Alice Cooper: Prime Cuts

Alice Cooper: Prime Cuts (1991)
Image Entertainment

You either love him or you hate him. Vincent Furnier’s alter ego, Alice Cooper, allows for nothing in between. To let you know where I stand: Alice has been an idol ever since I heard and saw him for the first time in the early seventies. Like Kiss, Alice was a phenomenon that completely took me out of my world and catapulted me into different dimensions, places where music wasn’t only about melodies and harmonies, but also about presentation, theatricals, and showmanship, places that made the artists themselves appear larger than life. To this day, 25 years later, I am still a fan of Alice Cooper.

Like most artists, Alice Cooper’s career has progressed through different stages as he matures and evolves. Although he never really strayed far from his original, proven, familiar roots, he still passes over new territories, keeping his appeal and music reflect the times. This constant re-invention clearly indicates a certain intuition on Alice’s part regarding his audience’s expectations and the music industry.

Image Entertainment now have released "Prime Cuts" on DVD, a documentary about Alice Cooper’s career from the original band’s first public appearances until the release of his acclaimed album "Hey Stoopid!" in 1991. Sadly, it misses his return to his roots with the release of "Last Temptation", which was a highlight in his career. I had the chance to talk to Alice about three years ago, and he indicated plans to follow up on the success of "Last Temptation" yet he has not released an original album since. He has released the live album "A Fistful Of Alice", which was recorded in 1996 at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico – made famous by the Van Halen song of the same name – and which features guest appearances by Slash, Rob Zombie, and ex-Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar. "A Fistful of Alice", incidentally, is clearly a must-have for Alice fans, because the boys play all of Alice’s classics with a singular spirit. At the present day, Alice prefers to play professional golf, instead of spending his life on the road. After giving millions of people his inspired treatment for almost 30 years, I would say he deserves the rest. Just as I write this, however, I find out he is back on the road, touring the US.

"Prime Cuts" is not a simple collection of Alice videos. It is more truly a documentary of Alice Cooper’s long career. Almost every development and every change in his character or music is documented in this captivating biography, commented on by Alice himself. The disc contains ultra-rare concert performances, as well as interviews taken throughout the years. It sheds light on the bogeyman of rock ‘n’ roll, the man and the music all parents were afraid of, the template from which Marilyn Manson was drawn. It recaptures the spirit of Alice’s early live appearances as well as the full scale theatrical extravaganza he came up with later in his career, including the beheaded babies, the electrocution, the gruesome guillotine, his infamous hanging trick, and, of course, the boa constrictor. The documentary also puts an end to some of the preconceptions associated with Alice throughout his career. He clearly and repeatedly states in the course of the documentary that despite the band’s image, neither drugs nor alcohol have ever been a problem in the band, and that the staged violence has always been exactly that, theatricals that did not reflect the band’s real attitude but were created and designed to excite the audiences and underscore the accusative and lamenting messages of his songs.

Strangely, the documentary completely misses out on Alice’s quiet period in the early 80’s and his stellar comeback with the album "Constrictor" in 1986, which included the theme to the "Friday the 13th" movie, called "He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)". It marked another step into commercial life, which finally found its peak in the album "Trash" and the smash hit single "Poison". Fortunately even his most successful and commercial albums maintained a unique quality and always contained enough substance to avoid disappointing his fans, while at the same time appealing to a wide audience and the current musical trends. It was the perfect recipe that not only kept his career going but also introduced him to legions of new fans mostly female, I’d suppose – all over the world. If Alice was the rock ’n’ roll madman in the 70’s, he immediately became a stylish iconoclastic cult figure in the 80’s, one who single-handedly survived against all odds and critics’ rants. Although many of the teenagers had no real grasp on his former career, other than knowing he’d been around for a while, he was still enigmatic and interesting enough to capture and enrapture them all.

Considering that much of the material included on this disc consists of rare behind-the-scenes video footage, as well as early color TV footage, the quality of this DVD is surprisingly good. Although there are technical flaws visible, they were always in the original material and not in the transfer to disc. Some of the colors in the early footage are washed out and blurry for understandable reasons, but as time and technology advanced, the images become more and more sophisticated and clean. When scenes from his music video "Poison" finally flash over your screen, I am sure you will be amazed that you have never noticed just how good this video actually looked. It’s the sort of thing that makes you wish DVD were around in the heyday of the 80’s rock movement where bands actually had presentable stage shows, and went to quite some lengths to transfer them to video.

The disc contains a stereo <$PCM,PCM> soundtrack for highest fidelity. It reproduces the audio material without any compression degradation that might occur with <$DD,Dolby Digital> encoding. The disc features many classic Alice tracks and videos, such as "I’m Eighteen", "Elected", "School’s Out", "Poison", "Hey Stoopid"!, "Billion Dollar Babies", "Under My Wheels", "No More Mister Nice Guy", and many, many more. Running almost 90 minutes, "Prime Cuts" is supposedly the most complete and appealing look we will ever get at this singular showman of rock ’n’ roll.

"Prime Cuts" is a great release that pays tribute to a legend of rock ’n’ roll music. It is an entertaining disc that takes you through time and memories. If you remember Alice’s early career, you will love the rare footage from his early days, and you will get to relive the development of his career. If you only found out about his qualities during his second wind in the 80’s, "Prime Cuts" is the perfect disc to take a look at what Alice did before this era and how he became who he is. As I said before, you either love him or hate him. If you are among those who love him, you have to have this disc!