HNE, a Cherry Red Records label, have re-released the lone album by Billion Dollar Babies- a band featuring former members of the original Alice Cooper group. That album, Battle Axe, received little to no attention when released in 1977 and as a result- it quickly feel into obscurity. Not only does this release come with the 1977 album but it is accompanied with two extras CDs- filled with outtakes and a live concert. While not an entirely new release, it’s good to see this album back in print
A little history
After finishing their tour in support of Muscle of Love (1973) in April 1974, the Alice Cooper group either split and/or decided to take a break. During this time, some of the members worked on different projects- with Alice deciding to work on his first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare. With the success of the album and Alice changing his name legally to Alice Cooper, the original band ceased to be. However guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith all wanted to keep playing together. Guitarist Glen Buxton wouldn’t be involved with the new band- either due to lack of interest or because of substance abuse (in regards to the latter- Buxton is said to have whipped out a switchblade knife on a tour manager). With that, the three recruited guitarist Mike Marconi and keyboardist Bob Dolin.
The band decided to name themselves Billion Dollar Babies- which was also the name of their hit album released in 1973. According to several sources, the material on Battle Axe was originally written with the intention of being the follow up to Muscle of Love. Produced by Lee DeCarlo, the album was released in 1977. The band went on tour in support of the album- with the shows featuring a boxing ring stage set up. The band had other projects planned, including a Battle Axe movie. However due to the poor sales and poor management, the band ceased activity. Despite the split of both bands, the original Alice Cooper group have reunited several times over the last two decades- sans Glen Buxton, who sadly passed away in 1997.
As mentioned before, this set isn’t entirely new. In 2001, a 3 CD set entitled Complete Battle Axe was released by Records. This release became the subject of controversy as it turned out that the set wasn’t approved by the band or Universal Music Group- who owned the rights to the album. This painfully showed as the original album in this release was ripped straight from a vinyl record copy of the album. With that, the release was recalled. In the years that followed, other labels have tried reissuing the album and the 2 bonus CDs but these were authorized releases either. The last time this was officially released was in 2017/2018 from Gonzo Media- which has since gone out of print.
This release from HNE is basically the 2001 set: the original album, demo recordings and a live concert. Looking at the liner notes and copyright notices, this seems like an all around approved release.
The original album
As a whole, Battle Axe is a fairly decent album. However, it’s hard to imagine this being the follow up to Muscle of Love– considering Alice and Glen Buxton didn’t have any input in this. Still, there are some good songs here- with the album opening on the anthem ridden “Too Young.” Neal Smith’s militant drumming leads throughout while Michael Bruce’s vocals channel a rebellious teen. Other highlights include the hard rocking “I Miss You,” the ballad “Wasn’t I The One?,” and the simply catchy “Dance With Me.” However of the songs here, my personal favorite is “Rock and Roll Radio,” which probably comes the closest to sounding like an Alice Cooper group tune. Although this album is not bad, Battle Axe does have it’s downsides. For one thing, the production isn’t great as it sounds muddy and grainy in parts. Along with this, the album itself isn’t particularly memorable. Despite its downsides, Battle Axe manages to be a solid album.
The bonus discs
The set comes with two bonus discs- with one consisting of demo recordings and the other of the band’s first live show. Unsurprisingly, the sound quality on these discs is not the best. However, half of the second disc’s songs are all tunes that didn’t end up on the album. With that, listeners can imagine what a second album from Billion Dollar Babies might’ve been like. As for the live show, it’s nothing too special although as mentioned before- the band had a pretty theatric stage show with a boxing ring. From the research I’ve done, the show included match ups where rock music would go against different genres- with rock (obviously) always being the winner. According to the band, none of their live shows were filmed so this live recording is the closest thing to experiencing that.
This re-release of Battle Axe is yet another strong title from Cherry Red Records. As per usual, I don’t know if I’ll come back to the bonus discs. If anything, it’s good to see this album back in print. If you’re a fan of Alice Cooper, I’d recommend giving this a listen.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.