Arizona Republic

Originally Published: April 29, 1999

School's Back In, Rockers!
Cooper Box Set Scores A+

Author: Randy Cordova

'If you're going to do a box set, you really couldn't do it any better than the guys at Rhino did for Alice Cooper. This baby, which reached stores last week, has everything a fan looks for in these things: There are 84 tracks, licensed from 12 sources. There are 11 unreleased cuts, including some intriguing demo versions.

The liner notes are colorfully informative, with Sex Pistol John Lydon chipping in a gracefully written essay. Alice comments on every track, sometimes revealing, sometimes funny. Even the packaging is pretty righteous, with a leering Alice staring out from behind a three-dimensional barred door.

It's a handsome tribute to Cortez High's most notorious grad, spanning 1965 to 1998. Like the best collections of its sort, it's also revealing. Alice Cooper (the man, not the group) is such a familiar institution - particularly in the Valley - that the music often tends to get overlooked. These days, the name brings to mind a downtown restaurant and celebrity golf, not necessarily rock and roll.

A lot of that is also due to the nature of Alice's celebrity. Visuals were a dazzling part of the whole act. And during his '70s heyday, Alice was Hollywood in every sense of the word, even guesting on "Hollywood Squares."

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the box is how show-biz Alice actually was. It's hard to remember, but there was actually a time when people were threatened by the ghoulishness of him. Before Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper was the guy who had parents and preachers quaking in fear. Maybe it's simply the desensitization of America, but it's hard to imagine this stuff frightening anybody. Whenever it comes close to being "creepy," it's creepy in a Fangoria/Famous Monsters kind of way. You know it's all theatrics and makeup and muscular guitars and howling vocals. It's show-biz, not seriously intimidating.

Maybe that's why Alice Cooper's corner of the block is more fun to visit than you might expect. And maybe that's also a bit sad. In this modern day and age, tunes with titles such as "Dead Babies" and "Killer" don't shock anymore, but instead carry the glow of nostalgia around them. Ah, memories.'