Paranormal by Alice CooperRelease date: July 28, 2017
Alice Cooper shows no sign of stopping. He’s been around since day one in the mid-‘60s and showing the love of The Kinks, Elvis, The Beatles, The Who, and early Pink Floyd in his music. Now for me, I’ve admired Alice’s music after watching him in a compilation video of The Muppet Show in 1985 from Playhouse Video entitled, Rock Music with the Muppets and they showed two of his numbers; ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ and ‘School’s Out’. And my life changed forever as a young kid being in awe of not just his theatrical work, but his music.
This year, he’s released his 27th studio album entitled Paranormal on the earMUSIC label and this is Alice at his best bringing the nightmare back into action with the hard rock, ‘50s music, heavy metal, and ‘60s garage rock rolled into one of the biggest blenders. You can close your eyes and imagine him going back into the roots of his golden-era of the 1970s for the master to kick the door down again with a vengeance.
Not to mention the admirers including Rob Zombie, Twisted Sister, Ramones, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd, and Bob Dylan who described Alice Cooper in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in January 26, 1978 story, “I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked singer.” And Alice is still having the great sense of humor that he still has. He brought along people including Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, U2’s Larry Mullen, & ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. And the original Alice Cooper band who were with him from Pretties for You to Muscle of Love.
Despite his love of horror films, radio host, and his love of golf to name a few, Paranormal just took me by complete surprise. You have the opening title-track which starts out with an eerie guitar introduction turned into a fanfare sound of a deserted western town as it transforms into an overture-sque rumble. The spirit of a ghost is watching your every step in the house with the lyrics “My shadow has a life of its own/Watching you while you’re sleeping alone.”
It does have this Spaghetti Western/Ennio Morricone flavor turned into a spectacular journey thanks to the guitar styles by Tommy Denander and Tommy Henriksen which has this thrash/Muse-like sound from the Black Holes & Revelations-era for a few brief seconds. ‘Dead Flies’ is straight out of the Billion Dollar Babies session and its back to 1973 all over again. The song deals with the people who you worship, show their skeletons in the closet behind the scene as they are corrupt, evil, sinister, and betray you right in front of your eyes and taking everything that you hold dear. Alice is describing that scenario and sending a powerful message in the song and important about dealing with the situation and letting the listener know, there are some creeps and crooks you do not want to go near and they will pull the rug under you.
‘Paranoiac Personality’ is a subject dealing with the Jekyll & Hyde exploration on schizophrenia. You can imagine yourself going back into the mental institution and trying to find out who is telling the truth and who isn’t. Jimmie Lee Sloas’ bass introduction makes you walk into the hospital and knowing the pin drop is hitting the exact moment that you will have be face to face with the split personality of the person right in front of your eyes while the guitars go through a hint of madness both in the rhythm and lead riffs.
‘Dynamite Road’ has this ‘50s rockabilly/psychobilly sound as Alice is describing the background of a rock-n-roll band riding in the banged-up Cadillac in the moonlight. Deander and Henriksen create the scenario of what happens next before they crash into an untimely death except for the singer. As one of the singers is bandaged up in a lonely holding cell, he asks the devil why he had to do the unthinkable instead of killing him.
It’s kind of an oddball song like something straight out of a crossover between Ren & Stimpy and the Fleischer cartoons, but with an attitude! On ‘Holy Water’, Alice brings in the gospel with a hard rock style! Again, Alice’s humor is still there and it shows that he’s having a ball. Guitar and horn section share the riff melody. And Alice’s nod to the Vaudeville of the 1930s along with a nod of Welcome to my Nightmare’s ‘Some Folks’, but with a heavier attitude.
Closing track, ‘The Sound of A’ feels as if Steven, the character from the concept album of Alice’s eighth studio album on Welcome to my Nightmare is coming back for more. The organ that producer Bob Ezrin, who worked with Alice on his previous work in the 1970s, knows that that the time is near an end of the noises will haunt Steven ever more. Alice sings “The sound of A will keep you down/with that peculiar sound/It will shoot into your brain/And remain…yeah yeah yeah.”
Now the bonus disc contains six live performances in which Alice and his band performed last year on May 6th at Columbus, Ohio. But the real treat are two bonus tracks featuring band members of the original Alice Cooper band; Michael Bruce on guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass, and Neal Smith on drums. The song ‘Genuine American Girl’ is the band delving into a metallic style of the ‘50s doo-wop sound describing of a young girl, being the true American.
Showing her love and support that she’s getting as a bona fide beauty and pure feminism. The track is very catchy ‘While You and All Your Friends’ begins with Neal’s tidal wave drumming a-la surf rock style for a brief second and it shows that Alice is not giving up and never letting go of the rope that he’s holding on to.
It deals with now the timing on the rock stars who lived both in the late ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s are at a point, that it’s time to retire, but Alice isn’t one of them. He still has the spark of electricity in his pocket and he’s never letting it go. The Paranomal album took me a few listens to. Is it Alice’s finest? No, but it shows he still has more tricks up his sleeve. So be prepared for more of the Snakes, Errol Flynn’s Sword, and the Guillotines to be sharpened and cleaned up for more of Alice’s Paranormal. And I would love end the review with a quote by the late great Robin Williams, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”