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Classic Album Review: Alice Cooper | The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper

This came out in 1999 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Welcome to his nightmare.

Sure, these days he endorses putters and hangs with Pat Boone. But not long ago, Alice Cooper was the original Antichrist Superstar. Long before Marilyn Manson was a gleam in Satan’s eye, Alice was the most reviled performer around — ground zero for the shock-rock antics we take for granted today. Without him, there’d be no Marilyn, no KISS, no Rob Zombie.

Back in those dark days, he was called every name in the book: Sick, perverted, disgusting. And even today, classy is not a word you’d normally associate with Alice. But that’s the only way to describe The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper, a top-notch, four-CD collection that serves not only as the ultimate chronicle of Cooper’s career, but also as a benchmark for all rock ’n’ roll box sets.

With 81 songs and five hours of music, Life And Crimes is certainly the ultimate greatest-hits set. You name it, it’s here, from crucial ’70s hits like I’m Eighteen, Elected, School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies to disco-era ballads like Only Women Bleed, You And Me and I Never Cry, and even late-period tracks like Poison and Teenage Frankenstein.

But once you crack open the cool cover — a 3D lid with Alice peering through an asylum door — you’ll see hits are just the tip of the iceberg. Life And Crimes also contains:

Photo by Sven Mandel.

• Nearly two dozen rare or unreleased tracks spanning Alice’s career — demos, soundtrack cuts, cool covers, collaborations with the aforementioned Zombie, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses, not to mention the first two singles he recorded with his teenage band of Yardbirds wannabes The Spiders (who evolved into the original Alice Cooper band).

• An 82-page book packed with cool photos, a painstakingly researched biography, and tributes from a whole roster of rockers from David Cassidy (no, really) to Johnny Rotten and pretty much everyone between.

• A complete discography with original album cover art, session details and track-by-track reminiscences from former bandmates Neal Smith, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and plenty more. (If you think that’s magnanimous, check this out: Alice even includes a track from the Battle Axe album that the guys recorded without him after he went solo.)

• Loads of fun Alice facts. The name of the snake on the Killer album cover? Kachina — it belonged to drummer Smith. The inspiration for the chorus of School’s Out? Ravel’s Bolero. The song where Alice is imitating Jim Morrison? Desperado.

It should be enough to please every Alice fan, from the hardcore collector to the kid who just heard Under My Wheels. Of course, not everyone will get every favourite cut (I can already hear my Alice-worshipping pal dismissing it as worthless for the sacrilege of failing to include Public Animal No. 9). But for every missing track — personally, I would have loved a little more of his early ’80s garage-rock covers like Talk Talk and 7+7=? — there’s an overlooked gem like the hilarious I Love America or the rare raveup For Britain Only. All box sets should be this incomplete.

So welcome to his nightmare — I think you’re gonna like it.