RAW - 25th May 1994

(May 25, 1994)

Originally Published: May 25, 1994

Alice, You Still Matter!

Author: Mick Wall

Yet another major album release reviewed bigger and better than anywhere else! Mick Wall is sucked into 'The Last Temptation', Alice Cooper's brand new platter!

Label: Epic

Release Date: June 6, 1994

Track Listing: 'Sideshow', 'Nothing's Free', 'Lost In America', 'Bad Place Alone', 'You're My Temptation', 'Stolen Prayer', 'Unholy War', 'Lullaby', 'It's Me', 'Cleansed By Fire'.

Formats: LP, Cassette, CD.

Production: Alice worked with four producers: Don Fleming (Sonic ???????)

The Last Temptation
Epic EPC 476 5944-2

Screw the concept, the really important message this album has to convey is that Alice Cooper is back with his strongest collection of en-u-wine, wrap-around-your-brain-more-than-once songs since his 'Billion Dollar Babies' mid 70's heyday.

I realise, of course, that a statement like that will mean doodly-squat to most of you twenty- somethings-and-unders reading this, having come in, as you probably did, with Alice's 1989 'Poison' hit single, or even his all-too-worthy appearance in the first Wayne's World movie.

But as someone who was just out of short trousers the first time I saw Alice miming 'School's Out' on Top Of The Pops - my soon-to-be-felt-penned eyes nearly popping out of my teen skull as my mum tutted along (always a good sign) - you'll just have to take my word for it.

Once upon a time, y'see, Alice wasn't just a clown. Once upon a time, Alice Cooper was the baddest thing on two, in those days, decidedly unsteady legs. Back in the 70's, Alice was a 25-30 cans of a beer a day man; a crazy drunk who wrote crazy songs with big drunken chant-along choruses that still sound better than 90 per cent of whatever it is you've been listening to lately.

No kidding. Try 'School's Out', 'Elected', 'No More Mr.Nice Guy' (covered by Megadeth), or 'Only Women Bleed' for size, kidz. There's gold in those old hills.

Whatever. Suffice to say, if what you've heard so far of Alice Cooper - 1989's goonish 'Trash' and 1991's better-but-still-bland 'Hey Stoopid' - has tickled your gonads, 'The Last Temptation' will squeeze them dry.

The rest of you who thought you didn't give a toss either way - stand back and prepare to be amazed as weird old Alice climbs out of the grave of artistic dissolution and strikes a blow for the agelesss dirty-somethings.

Ostensibly the story of one boy's (Steven - who else?) brutal descent into the corrupt and cowardly hands of the Tempter, or something...I never was one for unravelling Alice's dense tales of loss and redemption. All that business about being a split-personality always had me reaching for the zapper, if you know whaddamean...

But the actual songs on this album, allowed to stand alone, are all from the very top drawer of Alice's war-chest. If the first single, 'Lost In America', is already regarded as a classic of the Schlock Rock extra-cheese-with-everything genre, then wait until the opener, 'Sideshow', flits like a giant black-eyed winged thing into view. Catchy as a plague, mean as 10 devils, the mascara already beginning to run like jet tears down Alice's gaunt, chiselled fright-face: 'I'm bored right out of my skull/I'd have to get high/Just to be dull...' ('Sideshow').

There are other moments on side one - the stink-fingered hook to 'Nothing's Free' or the wincing melody of 'You're My Temptation' - but track one, side two is where the next serious business is taking place. 'Stolen Prayer', co-penned with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, who supplies instantly recognisable backing vocals, is one of the greatest moments on an album loaded to its panda-eyes with grand, sweeping gestures. The following track, 'Unholy War' also by Cornell, sound strangely hollow next to it.

Keeping the pretensions in check, though, are the candyfloss guitars of ex -Y&T man, Stef Burns, which smother the remainder of the album - 'Lullaby', 'It's Me', and 'Cleansed By Fire' - with enough sugar to make the bitter 'conceptual' pill of the forced-ending (always a down-side of these storyline jobbies) come off without too much self-aggrandising pain.

All in all then, a much better album than somebody of Alice Cooper's vintage has any right to scare the life out of us all with. And there was you thinking Alice only ever went out in her chains....**** Mick Wall

Oldy But Goldy!

Mick Wall clues you in on Alice Cooper's shady past - and future!

Now over 20 albums old, Alice Cooper started his career in 1965 as plain Vince Furnier, Pheonix-born singer with the Spiders (later the Nazz). One relocation to Los Angeles and a change of name later, the Alice Cooper band released their first album, 'Pretties For You', in 1969. But it wasn't until 1971-72, and the release of first 'Killer' and then 'School's Out' that the name Alice Cooper became known on an international level - the title track of the latter album providing Alice with his only Number One single in the UK so far, in July 1972.

Since then, there have been countless hit album's, the most recent being 1991's million selling 'Hey Stoopid' - though it was previous opus, 1989's 'Trash', which provided Alice with his second-biggest hit to date, 'Poison', which reached Number Two in the UK that year.

Recorded at various locations over an unscheduled period of time ("Whenever it felt right"), Alice's latest album, 'The Last Temptation', is his first real concept album since 1975's 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.

The album will be accompanied by a specially commissioned comic book written by American sci-fi specialist, Neil Gaimen, whose Cooper-esque comic character, 'Sandman', is his best-known creation, selling millions of copies around the world.

The concept itself, Alice describes as like "a vaudeville show that's in town and it's not exactly selling what it looks like it's selling. When you see the comic book, you'll see that the Showman, who's like the Tempter, is like the old Alice - with the top hat and the make-up. And the kid that he tempts into the show is just the normal, average kid from middle America...whose name is Steven."

Steven, of course, was also the name Alice gave to his previously best-known fictional alter-ego, on 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.

"I've always seen Steven as being my innocent side [with] Alice being the evil half. It's a real battle, but I won't tell you who wins!"

Unlike his last two albums - 'Trash' and 'Hey Stoopid' - which featured guest appearances from the likes of Slash, Jon Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, and guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, 'The Last Temptation' features only one collaberation of any note, between Alice and Soundgarden vocalist Chriss Cornell, who appears on 'Stolen Prayer' (which he co-wrote with Alice) and 'Unholy War' (which Cornell wrote especially for Alice).

ALICE COOPER - precedes the release of his 'The Last Temptation' album with a single, 'Lost In America', on May 16. It includes live versions of 'Billion Dollar Babies' and 'No More Mr.Nice Guy'.