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Updated by Love It Loud on Jun 19, 2014
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Top Ten Alice Cooper Albums

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE

Following the release of the anticlimactic Muscle of Love in 1974, the Alice Cooper band faced a conflict of interests over their future. With the eponymous frontman hoping to expand the theatrics and outdo their already-outrageous back catalogue, while the remaining members wanted to return to their stripped-down roots, the group split so each artist could pursue their own solo ventures. For Alice Cooper, who was still bound to a contract to Warner Bros., a loophole that stipulated they could work with other labels on soundtracks prompted both Cooper and Bob Ezrin, his long-suffering producer, to develop a central concept for their next project. Welcome to My Nightmare, which was released through Atlantic Records the following year, was based around the story of a young child called Steven and his journey though a never-ending nightmare. In order to meet the requirements of a soundtrack, a TV special was produced in which each of the thirteen tracks was adapted into a short film, with horror legend Vincent Price reprising his appearance from the album. Welcome to My Nightmare took the concept of Alice Cooper to a new level, and the subsequent tour would become the star’s most elaborate and successful to date, while the ballad Only Women Bleed would introduce Cooper to a more respectable audience.

LOVE IT TO DEATH

While 1970’s Easy Action had been an improvement on their debut, Alice Cooper’s sophomore album was still unsuccessful in both capturing the band’s theatrical stage show and somehow finding sophisticated songs underneath the noise. After a failed attempt to land the services of acclaimed producer Jack Richardson, they were introduced to his protégé, Bob Ezrin. Having yet to prove himself as a producer in his own right, Ezrin attended one of Alice Cooper’s shows and sensed that somewhere among all the chaos and insanity were a group of gifted songwriters who had yet to find their voice. After subjecting the musicians to months of gruelling practises, in which they worked closely with Ezrin in developing their own unique sound, Alice Cooper entered the studio to record their third album, Love it to Death. With the exception of closing number Sun Arise, an unexpected cover of Australian singer and future TV personality Rolf Harris, the remaining eight tracks were written by Cooper, guitarist Michael Bruce and bassist Dennis Dunaway, while both Is It My Body and their first hit, I'm Eighteen, would be group efforts. ‘After we recorded Love it to Death in Chicago, we sat in the studio and listened to the album,’ explained Cooper in his autobiography Golf Monster. ‘It sounded like the first real Alice Cooper album.’

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES

With 1972’s School’s Out having become an anti- authoritative anthem, adding further appeal to their young fan base, Alice Cooper took a satirical look at their new found celebrity status with their next album, Billion Dollar Babies. Having moved to Los Angeles just a few years earlier to find themselves homeless and sleeping wherever they were welcome, the band were now flying from one show to another in luxury jets and booking into five-star hotels. Teaming up with Ezrin for the fourth time, the album would include some of their most famous tunes, such as No More Mr. Nice Guy, Elected and the title track, which would include guest vocals from Donovan, best known for his own hits Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. Opening with a cover of Rolf Kempf's Hello Hooray, originally released five years earlier by Judy Collins, Billion Dollar Babies was littered with references to the new superstar status of the group and the media’s obsession with them, with Cooper snarling, ‘I’m your top prime meat, I’m your choice,’ before later declaring, ‘I got no friends ‘cause they read the papers, they can’t be seen with me.’ Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, who would become regular collaborators with Cooper when he first launched his solo career, offered their services during the sessions, allegedly due to the poor health of guitarist Glen Buxton.

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KILLER

KILLER

Love it to Death could proved to be a one-hit-wonder for Alice Cooper, following two early disappointments, yet their reputation would continue to grow with their fourth release, the appropriately-titled Killer. Released the same months as such heavyweights like Led Zeppelin IV and Elton John's Madman Across the Water, Killer embraced the progressive rock sound of the era with arguably their most underrated track Halo of Flies which, at almost eight-and-a-half minutes, allowed each of the five members their own moment in the spotlight. ‘Killer is the best rock album ever made,’ stated John Lydon, who auditioned for the Sex Pistols by performing to Cooper’s I’m Eighteen on a jukebox. The album was not without its hit singles, with Be My Lover, Desperado and opening track Under My Wheels all enjoying moderate success, while the finale of Dead Babies caused some controversy due to its lyrical content and unsubtle title. To the band, both the album and the subsequent tour represented a significant step forward. ‘Killer totally captured the imagination of the public and embodied everything we had been working toward up until then,’ said Cooper in his 1976 autobiography Me, Alice. ‘It was a moralistic, dramatic statement, a masterpiece of shock and revenge, the first dramatized rock and roll show with a story concept.’

FROM THE INSIDE

During the mid-1970s, Cooper had become notorious for his heavy drinking, even being a founding member of the Hollywood Vampires, a group of celebrities whose indulgences sadly resulted in several premature deaths. Finding himself waking up and vomiting blood while touring his 1977 album Lace and Whiskey, his wife Sheryl and manager Shep Gordon staged an intervention, admitting Cooper into a sanitarium near New York. It would be during his time at the Corner Medical Center that Cooper would find inspiration for what was to become his most personal album to date, From the Inside. Written with drinking friend and Elton John’s regular collaborator Bernie Taupin, the songs that made up the record were mostly semi-autobiographical, with the title track a comment on how his partying soon took a dark turn, ‘At first we laughed about it, my long-haired drunken friends. Proposed a toast to Jimi's ghost, I never dreamed that I would wind up on the losing end.’ Elsewhere, other songs on From the Inside portrayed the other patients at the institution, while The Quiet Room documented his time in what was ostensibly a padded cell (‘My confidant, I have confessed my life. The Quiet Room knows more about me than my wife’). Cooper’s exploits on From the Inside were later adapted by Marvel into a one-off comic, published the following year.

THE LAST TEMPTATION

After the phenomenal success of his true comeback album Trash in 1989, followed by 1991’s Hey Stoopid, Alice Cooper wisely avoided working with professional songwriters in an effort to craft a collection of hit singles and instead returned to telling a central story, this time marking the return of Steven, who is seduced by the mysteries a travelling sideshow. Incorporating a style reminiscent of his 1970s output, while also working with such contemporary artists as Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater, The Last Temptation was Cooper’s most focused album for almost twenty years, not merely being an attempt to gain radio and MTV airplay and instead returning to his earlier attitude of producing a strong record with a clear concept. In some ways, the album saw Cooper returning to the self-referential tone of From the Inside, with the theme of the album being a young man tempted by the glamour and promise of stardom, something that Cooper had become a victim of during the late 1970s. ‘The parallel story is how the devil comes and tries to tempt Christ in the wildness,’ explained Cooper shortly after the album’s release. ‘It’s the same thing with the showman tempting the young boy. ‘Here, I’ll give you this lifestyle. I’ll give you this woman. All you have to do is join the circus.’’ The concept for The Last Temptation was developed alongside Neil Gaiman, best known for creating the DC Comics series The Sandman, who would develop a three-part graphic novel to coincide with the album's release.

HEY STOOPID

Trash had provided Cooper with his biggest hit in over a decade and had introduced him to the mainstream once again, a new generation of rock and metal fans who had grown up on bands influenced by his style. Yet the production, courtesy of professional songwriter Desmond Child, was considered by some to be a little too bland and lacking in the aggression of its predecessor, Raise Your Fist and Yell. Once again adopted the idea of working with outside songwriters and a host of guest musicians who were the cream of the crop, 1991's Hey Stoopid would build on the foundations of Trash, boasting several hit singles while also experimenting with different styles. The title track was a reaction against accusations levelled at many rock stars, particularly Cooper, Judas Priest and former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne (who provided backing vocals), stating that their music had played a role in influencing young fans to commit suicide. Yet despite the serious tone of some of the songs, Cooper maintained that the album was intended to be an enjoyable and light-hearted experience. ‘First of all, the album is a summer album,’ he told Hard and Heavy's Jim Ladd in 1991. It was gonna be called Stay Stoopid, but then we wrote this song for the single; we realised that Sting was doing his best to save the Amazon, lots of people were saving whales and saving this and that. I thought it was a good idea to save some of the rockers, because we're getting a lot of fan mail that says, 'I'm fifteen, my dad is an alcoholic and my mom is a crack salesman and I'm ready to kill myself.''

ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL

While Alice Cooper had everything to prove with Welcome to My Nightmare, his first album after the demise of his band, its phenomenal success proved to be something of a double-edged sword. He had cemented his reputation as a bona fide rock star, while also enjoying regular airplay with Only Women Bleed, yet the never-ending tour that followed would take a considerable toll on Cooper’s physical and mental state. Perhaps as a blatant cry for help, he chose to name his next offering Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, as his excessive drinking and nonstop touring were sending the twenty-eight-year-old towards an early grave. Once again referencing the character of Steven, the album was once again developed under the direction of Bob Ezrin, whose influence had become an integral part of Cooper’s sound. While lyrically the album was less confessional than From the Inside, Cooper still bared his soul during some of the more sincere moments, stating on Guilty that he, ‘Just tried to have fun, raised hell and then some. I’m a dirt talking, beer drinking, woman chasing minister’s son.’ The album’s standout moment was the ballad I Never Cry, where he declared, ‘My heart’s a virgin, it ain’t never been tried.’ As a reference to his regular drinking troupe, Cooper’s backing band on Goes to Hell (which included Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner and Ezrin) were dubbed the Hollywood Vampires.

WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE

‘I’m currently working on Welcome to My Nightmare Part II,’ claimed Cooper in a 1984 interview with Kerrang!, less than a year after his career had stalled following the poor reception to his unfocused-yet-underrated latest offering DaDa. ‘The Alice Cooper character reawakens ten years later after all this punk and new wave thing’s been here, all these odd-looking people, and this is his reaction.’ Instead, Cooper decided to embrace the hair metal scene of the mid-1980s with his successful comeback album Constrictor, although its accompanying tour would be referred to as The Nightmare Returns. It would take a further twenty-seven years before a true sequel to his solo debut would be released, yet Cooper would defy all expectations by delivering a worthy successor to his original masterpiece. Welcome 2 My Nightmare would not only reunite Cooper with his original band (minus Buxton, who sadly passed away in 1997), but also return to the character of Steven, the protagonist of the original Nightmare who has occasionally made an appearance in Cooper’s later work. His new nightmare would see Steven reluctantly falling asleep and travelling through a nightmarish landscape, only to discover that he has died. Reuniting Cooper with Ezrin, the album would also see cameos from former collaborators Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner and Kip Winger, as well as Rob Zombie, guitarist John 5 and pop star Ke$ha.

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DADA

DADA

It seems ironic that perhaps Alice Cooper’s most nightmarish and unpredictable album is also one of the few that both fans and Cooper himself often dismiss as being below par and even at times unlistenable. It is true that by this point Cooper had lost touch with his audience, having delivered two uninspired albums in a row, while his drink had once again taken over his life. Cooper has referred to this era as his ‘blackout years,’ due to that time being lost in a drunken haze. ‘My relapse put me back in the fog. As a result, I made four albums I hardly remember writing, recording or touring on,’ he confessed in Golf Monster. 'You’ve heard of lost weekends – well, those were my lost years. I ambled through those albums and tours in a foggy haze.’ Cooper had retained a certain pop sensibility and sense of humour in even his lesser work, but with DaDa there was a disturbing element at work in the background, although it was sugar-coated in a cynical wit. With Ezrin having been absent since 1977's Lace and Whiskey, he tried hard to salvage Cooper's fledging career, and while the result was in no way a true return to form, there is something underneath all the confusion that hints towards his earlier genius. Although many critics were eager to dismiss the album as an utter disappointment, Kerrang! clearly saw the moments of inspiration that were littered throughout; ‘His tongue-in-cheek sick sense of humour is brilliantly to the fore in the lyrics here, whether he’s moaning at his dad (Enough’s Enough) or wondering about his deceased (?) brother locked upstairs (in Former Lee Warmer).' The satirical I Love America remains one of Cooper’s brightest moments from this dark time of his career.