penultimate track is a mash-up of Alice’s own “School’s Out” and “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2”, with Brian Johnson assisting on vox and Slash wailing on guitar. If he had to re-do “School’s Out” again, this is the way to do it. It’s a fun jam all around. Finally, the album closes with the other original, “Dead Drunk Friends”, a comical ode to his friends…who are dead and drunk.
If you’re a casual fan of The Coop and aren’t interested in much beyond some 70’s Alice hits, this album probably won’t do much for you. If you’re a long time, deep cuts fan of ol’ Vincent Furnier and his pals, you probably already bought this anyway. It’s a fun romp through familiar territory, with just enough of Alice injected into the proceedings to make them sound fresh (mostly).
And though it has nothing to do with this album, since it’s now October, go and listen to Cooper’s “Keepin’ Halloween Alive.” This ‘Ween anthem has been a mandatory listen about 50 times every October since it was released in 2009. Here’s a cool version of the song someone posted where they added in a bunch of Halloween-style sound FX. I dig it, man.