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by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
(Rhino/Warner) Continuing to push the fake billion dollar bill (the only swag-piece missing from this bountiful reissue), Rhino take a swellegant look at a 28-year-old masterpiece of recorded decadence. It's no surprise the best reissuers in the biz have created a tiny work of art here, crystallizing a point in time and educating the new world about sick (and understandably less sick) rock of the '70s. Rhino of course are the folks behind the unparalleled The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper box set (as well as a recent Best Of, also well done except for the cheapo cover), all three tasks made easier by the lawyerly fact that Alice is (most relevantly) a Warner act. The album itself is an expertly paced, surprisingly glammy, not overly heavy, tongue-in-cheek peek at U.S. junk culture, wagging its finger at a cross between Bowie, Mott and really, nothing heavy that had pre-existed at that point. But you knew all that. What is new here is this issue's insightful, intellectualizing 24 page album history by Brian Smith, a ton of rare photos, all the lyrics, as well as the retention of the perf marks for the Alice "trading cards" as they existed on the original embossed, rounded corners, money clip, gatefold vinyl. And to top it off, there's a whole second CD comprising eight of the ten album tracks recorded live that same year, three additional live tracks, and three studio rarities, only one of which was on the box that appeared to say everything that needed to be said (two of these are the same Elvis-style goof but with different lyrics). Now... off to your drawing room, your favourite blood-red burgundy leather reading chair, a cigar, a snifter of brandy, this booklet, this CD, the second illuminating CD, this wee piece of old rock life.
Rating 9

Magnitude 9 - Reality In Focus
(InsideOut America)

In '98/'99 a clichˇ and now no longer in vogue, call this one a true throwback to the power metal of Queensryche, Ohio native Rob Johnson, used to doing instrumental solo albums (three of 'em), assembling a band to project his interesting twist on old prog metal tones, tunes and melodies. The production is crystal clear and geared to the high end (check out the crisp, precise rhythms on Maiden cover Flight Of Icarus) and, no surprise, every song is weighted toward guitar, keyboards relegated to textures. As well, there's a very live, echoey sound to the drums, making you feel like you're at a Dream Theater concert hearing them blast through their most immediately accessible songs. Besides Rob, this album features the lofty Rik Emmett-like vocals of Psycho Drama's Corey Brown as well as Kevin Chown, bassist for Artension. Album #2 after a '97 debut called Chaos To Control.
Rating 7

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