Alice Cooper: ‘Detroit Stories’

Released on February 26, 2021 (earMUSIC)

It’s hard to believe that shock rocker Alice Cooper is in his seventh decade in terms of releasing studio albums but his first record (as the Alice Cooper Band) Pretties For You dates back all the way to 1969. The man has been rocking for so long that if you ask rockers to choose their favourite Alice Cooper album, a lot will turn on exactly when they first discovered the Coop. Was it in the early 1970s when the Alice Cooper Band released arguably its greatest albums ever with Love It To Death (1971), Killer (1972), School’s Out (1972) and Billion Dollar Babies (1973)? Was in the late ’80s when Alice Cooper pulled off one of the greatest rock n’ roll comebacks of all-time with Constrictor (1986) and Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987)? Was it in the 2000s when the singer released two very underrated albums — The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003) and Dirty Diamonds (2005)? Or should it be in 2021 when Alice Cooper turned back the clock to release one of his best ever albums with Detroit Stories?

Right from the start of the opening track “Rock & Roll”, I knew that there would be something special about this album. Detroit Stories starts abruptly as right from the start, you hear Alice Cooper‘s voice. There is no build up leading to any verse. Bang! The song starts with the Coop tackling a very good song penned by Lou Reed. Interestingly enough, Detroit Stories ends with another cover in the form of Bob Seger‘s “East Side Story.” Those two songs might be covers along with the track “Sister Anne” (written by Fred Smith) but they all feel like Alice Cooper songs and fit very nicely with the rest of the tracks on the album. Perhaps what I was most shocked about were the great melodies on Detroit Stories. It’s almost impossible not to sing along to or simply appreciate the great melodies throughout the entire record.

In a way, Detroit Stories could have been a solid follow up to Billion Dollar Babies (1973) or Muscle of Love (1974) with its old school feel, melodies and variety but it could have also followed up an album like Trash (1989) due to the production polish provided by long-time Alice Cooper producer and co-writer Bob Ezrin. Although at first I was a little wary of the Coop having included a whopping 15 songs on Detroit Stories — because after all, it’s hard to come up with 15 great tracks — the more I listen to the record, the more that I appreciate all of the variety and extra songs on it. You really have a lot to choose from with the comical “I Hate You” which has the four remaining members from the Alice Cooper Band (including guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith) each taking a turn handling the lead vocals, “Hail Mary” which has a real School’s Out album feel to it, the funky and big band sounding “$1000 High Heel Shoes”, The Beatles-esque’s “Our Love Will Change The World” and the song “Hanging By A Thread (Don’t Give Up)” which seems to simply be a clever way to do an info-message to promote suicide prevention.

Another interesting thing about Detroit Stories is all of the people that play on the record. With the all-star cast that Alice Cooper takes on the road with him consisting of bassist Chuck Garric; guitarists Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen; and drummer Glen Sobel, you’d think that the Coop would have all these extremely talented musicians playing on his album. That simply isn’t the case as only Henriksen ended up playing on the record. Henriksen had a huge role in Detroit Stories since he ended up co-writing a lot of the songs with Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin, and he also played guitar and sang backing vocals on about two thirds of the record and even handled percussion on more than 25% of the tracks. You’d think that the guest list of musicians would then be a who’s who of the rock n’ roll record but aside from the older Alice Cooper Band members, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. (U2), no names really stick out to me.

Overall, Detroit Stories likely makes my top ten Alice Cooper albums and that says a lot because Vincent Furnier has released so many great albums over the span of 52 years spread out over seven decades. The funny part about my purchase of Detroit Stories is that I mainly purchased it for the accompanying DVD A Paranormal Evening At The Olympia Paris — which contains an awesome setlist with tracks such as “Halo of Flies”, “Ballad of Dwight Fry” and “The World Needs Guts” — but I quickly realized that there was something really special about Detroit Stories. Once again, Alice Cooper has proven that his age is just a number and I have no doubts now that the shock rocker will be able to come up with great albums well into his 80s.

Track List for Detroit Stories:
01. Rock & Roll
02. Go Man Go
03. Our Love Will Change The World
04. Social Debris
05. $1000 High Heel Shoes
06. Hail Mary
07. Detroit City 2021
08. Drunk And In Love
09. Independence Dave
10. I Hate You
11. Wonderful World
12. Sister Anne
13. Hanging By A Thread (Don’t Give Up)
14. Shut Up And Rock
15. East Side Story

Bonus DVD – A Paranormal Evening At The Olympia Paris:
01. Brutal Planet
02. No More Mr. Nice Guy
03. Under My Wheels
04. Department of Youth
05. Pain
06. Billion Dollar Babies
07. The World Needs Guts
08. Woman of Mass Destruction
09. Poison
10. Halo of Flies
11. Feed My Frankestein
12. Cold Ethyl
13. Only Women Bleed
14. Paranoiac Personality
15. Ballad of Dwight Fry
16. Killer / I Love The Dead themes
17. I’m Eighteen
18. School’s Out

Band Members:
Alice Cooper – vocals
Chuck Garric – bass, backing vocals
Glen Sobel – drums
Ryan Roxie – guitar, backing vocals
Tommy Henriksen – guitar, backing vocals
Nita Strauss – guitar, backing vocals
Sheryl Cooper – dancer, backing vocals

Studio Album Musicians:
Alice Cooper – vocals, backing vocals (1, 7), harp (8, 12)
Johnny “Bee” Badanjek – drums (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15), backing vocals (1)
Paul Randolph – bass (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15), backing vocals (1, 12)
Steve Hunter – guitar (1), lead guitar (13)
Joe Bonamassa – guitar (1, 8)
Garrett Bielaniec – guitar (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
Bob Ezrin – organ (1), backing vocals (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15), cowbell (1), percussion (2, 6), piano (3, 15), keyboards (13)
James Shelton – organ (1, 5)
Wayne Kramer – backing vocals (1, 12), guitar (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15)
Sheryl Cooper – backing vocals (1, 3, 15)
Calico Cooper – backing vocals (1, 3, 15)
Mark Farner – guitar (2, 6, 7, 12), backing vocals (12)
Tommy Henriksen – guitar (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15), backing vocals (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15), percussion (3, 4, 11, 15)
Neal Smith – drums (4, 10), vocals (10)
Dennis Dunaway – bass (4, 10), vocals (10), guitar (10)
Steven Crayn – lead guitar (4)
Michael Bruce – guitar (4, 10), vocals (10)
Rick Tedesco – guitar (4, 10)
The Motor City Horns: Walter White – trumpet (5), John Rutherford – trombone (5), Keith Kaminski – saxophone (5)
Sister Sledge: Debra Sledge – backing vocals (5), Camille Sledge – backing vocals (5), Tanya Thillet – backing vocals (5)
Carla Camarillo – backing vocals (5, 9)
Tommy Denander – guitar (11, 14), keyboards (11, 13)
Matthew Smith – guitar (13)
Larry Mullen Jr. – drums (14)
Jimmy Lee Sloas – bass (14)

Produced by Bob Ezrin

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, March 2021

Alice Cooper‘s “Social Debris” video: