From the Stacks

Return of From the Stacks: More Alice Cooper – Muscle of Love

alice cooper muscle of love 3This is a first for me, but Robbo left a comment that was so much better than what I had to say about the original Alice Cooper band’s last album that I had to reprint it. Here you go, wallow in the glory of true record geek love:

Muscle of Love, my first ‘box set’, literally. What has Alice done this time?! Who the hell other than Alice would put out an album in a cardboard box?! And with “This Carton Contains One (1) Alice Cooper Muscle of Love” written on the front, it made one think something a bit nasty was inside, as in those goodies often found in plain brown wrappers.

Muscle of Love was the last album by the classic Alice Cooper band. All songs were written by two or more of the band members. Producer of several prior Cooper albums, Bob Ezrin, parted ways with the band during its recording reportedly because some of the band refused to change some of the arrangements. But it was Ezrin who took over as producer on 1971′s Love It To Death and cleaned up their sound, bringing Alice Cooper into the public eye…and ears. Except for Alice himself, the rest of the band was simply tired of being told how to play their own songs, tired of the theatrics’ and wanted to get back to more of a rock sound, as found on the pre-Ezrin album Easy Action, a good companion to Muscle of Love. After Muscle of Love, the band was no more, and if Alice had stayed with the band? Who knows? Maybe they would have just faded away like some bands do, or survived a while and split up later, or maybe eventually just played small retro clubs. But as fate would have it, Alice went solo and once again teamed up with Ezrin for 1975′s Welcome To My Nightmare, and the evil little psycho has been tormenting audiences ever since.

Muscle of Love starts off with “Big Apple Dreamin’ (Hippo).” At first it always makes me think of Deep Purple, and then Alice chimes in. But it’s Glen Buxton’s guitar that makes it – pure lead guitar, the kind that doesn’t overblow a song. Basically it’s about wannabes with precarious little chips on their shoulders going to make a stab at it in NYC – “New York is waiting for you and me, baby, waiting to swallow us down. New York, we’re coming to see what you’re made of. Are you as tough as you sound?” The sweet violin at the end is nice touch.

Next is “Never Been Sold Before,” a damned good foot-tappin’ rocker. Is it just about a whore or partly directed at Bob Ezrin?  “I’ve never been sold before, and I’ll never be had again.” …Maybe.

The third cut, “Hard Hearted Alice,” is one of my favorites. With some eerie half-ballad vocals by Alice, it’s about the life of the band on tour: “Hard hearted Alice is what we want to be. Hard hearted Alice is what you want to see.” Again, some damned good guitar here.

“Crazy Little Child” tastes like New Orleans ragtime. It tells the story of a street kid named Jackson who meets the fate of many kids who travel down that ever-present slippery road: “Crazy little child, never got to see all the pretty things in life. We buried him today. Nothing we could say could ever make the pieces fit.” Unfortunately, some things never change.

Next is “Working Up A Sweat,” the closest thing on the album I can call a pop song. A good little rocker with some sweet Buxton lead guitar: “Bandages came off today. Really feeling sick. The hardest part’s explaining all those blisters on my…nose.” Love that!

Then there’s the title cut, ‘”Muscle of Love.” Pure top-notch rock, one of the band’s best. They don’t mince words here either. It’s all about coming…of age, and discovering…ah, yes! Sex! Ah, yes! Masturbation!!  “I read dad’s books like I did before. Now things are crystal clear. Lock the door in the bathroom now. I just can’t get caught in here!” Holy muscle of love!

Next up is what should have been the theme song for the James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun. It has Bond written all over it! Why the producers went with that sickening song performed by Lulu instead of Alice’s is a mystery to me. Temporary insanity maybe. C’mon! Christopher Lee with a third nipple?! Alice’s song would have been perfect for this film!  “He’s the man with the golden gun in his pocket. The man with the golden gun in his case. The man with the golden gun in his pocket. The man with the golden gun in your face.” That’s right – in your face!

“Teenage Lament ’74” is part of what I call the Teen Trio. Alice hits the nail on the head on all three. Along with “Muscle of Love” and “I’m Eighteen,” it’s all about growing up, feeling like you’re the only person who’s ever had those feelings: “I ran into my room and fell down on my knees. I thought that fifteen was gonna be a breeze. ” Sigh. What are you gonna do?

The album’s last cut is “Woman Machine,” a hard thumpin’ rocker. I think there’s two ways you can look at this song. It could be about the future where all a guy needs is a mechanized robot lady to do his bidding. But some of the lyrics makes me think a little of Alice’s “Only Women Bleed,” about how women are used, taken for granted and treated as a thing by some: “She can’t talk back, with no playback. But she’ll listen to all your woe. Trade your old one for a new one. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to, no.”

Alice Cooper has made a lot of music since 1969, 26 studio albums to date. Being a fan, I love ‘em all…love ‘em to death…especially the classic band albums. Everybody knows about Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out. Both are great albums, but for some reason Muscle of Love usually sits on the back burner, and I just don’t know why. It was the original band’s swan song, and they went out on very high note. There’s some really good stuff here! So grab yourself a Muscle of Love—it’s a gift from above.

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