Album Review – Hollywood Vampires – Hollywood Vampires (2015)

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*Hollywood Vampires was named after a celebrity drinking club that was founded by Alice Cooper in the 1970s, located in the loft of an already established venue Rainbow Bar and Grill, located in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. Celebrities (and musicians) such as John Lennon and Ringo Star from The Beatles, the late Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and The Nice were members.

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The Last Vampire, like the prologue into a novel, opens the album with peculiar sound effects of howling winds, haunting church bells, footsteps and closing iron doors as Christopher Lee’s booming, rich bass voice echoes through imaginary hallways introducing the listener to a legend of the last vampire. This overture would be one of Lee’s last appearances, and one of his last audio recordings; and pays tribute to the actor’s contribution to the horror film franchise Dracula.

Raise the Dead is the first of the two songs that belongs to Alice Cooper, and an original song to co-inside with Alice Cooper’s tour Raise the Dead located in Wacken, Germany last year at the Wacken Open Air Festival. The track pays great homage to traditional rock’n’roll and the original foundations of the shock rock genre, with the idiosyncratic 70s kick and proto-punk attitude. My Generation, a famous track of The Who, from the iconic titular album, My Generation (1965) is taken into a new course on this album; originally being a song that demonstrated the early fusions of rock and pop, it has been turned into pure hard rock, with psychedelic interludes; the instrumentation powerful, energetic and aggressive. The only lingering reminiscence of the flamboyant and head-lulling supporting vocals used by The Who is expressed by Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, beneath Cooper’s guttural leading voice.

Whole Lotta Love,
a distinguishing moment for hard rock/heavy metal band Led Zeppelin in 1969, a song that would come to be forever immortalized as the opening-title for BBC programme Top of the Pops from 1970 – 2013 in its various forms; for the opening of Hollywood Vampire’s cover, it is turned into a fusion of country/folk with R’n’B suggestions, before reemerging as into the charismatic hard/blues rock number, with the guest appearance of Brian Johnson, former vocalist from AC/DC taking the mantel of Robert Plant, with Cooper on backing vocals.  I Got a Line on You, a classic track for psychedelic/progressive rock band, Spirit from 1969 (with a reissued hard rock version in 1984), has in this cover version, been fused to incorporate the original tone of the song, with the “oomph” of the remastered edition, Cooper back as lead vocalist, and unlike the previous tracks, has a smoother, deeper, cleaner sound; his infamous raspy vocals more throw-away, and in the moment.

Come and Get It, originally by the power-pop group Badfinger, in 1969, was a very easy listening track, with emphasis on the synchronizing vocals and piano; whilst this band’s interpretation combines potent piano, and a embracing of countrified blues with Rolling Stones’ funkiness. Jeepster, a track by T-Rex from 1971 is classically a resilient, funky country-rock love song, with sultry vocals by Marc Bolan. Hollywood Vampires turns it on its head, but introducing the hard rock element, the guitars and drums harsher, but it doesn’t lose its sultry appeal.

Cold Turkey, a collaboration between then husband and wife, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969, which held the premise of paranoid experimental rock, signs of proto-punk themes and distorted blues. This version for the album strips the disturbed nature of the track, and alters it to be more rhythmic, and filled with promise, with strong emphasis of the drums and guitars. Manic Depression, a soulful psychedelic rhythm and blues track from Jimi Hendrix in 1967, gets spun into a quickened and drunken toned escapade, very similar to the works of Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Alice Cooper deliberately coming across as distracted, lost in his own turmoils. Itchypoo Park, a psychedelic pop track from Small Faces, released in 1967, remembered as a light, romantic track becomes a hardcore pop-rock track, mixing rock and roll, and pop-punk. This form of the track gives the sensation that they’re travelling along beach, admiring the summer sunset.

My Dead Drunk Friend
is the first of the two original tracks composed by Hollywood Vampires as a group, it returns to an old-style rock and roll feel, with horror themes thrown into the lyrics, in a reference to the band’s name’s sake’s nature of the club’s activities in the Lair of the Hollywood Vampires. As Bad as I am, the second and the last original track converts rock and roll into the ether where rock meets metal antics, speaking of confidence in one’s self, and glorifying one’s badness and insurgence. Depp’s vocals are heard in a fictional phone call to a lover, before the song travels into hardcore proto-punk instrumentation, with Johnson taking up guest vocalist for the third time.

I’m a Boy is the second song from The Who, that is covered by the band, this time from The Who’s album Live in Leeds (1970), and is one of their songs in the mid-60s that is not exclusively attached to an album. On the precipice of the 70s’ genres that would emerge, I’m a Boy is a mixture of power pop, pop-rock and early psychedelic rock. What is interesting about the song as a whole is the subject matter; it is a socially progressive number discussing gender issues and paternal negligence; about a young lad who is forced to live and dress as a little girl, because their mother wanted all daughters, it may even address transgender identity. The musical direction HWV take this song is once more an intermingling of hard rock, with a mild touch on surf and psychedelic rock.

Seven and Seven Is, is a song from one of the earliest inspirations of proto-punk, Love, who were garage rock in genre.  They are a prime example of African-American musicians contributing to punk, as well as behind other genres, rock and roll and blues. In the prime composition, there are sounds that would come to be used in punk and post-punk, and psychedelic. Once again, Hollywood Vampires are distinct in their usage of harder rock genres, and in fact embrace punk in its finalized formation, but remain loyal to the original by not removing the blues rock as it slows down to a finish.

Five to One/Break on Through (To the Other Side) is the first of three combined tracks, this track melding two The Doors songs together, Five to One (1968), and Break on Through (To the Other Aside) (1967). The original composition of the former track is much slower, sexier and flighty, with Jim Morrison’s vocalization gruff and slurred (drunk from the fictional woman’s sex appeal), whilst the latter is playful, energetic and intoxicated with the Rumba tempo. Once again, the adaption Hollywood Vampires creates of Five to One differs and is instead defined, authoritative and Cooper is more sober, if slightly competitive in describing the fictional woman, challenging; then when entering BOTTTOA, they keep close to the original, with a rebellious punch. One/Jump into the Fire, the second of the fused tracks, this time around uses Three Dog Night’s One is the Loneliest Number (1968) and Harry Nilsson’s Jump into the Fire (1971). The former track is a mournful, blues rock ballad about a love that got away, and the latter is livelier, filled with defiance and confidence. HWV turns the former track into an unnerving number, with a droning organ keyboard, with a mild 60’s tinge and then turns the tables by invigorating into a rock’n’roll number, which leads effortlessly into the hard country interpretation of Nilsson’s classic track, the vocals beautifully suave to the ears.

Schools Out for Summer/Another Brick in the Wall
the third united track, this time containing the second song belonging to Alice Cooper, from 1972 from the album School’s Out (1972), and an acclaimed track by progressive rock band Pink Floyd, from their 1979 rock opera album The Wall. There was no need to rendition the first track, because of course it is a classic rock track, literally and figuratively speaking, the only difference being was that, once again, Brian Johnson is featured as a guest vocalist, belting out, complimenting Cooper’s softer, straight cut  and sometimes raspy vocals, with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry inflecting their own guitar arrangements. And to contexture into the fast paced dynamics, Brick in the Wall is unified into School’s Out’s narrative quite cleverly.

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