Originally Published: February 24, 2001

Vital Reissues

Author: Michael Paoletta

Billion Dollar Babies
Producer: Bob Ezrin
Reissue Producers: David McLees, Brian Nelson, Bill Inglot
Warner Archives/Rhino 79791

Twenty years before Marilyn Manson bared his backside, Alice Cooper gave parents plenty to despise. And unlike many of today's wannabes, his band's darkness was spiced with humor, originality, and serious rock'n'roll chops. By 1973 and the "Billion Dollar Babies" album, Cooper had graduated from lean rock machine to over-the-top theatrical artist. An exercise in decadent shock-rock stagecraft, the set has the power to impress nearly three decades on. Cooper and his group offered the youth of America violent sexual imagery, gender-bending, and just plain weirdness, while never taking themselves too seriously. Twisted ditties like "Sick Things" and "I Love The Dead" defy explanation, although the role reversal of "Raped And Freezin'" and the stream-of-consciousness blast of "Generation Landslide" showcased the band's musicianship. The title cut (with vocal support from Donovan) and the radio hit "No More Mr. Nice Guy" add much to the album's classic status; likewise for Bob Ezrin's groundbreaking album-rock production values. Along with duplicating the set's original creative packaging, Rhino has included a generous bonus disc, containing primarily live recordings from 1973. While Cooper's brand of antisocial behavior may seem tame by today's standards, back in the day he shocked and rocked with some style, never resorting to gratuitous profanity or the bashing of minorities.