Great American Taxi delivers a winner

GREAT AMERICAN TAXI Reckless Habits (Thirty Tigers)

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From the opening strains of “One of These Days,” the leadoff track from Reckless Habits, Great American Taxi instantly conjures the spirit of such jam bands as the Grateful Dead and Little Feat. The latter especially comes to mind on this instantly likeable slice of New Orleans-style Americana, laced with horns and slide guitar. And the former is the blueprint for “New Millennium Blues,” a high-energy romp about our current state of malaise.

That’s not to say Great American Taxi — fronted by Former Leftover Salmon singer/guitarist/mandolinist Vince Herman — is a clone of anyone, just a nod to the band’s penchant for exploring traditional genres such as bluegrass (“Unpromised Land”), country (the pedal steel-laced title track) and, of course the Dead (keyboardist Chad Staehley’s “American Beauty.”) And the crowds will be grooving to “Fuzzy Little Hippy Girl.”

Great American Taxi, who recorded Reckless Habits in Loveland, celebrates the release of the album to a hometown crowd at the Boulder Theater on Saturday Feb. 27 on a bill with Steep Canyon Rangers and Danny Shafer. The show is in advance of the album’s March 2 street date.

ALICE COOPER Special Forces/Zipper Catches Skin/Dada (Collector’s Choice)

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After a copy of the 1976 Alice Cooper comic book by Marvel showed up in my Christmas stash this year (thanks to my ever-thoughtful 22-year-old son’s eBay obsession) this batch of new reissues from Alice Cooper’s early ’80s output captured my attention.

I grew up listening to Cooper in the ’70s, but I missed these albums the first time around. By 1981, when Special Forces was originally released, Cooper was struggling to remain relevant. He’d managed to score a radio hit with the Gary Numan-ripoff “Clones” a year or two before, but the guy behind the rockers “School’s Out” and “Billion Dollar Babies” and ballads “Only Women Bleed” and “I Never Cry” had hit a dry patch.

Despite the lack of commercial success, Cooper had the right instincts. On Special Forces, he shucked the sappy ballads and returned to the campy horror themes and straight-ahead guitar rock that first won him success (albeit with a still a nod to new wave). In short, he became Alice again.

The quirky “Don’t Talk Old to Me” sounds like the hit that wasn’t , and a cover of Love’s “Seven & Seven” and a live reprisal of his own “Generation Landslide” shows how much Cooper had retrenched from the Top 40 for a stab at some street cred. And he seemed to be having fun doing it, especially on the wonderfully goofy “Skeletons in My Closet.” Who else but Cooper would record something like the previously unreleased finger-snapper “Look at You Over There, Ripping the Sawdust from My Teddybear.”

On Zipper Catches Skin, from 1982, Coopers regaining his rock footing. Cooper reunited with guitarist Richard Wagner, who co-wrote a few songs, including “Make That Money (Scrooge’s Song),” “I Better Be Good” and the ridiculously titled “No Baloney Homosapiens” and provided Cooper with a more distinctive guitar attack. Cooper is in a playful mood from beginning to end, from the hero send-up “Zorro’s Ascent” to the album closer “I’m Alive (That Was the Day My Pet Parrot Returned from the Dead to Save My Life).”

Dada, Cooper’s 1983 swansong for Warner’s, reunited him with producer Bob Ezrin, who had helmed all his records through 1977. The album, heavy on synth drums and keyboards, has a greater musical sophistication than its two predecessors; even while Cooper is singing about a caring for a monstrous, deformed brother, “Former Lee Warmer,” the music rises above its campy theme, sounding almost operatic, with a big thick sound that has aged surprisingly well for an ’80s artifact. But any notions of high art are quickly disposed on the next track, “No Man’s Land,” a rocker that has Cooper singing about being a mall Santa hooking up with a hot babe.

Still, the seven-minute “Fresh Blood” has a majestic sweep. And the album closer, the somber “Pass the Gun Around” swirls with vocal harmonies and a production that recalls Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

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