Hollywood Vampires

Hollywood Vampires

Republic, 2015

http://www.hollywoodvampires.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/22/2020

I have always hated the term “supergroup” for reasons that I’m still not quite sure of. I guess it’s because so often what seems like a good idea on paper turns out to be somewhat anticlimactic. Over the years they have come and gone; some were clearly serious bands (Cream, CSN&Y, and Bad Company) intent on building their own identities, albeit sometimes too briefly. Others seemed to get together for a lark (Travelling Wilburys and Derek & The Dominos) and the enjoyment of hanging out together; any success was almost seen as a bonus. More often than not, however, they just don’t live up to their potential for any number of reasons, but I feel that usually it comes down to chemistry and a little four letter word – egos.

I must admit that when I first read that Alice Cooper and Joe Perry were forming a group with Johnny Depp, I laughed out loud, more than once. Reading the articles online, I couldn’t really imagine these guys bringing anything new to the rock world other than to play some gigs and maybe give Depp the cred for being a serious player, which he’d often hinted at in the past. Depp had guested at several gigs of the years (including Cooper’s) and got to know Perry and Cooper well enough for the seeds of this union to be sewed.

Cooper, Perry, and Depp, along with Cooper’s bandmate/co-writer Tommy Henriksen, form the nucleus of the Hollywood Vampires (named after a celebrity drinking club that Cooper was once a proud member of). They’re joined by bassist Bruce Witkin and Glen Sobel on drums. A mass of their high-profile mates joined in on different tracks over the sessions, which had to work around Depp’s schedule. Many of these tracks were pieced together by each member recording their parts solo. Very little of what is heard here was recorded live as a group unfortunately. As a debut album, it’s a decent effort but is just too careful and polished for my liking.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Looking at the official credits, sessions dragged out for two years as piece by piece, veteran producer Bob Ezrin (a Cooper cohort) slowly put these tracks together. Perry only appears on a few tracks, however, and Ezrin contributes keyboards and vocals to a handful of cuts himself. The focus of the record is that old drinking club and its illustrious alumni, which included the likes of John Lennon (during his “lost weekend”), Marc Bolan, and Joe Walsh. The club was founded by Cooper along with Keith Moon (I’m shocked!), Ringo Starr, Micky Dolenz, and Harry Nilsson.

The material here was chosen to pay homage to the old members, which also includes two new originals and a spoken word intro voiced by Christopher Lee shortly before his passing. Of those new tracks, “Raise The Dead” is a vintage Cooper rocker while “My Dead Drunk Friends” sounds like a cut from Dragontown circa 2001 – neither is very memorable. The rest of the record is a bit hit and miss, but at least it’s lively and a lot of fun, although not as heavy as I was hoping it to be.

Standard run throughs of “My Generation,” which Cooper has been dropping this into his sets for years, “I Got A Line On You,” “Cold Turkey,” and “Itchycoo Park” are pleasing enough if not very stoic in their execution. Better still are a folksy romp through “Jeepster,” a genuinely tripped-out “Five To One / Break On Through (To The Other Side),” and “Come And Get It” for which Paul McCartney provides a fantastic lead vocal. Brian Johnson added his shredding vocals to “Whole Lotta Love” and the rather stately mash-up of “Schools Out / Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2” (another one Cooper regularly adds to his setlist); the latter also features original Cooper band members Neal Smith (drums) and Dennis Dunaway on bass.

Further guest spots on various tracks feature Slash, Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, Zak Starkey, and Orianthi, although with the cut and paste method that was used to put this thing together, a lot of the parts have clearly been stacked up to several layers. Hollywood Vampires is not a bad record, it’s just a very cautious and clean one. I’m not sure what these guys sound like when they gig, but I’d like to hope there’s a lot more freewheeling and hard-hitting than what’s on display here.

Rating: B-

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