Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review - Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies

Like most of these deluxe remixes, I haven't listened to the bonus CD more than a couple of times. Yes, I've been suckered into buying this album three times. But that's okay... it's worth three times the cost of most albums.

* * * * * *

The very first CD I purchased was Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies. I wanted my first CD to have superb production, great songs, and be able to blast out of my headphones and this favorite album certainly fit the bill. Fast forward to 2001 and Rhino has just re-released this classic album which has been remastered by the original producer, Bob Ezin... and lucky me just got a great new pair of pro-level headphones for Christmas. The main thing one can hear is greater clarity. Unlike the Beatles Yellow Submarine which was actually remixed, altering the stereo dynamics and instrument levels, this album only underwent a thorough scrubbing, removing the tiny bit of mud that even the top of the line equipment of 1973 added. I even went so far as to do a side-side by comparison using a digital studio on my PC, comparing not only the sounds but the actual sound waves (I know... I need help) and again, there is very little difference between the two releases. But what a difference that little is. The horns on "Elected" and "I Love the Dead" have just an extra bit of oomph and the guitars are just a notch cleaner. The best treat is in store for bass players and drummers because you can now hear the incredibly creative and intense interplay between bassist Dennis Dunaway, possibly one of the most underrated bass players in rock, and drummer Neal Smith. They also fixed the audible tape warp at the beginning of "I Love the Dead" that plagued the original CD release and the guitar on "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is extra-punchy, even in milk.

In addition to the original album are eleven live tracks from the Billion Dollar Babies tour of 1973. This is the first official live release of the original Alice Cooper Band and it's quite evident that they are all first-rate musicians. It's no wonder that the great Randy Rhoads was inspired by the Alice Cooper Band to pick up an instrument. Three more tracks include an early version of "Generation Landslide" with alternate lyrics and other studio outtakes. Almost all of the original artwork of the LP is included (no giant dollar bill) with the CD opening like a wallet and a very extensive booklet. Even the pictures of the band are perforated like the LP so you can punch them out and give them to your mom. My only beef with this project is that the text tends to downplay the members of the band and instead elevates the role of producer Bob Ezrin. Aside from Alice, there is very little in the book from the members of the band talking about the creation or recording of the various songs. But this is a minor complaint in view of how well everything else has been done. It's amazing how well these songs sound after nearly thirty years, a just tribute to the quality of the songwriting and the original members of the Alice Cooper Band.

Rank: Essential for all music lovers

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, March 2001.

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