By Patrick Prince
The Strange Case of Alice Cooper (Live 1979 The Madhouse Rock Tour)
By the time the concert film “The Strange Case of Alice Cooper” was released in 1979, Vincent Furnier had legally changed his name to his rock and roll persona.
“Alice is something other than human,” he says in one of the film’s candid interviews. “I can’t explain Alice. Everybody should have an Alice. It would be great.”
And now every rock fan can have more Alice in his or her collection. Shout Factory has re-released “The Strange Case of Alice Cooper,” which has been unavailable for more than 30 years. The concert footage was recorded on April 9, 1979, in San Diego, Calif., during the Madhouse Rock Tour. The tour was in support of the “From the Inside” album. Both were inspired by Alice Cooper’s stay in a New York Sanitarium and his personal battles with alcoholism.
“The Strange Case” stage show is a bit tamer than the early ’70s Alice Cooper shows. Cooper himself confesses that Strange Case is “when we went into Vaudeville.” Of course, it is easy to miss the classic Alice Cooper Band lineup of Buxton, Bruce, Dunaway and Smith, too. The band that takes its place is certainly capable of rocking Cooper’s set list: guitarist Davey Johnstone was freshly borrowed from Elton John; Steve Hunter on guitar and Pentti “Whitey” Glan on drums came from Lou Reed’s backing band; Fred Mandel on organ was a veteran hired hand; and bassist Prakash John was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as a member of Parliament/Funkadelic. But, no matter, it’s just not the same. The Madhouse Rocks touring band, dressed up in garish polyester jumpsuits, seems a bit unrehearsed at times, certainly a little lost and out of sync onstage, practically bumping into burlesque dancers and each other ... but the show must go on. And it still entertains.
“Billion Dollar Babies” sounds as sharp as the sword Alice wields onstage during its performance. “Go To Hell” and the Cooper-less “Black Widow” clearly shine. “I’m Eighteen” seems appropriately slow like a drunken, melancholic drawl, and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” fiercely emphasizes its statement. The obvious highlight is the always pleasurable “School’s Out” — it’s meant to excel live.
If given the choice between this and Shout Factory’s release of the 1974 feature film “Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper,” pick the latter. However, this is still an enjoyable Cooper concert. Worth the bucks to own a bit more of Alice.