Lace And Whiskey

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers Records, 1977

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/06/2001

The name Alice Cooper hardly needs an introduction by this point. To say that this genuine pioneer, one of the most influential forces in rock music in history, is a legend, is truly an understatement.

Equally notorious for his ghoulish appearance and highly theatrical stage performances as he is for crafting rebellious anthems of discontent and surprisingly sensitive ballads, he continues to remain the master of his genre well into his fourth decade as a recording and performing artist, as evidenced by his brilliant 2000 studio album, Brutal Planet.

Many people may question the quality of several of his studio albums over the years, and while there certainly are a few weaker ones (as is the case with anyone), I personally feel that particular albums have been unfairly maligned; 1977's Lace And Whiskey is precisely one of those.

There's no disputing the impact and influence of the early Alice Cooper Group records (1969 - 1974); most of them are considered bona fide classic rock milestones, but it is Alice Cooper's solo career (1975 to the present) that has been the subject of much debate and wildly diverging opinion.

Whereas the early 70's saw Alice Cooper take the music world by storm with their shock rock/glam/trash/punk/metal/goth style, the solo Cooper experimented more with genre hopping (often mainstream), and injected large doses of humour into his work, which caused a bit of a backlash. Some of his albums, especially Lace And Whiskey, were labelled as rather cheesy, and did not sell nearly as many copies as previous albums.

Speaking from personal experience, the first time I listened to Lace And Whiskey I simply couldn't understand how he could record something so vastly different than the material of only a few years prior. I was shocked by how cheesy and ridiculous the whole thing seemed...where was the shock rocker who scared all the parents?? The album was a huge letdown...one big joke.

Know what, though? Over the years and many listens later, I've come to the conclusion (and I'll no doubt get many arguments on this) that Lace And Whiskey, in its own way, is every bit a display of brilliant songwriting as the "classic" albums, and dare I say, probably more entertaining and FUN to listen to...I mean, isn't music supposed to be enjoyable??

Cooper sounds like he actually enjoyed making an album this bizarre and kooky...oh yes, it is bizarre indeed. In terms of musical genre, it's all over the place, like smog over Athens. Some people would say it's unfocused because of this; I say it's interesting and unpredictable, which I believe are two essential qualities that make the listening experience all the more intriguing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In fact, a track by track breakdown is necessary just to give you an idea of what unexpected sounds lurk behind the jewel case: "It's Hot Tonight" is a unique, mid tempo, theatrical sounding heavy funk rocker, "Lace And Whiskey" has a weird 50's vibe to it, engulfed in a 70's showtune sound (if that makes any sense at all), and "Road Rats" is more of a straight ahead heavy pop song; very heavy guitars, catchy vocal melodies, and significant use of honky tonk piano(!) on those three tracks.

After that however, things really get weird: "Damned If You Do" is a hyperactive country song (the only one in his career!), "You And Me" is a soft, melancholy acoustic love(!) ballad which was the only big hit off the album, "King Of The Silver Screen" is a very glammy nod to Hollywood, complete with that famous silent era "creepy" theme (you'll know what I mean when you hear it), and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" theme!

Next up is an infectious 50's rockabilly cover called "Ubangi Stomp" (in keeping with the light 50's influence throughout the album), then a full out wonderfully cheesy disco tune called "(No More) Love At Your Convenience" that reminds me of the "Love Boat" theme for some reason. "I Never Wrote Those Songs" has more of a sad, reflective feel to it, especially with the weeping string accompaniment and jazzy sax solo. The track perfectly conveys a lonely walk in the rain at night on a dimly lit city street...finally the album ends with yet another musical about face: "My God", a Christian rock song! Complete with full church organ intro! It's highly orchestrated (no surprise considering the ever fascinating over-the-top stylings of super producer and long time Alice collaborator Bob Ezrin), and I'm suprised this song wasn't chosen as the theme for the 700 Club!

As ridiculous as that might all sound, it works...against all the odds, it works. Every single track is a highly entertaining journey, completely different from all the others, but yet still very much Alice Cooper. Upon the first few listens it all sounds like a confused mess, but be patient and you'll be rewarded with a very special record.

It works because all the melodies are extremely catchy, Dick Wagner's guitar playing is impressively creative throughout, and Alice's lyrics are hilarious from beginning to end; his natural flair for witty humour, sarcasm, and social commentary are in full force.

In closing, I must say that this is one of Alice Cooper's overlooked classics. However, anyone expecting or looking for the more traditional Alice Cooper style will not find it here...nothing on Lace And Whiskey is shocking, creepy, or even remotely threatening. It is rather dripping with humourous satire, and its very campy presentation is what drives so many people away without really giving it a chance. I applaud the man for taking such a bold step in musical directions that I think people never would have expected from someone with such a twisted image...how long could he have continued in his old style before becoming a cliche? Part of his genius is that he beat everyone else to the punch by making fun of himself first. It's very refreshing to see a rock star and controversial media fixture like the Coop not take himself seriously at all by directly coming out with an album like Lace And Whiskey and basically saying "Relax people! It's just a show; it's just entertainment; it's just fun".

By all means give the album a chance with an open mind, and you're likely to enjoy one of the most amusing listening experiences you're likely to encounter this side of Primus.

Novelty record it may be, but I'll be damned if it ain't one of the best novelty reccords ever made.

Rating: A-

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© 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.