by: Alice Cooper

By the late '80s, Alice Cooper was in the midst of an identity crisis. While his return back to the limelight after an exile of several years proved that he was still a major concert draw with the heavy metal masses, his "comeback" albums for MCA, 1986's Constrictor and 1987's Raise Your Fist and Yell, lacked the firepower of his earlier classics, and were commercial bombs. With several veteran rock acts of the '70s rising back from the dead a decade later with a more modern, radio-friendly sound (Heart, Aerosmith, Kiss, etc.), Cooper tried his hand at a makeover, fleeing MCA for the land of Epic Records. The 24-track double-disc set Poison focuses solely on Cooper's Epic years. While the era did include some of Cooper's most commercially successful outings in quite some time (such as the Bon Jovi-like MTV favorite "Poison" and the Cooper/Steven Tyler duet ballad "Only My Heart Talkin'"), many of the tracks residing here do not hold up well at all (such as the anti-drug rant "Hey Stoopid"). But there are a few goodies located on Poison, such as the underrated Chris Cornell composition "Stolen Prayer" (which Cornell guests on), which is undoubtedly Cooper's finest track of the '90s, as well as a few latter-day in-concert versions of such early-'70s classics as "School's Out," "Billion Dollar Babies," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." If you're looking for a true "best-of" set, look elsewhere (namely 2001's Best of Alice Cooper). But if you're curious to sample what Mr. Cooper was up to in the '90s, Poison includes all the tracks (probably too many) that you'll need. ~ Greg Prato

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