Which should come as no surprise, because, in case you hadn't noticed, there's been a veritable explosion of exciting new rock and roll bands recently -- The White Stripes, the Vines, the Strokes, and their brethren -- and you can almost feel the umbilical cord connecting these bands back to the power of the original Alice Cooper sound.
According to Alice, "when I began hearing these new bands, they all sounded fresh and exciting, but they also sounded familiar because it's so similar to the music we made when we were starting out. It's the kind of rock and roll I have always loved to listen to and always loved to create. I realized that I had been wanting to do an album like this for so long, and it came together so quickly."
Using the tried-and-true two guitars, bass and drums line-up (adding keyboards and a few other musical textures later), Alice and his band -- longtime guitarists Eric Dover and Ryan Roxie, longtime drummer Eric Singer, plus new bassist Chuck Garric -- blasted through 13 new songs at a rapid pace. All the songs had been co-written by Alice with Dover and Roxie, and "woodshedded" at Dover's home studio and pal Gilby Clarke's home studio in the months preceding the recording.
To hear Alice Cooper tell it, the story of how "The Eyes of Alice Cooper" came to life is one of coincidence. Or fate, depending on your philosophy of life.
"I was working with the band at Mates Rehearsal Studios at the end of May," recalls Alice, "and I was telling Bobby Brunner, who runs the place, how excited I was about the new songs we were coming up with, and he introduced me to a friend of his." "Oh, that's YOU in that rehearsal room -- that stuff sounds great," enthused the friendly stranger. "He asked me who was going to produce the album," Alice said, "and i told him I wasn't sure, we were talking to a few different producers." "I'm a producer" came the immediate response. So...Alice asked "have you produced anything I might have heard or liked?" The answer was "the first two Godsmack albums and also Powerman 5000. My name is Andrew Murdock, but I work under the name Mudrock."
And thus an album was born, as Alice invited Mudrock into the rehearsal room to hear the songs and meet the band. Here's where that coincidence/fate thing really kicks in. As it happened, Alice and the band had a very short window of time in which to try to record the new album, as they were leaving on tour in only 5 weeks, on June 30. As it happened, Mudrock had just had a project postponed, leaving him with a gap in his schedule the size of June. As it happened, Mudrock loved the songs and the band and Alice (of course), and loved Alice's ideas about how to record the album. "I want to record this album as LIVE as possible, "Alice told him, "everyone playing at the same time, and just a few essential overdubs."
"If you want to make a garage band style rock and roll album, then don't go into a traditional recording studio," replied Mudrock, continuing "sometimes attitudes change inside the cozy confines of a recording studio. There's an empty room right across the lot here at Mates that we can turn into a makeshift recording studio, and we won't lose the garage ambience."
Introducing "The Eyes of Alice Cooper." Born of happenstance, or is it fate? An album Alice Cooper has been thinking about making for ten years, finally, the right place at the right time. And the right album. Make no mistake about it, this is an album recorded by a rock and roll band, not a bunch of session guys. Drummer Eric Singer has been with Alice since 1990, and has also worked with Kiss, and Queen's Brian May & Roger Taylor. Ryan Roxie has been with Alice since 1996, and he has also worked with Tal Bachman and Slash's Snakepit. Eric Dover, who joined up with Alice in 2001, came from Jellyfish and Imperial Drag. And new bassist Chuck Garric worked previously with Dio. That band vibe is among the reasons that there's such a "classic Alice" feel throughout the record, though the sound is thoroughly contemporary at the same time.
Though "The Eyes of Alice Cooper" is not a concept album in the sense of a unifying theme or storyline, it is most definitely a concept album in the way it was conceived and created. Following on the heels of Alice's previous two albums ("Brutal Planet" and "Dragontown"), this album is an abrupt and significant musical and lyrical departure, which should come as no surprise because one thing Alice Cooper has never been is predictable. The concept this time: keep it simple and let it rock. And rock it does, loud and clear, as Alice and the band let the music do the talking.
One listen to potential future Cooper classics like "Man Of The Year" or "What Do You Want From Me?," with the ringing guitars of Dover and Roxie atop the powerhouse rhythm section of Singer and Garric shows a band at the peak of their powers, and Alice singing with a passion and intensity that shows he, too, is at a creative peak. "Detroit City," which features additional guitar from the MC5's Wayne Kramer (who just happened -- there's that word again -- to drop by Gilby's studio when Alice and the band were working there), is a tribute to the early days of the Detroit rock scene, when Alice, Iggy Pop & Stooges, MC5, Ted Nugent, etc. were blazing a trail since followed by Kid Rock, Eminem, the Insane Clown Posse, and most recently the White Stripes. Is it something in the water there?
Whether it's the ballad, "Be With You Awhile," or the creepy "This House is Haunted," or the in-your face rock of "Spirits Rebellious," Alice's sense of melody and his clever lyrics shine through. Delving deeper into the album, songs like "Bye Bye Baby," "Love Should Never Feel This Way," "Novocaine," and "Between High School & Old School" sound immediately familiar, showcasing Alice's knack for melodic rock. Keeping in mind that Alice Cooper has been responsible for some of the greatest rock radio hits, like "School's Out, "Elected," "I'm Eighteen," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Billion Dollar Babies," and "Poison," just to name a few, it should come as no surprise that "The Eyes of Alice Cooper" is filled with instantly memorable, guitar-driven songs.
There are blasts of hard rock as well, as evidenced by "I'm So Angry," and "Backyard Brawl," showing that Alice and the band can put the pedal to the metal anytime they choose.
If you ask Alice, meeting Mudrock so serendipitously was just another sign that the time was right for this album. "We'd been talking about some of the records we listen to and like, and Mudrock's work kept coming up. That he might actually be next door never occurred to us. And he helped us make exactly the album we wanted to make." And if you ask Mudrock what attracted him to the album, once he gets past all the "always wanted to work with Alice Cooper" stuff, he'll tell you flat out: "There are so many great songs on this album, performed by a great band with a great lead singer who just happens to be one of the true icons in rock and roll history. It just doesn't get any better than this."
"The Eyes of Alice Cooper" marks a bold step forward for Alice Cooper, with a nod to his past. A very contemporary rock and roll album from a very classic rock and roll legend.
It really doesn't get any better than this.