Alright…You Picked It! This one started out close, but one ended up blowing away the rest. Another one had a late batch of votes, but wasn’t enough to get close to the winner. The winner for this month’s picks ended up being Alice Cooper’s ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ and I am real excited about this one. Here are the results.
- Alice Cooper – ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ – 10 votes
- Rolling Stones – ‘Sticky Fingers – 6 votes
- Elton John – ‘Captain Fantastic’ – 2 votes
- David Bowie – ‘Diamond Dogs’ – 2 votes
- Led Zeppelin – ‘II’ – 2 Votes
Thanks to all for participating. The January choices will be up on Saturday! And the choices are all now from my collection and the next one will be some of the biggest albums of the 80’s. Hopefully you can help me decide which one I should review.
ALICE COOPER – ‘BILLION DOLLAR BABIES’ (1973):
I’ve been wanting to tackle an Alice Cooper album so I am glad this one won the vote. It is Alice’s 6th studio album and Bob Ezrin was still at the helm. Being a Kiss fan, having Bob as producer is a pretty big deal and I could hear a lot of Bob’s influence in the music as there is a lot on here that Kiss tried with Destroyer such as orchestration, sound effects and other magical Bob Ezrin inputs. I’m not Bob is the reason this album is so good, but it did go to #1 in both the UK and the US and sold over 1,000,000 copies giving it platinum status. Who am I kidding, it isn’t Bob that made this album #1 it is strictly Alice Cooper and this amazing band which includes Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith.
The album was recorded in both Connecticut and in London. Band member, Glen Buxton, was sick throughout the sessions as he was suffering from pancreatitis brought on by abusive alcohol consumption. Guitarists Mick Mashbir, Dick Wagner (Kiss ghost guitarist) and the great Steve “the Deacon” Hunter who handled the guitar solos on 5 songs and pedal steel guitar on the opening track. The album was finished and released on February 25, 1973 and helped take Alice Cooper to a whole different level of success. The song is so good, that 4 of the songs are still played regularly in his live sets even today.
My copy of the album is in rough shape as some of the album jacket is loosing its glue stickiness and starting to separate, but I still have the inner album sleeve which is also in rough shape. However, the vinyl looks great and plays pretty good with minor to no pops. Hey, I got it cheap and it shows…but it works. Enough, let’s get to the music.
The album opens with a cover song of Judy Collins’ song “Hello Hooray” which was written by Rolf Kempf. The song starts off and has a little Kiss’ “Great Expectations” vibe to it but instead of classical music orchestration this one feels more Broadway as it is dramatic and very flamboyant bordering cabaret. Towards the end, the bass kicks in a lot heavier and the song feels more bluesy. It is a great opening track that will keep you guessing as to what sound/style will come next.
“Raped and Freezin” is a pretty dark, disturbing song lyrically, but it’s Alice Cooper…what do you expect. It seems to be a comical take on someone who might’ve been sexually harrassed and chased naked in to the desert. Not very funny actually, but the music is light-hearted and a little poppy. A great guitar solo that seems as bright and shiny as the sun. A chorus that is uplifting and catchy as hell. I love the contradiction between the lyrical meaning and the music. The ending is celebratory and has a lot of cowbell, you can never have too much cowbell. A killer track.
Alice goes political with the super fun and live song favorite, “Elected”. The song pokes fun at the U.S. political system which is actually even more of a joke today. It is another light, fun sounding song with some orchestration and horns (through keyboards) that keep it very upbeat. Alice sounds great and gives it his all screaming out the lyrics at time. I find the song a little silly, but a lot of awesome! And fun fact, it is a rework of their song “Reflected”.
Up next is the incredible title track, “Billion Dollar Babies”. This one is a duet with the very talented and very famous singer Donovan. So awesome, he has only one name like Madonna or Cher. Alice takes on the more demonic and sinister vocals while Donovan is more the clean, angelic, falsetto like vocals. The dichotomy between the two makes this song extra special. It ends with a wicked guitar solo by The Deacon and probably one of my favorites on the album.
Now who likes going to the dentist? No one, right! “Unfinished Sweet” is about the dentist, but everyone likes this song. The opening bassline is really outstanding and gets your attention fast. Full of dental drill sound effects (kind like Detroit Rock City of Kiss with the car radio sounds mixed in a la Ezrin). The song then makes a left turn and goes all James Bond sounding and goes very psychedelic taking you on a fun, magical ride. Might be the most fun and coolest deep cut on here.
The second side kicks off with the classic “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Now, today we know that Alice Cooper (or Vincent Damon Furnier) might be the nicest guy in the world, but back then…we didn’t know. A song that again is upbeat and chipper and not at all dark like you’d expect from the title. It is catchy, bouncy and a fun track and the lyrics hold a lot of humor. When Alice plays this live, the crowd really sings in on the chorus and makes everyone have a great time. I will admit, the song isn’t as good as the tracks previous, but it is still a great song that most bands would kill to have.
Then we get to another of my absolute favorite tracks with “Generation Landslide”. The end of the world is upon us with this one, yes, the apocalypse has begun. It opens with an acoustic guitar and then a nice shuffle of percussions. This very Bowiesque tune is a musically adventurous masterpiece. Alice almost speaks the vocals in a sinister voice that adds a great dramatic to the song. The harmonicas are a nice touch that take the song in to blues direction, but not at the same time. By far, the most interesting song on the album and I love the shout out to Billion Dollar Babies in the lyrics as well.
We take a hard left turn and go downhill with the next song, “Sick Things”. It is Alice speaking the lyrics, slow and deliberate as sinister as he can accompanied by bass and then some heavy drums. Their is orchestra added to it and there is a good guitar solo, but it goes on too long and feels out of place with the rest of the album.
The only song from this album to never be played live by the band is “Mary Ann”. It is Alice singing accompanied by a piano and is almost a ballad. It feels like Barry Manilow goes dark and creepy. A really short song and you are done. Totally weird and out of place, but not too bad either.
Lastly, we get the melancholy filled “I Love the Dead”. More piano and more Alice speaking the lyrics. It is dark, foreboding, evil and I need to pull a thesaurus out to give me more sad adjectives. I didn’t like “Sick Things” so why do I like this one so much as they aren’t too far removed from each other. Except this one has a killer chorus that feels like Rocky Horror Picture Show, it has great guitar work and is pure dark magical fun! It is what I always thought Alice was.
Growing up, I thought Alice’s music was heavy metal, dark and evil, but it wasn’t until years later when I finally listened to it, that there was nothing to be afraid of as his music is filled with humor, musically fantastic and entertaining and a pure joy to absorb. His songs take on you on little adventures and sometimes they can be scary, but mostly they are simply wonderful. This whole album is that, simply wonderful. Only one misstep and that can be forgiven. My Overall Score is 4.5 Stars out of 5.0 Stars. A classic Alice Cooper album and easily one of my favorites Alice albums. If you haven’t checked it out, please do before you regret never hearing it!