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.