CD REVIEW: HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Hollywood Vampires
11 September, 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10
At first glance The Last Vampire, Christopher Lee’s sonorous intro track to supergroup Hollywood Vampire’s self-titled debut, seems almost out of place here. A brooding, gothic passage from Bram Stoker’s Dracula which was recorded shortly before his death, it has none of the party vibe of the rest of this record honouring Alice Cooper’s fallen drinking buddies of yore. Analyse the text a little closer, though, and you’ll realise it’s a homage to Alice himself – once (twice, actually) the most likely to fall first off the perch and now clean, sober, happy and productive, Cooper really is the last of the Hollywood Vampires still standing.
What follows is a trawl through some late ‘60s-mid ‘70s classics given the full modern celebrity rock band treatment, and the only question left to ask of any given track is – is it good or great?
This is no ordinary bar cover band, though – with an address book as big as the Encyclopaedia Britannica back in the day, we start with the creative core of Cooper and Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, joined by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Lest we forget, Depp moved to Hollywood and joined up with also-ran rockers Rock City Angels, before leaving when he landed the 21 Jump Street part which launched his acting career.
Bookending the covers collection are two new tracks, both in homage to Coop’s old drinking buddies, Raise The Dead and My Dead Drunk Friends. Both are solidly enjoyable rockers in the Alice Cooper vein
The guest list is to die for: Cooper’s guitarist Tommy Henriksen plays throughout, Zak Starkey guest drums on The Who’s My Generation, and also Whole Lotta Love, which also features Joe Walsh and former Cooper axe-slinger Orianthi trading licks after opening with a menacingly slowed down intro in the style of early Alice Cooper Band and features Brian Johnson in a rare appearance outside of the confines of AC/DC.
Walsh plays on through Randy California’s jaunty I Got A Line On You while Perry Farrell shares vocal duties with Cooper, Robby Krieger lends his distinctive and amazing guitar work to a medley of The Doors’ Five To One and Break On Through, featuring some excellent Farfisa work courtesy of Charlie Judge.
Harry Nilsson’s cult favourites One and Jump Into The Fire are segued together with more help from Farrell and Krieger, not to mention a hard hitting Dave Grohl on drums and producer Bob Ezrin’s keyboard wizardry. Alice even tacks a chorus of Coconut onto the end in good spirits (though not the kind they used to guzzle.)
Alice is obviously having a ball throughout: he ensures there is no sense of melancholy for the loss of these great musos and friends. For the son of a preacher, Cooper has always been super careful not to preach about his own journey to sobriety: he did it, you can too, if you want to.
Sir Paul McCartney sounds like he, too, is having a ball as he tinkles the ivories and sings through his own Come And Get It in memory of Badfinger compadres Pete Ham & Tom Evans, who recorded the song. The outro is especially fun, with Macca hamming it up in style.
The core band tackle Jeepster in glitteringly stomping fashion, and in a move which could have gone very wrong, John Lennon’s Cold Turkey. If any song here epitomises the spirit of the project it is this one, and they do it great reverential justice.
Starkey and Walsh join in again for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Manic Depression (another appropriate song), before Alice sneers through Steve Marriot & Ronnie Lane’s Small Faces classic Itchycoo Park.
As performed live for the past few years, Alice turns his hand to a mini-medley of his own most well-known hit, School’s Out, and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2. Famously featuring a mini-reunion of the original Alice Cooper Group with both bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith on board, this good natured drag also features Slash, Perry, Depp and Henriksen’s guitars, and Brian Johnson duetting with Alice.
Hollywood Vampires – the band and the album – won’t change the world in any way, but what it does do is remind us of some great fallen legends, and the legacies they left behind. It is – as expected with the names attached to the group – immaculately played and recorded, and a celebratory experience.
Whether they will tour on a wider scale than a few guest-star-studded North and South American events remains to be seen – Depp can obviously make a lot more with his day job than playing in a scuzzy rock band, even one as prestigious as this! One suspects, though, that these guys aren’t in it for the money alone, and I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a live DVD on the horizon, if not a complete second album in a year or two.
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