SickthingsUK: Paranormal

After 6 long years we finally have a a new studio album, the title of which surfaced in interviews Alice gave at the beginning of May. The album features guest appearances by Larry Mullen Jr of U2, Roger Glover of Deep Purple and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and features a collection of songs without an central concept. One of the big attractions is the inclusion of two new songs written and performd by the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band - Alice, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce.


Release date: July 28th 2017

Track listing

Disc 1

  1. Paranormal (Cooper, Denander, Glover, Ezrin) (4.10)
  2. Dead Flies (Cooper, Denander, Ezrin) (2.22)
  3. Fireball (Cooper, Dunaway) (4.49)
  4. Paranoiac Personality (Cooper, Denander, Ezrin, Henriksen) (3.11)
  5. Fallen In Love (Cooper, Denander, Ezrin, Henriksen) (3.33)
  6. Dynamite Road (Cooper, Denander, Ezrin)(2.42)
  7. Private Public Breakdown (Cooper, Gispert, Ezin) (3.26)
  8. Holy Water (Cooper, Demaree IV, Tucker, Monyhan, Bernauer, Mclaughlin, Richards, Ezrin) (3.08)
  9. Rats (Cooper, Henriksen, Ezrin) (2.38)
  10. The Sound Of A (Cooper, Dunaway) (4.06)

Disc 2

  1. Genuine American Girl (with Original Band) (Cooper, Smith, Ezrin) (4.27)
  2. You And All Of Your Friends (with Original Band) (Cooper, Dunaway, Ezrin) (2.41)
  3. No More Mr. Nice Guy (Live) (3.10)
  4. Under My Wheels (Live) (2.56)
  5. Billion Dollar Babies (Live) (3.38)
  6. Feed My Frankenstein (Live) (5.01)
  7. Only Women Bleed (Live) (5.08)
  8. School's Out (Live) (6.06)

Live tracks recorded in Columbus, OH on May 6th 2016.

Musicians

Paranormal
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Henriksen, Tommy Denander
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Roger Glover
Keyboards - Bob Ezrin
Horns - Jeremy Rubolino
Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen
Dead Flies
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Henriksen, Tommy Denander
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen
Fireball
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Nick Didkovsky
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Dennis Dunaway
Organ - Bob Ezrin
Paranoiac Personality
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Henriksen, Tommy Denander
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Percusssion and Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen
Sound Effects - Tommy Henriksen and Bob Ezrin
Fallen In Love
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Billy Gibbons, Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen
Dynamite Road
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Percussion, Backing Vocals & Sound Effects - Tommy Henriksen
Private, Public Breakdown
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitar - Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Parker Gispert
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen, Bob Ezrin, Parker Gispert, Alice Cooper
Holy Water
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Steve Hunter
Drums - Larry Mullen
Bass - Jimmie Lee Sloas
Horns - Jeremy Rubolino, Adrian Olmos, Chris Traynor
Backing Vocals - Demi Demaree, Tommy Henriksen, Johnny Reid
Rats
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Henriksen, Michael Bruce, Tommy Denander
Drums - Neal Smith
Bass - Dennis Dunaway
Percussion, Backing Vocals, Sound Effects - Tommy Henriksen
Keyboards - Bob Ezrin, Tommy Henriksen
The Sound Of A
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Nick Didkovsky
Drums - Larry Mullen Jr
Bass - Dennis Dunaway
Organ - Bob Ezrin
Backing Vocals, Sound Effects - Tommy Henriksen
Backing Vocals - Demi Demaree, Tommy Henriksen, Johnny Reid
Genuine American Girl
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Michael Bruce, Tommy Denander, Steve Hunter
Drums - Neal Smith
Bass - Dennis Dunaway
Keyboards, Backing Vocals - Bob Ezrin
You And All Your Friends
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Lead Guitar - Steve Hunter
Guitars - Tommy Denander, Michael Bruce, Nick Didkovsky
Drums - Neal Smith
Bass - Dennis Dunaway
Backing Vocals - Tommy Henriksen, Bob Ezrin
Disc 2 Live Tracks
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars - Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss, Tommy Henriksen
Drums - Glen Sobel
Bass - Chuck Garric
Backing Vocals - All

Sleeve Notes

Produced by Bob Ezrin with Tommy Henriksen and Tommy Denander
Mixed by Bob Ezrin and Justin Cortelyou
Basic Tracks recorded at Oceanway and Anarchy Studios, Nashville, TN
Further recording at

  • Anarchy West Studios, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Saltmine Studios Oasis, Mesa, AZ
  • Subterranean Studios, Toronto, Canada
  • X-Level, Stockholm, Sweden
Mixed at Anarchy Studios

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

It was six long years between 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' and 'Paranormal'. Sure, we got the Hollywood Vampire's album inbetween but that wasn't a real Alice Cooper record. But Alice certainly hadn't lowered his work-rate during gap, touring harder then ever. One of the factors in the delay was the way things were going in the music industry as a whole. There wasn't much money to be made in selling records any more. Outside the hardcore fanbase no one was buying CDs now you could stream or download what you wanted for free. Almost every band had the same problem, especially classic rock acts. Many artists simple didn't bother with new material at all anymore and relied on touring and merchandising to make their money.


Alice at the 'Paranormal' press event, London 2017.

Alce wasn't about to fall into that trap. By December 2016 finally started work again, and he let a few details slip in an interview with the Arizona Republic:

"We're recording demos right now. We have three songs from the original band that we're gonna look at and see if we can turn them into something. If not, we tried. But Neal and Mike and Dennis and I wrote songs together. And what we always do, we know the best ten songs are gonna make the album. It doesn't matter where they came from. I'm gonna always write the lyrics. And I'm gonna always arrange it. And Bob's always gonna produce it. If the song comes from Neal, Mike and Dennis, great! I would love that. We have those songs sitting there. We just have to see if they fit in. It's gonna be a pure riff-rock-and-roll album. If anything, we gonna try and make it as close to 'Killer' and 'Love It To Death' as possible."

Unsurprisingly fans became very excited, especially when many news outlets and people on social media didn't actually bother to read what Alice had said. "Alice reforms original band" the headlines and facebook posts read. Of course it wasn't true, but even after the album was released some people seemed confused. The album sounds nothing like 'Killer' or 'Love It To Dead', and the original band only play together on three tracks: 'Rats','Genuine American Girl', and 'You And All Of Your Friends', the latter two relegated to a second "bonus" disc along with a bunch of recent live recordings by the current touring band.

And speaking of the current band - where were they? Tommy Henriksen was again all over the record, as he had been on 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' and the 'Hollywood Vampires' albums, but Ryan Roxie, Chuck Garic, Geln Sobel and Nita Strauss were nowhere to be seen on the studio tracks. In their place was Swedish born Tommy Denander who had appeared here and there on the preceeding two albums. On 'Paranormal' he co-wrote much of the album and also performed on every track.

Another big puzzle was their choice of drummer. Instead of tapping Glen Sobel, Alice's own award-winning drummer, or even the Platinum God himself Neal Smith, for most tracks they pulled in U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. who's hard rock credentials were at best suspect.
Many fans were sorely disappointed that yet again Alice hadn't taken a proper band (new or original group) into the studio to write and record a full album. Many of the musicians themselves had made it clear in interviews they wanted to write and record with "the boss". The choice of using outside people was a strange one, but it wasn't new to Bob Ezrin's productions. Bob had always called in his own favoured musicians going right back to Wagner and Hunter appearing on the original band albums and running through his work with Kiss, Aerosmith and Peter Gabriel. Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised.

Of course as with any latter day Alice Cooper album there were also the guest stars. It sometimes seems like it's impossible for Alice to cross paths with another rock star without asking them to guest an album. This time the biggest names were Roger Glover of Deep Purple on the title track and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top on the frankly very ZZ-ish 'Fallen In Love'.

Of the original band Dennis Dunaway was represented the best. Not only did he play on the three band tracks, he also wrote and played on 'Fireball' and 'The Sound Of A'. 'Fireball' was a song he had recorded in 2011 with his 'Dennis Dunaway Project' bandmate Rick Tedesco, who released it on his 'A Light In The Attic' album. 'The Sound Of A' was based on an old recording of a song from 1968 that Dennis said was the first song Alice ever wrote by himself. Alice had completely forgotten it until Dennis played him the tape, and it's telling that such an old song is possibly the best thing on the album with it's Floydian sound.

Elsewhere, 'Genuine American Girl' was loosely based on an old Neal Smith song called 'Red Blooded American Girl' from 1979 which he and Dennis originally performed with Neals post-Cooper band 'Flying Tigers'. And 'Holy Water' is also a cover, this time of a 2016 track by 'The Villebillies' from their album also called 'Holy Water'.

As a whole there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with 'Paranormal'(although the cover is slightly suspect). All the songs are good to great, and at it's best, on 'Fireball' or 'The Sound Of A', it's excellent, but in a similar way 'Trash' lacks a certain "Alice-ness" so does 'Paranormal. It often feels more like a collection of b-sides, outtakes and guest appearances then a cohesive album with it's own identity.

The album was preceed by a very clever publicity campaign by new record company earMusic. Promotion for the album began on April 28th 2017 with the appearance of an 18 second video on the EarMusic YouTube channel, which appeared to show mainly static, but with the occasional image briefly appearing. The video was called "07282017" which also appeared at the end of the video and was the the release date of the album.
A few days later Alice started mentioning the album title in interviews, and also mentioned some of the albums guests. Then on May 6th a second EarMusic video appeared. This one was entitled "retsaf", which is "faster" backwards. The video was again mainly static but you could hear a backward recording of a voice, which when reverse was Alice singing "Everybody's got something hiding, in the back of their mind" (a line from 'Paranoiac Personality'). Below the video was the following binary code:

00110000 00110111 00110010 00111000 00110010 00110000 00110001 00110111 00001101 00001010 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01101110 01101110 01100101 01101100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01100101 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110011 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100101 01100100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110000 01100001 01110010 01100001 01101110 01101111 01110010 01101101 01100001 01101100
Which when converted to English says "07282017 this channel is being possessed by something paranormal". Also hidden in the video was the release date in morse code!

The first single from 'Paranormal' was 'Paranoiac Personality' which was debuted in the UK on 'The Chris Evans Breakfast Show' on June 8th (with Evans talking over half of the song!), shortly before being played on 'Planet Rock'. Alice called in live to both shows. The single was released on June 9th and the digital version featured 'I'm Eighteen' recorded live at 'Good Records' in Dallas with the original band (and Ryan Roxie standing in for Glen Buxton). The single was also later released on a limited edition 7" white vinyl.

A second single was released in February 2018 on 10" white vinyl and CD EP. It featured 'The Sound Of A' as the lead track along with four more live songs from the same show as the main albums live material was taken making a total of 10 tracks released from the show. The release was accompanied by a black and white video featuring various random people in Alice-like make up singing the lyrics, one of which is Alice.

The album itself was officially launched during a press event at the 'hidden masonic lodge' inside the Andaz Hotel in London on June 29th, during which 2/3rds of the album was played and Alice did a Q&A session with members of the press. Around the same time a series of videos featured Alice talking about each track in turn. In the clip about 'Fireball' Alice says Neal Smith plays on the track, but on the album's credits it says it's Larry Mullen Jr.

The album reached #32 on the Billboard top 200 albums chart but only remained in the chart for that one week. In the UK it entered the chart at #6 and made the top 10 in a further 9 countries. Neither single charted but as there were effectively limited editions it was unlikely they were expected to.

Parker Gispert, who co-wrote and plays on 'Private Public Breakdown', is the lead singer and guitarist of a band called 'The Whigs' from Athens, Georgia.

Jimmie Lee Sloas, who plays bass on much of the album, is an American session musician, songwriter and producer who has worked with primarily country and christian artists including Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes and Jessica Simpson. Possibly more reassuring is the fact he also played bass on Megadeth's 'The System Has Failed' album.

Guitarist Nick Didkovsky appears on three tracks, 'Fireball', 'The Sound Of A' and 'You And All Your Friends'. Nick is a well known musician in New York scene playing a wide variety of musical styles. He came to the 'Paranormal' album via a project he put together to recreate the first Alice Cooper album, 'Pretties For You' live on stage for the first time since the original band played the songs in the last 60s. As a guitarist Nick studied Glen Buxton's original guitar lines intently to reproduce them as closely as possible using many of the same effects pedals Glen had used. For 'Pretties For You New York' he got in touch with both Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith during preperations for the performance, and Dennis both introduced the band and joined them on stage during the encore. The show was a success and has occasionally been repeated, often with Dennis also taking part. Nick has also stood in for Glen Buxton occasionally when the original band have played together without Alice. Presumably it was Dennis who suggested Nick for the tracks he co-wrote on the album.

'Paranormal' Live

In 2017 the 'Spend The Night With Alice Cooper' tour simply became the 'Spend A Paranormal Night With Alice Cooper' tour.. basically it was the same show with a couple of song changes. The single 'Paranoiac Personality' entered the set on July 1st 2017, and 'Fallen In Love' appeared at the start of 2018.

The show begun with a tape of 'The Controller' similar to the one used on the 'Brutal Planet' tour. The curtain showing Alice's eyes dropped and Alice appeared wrapped in a black cloak which he throws off for 'Brutal planet'. The stage is more or less the same as it had been for some years with a backdrop showing the 'Love It To Death' eyes. The backdrop would change frequently during the show depending on the song being played. Also onstage is the pink toy box as seen on the 'Welcome To My Nightmare tour in '75, out of which a clown occasionally pops up to hand Alice his props.


Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, Alice Cooper and Dennis Dunaway take a bow in Manchester, 2017.

'No More Mr Nice Guy', 'Under My Wheels', 'Lost In America' all pass uneventfully before the first surprise, 'Pain' from 'Flush The Fashion', not played live since 1982. Without a keyboard player the band have transposed everything to just guitars and it sounds amazing, even better then the original, especially Ryan and Nita's harmony guitars near the end.

'Department Of Youth' is followed another big surprise: 'The World Needs Guts', unplayed live since 1987. This also sounds incredible with Nita and Ryan proving that have no problems at all playing the Kane Roberts material. 'Woman Of Mass Distraction' follows with Alice again playing against Nita before she takes the spotlight for a solo that leads into 'Poison' and 'Halo Of Flies' for Alice's mid-set break.

Smoke pours from the toy box and Alice appears in his white lab cat for 'Feed My Frankenstein' and the FrankenAlice routine. Alice pulls 'Cold Ethyl' from the toy box and throws her around a bit before throwing her back. 'Only Women Bleed' begins with Alice at the front of the stage on a trash can until half way through Nurse Sheryl appears from the toy box and dances across the stage. At the end of the song Alice catches her and stabs her. Sirens wail as the band begin 'Paranaoic Pesonality'. At the end of the song hooded goons grab Alice and place him in the straitjacket for 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry', the nurse appearing as usual to torment him. Alice escapes and tries to strangle her but she stabs him. On comes the guillotine to 'Killer' and yet again Alice loses his head.

The band play him off with the usual 'I Love The Dead' and the stage goes dark. The band finish the song but hold the last note... the sound slowly building up, louder and louder.. and then it subtly changes.... They change chords... and change again... and then Alice's voice comes over the PA "Ladies and Gentlemen.. The ORIGINAL Alice Cooper band!" The lights go up to reveal Alice, Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith in front of a huge 'Billion Dollar Babies' backdrop powering into 'I'm Eighteen'. The crowd, predictably, go nuts. 'Billion Dollar Babies' follows with Neal pounding out the famous beat as only he can while Dennis stalks around the stage throwing high kicks. The money sword comes out and Alice litters the front rows with billion dollar bills. Next up is 'No More Mr Nice Guy' with Michael and Ryan playing the opening riff in unison before the beginning of 'Hello Hooray' leads into 'Muscle Of Love'. Words can't really express how cool is was to see them all up on a big stage again.

Finally the school bell rings and everybody takes part in the grand final of 'School's Out', musicians old and new joined in one final celebration of Alice Cooper. Balloons float across the crowd as bubbles fill the stage and Alice introduces first the current band and then the 'OG's', the "original guys". The show ends with explosions and streamers shooting into the crowd, as the roar fades into the night..

The Performers

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Ryan Roxie - Guitar, backing vocals
  • Nita Strauss - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Tommy Henriksen - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Chuck Garric - Bass, Vocals
  • Glen Sobel - Drums
  • Sheryl Cooper - The Nurse etc

Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Ryan Roxie, Leeds, 2017.

The 'Paranormal' Period Setlists

  • Brutal Planet
  • No More Mr Nice Guy
  • Under My Wheels
  • Lost In America - replaced by 'Department Of Youth' and in 2018 by 'Be My Lover'
  • Pain - replaced by 'Serious' in 2018
  • He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) - dropped after 5 shows
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • The World Needs Guts - replaced by 'Fallen In Love' in 2018
  • Woman Of Mass Distraction
  • Poison
  • Halo Of Flies
  • Feed My Frankenstein
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Paranoiac Personality
  • Ballad Of Dwight Fry
  • Killer-I Love the Dead
  • I'm Eighteen
  • Schools Out