The Alice Cooper Show

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers Records, 1977

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


It comes as a huge surprise to discover that for 28 years, this was the only official live album documenting the controversial antics of our favourite horror meister, Alice Cooper. This is surprising because the Alice Cooper group of the early 70's was world reknowned for their completely over the top live spectacle. Even more surprising is that this first live album was not recorded during the massive tours of School's Out or Billion Dollar Babies in 1972 - 73 with the classic band line-up that most people consider to be the peak era, but rather in 1977 after Alice Cooper had released his third solo album, Lace And Whiskey, a period during which Cooper's popularity had greatly decreased as well as him becoming a complete drunkard.

Alice Cooper himself has said that he isn't proud of this live album, and that A Fistful Of Alice (released in 1997) was a conscious attempt to finally put out a live album of excellent renditions of his classics. Well, I really don't know what the hell he's talking about, because The Alice Cooper Show is not nearly as bad as so many people make it out to be, including himself.

This is a relatively energetic performance, especially in light of his severe alcohol abuse at that time (he entered a nut house to cure his addiction shortly after this album was released, and the resulting brilliant concept album based on his experiences, From The Inside, was released in 1978) and often gives an extra punch and heaviness to the earlier studio material, which sometimes doesn't sound quite as powerful on record as when played live.

Songs like "Eighteen", "Sick Things", and "Is It My Body" really benefit from the added heaviness here. "I Love The Dead" is particularly superior here to the studio version, sounding much creepier with a throbbing bassline, distorted riffs, and an additional ominous keyboard element not found on the original version, and it's thankfully a bit shorter because the 1973 studio recording tends to get repetitive.

Even the hit ballads "You And Me" and "I Never Cry" are beautifully done... only "Only Women Bleed" suffers a tad because of a cheesy keyboard addition that wasn't on the original, and is definitely annoying. I also have to question the sensibility of including three ballads on a live release because they drain energy and momentum away from the rock oriented material, but I suppose one could argue that including several ballads shows a more dynamic diversity in his songwriting (which it does), and offers a more varied flow so that fans of his heavier songs and fans of his softer side both have cause to celebrate.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A couple of the songs, like "Under My Wheels", "Billion Dollar Babies", "Go To Hell", and "School's Out" aren't quite as strong as the original studio versions, but such things are inevitable on live albums. There are some interesting renditions however...just check out how "I Love The Dead", "Go To Hell", and "Wish You Were Here" flow together in a very theatrical medley.

The musicianship is simply amazing...this backup band, the Hollywood Vampires, which played on Alice's first three solo albums, in my opinion rivalled the original Alice Cooper group in playing ability and creativity. Particularly the dual lead guitar assualt of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner never fails to impress...just listen to their insane shredding and dual lead harmonies on "Wish You Were Here". Doesn't get much more awesome than that.

The sound and production are excellent, and what really surprised me the most are Alice's vocals. I've heard lots of live material from Alice Cooper, and seen many live videos (which, by the way, is truly the best way to enjoy the spectacle), but his singing on this album is among the best I've heard from him. Clear, confident, note for note faithful to the original recordings, and he doesn't get too raspy as he sometimes has a tendency to do. This is all the more suprising when you take into consideration that at the time this was recorded in 1977, he was reaching the zenith of his alcoholism as I mentioned before He doesn't sound shitfaced at all, which is totally unexpected...If you ever watch the live video for the Welcome To My Nightmare tour from not even two years prior to this, he slurs the vocals, is often out of key, and is barely able to stand! And by 1977 his drinking was much worse yet he sounds better!

Hmmm...I smell a rat, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if a tremendous amount of overdubs were done in the studio, because it just seems impossible that he could have sounded so good at the time. Some people think he doesn't sound good on this album, and while I agree that he doesn't seem quite as lively as I've seen him on many other live accounts, I certainly don't see how he sounds bad.

I think The Alice Cooper Show was purposely rush released in 1977, a period during which live rock albums exploded on the charts, to restore his rapidly sagging popularity. Even though live accounts by his rock contemporaries at the time were mostly huge successes, this was not, and I think this was a result of his drastic change in musical direction away from the sinister, creepy, hard rocking style to a sillier Broadway balladeering style starting with Goes To Hell, which likely confused the fans of his more serious, gritty, button pushing early 70's work.

I also think that most people would have wanted a live album from the classic 1969 - 74 Alice Cooper group band line-up, which was finally released in 2001 as part of a two CD set of the deluxe remaster edition of 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, featuring a disc's worth of superb live material from the massively successful 1973 tour. But if you're only in the market for one disc, then buy 1997's A Fistful Of Alice...although it leaves a fair bit to be desired, The Alice Cooper Show is not nearly as bad as has been suggested, but with two superior live Cooper alternatives available these days, it's no longer essential.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.