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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Alice Cooper

Billion Dollar Babies (Limited Edition Hybrid SACD version)

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always loved this album. It’s one of the “band” albums from Alice Cooper. That means one of the discs before Alice Cooper became just the man. In the days in which this was released Alice Cooper was the name of a band whose lead singer was named “Alice Cooper.” This album really showcases a lot of the things that made Alice Cooper the band so great. It had a lot of progressive rock and psychedelic music built into it. Yet, it was still able to rock out a lot and shock at the same time. The disc had quite a few hits, songs that are Cooper trademarks to this day.

The thing is, I’ve owned this on CD for a while, but I’ve never really heard it like I’ve heard it here. The sound on this version is so far superior to the earlier versions that it’s scary. You can hear things here that you couldn’t hear before. Add in the fact that the packaging includes a reproduction of the original Billion Dollar bill and that these are all numbered and it’s obvious this is the definitive version.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hello Hooray

I’ve always loved this rocker. It’s got such a great opening processional and the whole tune is the perfect introduction to the album. This has a lot of progressive rock in the mix.

Raped and Freezin'
Much more of a straight-ahead rocker, I really love some of the guitar soloing on this. It’s bouncy, catchy and classic. There is a bit of change out into some Mariachi music at the end that’s pretty cool.
Elected
This hard rocking number is an Alice Cooper classic. It’s anthemic and has a great sound to it. The interlude mid-track brings some symphonic rock into the concept. Horns add a different dimension later.
Billion Dollar Babies
The title track is another Cooper classic. It’s got such great riffs and the whole tune just oozes cool. I love the dual vocal sections that lend some serious creepy charm to this.
Unfinished Sweet
The section that opens this is part psychedelia, part prog and all cool. Then the rocking riff joins and the piece is on track. This is more of a deep cut, but I really have always liked it a lot. It’s got some great changes and really works well. The dental drill section is down right cringe worthy. Then they launch out into some secret agent style music. As it keeps evolving this is another section that touches on progressive rock. There’s a little cinematic bit that feels like it could have come from a James Bond movie (and like the earlier place, it has a riff quote). Then this moves to ambient, spacey weirdness. They bring it out into more symphonic rock sound for a time. Then the rhythm section takes over before they move back into the song proper. A crescendo seems to end it, but instead we get a short reprise for the closing salvo.
No More Mr. Nice Guy

Here’s another of Cooper’s better known cut. The riff driving this is classic and it’s a fun number. The bass line on this is particularly noteworthy. The backing vocals lend a bit of a doowop vibe at times. The melodic rock bridge is great.

Generation Landslide
The acoustic guitar based introduction to this piece combines folk rock and prog rock to nice effect. There’s a bit of a melodic rock section as a transition. Then it moves to a percussion dominated jam for the first vocals. The more energized chorus completes the picture. This moves forward in a pretty straight line from there, but there is a cool harmonica solo jam later. The piano on the later sections of that are tasty as is the soaring guitar solo.
Sick Things
The creepy concepts come back with a vengeance as the slow moving, stripped back arrangement opens this. This cut gets a lot of evolution. It’s arguably progressive rock as more and more layers keep getting added. It becomes a very powerful number.
Mary Ann
Coming right out of the previous piece, this is an old fashioned piano ballad, but with some real twists in terms of some of the playing and sound of the number. It’s just a little creepy at times, because it feels like some kind of weird ghost of a song.
I Love the Dead
The creep factor is all over this. The music, though, in a lot of ways qualifies as progressive rock. The arrangement and progression shifts and changes regularly. Different instruments shine more at different places. Yet, the chorus is mainstream and accessible. Well, at least it’s accessible as someone singing “I love the dead” can be. There are symphonic elements in the arrangement here and some seriously crazed guitar soloing.
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