SickthingsUK: Along Came A Spider

'Along Came A Spider' seemed to take forever to finally be released, having been originally announced in 2007. Everything Alice had talked about in interviews on the run up had sounded very exciting and a short promotional film and leaked cover art led to high expectations. Unfortunatly when it was finally released many didn't think it came close to living up to expectations. Part of the problem was that the build up to the album presented it as a dark, brooding affair, but the end result was much more light weight in tone. Much of the blame was laid on the producers who co-wrote and played almost everything. In fact there are some decent songs here and there, but overall it seemed to lack one major ingredient... Alice Cooper!


Germany, Austria, Switzerland: July 25th 2008
Rest of Europe: July 28th
North America: July 29th

Track listing

  1. Prologue/I Know Where You Live (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (4:21)
  2. Vengeance Is Mine (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (4:26)
  3. Wake The Dead (Cooper, Osbourne, Saber) (3:53)
  4. Catch Me If You Can (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (3:15)
  5. (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side (Cooper, Garric, Johnson, Kelli) (3:16)
  6. Wrapped In Silk (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (4:17)
  7. Killed By Love (Cooper, Garric, Bacchi, Kelli) (3:34)
  8. I'm Hungry (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (3:58)
  9. The One That Got Away (Cooper, Kelli, Jani Lane) (3:21)
  10. Salvation (Cooper, Saber, Hampton, Fowler) (4:36)
  11. I Am The Spider/Epilogue (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) (5:21)
  12. Shadow Of Yourself (Cooper, Saber, Hampton)- iTunes exclusive (3:33)
  13. I'll Still Be There (Cooper, Saber, Hampton) - iTunes exclusive (3:56)
  14. Salvation(unplugged with Strings) (Cooper, Saber, Hampton, Fowler) - iTunes exclusive (4:49)

Musicians

Prologue/I Know Where You Live
Danny Saber - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Eric Singer - Drums
Bernard Fowler, Gerg Hampton - Backing vocals
Vengeance Is Mine
Greg Hampton - Guitars, Backing vocals, strings
Chuck Garric - Bass, Backing vocals
Eric Singer - Drums
Slash - Lead guitar
Danny Saber - Additional Guitars
Wake The Dead
Danny Saber - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Bernard Fowler, Greg Hampton - Backing Vocals
Catch Me If You Can
Danny Saber - Slide guitar, Ebow Guitar, Synth bass
Greg Hampton - Guitars, Backing vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Eric Singer - Drums
Bernard Fowler - Backing Vocals
(In Touch With) Your Feminine Side
Keri Kelli, Jason Hook, Danny Saber - Guitars
Chuck Garric - Bass
Eric Singer - Drums
Bernard Fowler, Calico Cooper - Backing vocals
Wrapped In Silk
Danny Saber - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Greg Hampton - Guitars, Backing vocals
Eric Singer - Drums
Steffen Presley - B3 Organ
Bernard Fowler - Backing vocals
Killed By Love
Keri Kelli - Guitars
Danny Saber - Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Eric Singer - Drums
Chuck Garric- Bass
Bernard Fowler - Backing vocals
I'm Hungry
Danny Saber - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
David Pinbauer - Drums
Whitey Kirst - Additional lead guitar
Greg Hampton - Background vocals, Additional guitar
Bernard Fowler - Backing vocals
The One That Got Away
Keri Kelli - Guitars
Chuck Garric - Bass
Eric Singer - Drums
Greg Hampton - Keyboards, Additional guitar
Calico Cooper - Spoken Word vocal
Bernard Fowler - Backing vocals
Salvation
Danny Saber - Guitars, String Arrangement, Bass, Keyboards
Bernard Fowler - Backing vocals
David Pinbauer - Drums
I Am The Spider/Epilogue
Danny Saber, Greg Hampton - Guitars, Keyboards, Backing vocals, String Arrangements
Eric Singer - Drums
Bernard Fower - Backing vocals
Shadow Of Yourself
I'll Still Be There
No musician details have been released for the two iTunes bonus tracks.

Sleeve Notes

Produced by Greg Hampton, Danny Saber and Alice Cooper
Backing Vocals arranged by Bernard Fowler
Mixed by Danny Saber
Additional mixing by Fabrizio Grossi
Recorded at Wonderland Studios, Hampton Hacienda, Undercity Recording
Engineered by Jeremy Mackenzie
Assistant Engineer: Paul Bailey

Prologue and Epilogue recorded by Eric Thoms
Mixed at Encore Studios, Burbank, CA
Mix Engineers: Tip Whyman, George Gumbs and Paul Bailey
Mastered at Oasis Mastering by Eddie Shreyer
Photography: Gabrielle Geiselman
Art Direction and Design: Matt "Piggy D" Montgomery
The Victim: Grace Stanley

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

'Along Came A Spider' was originally set to be released in 2007, but problems with producer scheduling caused it to slip back a year. Many songs and demos were prepared during 2007 and further recording and writing took place in February 2008 with the album completed in April.

At the time Alice told Billboard that the album was:

"A real 'Alice' album. Conceptually, it's going to be pretty interesting. Every song is sort of a letter to the police. They think they're investigating it from the outside, but he's actually woven them into the whole thing."

In the end the album split fans, with as many thinking it was a disappointment as a success. Part of the problem was the record label SPV boasting in a press release:

"A dark and menacing album for dark and menacing times" is perhaps the most fitting description for Alice's 25th studio album overall, as a chilling conceptual thread runs through the songs, which are told through the voice of a serial killer named Spider - one that Alice describes as "an arachnophobic psychopath" (in the song 'Catch Me If You Can'). Alice, the master storyteller, weaves a web of danger, intrigue and death that rivals his best work."

That last claim is of course pure hyperbole, as the album doesn't come close to the 70s albums - his best work - few albums do. But even putting such boasts aside most of the album is far from 'dark and menacing'. There was also the nice digipak sleeve and booklet with lots of details to examine, and while many prefered one of the inside images (see right) to the actual front photograph it was definitly a big step up after 'Dirty Diamonds'.


The 'Along Came A Spider' Promotion film.

Then there was the excellent ten minute promotional video, created by Piggy D and Gabrielle Geiselman, and released just before the album. The clip begins with Alice and Slash in a creepy mental asylum (Linda Vista Hospital, an abandoned facility in East L.A) to the sounds of 'Vengeance Is Mine'. It then moves to a white communal room where the touring band get to play '(In Touch) with Your Feminine Side' before turning into mad inmates in a scene that's quite reminicent to something the original band might have done. Finally it turns to the ballad 'Killed By Love' with Alice examining one of his victims in a morgue, readying her for disection. The whole thing is extremely well done and there's even a nice little reference to 'From The Inside', as 'The Quiet Room' can be heard in the background during one scene with a nurse called "Rozetta".

So SPV did an excellent job in selling the album as exactly what fans loved see from Alice Cooper. In fact the only thing that really lets the whole thing down is the actual songs! 'Vengeance Is Mine' was a decent enough start but the general vibe to most of the tracks is far from the dark atmosphere expected, with it's sing-a-long-a-Alice repetitive choruses and dancey effects. The production and arrangement choices are often terrible. 'I Know Where You Live' comes in, and sounds okay for a few seconds, but then it's gone, the guitars dropping out to leave just Alice's vocal, drums, and some dirty synth chords before heading straight to a chorus swamped by happy handclaps and tambourine, which seem louder then the main vocal, drums and guitars put together! Any menace is instantly lost. And this sort of thing happens all over the album, potentially good songs ruined by the arrangements and terrible mixing which makes everything just sound rather muddy.

And then there's the lyrics, Alice's "letters to the police" that sounded so cool. Apparently most of the time our serial killer just likes to repeat the same words over and over. The lyrics, such as they are, do little to move a story forward and often don't even sound like something Alice himself would write. The worst offender is undoubtably 'Wake The Dead' with it's dancey drum machine pattern. The song was apparently originally offered to Ozzy Osbourne, and according to press releases it's Ozzy you can hear, sampled on harmonica (and he gets a co-writing credit). No wonder he passed on it if it sounded anything like this. And almost all the songs seem to follow the same blueprint with the guitars dropping out and the repeating choruses. It's easy to see why fans felt so disappointed, and much of the blame had to be laid at the feet of the producers, who wrote, arranged and played on almost everything.

Co-producer Danny Saber was best known for his role as member and producer of Black Grape, an offshoot of Manchester indie band The Happy Mondays. Greg Hampton had more of a rock resume, having worked with Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers and others, but it seems Saber had the final say over what went on the record, as it's the pop/dance ideas that ruin so much of it. Just look at who created 'Wake The Dead', it's all Saber and it's horrible.

The best tracks are often the ones the real band are involved in. 'Vengeance is Mine', '(In Touch) With Your Feminine Side', 'Killed By Love' and 'The One That Got Away' could all have been good stage songs if given the chance (Only 'Vengeance...' and '...Feminine Side' were ever played live and sounded great) but much of the rest doesn't really stand up, often having at least one cringworthy part, like the "yes, tonight" repetition on 'Wrapped In Silk' and it's horrendous backing singers, who mar several other songs as well.

It's not all terrible though. 'Salvation' starts off almost like an outtake from 'Goes To Hell', and the finale 'I Am The Spider' finally has some of the dark atmosphere we were promised, but even that is rather spoiled by the chorus. The iTunes bonus tracks 'Shadow Of Yourself' and 'I'll Still Be There' are actually much better then several songs that actually made the album!

One telling point to end on. When Alice went to Bob Ezrin, the man responsible for most of his biggest successes, and asked him about doing a sequal to 'Along Came A Spider' Ezrin wasn't interested, and instead they started work on what would become 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare', a far superior album.

'Along Came A Spider' Live


The 'Theatre Of Death' stage set.

There wasn't a specific tour or show to promote 'Along Came A Spider'. Alice often spoke to the press about plans to do a new show based around the album but for various reasons it never happened and one can't help to wonder if the overall quality of the 'Along Came A Spider' hwas a factor. We did eventually get a completely new show, 'The Theatre Of Death', which was Alice's most theatrical show for some years and as of writing the last big theatrical show Alice has put together, but he continued touring the 'Psychodrama' tour for some time before that.

The tour new show began in July 2009, a year after the new album had been released, and ran through to November 2010 when the original band was inducted into the 'Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame'. It also included two co-headlining stints with Rob Zombie under the 'Gruesome Twosome' banner. A tour with Zombie had long been on the cards as much had been made of their mutual admiration. Of all the major artists following in the original Alice Cooper's footsteps Zombie was probably the closest to the original spirit of mixing soundtracks, comedy and rock. Marilyn Manson was too series and satanic, Zombie was a dayglow B-movie with giant robots and dancing girls. The attraction was obvious. As with previous co-headlining treks Alice went on first, but both arts had more of less the same set time.

Damon Johnson returned to the band after a year off working with his own country/rock band 'Whiskey Falls', who had been receiving some success in the US as well as touring Europe. He replaced his own replacement, Jason Hook, who moved on to huge success with 'Five Finger Death Punch'. Eric Singer was committed to Kiss (who's first album of new material for some years, 'Sonic Boom', was released in 2009 and featured Singer) so Jimmy DeGrasso returned to the drum stool having stepped in for Eric on several previous occasions. Finally Tiffany Lowe joined the show after Calico Cooper performed at the first dress rehearsals in Indiana. Calico apparently had acting commitments (although she did perform on the Australian dates the following month) and while many fans worried that it wouldn't be the same without her, Tiffany proved an excellent replacement and soon quickly won everyone over.

The 'Theatre Of Death' show was Alice's most theatrical production in years with almost every song having some form of theatrical presentation. The tour by-line was 'They keep killing him... but he keeps coming back' and, sure enough, Alice was killed no less then four times during the production, which included the gallows (during 'I Never Cry'), the guillotine (Dwight Fry'), death by lethal injection ('Poison') and finally a box of spikes which impaled him ('Killer'). The show, produced by 'Beauty and The Beast' Disney producer Rob Roth, featured four facets of the Alice Cooper character each being killed off before he rises again during the sole encore of 'School's Out'.

The show was designed to confuse fans and turn the conventions of the last decade on their head by opening with the traditional show closer 'School's Out' and including such encore songs as 'Poison' much earlier in the set. The fact that 'School's Out' both opened (in shortened form) and closed the show baffled many people (couldn't he think of anything else to play?) but in fact it was all part of the set up. Alice wanted the show to be like a traditional theatrical production. In a traditional stage musicals it's common for a cast to encore by repeating a popular song from the main show, and then do their bows at the end. Such productions tell a story and don't have any additional songs to perform. This was why there were two versions of 'School's Out', although most people didn't really get it.

People had been asking about the current 'Music Director' in the band. In past years one band member (Dick Wagner, Kane Roberts etc) has been given the job of rehearsing the band before Alice comes in to fine tune everything, However this is no longer really that case. Damon Johnson says:

"Basically we all work it out, particularly this group of players. Jimmy and Chuck have played with Alice for so long they have played almost every song in his live catalog. Keri and I have a great rapport and sit together to determine who is going to play which guitar part. Honestly, there was such an emphasis on the "show" at rehearsals in the summer that Coop and Rob (Roth) were very comfortable letting us work out the musical bits. Sure seems to have been the correct approach."


The 'Theatre OF Death' USB stick available on the tour

Starting from the first UK show surprised fans discovered that for the first time you could buy recordings of that nights show on a USB stick as they left the building. The way it worked involved buying a token from the merchandising stand, which you handed in after the show to receive your USB stick, which came in a small black box with the 'Theatre Of Death' graphic on the front. The USB actually only included two thirds the show (recorded directly from the sound desk) and inside the box was a sticker with a code allowing you to go online and download the 'encores', which for time reasons couldn't be put on the USB on the night. The idea proved successful and was continued until the end of 2009 with many of the shows available in ths way. This means Alice effectively released a large number of 'live' albums during the period! On top of the USB sticks, you could also purchase full show online, although there were problems as some shows seemed to be made up of recordings from more then one performance!
At the end of the tour Simfy, the company who provided the service, released an official double CD of the London Alexandra Palace show under the title 'No More Mr Nice Guy Live'. While basically the same as the version you could buy on the night this version had been cleaned up a little to improve the sound quality. The same show was also filmed and broadcast on UK's 'SkyArts' channel, meaning there are in effect three different versions of the show (MP3, CD and soundtrack).
Sadly after their initial deal with Alive came to an end Simfy, who became 'ConcertLive', continued to release a series of poorly produced products based on a small sample of the material Simfy had actualy recorded, including mislabled recordings, random compilations, and in one case a CD mastered at the wrong speed (making Alice sound like a chipmonk!). These often came in "collectable" packages, and while they did have the rights to the recordings none of these later releases were officially authorised. It's a shame, as they would have been far better off if they had continued to offer each complete performance as downloads. Unfortunatly this now appears to be impossible as they claim they no longer have all the original recordings, and what they have is obviously a bit of a mess.
One final thing to mention, as it's been asked several times. Simfy recoded and saved all the recordings as average quality MP3's and not in a lossless format, So if you get a recording in a lossless format it is simply a bloated version of the original lossy master. It won't sound any better.

The Hammersmith Apollo show in London was filmed for the official CD/DVD 'Theatre Of Death'.


The show began with with music taken from the 1980 Jack Nicholson version of Stephen King's 'The Shining' (from the scene where Torrance comes across a nude lady in the bathtub, who seduces him before turning into an old woman), the stage hidden by a huge curtain showing the 'Theatre Of Death' graphic. As the into tape ended a school bell rang out and the band launched into 'School's Out', the curtain dropping to reveal large red letters hanging from the lighting rig to form a 3-D effect, spelling out "A L I C E" (based on Dennis Dunaway's handwriting on the 'Killer' cover) and Alice's face on the backdrop. These letters would often cause problems as the band or Alice was accidently walk into them and get tangled up! Alice was on small podium center stage in a new costume including a tophat with a bones on it. This first performace of 'Schoool's Out' was shorter then the final version and cut into 'Department Of Youth'. A hooded roadie appears playing with something behind the front riser and Alice turns to chase them off the stage.

'I'm Eighteen' follows with Alice holding the crutch high before using it to prod each guitarist forward for their solos. 'Wicked Young Man' has the band marching in time to the beat and Alice at the front in army cap, twirling a whip that ends up in the crowd. He turns to see the pesky roadie back on stage, picks up a mic stand and runs him through, leaving the body twitching. More hooded figures ruch on stage and strap him into a red straitjacket before removing the body.


Death by giant syringe!

'Ballad Of Dwight Fry', surprisingly early in the show, has Alice sitting on his podium while Keri stands behind with an acoustic guitar strumming away. As Alice tries to escape the guillotine is wheeled on and he's placed under the blade to lose his head. We're only 15 minutes into the show and we're already past what is normally the big finale! With Alice dead 'Go To Hell' follows and he rises up behind the guillotine, looking around confused. How is he still alive and where is he? He picks up his own severed head and a roadie comes out to redress him in a new jacket and voodoo themed top hat. "I have gone to hell" he sings.

'Guilty' has Alice explaining why he's in hell, before thunder and lightning introduces 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Ghosts and ghouls appear around the stage shambling around before they start pouing at Alice. He grabs a female ghost (Tiffany) and pulls her to the back of the stage where she turns into 'Cold Ethyl' and Alice dances across the stage before throwing the doll around. He kisses the dol as the opening chord of 'Poison' rings out, again surprisingly early in the show. He sings the first verse to the doll before moving to the front of the stage to pick out the girls in the audience - "you're Poison". As the song concludes two hooded figures and the nurse appear on stage. One holds Alice down while the others inject him with a giant needle, killing him a second time!

He awakes, fittingly, to "The Awakening' which leads into 'From The Inside', Alice weilding an empty whisky bottle. The Nurse appears at the back of the stage, observing Alice and taking notes. She moves forward and snatches the bottle from his had, pulling him off stage as the band take solos. For 'Nurse Rozetta' they reappear, Alice in a wheelchair and hospital pajamas ('Renfield Nelson Asylum'). Nurse Rozetta brings out an anglegrinder and starts showing the stage with sparks in time to the music, laughing maniacally. She comes over to Alice, takes his pulse and checks his heart. 'Is It My Body' he asks the nurse who just laughs at him.

For 'Be My Lover' a screen appears and the nurse dissapears behind it, silloetted by a spotlight behind. She starts stripping, handing various items out to Alice who takes one of her stockings and places it over his head like a mask. He takes the other stocking and goes behind the screen to strangle her. A simple gag but very effective. The screen disappears and Alice is sitting, cradling the nurse for 'Only Women Bleed'. He fights with the nurse, stealing her wig as a gallows is wheeled on behind them. Hooded figures appear and stand him on a trash can, placing his head in the noose. The band change to 'I Never Cry' with Alice, now wearing the wig, crooning away. The nurse slowly awakes and starts moving around the gallows.. As Alice is singing the last line of the song she quickly turns and kicks the trash can away, Alice dropping with a sickening crack as his neck breaks... She pokes at him, laughing as he swings... dead again. The effect was scarily effective, espcially shocking as the actual drop was such a surprise.
The band play an instrumental 'Black Widow', with guitar and drum solos, allowing Alice to recover and catch his breath.


The 'Spider' jacket for 'Vengeance Is Mine'.

'Vengeance Is Mine' was the sole 'Along Came A Spider' song to make it to the new show. Alice is wheeled on stage on top of a steel staircase dressed in a leather jacket with six extra spider arms (which when you including his own legs would actually make him a 10 legged spider...). He sings the song atop the tower which is then turned around allowing him to descend to the stage. 'Devil's Food' features a new extra verse written to extend it during rehearsals then 'Dirty Diamonds' has Alice throwing necklaces into the crowd as usual, and 'Billion Dollar Babies' has the money sword. This leads into 'Killer' with Alice waving his sword around, using it to pick up a doll's head which he holds out and sings to. A new prop arrives, a white box with deadly spikes attached. Alice is placed into teh box and the teases him before pushing the spikes through the box (and Alice), killing him yet again! The band play teh chorus of 'I Love The Dead' with Chuck singing the lead vocals, encouraging the crowd to join in. "You think he's dead? wake up Alice!"

'No More Mr Nice Guy' has Alice reappearing yet again, this time with a cane and a t-shirt with bloody marks where the spikes would have pierced his body. 'Under My Wheels' closes the main show with simple band introductions. The single encore is the full version of 'School's Out' complete with balloons and Alice in a silvery mirror costume and top hat.

The show was hugely successful and highlighted everything that makes a great Alice Cooper show. It full spectacle was captured on film at the Hammersmith show and released on a DVD/CD set the following year, also called 'Theatre Of Death'.

The Performers

  • Keri Kelli - Guitars/Vocals
  • Jason Hook - Guitars/Vocals (2008)
  • Damon Johnson - Guitars/Vocals (2009/2010)
  • Chuck Garric - Bass/Vocals
  • Eric Singer - Drums
  • Jimmy DeGrasso - Drums (Stands in for Singer in 2008 before replacing him in 2009)
  • Tiffany Lowe - Nurse Rozetta etc

Death by giant syringe!

'The Theatre Of Death' Tour Setlist

This is a general setlist. There were other changes during the two year tour.
You can see detailed setlist for all the shows by clicking here

  1. 'The Shining' intro tape
  2. School's Out (part only)
  3. Department of Youth
  4. I'm Eighteen
  5. Wicked Young Man
  6. Ballad of Dwight Fry
  7. Go To Hell
  8. Guilty
  9. Welcome To My Nightmare
  10. Cold Ethyl
  11. Poison
  12. The Awakening
  13. From The Inside (w/ extended instrumental end)
  14. Nurse Rozetta
  15. Is It My Body
  16. Be My Lover
  17. Only Women Bleed
  18. I Never Cry
  19. The Black Widow (Instrumental)
  20. Vengeance Is Mine
  21. Devil's Food
  22. Dirty Diamonds
  23. Billion Dollar Babies
  24. Killer
  25. I Love The Dead (excerpt)
  26. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  27. Under My Wheels
  28. Schools Out (full version)