Saturday, June 25, 2016

Nick Didkovsky's "Pretties For You Live in NYC" DVD

As I wrote here awhile back, this show took place a couple of weeks after I missed the opportunity to see a set by the original Alice Cooper band (with a ringer in for the late Glen Buxton) at what was supposed to be a Dennis Dunaway book signing at Good Records in Dallas. NYC composer-guitarist-software programmer Nick Didkovsky, mastermind behind the $100 Guitar Project, had assembled a band to play Alice Cooper's underappreciated debut album Pretties For You in its entahrty. I'd been listening to that record (which predated my AC fandom by a couple of years) since Big Mike Richardson presented me with a copy a few months before, so my interest was piqued. When I heard the show was available on DVD, I rushed to order a copy, and it arrived in my mailbox today. (You can get one here.)

Didkovsky's work ranges from metal to experimental music to state-of-the-art music software programming, but for the Pretties For You project, he concentrated on learning and playing Glen Buxton's lead guitar parts. Michael Bruce's parts were split between guitarist Nick Oddy and keyboardist-vocalist Adam Minkoff. The rhythm section was the father and son team of drummer Glenn Johnson (a Detroit expat who gigs relentlessly with New Jersey rock and blues bands) and bassist Max Johnson (who's made waves on the NYC jazz scene), while lead vocals were handled by Paul Bertolino, who fronts the Ezrin-era AC tribute band My Stars. The PFY project benefited from the involvement and support of original Cooper band members Dunaway and Neal Smith, who helped decipher lyrics and provided advice on the AC band's equipment.

Both AC alumni were present for the performance, which capped a week-long Didkovsky residency at John Zorn's club The Stone. It's a small room, and the three-camera shoot gives the DVD a jam-room intimacy. While PFY was critically dismissed and generally ignored at the time of its release -- the band's theatrical image giving some the false impression that they couldn't play -- the song structures are complex and demanding, almost progressive, and it's a pleasure to watch Didkovsky and company tear into them with joyful abandon. Bertolino has the look of Love It To Death-era Alice down, and he and Minkoff blend their voices perfectly. Glenn Johnson's powerhouse drumming is a particular delight, but really, everyone is stupendous.

For old AC fans, the biggest treat comes at the end of the set, when Dunaway joins the band onstage, singing "Nobody Likes Me" -- an early AC number that was performed at the 1969 Toronto Rock & Roll Revival and subsequently bootlegged -- and strapping on the bass for "You Drive Me Nervous" from Killer. Bonus materials include soundcheck versions of several of the tunes, and an encore version of another Killer track, "Halo of Flies." PFY Live in NYC is a great example of rock as repertory, bringing a neglected album to life with a stunning, spirited performance that elevates the material with crackling energy. Highly recommended.


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