The Last Temptation

Alice Cooper

Epic Records, 1994

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/26/2001

Well it's about friggin' time!

Alice Cooper finally managed to regain his classic songwriting touch with the release of The Last Temptation in 1994, after more than a decade of suffering from chronic sobriety. I've heard of long drawn out, painful withdrawal before, but eleven years and four crappy albums in a row?? Call up Ripley!

So, just when you thought it was safe to dismiss Alice due to his previous decade of output as an indication that he was totally washed up and irrelevant, he comes roaring back in 1994 with easily his best album since at least Dada in 1983, and maybe even since his absolute peak, Welcome To My Nightmare, all the way back in 1975!

It seems that suddenly he woke up at some point in the early 90's and asked himself what the hell he was doing pandering to a brainless audience by dumbing down his approach to writing lyrics and music, then promptly decided to work on a good quality album like in the past, masterfully writing up a nifty little twisted story with the assisstance of reknowned graphic novel/Sandman comic writing guru Neil Gaiman.

The Last Temptation is very much an old fan's dream album, and I think that's exactly what he set out to make, almost apologetically. Now this is what the "comeback" album in the mid-80's should have been like (unlike the horrid Constrictor), instead of endlessly toying around with a bunch of stupid trendy genres that were to fizzle out after their 15 minutes in the spotlight...I have a strong feeling that this album will not age or sound nearly as dated as all those 80's albums, but will rather fit in nicely with his timeless classics from the 70's.

This is an extremely dark, creepy album, yet punctuated with melodic softer spots, and is also a concept album, very much reminiscent of Welcome To My Nightmare...in fact, I would almost say that this is a direct sequel, featuring the return of our little boy Steven. From beginning to end, the lyrics, instrumental playing, arrangements, song writing, and production are fabulous. For the first time in a long time, Alice was thinking and being creative with his lyrical concepts again, and the music itself is inventive and contains a depth not seen in years. If anything, this is the album that really would have deserved to be his huge commercial comeback.

I feel that each and every track contained within The Last Temptation had hit potential, only without the corny pop metal cliches dragging it down into fromage oblivion like its predecessors. Unfortunately, this potential went unfulfilled, save for some minor attention paid to the hilarious "Lost In America". For reasons unknown to me, he did not promote or tour for this album, and it didn't wind up selling very well. WHAT A TOTAL WASTE! After spending a decade and a half in the creative doldrums to finally break through again with fantastic material only to watch it quietly disappear...such torment!

Mind you, I'm sure that the explosion of grunge a few years prior to this album's release probably had a lot to do with that. Those were lean commercial times for veteran rock acts, and it wasn't "cool" to like someone like Alice Cooper. In a way you can blame this album's failure on the success of Trash, which saw him return to the rock spotlight in a big way in 1989, and probably erroneously caused a lot of young people who latched on to him (and who didn't know his history due to his long absence) at the time to erroneously believe him to be nothing more than an 80's hair metal ambassador, unfairly sealing his fate on the 90's (pardon the pun) trash heap of disposable glam pop metal along with scores of bands that he in no way deserves to be compared with.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A surprising tidbit is that even though Cooper has almost always taken current musical trends of every era and morphed them into something distinctively all his own, he did not do so with this CD. There are no hints of grunge anywhere, but The Last Temptation is a refreshing return to a more classic 70's sound except with glorious production, complete with heavy, distinctive riffs, eerie melodies, and memorable hooks galore, making for an extremely satisfying listen...you really should treasure moments like this in his career, because nostalgia is something he avoids for the most part. And what can you say about the cover artwork? Simply brilliant illustrations; probably the best cover of his career.

When it comes to the music and the lyrics, the album is a prime example of quality over quantity, so who cares how many copies it sells! All that matters is restored pride in himself, and new hope for long suffering fans, like myself! And who is this guitar player Stef Burns? His riffs are very distinctive and full of bravado.

This album is just saturated with muscular, crunchy, meaty guitar riffs that just sound positively evil, and that combined with thunderous drumming and bone crunching bass, along with one of Alice's most twisted performances, lyrically and vocally, just makes for a welcome return of the irresistable combination that made all his classic albums such a delight. This has to be one of his truly heaviest, darkest, and most demented albums... even the sensitive ballads are not what they seem here...none of that 80's bullshit phony pop metal anywhere in sight...it's Alice doing what he does best: have a dark, psychotic edge and yet retain a sense of humour... menacing, with a smirk.

"Sideshow" is an excellent introductory song, almost like welcoming the listener to a circus. Very pleasant, misleadingly upbeat song...nicely 70's sounding, with inspired acoustic guitar lines and horns filling out the sound; "Nothing's Free" is a great song about selling your soul to the devil, with some interesting section changes and creepy story telling, with Alice singing (and playing) the part perfectly. "Lost In America" is a hilarious joke lampooning American trailer trash that is simply uproariously funny, and deservedly one of the small hits from the album. It sounds like a natural follower to such catchy early garage rock classics like "Under My Wheels". "Bad Place Alone" is another fantastic track, with one of the most original, yet evil sounding guitar riffs I've heard, as well as a sludgingly heavy beat; "You're My Temptation" yields more evil, unique guitar playing and great melodies as well...excellent! "Stolen Prayer" is a moody, mellower tune that somehow recalls a town in the old west, but it soon also gets quite loud.

"Unholy War" is yet another stand out track that sounds as if it came out of the depths of hell itself...this is Alice sounding his scariest best, and the song also has excellent backing vocals from singer-extraordinaire Chris Cornell, then of Soundgarden. "Lullaby" is a very soft and sensitive sounding Alice, with a great melody over an acoustic guitar, until you realize what he's singing about and before the song explodes into powerful wattage; "It's Me" is a classic 70's style ballad and the most commercial sounding song here, but it's a wonderful addition to his repetoire, proving that he still had ability to write music in diverse styles and moods... unlike those cheesy 80's power pop ballads, this one is more restrained and subtle, which are definitely good qualities, not relying on wankage so much.

"Cleansed By Fire" is an awesome epic album ending song in the best traditon of his old classic albums, with it's psychotic, demented feel, more evil guitar, plodding pace, and haunting chorus...definitely twisted stuff, and that's exactly how he does things best.

It still amazes me to this day how Alice managed to pull himself up by the bootstraps and not just gradually work his way out of the creative doldrums of the pop metal hell he had immersed himself in for several years, but dramatically explode back into our naive minds with his ingenius talent for telling tales from the darkside with an entire album of instantly classic songs. Suddenly to go from years of mediocrity to unexpectedly put out this mini-masterpiece in 1994? There were subtle hints on Hey Stoopid (the previous album) that he was heading in this direction, but I don't think anyone could have predicted a return to his razor sharp edgy songwriting, culminating in one of his strongest albums ever after years of indecisive middling. The Last Temptation is the album where Alice Cooper serves notice that he's firing on all cylinders again and ready to take over right where he left off, in say, 1978!

All in all one of his finest cd's in every way imaginable...the vintage Alice Cooper personality is found in full force here, backed up with a collage of hard hitting, diverse, and memorable tracks. Highly recommended to anyone curious about his music.

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 Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.