Muscle Of Love

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


By the time of the release of this album in December 1973, it was quite apparent that the Alice Cooper group was suffering internal strife. After all, this was the seventh studio album they had released in only four years! To make things worse, in between albums they were constantly touring, and as Alice himself once famously said when asked where he lived, "in hotels." If this wasn't enough, with the tremendous wealth they had acquired for themselves, the various members had slipped into notorious drug and alcohol addictions, especially lead guitarist Glen Buxton, who apparently barely recorded anything for Muscle Of Love because he was in such bad condition.

To top it all off, the other members felt they needed well earned time off and even wanted to pursue solo projects, as well as tone down the stage show, which was in major conflict with Alice himself, who had visions of much greater stage productions saturated with unheard of spectacle. This tension resulted in a break up of the band which had single handedly revolutionized not only rock in a musical sense, but also created the over the top theatrics which would become common place among countless bands in the future.

Despite this being the original (all the members were buddies from high school) Alice Cooper group's swan song, and despite the fatigue, creative differences, and substance abuse, this is a fantastic album. Most fans seem to think it's a rather weak effort, but I really don't understand that point of view at all. I mean, shucks, you won't find any of the vintage creepiness, and there aren't as many controversial lyrics or shocking subject matter, and of course this is a major change in style and image that many fans probably didn't agree with at the time and still don't. That's why the album did not sell as well as previous ones, but the fact remains that this is a superb collection of hard rockin', often hilarious, tunes.

I'm sure the fact that Bob Ezrin did not produce this album due to creative differences had a lot to do with the change back to a rawer, garagey sound, but how can't ya love all the great material here? The album is chock full of memorable riffs and tasteful playing...and they sure turned up the sleaze factor's just a fun album to listen to, if not groundbreaking like the others.

Once again, there is no weak stuff anywhere in sight and all the songs stand apart as usual...I just wonder how they managed to constantly come up with great new material over the years despite all the problems! When I listen to the album, I hear a lot of songs that should have been hits but weren't; "Teenage Lament" was a mild hit, and is a wonderfully upbeat pop song that once again deals with the plight of insecurity faced by those coming of usual, Alice was once again deftly in touch with the feelings of the young masses, and lent his reassuring hand.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Big Apple Dreamin'" is the ultimate expression of awe of the mind boggling characteristics of one of the world's greatest urban areas; "Never Been Sold Before" is a not so subtle look at whores; in fact, the whole album just has a real vibe of cool urban perspective about it, not just the subject matter, but I can even feel it in the music itself, with the sleazy, greasy guitar riffs and rhythms, as well as the raw production. I mean how else could you explain the sudden presence of sleazy material with quick licks like "Working Up A Sweat" and "Muscle Of Love"??? The album often plays out like a visit to a Times Square porno shop, but wisely uses teasing innuendo instead of graphic profanity. Get a load of all the masturbation references! Hilarious, I say.

How about the awesome "Hard Hearted Alice"? Soft and mysterious Byrd-ish vocals turn into a funky jam complete with Hammond organ and a soaring chorus. "Crazy Little Child" is a very cool song as well, sounding very much like a sort of jazzy honky tonk piano piece complete with banjos in a sort of old broadway/tin pan alley vein that conjures up visions of a smoky piano bar/gangster hang out in the 1920's.

Finally, the most interesting piece here is "Man With The Golden Gun", which has the same title as the James Bond film which came out in theaters at almost the exact same time...coincidence?? No way the liner notes Alice himself mentions that the band was asked to write the theme song for the film, but unfortunately the studio changed its mind about using it when they feared a strong backlash against using such a controversial artist...that's a real shame because it's a totally amazing song and even has a Bondish sound to it, and it sure is a hell of a lot better than the crappy chick they got for the job, whoever she is. (Editor's note: The theme song was performed by Lulu, best known for her '60s hit "To Sir, With Love".)

For some reason people love to dump on this album. Far too many times I've read some "legitimate" music critic dismiss Muscle Of Love as a lacklustre effort of a band in a shambles. What a crock of shit! This music is superb! No filler here. No weak material. No throwaways. It rocks, and the music is as diverse and interesting as ever. Each track seems to be more amazing than the last (in no particular order). Muscle Of Love shows the first glimpses into Alice's near future with more broadway-styled tunes, combining early Love It To Death Alice and the Lace And Whiskey Alice providing an intriguing blend of the Alice Cooper band and the future Alice Cooper solo artist.

Yes, Muscle Of Love is more light hearted, straight forward meat and potatoes rock record, but the song quality stands up there with the best of the band's material, despite what some people might say...the musicianship is amazing as always, the lyrics are amusing, and the songs are diverse and captivating. I'll take an allegedly weaker Alice Cooper album of this sort of quality over most band's finest moments.

So maybe there's nothing creepy or shocking or satirical here. And maybe it's not a concept album. But that doesn't mean that it's not one of the most consistently excellent hard rock albums of the 70's. That's right, you heard me. It might be just a notch below Alice's own brilliant discography, but as a collection of unrelated rock songs, this is about as solid as it gets from anyone...ANYONE!

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


© 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 Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.