Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Music Review - Alice Cooper - Muscle of Love

Muscle of Love was released at the end of 1973. That makes a whopping five albums in three years plus a slew of classic hits. The years of constant touring and international success had taken a toll on the boys and they were burned out and egoed up. Glen Buxton was so wasted that he didn't play on this album* and Vince was drinking so much that he was throwing up blood every morning. Their last two albums, School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies were studio projects so for this album they intended to get back to their roots with a stripped down, raw sound. Let It Be anyone? To accompany this raw sound many of the songs are about sex. Even before I became a Christian sex in songs repelled me. As a final blow, longtime producer Bob Ezrin dropped out over disagreements with band members concerning songwriting. How can a band go from "We're the most dangerous, creepy band in the world, selling out stadiums, getting banned in countries" to "Hey, let's have Liza Minelli sing on our album!" and not have jumped the shark?

Unpolished sound + No Bob Ezrin + songs about sex + burned out band = my least favorite Alice Cooper Band album

When it came time to re-review this album it was no surprise to find that I no longer owned it. Once upon a time I had the vinyl version complete with the grease-stained cardboard pizza box packaging but that got damaged in a flood and I never replaced it. I considered buying the download version for $9 from Amazon but opted instead to listen via YouTube. After all, why waste nine bucks on something I'll likely only listen to once or twice in my life? Why not instead spend nine bucks on a Chinese buffet? Mmmmm.... super delicious...

"Big Apple Dreaming" starts the album and, in my brain, is definitely a highlight. Grinding organ, accenting strings, an offbeat melody and a natty guitar riff all combine to make one superb song! This is followed by "Never Been Sold Before," a song about prostitution. Whatever. But this is followed by "Hard Hearted Alice," a song that I remembered enjoying. Hearing it again 10+ years later and I'm quite impressed. The first two minutes is a dreamy organ and acoustic guitar excusion, capturing the snoozy feel of waking up and laying in bed. Then electric guitars, bass and drums enter, driving the same melody toward the catchy chorus and a retro-sounding (well, late sixties) instrumental. After this is "Crazy Little Child," a jazzy story song about gangsters packed with some serious piano playing, horns and even a clarinet solo. Ya know, this album isn't nearly as bad as I remember it. It's not stellar but so far it's not sucky.

Side Two. "Working Up A Sweat." Harmonica, simple song structure, sex theme. Things are getting sucky. Pass. Ditto for "Muscle of Love" sans harmonica asans awesome bass line. "Man With The Golden Gun" was written as theme music for the latest James Bond movie of the same name but it was completed too late for inclusion. It's a fine song, kinda average. "Teenage Lament '74" is another nice but not especially unique song, possibly due to having Liza Minelli as a background singer. Thanks to YouTube I see they have a video. Enjoy! Notice that Glen Buxton isn't seen. My guess is that the barely-shown fifth member is a stand-in. 'Tis sad. And finally, "Woman Machine." I thought I liked this song musically but my opinion now is that there's nothing to it.

And so ends the album and so ends the Alice Cooper band, going out with a relative whimper. For more details on the end of the band, check out Bob Greene's book Billion Dollar Baby.

Rank: Quality but not classic

* And possibly on the last two either.

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