A Fistful Of Alice

Alice Cooper

Guardian Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


For an artist renowned for his spectacular live show, there have been precious few official live releases over the course of Alice Cooper's career...the only previous official live album, The Alice Cooper Show, was released in 1977, and it has been saddled with a bad reputation ever since, despite the fact that to my ears it isn't bad at all. That particular disc probably suffers more from the fact that it came out after the early 70's peak years of the Alice Cooper group.

Alice himself admitted that one of his goals for many years was to release a really kick ass live album to make up for the weak effort he considers The Alice Cooper Show to be. It seems strange to me that he didn't release any live material during any of his mammoth comeback tours of the mid to late 80's, but waited to release the excellent A Fistful Of Alice in 1997, a time when he had all but vanished from the mainstream consciousness.

It was recorded over two nights in June of 1996 in a town in Mexico at the Cabo Wabo Cantina, some joint owned by the former singer/frontman of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar. The recording and production sound superb, maybe too much so...polish is a little high, so could there possibly have been a few overdubs, here and there?

As for the musicianship, Alice has backed himself up with the usual assortment of unknown but brilliant musicians. The playing is very tight and faithful to the original studio versions, and the performances just ooze energy and enthusiasm from all involved...a totally rocking experience! Some of the older songs are given quite a bit more juice here...they sound a lot meatier and heavier, the way they were supposed to. Particularly some of the older material like "I'm Eighteen", "Desperado" and "Elected" benefit from an injection of power that gives them a much needed boost from the studio versions of these songs. As great as these songs were the day they were created, with this live recording it becomes so much clearer just how innovative this stuff must have been in the early 70's. And the brief Spanish flavoured intro tacked on to the beginning of "Desperado" is simply gorgeous.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album sticks to all the hits and quality songs from his best albums, and wisely avoids weaker material. I mean, it says a lot that there is only one song here representing the entire 1980's ("Poison", of course), and only three songs written in the 90's on a CD that came out in 1997! It should also be noted that the emphasis is placed squarely on the hard rocking element of Alice's past, virtually ignoring the essential theatrical side, and out of the 13 tracks included here, only two are ballads. This certainly makes for a high energy, powerful disc, but I personally would have liked to have seen the inclusion of a few rarities or more challenging tracks.

In addition to the highly talented backing band, Rob Zombie does guest voacls on "Elected" and "Feed My Frankenstein", sounding quite a bit funnier than I think he would have liked, Slash from Guns 'N Roses plays lead guitar on "Lost in America", "Only Women Bleed", and "Elected", and Sammy Hagar himself shows us his considerable lead guitar chops on "School's Out".

The bonus with live albums is that often standard songs get changed in very interesting ways that you wouldn't imagine, such as the chorus of "Steven" making an uncredited intro to "Welcome To My Nightmare" that works fantastically, or the unexpected inclusion of the music from the twisted "Awakening" right in the middle of "Only Women Bleed"...in fact those two gel so well together that I almost didn't notice the change...I sat there for about ten seconds thinking to myself "Hey! Was that what I thought it was??"

The only thing that's kinda weird is that throughout the duration of the disc, you can barely hear the audience. I mean, it was only recorded in a smallish club, but still, it feels like an essential ingredient is missing that makes live albums the interactive and infectuous experience that they are when done well. As super charged and professional the performances are from Alice and the band, the lack of audience feedback somewhat saps a bit of energy from an otherwise splendid live disc.

There is one brand new studio track included at the end called "Is Anyone Home?", featuring classic lyrics from Alice once again making tongue in cheek observations about certain aspects of society, in this case the lost humanity of internet junkies. The music on this track is excellent as well, as an upbeat sounding, light hearted, mid tempo tune with a feel good 70's type of pop sound...it would not have been out of place on an album like From The Inside for example.

Everything on A Fistful Of Alice sounds great, and there are no major misteps on any of these live renditions of classic songs. It certainly is superior to its 1977 live counterpart, The Alice Cooper Show, but if you've got a hankerin' for live sounds from the early Alice Cooper group era of the early 70's, then I highly recommend that you purchase the new Deluxe Edition of the Billion Dollar Babies album, which includes a bonus second cd of live tracks recorded during their legendary 1973 tour.

Despite my minor gripes that the tracklisting, while inarguably amazing, doesn't fully represent the diversity of the man's output, if you are just getting into Alice Cooper, this cd has plenty of choice tracks covering his thirty-plus year career that simultaneously makes A Fistful Of Alice a fine greatest hits package.

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 Guardian Records, and is used for informational purposes only.