09/09/2003 8:20p ET
Matt Rowe - Reviewer
Alice Cooper began the shock rock movement that is exploited today by Marilyn Manson, and to a lesser degree, other bands that hold the rock icon as an influence. Riding on the heels of Alice Cooper's previous hit, School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies exploded and became their best selling album, unmatched by any of their output after it's release. Following the lead of School's Out's packaging of a paper panty over a plastic slipsleeve housed in a desktop cover that actually opened like a desk would lift, Billion Dollar Babies emulated a snakeskin wallet, opening to reveal a billion dollar bill. Trivial trivia? Yes, but it revealed a dedication to creating an immersive experience for the audience.
Unfortunately, Alice Cooper (the persona) no longer recorded with the original band after that band's last album as an entity, Muscle of Love. A shame, since I believe that they would rock even now. Regardless, Billion Dollar Babies, as a concept album, yielded 5 singles, 3 of them Top 40, and has proven itself to be one of the more enduring classics of 70s output. Produced by one of Rock's great producer, Bob Ezrin (still at it producing Jane's Addiction's Strays in 2003), this album climbed to #1.
With radio strong tracks like "Hello, Hooray"; "Elected"; "Raped and Freezin'"; "Billion Dollar Babies"; and "No More Mister Nice Guy" and rounded out by "Unfinished Sweet"; the still defiant and STILL shocking "I Love The Dead" (yeah? Listen to it and YOU tell me); the 'coulda been a single' "Generation Landslide"; "Sick Things", and the surprising "Mary Ann", Billion Dollar Babies has positioned to be remembered fondly by many.
Michael Bruce and the rest of the band had always been strong song crafters. A listen to their earlier Easy Action but more notably, Love It To Death and Killer as well as their later material including this album, reveals this truth. Their musicainship made up one of the strongest units of their time. The reduction to Vince Furnier as Alice, the solo act, although palatable, could not hold a candle to the collective band years.
Which brings us to the DVD-Audio release of Billion Dollar Babies with it's upgraded sound and added extras. We already know just how great the album is. But does this DVD-Audio do further justice? Does it create a better sounding copy? Well, to be fair, it may have at one time. Unfortunately, given the better understanding of the format since early 2001 (hear more recent DVD-As including the spectacular Kamakiriad from Donald Fagen to understand my point here), this version of BDBs is not as convincing an argument for the format.
Understand that the procedures that surrounded the format in early 2001 were not as well understood. This edition was a test tube baby to form a pun. But it's not bad either. There are plenty of great extras that seemingly no longer make their way onto DVD-Audios today. It's those extras that make this disc a great value and THE replacement for any of the CD versions that you may own.. well, an addition or supplement in any case. One that is superior for home use at this point.
From an audio aspect, the reproduction is clear and enjoyable but no more than the Rhino Expanded edition. The inclusion of surround doesn't thrill you immensely as it feels like sounds being mixed here and there to simulate the surround. Remember, early days here. Without droning, the quality pales in comparison to today's mixing skills. This is no knock to Bob Ezrin who produced the 96k/24 bit Stereo and the Surround remixes but the learning curve has advanced significantly since this re-issue.
Where this set shines is in its extras inclusions. There are interviews with Alice concerning the periods from School's Out to the creation of Billion Dollar Babies. You can choose to hear Alice talk or read the text...or both. There are bonus live tracks recorded from the band's 1973 show in the Sam Houston Coliseum which is best listened to using the Surround mix. They are available as both Stereo and Surround. You have access to photos in a gallery. There are on-the-screen lyrics, credits, and bio/discography. The favourite here is the 'before MTV' video of "Elected". It's all wrapped up in a super jewel case complete with a beautiful 24 page booklet literally packed with more info and stuff. The disc itself is stamped with a period piece label.
Buy this disc, not specifically for the sound enhancements, which are not as compelling as they should be, but for the extras. Consider the surround mix a bonus and you can't go wrong. Remember, Alice Cooper rocked 'back in the day' when the band was intact. This album is a perfect document of the best of that period of time. This DVD-A merges the original album with a wealth of bonuses making this a purchase of quality.
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Billion Dollar Babies
Released: April 10, 2001