Part 20 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!
KISS – Lick It Up (1983)
And off came the makeup. Showing up for the cover photo session in their street clothes, the world now knew what Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Carr, and Vinnie Vincent looked like. I always found that concept kind of funny — like, did anyone care what Vinnie Vincent looked like? It wasn’t until much later — around 1986 — that I first saw a photo of Ace Frehley without makeup. I cared a lot more about that!
Musically? What a rebirth! Like a snake shedding its skin (ooh, I bet Gene would have loved my analogy there) Kiss found new life on Lick It Up. This is a strong, strong album, almost as strong as Creatures Of The Night. Fresh blood, a fresh look, and new freedom to be taken seriously as musicians gave Kiss a serious kick in the pants. It might not be considered classic today by critics, but the song “Lick It Up” only left the setlist briefly during the 96-97 reunion tour.
Witness the strenths:
1. All songs written by the band, no outside writers, thanks to the strong talents of Vinnie Vincent.
2. All songs played by the band except one solo by Rick Derringer (“Exciter”).
3. A fresh sound thanks to Vinnie Vincent.
I’ve always said this: When restrained, Vinnie Vincent is one of my favourite guitar players. His tone on Lick It Up is just oustanding and so unique. When left to his own devices like on his solo albums, his playing sounds like razor blades in your ears. Here, he plays melodically, powerfully, and manipulates his tone with his hands like an artist. Hear his guitar whine and cry as only a master can make it do. He could have been a guitar hero if he wasn’t a psycho!
Every song is good, not one bad tune in the pack. Some of my favourites include:
- “Exciter”, a great riffy opener with a catchy chorus.
- “Not For The Innocent” which has a bit of Vinnie’s “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” riff at the end there.
- “A Million To One” which probably would have made a great third single.
- “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” — Eric Carr’s Zeppelin influences meet Paul’s…rapping?
- “Dance All Over Your Face” which is a slow monster plod Gene song with a great chorus.
- “And On The 8th Day”, the album closer, and another song that spun off of Vinnie’s original “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” demo.
Any one of those songs can stand up with the best rock songs in the Kiss canon. And you’ll noticed I didn’t include “Lick It Up” itself. That’s how strong this album is. It’s also worth noting that two other songs from this album were frequently performed live. Gene’s “Fits Like A Glove” was one of those speedy songs that Kiss were starting to do in the 80’s. So was “Young and Wasted”, which Eric Carr sang live.
The Japanese had a neat idea when issuing this on LP. They put on obi sheet over the non-makeup cover, featuring Kiss in makeup — you had to buy the LP and remove it to see Kiss’ real faces! This was a great idea, and is the origin of the rumours that Japan had a makeup cover while the rest of the world did not. Also, this obi featured Vinnie’s only cover photo in makeup.
Vinnie Vincent proved to be too unstable a personality to stay in the band much longer. Gene and Paul have always said Vinnie was a gifted writer, and he’d come back as a writer 1992’s Revenge. Keep reading LeBrain’s Blog for the story there!
Lick It Up to me is a classic, and it deserves no less than: