HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019)
Tomorrow will be released “Rise”, the second studio album by HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES, the band which lives and breathes the spontaneous magic of three megastars – Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Hollywood star Johnny Depp. Consisting mainly of original material, as well as covers of songs such as David Bowie’s ”Heroes”, sung by Johnny Depp and Johnny Thunder’s ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’, sung by Joe Perry, this album is purely rock ‘n’ roll.
The band’s name is a nod to Alice Cooper‘s club during his heaviest drinking days in the ’70s with such rock icons as Keith Moon, John Lennon, Mickey Dolenz, and Harry Nilsson. Coop has a way of weaving such tall tales that they beggar belief, but there’s enough corroboration out there that, yeah, it’s all pretty much true.
So, Hollywood Vampires first album followed suit with a theme of paying tribute to those old dead, drunk friends, but also paying tribute to the living by showcasing cameos from A-list friends like Paul McCartney and Brian Johnson.
“Rise” is the album that fans of both Hollywood Vampires and Alice Cooper have been waiting for since the project was first announced earlier in the 2010s. It’s almost all originals, and what sparse cover songs there are sound absolutely heartfelt and continue the tribute theme quite well.
What’s more, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp‘s contributions are much more noticeable this time around. On the first album, there were so many guest appearances, that between those and Alice Cooper‘s vocals, anyone working the metaphorical spotlight would have a hell of a time remembering where to point it and when.
It’s no wonder Depp and Perry were somewhat lost in the craziness happening on the album. Now, each of them has lead vocal duties at some point, and their guitars seem much more present, as do the contributions of Alice Cooper band member and unsung hero Tommy Henriksen, who does a little bit of everything on “Rise”.
There are only three cover tunes this time around, Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died,” (a perfect cover choice for this album), Johnny Thunder‘s “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” with Perry on lead vocals, and David Bowie‘s “Heroes,” which features Depp on lead vocals in a surprisingly heartfelt moment on the album.
It’s also tremendously fun to hear Depp sing Bowie, because the man is such a chameleon that he comes across as a strange hybrid of Bowie and Captain Jack Sparrow in his vocal delivery, and it’s oddly wonderful.
Elsewhere throughout the album, we are treated to short 30-to-60 second interstitial pieces that give a complete album feel, as opposed to a collection of singles. And as far as stylistic approaches, there’s something for everyone here: we have a honky-tonkin’ chicken-pickin’ train song in “Welcome to Bushwackers” (featuring a slide guitar solo by Jeff Freakin’ Beck!); all-out rockers and with and without social commentary in “I Want My Now,” and “The Boogieman Surprise;” a dark and Cooper-esque epic in the form of ‘Mr. Spider’ which fits in nicely with his other spooky and spidery pieces from his past work
There’s a spoken-word finale in the form of “Congratulations,” with a galloping 6/8 feel and multiple speakers (presumably the trio of Cooper, Perry, and Depp) sounding, well, just absolutely awesome and inspiring; and of course the album’s lead single “Who’s Laughing Now,” a song which is pretty cool enough on its own, but might not be enough to sell people on the album at first listen.
Suffice it to say, though, the lead single works much better in the overall context of the album than standing alone on its own.
What we end up with is an album sure to please fans of the original Alice Cooper group of Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith. But it’s an album that has enough of its own identity that it doesn’t simply sit in the shadow of Coop‘s storied career, or Perry‘s with Aerosmith.
And in a way, it breaks free from living in the past completely, like its predecessor album might have been guilty of doing.
Now that we have two Hollywood Vampires albums, it’s nice to see the band’s musical personality taking shape more and more,. Now, with the two albums to complement each other, they raise each other up… rising tide, and all that. Coming off of the success of 2017’s “Paranormal” album and resulting live album, “Rise” is a huge treat for Alice Cooper fans so soon afterwards, and rumors have it that we might have a live album from Hollywood Vampires coming sometime soon as well.
With so many legends gone, especially in the rapid succession of tragic losses we’ve seen just since the beginning of 2016, or really with Lemmy‘s death in late 2015, it’s a good time to pause, look back and reflect, and take a moment to celebrate the “Heroes” who are still with us today.
1. I Want My Now
2. Good People Are Hard to Find
3. Who’s Laughing Now
4. How the Glass Fell
5. The Boogieman Surprise
6. Welcome to Bushwackers (feat. Jeff Beck & John Waters)
7. The Wrong Bandage
8. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory
9. Git From Round Me
10. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
11. A Pitiful Beauty
12. New Threat
13. Mr. Spider
14. We Gotta Rise
15. People Who Died (Jim Carroll Band cover)
Alice Cooper – lead and backing vocals, harmonica
Johnny Depp – guitar, backing vocals, keyboards
Joe Perry – lead and rhythm guitar, backing and lead vocals
Glen Sobel – drums
Chris Wyse – bass
Buck Johnson – keyboards, vocals