Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 13 Sep 2019
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Here's something a little different. We surely all know Alice Cooper, those of us here in Phoenix where he lives especially, but he was born in Detroit and this is a six track tribute to the garage bands from that city. Most of the songs are covers which feature guest musicians from various eras of that scene, from the sixties to the present. Accordingly, it's recognisably Alice Cooper but it also doesn't sound much like what he's doing most of the time nowadays.
I found this fascinating, a lot more so than the Hollywood Vampires debut. I remember that mostly featured covers of songs originally recorded by members of the celebrity drinking club of the same name which Cooper founded. As the members were huge names, those songs were huge songs, most of them so iconic that the band found it almost impossible to reinvent. We all know songs like My Generation, Itchycoo Park and Whole Lotta Love and these new takes didn't seem remotely needed.
These are far more obscure songs so it's easier for Cooper to make them his own. I think he's a lot more successful at it too, because they fall into a consistent sound, even featuring wildly different instruments and a varied set of guests. Let's run through what's here.
Detroit City 2020 is the most obviously Alice Cooper song here, which it is because it's a rework of Detroit City, originally recorded for The Eyes of Alice Cooper album. It featured Wayne Kramer of the MC5 even back in 2003 and he's on this album too. It's a look back at the Detroit music scene and it namechecks a lot of the bands covered here.
Go Man Go is a new original song but it's a very garage punk rebel song, not remotely of the styles Cooper has recorded in lately. He has a lot of fun with the vocal line here, relishing both the lyrics and the delivery. It feels like it was written decades ago by someone else but it wasn't.
East Side Story is a Bob Seger cover, but it's an obscure one. Back in the sixties, Seger played for a number of local bands before he got famous. He wrote East Side Story for the Underdogs, while singing with Doug Brown & The Omens, with whom he made his first recording. It also became his first solo release, the band at the time being called Bob Seger & The Last Heard. That was 1966, eight years before he formed the Silver Bullet Band. It works with Alice's voice and especially with a very lively fuzzy guitar.
Your Mama Won't Like Me gets funky, not least because it adds horns. It's a Suzi Quatro cover, a Chapman/Chinn song that, with an extra M, was the title track of her third album in 1975. I'm not sure any of the words are changed, given that it now tells the story of a bad boy rather than a bad girl, but it may be verbatim. I'll have to go back to find out. It's now going to be stuck in my head all week, na na na na na na, and, well, I'm OK with that.
Devil with a Blue Dress On is the Shorty Long song from 1964, but I presume it's here because Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels recorded it a couple of years later, given that their drummer Johnny 'Bee' Badanjek guests on this version, including a little banter at the outset. The Detroit Wheels single segued into Good Golly Miss Molly, but this take goes into Chains of Love instead, a Dirtbombs cover. Mick Collins, their vocalist and guitarist, is here too. It all wraps up with both songs finishing at once, which is cool.
Last up is Sister Anne, a cover of the MC5 song that opened up their second studio album, High Time, which I'm not sure I've heard; it's so hard to get past the Kick Out the Jams debut without just re-playing. This was a Fred 'Sonic' Smith song but he's been gone since the nineties so it's guitarist Wayne Kramer here instead. And, given that he has ties to two of the songs here, I wonder if he and the others are here throughout as the band on this album rather than as just guests on their own songs.
What I'm guessing, from the cover and the song choices, is that it's Alice on vocals; Mark Farner, lead singer and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad on guitar; the versatile multi-genre Paul Randolph on bass; and Johnny Badanjek on drums. Whether Collins and Kramer only play on their own songs is up for debate until I can see credits but I'll assume for now that they're both on more than that.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter because this is just good old time garage punk rock music and it sounds damn good with Alice's voice on it. It may be short, but it feels truer to what he does than the Hollywood Vampires debut and it means something different. Recommended for the obscurists! It's likely to have you looking backwards to the originals and that's never a bad thing. Go man, go!