by Dylan Looney
On paper, the Hollywood Vampires should be the greatest band of all time. To start with, there’s the three core members: Alice Cooper, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp. Along for the ride are a list of guest stars that reads like rock’s proverbial “A-list:” Dave Grohl, Slash, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, the Doors’ Robby Krieger, and Joe Walsh, not to mention a Beatle (Sir Paul McCartney) and the son of one (Zak Starkey, son of Ringo and current drummer for the Who). To top things off, legendary producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, KISS, Pink Floyd) is behind the controls to produce this supergroup’s self-titled debut album. If rock and roll had an All-Star game, this very well could be the starting lineup.
The project started with Cooper and Depp as a tribute to Cooper’s ’70s drinking buddies, a loosely-knit organization of high-profile rock stars originally dubbed the Hollywood Vampires. Among the group were John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, and many others. The album consists mostly of covers of Alice’s comrades, with a couple original songs co-written by Cooper, Depp, Ezrin, and others. Lyrically, both originals also cover the subject of the original Hollywood Vampires. In “Raise the Dead,” Cooper sings, “A sudden quick demise/ So the body dies/But the music stays alive.” In the other original, “My Dead Drunk Friends,” Alice mourns the titular “friends” with the dark sense of humor that fans have come to expect from the man who brought us tracks like “Cold Ethyl” and “Dead Babies.” Cooper’s delivery and lyrics paired with a late-night sleazy swing and a pretty amusing bridge section (you’ll have to hear it for yourself) make this the superior track, as well as one of the best on this album altogether.
As for the covers, most of the material ranges from decent to above-average treatments of classic songs. You can feel the respect Cooper, Depp, Perry, and Co. have for the original artists and songs here. Some of the highlights are an excellent rendition of the Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” and a medley of the Doors’ “Five to One” and “Break on Through (to the Other Side),” featuring the Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger. Other interesting moments include a slowed down cover of “Whole Lotta Love,” with Brian Johnson’s raunchy, piercing vocals used for full effect and a harmonica solo by Cooper. Johnson also makes an appearance on a medley of Alice’s “School’s Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” It should be noted that Ezrin produced both the albums that the songs originally appear on. Hearing Brian Johnson sing something from one of my favorite albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, made me very happy and certainly caught my attention when the track was first released. The album includes a cover of Badfinger’s “Come and Get It,” featuring the song’s writer, Paul McCartney, who supplies bass and some primal vocals to compliment Alice’s more melodic singing. This is quite the role reversal from what the typical fan might expect, and it works amazingly. Another cool touch is a spoken word intro from Bram Stoker’s Dracula by the late Christopher Lee, recorded shortly before the acting great’s death earlier this year.
At its heart, Hollywood Vampires shows Alice paying tribute to his past in a way only he can. Along the way, it shows how a few aging rock legends still have plenty of fuel in their tanks. We also see Depp, who pursued a music career before getting into acting, showing that he’s more than just a pretty-boy celebrity with a musical vanity project. Hollywood Vampires is a must-have for hardcore followers of Cooper or Depp, and I would recommend that any fans of guitar rock at least give the album a listen on Spotify.