Mascara And Monsters: The Best Of Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

Rhino Records, 2001

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/01/2001

Although numerous "best of" collections pertaining to Alice Cooper's long career have been released over the years, very few have really been able to do him any justice at all. In early 2001 Rhino records entered the fray by releasing Mascara & Monsters: The Best Of Alice Cooper, and while it certainly has some obvious faults, I would have to say that so far it's the best one-disc overview of Cooper's 30-plus year career.

Basically this is an expanded version of the original Greatest Hits album that was released in 1974 upon the breakup of what many to this day consider the ultimate Alice Cooper band line-up, the original five members who crafted a handful of landmark studio albums between 1969 and 1973.

All of the tracks from 1974's Greatest Hits are included here as well, and one additional track from the original band has been added, the underated "Generation Landslide" from the brilliant Billion Dollar Babies album. In my review of Greatest Hits, I mentioned that I found it to be an unforgivable oversight that that compilation did not include two of the defining tracks of early 70's Alice Cooper: "Dead Babies" and "The Ballad Of Dwight Frye"...not only are those two of the strongest songs the original band ever wrote, but they were also among the most popular, and remain in Cooper's live repertoire to this very day. I would have liked to have seen "Be My Lover" and "Teenage Lament '74" replaced by "Dead Babies" and "The Ballad Of Dwight Frye" because I believe those songs to be much better representations of Alice Cooper's material, which brings me to my first gripe with Mascara & Monsters. They did not correct this mistake for some strange reason, even though CD's have quite a bit more room, and why did they add "Generation Landslide" instead?

And, unlike Greatest Hits, Mascara & Monsters also covers a decent portion of Alice Cooper's solo material, which began with 1975's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Welcome To My Nightmare album. But again, I have to question why the song "Department Of Youth" is included here...while it's certainly not a bad song, I also don't think it quite deserves a spot on a "best of" collection when so many superior tracks have been omitted.

Another problem with Mascara & Monsters is the flow of the disc. Three of Alice's biggest hit ballads ("I Never Cry", "You And Me", and "How You Gonna See Me Now") are bunched back to back near the end of the disc, which really hurts the momentum of the music...it's pretty obvious that the tracks are mostly placed in chronological order, but how could the people putting this disc together have possibly thought it was a good idea to have three soft, mellow ballads in a row near the end of a very long, 22 track CD? I can definitely imagine more than a few fingers reaching for the skip button as a result of this. That's just plain stupid, and the collection would definitely have benefitted from mixing up the diversity. It's strange that this happened, because usually the people at Rhino know what they're doing.

My final grievance is probably the most severe. There are only two measly songs representing the entire last twenty years! That is simply unforgivable, and gives people who might buy this the impression that Alice Cooper has hardly released anything of worth in two whole decades, which could not be further from the truth. "Clones" from 1980 and "Poison" from 1989 are all that showcase the 80's, and there is nothing here from the more recent, brilliant The Last Temptation or Brutal Planet albums, which contain some of his finest music. It's disgraceful that so much great material has been ignored. You know, my eyesight is pretty damn good, and when I look at the cover of this CD I see the words "best of", not the words "greatest hits", and there is a world of difference. The title is misleading because it's pretty obvious by the tracklisting that Rhino chose to include only Alice's most commercially successful songs, as opposed to his "best" material, which certainly would explain the convenient omission of selections from Cooper's more recent output, which was not commercially successful despite it's superior quality.

On the upside to things, the booklet is well put together, containing several nice photos, interesting liner notes including a typically witty message written by Alice himself, and track-by-track descriptions also given by the creator, which were actually taken directly from 1999's four-CD box set The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper. I also think the album cover is quite good, with side profile shots of the "normal" Alice Cooper and the make-up wearing "evil" Alice Cooper staring at each other, face to face.

On a whole, I can't really fault this collection too much, because even though I would have rather seen several key songs in place in some of the ones that are included, each and every song here is nevertheless excellent. I think that to properly convey the diversity of Alice Cooper's songwriting though, this should have been volume one of a two-CD set, after all, much lesser bands like Uriah Heep or INXS boast hits collections consisting of more than one disc, so I really don't see the logic in restricting a legend like Alice Cooper to only one. However, until the day comes that a multi-volume examination of Alice Cooper's work is available, Mascara & Monsters is as good as it probably gets on one CD.

Rating: B

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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 Rhino Records, and is used for informational purposes only.