Released in 1971, 'Killer' was the quintet's forth, and is an out and out classic. One look at the tack listing is all you need to know why. Littered with songs that can still be found in the man formerly known as Vincent Furnier's live set today; from the greaser rock of opener 'Under My Wheels', to the proto-disco of 'Be My Lover', to the psychedelic 'Halo of Flies', and the darkness of 'Desperado', it's essential listening. And that's just side one.
While less illustrious, side two contains the eeriest moment on the album in the infamous 'Dead Babies'; a sinister operetta, which Cooper himself describes in the liner notes as; "out most misunderstood song". The title track, which closes things out meanwhile, slithers along like the snake on the cover, on the funkiest Dennis Dunaway bassline.
Throughout, the magic of the original band - completed by lead player Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist / keyboardist Michael Bruce, and drummer Neal Smith - is writ large, especially when given licence to stretch on the longer instrumental passages.
It's augmented by two discs on vinyl (or one CD) featuring an unreleased live recording from Mar Y Sol Pop Festival in Puerto Rico in 1972. Cramming in the majority of the band's hits up until that point, including anthem 'I'm Eighteen', it's also fascinating to hear the instantly recognisable riff to 'Schools Out' being jammed at the climax of 'Long Way to Go', given that this was months before that album would hit the shelves.
Which brings us neatly to 'School's Out' itself. Giving them not only a number 2 US album, but a number 1 single in the U.K., it's perhaps the most well-known release to carry the Alice Cooper name. Kicking off with the infamous title track, it's followed, across the album by a run of lesser-known tracks, from the strings-heavy 'Luney Tune', to the chipper 'Gutter Cat vs. the Jets' and the rock 'n' roll boogie of 'Public Animal #9'.
Discs two and three meanwhile, contain a live set from Miami in 1972, and a fistful of alternative takes including the previously unreleased alternative version of 'Alma Mater', and an early take of 'Elected'.
Sonically, although newly remastered, with Bob Ezrin's unmistakable production touch, both of the studio sets sound gloriously of their time.
As for the packaging, the pair come crammed with not only exceptionally extensive liner notes (including detailed track by track breakdowns ) and interviews with the main protagonists - which make for a great read whilst listening - but faithful reproductions and upgrades of their original opulent splendour. While 'Killer' is presented in a tri-fold sleeve, and contains a pleasingly period 1972 calendar (!), 'Schools Out' retains the infamous openable school desk cover, and panties holding the disc in place.
A timely reminder of what made the Alice Cooper band so infectious in the first place.
Alice Cooper's 'Killer' and 'Schools Out' deluxe editions are released on 9th June 2023 via Rhino.