Overall Album Score: 8.3 out of 10
Muscle of Love seems like a real step back for the band, which had just come off from doing the spectacular Billion Dollar Babies... and well, it is a step back. Right from the first moments of the opening track, "Big Apple Dreamin'," that's pretty obvious. The song is loose and not very memorable. If you go back to any previous Alice Cooper album, they've all had much more explosive beginnings except arguably the debut album.
Indeed, this album's biggest sin is that it's middle-of-the-road... It's so middle-of-the-road, that an Alice Cooper fan can't help feeling a tad disappointed in it. This album seems tossed-off--- Well, it wasn't really tossed off, but it's clear these guys were holding themselves back. They came out with classic after classic, and here is a bona fide non-classic... Oh well. But that said, is Muscle of Love bad? Of course not! This is all perfectly entertaining! It's just that none of this stuff even threatens to capture my attention, or get me excited. There aren't any great melodies for me to memorize that characterized Billion Dollar Babies nor any great instrumental moments that characterized Killer. This is kinduva "ho-hum" release. No wonder Furnier just decided to go solo after this!! His "muscle of love" wasn't into it... and neither am I. (By the way, he tells us that the "muscle of love" is his heart...)
My favorite song is "Man With a Golden Gun," but even that doesn't seem to be anywhere near as spectacular as I know this band was capable of. What I liked about that song was his interesting incorporation of the James Bond theme song with his usual brand of heavy rock. However, the most convincing rocker is probably "Never Been Sold Before," which has the cleanest instrumentation. But that's contrasted by relatively bland (but still entertaining) songs like the generic rocker "Workin' Up a Sweat" and the quasi-gospel "Teenage Lament '74." It's almost painfully evident that they were treading water with this release! ... I'm sorry I can't come up with too many inspiring words to say about this, but such is the effect of this non-inspiring album!
A bit 'o history: This is where the band says goodbye to Alice Cooper. The band wanted to return to the hard-rock days of Love it to Death, but the frontman (Mr. Furnier) wanted to go even more down the showtune route... And as you probably know, he would...
Overall Album Score: 8.3 out of 10 (One of the weaker Alice Cooper albums... I find it to be worthwhile, but pretty disappointing...)
Average Song Score: 8.4 (Everything's pretty solid, but absolutely NOTHING is spectacular.)
Album Tilt: 8.5 (Well, it's pretty dang consistent at least.)
Artist Rating: 8.0 (They're not trying, but at least it's somewhat interesting...)
Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo) 8/10
This is some riff rock, and the riff is OK. The melody is OK, too... but ... uh ... Well, this album strikes me in a negative light already. Not that this song is bad, but this is the weakest beginning of an Alice Cooper album ever since their debut album, Pretties for You, and that's --- well, disheartening. The instrumentation is a little sloppier and less focused. There's a piano pounding in the background, but it gets lost in the muddle. They bring in a violin, but its inclusion doesn't seem as purposeful as it would have in Billion Dollar Babies. Still, this is better than your average rock song and, well, it's entertaining. I guess you can't argue against that! Though the violin isn't as clean as I might have liked it, it's still nice that it's there... It makes it stand out above the generic stuff...
Never Been Sold Before 9/10
Much more solid this time and cleaner. The melody is fairly catchy, and you've got to like those brass sections! The riff is nice enough, and the spirit is certainly here. There's a great electric guitar solo during the interlude --- Indeed, the band sure seems to be enjoying their final time to rock out on an Alice Cooper album!
Hard Hearted Alice 8/10
They're working up a power ballad here, and it ain't bad. The melody is pretty catchy, and the instrumentation is alright, but they didn't give that much thought (expectedly). The five minute running length seems a bit long, but it turned out to be the perfect length for it. Its only flaw is that it's so middle of the road that I can't come up with much to say about it! It's entertaining but not very memorable.
Crazy Little Child 9/10
Alice Cooper goes jazz! Hey, the diversity is very appreciated! The melody and instrumentation are all good and solid though not spectacular enough to make them memorable. At the very least, none of this sounds cheap. The instrumentalists all get a chance to shine with some instrumental solos ... and that's kinda fun to hear.
Workin' Up a Sweat 8/10
This hard rock song is rather generic, but it's so solid that you'll probably find yourself tapping your toes regardless! The melody is OK but not memorable, but the instrumentation is pretty fun. You have a tight drum beat, and some great guitars flying around all over the place... Cool...
Muscle of Love 8/10
This is a nice hard rock song that uses heavy guitar. Why they couldn't have worked out more catchy riffs seems a bit of a disappointment, but it's OK. The spirit of the song is undeniable and I like listening to it.
Man With a Golden Gun 9.5/10
This is easily the most interesting song of the album. He's going for a James Bond theme here, and it comes off pretty weird. The melody is nice, and I really like his horn arrangements! Extra points for that singing noise that sounds right out of a B-grade '50s sci-fi film.
Teenage Lament '74 7.5/10
This song is almost boring to me... I mean, it's upbeat and has a few interesting bits of guitar, but ... wow, that melody isn't very interesting at all. They incorporate some gospel singers, which doesn't seem to add anything beyond an extra sound. It's more clear than ever that these guys were just treading water...
Woman Machine 8.5/10
And this middle-of-the-road album comes to an end with this OK hard-rock song. The guitars are much more involved here, and they sound like they're imitating oscillator noises or something! There are other sound-effects inserted throughout to give this an interesting though somewhat purposeless texture. Extra points for the instrumentation, but why couldn't the melody have been done better?
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