Alice Cooper’s been talking about this covers album for long enough that you’d have been excused for thinking it’d never come out. But it’s out now, under the name Hollywood Vampires, a band made up of past and present collaborators (Glen Sobel, Tommy Henriksen, Kip Winger) as well as Joe Perry and Johnny Depp. Many of their friends show up for guest spots, among them former Alice Cooper band members Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, Zak Starkey, the ubiquitous Dave Grohl, Robbie Krieger, Perry Farrell, Joe Walsh, Slash and Sir Paul McCartney. The late Christopher Lee also provides narration for the opening track “The Last Vampire”. Legendary producer Bob Ezrin is back behind the mixing board after reuniting with Alice for his last studio album, “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”.
The band takes its name from a loose group of celebrities who’d try to outdrink each other in the ’70s in an upstair room at the Rainbow on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip (a plaque still identifies the place as “The Lair of the Hollywood Vampires”). The member list varies from source to source, but Alice Cooper (who went clean in the mid ’80s) is one of the last surviving members (the aforementioned last vampire). Most of the songs are from artists who succumbed to their addictions: Jim Morrison (represented by a medley of “Five to One” and “Break on Through”), Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression”), Keith Moon (“My Generation”) and many more.
Some of the highlights include a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” that starts by paying homage to the original Willie Dixon song that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant “borrowed” (they’ve since credited Dixon on all releases). A cover of Cooper’s own “School’s Out” is cleverly intertwined with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)”, and two new tracks, “Raise the Dead” and “My Dead Drunk Friends” bookend the album nicely.
I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan, but to be honest I wasn’t too confident about a covers album from him. His voice is not on par with some of the singers he’s covering here, but I was surprised at how good each track his. He’s made them his own, and the homage rings true, especially when he uses is usual wit on “My Dead Drunk Friends” to underline how stupid it was of them to constantly try to drink each other under the table.
This album is a lot of fun despite the heavy premise, and they offer new readings of old classics while staying true to the original spirit of each track. A couple of live dates have been announced (with Perry, Depp, Duff McKagan on bass and Matt Sorum on drums): let’s hope this becomes a bona fide tour once Cooper is done with the Mötley Crüe farewell tour!
Jean-Frederic also writes for his own site, Diary of a Music Addict.