I grew up in Michigan listening to folks bragging about how Bob Seeger played their cousin’s prom or how their Uncle got high with the MC5 at the Grande Ballroom. Detroit had the real shit. Detroit put out the concept cars for heavy mental and punk. The Motown sound was everywhere. Detroit bands were full of attitude and adrenaline. Detroit band, like the city itself, were dangerous. Detroit bands scared our parents and gave us contact rebel cred.
Alice Cooper got his start in Los Angeles, but he didn’t really find his degenerate soul until they relocated to Vincent Furnier’s (aka Alice) sprawling industrial hometown. Like some organism living near the thermal vents in the ocean floor, Alice Cooper adapted to his extremophile environment and the America’s original shock rock moral panic stormed up the record charts.
Detroit Stories is Alice looking back at those formative years. Alice called his long time collaborator and producer Bob Ezrin to meet him at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak with some of the Grande Ballroom alumni to pay tribute to the old days and bring a bit of that snarl and growl to 2021. The album kicks off with Cooper channeling Mitch Ryder’s take on “Rock and Roll.” Alice gets original Detroit Wheels drummer Johnny Bee and guitarist Steve Hunter to reprise their roles on the tune (with Joe Bonamassa upping the guitar god factor).
Detroit Stories is at it’s best when Cooper is breathing life into the Detroit mythos. Alice recalls his comrades from back in the day on “Detroit 2021.” He name drops Iggy, Ziggy, Suzie Quatro, the MC5 and the riots that set the city on fire. It’s a swaggering ode to the Detroit that we haven’t seen since the early ’70s. “Go Man Go” pays homage to rockabilly daddies and drag strip Saturday nights.
“$1000 High Heel Shoes” should be a stripper anthem in all the clubs up and down 8 Mile. It’s a sleazy grind with funky horns and soulful sisters doing the shoo wops. Alice sings about how, “She slides in cool and tall, She don’t wear no clothes at all… in a tiny dog collar and $1000 high heel shoes.“ Oh those nights at the Dizzy Duck.
“Don’t Give Up” is well intentioned. Alice starts with a spoken word part, “Yeah, I know you’re struggling right now we all are in different ways. It’s like a new world we don’t even know…. But look, you’ve got seven billion brothers and sisters in the same boat.” I can get behind a song urging people to hang on in hard times. I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t expecting suicide prevention PSA to be tucked into a rock and roll album. (Alice ends the song by giving the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number 1-800-273-8255).
There is enough that works on Detroit Stories for me to recommend it. There are some kind of generic rock and roll tunes (“Shut Up and Rock”, “Independence Dave”).
My favorite tune is one penned by Outrageous Cherry – “Our Love Will Change The World” – way back in the 1990’s. The song’s New Wave vibe is at odds with the hard rock strut of the rest of the album, but the words ring true with our pandemic, locked down, changed up world. Alice sings the Cherry’s lines, “Our love will change the world, you may not like it now, but you’ll get used to it somehow.”