Live From The Astroturf (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Alice Cooper
This is not, in particular, a new release but an updated re-release and another I was not aware of and thanks to Phil Ashton of the Now Spinning Magazine for putting me in the picture so to speak. It was via watching Phil’s Youtube channel that I learned of the new release of Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9 and I have to admit that since losing my wife to cancer at the end of last year I have been out of touch with a lot of things that are out there of late.
To be honest, I’ve always relied on the regular emails I get from the Burning Shed along with the odd recommendations I get now and then from Amazon. Another useful source to get information on new releases is Facebook though just lately I am hardly on it these days. Phil’s Youtube channel is a viable source of information on not only new but also older releases, what I like about it the most is that he also reviews the products he buys.
It was his review of Ozzy’s latest album that got me wondering if Alice Cooper had a new release out to which I did pose the question to him in my reply. Although I perhaps should have been a bit more specific in my reply because this release was not exactly what I was looking for or what I would call a new album in that it was not a studio album. But as Amazon had just sent me an offer of £7 off to try their Click & Collect service I took advantage of it and picked up both for 20 bucks.
It’s perhaps strange to me reviewing this live release before doing a review for his last studio album Detroit Stories, especially as that came out over a year ago and this new updated release of Live From The Astroturf that now comes with a Blu Ray was released this year. Although looking at this release it is perhaps right to do this review first simply because this was the beginning of what was to come from Alice getting back together with the original band which was originally called Alice Cooper.
One of the reasons why I have not yet reviewed Detroit Stories is because (as you can see above) it’s still in its unopened box that I have had since the day of its release back in early 2021. There are quite a few reasons that put me off opening up this box set all of which I reveal why when I finally get around to it. However, the only reason that is holding me back right now from opening it is that I want to make a special video about box sets and I shall do an unboxing of this Boxset and a review of it at some point.
I do have the download of this album and have played it to death, and in all honesty, in my personal opinion, it blows the live album I am about to review here out of water. However, there is something about this release that does not sit very well with me and that might be the very reason why I feel that way about it. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.
Packaging & Artwork…
The discs are stored very neatly in a 3-panel Digipak and comes with a 20-page booklet that is stored on the left-hand side in a slipcase on the side of the panel rather than in a die-cut pocket. The booklet not only contains the usual liner notes and credits but also a coupled of informative essays written by the band’s original bass player Dennis Dunaway and the producer Chris Penn.
Overall the package is very well made and with the discount I managed to pick up my copy from Amazon UK for £12. It does however retail for around £16 and even though it comes with a CD & Blu Ray I personally think it’s well overpriced and this release should have really been put out as a CHEAPO! release.
The new design and layout for the new reissue were done by Alexander Mertsch and Corey Booth which mainly uses photographs like most live album covers. The photos were provided by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson. I quite like the design though the colour pink might be on the feminine side of things though it might tie in with the band’s debut album thinking of it.
Live From The Astroturf In Review…
This particular new edition of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band was released on the 30th of September 2022 and is known as the Worldwide release that was put out by Ear-Music. Prior to this release, the album was originally released on vinyl through Good Records on record store day on the 23rd of November 2018. A two-track vinyl single was also released on record store day a couple of years earlier in 2016 all of which were Limited Editions. Though considering the vinyl album was reissued 26 times in 2018 alone they might not be as LIMITED! as one might think.
The 2018 vinyl releases were in fact limited to around 3,000 copies each but there were a good few reissues as I mentioned and not only was there an array of different coloured vinyl but the labels had different pictures of the individual members of the band. For serious vinyl collectors who like to have everything, it would have cost a small fortune to collect all 26 issues.
Oddly enough the 2022 vinyl release also came with choices to choose from though they did cut these issues down to 4 as you can see below. Unlike the CD release, they are all accompanied with a DVD instead of a Blu Ray which might seem like a bit of cheek when you consider that vinyl is more expensive though personally, I don’t think you are missing out regarding the audio and film footage quality.
I should also stress that it is perhaps the film footage that might be the enticing factor to buy this release again unless like myself you never brought it back then. The live album was also released on Cassette and 8-Track Cartridge back in 2018 and these are perhaps amongst the rarest as only 100 copies of each were ever released.
According to Wikipedia Live from the Astroturf is the 12th live album by the rock group that used to be known as Alice Cooper. I have no idea how they arrived at this conclusion and they obviously never did their research very well because, in reality, this is the second live album that has ever been officially released to feature the Alice Cooper Band and even one of those was unauthorized and did not surface much later till 1982. Even the man himself Vincent Furnier who took on the band’s name back in 1975 has only ever released 6 live albums including the one we have here.
What you do get with this release is Alice reuniting with the original band minus guitarist Glen Buxton who sadly passed away back in 1997. Over the past decade, Cooper has worked on and off with his old band as well as his touring band and it was most likely getting back together that may have sparked or ignited the flame for him to use them on his last studio album Detroit Stories, though I should also point out that the band were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame back in 2011.
Although the members of the band were born in Detroit it was in Phoenix, Arizona where the band originated and where they originally took off so to speak. The concert we have in question here was also recorded there, it’s perhaps a little confusing however at least what is left of the original band is in a good STATE! pardon my pun.
One of the things that sparked off this one-off event was down to the band’s bass player Dennis Dunnaway who had written a book (as seen above) about his adventures in the Alice Cooper band which he titled Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! Although it was Chris Penn a lifetime superfan who happened to own a record store by the name of Good Records who was the guy that managed to reunite the band, his store not only provided Dunnaway with a Q&A/book signing at his store but the venue to stage the event. No expense was spared by Penn making his dream come true including making alterations to his record store, he also managed to get the band to play their longest set since their last ever show in Brazil in 1974.
To be honest the set that is included on both the CD and Blu Ray is not very long and perhaps one of the reasons why I suggested that this release should have been put out as a CHEAPO! So let’s now dive into the package and take a closer look.
One of the surprising things about the CD that comes in this package is that I actually prefer it in relation to the Blu Ray and that is most unusual because in general live concerts that come with a CD/DVD or CD/Blu Ray I would never bother playing the CD at all. Basically, this is because I prefer to watch the concert rather than just listen to it in audio only. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time this particular concert has been released on CD.
The disc comes with a total of 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 38 minutes, and 43 seconds which appears to be a very reasonable time slot, however, 8 of the tracks are merely the bantering that went on between the songs and in reality, the song setlist is only 29 minutes, 55 seconds so you basically have a half-hour show. It’s actually less than that because it includes an instrumental bonus track that came from the rehearsal the night before.
The Blu Ray.
The video footage of the live concert is done in the way of a documentary film where it goes off in between the songs showing various clips of the band members talking about certain songs, some of the footage is also taken from the Questions & Answers Featurette that is included in the extras menu. The concert documentary footage does run longer and has an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 19 seconds, it obviously includes a lot more banter than the content on the CD and I guess that’s the reason why I prefer the CD in relation to the Blu Ray.
The other drawback is that the audio content is only LPCM 48/16 and is more or less CD quality and not uncompressed audio that is more fitting to Blu Ray. You could have put the content you get here on a DVD and still got the same quality which makes the blu ray a bit of a waste, it’s as if they have used it to squeeze more money out of you.
The main menu of the blu ray is very simple to navigate and there are only two options here to choose from, by default it’s set to the man feature and the pink highlighted colour is what confirms your choice. It displays a series of old and new pictures of the band set to the background music of “Desperado”.
The extras menu (as seen above) is a pop-up one making the navigation fast and smooth without having to load to a different menu. The couple of music videos are taken from the actual concert so it’s not as if they are really extras at all, however it does look like they have been shot from a different camera angle though I could be wrong with my observation.
The Q&A Featurette is perhaps the more interesting bonus feature and here you get 45 minutes with three of the original band members namely Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith talking about their old days with the band and comparing notes with one another about the stories that Dunnaway wrote in his book. The audience also gets the chance to throw in a few questions.
Picture & Sound Quality.
The music side of things I’ve already touched on how it does not really measure up to the quality purposes for blu ray, however, the concert has been very well recorded and the recording engineer David R. Wilson had the sense to do a multitrack recording. It was also mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin and they have really captured the live sound true to life here and it sounds excellent.
The picture quality is also very good and no doubt has been captured by the use of HD video cameras by a team that Chris Penn assembled at the time to record the whole event that was originally intended for his own purpose. The film content had been lying dormant for a couple of years and when he showed it to Steven Gaddis he felt it was good enough to make a movie with and did the editing to shape it into the documentary film we have here. Patrick Cone was also involved in filming some of the interview footage both of which fail to get a mention in the credits in this package.
The film premiered at the Phoenix Film Festival between the 4th – 14th of April back in 2019 and picked up an award for the best short documentary. It was also a winner at both the Dallas International Film and Northeast Mountain Film Festivals in the same year and picked up other accolades along the way.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced by Chris Penn. Executive Producers Chris Penn & Shep Gordon. Recorded at Good Records, Dallas, TX on the 6th of October 2015. Recording Engineer David R. Wilson. Mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin at Anarchy Studios Nashville, TN. Mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound New York. Original Design by Jonathon Kimbrell. Reissue Design by Alexander Mertsch & Corey Booth. Photography by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson.
Alice Cooper: Lead Vocals.
Michael Bruce: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Lead Vocals (Caught In A Dream).
Dennis Dunnaway: Bass – Backing Vocals.
Neal Smith: Drums.
Ryan Roxie: Guitar – Background Vocals.
Chuck Garric: Harmonica (Schools Out).
The Concert In Review…
The short concert you get here was recorded on the 6th of October 2015, at Good Records in Dallas, Texas. As for the name they gave to the venue it was a pink-coloured piece of Astroturf they had used to cover the stage. So if like myself you were wondering where the hell is ASTROTURF?! they were standing on it. I have to admit looking at the record store it’s hardly the place one would expect to put on a concert though solo artists such as Richard Thompson and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) have performed in a bookstore before now.
It’s also not unusual for certain artists to hire themselves out for private gigs in your own house providing you have the money to pay for it of course, though you would have to have a big house and a lot more dosh to hire a band. Being the proprietor of a record store Chris Penn is very business minded and has his own record label under the same name as the store so he was able to recuperate some of the losses staging an event such as the one we have here.
As with any event it also has to be planned and a lot went into the preparation to put on the show including knowing when Alice was going to be touring in the state with his own band and knowing what days he had off to be able to put in an appearance. His appearance was also going to be a surprise for the fans and to make that happen he had to knock down part of the building to get him in there without being seen.
As with any band that gets back together for a one-off event such as this you can expect nothing but hits so the band’s first two albums Pretties For You and Easy Action were never gonna get a look in so to speak. After a short introduction, three of the band members take to the stage (excluding Alice) and roll out “Caught in a Dream” which was the opening song on the band’s third album Love It To Death. It was also penned solely by Michael Bruce who gets to take on the lead vocals this time and does a really good job of it.
They then turn their attention to the band’s 4th album Killer and this is where Alice makes his entrance along with his longtime lead guitarist from his own band Ryan Roxie who is standing in for the late Glen Buxton and they roll out “Be My Lover“. It’s pretty much this 5 piece lineup that rolls out the rest of the hits including their number #1 hit single “I’m Eighteen” that got the ball rolling for the band and established them.
They then proceed to roll out “Is It My Body“, “No More Mr. Nice Guy“, “Under My Wheels” and “School’s Out” to which the latter of those Chuck Garric contribute a bit of harmonica too. The only other album that does not get a look in that came out of the original Alice Cooper Band discography is the band’s 7th studio album Muscle of Love. The band then exit the stage and return for an encore and rock out “Elected” which ends off the show in fine style and puts an end to it all. Although the CD is not quite over as it also includes an instrumental version of “Desperado” which was recorded the night before as a soundcheck by the original three band members which was not included in the 2018 release.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band. What you are getting here is a short or mini concert of the original lineup’s greatest hits performed more or less by the original Alice Cooper band and I feel that would be enough alone to entice many to buy this package. However, I personally feel that the package is more grandeur than it appears to be and the Blu Ray that comes accompanied with the CD should have come free. I do however feel it’s a very well-put-together package but I cannot help feeling that it’s well overpriced and should have been put out as a CHEAPO!
That’s not to say that the concert has not been well recorded and produced because I feel they have not only captured the true sound of the live performance but the venue itself and it is without a doubt a very good recording and the production is fine. The CD is the winner in this package and given the fact that you are getting less than half an hour of real music content is what defines why it should have been put out as CHEAPO! I do feel the inclusion of blu ray is what has bumped up the price and if it was to be released on CD alone it should have retailed around £8 in relation to the price of a conventional album that sells at £12.
Although the main and extra features on the blu ray have been very well filmed, all the video content looks like it was made for Television in relation to a live concert filmed at a larger venue with all the lighting and stage props. However one must remember that what you are really getting here is a documented event which is why it would not make a blind bit of difference if you have this on Blu Ray or DVD regarding the quality of the content. This is also the reason why I feel that this package is overpriced and it should have retailed for £12 and not £16.99 or more in places.
I guess at the end of the day in relation to anything really new the package we have here takes you more or less on a trip down memory lane. It’s a very good one I might add but down to its pricing structure, I could not really recommend it.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE…
The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
01. The Eighth Wonder of the World… (Intro). 0:59.
02. Caught in a Dream. 3:19.
03. Be My Lover. 3:30.
04. Whatever He’s Doing It’s Illegal (Banter). 0:27.
05. I’m Eighteen. 3:33.
06. We Haven’t Done This One in About, What, 40 Years? (Banter). 0:25.
07. Is It My Body. 2:40.
08. Threatened for a Month (Banter). 0:39.
09. No More Mr. Nice Guy. 3:08.
10. I Guess Things Are Getting Better for You (Banter). 0:59.
11. Under My Wheels. 3:00.
12. It’s a Dangerous Place to Be (Banter). 1:15.
13. School’s Out. 3:19.
14. More Fun Than It’s Supposed to Be (Banter). 3:17.
15. Elected. 3:59.
16. School’s Not over Until You Vote (Outro). 0:53.
17. Desperado (Instrumental Bonus-Track). 3:37.
2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music…#219”
I can not say, that I am familiar with the work of Mr.Cooper, though of course I know, that he liked to go on stage with real snakes and well functioning guillotines and created the term “Shock rock”. There are a few occasions, when I stumbled upon his name. So I know, that he was a good friend and neighbor of Keith Moon. There is a funny quote of Alice Cooper about Moon: Alice Cooper was Moon’s close friend and neighbor during his Malibu years in the ’70s, and admitted that Moon’s non-stop partying and the mania surrounding his life was exhausting: “Keith Moon was hard day-to-day. He would wear me out. He was always on. He came over and stayed at our house for a week. Y’know, just came over, stayed at the house for a week. And, I mean, there was never a time when I would come in and he’d be sleeping! He was always on: ‘Let’s go here, let’s go there, let’s go do this, let’s go do that, let’s go do this. . . ‘ And to the point where I would go, ‘I can’t stay with you. Y’know, I can party with you at night, okay? But during the day. . .’ He was like that all day, too! (laughs).”
I quite like Cooper’s song “No more Mr. Nice guy”. I became aware of that song, because Megadeth did a cover version of it somewhere in the 90s, good song and a catchy chorus.
Regarding limited Vinyl editions 3000 pieces is ridiculous. A colleague of mine, a serious collector once told me, that he is only accepting editions smaller than 500 as “limited”, everything else is pure marketing.
I am surprised you don’t know much about Alice Cooper and he’s certainly as big as Ozzy Osbourne if not even bigger. Some of the music on Coopers albums is more metal than a lot of the bands you like and I personally don’t think anything out there in the rock world I have heard in the past few decades would be on par with his last album Detroit Stories.
Regarding LIMITED Edition releases I don’t think anybody would beat you and your albums are extremely limited lol. However I get what you mean regarding it being a marketing ply especially with boxsets. I noticed that the Rolling Stones have re-issued their Mono vinyl album box set again which was originally limited to 3,000 copies. The new reissue is also limited to the same number of copies.