Album review: BILLION DOLLAR BABIES – First Ever Live Show Flint 1977

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES - First Ever Live Show Flint 1977

Gonzo Multimedia [Release date 17.11.17]

The ill-fated Billion Dollar Babies project is something of a holy grail amongst acolytes of the original Alice Cooper band.  And there are many, myself included.

The last time this recording hit the streets was as the third disc in the unofficial Complete Battle Axe set (2001), which included the band’s 1977, one and only, album (transferred from vinyl), a disc of demos, and the said live set – from Flint, Michigan (and not Flint, North Wales!).

Cast aside by Alice following Muscle Of Love, and with lead guitarist Glen Buxton not involved, the odds were stacked against the three remaining band members from the outset.  In came Billion Dollar Babies and Muscle Of Love keyboard player Bob Dolin, with Mike Marconi a new recruit on lead guitar completing the line-up.

And while Michael Bruce can unquestionably pen a decent song, he’s not a natural front man, or the most talented of singers (as anyone who’s caught the recent reunions will surely acknowledge).  So, without a hit, a lack of record company backing and an incompetent management team, the band’s expensive live production – out of sync with the then music scene – was doomed from the outset.

And so it proved, the project sadly imploding after just four gigs.

What would undoubtedly find an audience – especially in the light of the recent reunion gigs – would be an official CD issue of the Battle Axe album, preferably sourced from the original master tapes (if they still exist).  But what we have here is a poor quality ‘bootleg’ recording of the band’s first gig.  It even borrows the Complete Battle Axe set artwork.

It is listenable, but it’s little wonder that it’s never been a ‘sanctioned’ release.  Regardless of the source, the balance is none existent, the sound muddy and, frankly, a bit of a mess.  Which is a shame, because what beats beneath is the [impaled] heart of the Alice Cooper Band – a gritty, uncompromising outfit rarely equalled in the annals of rock – as they give Battle Axe its stage debut, padded out by a medley Alice Cooper ‘greatest hits’ (on which Bruce gives a pretty passable Alice impersonation).

But, despite the rarity that this documents one of only four gigs by Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fames inductees Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith in the guise of Billion Dollar Babies, the sound quality means this curio likely to find favour only with the most hard-core of fans.

So buyer, beware.  Frankly, if you’re simply curious about the Billion Dollar Babies band you’d be better tracking down a copy of the, admittedly hard to come by, ‘unofficial’ 2004 Battle Axe CD release (or give the album a listen on YouTube).  And while copies of the Complete Battle Axe set are rare, they do become available every now and then – the most recent copy selling on eBay for just under £13.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


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