Alice Cooper – Paranormal

After a gap of six years, legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper is back once again to give today’s youngsters a gentle, but purposeful reminder of how it’s done. At the age of 69, just a few months shy of joining the ranks of the septuagenarians, Alice is clearly in no mood to relax by an electric fire in a dressing gown and slippers, eating breakfast in the afternoon, while reminiscing to anyone in the retirement home with functioning hearing about the good old days of meeting Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali, and Colonel Sanders. Or of being deftly disarmed by Elvis Presley, of snakes escaping into hotel bathrooms, playing in a band with movie star Johnny Depp, and of course that airborne poultry incident. Certainly not when there’s radio shows to DJ, venues to fill, and rounds of golf to be played.

For his comeback in 1986, Alice left his old sound behind, keeping himself relevant by regularly hopping onto popular rock trends. With virtually any other artist, it would have been seen as nothing more than blatant bandwagon jumping, but seeing as, in one way or another, Alice had helped influence most of those artists in the first place, he quite rightly earned himself a pass.

When mainstream Metal became popular with the masses in the mid-late eighties, Alice released Trash (Epic), the album that contained ‘Poison’ – the song which virtually reignited his entire career. When Grunge reared its head in the early nineties, he headed down that road with The Last Temptation (Epic), even recruiting the now late Chris Cornell to sing backing vocals on a couple of tracks. When Nu-Metal took over the airwaves in the late nineties, he gave us Brutal Planet and Dragontown (both Spitfire), and when things came full circle at the turn of the millennium, he drew from his original garage sound with The Eyes of Alice Cooper, and Dirty Diamonds (both Spitfire again) before returning to more conceptual themes with Along Came A Spider (Steamhammer) and Welcome 2 My Nightmare (UME).

Now, with Paranormal (earMUSIC), Alice has backed up a little and delivered a concept-free, straight forward, stomping Hard Rock album. Although simplicity is the key here, each track still has its own clear identity and sound. Whether it’s the driving boogie beat of ‘Fallen in Love’, the overt Pink Floyd-isms of ‘The Sound of A’, the episodic title track which opens the album, the almost Charlie Daniels Band ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ vibe of ‘Dynamite Road’, the brass and gospel sound of ‘Holy Water’, the standard Rock n’ Roll of ‘Rats’, or the classic ‘Go To Hell’ dynamics of ‘Paranoiac Personality’, Paranormal may not appeal to everyone at once but it certainly can’t be accused of being repetitive or boring. And, although he delivers a strong vocal performance, long-time producer Bob Ezrin helps Alice out occasionally with a bit of studio tampering to smooth out some of the rougher edges, but still leaves enough dirt and grease on the tracks for it to sound like classic Coop.

As with many of Alice’s previous albums, a few guests drop in to lend a hand. Past records have included the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mick Mars, Steven Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi, Slash, Rob Zombie, Ke$ha, and of course, the legendary Vincent Price. This time out we have Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover, U2 drummer Larry Mullen, and ZZ Top six stringer and beardmeister extraordinaire, Billy Gibbons. In fact, such is The Coop’s infectious enthusiasm, he’s even been able to coax the former members of his original band back into the studio. After guesting on Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the trio of Michael Bruce,Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith roll back the years once again with two bonus tracks which wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Alice’s earlier albums.

Paranormal might never be regarded as classic Cooper, but if this turns out to be the final record in his lengthy and illustrious career (and let’s hope it isn’t), then there are much worse ways to sign off.