With the best will in the world, I'm not sure anyone would cite Alice Cooper's first two albums - 'Pretties For You and 'Easy Action' - as essential.
They have their moments, but not the energy, commitment and even a clear focus. In the main they are a mix of Psychedelia, Freak Rock, Frank Zappa knock-offs, and Alice sounding close to Captain Beefheart.
But California was not a natural fit for the band, and they upped sticks and moved towards Detroit - a scene and sound perhaps closer to their liking.
And like it they did with confidence showing on third album 'Love It To Death' - OK not an unadulterated classic, but more than enough to warrant repeat playing.
And they were off ... next album 'Killer' would by my choice as the pick of their back catalogue, and this was closely followed by 'Schools Out and 'Billion Dollar Babies' - probably the bands last truly great album.
Alice Cooper is 74, his band mates of a similar vintage, but they have come together again for a couple of tracks on the new album and deliver the goods once again.
'Detroit Stories' is a mix of cover versions and new originals re-visiting and celebrating their beginnings and the sound of late 60s Detroit - MC5, The Stooges, Grand Funk Railroad, Amboy Dukes, Bob Seger. Even the Velvet Underground and The Doors make a passing appearance. The sound and delivery is an unmistakable return to the template defined by those 4 albums mentioned above. And that template is re-inforced by the presence of Bob Ezrin in the producers chair.
And it is with the Velvet Underground, specifically a cover of "Rock & Roll" which kicks off the album. Not a total facsimile, but close enough to the original to be comfortable and different enough for Alice to put his own stamp on it.
Over 15 tracks, we get 4 cover versions - the aformentioned "Rock & Roll", Outrageous Cherry: "Our Love Will Change The World", MC5: "Sister Anne", and Bob Seger: "East Side Story" amongst a slew of Alice originals as good as he's ever done.
All delivered with a ragged garage rock feeling, hints of blues harp, Alice's growled menacing vocal and an air of menace, humour and sheer enjoyment. This is not just a re-visit and celebration of Detroit, but a re-visit and celebration of Alice himself.
There is also an impressive list of guest players including:
- original band mates Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith on "Social Debris" and "I Hate You"
- MC5s Wayne Kramer and Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner play on 12 of the 15 tracks
- Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner appears on 4 tracks
- Joe Bonamassa appears on 2 tracks
- Larry Mullen Jr thumps the tubs on "Shut Up And Rock"
This is no lazy knock-off covers album awash with special guests and some filler thrown in to make up the numbers - this is very probably the most complete, consistent album since 1975s 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.
(I nearly chose 1989's 'Trash' but it falls short for being a bit too clean in the songwriting and production departments)
Rock & Roll
Our Love Will Change The World
Detroit City 2021