Love It To Death - Alice Cooper (Warner)
From the teen-anthem assault of "Caught In A Dream" through to the Rolf Harris (no, I'm not joking) cover of "Sun Arise", Alice Cooper's first real LP is a must-have rock 'n 'roll record.
While the first two LPs to bear the Cooper name might garner your attention via their association with the name and their obscurity/infamy, they're not really Cooper albums (Alice considers them to be more Nazz albums – the name the band bore before they adopted their more recognizable, and less-Rundgren confusible monicker – due to their art-rock leanings and crazed time signatures.) What producer Bob Ezrin brought to this band (Jack Richardson refused point-blank to produce them – and given their first two LPs, who can blame him?) production-wise can NOT be under-estimated.
"Love It To Death" is one of those records you absolutely MUST have in your collection. "Caught In A Dream" is one of my (and soon to be one of your) favourite Alice Cooper tracks, a toon that you must simply have in your iTunes – it's the kind of thing that will put a spring in your step, a song in your heart and a smile on your face on the way to work in the morning. Well, it has that effect on me, anyway.
Following up is "I'm Eighteen", a Cooper anthem I've heard too many times to be objective about (and which I'm sure you know anyway), but really is where the Cooper legend began (covered by many, but equaled by none) – it certainly came a long way since its loose-as-hell 11 minute (sometimes bordering on 30) blues-jam origin. After the free-wheeling good-time vibe of "Long Way To Go", the Alice Cooper band crank it up a notch with the nine minute voodoo jam, "Black Juju". This is one of those instances where the band show their free-jazz roots, and their Beefheart-style craziness, but all tempered with their love of the old gothic-styled Universal horror flicks, powered by Michael Bruce's eerie keyboard sounds.
Flip the disc and we've got the even more impressive side two; leading off is the sleazily skanking "Is It My Body?", the dirtiest rock 'n' roll song this side of the Stones' "Stray Cat Blues", with Alice's trademark snarl really cementing its place in rock history – prey to a legion of cover versions. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" follows on, with a Hammond-driven thrust and a sleazy rhythm.
But it's the next two songs that really cement this LP as a bona fide iron-clad rock classic: the sledge-hammer Gothic styles of "Second Coming" (one of the most under-rated of the Cooper band's catalogue) backing on to the jaw-dropping intensity of "The Ballad Of Dwight Frye" – ostensibly a hymn to a to a Hollywood B-movie icon, but in reality the first instance where Alice himself could take on a persona and be executed on stage, based on that actor's roles (in both James Whales' "Frankenstein" and Tod Browning's "Dracula") – on this tour via a rather unrealistic electric chair. The record ends off, sadly, with a jolly cover of Rolf Harris' "Sun Arise", the LP's only low-point – but hey, it's the last song; you could've turned it off by then.
Reasons to buy this album: firstly, Alice in very good voice. Secondly, Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton's fine guitar interplay – particularly on "Second Coming" – it's a revelation, people. Thirdly: the most underrated rhythm section in rock history at their prime – drum-meister Neal Smith and bass-god Dennis Dunaway. Fourthly, the songwriting (tempered through Bob Ezrin's production) is really something else. Sure, it was bettered on "Killer", but it's still pretty fucking impressive right here, with so much to prove at the birth of their career.
All-in-all, "Love It To Death" is one of those LPs that you really should own, a prime slice of Detroit hard-rock that any self-respecting rocker must have.