Friday, February 12, 2010

We're All Humanary Stew: Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare 35 years later

Alice Cooper - Welcome to My Nightmare
Alice Cooper
Welcome to My Nightmare
1975
Rating: ****
For the first half of the 1970’s, the Alice Cooper band dominated the world. Their image and their music had parents wanting less and their kids wanting more. However by 1975, the band broke up. The band’s singer, Alice Cooper, (which was the stage-name for Vincent Furnier, born February 4, 1948) would start a solo career. His first album would be the conceptual album Welcome to My Nightmare. 35 years later, the album is still considered one of Alice’s best. Usually, fans will tell you that 1971’s Killer is Alice’s best. While Killer is a great album, Welcome to My Nightmare is still my personal favorite of his.

Welcome to My Nightmare isn’t your typical concept album. Like a few albums before it, the album’s concept is very loose and doesn’t tell a clear story. What is clear is that the album’s main character is a boy named Steven. The average listener may get the idea that Steven is a boy who is afraid of growing up. The album is Steven’s nightmare as he’s a serial killer. Someone may find another way of telling the story. Producer Bob Ezrin had helped Cooper produce many of his other albums. Ezrin is known for being a producer who makes things bigger. So, there are orchestras in some songs.

If you’re spine is tingling at the start of the album, it might be from the spooky opening guitar from the self-titled track. This song is a pretty basic hard rock song and a perfect starting track. The lyrics are clever (“A nocturnal vacation/ A necessary sedation”) and this is probably my favorite track off the album. Next is the hard rocking “Devil’s Food”, which could be used to describe Steven’s lifestyle. Towards the end of the song, you can hear Vincent Price give a creepy narration to introduce the next song, “The Black Widow”. The song is very rocking and very creepy. When played live, Alice has a big spider on the stage. “Some Folks” shows a somewhat jazzy side to Alice while “Only Women Bleed” is probably the big hit from the album. This is the first of Alice’s string of power ballads (others including “I Never Cry” and “You And Me”). Of all his ballads, this is the most moving as it talks about an abusive relationship (possibly Steve and his wife). “Department of Youth” is an anthem of rebellion. Like “School’s Out” before it, the song uses a children’s choir. Listen careful at the very end when Alice asks the kids who “gave them the power” (and laugh when they respond Donny Osmand). “Cold Ethyl” is a stone-cold rocker about necrophilia while “Years Ago” dives deeper into the concept of the album about the fear of growing up. “Steven” is the answer to the previous track while Steven finds a trail of crimson spots in “The Awakening”. It’s implied that Steven finds out he murdered his wife. All he can do now is to “Escape”, ending the album.

Welcome to My Nightmare would be the start of Alice’s solo career and the albums that followed it. A loose sequel called Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (or Goes to Hell) was released the following year. The theme and character of Steven has continued to be the backbone on some of Alice’s other albums. Alice’s 1994 album The Last Temptation spawned a graphic novel of the same name. In the comic, the main character is named Steven. Also the booklet of 2008’s Along Came A Spider shows Alice holding a book that says it belongs to Steven. Overall, Welcome to My Nightmare is one of Alice Cooper’s most important albums for sure.

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