Alice Cooper must be one of a very rare breed in rock ‘n’ roll. Having now written and released music across seven different decades, I bet if you polled his fanbase for their favourite era or albums, the results would probably encompass most, if not all, of his many different career phases.
Me personally, I love the original Alice Cooper band albums (along with some of his mid and later era albums like ‘Special Forces’ and ‘Dirty Diamonds’) and of those records, it’s ‘Killer’ and ‘School’s Out’ that are my own go-to’s whenever I truly need to rekindle my love of Alice’s extensive back catalogue.
This rather conveniently brings me to ‘Detroit Stories’, an album that not only sees Alice return to his hometown and Alice Cooper band era roots, but also sees him fully reunited with producer Bob Ezrin, the man behind the desk for both of those old Alice Cooper band records I love so much.
Written and recorded using only Detroit based musicians (albeit with the exception of guest guitarists Joe Bonamassa and current AC band mainstay Tommy Henriksen) the fifteen songs that make up ‘Detroit Stories’ are what Alice himself refers to as being ‘Pure Detroit’. With the crack team of musicians assembled around him boasting the likes of Wayne Kramer (guitarist with the MC5), Johnny ‘Bee’ Badanjek (drummer with the legendary Detroit Wheels), Paul Randolph (legendary Detroit jazz and R&B bassist) as well as the Motor City Horns, they all help to build on the formula that Alice first tested out with his 2019 ‘Breadcrumbs EP, and in turn are all helping him create perhaps his most diverse set of (luney) tunes in quite some time.
As with ‘Breadcrumbs’ a few of these songs turn out to cover versions, like the excellent album opener – Alice’s version of Velvet Undergrounds’ ‘Rock And Roll’. However, what Alice does here (unlike with the covers that he does with Hollywood Vampires) is he really makes this song sound like one of his own. I mean you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is actually an Alice song, or that it was at perhaps written just for him.
‘Go Man Go’ is the album’s first Cooper co-write and having been originally included on the aforementioned ‘Breadcrumbs’ EP the almost punk-like swagger of this tune might actually come as something of a surprise to some of Alice’s more hard rock biased fans who are yet to hear that EP, however knowing just how many punk rockers were originally influenced by Da Coop it’s great to hear him re-engaging with that rougher 70s spirit once again.
Likewise, ‘Our Love Will Change The World’ is also something of a surprise – not least because it’s a pretty faithful retelling of a 2008 penned Outrageous Cherry tune – and as such it sounds not much like Alice and much more like a latter day John Lennon song, one that bounces around on an optimistically youthful refrain. Some AC fans have already voiced their dislike of this song since it was first aired back in late 2020, but I like it as it fits perfectly within the jigsaw puzzle of songs that make up the complete ‘Detroit Stories’ picture.
‘Social Debris’ is up next and that finds us very much back on more familiar Alice Cooper band territory (featuring as it does Messrs Dunaway, Smith, and Bruce), albeit I just can’t get out of my head how much this could be a song written for an in his prime Ace Frehley. And talking of KISS on ‘$1000 High Heel Shoes’ AC once again proves that anything Starchild can do he can do better, as this delicious funky soul jam has seemingly already earned the moniker of one of the oddest songs Alice has ever recorded…well it is I suppose if all you have ever heard by AC is ‘Poison’ or ‘Trash’.
‘Hail Mary’ and the 2021 reboot of ‘Detroit City’ (originally on Alice’s 2003 ‘Eye’s Of…’ album and featured again on the ‘Breadcrumbs’ EP) return things to Alice’s more modern day upbeat hard rock territory before the sleazy blues jam of ‘Drunk And In Love’ and the high kicking ‘Independence Dave’ both once again usher in the anything goes attitude of those ‘70s Ezrin produced albums I mentioned earlier.
The Cooper, Dunaway, and Ezrin penned ‘I Hate You’ is another fantastic sonic curveball, as is the almost showtunes-y ‘Wonderful World’. Both tracks giving the mid-section of ‘Detroit Stories’ a couple more “WTF” moments (and I do mean that in the most positive sense too).
As ‘Detroit Stories’ enters its final four chapters the inclusion of MC5’s ‘Sister Anne’ and Bob Seger’s East Side Story’ are the only times when I’m left thinking that perhaps they were best just left on ‘Breadcrumbs’, largely because the original Cooper tunes that they bookend in ‘Don’t Give Up’ and ‘Shut Up And Rock’ just sounds so much more interesting. It’s the only tiny gripe that I have with ‘Detroit Stories’ though, as four years on from ‘Paranormal’ and with everything else going on across the world right now it’s just an absolute joy to get to grips with such an upbeat and positive sounding Alice Cooper record.
Oh, and talking of ‘Paranormal’ if you are fortunate enough to get one of the expanded formats of ‘Detroit Stories’ you will also find a DVD or Blu-ray copy of Alice’s A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris’ concert film included as part of your package, as the great man wants us to experience this show in the safety of our homes. A truly wonderful gesture from an artist who with ‘Detroit Stories’ is proving he is still one of the greatest storytellers the rock world has ever had.
Long live Alice Cooper!
Author: Johnny Hayward