REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Raise Your Fist and Yell (1987)

Scan_20160303ALICE COOPER – Raise Your Fist and Yell (1987 MCA)

And lo!  The beast named Alice reincarnated with a slab of wax, and they called it Constrictor.  Slithering into the spotlight again was a triumph of will:  Alice battled his demons (including the bottle), found some new young band members and started fresh on a new label.    Though the music was merely OK, at least the man himself was doing just fine.  As fans, I believe we genuinely wish our rock star heroes to be healthy and happy, so even if the music wasn’t the greatest, we could be glad that Alice was back.

In the 70’s and early 80’s, Alice Cooper maintained a breakneck release schedule.  This slowed down a bit in the second phase of Cooper’s career, but he still managed to follow Constrictor a mere 12 months later with Raise Your Fist and Yell.  I probably don’t need to tell you this, but look at the cover:  certainly one of the worst to ever envelope a major label release.  The guilty party is a fella named Jim Warren who must hate this cover as much as I do, because just look at it.

It continued with the same shock-rock horror-splatter-movie theme, but turned up louder.  Indeed, the lead single “Freedom” was the fastest most thrash-like track that Alice had yet performed.  Censorship was a big target in Alice’s sights.  “Freedom” was his ode to the PMRC:  “You want to rule us with an iron hand, you change the lyrics and become big brother.  This ain’t Russia!  You ain’t my dad or mother.”  Lemme tell you, when “Freedom” came out, the PMRC seemed a genuine threat.  Dee Snider and Frank Zappa were testifying in front of the senate and stores were refusing to stock records.  “Freedom” was an anthem we could all get behind.  I don’t think anybody expected him to go so heavy!

The video was interesting. Kane Roberts looks like he’s not sure if he’s at a bodybuilding competition or a music video shoot. There were some new guys in the band; that’s not Kip Winger on bass. On drums is Ken Mary, later of House of Lords. Most interesting is the guy dressed as a priest. You can see him up close during the lyric “Back off preacher I don’t care if it’s Sunday.” They looked like the biggest bunch of misfits assembled. Perhaps this is what Alice was going for?

During this period, Alice was writing a few goofy rock songs.  “Lock Me Up” is silly, but fun.  It has a beat and you can headbang to it.  “Take the Radio Back” sounds like a predecessor to “Hey Stoopid”, but not quite.  “Give the radio back to the maniac!” sings Alice.  Is he begging for airplay?  It’s OK, but “Step on You” isn’t really.  There are moments here and there, but these are mediocre songs.  “Step on You” has an interesting atonal instrumental section but it doesn’t fit the song at all.  “Not That Kind of Love” continues the heavy rock, but without hooks.

Back to quality, “Prince of Darkness” is a heavy metal horror movie theme, from the film of the same name in which Alice had a cameo.  Menacing and intense, this tune scores high marks on both the Cooper Scale of Rock Thrills and Chills, and the Cooper Scale of Heavy.  Kane Roberts’ lead solo is pure pointless 80’s excess, but the song is what counts and it’s a good’un.  The acoustic outro is perfection.

“Time to Kill” keeps things above the bar.  “Chop, Chop, Chop” does not.  I know — you’re surprised, right?  A song called “Chop, Chop, Chop” isn’t a diamond of the highest carat weight?  Nor is it a turd, but certainly well below the watermark.  It does serve as a lead-in to “Gail”, a high quality also-ran that recalls Alice in the year 1975.  It is the only Kip Winger co-write on the album, and he’s responsible for its eerie keyboard vibe.  Finally it’s “Roses on White Lace”, another borderline thrash metal track that absolutely rips every head in the room off.  This track, firmly in the splatter film world, is an excellent example of Alice at his heaviest.  For its entire duration, it’s breakneck speed.  Bold song to end an album with.

Post album, Kip Winger and keyboardist Paul Taylor bailed, and formed another band you might have heard of.  Michael Wagener produced this record, and while heavy, the album is definitely lacking sonically in comparison to its contemporaries.  All told there are four songs worth buying the album for:  “Freedom”, “Prince of Darkness”, “Roses on White Lace”, and Gail.  Three of those four songs can be found on the MCA compilation Prince of Darkness.  So…your move.

2.5/5 stars

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28 comments

  1. I’ve always really liked this album and it was on this tour when I saw him live. BTW, I really dug the guitarist with the guitar that looked like an M-16. Okay, RYFAY isn’t quite “Schools Out,” “Welcome to my Nightmare” or “Billion Dollar Babies” but it was proof that Alice was back!

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  2. Course I seen this at the time advertised but for some reason i skipped at the time. Now by reading this thays a good thing. But a few later I drank some Poison so ALICE had me back…..

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  3. I kinda like that cover art. There’s something high school art class quality about it.

    The album though. Oof. Your write-up ain’t makin’ me too excited about it. Drunk review?

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  4. This is the worst album Alice ever made – by far. Sure, the production is heavier and more dynamic than the lame sound on Constrictor, but the songs here are all bloody awful. Standard second division heavy metal that would never have seen the light of day had it not said Alice Cooper on the cover.
    So, sure, Freedom and Prince Of Darkness are both decent Coop-tunes and Gail could have been a Coop / Ezrin outtake from Welcome To My Nightmare, brilliant tune, that one. Also Roses On White Lace must get some fair credit – fantastic song too.
    But the rest of the album is crap and I’d rate this 3/10.
    Thank God Desmond Child walked in and saved his ass for the next record because otherwise, who knows what route Coop’s career would have taken after this debacle.

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      1. That one’s from his self-titled debut. A decent record. He also made a follow-up, Saints And Sinners, in the early 90’s, a more melodic rock type of album. The latter is really good. You should look them up.

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      2. The first Kane Roberts CD is super rare in the $70 range (USD). The second one is much cheaper for whatever reason. The self-titled Kane Roberts CD has a worse cover than this album.

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  5. Hey, Mike. I know I don’t have a popular opinion with this one, but I’d like to put in my support for this one. I know it gets slagged a lot by the press and it wasn’t very popular, possibly because of the MCA label not being that big with promotion and possibly just because the songs didn’t click, but I really like this one.

    I doubt I’ll change any minds, but I’d like to justify my tastes and maybe offer a second opinion to the review for those that haven’t heard this one yet. In my opinion, this is the best Alice Cooper album of his metal years. Obviously nothing is going to touch the Alice Cooper band days, and I even really enjoy some of his blackout albums of the early ’80s, but I think Raise Your Fist and Yell is able to be defended in a way that Constrictor, Trash, and Hey Stoopid aren’t. Constrictor to me sounds like bottom of the rung ’80s pop metal, maybe slightly heavier, but laced with keyboards and a crappy production. Trash and Hey Stoopid abandoned all the theatricality in Alice Cooper, and turned him into a cheesy ham for MTV with stuff like “House of Fire” that is cheesy enough to be on Crazy Nights by Kiss.

    Raise Your Fist and Yell is the exception. On this album, Alice Cooper really plays up the gore, the violence, the theatrics. Albeit, the first side of this record is pretty cheesy, but it’s much heavier than the record before and the two records after it. The melodies aren’t quite as cutesy and pandering. Kane Roberts steps up his game substantially with this release, really cutting loose and moving out of the generic shadow cast over most of the playing on Constrictor. The production is also improved, with Michael Wagener taking over completely on this one. It’s not great, but it’s a superior sounding record to Beau Hill’s Constrictor. The amount of reverb used is somewhat excessive, and it’s not quite up to par with Wagener’s other productions. I attribute this to the fact that this is the first entirely digital recording Wagener worked on, and the experience of working entirely on digital for the first time might have impacted the sound of the record. However, the reverb does lend a somewhat ominous atmosphere to the recording. Ot evokes the image of a deserted alleyway, someplace dark, spacious, and evil. This atmosphere lends itself to the song quite nicely, and helps make side one pretty enjoyable, if not quite stellar ’80s metal. The exception is “Not That Kind of Love”, which is pretty awful, and closer in style to something off of Trash than the rest of this record. Very cheesy lyrically, and some unnecessary keyboard flare during the bridge. I’ll defend “Lock Me Up” as a genuinely good song and not just a guilty pleasure from the first side. Ken K. Mary drives that song along, and Alice just sells it with more passion and energy in his vocals than he’d mustered up for Constrictor. Alice seems to have actually woken up after sleep-walking/freebasing through the beginning of the decade, despite being sober on Constrictor too. He’s reclaiming his territory, and this is his statement, back with fresh faces and a killer band. Cooper utilizes the talents of Kane Roberts, Kip Winger, Ken K. Marry, (how many damn K’s is that?) and a young Paul Taylor (of Winger) on keyboards. One of the most musically talented bands assembled by Cooper, they add tremendously to the album, with some impressive drum fills, solos, and backing vocals from Kip and Kane.

    The second side is a mini-concept about a man going crazy and butchering some prostitutes, and remembering “Gail”. I can defend every song on this side of the album. The cheesiness of the first side has been dialed back and the theatricality is turned up to ten as we see Cooper slip back into the role of a villain. “Princes of Darkness”, inspired by the John Carpenter film that Cooper was in, is a genuinely evil sounding and fantastic song. Cooper and company fill it with just the right amount of grit, while perfectly nailing a haunting yet catchy melody to make it capable of repeated listens. The reverb heavy production only helps with the song’s evocative imagery, conjuring images of dark ambience, and a dark abandoned street in the dead of night. The band plows through angry and disillusioned tracks “Time to Kill” and “Chop Chop Chop”, detailing the killer’s descent into madness, telling the story of being abused by those in power, and taking it out by dismembering ladies of the night. These are both fantastic tunes, full of primal energy and an unsettling vibe that keeps the listener engaged and on edge, the perfect combination for an entertainer like Alice Cooper. We are then introduced into the eerie “Gail”, a haunting ballad that is comparable to “Years Ago” from Welcome to My Nightmare. Absolutely nothing like any ballad of the ’80s, it’s an ominous haunting song that gives the album diversity that his other metal albums were sorely lacking, or if they tried, they failed. See the mediocre and generic “Only My Heart Talkin'” from Trash. This is a true ballad in real Cooper fashion. Uncompromising, it plays out like a reprieve from the killing, into a period of reflection for the killer. The album is then kicked back into high gear with the borderline thrash “Roses on White Lace”, another angry and violent song concluding the story on side B of the album. One of the best songs on the album, “Roses on White Lace” is the perfect heavy and angry finish to Cooper’s last true horror/theatrical album for some time afterwards.

    Overall, this album can be compared to a really good horror B-movie. While it’s not quite in league with Cooper’s best, it is still much better than any of the other metal albums he put out around the same time, and is one of his most underrated albums. It is miles ahead of Constrictor, Trash, and Hey Stoopid both musically and lyrically, with an actual horror story unfolding during the second side, instead of cornball schlock like “Give It Up” and “I’m Your Gun”. If you want Cooper in full villain fashion with theatrics, I suggest checking this album out in its entirety, and not just the Prince of Darkness compilation.

    3.5/5

    Sorry to differ with ya Mike, I just feel like this album is too maligned. Maybe it’s just me? I will concede about the cover though. What the hell were they thinking? It does have a certain charm to it. Like a 16 year old Evil Dead II fan could have drawn it up during Chemistry class in 1987. Same B-movie kind of appeal. I think the album is much better than the cover though. Best to you! I really enjoy your site and your reviews of albums too many people seem to have turned their backs on after the ’90s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for posting this comment which is a review in itself! Pretty awesome. I’m kind of blown away! I’ll have to give it a listen with some of your comments in mind. A good horror B-movie needs a soundtrack and maybe this is it.

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      1. Yeah, let me know if I sway your opinion any. I find it a lot easier to dig the songs on the second side when you know there’s some substance to them in the context of the overall story. It makes the songs stronger when they’re viewed as a uniform piece of art instead of separate tracks like on Trash or some of his other records. I think lyrically it’s pretty solid for the most part too. Definitely miles ahead of “Thrill My Gorilla”. I appreciate that he’s actually saying something with this album, which I don’t feel like he was with some of the others around this period.

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        1. I probably didn’t pay enough attention to the lyrics. I would like to hear Alice play straight up metal like this, just one more time. “Freedom” is so killer.

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