Billion Dollar Babies - Alice Cooper (Warner)

billiondollarbabies

Probably the brimming cup in Alice Cooper's history (if you're looking at album sales), what you've got here is the tide turning. Voted the #1 band in the world by NME on the back of the admittedly strong "School's Out" LP, "Billion Dollar Babies" tried hard to mimic the same approach, but failed, mainly due to a slicker, more commercial sound.

Is it a bad LP? Hell no! But it does indeed get off to a very flat beginning – the one-two punch of the celebratory "Hello, Hooray" and the rancidly limp "Raped and Freezing" don't really add up to much, and show that this constantly touring band were getting very tired indeed.

But the album comes to life with "Elected" (even if you remember it from "Pretties For You"'s "Reflected" – the fact that the band were scavenging from their own back catalogue didn't bode well for the future) and the pile-driving title track with some wicked Dennis Dunaway bass and Neal Smith brutalising his drum kit, alongside Donovan snidely insinuating his way into the song. Tracks three and four really drive you home, even if "Unfinished Sweet" doesn't – although if you see Alice in cowboy boots and not much else chasing an unsweetened tooth through the streets of New York with a giant toothbrush on the "Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper" '73 tour DVD, you might garner an appreciation of the song on a visual level, if nothing else. Also, the dentistry sound effects on the track were genuine – they were apparently recorded while Alice was having work done on his admittedly impressive chompers. He's no Jim Dandy, but the man has ivory almost second to none.

The second side of the LP is the better side: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is one of the Coop's more commercial and enjoyable hard-rocking moments with a killer riff (later forgettably covered by Megadeth for Wes Craven's "Shocker" soundtrack), "Generation Landslide" (which the Coop himself later revisited - badly – during his New Wave phase on 81's mainly lamentable "Special Forces" LP) chugs along with the Coop's own special style of teen-rebellion, but it's the record's final tracks that really show the band's true styles.

"Sick Things" is a gleeful, if somewhat turgid, romp, leading to the rather brief and inexplicable (if pretty) "Mary Ann" (I once tried to impress a girl I knew called Mary-Ann by learning how to play this song – it didn't work), before heading to the LP's finest moment – the leering paean to necrophilia, and stage-show climax: "I Love The Dead", one of the Coop's most enduring songs, and one of bad taste's finest moments. It rounds out the album in fine style.

All-in-all, I think you'll walk away from "Billion Dollar Babies" a happy person, but not as happy as you'll walk away from "Killer" or "Love It To Death" (in that order). It's a good album, but one that's a victim of its production – it's a little too slick to these ears. I like my rawk with an edge, and "Billion Dollar Babies" tends to lack that, despite some fine songwriting – but considering how much cash the band were making at the time, who can blame them?

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Tags: alice, cooper, warner, billion dollar babies

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