Album review: BILLION DOLLAR BABIES – Battleaxe


Cherry Red {Release date 27.11.20] Expanded Reissue/3 CDs

Alice Cooper, the band, acrimoniously separated into 1. Alice Cooper, and 2. The band, in 1974, after “Muscle Of Love”. (There’s a well documented story there, one that illustrates the cold, self serving heart at the centre of the music business.)

The band, picking up a thread of continuity, adopted the title of the immediately preceding Alice Cooper album, Billion Dollar Babies, and went into the studio. They had a bunch of songs in their hip pocket, already written for their aborted sessions with Cooper. Guitarist Glen Buxton bailed and talented young guitarist, Mike Marconi, and Cooper keyboard player, Bob Dolin came on board. Core musicians, Denis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith survived the transition.

By the exacting standards of the preceeding gold and platinum Cooper recordings, “Battleaxe” is indeed a very good album. There’s a rich vein of commerciality running through all 12 songs, but the music’s slick production sheen was not universally welcomed by a loyal fanbase. And it’s not clear if CD1 is the Jack Richardson remixed version… there’s still a lot of high end here, which was reputedly removed by the remix.

But the material is solid and the band is on form. CD2 – The Original Demos – is the standout in this expanded reissue. What we get, with some exceptions, are essentially fully worked-out band versions, recorded live in the studio. Raw, exciting. The band seemed to get that their rough edges were their most appealing trait.

The thumping, swaggering ‘Miss You’ (with added cowbells); Bruce’s fragile vocal, fraught with regret, skittering across Dolin’s classy piano on ‘Wasn’t I The One’; The bass heavy percussive thump of the bluesy, Doors-ish ‘Rock’n'Roll Prison’, and the ones that didn’t make the cut… especially ‘I Don’t Know Babe’, all are brimming over with energy and passion.

The band barely made it onto the tour circuit, ending up doing only 4 gigs.

One of those was captured by fans and made it onto tape. And eventually to disc … this is CD3.

There’s an honest simplicity to the band’s on stage musicianship and performance, and there’s a crackling current of defiance running through their stripped down, pumped up ‘Alice Cooper Medley’. It stood in stark contrast to the theatricality of the soon to be abandoned prop-heavy stage show.

In honesty, the recorded sound is sub demo quality, and there are a few bumps, bruises and mis-steps along the way. But that’s the beauty of live music.

On release “Battleaxe” (1977) was immediately overshadowed by the mega successful Alice Cooper albums, “Alice Cooper Goes To Hell” and “Welcome To My Nightmare” that preceded it.

Billion Dollar Babies disbanded soon after.  ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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