ALICE COOPER thunder god rolls out a rocking story about the power and abuse.
Wunderkinds have always fascinated musicians, and Neal Smith is no exclusion: he always wanted to upstage Keith Moon and have one drum more than THE WHO used, but while their Tommy was a kind soul, a poor boy, this album’s protagonist, is evil. Born in the South American jungle to become a drug baron, he floods the world with an ancient sacrificial substance “GreenFire” until the operation is thwarted by a retired military veteran KillSmith, obviously the writer’s alter ago. So, in Neal’s word’s, here’s the “last” rock opera – as opposed to the first one about the deaf, dumb and blind leader – yet with a metal twist.
This record picks up where “Billion Dollar Babies” left off, and the opulent, monetary-themed “I Want Money” which is introduced with Lady Elizabeth Dellinger’s soulful wail, as well as “Screaming Bloody Murder,” could have been that album’s out-take. Most of the vocals here are Neal’s own and, although he’s not the greatest of warblers – neither was ALICE COOPER’s frontman with whom he shares a powerful sarcasm – Smith’s roar fits the mood of heavy cuts like “Blessings And Curses,” while “Pandemonium” serves as a showcase for his tremendous drumming artistry. Not so hard hitting is the pieces’ length: propelling the story, the songs often outstay their welcome. no matter how Kevin Franklin’s guitar tries to embellish it all melodically.
“Greenfire Born Of Poison” boasts a memorable chorus, though, and, thanks to its inner variety, flamenco-flavored wordless “The Kill$Mith Overture” – surprisingly, not the opener number – is brilliant. Elsewhere, the boogie of “Good Morning Blue Soul Land” thrives on Hubert Martin’s doo-wop voice and Pete Hickey’s piano jive, but there’s nothing to rival the Beatlesque finale, sung by bassist Peter Catucci, of “Noelle No Wonder” with its orchestral uplift. Rock opera, then? Hardly so, but the classic vibe is certainly there.