Pit Riff

Originally Published: July 27, 2008

Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (SPV)

Author: John Mahoney

When I received the assignment to review the new Alice Cooper release I was excited and apprehensive. I was apprehensive because I had taken a long respite from Alice after the late 80's & 90's releases. I didn't know if I was able to be an impartial and objective review source for an artist I thought had seen his better days. However, I saw AC live last year when he toured with "Heaven & Hell" and felt he had blown away RJD and the boys from Birmingham in both musicality and presentation, so once I remembered that, I felt a bit more empowered to take on the task.

Co-produced by Alice, Danny Saber and Greg Hampton, "Along Came a Spider" is the new 11 track release from the recently 60 year old Alice Cooper. It is no surprise that Alice has a penchant for concept albums, as he has released several during his career, most notably 1975's solo debut "Welcome to My Nightmare". Alice goes "concept" again in unveiling the psychotic story of a serial killer named Spider, with ironically enough, a fetish for spiders. The psycho-subject of this particular story hunts victims, kills them, removes a leg and wraps his victims in silk, much like a spider would. This ill will is apparently all done to create a human spider, eight victims with the removal of one leg; you do the arachnid related math. Problems occur when Spider falls in love with one of the victims making for good friendly psychotic murderous fun.

Musically, Alice has re-discovered a retro 70's guitar feel with this release. This is just fine by me as I am a huge fan of the late guitarist Glen Buxton from the earliest days of Alice as well as Dick Wagner who was the studio musician wizard who found a home with Alice when he went solo in 1975. You get a heavy dose of early to mid 70's style Alice on the track "Wake the Dead", complete with the T-Rex inspired groove and sing along chorus. Additionally, Alice displays once again that he has a real sense of campy horror movie inspired schlock with lyrics like "Which limb will I choose, which one gets sawed in half. Which leg will you lose, to an arachnophobic psychopath?" from the track "Catch Me If You Can".

For some reason Alice consistently gets accomplished young musicians to buy into his plan. While there is very little shredding going on solo wise, guitarists Kerri Kelly and Jason Hook know when to shine. Bassist Chuck Garric holds everything down along with long time veteran drummer Eric Singer. This was the line up I witnessed blow the doors off "Heaven and Hell" a few short months ago and consequently have come up with one of Alice’s better studio releases in over 15 years.

One thing I could never get enough of was Alice's reverence for balladry, and he doesn't disappoint here. Cooper has always done it well through the years to include very catchy softies on his discs (check out classics like "Only Women Bleed", "I Never Cry", "You & Me") and the tack "Killed by Love" is right up there with the old classics. For me this is the high point of the release as the last third of the song rings of classic "White Album" Beatles. In my fair estimation Alice's vocal delivery reminds one of Mr. Lennon here.

Lastly, I used to think that all of the old classic metal and hard rock vocalists had lost their voices or had diminished skills, but Alice proves that a healthy lifestyle and several hundred rounds of golf per year will preserve what has served him so well all these years, his voice. Alice still sings at the top of his register and continues to embrace that classic almost whine that has scared the wits out of old ladies from Maine to Montana over the years. Only problem is that today a lot of Alice's fans are old ladies, and many of them probably set up camp at a backstage door at an Alice Cooper show from 1972.

Guest celebrity appearances are in order as well as former GNR slinger and Alice Cooper fan Slash gets involved too for the guitar solo on "Vengeance is Mine" and a good one it is. Ozzy Osbourne even finds time to get away from his ball & chain for a few seconds to add some song writing help.

PITRIFF RATING – 8/10 – The newest Alice Cooper release doesn't get full marks as at times it gets a little too close to Spinal Tap-ish elements for my liking especially on the chorus to "I'm Hungry", sounding reminiscent of the Tap classic "Hell Hole".

It is safe to say however that Alice has again created something interesting, original, catchy and disturbing. So get your notebooks ready want-to-be shock rockers to take notes, Alice's new album might not be "Welcome to My Nightmare" part II but it is definitely worthy of pluncking down a few of your hard earned George Washington's for.