ALICE COOPER – Prince of Darkness (1989 MCA)
Even though Alice hadn’t produced anything as timeless as “School’s Out” during his 1980’s comeback, his profile rose greatly. Clean, sober and focused, Alice Cooper was very active in the last part of the decade. The same year as his final MCA album Raise Your Fist and Yell, he had memorable appearance at Wrestlemania III. In the corner of “good guy” Jake the Snake Roberts, Cooper had the honour of draping Roberts’ snake named Damien all over the Honky Tonk Man. After that, even my dad knew who Alice Cooper was.
Cooper only had a two record deal with MCA: Constrictor was the first in ’86; also the first album in the comeback period. Having re-established himself with MCA, Alice then signed with Epic and had a genuine smash success with 1989’s Trash. With a dream team of writers and collaborators (including hitsmiths Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and many more), Alice scored a platinum album.
While Trash was still charting and producing singles, MCA put out a competing record: Prince of Darkness, a 10 track compilation of Cooper’s material for that label. Normally these kinds of releases are throw-aways, but Prince of Darkness is not and this review will tell you all about it.
It is not unfair to state that Constrictor and Raise Your First were mixed affairs. You had to wade through a significant amount of filler to reach a disproportionate amount of modern classics. Prince of Darkness does a great service by collecting some of the best material together on one CD. It is well sequenced and even includes one rare track, an exclusive on compact disc.
A grand opening is the dark and metallic “Prince of Darkness”, a theme song from a movie of the same name. This ominous and menacing track is one of the more memorable from this era, a heavy monument. It works amazingly well as an opening track, and “Roses on White Lace” follows by going faster and heavier. It was surprising to hear Alice creep this close to thrash metal, but what a track! A distorted vocal adds to the creep factor, making this one of the better samples of Cooper’s music during his “splatter horror” period. The 1986 single “Teenage Frankenstein” would be a must-own for any fan, and there it is in the #3 position. The big single from this era was “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, a synthpop classic quite unlike the prior metal material. Right here is an easy and simple way to get this classic track, without having to buy Constrictor. Same with “Teenage Frankenstein”.
A nice little track here is a 1976 live recording of “Billion Dollar Babies”! This was a B-side from the “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” single, but Prince of Darkness is the only CD with it. The track itself sounds heavily remixed (remixing is credited to Garth Richardson) but it is indeed a B-side that is easy to acquire by getting this disc. Ignore the annoying, screaming overdubbed crowd and just dig the vintage performance of one of Alice Cooper’s most timeless numbers.
There are a few filler tracks on side two. “Lock Me Up” was fun, but not particularly memorable. Feel free to skip “Simple Disobedience” and “Thrill My Gorilla”, and go straight to “Life and Death of the Party”. Alice steps back into the shadows for a chilling horror number, mid-tempo and overcast. We are over and out with “Freedom”, another great single and dangerously close to thrash metal again. Prince of Darkness serves as the most effective way to get this one.
That’s why I recommend Prince of Darkness to any fan who wants to get a slice of Alice in the late 80’s — but just a slice. The whole cake is for diehards.