ALICE COOPER: Detroit Stories

Being a legend is not easy – especially if you’ve released classic rock songs that’ve stood the test of time for 50 years. Trying to top your own greatness can be a lifelong pursuit of misery. Fortunately for Alice Cooper, he found his voice in the 90s and has yet to slow down.

All the clever lyrics, sass, grit and dirty Detroit rock and roll that you might expect from the mascaraed one comes roaring out of the speakers on Detroit Stories. With a title like that, surely the musical direction here is intentional. One of the cooks in the kitchen was legendary rock producer Bob Ezrin, who also added organ, percussion, piano, programming, keyboards, and background vocals.

It might be lost on some listeners, but four of these songs are covers. Decidedly Alice Cooper songs/versions, but paying homage to the pioneers – The Velvet Underground, MC5, and Bob Seger.

The tongue planted firmly in cheek wit found in The Last Temptation‘s “Lost in America” surfaces here in tunes like “Go Man Go,” “Drunk and in Love,” and the do-whoppy “$1000 High Heel Shoes.” The dude’s appearances on Hollywood Squares might’ve just skilled this guy in the art of comedy.

The lead-off track, “Rock and Roll,” tells the tale of a young (5-year old) girl named Jenny not finding any inspiration on the radio … until she discovered some fine, fine music on a Detroit radio station. “You could just dance to that rock and roll station, and it was alright.” A chorus of Motown-sounding BGVs chime in agreement.

The standout moment for this album might be the uber-poppy track, “Our Love Will Change the World.” It’s got the bouncing rhythm that could’ve graced a Beatles or even Herman’s Hermits album. It’s pure bubble gum, but it’s also a very solid rock song, thanks to the six-string instrumentation. It’s a cover of Outrageous Cherry’s 2005 song.

“Detroit City 2021” romps like a monster with some infectious tom tom drums. The chorus kills with heavy chanting about this midwestern birthplace of so much great rock and roll. “Bleak Town, Sleek Town, Freak Town, Detroit City / Downtown, Motown, My Town, Detroit City.” Some of the guitars on this track are played by none other than Grand Funk’s Mark Farner.

Modern life commentary abounds, like the go-against-the-flow righteous rebellion of “Social Debris,” which musically hearkens back to some of the sass of From the Inside. “Sister Anne” narrates another story of a righteous rocker. “Shut Up and Rock” shoves aside politics, opinions and fashion in favor of the loud, boisterous, and fast-moving music.

“Hail Mary” describes a vision of grace in the vocabulary of a teenage male.

“I Hate You” is a call-and-response tune between drummer Neal Smith and Alice. It sounds so classic punk. A fun moment. It even breaks down to a spell out “H – A – T – E – Y – O – U!”

What’s really cool about the album is Alice Cooper takes the rare opportunity to turn his position into a pulpit. It’s not a fire and brimstone sermon, though, but a compassionate appeal to the desperate. With a plodding rhythm a la King’s X, he comes in with a talking voice that relates: “Yeah, I know you’re struggling right now. We all are in different ways … but look, you’ve got 7 billion brothers and sisters all in the same boat. So don’t panic.” Then the chorus kicks in with an inspirational message of communal survival: “We’re all hanging on by a thread. We’re all staring at the razor’s edge, but we’re not gonna step off the ledge. No.” At the end of the song, he even conveys a hotline phone number to call if you need help – “Don’t give up. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.”

That’s hella-cool, people.

Detroit Stories is this 73-year-old rocker’s calling card and it rocks proudly alongside anything since 1991’s Hey Stoopid.

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