Music » Livewire

The Dennis Dunaway Project

Saturday, August 4, at the Beachland.


Few rock and roll tunes pile-drive listeners like "Return of the Spiders." The song, a hastily recorded Bo Diddley groove, pads out Alice Cooper's sophomore LP, 1969's Easy Action, a flop for a band that had yet to cultivate its commercial potential.

Like the New Yardbirds, however, Alice Cooper had tapped a new energy, a gamma bomb that mutated a pack of artsy garage rockers into a hulking heavy-metal beast.

In just under four minutes and 30 seconds, Alice Cooper slayed the '60s and summoned the '70s.

Dennis Dunaway's relentless bass powers "Return of the Spiders." For that, he should be honored alongside Zeppelin's John Paul Jones as one of metal's original bassists. But unfortunately, most rock fans don't realize that Alice Cooper originally referred to the entire band, not just its creepy little frontman, Vincent Furnier.

Dunaway, however, is more than an innovative musician. As one of the group's primary composers and conceptualists (he designed Furnier's spider makeup), Dunaway helped invent the group's muscular glam-rock and onstage theatrics -- which, in turn, influenced such icons as David Bowie, Kiss, and a whole lot more.

After leaving Alice Cooper in the mid-'70s, Dunaway literally retreated to his basement, where for 20 years he stockpiled songs -- some of which finally appear on Bones From the Yard, Dunaway's new disc and debut as a bandleader.

Like vintage Alice Cooper, the Dennis Dunaway Project mingles pummeling hard rock and dark social commentary. "The disc is an artist's vision of today's news," explains Dunaway, phoning from his Connecticut home. "The song 'Man Is a Beast,' for example, looks at the shortcomings of 'civilized man.'"

The slithering riff in "Kandahar," one of the disc's highlights (with a message that's all too obvious from its title), recalls "Black Juju" off the Alice Cooper classic Love It to Death.

"At the Beachland we'll be performing half Alice Cooper, half the new album," explains Dunaway. "We'll actually be doing 'Black Juju.'"

Considering Cleveland's rabid love for heavy metal, the entire city should show up and pay Dunaway some serious tribute.

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