Tuesday, 3 June 2014

ALICE COOPER - Billion Dollar Babies [2014 Audio Fidelity SACD AFZ 170]

Genre - Hard Rock / Classic Rock / Glam Rock
Label - IMPORT

Track listing:
01 - Hello Hooray
02 - Raped And Freezin'
03 - Elected
04 - Billion Dollar Babies
05 - Unfinished Sweet
06 - No More Mr. Nice Guy
07 - Generation Landslide
08 - Sick Things
09 - Mary Ann
10 - I Love The Dead

Ok so this was released back in February, but I have only just come across it!
I am impressed the sound quality of this remaster is truly awesome, I'll let the following review explain:

This February, the Audio Fidelity label continues to grow its collection of stereo hybrid SACDs with one of the best rock 'n' roll records of all time; ALICE COOPER's classic album "Billion Dollar Babies".
With "Billion Dollar Babies", the Shock-Rock King Alice Cooper refined the raw grit of his earlier work in favour of a slightly more polished sound resulting in a mega-hit album that reached the top of the US and UK album charts.
The platinum-selling LP produced by Bob Ezrin yielded four Billboard Hot 100 hits including “Elected”, “Hello Hooray”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.
After the album was released, the band embarked on a tour which reportedly broke U.S. box office records previously held by the Rolling Stones despite not meeting revenue projections. Magician James Randi designed special effects for the spectacularly horrific production.
"Billion Dollar Babies", with its songs about everything from dentistry to necrophilia, was the perfect vehicle for Cooper’s hard rock theatre to come alive – or dead.
The "Billion Dollar Babies" Audio Fidelity’s SACD edition has been remastered two months ago by boss desk-man Steve Hoffman at Stephen Marsh Mastering. Here it is Hoffman's step by step description for audiophile fanatics:
Great sounding album, maybe the best Alice?
Today at Stephen Marsh Mastering in the Hollywood Hills we nailed this one. It was a tense session because the tapes were pretty typically messy due to age but messy is my middle name... At any rate, Stephen, second engineer Fernando Lee and I were patiently mastering the Alice Cooper for Audio Fidelity. We did our usual split feed, DSD take and CD take, both at the same time.
he tapes were the original mix compilation reels that were done at the Record Plant back in the day. Each reel had the dates of the original mixes and what mix 'take' was pulled to this album comp. There was also a big note on each reel saying: DO NOT USE FOR ANY PRODUCTION WORK, USE EQ DUB CUTTING MASTER.
And for good reason. The master songs had many edits in each song, many level changes and, wacky as it seems, some of the songs required different level setups and Dolby A adjusting due to differing balance levels, no big deal.
Some of the songs were mixed in 1972, some in 1973 and each side of the album masters had a different set of tones to go with it. Yikes. No way a phonograph record in the old days could be cut from these complicated master reels, so a 'mastered' copy with EQ and compression was generated and all lacquers, parts, etc. were cut from that, bypassing this original set so sides could be cut without stopping.
However, us brave dudes decided to plug ahead and use these two original reels since we were not cutting phonograph records and could start and stop after each song. First, Stephen Marsh went in and fixed each and every edit (the glue on the splice tape had bled over the years and it was a sticky mess at each of the many edit points). No baking of the tape was required as the tape stock was from the good year of 1972. Tape still played fine, no shedding whatsoever. Good news.
Once the splices were scrubbed and fixed, Stephen's Dolby expertise went into effect and he aligned the ATR analog playback deck with his custom Dolby A box until it was perfect (at least for the first few songs). On side two for whatever reason the levels were off by 2 db on most songs, throwing the Dolby alignment off so we just realigned, same as they did back in the day and for the Greatest Hits CD.
Then, we transferred, one at a time, using our special brand of mastering knowledge and dumb luck. None of the songs sounded tone-wise like any other songs on there, each had a different and nicely subtle but unique sound. obvious on our top notch modern gear, probably not so obvious on monitors back in the day...
Now on the old LP they made all of them sound similar by filtering and compressing but that was not our goal. I personally don't care what the old LP sounded like unless it had amazing sound (and this one didn't compared to the actual master mixes, the vinyl was too compressed and compromised, a long album on two vinyl sides).
I want YOU to hear what the band and producer got to hear back at the Record Plant in 1973 so I left the tonal changes intact for the most part from song to song but at the same time I made sure each one sounded the best it could in the context of "what they were obviously going for" back then, same as I've done on almost every project I've worked on since 1982. The intent of the original artist/producer/engineer is always the main goal.
At any rate, it took a long time today, high-priced designer pizza was delivered and we took a break but mainly we worked on this, one song at a time, having to fix levels, Dolby levels, EQ (usually the tape box notes were pretty right on) and other 'tricks' for each and every song while having to 'MRL' the machine back to neutral / normal after each one so we could carry on and on.
On track 6 ("No More Mr Nice Guy") there's a minimal glitch, a bleeding broken repaired splice which is less than a second of a decades old 45 minute master tape. We chose not to dump to Pro Tools and fix digitally. We also chose not to resort to using a second generation tape dub. We wanted the signal to the DSD recorder, etc. to remain pure even if it had a minor imperfection or two.
The album holds up nicely. I had a retro-type girlfriend in the 1980's who LOVED this album (she thought she was so cool to like something from an earlier era, I thought 'eh, big deal') but I was reminded of her throughout the day. A weird feeling but I'm sure she will dig this new version.
As always, it's very important to me that the ORIGINAL VINTAGE mixes were used. A bunch of extra crossfades, solo guitar strums and other goofy stuff was still on the reels after the leader and I'm glad they wisely decided to not use any of them in the final release.
This is the first Audiophile release of this album from the true Ezrin mixes and we're proud of the way it came out.
Hope you all like this one.
As usual, the Audio Fidelity remaster is excellent, pressed on gold CD, with a SACD layer, in limited numbered edition and in the case of Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies", not only reproduces the original artwork, also features a genuine famous 'billion dollar bill' inside the package.
At $30 American ($22.70 on Amazon), it's a steal. What's not to like? And it's a classic to boot!
Crank it to eleven and enjoy the sound of the first release of the true mixes in 41 years of Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies"
A Must Have.

Rating 10/10

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