Welcome To My Nightmare
Atlantic Records, 1975
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/31/2005
A side note: Alice Cooper once performed the title track of this release on The Muppet Show. I wish I had been alive then to see it.
Welcome To My Nightmare is Cooper's first solo album, the part where he broke ranks with his band of the early '70s, reteamed with producer Bob Ezrin and fully fleshed out his shock-rock theatrical persona. As a result, there is less Detroit rock and more Broadway theatrics here - which isnt' a bad thing, just a bit of a letdown.
Before this album, Alice Cooper was the name of the band, and together they were a tight unit, capable of delivering the catchy, the anthemic, the macabre and the progressive all on one album (1971's Killer is the best example of this). From this album on, though, Alice became the name of singer Vincent Furnier, and the music became almost secondary to the stage show.
The opening track is undoubtedly a classic, a moody number that builds in eerie intensity both musically and vocally, with horns and piano sprinkled in to give it a more Broadway-themed flavor. "Devil's Food" and "The Black Widow" are excellent rock numbers, but unfornately are broken up by a pointless monologue about the black widow spider that kills the momentum the album builds up. It's Alice trying to be theatrical just because, and it doesn't translate well to vinyl.
"Some Folks" is a catchy jazzy number that belies Cooper's Halloween-esque lyrics and vocal delivery, while "Cold Ethyl" is a straight-ahead rock number that gets it right. "Department of Youth" continues Cooper's string of teenage anthems guaranteed to get the fists pumping and the crowd singing (which they did at the Michigan concert that I attended in September), and it's organ/guitar combo and great lyrics make it the album's highlight.
The end is a multi-part suite that is also a mini-Broadway epic. Cooper performed this on stage at the September concert I saw and it was riveting, but on album it loses something. The tale of Steven is delivered in a suitably childlike way by Cooper, who sings for all the characters in the tale and alternates his voices to do so. Fortunately, the music backing him up in the suite is at turns morbid, eerie, sad, wistful and haunting. In a way, this could have been a rock opera, but as it stands it's a flawed masterpiece.
Many have held this up as Cooper's finest individual moment, and that point is hard to argue. It certainly was the last time in a long while that so much subtelty and talent was crammed into a Cooper album, but parts of it come across as theatre for theatre's sake, which doesn't always work. Still, this is a high-water mark in his career and one of the top five albums every fan should own.