Easy Action

Alice Cooper

Straight Records, 1970

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/02/2001

The is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this album compared with that oh-so-stinky debut Pretties For You is how rapidly the Alice Cooper group's songwriting and playing skills managed to drastically improve in the space of only one year. Easy Action isn't a perfect album, but it's pretty shocking to hear such a colossal improvement over Pretties For You. This is the classic Alice Cooper band's little known follow up album to their little known debut record, released in 1970, only a year before the critical and commercial breakthrough classic album Love It To Death.

All the signs of the band's musical direction in the near future can be found on Easy Action. I guess they woke up and realized what a turd of a debut they had put out and by the sound of things managed to get sober enough the second time around in the studio to actually nail down some stellar songwriting. I mean, judging by the lyrics here I'm pretty much convinced that they must still have been ON something, but hey! That's rock 'n roll, MAAAAAAAN!!!!

Yep, those are actually fully developed songs you hear this time around! Isn't that shocking? Unlike the debut which was 38 minutes of mostly unintelligible noise, each song on Easy Action is distinctive from the rest. But keep in mind that this is a transition album seeing the band mature from non-sensical crap phase to awesome hard rock songwriting phase, so there's a mix of both these aspects throughout the album.

So without further ado, let's get down to the nitty gritty: the actual songs. Right off the bat the change in style hits ya like a cloud of weed! I personally feel that there are a few songs on here which should have become classics and remained in the live repertoire, but unfortunately the album bombed...it didn't even sell as well as Pretties For You for some ungodly reason, so I guess that's why even the good material on here has become completely forgotten...which really is a shame. Cooper probably hasn't performed ANY of this material since 1970, if ever, and I'd bet that he even doesn't remember much about this album!

The first song is "Mr. And Misdemeanor", which sounds a lot like the Alice we would come to embrace in later albums. It's a mid tempo rock tune with prominent piano accompanyment, but the most important thing you'll notice is the first appearance of Alice's straight forward poppy singing punctuated with his now famous trademark frequent bursts of that whiskey soaked hoarse growl to emphasize the good/evil split personality for that ultimate creepy effect that he would master for the full blown psychotic themes that were stylistically central to his albums later in his career.

The next song, "Shoe Salesman", is a pretty bizarre 'lil number... it's a pretty mellow, mostly acoustic tune and while it's not bad, it's certainly no classic, and the lyrics serve as a prime example of an utter lack of sobriety! "Still No Air" sounds a bit like a leftover from the first album with the weird arrangements and unorthodox guitar noises, but it's still executed a lot better than anything on that stupid album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Below Your Means" in my opinion is one of the songs on Easy Action which is very well crafted and acts as a real glimpse into the band's future musical direction. Sort of an eerie song with a catchy melody and some great guitar arrangements before turning into an extended jam. Kinda reminds me of the style on the seminal Welcome To My Nightmare.

"Return Of The Spiders", the next song, I assume is a reference to the period around 1967 when the band was still in high school together and called themselves The Spiders. They sure upped the tempo for this one...just check out the hyperactive bass playing by Dennis Dunaway and the blistering drumming by Neal Smith with Alice's over-the-top snarls! Hardly any guitar on this one though.

What I always loved about the original Alice Cooper group is that each of the band members developed their own unique and instantly recognizable playing style. This is one of the few bands where the drumming and bass work consistently capture as much of the limelight as the guitars and vocals. I'd be hard pressed to find another bass player who is as original as Dennis Dunaway. Just as fascinating is that you can't really pin down the band's sound; unlike most harder rock bands of the era, there doesn't seem to be any strong blues influence, but it's rather more theatrical sounding.

It may be sacrilege to make comparisons to the Beatles because Alice Cooper, nor anyone else at that time, were quite in the same songwriting league, but I think that as musicians they were every bit as original. Even John Lennon himself was a fan of Cooper's music, and they regularly got sloshed together!

Back to the songs..."Laughing At Me" is a beautiful track that should have been a hit...it's an early example of the eerie teen angst riddled songs like "I'm 18" and "School's Out" that would become such huge hits for the band over the next few years.

Now, when you hear "Beautiful Flyaway" I swear you'll think it must be a misplaced track or something. This very solid mid-tempo piano tune sounds like a lost Beatles recording! There's nothing in this song AT ALL that would indicate it's Alice Cooper! The most baffling thing is that Alice himself sounds exactly like Paul McCartney! Shocking! But awesome!

Last but not least, the last song on Easy Action is "Lay Down And Die, Goodbye", and is pretty much a seven and a half minute jam with a bit of singing thrown in in the last thirty seconds. But unlike the nonsensical, disjointed, uninspired, and ill adivised instrumental jams on the debut record, this one actually seems to have some structure to it, and it defintitely sounds very dark and creepy, almost like the soundtrack to a nightmare (foreshadowing yet again)...it's a perfect tune to throw on the stereo on Hallowe'en night to scare them kiddies...MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

In closing, this is another obscure snapshot of a band less than a year from smashing into the mainstream world unleashing a legacy and impact that remains to this very day three decades later. Easy Action is totally a transition album that mixes the total freak out weirdoness of the debut with the garagey rock of the next one, Love It To Death, which made them a household name. It's pretty much for die-hard fans only, but it's very interesting to see how this bizarre band evolved!

In any case, this is an underated album that is way better than the debut, but not nearly as good as the next dozen or so releases. It suffers from inconsistency, but the good material here is REAL GOOD and it annoys me that it's constantly ignored. Too bad that it also has been out of print for years now, so I guess we'll just have to wait for the inevitable remastered re-issue with restored photos and artwork, and new liner notes, which is the kind of faithful treatment every other classic rock band seems to be getting nowadays. This is definitely an album that deserves a revival.

Rating: C+

User Rating: C


Comments









© 2001 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Straight Records, and is used for informational purposes only.