What made Alice Cooper a star? Sure, he had a tight, exciting band and some great songs that were as good as hard rock got in the early '70s, but he distinguished himself as a showman. By bringing shameless theatricality to rock & roll, he separated himself from the pack and became a superstar -- the kind of person who is known for being himself more than for his achievements. This trajectory and the melodrama that inspired it are evident on the generous four-disc box set The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper. Most box sets play like a sober history lesson, but this one plays like a grand epic, filled with love, lust, blood, and guts. Witness the humble beginnings of Vincent Furnier, as he leads an Arizona garage rock band called the Spiders through some credible, fuzzed-out Yardbirds-styled rock & roll! See how the Spiders transform into Nazz, then to the Alice Cooper band! Gasp as Furnier becomes shock-rocker Alice Cooper! Thrill to Alice's biggest hits -- every cut from Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits is here, some in their original single incarnations, all impeccably remastered! Wonder what went wrong as disc three begins to unfurl, and Alice Cooper the star cannibalizes the band, making such bizarre choices as recording with the Bee Gees from the Sgt. Pepper's movie! Then, as soon as you figure Alice is down for the count, see his glorious resurrection as a hair metal godfather! It's no wonder that listening to all four discs in a row is exhausting -- this is a rock & roll Horatio Alger story. And thank God for that, since that narrative drive makes The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper one of the truly satisfying and definitive box sets of the late '90s. True, that doesn't mean that all of the featured music is terrific -- even though the compilers have done an excellent job of selecting the best from all his albums, particularly from the flawed latter-day efforts, there's still a lot of marginal material here -- but it does paint an accurate portrait of his career, while featuring everything a casual fan could want and an abundance of rarities for the hardcore collector. It's a difficult trick to pull off, but Life & Crimes does it, and as a result, it stands as the final word on a show biz career that was truly like no other.