From The Inside

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers / Metal Blade Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I can always count on longtime readers like Trent Nakagawa to suggest albums that I haven't touched for years as potential review candidates. Recently, Trent asked me if I was familiar with From The Inside, the 1978 release from Alice Cooper.

Prior to digging this CD out of the Pierce Memorial Archives, my answer to Trent would have been, "Unfortunately, yes." I first listened to it when it was re-issued on Metal Blade back in 1990, but didn't find much to appreciate about the disc.

Of course, my knowledge of Cooper and his music was more limited than it is now - and even today, I don't claim to have a vast knowledge of Cooper's music. But after re-listening to this CD (for the first time, in fact, since my days in college radio), it really isn't a bad album, even if it sometimes feels like it's a little too ballad-heavy.

Loosely based on Cooper's stay in a psychiatric hospital to fight his alcoholism, From The Inside is a look at one man's quest to regain his foothold on sanity, while examining the lives of his fellow patients. (Cooper says in the liner notes of this re-release that the characters in the songs are based on real patients he met.)

One might be surprised to find out that Cooper collaborated with Bernie Taupin - best known for his work with Elton John - on this album. For the most part, the partnership works well, even if the album seems to border on the theatric at times. (Theatric... cripes, look who I'm my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 talkin' about here.)

The title track helps to set the scene, documenting Cooper's slide into alcoholism while enjoying the pinnacle of success. As a rocker, it's not a bad track at all, though it sometimes seems to be a shorter song than it really is. We're able to track our hero's progress throughout the album, from his moments of desparation ("The Quiet Room": "Just don't know why / Suicide appeals to me") to his concerns about how his loved ones will react ("How You Gonna See Me Now") to his eventual release ("Inmates (We're All Crazy)"), all the while feeling the turmoil that Cooper was eveidently going through.

There are a few tracks that I'm not sure about - namely, whether they're about Cooper or other patients. "Serious" sounds like it could have been a track about living life in the fast lane, but it also could easily be the tale of another patient who battled his own demon (namely, gambling). "For Veronica's Sake" has the singer lovingly thinking about his pet dog who is locked up like he is, and feels like he needs to get better in order to take care of her. I'd like to say this is Cooper speaking about his life, but immediately following the pathos of "How You Gonna See Me Now," it seems almost anti-climatic to be purely about Cooper.

The tales of some of the other inmates are no less tragic, from the debutante wanna-be who can't let go of her past ("Wish I Were Born In Beverly Hills") to the soldier who is constantly fighting the wars in his head ("Jackknife Johnny") to the star-crossed lovers who committed crimes of passion to be together ("Millie And Billie"), Cooper and Taupin paint pictures so realistic that you can almost see the inmates take shape before your eyes.

For all of the strengths of From The Inside, it sometimes feels like it's too soft of an album. Sure, you have your rockers like "Serious" and "Jackknife Johnny", and sure, I realize that Cooper's career hasn't always been about how loud he could crank the amplifiers. But it sometimes feels like things get a little too quiet ("Millie And Billie", "Inmates"). This isn't to say that ballads are unwelcome; "The Quiet Room" and "How You Gonna See Me Now" are powerful tracks that speak volumes.

From The Inside is an album that, like a lot of Cooper's catalog, has been overlooked for a long time. (Although this album is presently available only as an import, I believe that Rhino plans to re-release it, along with a good portion of Cooper's discography.) With the potential of a rebirth of interest in Cooper's career thanks to the recently-released box set, maybe now is a great time for radio to re-discover this album. My suggestion: test the waters with the track "Serious", and watch the phones light up.

Rating: B

User Rating: A-



© 1999 Christopher Thelen 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.