Recommended Albums #65

nightmare 2

Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare (1975)

alice 1Welcome to My Nightmare is so many things.

This is the album that ushered in Alice’s solo career after the Alice Cooper band’s half-decade of success with hits such as “I’m Eighteen”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “School’s Out”.

This is Alice’s only top ten album as a solo artist (it peaked at #5). He never again equaled its success or its excellence.

This is a concept album and the template for several other conceptual records Alice would release over the years–but Nightmare is by far the best in terms of execution.

Speaking of execution, Nightmare was tied in with a new live show that essentially brought Halloween and Rock music together onstage and culminated with the protagonist’s grisly nightly demise, a concert format that continues to this day.

Welcome to My Nightmare exchanged the musical gut punch of the Alice Cooper band for a more polished, fully-orchestrated Bob Ezrin-produced sound. The strings, horns and harmonies gave the album a broader palette and a deeper resonance; the creepy bits were creepier and the weepy bits weepier. Listen to a sample of Ezrin’s orchestration from “Steven” and note its similarity in feel to “Beth” by Kiss, released the following year and also co-written and produced by Ezrin:

“Devil’s Food” features a cameo by horror legend Vincent Price, who lends just the right element of creepy camp to the proceedings.

alice 2“Some Folks” takes things into cabaret territory, adding one more flavor to a record more diverse than anything the Alice Cooper band had done.

“Only Women”, with its acoustic guitars and muted horn charts reaches an emotional crescendo Alice had never before been able to achieve with his old band. The #12 hit added a new dimension to Alice’s career as a singles artist, that of credible balladeer; his next three albums would feature a love song as a hit single (“I Never Cry”, “You and Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now”).

“Cold Ethyl” is just your everyday run-of-the-mill paean to, um, necrophilia.

But it’s with “Years Ago”, “Steven” and “The Awakening” that things get really dark. The overarching concept of the album is the ongoing nightmare of Alice’s protagonist character, but here on what used to be the vinyl album’s side two (as it happens) Alice delves into a world of schizoid delusion. Terrificly horrific stuff, well conceived and arranged. Where “Cold Ethyl” is a comic lark, these songs are truly chilling.

Producer/co-writer Bob Ezrin and guitarist/co-writer Dick Wagner are the unsung heroes of this album, the greatest of Alice Cooper’s long solo career. Without them this record wouldn’t be what it is: a true classic.

Listen to: “Devil’s Food/The Black Widow”

Listen to: “Some Folks”

Listen to: “Cold Ethyl”

Listen to: “Years Ago/Steven”

Listen to: “The Awakening”

1 Comment (+add yours?)

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