Reviewed: May, 2020
Released: 2019, EarMusic
Rating : 4/5
Reviewer: Shäman Cröwe
On September 13th, 2019 earMusic released the latest offering from Alice Cooper. An EP called “The Breadcrumbs” which would see release on digital edition as well as a limited edition physical release of 20,000 numbered 10-inch vinyl versions worldwide that serves as a tribute to the garage rock heroes from Alice Cooper’s hometown of Detroit city.
The fact that Alice Cooper decided to record a collection of “Detroit Rock” songs for this EP shouldn’t really surprise anyone. After all, Alice Cooper has made it the solid foundation of what defines his band’s sound over the years. In fact, if you close your eyes while listening to the album, you can clearly envision an early version of the Alice Cooper band playing these songs in a small club somewhere off the beaten path. Throughout decades, although often tooled for contemporary applicability, Alice Cooper has taken the very elements that make the songs on The Breadcrumbs EP great in the first place, and used them in crafting Alice Cooper’s own classic songs.
The Breadcrumbs EP is produced by the mighty Bob Ezrin, who in his own right knows a thing or two about achieving a certain sound. Having worked, not only with Alice Cooper but also the likes of KISS and Pink Floyd, Ezrin is no new comer to the production desk. Plus, growing up in Toronto, Ezrin is likely more than a little familiar with the subject matter.
Alice recruited some of Detroit’s heaviest classic hitters to round out the band including Johnny “Bee” Badanjek (Detroit Wheels/Rockets), Mark Farner (Grand Funk), Wayne Kramer (MC5), original Alice Cooper Band bassist Dennis Dunaway, jazz singer Paul Randolph and the legendary Mick Collins, to combine with Ezrin’s production and give the album an overall vintage sound and feel.
The Breadcrumbs kicks straight off with “Detroit City 2020”, a name dropping ode to some of the artists that Alice Cooper will cover on the EP. It is quite apt really. The song originally appeared on the album “The Eyes Of Alice Cooper” but appears here in a rerecorded version. It’s completely understandable why Alice would decide to include it. It’s a raucous ode to his early days in Detroit as he laments about the music of Bob Seger, Suzie Q and the MC5 among others, all the while singing “well I was born there, gonna die there, with all my long hair…”
The second track on the album is another Alice Cooper original called “Go Man Go”. It sounds instantly recognizable and classic all at the same time, if you didn’t know better you might even think it was a cover. It has all the ingredients required to be a staple track from a bygone era; fast, punchy and at home blasting from the speakers inside a classic car. It’s a fun song that oozes punk rock and 1950s rock and roll all at once. Speeding along like a beachside drag race complete with Hellcats and girls who were born to be a bad influence.
Next up is East Side Story. You’ve likely heard it before, but it’s not a first round draft pick from the vast Bob Seger catalog, which makes it a stellar choice for inclusion on “The Breadcrumbs”. Originally released by Bob Seger & The Last Heard, Alice does it incredible justice. Giving it a modern polish while preserving the retro sound that it is apparent that they were looking for on the EP. Fuzz box guitar solos and Beach Boy style backup vocals instantly transport you back in time proving that modern things really can sound timeless.
A hidden gem on the album would have to be Suzie Quatro’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me”. It’s a perfect Alice Cooper song, almost unbelievably so. It could easily have been on the same album as “Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets”, it has the same style and sound. For classic fans of Alice Cooper this will not doubt bring back memories of Alice Cooper of days of old. It would have been a perfect B-Side to any single off of “School’s Out” or “Billion Dollar Babies”. Which is why it is one of my favourite songs on the record. I don’t even think of the original song while listening to Cooper’s version, although it is obvious the song they are covering. A faithful reproduction of the horn section in Suzie’s version is present but gone is the overt disco tones. They are there in flavour but Alice’s version is much more rock and roll, grittier, and of course, heavier.
To follow up, the band hits a slow groove while Alice moves into a bit different direction with a medley of “Devil With A Blue Dress On/Chains Of Love”. Originally recorded by The Detroit Wheels and The Dirtbombs respectively, it’s an unlikely combination that doesn’t really make sense until you hear it. It seems to bridge the gap between the girl from across the room and the resulting lovesick shackles of being enamoured with her. It’s an interesting match in the end and keeps the overall feel of the songs on the EP in play. It’s a bit like David Lee Roth singing Las Vegas show tunes in a way though, and seeing as it is Alice Cooper, you are sort of waiting for the “Devil In The Blue Dress” to pull out a knife at some point, making the “Chains Of Love” part much more a prison sentence than the simple bonds of romance.
The final song on “The Breadcrumbs” is “Sister Anne”, another song that could easily be on any early Alice Cooper release. That really is the beauty of the collection of songs featured. For stalwart fans it will be a trip back in time, while for fans of the original songs they remain faithful reproductions of the songs that they will remember, although modernized of course. “Sister Anne” is really no different. When it gets rolling into the jam in the middle of the song where the harmonica and the guitar are trading off there is a lucidity that lends to it’s authenticity. As if you are in that same small club with Alice Cooper all those many years ago. It’s a fitting way to go back in time without the impossibilities of actually doing so. The best part is that they will fit in any part of Alice Cooper’s set as though custom made to do so. Originally written and recorded by MC5, “Sister Anne” is another great example of how Alice Cooper and company are able to capture the feel of yesteryear without simply replaying the original songs.
If you are a fan of classic Alice Cooper and equally classic “Detroit Rock” then you will thoroughly enjoy “The Breadcrumbs”. From the production to the attention to detail in the preservation of the songs themselves, the only complaint might be that it only comprised of 6 songs. After Alice reunited with some of the original members of The Alice Cooper Band it seemed like we might see a return to the original group. Perhaps something not unlike classic albums played in their entirety, but it never really materialized. With “The Breadcrumbs” we are treated to something akin, but wholly different. Alice Cooper has indicated that a full length Alice Cooper album is due in the near future that will include these same players and with the same overall feel of this collection. If so, then this reviewer is looking forward to it!
We’ll have to settle for following the trail of “Breadcrumbs” that Alice Cooper has left for us for us to discover, in the meantime…
Alice Cooper featuring Wayne Kramer, Paul Randolph, Mark Farner, Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, Mick Collins and Dennis Dunaway
1. “Detroit City 2020”
2. “Go Man Go”
3. “East Side Story”
4. “Your Mama Won’t Like Me”
5. “Devil With a Blue Dress” / “Chains of Love”
6. “Sister Anne”