Thursday, September 22, 2016

Music Review - Hollywood Vampires

Cover albums are like live albums to me... one or two listens and I'm good. Still these are pretty interesting covers, as far as covers go.

When I heard that Alice Cooper’s new album was going to be classic rock covers I had no interest, especially after these same covers being the low-light of his most recent concert at the Embassy. But my mind was changed when I read that instead of his current band Mr. Cooper would be flanked by a revolving supergroup, anchored curiously by actor Johnny Depp who incidentally always considered acting a side-gig that allowed him to follow his true love of music. Add in a couple of originals and legendary producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Destroyer by Kiss) at the helm and I couldn’t get my credit card out fast enough.

Called The Hollywood Vampires after the heavy drinking group Cooper was a part of the late seventies, the criteria for playing on the album seems to be having had lost a band member to drugs or alcohol. Many of the original Vampires who have gone early to the grave are honored on the album including singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. The band opens a creepy version of “One”, a Nilsson song made famous by Three Dog Night, that drop-kicks into a seriously heavy groove compliments of Dave Grohl (Nirvana) on drums, quickly sidestepping into a rousing version of “Jump Into The Fire.” “Whole Lotta Love” likewise starts in a manner that is completely different than the original before a proper rendition launches and Cooper hands the microphone off to Brian Johnson (AC/DC) while Joe Walsh (Eagles) joins Depp, Orinathi, Tommy Henriksen, and Bruce Witkin is a six string battle. That’s a whole lotta guitars! At this juncture I’d like to point out how just about every band ever formed since 1970 has tackled this and many of the songs on this album. You’ve heard ‘em yourself. Every now and then it’s been great but more often than not you wish you hadn’t turned down that last beer. Not so with this troop. These seasoned pros have more often than not shared the stage with the bands being honored and are more than capable of rendering fitting tribute. In the case of “Five to One/Break on Through” Robby Krieger plays guitars on the very song he once recorded with Morrison, surpassing the explosive energy of the original, if that’s possible. Not every song is a blistering revision, though. “Come and Get It” is fairly true, with Joe Perry (Aerosmith) on guitars joining Paul McCartney on vocals, Paul McCartney on bass and Paul McCartney on piano. Oh yeah, Paul McCartney was once in band named The Beatles with John Lennon, an original Hollywood Vampire whose song “Cold Turkey” is given a right good sendup on this platter.

Limited space restricts a full exploration of each song so instead peruse this list: “My Generation”, Slash, “Jeepster”, “Manic Depression”, Kip Winger, “Itchycoo Park”, “I Got A Line On You”, Perry Farrell, Zak Starkey. And of course why not throw in a cover of “School’s Out”, but is it a cover if 3/5 of the original band plays on it? Yessir, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway form the powerhouse rhythm section on this one, taking a sudden and delightful detour by mixing in bits of “Another Brick In The Wall” into the “School’s Out” rhythm.

The two original songs are good but standing sonically next to these foundations of rock reveals their limitations. Consider them freebies. While Cooper and many of his pals are well into their sixth decade of life there is no sign of letting up. The energy on these loving renditions is astounding, the sound is modern, and the Hollywood Vampires show no signs of giving up the ghost.

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