ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 21, 1997
By Steve Newton
Strolling around the Mexican resort town of Cabo San Lucas last year, I stumbled across a bar called the Cabo Wabo Cantina, which had a sign in the parking lot proclaiming “Reserved for Sammy Hagar”.
Realizing that this must be the watering hole that inspired “Cabo Wabo” on Van Halen’s OU812 CD, I checked in, but apart from providing an excuse to get yet another Pacifico under my belt, the place didn’t do much for me. There was no sign of Sammy, Eddie, or any other celeb rockers in attendance; there wasn’t even any live music. The fabled party venue resembled your typical sports bar, but with lots of photos of ’80s hair-farmer bands on the walls instead of hockey heroes.
I quaffed a coldie, watched some football, and got the hell out.
Alice Cooper obviously likes the Cabo Wabo more than I do, because that’s where he chose to record this live album, which includes modernized versions of his biggest hits from the past 25 years. Obviously hoping to bolster the CD’s notoriety, Cooper recruited well-known guitarists like Hagar and Slash to riff out on metallic renditions of “School’s Out” and “Elected”, but, unfortunately, no amount of volume and flash can improve on the classic licks laid down in the early ’70s by Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce.
Ever since splitting from his original band after 1973’s Muscle of Love LP, the Coop has been hard-pressed to find memorable instrumental backdrops for his playfully antisocial lyrics. He had some success with the Dick Wagner/Steve Hunter pairing on 1974’s Welcome to My Nightmare, but since then it’s been downhill all the way. His song output in the ’80s and ’90s—as exemplified on Fistful by the dumb “Feed My Frankenstein” and dumber “Lost in America”—has been a joke, and with each new album he trots out, 1971’s Killer sounds more and more like a guitar-rock masterpiece.