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on 3 March 2013
Why did nobody tell me that Alice Cooper was like this? This album, the songs, the production belongs in the world of prog, like Ziggy Stardust, the Doors or Hawkwind. This album sports sinister screams and yelling crowd sound effects, 8 minute songs with spanish scales, and didgeridoo like guitar sounds. It has a Doors tribute, which sees Alice mimic Jim Morrison's delivery to tell the story of a sinister gunman, while Dead Babies gets a weight and menace from strings and a horn section. For years I was most familiar the heavy metal side of Alice, with tracks like Hey Stoopid. (Though I have to say the Alice Cooper: Trashes the World [DVD] is a blast and a great show). Then I picked up Billion Dollar Babies, just to find out that it plays like Pink Floyd's the Wall with a better sense of humour. It can't be a coincidence that Bob Ezrin produced both albums (and Killer too).

Killer is great album, with a menace and style. It mostly eschews the gothic macabre we normally associate with Alice for a western movie influence. This album has layers and cleverness. There is the gunman who envies his victims the peace he won't have himself and an attack on child neglect in the form a of gothic horror story. It also rocks, blasting off with Under My Wheels, which reminds me a lot of Suffragette City, right down to the sax solo. You Drive Me Nervous which kicks off side two, feels like a tough little garage rocker and wouldn't be out of place on a more modern album. The title track, rounds off the whole album with one of those fuzzy melodic guitar solos that you can just lose yourself in. That's what is great about seventies guitar music. It could be indulgent, but it was also an indulgence.

I have realised I was disappointed by the recent Along Came A Spider, not because it was bad, but because really it is a heavy metal album, that had no interest in the orchestral touches and garage rock punch of the early Alice Cooper Band material. But it's precisely those sort of albums that grow on me. I like to peel back the layers, hear the details. Concept albums also seem to work better when you don't lean on the concept too hard. I enjoy Bob Ezrin's softer touch on the production and am looking forward to seeing what he does Deep Purple's Now What ?! this April.

A few words about the medium. This vinyl pressing is a modern Warner/Rhino Remaster, apparently from the original master tapes. It's 180g and surprisingly free from any crackles and skips (a relief to a member of the digital generation like myself). The artwork looks great too. My turntable is nothing special, but the mix sounds clear and weighty to me. I expect a better machine could make even more of it.

So, if like me you have picked up the famous Alice Cooper albums and are wondering if this early period is for you, I'd say give it a try. If you know what you are looking at and fancy a vinyl copy of this album, I can thoroughly recommend.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2012
Alice Cooper's fourth album marks the bands move from trippy late 60s rock and early 70s garage rock into a territory all of their own, incorporating a multitude of genres, themes, and ideas and giving it all the now trademark gruesome, dangerous Alice twist. The eight songs contain classic all out rockers, inventive ballads, and one mini progressive masterpiece. Controversial and misunderstood at the time it has since been recognized as a great album but inexplicably still misses out on being a critic's darling. Here Alice cemented himself (before he was known as a mostly solo artist) as a highly influential, clever, but ultimately underrated songwriter. His lyrics rage from sharp, cutting into some issues which no-one else would dare touch, to witty, to touching all rounded with innuendo and imagery. The music is full with famous guitar riffs, bluesy and hard in some parts, tender and...pretty in others and some songs show an expanse of instruments and musical ideas- everything is coherent. If you don't know much about Alice or where to start, pick this- it is still their best album, an untouched, rotten gem.

`Under My Wheels' gives the album an explosive intro and within a few seconds it is clear that the band have grown into a different beast from how they appear on previous albums. This is a straightforward commercial rock song which recalls the American hits of the 50s but with that vitriolic Cooper twist. Catchy, with superb guitar solos and riffs, and with some smooth brass parts, it is a strong first track which sets the tone for the album in that the songs are less complicated and confused than previous releases.

`Be My Lover' continues the commercial vibe being filled with catchy melodies and powered by a classic rock riff. There are the usual lyrical witticisms from the band including a smart and funny precursor to Floyd's `By the way, which one's Pink?' The song is notably short meaning there is no filler, yet there is time for a slowing down and crashing finale which leads fittingly into the next track.

`Halo Of Flies' is the epic of the album and stands out still as the best epic the group has recorded in any incarnation. Even though this was a bit of a joke song about trying to copy Progressive bands, Cooper manage to outdo said bands and indeed set the bar for all those hit epics to come- Bohemian Rhapsody, Stairway To Heaven etc. With a mammoth instrumental introduction which moves swiftly through many of the songs various phases, Alice eventually starts to sing over a nursery rhyme style rhythm with an oriental flavour. Before long this shifts to a galloping section with several inspired breaks before speeding up for mad rock middle. We follow this up with lovely strings parts and bouncy riffs as the band show that they can do prog better than anyone. As this section can only go so far the band lets the song crumble into chaos as the instruments, melodies, and ideas all get mashed together for a bizarre, fantastic, and truly Alice ending.

`Desperado' is one of the great quiet Cooper songs with one of their best riffs leading the way. With a Wild West feel and lyrics about drunken outlaws, this is in many ways the lead track from the album. It tells the lonely story of a killer struggling through life and justifying his action to those meets, all the while giving a wry synopsis of his soon to be victim's final moments. The guitar part is gorgeous and the string parts add greatly to the soothing nature, juxtaposed by Cooper's screamed vocals.

`You Drive Me Nervous' brings the album back up to speed with a sleazy number more akin to what we expect from Alice. Once again the melodies are catchy and the chorus is one which will be drilled into head. It's another short track but not a moment is wasted and if anything it feels more like an early punk song.

`Yeah Yeah Yeah' follows in the same vein except it has a slightly softer core. The comedy lyrics are still there, clever as always, but there is more heart to what is written here. This could well be the catchiest song on the album and it's one of those songs that I swear I already knew the first time I'd heard it. We even get a harmonica solo in the middle to play off the main riff.

`Dead Babies' leads us into more familiar dark Alice territory- taking a subject matter that no-one else would dare cover and making a wonderful singalong song out of it. The bass riff is one of the best of all time- instantly memorable and truly chilling especially given the lyrics and themes surrounding it. Any controversy surrounding the song misses the point of the lyrics- that bad parents are often to blame for these tragedies. The chorus has a great melody but is it one you would want to scream along to- I guess that's where a large part of the dark humour comes from.

`Killer' is the experimental ending to the album, one which opens with strange effects and meshing tunes before a couple of twirling lead parts come to the fore. Cooper sings this one with a deeper, cleaner voice in man place, saving his trademarks only for certain moments. I'd say that this is the weakest track on the album as, unlike Halo Of Flies, the various sections of the song don't gel together as well as they should. That said, some of those parts are terrific and it concludes the story of the album, although I'm not sold on all the screaming parts in the middle of the song (before the excellent funeral dirge part).

I would usually recommend would be Alice fans to go for one of the Greatest Hits collections as there they will get his most well known and commercial tracks but also get exposed in an easier fashion to some of his lesser known, darker, album material. If pointing towards any one album I would send them this way rather than the experimentalism of School's Out, the 80s of Trash, or anywhere else. This features some of their standout hits as well as some of their darkest material and their epics and experiments. This is the best album from one of the most criminally misunderstood bands in the world, and as such is a most in any rock collection.
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on 10 July 2005
I'm a young Alice fan, first attracted by 'Wayne's World' and seeing repeats of 'Schools Out' on the BBCs Top of the Pops 2. So, like the heathen I am, I feel more inclined to rave about the later albums - and I do love 'Trash' best of all. Sometimes, whilst appreciating the quality and ground-breaking nature of albums like 'Love it to Death', it can be difficult to love them as much as you think you should when you didn't live through the era - when you're used to Alice's snarling vocals and hard rock, not to mention fantastic recording quality, some of the earlier albums are harder to get to grips with. But 'Killer' is the one early album that I would recommend any new fan buys. It's hard rock. It's teenage angst ( I was 18 when I bought it...I prefer 'You Drive Me Nervous' to 'I'm Eighteen', classic though the latter might be) It's the sinister side of Alice in full force. I think more than any other early albums it shows the way Alice Cooper will develop. 'Under My Wheels' is a great rockin' track and a staple of his live shows even now. 'Dead Babies' is also a necessity to own if you've ever heard it live. My other faves are 'Be My Lover' and (one of my favourite ever Alice tracks)'Desperado', both great musically and lyrically and fantastic to sing along to. Even if you like 'Trash' and 'Dragontown' better than 'School's Out' and 'Billion Dollar Babies' you should own 'Killer'. It's the sort of album Alice could release now and, if you excuse the (in my opinion) weaker vocals and slightly tinny sound, it wouldn't be out of place. All Alice Cooper fans should own this album. To me it defines what Alice was at the time and marks out the path for what he would become - truly great.
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on 8 February 2004
I first bought this back in 1972. They looked the sickest most demented bunch of Dudes I had ever seen. I knew I was buying the most dangerous band rock had to offer at the time but I didn't think I was buying the finest album I would ever hear.
Under My Wheels kicks off, an scream of a song but it is pure foreplay for the delectable Be My Lover a piece of voyeuristic cabaret penned solely by guitarist Michael bruce and given the Mae West "come up and see me some time " treatment by Alice. This leads into Halo Of Flies the band's "progressive song" which is actually 4 songs in one. All galloping guitars and shimmering percussion it's a journy of espionage and intrigue which has Alice even mimmicking Julie Andrews a la Sound Of Music. Desparado has beautiful opening chords and is to this day my all time favourite rock ballad.
You Drive Me Nervous does just that and Alice's vocal on Yeah Yeah Yeah would have Daltry bursting a blood vessel & Jagger throwing up.
The stagepiece is Dead Babies a truly harrowing tale of parental neglect which musically owes most Denis Dunaway's heavy bassline. The crowd demand Alice be hanged but it is Alice Cooper who are passing sentence. The days of the peace & love generation were numbered for that matter there was a time bomb ticking under civilisation.
The finale & title track sees Alice hanging, hanging but triumphant, triumphant & unassailable. There were Peter Pans out there. Now there was a Captain Hook. The summer of love went on too long then it rained forever. Alice Cooper had arrived.
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on 28 April 2000
For me this HAS to be the best cooper album.Written at a time when they had reached their songwriting capabilities without sacrificing their early rawness for me this album is essential listening,opening with the classic UNDER MY WHEELS this album just rocks like a beast and even with the slower numbers like DEAD BABIES the intensity is still there.Although after this album the band became a huge household name I don`t think they ever topped this album. Granted BILLION DOLLAR BABIES was a great album too I still think this was the Cooper band at thier best. A raw rock n roll band before all the gimmicks & stage props began to take over.I don`t think I can recommend this album enough.
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on 28 September 2000
Without a doubt the greatest Alice Cooper album ever made. Every song on this record is a classic and sets the way for all that followed. Each song is a nail in the coffin of the hippy generation and the turning point in rock music. High energy, raw power and great,sometimes shocking lyrics put this in my all time top ten albums. No Alice fan could live without this record and no rock fan should.
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on 8 April 2006
I first came across Alice Cooper (the band) in the US when I was on a school trip in 1971. All the American kids were banging on about this great new band, Alice Cooper, so I bought "Love it to Death" and brought it home with me. All the kids at school thought it was great so we were all into Alice before he broke in the UK.
But "Killer" was the one that really made it happen for Alice in Britain. Me and my mates got tickets for the Killer tour at Wembley (1972, I think) and we sat bored while the unknown support band (Roxy Music) went through their set. But when Alice came on it was like that moment in Wizard of Oz where the movie goes from black-and-white to Technicolour. Alice Cooper was a stadium band and they just blew Roxy music out of the water.
Alice's astonishing stage act had a gallows on stage and after "Dead Babies" and the album's title track, Alice was judged guilty, dragged up to the gallows and hanged on stage in front of eight thousand gob-smacked fans. Amazing!
I took my teenage daughter (and my reluctant wife - she's a soul/disco queen) to see Metallica a couple of years back, and though they are exemplary musicians, probably the best rock band in the business, there still wasn't the sense of drama that Alice brought to his concerts.
Anyway, buy this album! You won't find a better range of songs on any of his albums (nor on most rock albums) - with the possible exception of "Welcome to My Nightmare".
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on 17 February 2003
This is the earliest of Alice Cooper's albums that I own, and to all intents and purposes shows where his music evolves from. Each of his albums seems to have a theme, this one's being the shadier side of life, combining songs about spies (Halo Of Flies), about murderers (Killer), and about the unsavoury subject of child mortalities (Dead Babies).
The albums production is good, there is no doubt about that, and I would have given it 5 stars were it not for Desperado, which, considering the pace and themes of the rest of the songs, doesn't seem to fit in very well. Aside from that, all the songs are superb, with his band both showing off their ability to turn the most unsuitable topics into very catchy songs that you will soon be singing, and their sheer musical talent. Halo Of Flies was written simply to raise the middle finger to the critics, who were (at the time it was written) complaining that the band was all about vulgar stage-shows and had a severe lack of talent. This song certainly proves them wrong, and the album as a whole is simply superb.
I would advise anyone trying to sample early Alice Cooper to buy both Killer and School's Out (1971 and 1972 respectively), since they are both superb early albums, with a great mix of songs on both, and they will make a steady foundation to build your collection upon, too!
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on 8 October 2010
Killer is a direct follow on from Love It to Death, not narratively but in essence. Love It.. was the band's first real stab at the big time and it worked perfectly. There were still the avant garde tracks that they revel in like 'Black Juju' but for the first time since their debut the songs started to resonate because they were structured differently for a radio-friendly (ish) market by Bob Ezrin. Killer does not really deviate from that format.

2 classics hit you at the very beginning. 'Under My Wheels' and 'Be My Lover' are strangely perennial. They sound dated but are so good that they seem current, a bit like 'School's Out' as an anthem that has stood the test of time. 'Halo of Flies' is a difficult one. Like 'Black Juju' on the previous album, it has it's merits but goes on for so long with many time and key changes that it doesn't sound as coherent as the rest. I'm all for experimental but it has to have some musical integrity and technique. It's ok but not really a classic. Which is a shame as it is wrapped up in classics. 'Desperado' is another one of those lesser-known slices of early AC perfection. It comes over as a country music track in content but plain old rock in practice.

'You Drive Me Nervous' is an ok track, a bit of fun but no real hooks to entice the listener. 'Yeah, Yeah, Yeah' is better without rising to the rank of 'classic'. 'Dead Babies' is another frequently overlooked classic. It does resort to a tiny bit of mid-song noodling but not to the extent that others have. Despite that it is a monster of a song with a literally killer chorus. 'Killer' the song is unfortunately a disappointing, overlong, very 'Halo of Flies'-ish track.

A classic, the second of the band's career. After this they changed tack again and almost reverted to the craziness of their debut with School's Out. But Killer still stands head and shoulders above most albums of the time and today.
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on 28 June 2009
Featuring the 'famous five' of Cooper, Smith, Dunaway, Buxton and Bruce, this 1971 follow-up to the sublime "Love It To Death" is a fine album that contains more of the wonderful invention and melodic know-how of its predecessor.

The poppish "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover" are followed by the superb "Halo Of Flies", a track full of interesting chord structures and musical diversity. "Desperado", "You Drive Me Nervous" and, less so, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" continue the demonstration of how good rock songs should be written, arranged and performed. However, it is the final two tracks that stand out for me. The irresistible "Dead Babies" (with its memorable chorus) leading into the title track - the closing "Killer" is proof that the band veered towards prog during this period.

These five men produced an audio chemistry that was unique in the Alice Cooper canon and the band was never the same after 1973. This CD is not a remaster and does not feature any bonus tracks but I still thoroughly recommend it - a truly remarkable album full of musical promise that is mostly fulfilled.
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