Saturday, December 08, 2018

Alice Cooper's "Live from the Astroturf"

It was a wish fulfillment gig, and I missed it.

Dennis Dunaway, bassist from the original Alice Cooper Group, had just published a memoir (Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!) and was doing a book signing at Good Records in Dallas. Robert Wilonsky from the Dallas Observer was going to interview Dennis and his bandmates Neal Smith and Michael Bruce, and then they were going to play a short set of faves from their repertoire. Sir Marlin Von Bungy and I were going to go, but then Marlin bailed because he was seeing the real Alice play the following night, and I didn't want to drive to Dallas by myself, so I stayed home.

Then I saw the videos on social media, and kicked myself: Alice showed up and fronted the band. Who saw that coming?

Well, Chris Penn -- Good Records honcho and AC Uberfan -- did; he'd planned to have the show professionally recorded and video'd. Then he crowdfunded an exquisitely packaged Record Store Day LP release, which arrived in my mailbox today. Fifteen-year-old me is in fanboy heaven as I listen to this.

These guys haven't lost a step since 1971, when Love It to Death and Killer, and St. Lester's advocacy for same in the pages of Rolling Stone and Creem, made me a fan. Dennis, Neal, and Michael have continued playing this music in various configurations over the years, with collaborators like the Bouchard brothers of Blue Oyster Cult fame, and NYC based avant-guitarist Nick Didkovsky. (My lead singer from college was once onstage in Houston with Michael, guitarist Richie Scarlet, and Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach.) And Alice has sustained his career, from MOR hits and guest shots on The Hollywood Squares to metal niche longevity.

The singing and playing here are astonishingly muscular, and not just for guys pushing 70. The songwriting is revealed as this band's secret weapon. The spirit of original lead guitarist Glen Buxton, who passed in 1997, hovers over the proceedings, and his latter day successor Ryan Roxie plays his parts and solos with appropriate fervor.

And thanks to Chris Penn, I'm kicking myself again.


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