Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (February 26, 2021)

 

The musical world is stabilizing and we are getting a good perspective as to how things are going to look on the musical front. And, the future is so bright not only do we need to wear shades but we will need to grow another set of ears to be able to capture all of the sweet music that will be coming our way.

There is a double dose of First Aid Kit news as not only did they announce a new album to be released in March, they are also accepting pre-orders for the recording of their Who By Fire? set from 2017 where they performed a night of Leonard Cohen covers.

We’ve got our eyes, and most importantly our ears, set on Tara Who? a drummer guitar duo that delivers a Blues-Swagger blend of Punk, Grunge, and Ramones style earth-scorching manic depression.

And, another new find to Rock is the New Roll is the Naked Gypsy Queens. Picture Led Zeppelin meets MC-5 throwing a house party in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s studio shack in the backwoods and you will have a sense of the Rock and Roll that these Tennessee lads are throwing down.

And, on top of all of that here are five new records that our ears are hip to this week.

Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories

From the opening bell, listening to Alice Cooper’s vocal kick in, all is right in the Rock and Roll world. Alice is in fine Schools Out era voice. His band sounds like a real ’70s Rock band despite having to use some studio wizardry since it was not practical for everyone to get in the studio together at the same time. And above all else, Alice and producer Bob Ezrin deliver a fitting tribute to Detroit, a city that embraced Alice Cooper and his band as one of their own way back in the day.

Song by song there is some association with the Detroit scene whether it be having Detroit stalwarts, Mark Farner, from Grand Funk playing on the record, including a song written by MC-5’s Wayne Kramer, or covering a song by Michigan Glamsters Outrageous Cherry. And, it all works quite well.

The Velvet’s “Rock and Roll” is delivered front and center changing the location of the radio station from New York to Detroit with energy that should be coming from a much Younger Alice Cooper, but he’s still got it. “Go Man Go” is a Replacements style romp, and on “Detroit City 2021” Alice name-checks Detroit musical icons Suzi Quatro, Iggy Pop, MC=5, Ted Nugent, and Bob Seger. A fun bast back to the past on a record that is full of them.

Willie Nelson – That’s Life

Full disclosure, here at Rock is the New Roll we are not fans of our musical heroes covering the standards, realizing fully that Rod Stewart pretty much ruined the genre for everyone involved including Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. A big but and however is appropriate here as we are making an exclusive exception for Willie Nelson. Every new record the red-headed stranger puts out should be cherished and savored as it might be his last.

Not much to see here on this set of tunes made famous by Frank Sinatra. That’s not to say that the performances were mailed in, quite the contrary. Willie is in fine albeit a bit overproduced voice here and if you didn’t know when this record was released you could not tell whether it was made in 1983 or 2021. All of the above said this album is a pleasant listen. The duet with Diana Krall on “I Won’t Dance” is elegant and “In The Wee Small Hours” is effective and listenable. Thankfully, “My Way” was not re-hashed on this set.

Charley Crockett – 10 for Slim: Crockett Sings James Hand

Country Crooner Chaley Crocket is nothing short of prolific having released 7 records in 4 years, and every one of them seems to pass up the last in quality, heartfelt empathy, and tear in your beer pathos. This time out he pays tribute to the recently passed away Honky Tonk legend James Hand with a set of ten songs that run the spectrum from straight-up barroom laments on “In The Corner” where he stands at a table in the corner by the jukebox, to the introspective “So Do I,” all the way to the closing “Slim’s Lament” where we get the measure of two men, James Hand and Charley Crockett that will now be linked in perpetuity with the release of this record that should be in heavy rotation at a table in the corner on your own personal jukebox.

Curtis Salgado – Damage Control

A mainstay on the Blues Rock scene, Curtis Salgado’s oeuvre lays down like some sort of devil hybrid of Delbert McClinton and B.B. King, with his latest, Damage Control, delivering a set of life well-lived songs coming from the perspective of a weary road warrior. “What Did Me In Did Me Well” throws down his harmonica chops that would make Stevie Wonder take notice, the opener, “The Longer That I Live” espouses the sensible theory that the longer you live the older you want to get, and the lower and slower title track “Damage Contol” has a bit of Steely Dan savoir-faire about it. There is even a flavor Cajun bayou-noir on “Truth Be Told.” Curtis Dalgado is a nice new find for those of you that like Bonnie Raitt, Tab Benoit, and Delbert McClinton.

Sara Petite – Rare Bird

Six studio albums in, Sara Petite with her latest Rare Bird has hit her stride and released the best record of her career. Combining Americana, Bakersfield-dirt soul, and Honky Tonk Saturday night. A solid melding of Tanya Tucker and Lydia Loveless, this one has all the making of a career-making effort putting Petite in the Kacey Musgrave or Margo price status of Country crossover stars.

The opener, “Feeling Like an Angel” is a strong bit of songwriting that brings to mind Lucinda Williams, “Crash Boom Bang” would have fit in quite nicely on a Wanda Jackson record back in the day,  and “Floating with the Angels” is a good old honky-tonk waltz in the making. This one is a diverse listen that will reward frequent dips back into the Rare Bird well.

 

Classic Album Review: Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare

A Cosmo Crane review originally published on the Cool Album of the Day website. For more reviews like this make sure to check them out.

Part Psycho Circus, part Jerry Springer show, part Quentin Tarantino shock-fest, Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare album and subsequent tour was, depending on your point of view, either ridiculous or brilliant. The ultimate answer is of course given the benefit of historical perspective, that the album is ridiculously brilliant. Released in 1975, the album was Alice Cooper’s first post band break-up outing and is by far the best solo record of his decades long career.

Giving up the comfort of a consistent touring band and going to ax person by committee was certain to be a calculated risk. It was going to be hard to improve on Billion Dollar Babies, his previous album that included the hit songs “Elected,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and was the bands biggest seller to date, and the future of the entire enterprise without guitar muse and songwriting partner Glen Buxton was anything but certain. The new direction was going to turn the theatrical knobs up to 11, and incorporated many of the shock and awe elements from prior albums along with songs that were a bit more visceral in nature dealing with psychological horrors of the mind right alongside the physical ones.

The album was a top 10 seller, largely on the strength of the songs “Department of Youth,” “Welcome to My Nightmare,” and the somewhat controversial for the time “Only Women Bleed,” a song that reached the top ten, and was protested by various women’s groups due to the subject matter that dealt with spousal abuse. The song was also somewhat of a departure for Cooper in that no song he had previously recorded was as political or thought provoking. The fact that it was also a ballad, also served to put the Alice Cooper coven of fans on notice that a change was coming, and they were not necessarily going to like what the future had in store.

A concept album centered around the nightmares of the main character Steven, Welcome to My Nightmare, much like a Broadway play, was expressly written for the stage, and a tour was launched shortly after the release date where the record was performed mostly in its entirety. With production duties handled by long-time collaborator and Cooper Muse Bob Ezrin, the record has the feel of a real concept album in the Tommy mold, and is best digested in one sitting. The mix of rockers like the standout “Department of Youth,” and the guitar heavy anthem “Devils Food,” are intrinsically interspersed with the somewhat creepy “Steven,” a song that seems to share some DNA with the theme from exorcist, with the far off calling of Steven’s mother downright chilling, and the equally scary “The Awakening,” all kicked off in fine macabre fashion with “Welcome to my Nightmare,” a song that goes from a whisper to a scream to set the stage for what we are about to experience. Welcome to my nightmare I think you’re gonna like it. I think you’re gonna feel you belong.

To say that Welcome to My Nightmare marked the end of Alice Cooper’s commercial appeal may be stretching things a bit. After all, his live shows are still immensely popular; he has his own radio show, and has recently been elected to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But in reality, the album did mark the creative zenith of his career with subsequent albums Lace and Whiskey, Zipper Catches Skin, Dada, and Hey Stoopid, never even coming close to the artistic marvel that was Welcome to My Nightmare.

Much like anchovies on a pizza, an Alice Cooper show is something everyone should experience at least once. On recent tours, he has assembled a top notch band that includes Orianthi, the Aussie guitar goddess that was scheduled to play “Beat It” on the ill-fated Michael Jackson comeback tour that never was, and he has not lost a bit of his energy, strutting around the stage and striking poses that would make Mick Jagger jealous.

As a rock icon, Alice Cooper is one of the best. Welcome to My Nightmare is not Blood on the Tracks, and it certainly is no Tommy or Quadrophenia. It is what it is, a glorious shock jock guilty pleasure sort of a listen, one that should be consumed with gusto every Halloween.

So turn out the lights, lock the door, place the candy on the porch on a self-serve chair, and put the record on the stereo, at maximum volume of course. The candy may not last past the second set of kids, but your retro time warp back to 1975 will make you a better person, sooth your soul, and your ears will thank you.

Track Listing

  1. “Welcome to My Nightmare” (Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner) – 5:19
  2. “Devil’s Food” (Cooper, Bob Ezrin, Kelley Jay) – 3:38
  3. “The Black Widow” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:37
  4. “Some Folks” (Cooper, Ezrin, Alan Gordon) – 4:19
  5. “Only Women Bleed” (Cooper, Wagner) – 5:49
  6. “Department of Youth” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:18
  7. “Cold Ethyl” (Cooper, Ezrin) – 2:51
  8. “Years Ago” (Cooper, Wagner) – 2:51
  9. “Steven” (Cooper, Ezrin) – 5:52
  10. “The Awakening” (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 2:25
  11. “Escape” (Cooper, Mark Anthony, Kim Fowley) – 3:20

Personnel

  • Alice Cooper – Vocals
  • Bob Ezrin – Synthesizer, Keyboards, Vocals, Fender Rhodes
  • Vincent Price – Special Effects, Vocals
  • Dick Wagner – Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
  • Steve Hunter – Electric and Acoustic Guitar
  • Josef Chirowski – Synthesizer, Keyboards, Vocals, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes
  • Prakash John – Bass
  • Tony Levin – Bass
  • Pentti “Whitey” Glan – Drums
  • Johnny “Bee” Badanjek – Drums

Five Cool Ones: Five New Songs That Rock

Weezer – The End of the Game

The new Weezer album won’t be out until May but if this new rockier version of the band is any indication it is sure to be a scorcher.

Green Day – Father of All

The new record, Father of All, is set for a February 2020 release. The sound is still Green Day but Billie Joe takes the falsetto up a notch or two on this one.

Aubrie Sellers – My Love Will Not Change (feat Steve Earle)

A bit of of a change of Rock and Roll pace for these guys, Steve Earle channels his inner Ray Wylie Hubbard on this one.

Kissin’ Dynamite – Cadillac Maniac

Somewhat cooly bizarre hybrid of Stray Cats channeling Chris Isaak, this one ping pongs between Rockabilly and Sunset Strip Rock at the blink of an ear.

Alice Cooper – East Side Story

Alice Cooper has just released, Breadcrumbs, an E.P. paying tribute to Detroit Rock and Roll bands the likes of Grand Funk and the MC-5. Here, he covers a vintage Bob Seger deep cut.