REVIEW

ALICE COOPER
Studio Demos 1970-1973 [no label 2CD]
No location or dates. These are the demos for Love It To Death, Killer, Muscle of Love albums.VG-VG+ SBD stereo.

Without doubt the most significant Alice Cooper collection to have emerged in recent years, this 2CD set is precisely what it says on the label - demos for (or possibly out-takes from) four of the five albums that ensured the Cooper band’s megastardom between 1971-1973 - that is, Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out and Muscle Of Love. (No Billion Dollar Babies. Shame!) And, from beginning to end, it’s a fascinating listen, a secret snapshot into the gestation of some of the most influential American music of the year, littered with starkly alternate arrangements, some staggering reworkings and even a handful of previously unreleased songs.

Of the seven cuts from the Love It To Death sessions, "Fields Of Regret" surrenders a glimpse into the genesis of Killer’s "Halo Of Flies"; from Killer itself, multiple takes of "You Drive Me Nervous" and a ten minute "Halo Of Flies" are punctuated by "Desert Night Thing," realigning "Desperado" around completely different lyrics, but no less menace and moodiness. In fact, almost every performance across the first disc offers up something radically different to the familiar versions, be it the extra added whoops and whispers that percolate behind "Black Juju"; the markedly less frenetic arrangement that renders "You Drive Me Nervous" all but unrecognizable; or the completely over-the-top guitars that literally scythe through "Killer" itself.

Moving onto disc two, we find material intended for the next two albums is less eye-opening, possibly because the Cooper band were more aware of what they were doing in the studio by now, but also, perhaps, because the demands of superstardom left them less time in which to play around.

There’s no mistaking these versions for their studio counterparts, but it’s rough edges, rather than rough sketches that characterize them, with even the lyrics sounding close to their finished form. That said, "No Respect For The Sleepers" offers up an early vision of what would become "Muscle Of Love," while the growing tensions within the band itself see Neal Smith step out of the shadows to perform "Baby Please Don’t Stop." But "Teenage Lament 74" is probably the only other number that was seriously reworked, as Alice rewired a reasonably promising portrait of disaffected youth, and transformed it into a primal glam stomp of the first order. Besides, "what a drag it is in these gold lame jeans" sounds far better than the original opening complaint that he had "no money in my jeans." After three years of non-stop hits, whoever was going to believe that? - Dave Thompson

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