Pretties For You

Alice Cooper

Straight Records, 1969

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/01/2001

Holy crapola! My god, it's not hard to find the words to describe this, the 1969 debut album by Alice Cooper. It is sickeningly inadequate, virtually unlistenable in many places. The only characteristic that this album has in common with the later classic material is that it's completely bizarre, just not in a good way...what were they thinking???

There is almost nothing on here that follows normal song structure. Now, I'll be the last person to say that that is a bad thing, seeing how some of the most innovative music in rock history was created that way if you look at bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc., but in the case of this album, that approach led to a complete mess.

It really sounds like the band members just went into the studio one day completely fucked out of their minds on drugs or booze and just let the tape roll while they jammed...There is no cohesiveness to anything here. It sounds like the soundtrack for a typical late 60's low grade sci-fi B flick, and ironically, the photo of the band on the back looks like it was taken from the cutting room floor off the set of Barbarella.

Completely out of whack arrangements, constant tempo shifts, ridiculously bad nonsensical lyrics, pathetic attempts at vocal harmonies, and bizarre out of tune dissonant guitar sounds and other unidentifiable sound effects...and don't even dream of finding a groove anywhere! I have the impression that all the band members just played whatever they felt like with no regard to any sort of unifying theme. I also have the feeling that they didn't take it too seriously...yeah well all I can tell ya is that the joke is on them!

One thing's for sure; it's pretty obvious why Frank Zappa loved these guys and instantly signed them to his label Straight Records in 1968...this sort of uncontrolled, insane psychedelic mayhem is just the sort of eccentric approach to music that he excelled at...pity he didn't help to make this record much better than it turned out.

It's unbelievable when you take into consideration that this is the identical classic Alice Cooper band lineup that would go on to make some of the most groundbreaking rock albums in history...yup, that's Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on guitar and organ, Dennis Dunaway on bass, and Neal Smith on drums in addition to Alice (then still Vincent Furnier) on vocals of course.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I had really high expectations when I miraculously purchased this album, and I really tried to like it, but, oh, how shall I put it...listening to this abomination roughly triggers a similar reaction as the one people get when ten long fingernails screech across a chalkboard at an ungodly morning hour during a colossal hangover. The only reason Pretties For You doesn't get a failing grade is because there is the occasional fragment of a decent melody amid the muck, although these are too few and far in between to salvage the album on a whole. "Levity Ball" would be an ok song, but on this album it's horribly recorded live, sounding like somebody stood in the audience with a tape recorder.

Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh here...I almost get the hunch that this is one of those albums that the listener might start to appreciate after maybe a hundred listens, just for its sheer wackiness. One interesting little ditty that I noticed was that the vocal melody in the song "Reflected" was "borrowed" several albums later for the huge 1973 hit "Elected"! Also, "Changing Arraging" is a more tolerable track on here...it's got some nifty guitar distortion and a somewhat sad sounding pop melody, even if it still sounds like it's from outer space.

So, I think that should be enough on the world's (suitably short lived) introduction to Alice Cooper. Just don't expect to hear the creepy, dark humoured, satirical, controversial, hard rocking, and shocking Alice Cooper that everybody knows. If you like pointless, endless psychedelic noise, then this thing is probably right up yer alley! If not, then stay far, far away, that is, if you can even find it...for glaringly obvious reasons, and deservedly so I must say, this album has been out of print for a long time. I delve through dozens of new and used cd shops all the time, and my copy is only the second one I've ever seen. Actually, I think that's the only other positive aspect of Pretties For You...for the hardcore Alice fan like myself it serves as a rare opportunity to look into the early history and development of one of rock's most influential bands of all time...a mere novelty item, because pretty it ain't.

It's certainly not a great album, or even a good one, but it's a definite novelty record. I can't think of any other major artist or band who's debut record was so completely different from anything else they ever put out (except perhaps Ministry, whose debut was giddy dance pop!), and that makes Pretties For You stand out more than it normally would. At least it's sort of interesting, and tries to go in places that rock is rarely taken to...one of the weirdest albums you'll ever find...expect the unexpected! And right from the start it's obvious that these guys were out to shake the music industry in the late 60's. I give it high marks for originality, but real low ones for execution. The playing is real sloppy, the melodies often bland, and the production is crap.

However, it's an album that's practically dying to be re-discovered and given that revered "drug album" stamp of approval from the same reefer heads who worship Their Satanic Majesty's Request, early Pink Floyd, and other such whacked out stuff! I could totally see this being the only Alice Cooper album that would be the perfect companion soundtrack to a basement full of druggies gettin' fucked up!

Rating: D-

User Rating: D+


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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 Straight Records, and is used for informational purposes only.