Alice Cooper: ‘Greatest Hits’

ALICE COOPER
GREATEST HITS
Released in August 1974 (Warner Brothers Records)

Review by Lance Lumley:
I wrote in my review for Alice Cooper‘s Trash album last month that I didn’t get into his music until I saw him in 1996. Like many who only knew some of the hits (and his work in the 1980s), I didn’t know that the actual band was named Alice Cooper in the 1970s, until lead singer Vincent Furnier took over as the guy called Alice when the band members went their separate ways, and created the character we know today. I knew some of the early songs like “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” but it wasn’t until 2003 during his Bare Bones Tour when I really got into the early work of the band.

1974’s Greatest Hits was actually the second compilation CD I purchased. With my local Best Buy very limited in older catalogs of artists, I could only get the 1995 Classiks where most hits were live, until I finally tracked down this CD.

“I’m Eighteen” starts off the release on a strong note, being one of the biggest hits of Cooper‘s career (I will mention Alice Cooper as the person, not the band for the rest of the review). The mid-tempo groove, along with Glen Buxton‘s guitar solo introducing the song, is one that many beginning guitar players have learned in their career. Celebrating the teen years of being officially an adult, has been an anthem still being played today.

“Is It My Body” is a song I  was introduced to during that Bare Bones Tour, which was a stripped down tour at smaller venues, where the theater was at a limited amount capacity wise. It was basically the band playing in front of a crowd with no pyro or stage props (besides the sword and a snake). I like the drumming on this song by Neal Smith. When I saw it live, Eric Singer was playing with the band (who I got to meet before the show), and where he spotlighted his stick twirls and other parts to his playing. The garage band sound on the recording makes it even more easy to listen to, without overproduction. It is under three minutes long, which gives no fillers or extra added solos or singing needed. It’s a throw back to the early ’50-’60s songs where three minutes was the normal time for a song.

“Desperado” is a song I first heard on the A FistFul of Alice live CD from Cabo. The song is a tribute to Jim Morrison, who died before the band started working on this album. The western theme of the song is also interesting, due to Alice being a big movie fan. Co-written by Cooper and Michael Bruce, it is also symbolic of the band being outcasts in the music world at the beginning of their careers, being this lone pack of outlaws coming into a town nightly to take over, like the Young Guns, with lyrics looking at the dark side of humanity (like many of Cooper‘s work) with lines like “I’m a killer and I’m a clown.” The guitar work is a perfect set up to the environment of the song, like a spaghetti western movie theme.

The next song “Under My Wheels” is a great rocker with a twisted sense of humor in the lyrics, seemingly talking about Alice wanting to run over the nagging girlfriend. Another song off the Killer album, this song is a staple of Alice‘s live show, and with good reason — it gets the crowd rocking, with its Rolling Stones‘ style guitar work. The drumming drives the song throughout. The catchy melody, along with the lyrics “The telephone is ringing'” makes it hard not to sing along with the song when it plays.

One of my favorites songs of the band is “Be My Lover,” with its humorous lyrics. This is just a plain fun song. The boy meets girl (or groupie however you want to see it) has a great guitar riff, along with the band making fun of itself, with the lines “She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice,” possibly jabbing at the attention the band received by critics and parents adding confusion to wondering who are these weirdo rock people getting attention with a girl’s name? I love the line “magnifying glance” along with giving a nod to Alice‘s hometown of Detroit. As a drummer, this song is fun to play along with as well. There is quite a bit going on in this song drum wise, and Smith shows his underrated playing. The ending, with its slowed down beat, is also neat for a rock song, almost like a cabaret style ending.

If “I’m Eighteen” isn’t the most popular Alice Cooper theme, “School’s Out” has to be. Once again, showing the test of time, this song is still blared at graduation parties today forty plus years later. Cooper stated in an interview he was inspired that the two biggest childhood memories was the last day of school and Christmas. The song captures the last three minutes of the last day of school, along with the childhood “Na Na’s” and the “No more pencils, no more books” children’s’ rhymes that everyone knew as a kid. The guitar riff is one of the most well-known riffs in music, and people know the song when the opening chords start. This is a rock classic if there ever was one.

“Hello Hooray” — a song once covered by Judy Collins before the Cooper band got a hold of it — is a perfect live opener when Alice uses it, like the tour I saw in 2003. This carnival style lyrics, announces the arrival of the band at show time, ready to dazzle the audience with the side show of freaks and entertainment, while the ringmaster holds court with his top hat and cane, capturing the audience’s attention in his grasps. This is another one of my favorite early songs by the band. This is a show that fits perfectly with Alice live.

“Elected” was a song originally on the first record of the band, named “Reflected” until Bob Ezrin encouraged them to re-write the song and changed the lyrics. The song was rumored to be inspired by the Richard Nixon election, but the humor in the song is sometimes missed out.Who could be the most dangerous person to run for President in the 1970s? Besides maybe Gene Simmons, it was Alice Cooper. The parents would go nuts, but yet the kids would love it, and as mentioned in the song, he “never lied to you, I’ve always been cool.” The use of the radio broadcast during the song, along with the production of the track, has the Yankee Doodle Dandy style patriotic power to it, even though it is tongue in cheek. The album cover of the Greatest Hits package, where the drawings of Alice‘s pals Groucho Marx, Edward G. Robinson and Clark Gable gangster style theme, shows the inspired 1920-1930s feel to this song while listening to it for those of us that do not own the Billion Dollar Babies album like me. On a side note, I think Alice reminds me of Tiny Tim on that cover.The vocal production on the song helps the feel of the theme, almost like Alice is standing hundreds of feet away at a political campaign begging for your vote. You can rally behind Alice and this song!

“No More Mr. Nice Guy” has personal appeal for me. One, every year on my birthday, a friend would call in the local Youngstown, Ohio classic rock channel and request it to be played (which they did). Secondly, wrestling fans would know that this song is used for former manager Jim Cornette‘s podcast shows every week (which he does two a week). I always liked this song, from the opening guitar riff, to the humor of the songwriting. Alice Cooper (the band and the person) was a threat to the music industry and to parents, but was really just misunderstood, and he has now decided “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Come on, he had to wear a disguise to go to church and still got punched. This song celebrates the underdog that gets no respect; no matter how hard he tries to be a nice person. Sometimes, enough is enough, and the guy just needs a break in life (at least this is how I interpret the lyrics). This is the social outcast theme song, with great guitar playing and a catchy chorus.

“Billion Dollar Babies” has one of the best drum playing in the Cooper catalog. Smith shines on this, along with every drummer that has played the song since. Add to it great guitars and bass, this is a song that can prove that the 1970s had some of the best hard rock acts. With guest vocals by Donovan, who was recording an album next door when Alice asked him to sing with an elitist British accent, gives an added feel vocally. The irony of a hippie flower child style singer like Donovan matched with the villain rocker Alice, adds to the song’s history. The bass playing by Dennis Dunaway is overlooked on this song, and is really wonderful to listen to. Steve Hunter plays guitar on the track (along with “Hello Hooray”) due to Buxton not being able to record the whole album.

I have many favorite Alice Cooper songs, but one of my all-time favorites is “Teenage Lament ’74.” Where “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out” celebrates the joys of youth, this one shows a different side of being a youth. Even though there is a humor to the song, where the narrator is trying to change his look, attempting to fit in, but ended up looking “Like a roster that was drowned and raised again.” The fact that he doesn’t want to be a part of the glitter rock that was the trend, but has to conform to fit in and have friends, the song has a more deeper context to the lyrics. Of course, any musician can relate to hiding in the sacred bedroom blasting music to escape the outside world for a while (either by blaring the stereo or playing an instrument), only to have someone yell about the loud music. For those critics that think the Alice Cooper character was only a gimmick, the lyrics of many of the songs proves that there were of statements about society norms in the text. This is a mellower song as well, it isn’t really a hard rock style, but more radio friendly. The bass is heard more on the track, as well, as a slower style guitar solo that fills in the songs, as opposed to rock out (until the end where the guitars let loose a little in the background).

The final song is “Muscle Of Love.” This song has several changes throughout the song, and the bass playing is more in front, with a 1970s style to it. The start of the song has a southern rock beginning to it, then continues into time changes after the second chorus. It has a jazz fusion feel to it as well, as if the Alice Cooper band met The Weather Report or Frank Zappa (with the band’s history with Zappa, this may be the better reference). Since most of the album has the radio friendly / rock anthem style to it, this is a different track to end the record with, as opposed to adding another song off of School’s Out (such as maybe “Public Animal #9”, which would really rock out the release). Regardless, this is a song that gives the listener a deeper listen to the musicianship of the band.

I have a love / hate relationship with greatest hits releases. One, it gives the listener a great feel of some of the work of the act, without buying the whole collection, where one may be weary of not liking deeper cuts. However, many acts and labels put out so many greatest hits packages throughout the years that it’s all that they put out, justifying adding one new song to it (or unreleased song), which can be a money grab for the labels, or it’s labeled as “Greatest Hits” and it has the artist’s favorite song on it and not the hits. In the case of Alice Cooper, at the time, this was one of the few CDs my local store had with the original band, so it was well worth the purchase, and there is not a bad track on here (with the internet, it is easier now to find places to get music, especially out of print stuff). My least favorite song — “Muscle Of Love” — isn’t even a bad song. I just like other songs off those albums better, and with it at the end, it doesn’t break up the flow with the other songs. This is a great place for newer fans to start with the early band, without being afraid of filler songs. This actually lives up to being the Greatest Hits of the original line-up.

Track List:
01. I’m Eighteen
02. Is It My Body
03. Desperado
04. Under My Wheels
05. Be My Lover
06. School’s Out
07. Hello Hooray
08. Elected
09. No More Mr. Nice Guy
10. Billion Dollar Babies
11. Teenage Lament ’74
12. Muscle Of Love

Band Members:
Alice Cooper – vocals, harmonica
Glen Buxton – lead guitar
Michael Bruce – rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Dennis Dunaway – bass guitar, backing vocals
Neal Smith – drums, backing vocals

Additional Musicians:
Steve Hunter – guitar solos (7, 10)
Donovan – vocals (10)
Marc Bolan – guitar (7, 8)
Mick Mashbir – guitar
Dick Wagner – guitar
Bob Dolin – keyboards
Bob Ezrin – keyboards
David Libert – backing vocals
Rick Derringer – guitar (4)
Liza Minnelli – backing vocals (11)
The Pointer Sisters – backing vocals (11)
Labelle – backing vocals (11)
Ronnie Spector – backing vocals (11)

Production:
Produced by Jack Richardson, Bob Ezrin and Jack Douglas
Mastered by Randy Kring (1, 2)
Mastered by George Marino (7, 8, 9, 10)

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook

Reviewed by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, August 2019

Alice Cooper‘s “Teenage Lament ’74” song:

Teenage Lament ’74

Provided to YouTube by Rhino/Warner Bros. Teenage Lament ’74 · Alice Cooper Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits ℗ 1973 Warner Bros. Records Inc. for the U.S. and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the U.S.

Alice Cooper‘s “Muscle of Love” song:

Muscle of Love

Provided to YouTube by Rhino/Warner Bros. Muscle of Love · Alice Cooper Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits ℗ 1973 Warner Bros. Records Inc. for the U.S. and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the U.S.