Originally Published: June 1999
The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper (Rhino) 4/10
Alice Cooper Long before he was a budding restaurateur (Phoenix's Alice Cooperstown sports bar), PGA tour wannabe, and Pat Boone - schmoozing shill for Sony cell phones, Vincent Furnier's claim to infamy was as rock's original Antichrist Superstar, the guy who authored the marketing plan Marilyn Manson sampled Puffy-style to become a billion-dollar baby. Rechristening himself Alice Cooper (allegedly the name of a 17th-century witch) in the late '60s, this son of a preacher man moved his L.A.-based band to his Detroit birthplace to cash in on the proto-punk street cred of native sons the Stooges and MC5 (he's likely the only performer ever to move to the Motor City to make it big). Making blasphemy his schtick and trade, Cooper brought his shock theatrics of pro wrestling to rock, his corny concert spectacles putting the "fraud" into schadenfreude.
While his fake-decapitation antics seem quaint by today's standards, the Coop's journey from gender bender to drunken bender to heavy-metal eminence grise should make and excellent episode of Behind The Music, and might even have worked as a double CD, but a four-CD, 84-track box set is entirely uncalled for. This warts-and-all rehash follows Cooper from the fuzzed-out psychedelia of his original band the Spiders to his current flailings, highlighted only by the brawny swagger of "I'm Eighteen", "School's Out", "Under My Wheels", and other keepers from the Alice Cooper Group's 1971-1974 apex. Albums such as Love It To Death, Killer and Greatest Hits are where the curious should begin and end; after 1974 dissolution of Cooper's original band, things tailed off quickly, and there's little of interest on CDs Three and Four. Even die-hards will be hard-pressed to stomach the Nutrasweet orchestration of ballads such as "You and me", "I Never Cry", and "How You Gonna See Me Now", which are all worthy of a Cooper Scooper. Life & Crimes ultimately succumbs to the very induldence and excess Alice unchained.