Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories (Album Review)

Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories
Released: February 26th, 2021

Line up:

Alice Cooper | Vocals
Wayne Kramer | Guitar
Paul Randolph | Bass
Johnny Bananjek | Drums

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Alice Cooper has lived the rock n roll lifestyle, done it all, and somehow survived. Here we are 50 years since Alice and now legendary producer Bob Ezrin combined to drive a stake through the heart of peace, love and flower power the dastardly duo are at it again. As a decades long Alice Cooper fan, I can say he is at his absolute best when he and Ezrin combine. The pair did it in the 70s with the likes of Love It To Death and Welcome To My Nightmare in the 80s with the criminally underrated DaDa and finally the 2000s with Welcome 2 My Nightmare and Paranormal. When you’re onto a good thing stick to it.

With his latest release, Alice has left the usual stories of scary monsters, spooky ghouls and serial killers aside, Detroit Stories is as the name suggests all about the motor city. A retrospective deserves a sound to fit, Cooper has always surrounded himself with amazing musicians and this album is no different. Although in the past he’s often gone for the hottest young talent, on this album its more about legends and survivors. One guy who ticks both boxes is the legendary MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. It makes perfect sense for the axe man to lend his talents to this project, there are few more qualified in both talent and life experience. Kramer’s trademark sound and riffs are all over this release, his punk infused hard rocking bluesy riffs are a perfect fit for the sound Ezrin and Cooper were looking to create. Not a survivor, but a legend of the Detroit scene all the same is bass player Paul Randolph. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know a lot about this musician, but a few minutes of research and I fell well and truly down a YouTube rabbit hole. Randolph’s mastery of the four string is unmistakable, he brings a fistful of funk and soulful sensibility to the album without losing the dirty hard rock edge.

The eclectic mix has always been a mainstay of Cooper’s sound much like drummer Johnny Bananjek has been a mainstay of the Detroit scene. He is in short, a journeyman, a gun for hire, and one of the best. Bananjek’s collaborations with Alice started all the way back in the 70s where he appeared on the classic album Welcome To My Nightmare. His impact is immediate with his work on the opening track ‘Rock & Roll’. The lyrics might be all rock ‘n roll but there’s a swing and a jazz groove to the music. It’s clear if you’re a fan of old school Alice Cooper this is the album for you. There are straight out rockers, messages of positivity, stories of coming up hard in the Detroit scene and even a dollop of doo-whop.  Track two ‘Go Man Go’ is an old school punk rocker, it’s gritty, dirty, and over almost as soon as it begins. In direct contrast to the track following ‘Our Love Will Change The World’, a Beatlesque cut almost overflowing with positivity. This may be an album honouring a different time, but there couldn’t be a better song for 2021 – hang in there people the ride isn’t over yet.  In such an eclectic mix it was hard for me to pin down an actual favourite track, but high on the list is ‘$1000 High Heel Shoes’. The song features a full brass section courtesy of the Motor City Horns, gospel backing singers doo-whop and lyrics like “she slides in cool and tall, she don’t wear no clothes at all”. This is where the Godfather of Shock Rock sheds his skin and goes full Jake and Elwood Blues. Speaking of turning back time, on the seventh cut a song that first appeared on 2003s The Eyes Of Alice Cooper gets a reprise in the guise of ‘Detroit City 2021’. This is the scene in a nutshell, a roll call of legends including Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The MC5’s, Bob Seger and Suzi Quatro playing it loud, fast and like it will be their last.

Track 13 and we’re told ‘Don’t Give Up’, there’s no sugar coating it, we are all in some way or another hanging on by a thread, with the last 12 months being harder than most. Alice lays it out, if you’re feeling overwhelmed that’s ok, we all feel like that at times. But don’t give up, shine a light on the dark shadow. The song oozes positivity, to be honest it wouldn’t be out of place on an Andrew W.K album. Listen to Alice kids, he’s one of rocks survivors, he knows what he’s talking about.

I have no doubt diehard fans of Alice Cooper will embrace this album for what it is, back to his roots mix of blues, jazz, soul, hard rock, humour and heart. Casual fans may be surprised at the rockers versatility, but Alice has never been one dimensional, he’s pushed barriers, broken down walls and is above all, always entertaining. 

Alice CooperDetroit Stories tracklisting

  1. Rock & Roll
  2. Go Man Go
  3. Our Love Will Change The World
  4. Social Debris
  5. $1000 High Heel Shoes
  6. Hail Mary
  7. Detroit City 2021
  8. Drunk And In Love
  9. Independence Dave
  10. I Hate You
  11. Wonderful World
  12. Sister Anne
  13. Don’t Give Up
  14. Shut Up And Rock
  15. East Side Story

Rating: 10/10
Detroit Stories is out February 26th. Pre-Order a copy HERE
Review by Gareth Williams (@notgareth)

About Gareth Williams (104 Articles)
The Heavy Metal Poet, the only guy dumb enough to recite poetry at Soundwave, star of stage, radio and podcasts. Now writing words for Wall Of Sound

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