Vincent, Alice, Carter, Ralph and The Babys

June 26, 2014 

This week's column leads off with my review of an award-winning film about original theatrical rocker Alice Cooper, followed by my opinions on a book detailing the turbulent lives of early bluegrass/traditional music pioneers The Stanley Brothers. My thoughts about a new album by reassembled 1970s radio rockers The Babys closes things out.

'Super Duper Alice Cooper,' (Eagle Rock Entertainment, HHHH 1/2)

This June 3 DVD, Blu-ray and deluxe limited edition release tells the story of Vincent Furnier, a pastor's son who fronted a band named Alice Cooper before "becoming" Alice as they attained mass success. I have problems with people being omitted from the story, like guitarist/co-songwriter Michael Bruce, but the Banger Films "doc opera" format, involving archival footage, animation and more, is fascinating to watch.

The breakup of the original Cooper band occurred after one album when bassist Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith, lead guitarist Glen Buxton and Bruce wanted to focus more on music than theatrics.

This led to Alice's control of the name, which he held on to through alcoholism, cocaine abuse and more until emerging as a sober "godfather" figure in the 1980s. Interviews with Alice, Dunaway, manager Shep Gordon, Smith and others complete a very informative package that also includes lots of bonus footage.

Get some version of this package ASAP.

'Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers,' David W. Johnson (University Press of Mississippi, HHHHH)

This book is available in paperback now, and is the first biography of Carter and Ralph Stanley. Their influence is similar to that of the late Bill Monroe, the father/inventor of bluegrass, and Flatt & Scruggs, who were the most commercially successful members of the music's earliest generation. Ralph is still alive. His brother Carter (1925-1966) died of complications from alcoholism. Members of Carter's family, Ralph, former Clinch Mountain Boys and dozens more friends and fans of the brothers are interviewed. The late Mike Seeger allowed his 1966 interviews with the brothers to be used, as well.

This is an invaluable look into the often-turbulent lives of one of America's treasures, who gave us songs like "The White Dove," "How Mountain Girls Can Love," "Man of Constant Sorrow" and more.

'I'll Have Some Of That!' The Babys (Skyrocket Entertainment/All In Time Records, HHH)

This is a new edition of the 1970s classic-rock hit-makers: original drummer Tony Brock and lead guitarist Wally Stocker have recruited new bassist/vocalist John Bisaha and rhythm guitarist Joey Sykes, along with road keyboardist Francesco Saglietti and the Babettes. Former members John Waite (vocals), Jonathan Cain (latter-day keyboardist now part of Journey) and Ricky Phillips (latter-day bassist now in Styx) have given their blessing to the new crew, who released an iTunes single last November. The original Babys found radio fame mostly with keyboard-based singles; we'll see whether the rockier side connects this time.

Highlights include the somewhat power-poppy "Every Side of You," which is reminiscent of earlier hits; "I See You There" is even more in the keys/backing chicks ballpark. Bisaha's voice is suitable, and I think there's a good future for these Babys if they don't expect quick results.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at rickyflake@bellsouth.net.

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