Tuesday, 28 May 2013

1973 Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies

Alice Cooper - 'Billion Dollar Babies', title track

Info: Vincent Furnier of Detroit, Michigan is another, if unlikely, son of a minister who legally changed his name to Alice Cooper, which would also become the name of his band that had undergone many name-changes (The Earwigs, The Spiders and The Nazz). In 1968 the group, with Glen Buxton on lead-guitar, Michael Bruce (rhythm), Dennis Dunaway (bass) and Neal Smith on drums, set off for Hollywood in pursuit of a more glamorous music career, initially signing to Frank Zappa's Straight Records before joining Warner Bros. in 1971 where they recorded the amazing Love It To Death album. The group's reputation for anarchic live shows, mainly helped by a misinformed media claiming the shows were gore-filled following a fan throwing a chicken on stage which Cooper threw back into the audience at the Toronto Rock n' Roll Festival in 1969. Of course, Cooper and the band, realising that there was no such thing as bad publicity, never denied any of the stories the media printed about their shows, as a result demand for the concerts rocketed and eventually the group made their impact in the UK with the 1972 single 'School's Out' which hit No.1 in the charts across the pond. 

Billion Dollar Babies was released in March 1973 and was an indictment of American society, based on the theme of a political election. The album was recorded mostly in the U.S. in Connecticut and New York but also in Morgan Studios London, where T-Rex's Marc Bolan, Donovan and Keith Moon of The Who would join in the recording sessions. Producer Bob Ezrin focused on a much harder rock sound for the band, but also ensured there were softer moments of strings, perhaps most noticeably on opener 'Hello, Hooray'. This album solidified Alice Cooper's reputation as serious contenders on the rock circuit and their tour became one of the most profitable of all-time, courtesy of myth, fake blood and their front man's gender-bending eccentricity.

My personal favourite on this album is the title-track (above video), it has it all, hard-hitting drums and killer lead-guitar from Buxton, as well as eerie story-telling. Other key tracks are 'Hello, Hooray', 'Generation Landslide', the most overtly critical of US society with a nice up-beat country / acoustic vibe. 'Mary Ann' is also a nice unusual, mostly instrumental piano song, which reminds me of a western bar in honky-tonk land. One of my final favourites is 'Unfinished Sweet', the longest track on the album at over six minutes, it's a great foot-tapper that you don't want to end. Some critics have claimed that this was Alice Cooper's hey-day, and it's very hard to disagree as the albums released between 1971-75 were all consistently strong, and it wasn't until 1989's Trash that anything half-decent re-emerged, and at that, it was not the original line-up from the early 70's. If you like Billion Dollar Babies, or even just one or two songs, I'd strongly recommend 1971's Love It To Death, especially their hit track 'Eighteen' which I've added below.

Alice Cooper, 'Eighteen'

Track Listing: 

1. Hello, Hooray
2. Raped and Freezin'
3. Elected
4. Billion Dollar Babies
5. Unfinished Sweet
6. No More Mr.Nice Guy
7. Generation Landslide
8. Sick Things
9. Mary Ann
10. I Love The Dead

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