From The Inside

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers / Metal Blade Records, 1978

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/14/2001

Well, well, well! What do we have here? Just when it seemed that the good old Alice was going down the tubes (he flirted with death due to his alcohol addiction prior to recording this album), he made a big comeback in 1978 with this spectacular record. In every respect, it is one of his best albums, and as far as talented, compelling songwriting goes, this has to be one of the finest albums of the 70's.

At some point after Lace And Whiskey (his 1977 release) he went into rehab for being a drunkard, but hilariously, he wound up staying in a mental institution! He was the only one in there for substance abuse; everyone else was a complete nut case that had committed horrible acts. Not like Alice is perfectly sane though!

Anyways, it was while he was at this institution that he wrote this concept album which is bristling with strange, derranged characters...all the songs are about actual experiences he had and people he met there. Lyrically, this is such an entertaining and fascinating album, and the patented creepiness is back as well...lots of material about psycho killers, insanity, booze, celebrity, and downright sleaze. This is one of those brilliant concept albums that engulfs you in the world of the storyteller, in this case the wonderful Alice, whose lyrics on From The Inside just might be the finest of his career. There's a reason why he's been referred to as the Edgar Allan Poe of rock; I personally don't think he's quite that bleak or humourless, but there is an undeniable Poe influence in a lot of his work.

The opening song (the title track) is an excellent rock tune that immediately confesses his alcoholism and the problems that ensued. It starts with a piano riff over a disco beat (again!!), but this is not some cheesy, disposable disco tune...it has hard driving galloping guitars and the old Alice sneers and growls are back; it definitely has a dark edge to it. Before I go on, I should mention that this was the first album for quite a long time that Bob Ezrin did not produce, but it doesn't really show... the production is top notch, and very detailed, courtesy of David Foster. Another interesting note is that Bernie Taupin, the man behind the lyrics of many Elton John songs, assisted Alice here, but you can definitely tell that it's still Alice who handled the bulk of the material.

"The Quiet Room" is a very poppy, mainstream, commercial ballad that's very melodic, well written and performed, but on first appearance comes across as an overtly slick, typically 70's sounding soft rock tune designed for radio...until you listen to the lyrics. It is written from the perspective of a nut confined to a room with rubber walls. I swear, the effect is both hilarious and chilling at the same time, and only a man with Alice Cooper's imagination could really pull something off like this. Simply brilliant.

"Nurse Rozetta" is also one of my personal favourites...you just gotta hear the lyrics, they're hilarious! It's a fantasy about some hot nurse who treats the patients in the funny farm, and in no subtle terms does Alice express what emotions ummm, errr, swell, in him upon seeing her. Not just that, but it's also got a real groove to it...this may be a real stretch, but I'd swear that during the verses it sounds like Alice is rapping, but this seems impossible because rap music did not enter the mainstream consciousness until 1979. So, it seems pretty unlikely that the world's premier shock rocker, who happens to also be a white male from the midwest, would have even known of its existence in 1978, but hey, stranger things have happened, no?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I should also mention that for the first time on an Alice album there is a fair bit of use of keyboards in the background...yep, those 80's were just around the corner, and the first trickles of the "new wave" electronic sound which was about to explode at the time certainly have a very noticeable presence on From The Inside. In fact, there is barely any hard rock on this album at all. There's a number of soft ballads, a few poppy, sonically upbeat rock songs, and the rest are quirky mid-tempo tracks with a slight disco/new wave feel. In fact, a friend of mine suggested that a lot of the arrangements and sounds of this album reminded him of Supertramp, which I suppose in a strange way might be true to some extent, but I couldn't help but feel insulted by the comparison.<g>

"Millie And Billie" is a very commercial sounding duet with some chick that somehow reminds me of that disco duet Elton John did with Kiki Dee, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart.". Upon first listen, it can be disheartening to hear a menacing shock rocker embrace such a mellow sound, but the lyrics truly are twisted and humourous, and the songwriting is so damn superbly catchy that after a while it hardly seems to matter.

I think with this record Alice tried to show yet another dimension as a performer and writer, that of the soft rock/ballad variety (yet with his patented twist), and in my opinion he succeeded brilliantly. Any arrogant Elton John (and the like) worshipping snob who has never taken an artist of Alice Cooper's nature seriously needs to look no further than From The Inside for hard evidence that he could write songs seemingly effortlessly in any style he chose, easily up there with the best in the business.

"Serious" is another great, almost frantic, rock song...it ALMOST turns into a hard disco number, but it just teases with that...it deals with alcohol abuse, something he certainly was quite the authority on, as heard in lyrics like: "All of my life was a laugh and a joke, a drink and a smoke, and then I passed out on the floor...again and again and again and again and again!!!!";

The big hit here was "How You Gonna See Me Now"... possibly another ballad?? You can bet yer 'lil ass on it. Hmmm, this was the FOURTH STRAIGHT hit ballad for him, diametrically opposed to the garage rock teen anthem hits of the early 70's. But why fix something that ain't broke, eh? This soft piano/keyboard ballad seems to have a real heartfelt, longing quality to it, with the lyrics written in the form of a letter to his wife, just praying that things will be the same when he comes home again. Have a hankie ready.

The album ends on the demented song "Inmates (We're All Crazy)"...an epic song, with lots of tempo shifts and different parts, and as the last songs on Alice's albums usually end with great fanfare, this one is no exception. Booming orchestral parts, huge choirs, and all the other nifty things are present, and they are accompanied by twisted, black humour lyrics! The song is about as theatrical as they come, and would have fit in perfectly on his awesome Welcome To My Nightmare album.

You would think with this successful creative and commercial comeback, not to mention new found sobriety, that Alice Cooper would continue the momentum right into the 80's, but he was soon to hit the low point of his career.

So, to summarize, From The Inside remains one of the great concept albums in rock history, and it's biographical theme brings you directly into the mind of Alice himself and the experiences he went through in his darkest hour. The lyrics are among Alice's most inspired, and the range of emotions he drags you through is a treat. Musically it's probably one of the poppiest and least heavy albums of his career, and this is probably the only thing I can fault about it...for a glimpse into a horrific experience for three months in a nuthouse, the album sounds strangely upbeat and commercial, and even the few songs that rock out seem a bit tame, especially considering his earlier output. But, as I said earlier, I do believe this was intentional, just to show the naysayers that he could be what the mainstream considers a "serious" artist, and to this day he maintains that he adores every last song on here.

Fortunately though, the lyrics are quite twisted in vintage Alice fashion, and combined with the surprisingly mellow sound, this gives the album a strange kind of wolf-in-sheepskin feel. I just think it would have made a more powerful impact had it been a bit darker and beefier. Still a solid rating though for the excellent songwriting, and the last really essential Cooper album worth owning until the mid 1990's.

Rating: A-

User 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 / Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.