“No filler.” If not for these two words Alice Cooper may have just disappeared. After striking out with two unsuccessful albums, their third attempt was their last chance at bat. The Beatles had George Martin and Alice Cooper had Bob Ezrin. It was Ezrin who took the Cooper boys to not just stardom, but super-stardom. Not only did he produce four of their albums, Ezrin also went on to produce many of Alice Cooper’s solo albums after the original group disbanded. Released in 1971, Love It To Death is a classic. There is no denying this is Alice Cooper. After listening to it, the band’s first two albums, Pretties For You and Easy Action, sound like just practice sessions. Ezrin demanded a lot from the boys and he got it – no filler.
The first cut is “Caught in a Dream”, written by Michael Bruce. Released as a single, it’s a toe tappin’ rocker featuring that signature Glen Buxton guitar. Though the band had yet to hit it big, there’s a lot of truth in it, about things to come – like success and the hell that can come with it: “Well, I’m runnin’ through the world with a gun in my back, tryin’ to catch a ride in that Cadillac. Thought I was livin’ but you can’t never tell. What I thought was heaven turned out to be hell.” Next up is the band’s first hit, “I’m Eighteen”, credited to the entire band. They were already performing it live when Ezrin came on. It was then a long 8 minute version that fit better on previous albums. Ezrin worked his magic and scaled it down to 3 minutes. Then it was released as a single entitled “Eighteen” a few months before the album. Everyone has gone through what this song is about – growing up: “I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart. Took eighteen years to get this far. Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about. Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt.” Solo Alice may change his set list from tour to tour, but “I’m Eighteen” is always one you’ll hear.
The third song is another Bruce composition, “Long Way to Go”. It’s one of my favorite Cooper rockers. The whole band is busy here. There’s even a little piano break to let you catch your breath. It also includes one of my favorite lines: “What’s keeping us apart isn’t selfishness. What’s holding us together isn’t love.”
At over 9 minutes, “Black Juju” is the longest song on the album. Written by Dennis Dunaway, that dark thing over in the corner makes itself known. Put on some headphones in a dark room and…“WAKE UP!!”
“Is It My Body” is another whole band composition. The B-side of the “Eighteen” single, it’s a nice head nodder about those sweet little groupies, or at least a potential new girlfriend. But the band isn’t all about just gettin’ some: “What have I got that makes you want to love me? Now is it my body or someone I might be?” They want to know.
Next is “Hallowed Be My Name”, written by Neal Smith. Having listened to this countless times, I’m not absolutely sure what it’s about. But I’ve narrowed it down a little. It’s a catchy tune that I think is about self-righteous churchgoers, or maybe just people in general. But if you substitute “Hollywood” for “Hallo-wed”…well, you decide: “Sluts and the hookers have taken your money. The queens are out dancing, but now they’re not funny ’cause there goes one walkin’ away with your sonny.”
Written by Alice, “Second Coming” looks into the mind of those poor souls who stand on the street corners and prophesize about the end of days, and whom often play the part of the returning Messiah: “It would be nice to walk upon the water, to talk again to angels at my side. I just come back to show you all my words are golden, so have no gods before me. I’m the light.” Perhaps because Alice’s father was a preacher, he had some early firsthand observations. “Second Coming” leads directly into…
“Ballad of Dwight Fry”, written by Alice and Bruce. Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without it. Dwight Frye was an actor who portrayed a lunatic very well. He was Renfield in 1931’s Dracula and Fritz in Frankenstein the same year. To avoid any lawsuits, the “e” in Frye was dropped for the song. It’s from the point of view of a man gone insane who escapes the asylum: “I grabbed my hat and I got my coat. And I ran into the street. I saw a man that was choking there. I guess he couldn’t breathe. Said to myself this is very strange. I’m glad it wasn’t me. But now I hear those sirens callin’. And so I am not free.” This is one of my all-time favorite Cooper classics, and one you’ll hear, and see, if you ever go to one of his shows. Alice always sings it in a straightjacket, and the poor nurse never realizes the straps are just a little too loose…
The final song is “Sun Arise”. Written by Rolf Harris and Harry Butler, it’s the only song not written by a member of the band. It was released 1961 by Harris in his native Australia and is derived from Aboriginal tribal chants. However, Alice Cooper’s version is not a true cover because a lot of the words were changed. After “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, it’s a sigh of almost happy relief: “Sun arise come every mornin’, bringin’ back the warmth to the ground.”
As said earlier, this is Alice Cooper. Love It To Death is their first album that indeed has no filler. If you want to get back to the roots of Alice Cooper, then listen to Pretties For You and Easy Action. But if you just want to jump into bed with Alice, then…Love It To Death.