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Formed in Boston in 1976, The Cars found fame by sending a demo version of the song "Just What I Needed" to their local radio station, WBCN in Boston. The resulting airplay gathered quite a bit of interest in the band, and the song soon became a much-requested favourite among listeners.

As a direct result of that, the band signed to Elektra in late 1977, and in the summer of 1978 this their first album was released to wide critical acclaim. Even now, The Cars is still regarded by many as one of the greatest New Wave debut albums.

First track "Good Times Roll" opens with guitar, syndrum, and Ocasek's distinctive dead-pan vocal delivery, where he sounds almost uninterested. Then there's big hit single "My Best Friend's Girl", with a sound and feel that harks back to the late-50's (it probably wouldn't sound out-of-place on a Buddy Holly album).

The song that did it for the band though, was "Just What I Needed", it being the first introduction to the vocals of bassist Benjamin Orr. Very similar to Ocasek, both singers have a style not unlike Lou Reed - not singing, but not talking either - it's somewhere inbetween.

Fourth track "I'm In Touch With Your World" is a bit of a strange one - some days I love it, other days I can't stand it. It has some brilliant instrumental flashes between its manic and neurotic sounding vocals. "Don't Cha Stop" however is just weak filler, more typical of the very disappointing follow-up to this album, Candy O (which incidentally, should be avoided at all costs).

But it's good stuff from there on, with the last four tracks seeing The Cars at their very best, from the desperate, pleading vocals of "You're All I've Got Tonight", followed by my favourite track - "Bye Bye Love" - which features some excellent keyboards from the multi-talented Hawkes.

Then there's the superbly moody "Moving In Stereo", where all the band's musical influences are thrown together in one go, on to the brilliant album closer "All Mixed Up".

The production is crystal clear thoughout The Cars, and there are some nice backing harmonies included on most of the songs.

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Posted: Thursday 27th Sep 2018 9:22 AM

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album review
The Spiders formed in 1966 and were soon dubbed 'the worst band in L.A.'. In 1969 they changed the band name to Alice Cooper, and signed to Frank Zappa's Straight label.

After releasing a couple of mediocre albums - Pretties for You and Easy Action - the big time finally beckoned when they signed to Warner Brothers in 1971. Top selling albums followed, but it would be their live shows that gained the band a reputation - theatrical shows that had it all - gore, guillotines, mock hangings, not to mention headless dolls, live chickens, and of course, snakes. Some albums though, would prove to be very hit and miss affairs.

So oh dear, here we go again with yet another 70's 'concept' album. I have a bit of a problem with concept albums - the vast majority just don't work. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but they are very few and far between, because the concept usually gets overtaken or lost by poor songwriting, and half the songs on School's Out sound as if they were made up on the spot.

I'm all for taking the piss out of the truly awful West Side Story, as Alice Cooper do on this album - after all it deserves it, but the band don't do very well with the concept. It's a good one though - songs about anarchic, troubled, American high school youth - but the album's just plain awful in places. Surely, this must've been the album that prompted Meat Loaf to unleash the horrendous Bat Out of Hell on the world?

I bought this album years ago, on the strength of the single "School's Out", which does still stand up today as a classic. But alarm bells started ringing for me with "Luney Tune", quite a good song, but when Alice sings Is this all real? Is this all necessary? Or is this a joke?, I begin to wonder.

Whilst "Gutter Cat vs. The Jets" is also classic Alice Cooper and manages to sustain interest, things stop right there. "Street Fight" is a 1-minute track of police sirens, shouting, and chair smashing, accompanied by some bass and cymbal ... er yeah, great! If that was included to add some sort of atmosphere to the album, then I'm afraid it just doesn't work.

"Blue Turk" is the song that best captures the atmosphere of West Side Story, and I've seen "Public Animal #9" and "Alma Mater" described many times - by Alice Cooper fans mostly - as teen anthems. But whilst "Alma Mater" certainly contains some witty lyrics, after you've heard it a couple of times, it just isn't funny anymore. Teen anthems? Doesn't say much for American youth if they're influenced by this sort of stuff. And although "Grande Finale" seems promising at first, that impression doesn't last long either.

This album isn't really worth bothering with - there are in fact only two Alice Cooper albums that are really essential listening - the first album the band recorded for Warner Brothers in 1971 - Love It To Death - featuring the superb "Black Juju", a proper teen anthem in the shape of "I'm Eighteen", an odd choice of cover with Rolf Harris' "Sun Arise", and the excellent "The Ballad of Dwight Fry". The rest of the album isn't bad either.

Or - to hear the band at their commercial and artistic peak - try the wonderful 1973 album Billion Dollar Babies, crammed full of good material including hit singles "Elected", "No More Mister Nice Guy", and "Hello Hurray", along with the title track (with guest vocalist Donovan), and the wicked "I Love the Dead".

Get either (or preferably both) of those albums, and you won't go far wrong. School's Out? Cooper, go to the bottom of the class - must try harder.

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Posted: Monday 22nd Oct 2018 1:03 PM

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