3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Alice Cooper’s 2019 Breadcrumbs EP paid tribute to the shock-rocker’s Detroit roots, and the follow-up now keeps that theme going. Its 15 tracks, a mix of originals and a handful of covers, were produced by Bob Ezrin, a man who was instrumental in crafting Cooper’s original batch of ‘70s classics, starting with Love It to Death, and who has now returned to helm some of his recent releases.
If this sounds like the blueprint for a comeback, it is.
Detroit natives like MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, drummer Johnny “Bee” Badanjek (Mitch Ryder’s band), Grand Funk’s Mark Farner and the Motor City Horns recorded with Cooper at Royal Oak’s Rust Belt Studios, infusing the album with additional hometown authenticity.
The set kicks off with Ryder’s hard-edged arrangement of Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” then cruises through another 14 rockers, some surprisingly soulful. Cooper and his backing musicians sound every bit as nasty and driven on “Drunk and In Love,” “I Hate You” and “Social Debris” as they do on the golden “Schools Out” days from four decades ago. The singer’s trademarked sneering vocals are in fine form, despite 72 years of living in the rock and roll trenches. These songs successfully capture the melodic hard rock that made his ‘70s classics durable enough to highlight in his current shows.
Not everything clicks, though. The spoken word verses and clichéd lyrics of “Don’t Give Up” and the simplistic “Shut Up and Rock” could have been chopped from an album that’s already pretty long. But there is enough of Cooper’s trademarked sleaze and rowdy clenched-fist riffing in “Hail Mary,” a cover of the MC5’s propulsive “Sister Ann,” and the swampy “Wonderful World” to satisfy fans of Cooper’s early work.
Old Cooper followers can rejoice in Detroit Stories, easily one of his best and most invigorating collections in at least a few decades. Sometimes you can go home again.
Photo by Jenny Risher