Alice Cooper Gets the Deluxe Treatment…Including the Panties!

Alice Cooper – Killer
Alice Cooper – School’s Out (Rhino)

Deluxe Edition is a fan’s dream – restored packaging, bonus material and extensive liner notes and photos

Vinyl LP packaging was at its peak in the 1970’s.  From the two posters and stickers that you got from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, to the cardboard cutout spaceship and poster in ELO’s Out of the Blue, you never quite knew what was lurking inside the packaging.  Imagine the surprise of millions of young people who opened School’s Out from Alice Cooper and found the album wrapped in a pair of pink panties!

Well, Rhino Records has embarked on an Alice Cooper deluxe reissue campaign, and I am here to tell you that the panties are indeed included (this time, non-flammable, whatever that means).  The cover, once again, flips up, just like a vintage school desk.  The previous LP, Killer, also features the gruesome, fold-out calendar with Alice hanging on a noose.  But, that’s just for starters.

Each LP comes with a bonus concert, showcasing the Alice Cooper band is prime form, and previously unreleased studio bonus tracks.  The real icing is that they managed to track down every living member of the band (guitarist Glen Buxton is no longer with us), plus producer Bob Ezrin, and each give track-by-track detail of how each album came together.  

t’s hard to really imagine now how shocking the original Alice Cooper band really was back in the early Seventies.  Our tolerance for things is undeniably a whole lot higher today.  This music was…dangerous.

Alice Cooper – Killer (Deluxe Vinyl Edition) (Rhino)

Killer was Alice Cooper’s fourth album, but really only the second since the band found their true calling.  Love it to Death, the previous effort, was a surprise hit and the band was looking to build on that momentum.  And, boy did they ever.

Killer opens with the vicious guitar attack of “Under My Wheels,” yet – surprise, suddenly the horns arrive, and we get to appreciate the great Bob Ezrin as a producer/genius.  That’s followed by the brilliant “Sweet Jane” ripoff, “Be My Lover.”  In the extensive liner notes, we find out that the clicks near the end of the song was actually drummer Neil Smith accidentally dropping his sticks – they decided to leave the sound in.  

“Halo of Flies” is more reminiscent of the band’s early, psychedelic phase.  The more than eight-minute piece goes through several different time signatures, including a brief nod to “My Favorite Things.”  The ballad, “Desperado,” would foreshadow the direction the solo Alice Cooper would take several years later.

But, the album continues to delight – “You Drive Me Nervous” is both infectious and creepy, with the entire track masked in a weird phasing effect.  Dennis Dunaway shows off his bass skills on “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” 

Speaking of creepy, “Dead Babies” would certainly fit the bill – yet there’s enough melody and camp here to balance things out.  Listen to how Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce lock guitars on the album closer, “Killer.”  Things get way out there near the end – more cinema than music perhaps, but it sure worked in the live setting.  

The bonus material contains tracks recorded during the Mar Y Sol Pop Festival in Puerto Rico.  Apparently, because things were running terribly late, the band didn’t go on until 5am, but it’s still a great set, although the drums kinda sound like trash cans.  Especially of note is an extended version of “I’m Eighteen,” closer to the way the band originally intended, before Ezrin made things more radio friendly.

There are a couple of alternate takes as well.  “You Drive Me Nervous” doesn’t have the strange phasing effect on it, but also lacks the energy of the finished one.  Alice’s voice cracks on the alternate of “Under My Wheels,” which has a more watered-down mix.  

Alice Cooper – School’s Out (Deluxe Vinyl Edition) (Rhino)

School’s Out, in retrospect, was a big gamble.  To followup the success of Killer, the band could’ve easily churned out another two sides of heavy riffing.  Instead, they did the opposite, stretching out what the band was capable of.  

“School’s Out” led off the album, and it was a hard rocker (and a huge hit).  But, after that, things get more diverse.  No song exemplifies this more than “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets,” which starts out as a pounding, sneering number, before devolving into finger snaps, with a nod to, of all things, West Side Story.  “Luny Tune” features everything but the kitchen sink – strings, slide guitar, trumpets, and a fuzz guitar solo.  The irony that the band was signed to Warner Brothers makes it even more appealing.  “Street Fight” was a punkish instrumental, led by Dunaway’s bass.  

Then there’s the supper club jazz of “Blue Turk,” complete with an extended sax solo and Cooper’s reserved vocals.  This must be what Satan chills out to.  “My Stars” features both a marching drumbeat and ascending piano before settling in on a rockin’ groove.  Cooper literally spits out the vocals to “Public Animal #9,” while the acoustic “Alma Mater” is another surprise. This leads into the “Grande Finale,” a horn-driven instrumental.  

You can certainly see that the band was moving in the direction of theater – it’s a wonder that this album never became a movie or stage production.  As the liner notes reveal, that would’ve taken a great deal more writing, but it was certainly something they could’ve pursued.

The concert footage comes from Miami in 1972 and is of really good quality.  You can really appreciate the way the two guitars of Buxton and Bruce interact with each other.  Of note is an extended “School’s Out,” featuring long solos in the middle.  Also included are several different mixes, including a radio friendly “School’s Out” and an early take of “Elected.”  

Deluxe packaging, bonus material and extensive liner notes – this is the way to celebrate these great albums.  —Tony Peters