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Alice goes Elton
on 27 August 2014
For this fourth album as a solo artist, in 1978, Alice Cooper parted company with long time producer, Bob Ezrin, and co-wrote the album with Elton John’s co-writer, Bernie Taupin. New producer, David Foster, was an odd choice, and would go on to produce the likes of Celine Dion, Air Supply, Barbara Streisand and Andrea Bocelli. This team delivered a third album in a row of mixed results for Alice.
After releasing ‘Lace & Whisky’, Cooper had been treated for alcoholism in a sanitarium. This provided the inspiration for the thematic version of hell for this outing. Instead of characters in the netherworld, or the nightmare of an alcoholic stupor, or even the tortured souls of a film noir private detective, we have the stories of patients in an asylum. Yet, to call it a personal, introspective record would be a mistake. It remains heavy on theatrics and characters.
While the subject matter connects better with the original trademark style of the Alice Cooper band and ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ much better than the Muppetsy lightweight approach on ‘Goes to Hell’ or the neurotically eccentric world of ‘Lace & Whisky’, it is lessened by the influence of Taupin. His piano-heavy style weighs on this effort, bringing it again and again closer to the middle of the road and to less interesting arrangements and song structures than Cooper had previously established on all his other albums. At times, you can almost imagine Elton singing the songs, so echoey of his sound are some of the melody lines (in particular, ‘Jackknife Johnny’ and ‘Wish I Was Born in Beverly Hills’).
High points are the stellar, rocking, opening title track, the eerie ‘The Quiet Room’ which ruminates on suicide, the ear-worm of the risqué rocking ‘Nurse Rosetta’, about a priest who has succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh, and the famous ballad, ‘How You Gonna See Me Now’. ‘Millie an Billie’, a love song about two murderers who seemingly killed their children, is another interesting moment.
It’s hard not to think that Bob Ezrin would have helped make the classic Cooper subject matter on this album come to life and reflect the ‘sickness’ and vaudevillian theatre in its lyrics. As it is, in the hands of Taupin and Foster, it all falls a little flat.