My first Alice Cooper album was the greatest hits cassette. It was a good introduction to the Alice Cooper band but, as I was to find out, it left out a lot of the creepy songs that would grow to be my favorites. A lot has happened with Alice since that 1974 release and the plentiful "greatest hits" albums that are released every year or so prove it. The most comprehensive was Rhino's 4-CD set The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper with extensive liner notes and previously unreleased material. But an expensive collection like that is only for the die-hard Cooper fan (and since I haven't shelled out $55 yet, I'm not as die-hard as I used to be). But for those fans of Marilyn Manson wanting a little lesson in music history, there's the recent release Monsters and Mascara which contains every track from the Greatest Hits album plus ten more, mostly from his early solo period. True to the Greatest Hits format, a number of these tracks are the radio edits (among them are the castrated "Hello Hooray" and "Welcome to My Nightmare") and all of the tracks are those that were released on radio. So you gots yer "School's Out", yer "I'm Eighteen", and yer "No More Mr. Nice Guy." If nothing else, these early tracks will remind you how tight the original Alice Cooper band was, not to mention the killer bass lines. Later radio singles include the ballads "Only Women Bleed", "I Never Cry" and "You and Me", forever tainted in my memory as a duet with a transformed Miss Piggy. Two songs off the dark From The Inside are nice rarities as the CD is only available as an expensive import. Missing are any songs from his late 80s heavy metal period (hey, I thought they sounded pretty good back in '86) but they did manage to squeeze in the Alice-does-new-wave "Clones" and the song favored by nine out of ten strippers, "Poison." The booklet contains a sentence or two about each song by Alice or a band member plus lots of photos, a couple of short essays, and a bloody veal cutlet. Be warned that because the material was culled from radio releases, the tracks are heavy on mascara and light on monsters. Fans of Alice Cooper will probably have most or all of these songs on CD but if your mom threw out those albums when you went to college, Mascara & Monsters is an excellent way to get some Alice back in your life.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, May 2001.