Alice Cooper - Special Forces. Thoughts? Opinions?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by warewolf95, May 14, 2019.

  1. warewolf95

    warewolf95 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greenville, SC
    Although I enjoy Flush The Fashion on occasion, of his 4 "new wave" albums, Alice Cooper's "Special Forces" is my favorite by far.

    It's not that it's the greatest album ever, but I think it flows great and holds together as a complete package very well.

    Its' got great energy and doesn't sound too weird throughout and it's just a "great little album"


    Anyone else feel the same?

    If you don't, what do you dislike about it?

    How do you guys personally rank it?
  2. SonicBob

    SonicBob Forum Resident

    West Virginia
    I had Special Forces on cassette way back when(late 80's) and while I own all 4 of the "blackout" years releases, DaDa is best but Forces is a close second. The recut of Generation Landslide with dubbed audience noise was a little tacky, but the performance was solid. Favorites would be Who Do You Think We Are?, Vicious Rumors, Prettiest Cop on the Block, the cover of Love's "7&7 Is" and Skeletons in the Closet. Even though Alice was freebasing around this time, he still managed some sardonic, slapstick goofiness with songs like You Look Good In Rags, Prettiest Cop, You're a Movie and Skeletons in the Closet.

    I'd give Special Forces a B- rating or a 6 out of 10. It's an almost bare bones type of record and the lineup of Hitchings, Kampf, Erik Scott and Mike Pinera served Alice well on the record and ensuing tour behind it. Even if it's the "blackout" period, at least the material holds up save for one or two songs like Don't Talk Old to Me and You're a Movie.
  3. warewolf95

    warewolf95 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greenville, SC
    I love DTOTM and You're A Movie - they are hilarious to me :D

    Pretty much agree with you on everything else though :)

    Gotta say I do actually dig the Generation Landslide re-do. Not that I'd've wanted it to be on the album, for being there it actually fits in quite well imo.
    music4life likes this.
  4. Matthew Tate

    Matthew Tate Forum Resident

    Richmond, Virginia
    I liked about 5 songs from it. the title track is the best cut. DADA is much better
  5. intv7

    intv7 Forum Resident

    Boston, MA, USA
    I really dislike Special Forces. Really hate it. I think it's the sound of a guy who's desperately trying to reclaim success, but too coked out to even understand what he's doing anymore. I think this, Zipper, and DaDa are shockingly bad. They sound like the kind of music that someone would make if they were purposely trying to get out of a record contract.

    One time I met Alice and had him sign my "Seven And Seven Is" picture sleeve. He gazed at the gaunt skeleton with smeared makeup, shook his head, and said "I look so like I'm an inch away from death here. I was so unhealthy. This was a bad time".

    Special Forces, in particular, comes off as a weak concept, based on songs where they had the title first, and wrote around them. Of the 10 tracks, one's a cover, and one's a senseless remake of a classic AC track. "Skeletons In The Closet" is one of the worst things anyone's ever committed to tape. I'm actually embarrassed for Alice when I listen to much of this record.

    That said, I think Flush The Fashion is largely excellent.
  6. mestreech

    mestreech Forum Resident

    I really like Special Forces (I'm now playing the excellent boot of the Glasgow 82 Radio Clyde show, waht an energy).
    Although he was in a bad shape he put on an hi-energy album and show. Reminds me like the early days of the group Alice Cooper.
  7. warewolf95

    warewolf95 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greenville, SC
    Dada creeps me out. Its so weird! :p
  8. Huntigula

    Huntigula Winner by default

    Brighton, MI
    My least favorite of the "blackout" era, but "Who Do You Think We Are" and "Seven and Seven Is" are great tunes.

    Alice was obviously not well, and the interviews from this era are downright terrifying. Alice in his "Soldier of Fortune" era, which, even as "punk" as it seemed, came off a little less natural. Of course, he would make 4 different types of albums in as many years. It's like he took the formula of Flush the Fashion, put a flag and some machine gun noises in a blender, and out came Special Forces. It seems to be a very "dark" record, IMO. At this point, I believe Alice was just making records because a piece of paper said he had to. Basically, throw things at the wall and see what sticks.

    I purchased this on CD when I first met Alice in the spring of 1999, but the only tracks I was aware of were the ones on the boxed set. Having loved FTF, and liking WDYTWA, I gave the album a fair shot, but it just sounded so forced and cliché that I just couldn't get into any of the other tracks than the ones I listed above. Not like ZCS was much better in that department, but even though the production was pretty thin, I think I enjoyed the space between the instruments more.

    It ranks way down towards the bottom of my list of Alice albums, and is my least favorite of the Blackout Four. Nobody knew what Alice was doing in the early 80s, not even Alice himself.

    Glad he got back on track, both personally and professionally.
    Runicen, warewolf95 and Matthew Tate like this.
  9. Huntigula

    Huntigula Winner by default

    Brighton, MI
    I can meet you in the middle on a few points.

    FTF is indeed largely excellent. For such a musical left turn, it fared well.

    ZCS and Dada are indeed "contractual obligations" without a doubt. These records do say "hey, guys, I really am dangerous! I promise! Look at my lyrics! I'm nutty as ever!". But I do dig the music, the melody, of a lot of those songs. SF doesn't really have any of those for me.

    And as for DaDa? Considering I was as bad as Alice with drugs a few years back, I get that album. A guy that's lost it, embroiled in substance abuse, life sucks, can't win, just wants to die already...even if all I'd gotten was Pass the Gun Around, I'd be a happy man. Some of those Fairlights and CMIs...ugh. Live instrumentation would really make those songs come to life.

    I'm a huge Alice fan, purchasing all the CDs, many of the albums, and a number of cassettes, so I don't "hate" any of his stuff (even Trash, which, hey, if you can stand that album, you MUST be a fan). As with any artist/band I'm a fanatic of, I will find something on every album to like. Aside from the opening track or 2, the only thing I find I like is turning it off.
    Vaughan and warewolf95 like this.
  10. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident

    If I had anything negative to say about Special Forces, it's that it has more padding to my ears than the other blackout albums.

    I never really got the "Generation Landslide" do-over. Bear in mind, I also heard the "new" version before I heard the original, so I didn't have any preconceptions here. "Seven & Seven Is" well, it's ok. Considering that there seems to have been an attempt made at a concept album, it stands out against the other tracks... But the concept itself is so haphazard that even that doesn't really mean anything.

    I think that's the key point for me. There are moments I really like on this album, but it feels the sloppiest of the albums from this era. I LOVE DaDa for its creepy weirdness and Flush the Fashion is a fun reinvention of the Alice character. Zipper Catches Skin is just a collection of songs in the vein of the early Alice albums, so any inconsistency at least doesn't come in the midst of some unifying idea or story.

    When it comes to SF though, I can't tell what it wants to be. It's like it was The Fly if someone shoved a concept album and a normal album into the teleporter. It's not even like we have distinct halves or anything. It's all over the place.

    Now, all that out of the way, there are songs here that deserve a listen and easily land in my pantheon (even if the parent album does not):

    -Who Do You Think We Are (bonus points for the Life & Crimes box version)
    -Prettiest Cop on the Block (spiritual successor to "King of the Silver Screen," which I adore)
    -You Look Good in Rags (would benefit from beefier production, but love the song)
    -You're a Movie (no idea why - I just love this one)
    warewolf95 likes this.
  11. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    I went through Alice's entire discography last year (while reading this book: There were a few albums I was completely unfamiliar with, and this was one of them. This was the only one I did not like at all. I tried to listen to it with an open mind, but it just left me cold. I do like Zipper & DaDa.

    And I'm in the camp that says his appearance at this time due to his drug and alcohol abuse at this time are downright frightening. I watched the Tom Snyder interview/performance & can't believe it. It is a surprise he survived.
  12. marc with a c

    marc with a c Forum Resident

    Orlando, FL
    The “blackout” period is often my very favorite Alice era. DaDa is my ultimate favorite from the batch.

    Special Forces is a very close second. It’s such a bizarre thing overall, but such a solid rock record. There’s nothing about it to dislike, for me. I think it’s tops, but I know I’m in a minority.
    bombardir499, Vaughan, Chad75 and 4 others like this.
  13. intv7

    intv7 Forum Resident

    Boston, MA, USA
    Agreed that DaDa would be better served with real instruments. I may have been a little harsh by calling those three albums "shockingly bad", as I do think that one is a slight bounce back -- but it took me many, many years to even get there. It's tough to even listen past the Fairlights, and I am not one to automatically reject synthetic instruments. It just sounds so wrong for Alice, and it's so jarring on that album. If the songs were of Killer or School's Out quality, I may find it easier to overlook.

    But with the recent Rhino colored vinyl issues, I've re-purchased all those "blackout" albums for the third or fourth time, just being the completist Alice nerd that I am, and found myself actually enjoying DaDa more than I ever have. Which is to say I like it better than its two predecessors.

    I'll take the dreaded Trash over Hey Stoopid any day of the week, by the way!!
    Matthew Tate and warewolf95 like this.
  14. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    Since you ask, I say it's a weak album
    warewolf95 likes this.
  15. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    Zipper and Flush are dismal

    Dada is marginally better
  16. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    Seven and Seven Is = Great Cover
    Generation landslide = good remake
    Who Do You Think we are = good
    You Want It You Got It = weirdly enough I always loved this

    It's a pretty good album, but a little disappointing as well ... I like the albums from Flush The Fashion to Dada, but they aren't in my top Alice albums.
    johnny moondog 909 likes this.
  17. johnny moondog 909

    johnny moondog 909 Beatles-Lennon & Classic rock fan

    As luck would have it, I was around for the recording of this album, or rather parts of it, & I'll offer a few things not yet mentioned, history perspective.

    First off yes coke freebasing had recently been invented or become popular among the hip & cool of Los Angeles... nearly everybody was smoking this stuff like candy on the album.

    Producer Richie Podolor a quirky, anxiety ridden, short little guy a la Phil Spector, had gained fame first as a musical prodigy in childhood with classical study, then as a teen & young man during the late 50s-early 60s surf rock craze, playing surf guitar on smash hits like Sandy Nelson's Teen Beat & Let There Be Drums, as a surf instrumentalist, guitarist under the name Richie Allen he did a series of surf albums, the most revered being Stranger In Durango..from 1960-61, Podolor played, sang, co-produced on legendary hits like Hondells Go little Honda etc. He really came to fame around 68-73 producing enormous hits for Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly & many others...

    It was during that period circa 73, Alice & Podolor discussed him producing the Billion Dollar Babies album, leaving the Bob Ezrin Team. To do that... well it didn't happen & Special Forces was the end result.

    By 1981, whenever it was, not only was Alice coked up on freebase, but Podolor & longtime partner engineer Bill Cooper were too, & 50% of the people dropping by. Some pals & I helped set up various new types of drum machines & new gizmos & witnessed the goings on. Podolor & Alice had both dipped on the charts for a few years & hoped it would be a return to the top 10. Sadly dope got in the way..

    Unusually Podolor operated out of his family owned studio, a converted Chinese restaurant on Ventura Blvd. A small cramped building next to a hamburger stand..also often present during this time were band's 20/20 & Phil Seymour, also on coke & booze & whatever....

    A tragedy, because of drugs... everybody worked & showed up & got it done...we all thought the songs were great vintage style Alice, but for the new wave era..Prettiest Cop On The Block, Who Do You Think Are, etc etc...Alice's style & Podolors musical background & experience in making mega-hits..

    But it failed commercially & critically. Limping in the bottom of the top 200 albums. Most big Alice fans I've met over the years aren't even aware it exists. Personally I think it's good, it was an attempt to make a modern new wave album, but with all the Alice trademarks.

    I think maybe it didn't sound like Alice to his fans.
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    Thanks for the info!
  19. Huntigula

    Huntigula Winner by default

    Brighton, MI
    Great post! Always nice to get a little more inside info from a period that even Alice himself refuses to acknowledge!
  20. bvb1123

    bvb1123 Rock and Roll Martian

    Cincinnati Ohio
    I havent owned it in years. I just havent come across it on CD but when I was in my teens I had the LP and played it fairly often. I didn't like it as much as, say, From The Inside, but I still enjoyed it. Now I just might have to go CD hunting for it.
    bombardir499, The MEZ and warewolf95 like this.
  21. warewolf95

    warewolf95 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greenville, SC
    It's funny - I love both albums but usually prefer Hey Stoopid :p

    Fair enough! Thanks for the opinion! :)

    Wow, thanks for the best post of the thread so far, lol! :) What exactly were you there for? Not to incriminate anyone, haha, but were you a hanger on or an employee or what?

    To be fair, he claims he can't remember any of it :p
  22. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Music Appreciator

    Eastern Iowa
    I enjoy the album. Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and Dada are kinda like Alice’s ditch trilogy. If you add in Flush The Fashion, it’s like a darkness saga. While not commercial, and unpopular, it’s still Alice.
    warewolf95 and Matthew Tate like this.
  23. theshape

    theshape Forum Resident

    Saint Joseph, MO
    I dig it. It's one of my favorites from Alice. :righton:
  24. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident

    I think it's funny that DaDa is coming up for criticism due to the synthetic sound. I think the synthetic part is what makes it sound so creepy...
  25. marc with a c

    marc with a c Forum Resident

    Orlando, FL
    Exactly. “Fresh Blood” is the LAST song that should have been produced in such a sanitary and safe manner.

    Which is precisely what makes your skin crawl.

    DaDa is an accidental masterpiece.
    Ludger, Matthew Tate, Runicen and 3 others like this.

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