Alice Cooper could stop making albums and live comfortably for the rest of his career. He could easily take the road of many classic rockers and tour the world singing “I'm 18” and “School's Out” without ever having to set foot in a studio. But that's never been Alice Cooper. While his music has changed since his classic years, he has remained committed to writing and recording new material throughout his career. On his latest, Paranormal, Cooper joins up with some famous friends for a fun classic rock jaunt.
The guests on Paranormal are certainly notable. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons lays down some of his unmistakable licks on the blues rocker “I've Fallen in Love (And I Can't Get Up).” Roger Glover of recent Cooper tour partners Deep Purple plays bass on the album's standout title track. And Larry Mullen, Jr, aka “the guy from U2 whose name no one ever remembers”, continues in his unselfish ways with solid drumming on the majority of the album.
The guests that have Alice Cooper fans most excited are names that, taken individually, probably aren't as familiar as those above. Dennis Dunaway, Neil Smith, and Michael Bruce are the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper, when it was a band and not just a guy. The originals contribute three tracks to the album, the psychedelic Pink Floyd-esque “Sound of A”, the punk infused “You and All Your Friends,” and the smart gender bending “Genuine American Girl.” Welcome to My Nightmare era guitarist Steve Hunter fills in for the late Glen Buxton with the originals.
Also along for the ride is long-time Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin. Cooper and Ezrin have worked together since the '70s and it shows. Paranormal isn't cohesive in its identity as some of Cooper's past works like the industrial Brutal Planet or recent concept albums like Along Came a Spider. Ezrin makes sure the bluesy songs (“I've Fallen in Love”, “Dead Flies”) emphasize the blues, the atmospheric horror songs (“Paranormal”, “Fireball”) play up Cooper's well-earned legend as founder of that genre, and the satirical songs (“Genuine American Girl”, “Dynamite Road”) make sure Cooper has plenty of room to show off his comic timing.
The album includes a bonus disc. Containing two of the songs from the original band, including “Genuine American Girl” which, despite being one of the album's two biggest highlights is not on the album proper, it is filled out with a five song live set of hits. It's possible they were included to show off new guitarist Nita Strauss.These songs are certainly a good live album primer for casual Cooper fans.
Paranormal is another worthy entry in the Alice Cooper library. Each Cooper album is good for 2-3 tracks that will vie for space on his setlists going forward and Paranormal fills that role with the creepy title track and “Genuine American Girl.” Cooper fans will be happy with this release.