Shock Rock legend and Detroit native Alice Cooper offers you sonic samples from his hometown, courtesy of his latest album, “Detroit Stories.”
His 21st solo album released on Feb. 23 finds the spooky front man once again pairing with legendary producer Bob Ezrin, who oversaw several of Cooper’s early, essential works as well as “The Breadcrumbs E.P.” (2019). Taking cues from that last release, which played out like a star-studded love letter to the early Garage Rock artists of Detroit, the pair recruited a number of notable Detroit-area musicians to record the LP at Rustbelt Studios. Some of those artists included guitarist/writer Wayne Kramer (the MC5), drummer Johnny “Bee” Badanjek (Detroit Wheels), Jazz/R&B bassist Paul Randolph, the Motor City Horns and more.
Honoring a slice of Rock history when Ezrin worked on projects with songwriter/lead singer Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground), “Detroit Stories” opens with a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1971). Cooper and company’s joy can be heard in this heroin-chic classic, reworked to a faster pace and underscored by complimentary soulful organs. Chunky guitar riffs and solos supplied by revered guitarist Joe Bonamassa add an extra edge.
Tracks like “Go Man Go” and “Social Debris” conjures the spirit of Cooper’s early days in a five-member band of the same name.
The former, with its upbeat tempo and lyrics about stealing a car and driving fast, encapsulates the worry-free, fun seeking attitude he’s carried throughout his career.
The latter with lyrics, “I don’t commit, I just collide. I won’t submit, I’ll just decide on where to run or where to hide,” is uncorked defiance.
Found later in the play-through, “Hanging on by a Thread (Don’t Give Up)” briefly casts a shadow with gloomy ’90’s Alt-Rock stylings.
It’s all deliberate, with a stadium-ready chorus and the lead singer offering positive commentary, culminating with a reference to the national suicide hotline.
Contrasting with the album’s initially harder Rock-leaning songs, he sounds cheerful on the light-sounding cover, “Our Love Will Change the World” (2005) — from Michigan Power Pop band Outrageous Cherry.
Equally known for strutting and his theatrics, Cooper’s raspy delivery on “$1000 High Heel Shoes” intermingles with Doo-Wop background singers on this grooving cut, displaying more of his musical taste and winking at Detroit’s influence on Funk-related music.
Offering flavors for everyone, the simmering Blues-Rock “Drunk in Love” with Cooper back on harmonica, does the well-worn 12-bar formula justice. Unapologetically lustful and teasing, “Hail Mary” chugs along with the audience wondering how a girl with a “divine” aura could possibly not pay attention to a persona as big as Alice Cooper.
Injecting a shot of playfulness, “I Hate You,” finds him reuniting with the other surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Band.
This tongue-in-cheek ode finds them taking jabs at each other, adding collectively that they hate the late guitarist Glen Buxton for having the nerve to be dead for the past 24 years.
Bob Seger’s 1966 single “East Side Story” benefits greatly from Cooper’s passion, concluding “Detroit Stories.” In ’66, when the track came out, it was a hit in Detroit, full of aggressive fuzz guitars and classic ’60s piano, but when Cooper does it now, he elevates it to almost stadium Glam Rock status, with clearer in-your-face guitar fuzz and a towering chorus, “And she cried “No. Johnny, Johnny, no. Oh Johnny, Johnny no.”