With Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper refined the raw grit of their earlier work in favor of a slightly more polished sound (courtesy of super-producer Bob Ezrin), resulting in a mega-hit album that reached the top of the U.S. album charts. Song for song, Billion Dollar Babies is probably the original Alice Cooper group's finest and strongest. Such tracks as "Hello Hooray," the lethal stomp of the title track, the defiant "Elected" (a rewrite of an earlier song, "Reflected"), and the poison-laced pop candy of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" remain among Cooper's greatest achievements. Also included are a pair of perennial concert standards – the disturbing necrophilia ditty "I Love the Dead" and the chilling macabre of "Sick Things" – as well as such strong, lesser-known selections as "Raped and Freezin'," "Unfinished Sweet," and perhaps Cooper's most overlooked gem, "Generation Landslide."
The extraordinary South African pianist meets his countryman, the late, very great bassist Johnny Dyani, and the result is one of the single most beautiful recordings of the '70s. The duo mix in traditional African and Islamic songs and perform with a fervor and depth of feeling rarely heard in or outside of jazz. From the opening traditional Xhosa song, "Ntsikana's Bell," the rich, sonorous approach of these two musicians is evident, both singing in stirring fashion, Ibrahim guttural and serious, Dyani as free and light as a swallow. Ibrahim treats the listener to some of his all-too-rarely heard flute work on the following track, using Kirk-ian techniques of sung overtones in a gorgeous original.
This reissue of a 1993 live album was never intended to memorialize Townes Van Zandt (in the saddest of posthumous ironies, its Sugar Hill sleeve includes a phone number to call for bookings), but it'll do for now. Originally released by Sundown, a tiny Austin indie with limited distribution, the 17-song set finds Van Zandt in fine form – upbeat, gracious, apparently sober – and in good company, with fiddler Owen Cody and guitarist Danny Rowland adding a dimension of musical enhancement that never overwhelms the nuances of the material. As anyone who ever saw Van Zandt fall off a stool recognizes, there was no such thing as a typical Townes performance, but when he was good, no one working in the Texas troubadour tradition has ever been better.
Townes Van Zandt played to a standing room-only crowd in Nashville on April 19, 1985, when he recorded Live & Obscure at 12th and Porter. The show was billed as "the return of the lost sheep of the songwriting fold." The rambling Texas troubadour did not disappoint his fans, peers, and colleagues that night (or any other). In this intimate setting, Van Zandt's aw-shucks charm comes through not just his songs, but his in-between banter. Luckily, he failed to heed his mother's advice to not talk, just play and sing. Another beauty that appears in a raw setting such as this is of the songs themselves.