Part 21 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster! Still flushing out the last of the lo-fi cell phone pics, sorry about that.
KISS – Animalize (1984)
Exit Vinnie Vincent. Enter Mark St. John aka Mark Norton, a music teacher that came highly recommended, but had no touring experience. Looking for the next young hot shot to compete with Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie, Kiss took a chance.
In addition to yet another lineup change and third lead guitar player, there were other fractures setting in. Gene Simmons was dead set to become a movie star, and played the villain role alongside Tom Selleck in a movie called Runaway, written and directed by Michael Crichton. Paul Stanley was left to produce the next album.
Paul and Gene recorded in separate studios, shuffling Mark St. John between them when needed. Gene didn’t play bass on several of Paul’s songs, and studio musicians were brought in to add guitar solos, drum overdubs, and backing vocals. All songs but one were co-written by outside writers.
Animalize is one of those albums that was hugely popular (2 x platinum I think?). It has a couple hot singles, a couple decent album cuts, but disappointly Animalize is mostly filler. Gene’s material is particularly forgettable and uninspired. It’s like you’re listening to half a band.
Mathematically, here’s how it breaks down:
1. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) – good song
2. Heaven’s On Fire – good song (but overplayed)
3. Burn Bitch Burn – bad
4. Get All You Can Take – great song
5. Lonely Is The Hunter – bad
6. Under The Gun – bad
7. Thrills In The Night – great
8. While The City Sleeps – terrible
9. Murder In High Heels – terrible
4 out of 9 good songs, and not one of them by Gene Simmons. All of Gene’s stuff on Animalize sucked, leaving the kids of the 80’s to think that he was a sideman and Paul was the main guy. Gene also has the worst lyric in Kisstory here: “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”
However, a highlight of the album are some of the solos. A fast neoclassical/jazz player, St. John was miles away from Kiss’ roots. It was the era of the fast classically trained player. Even so, when the band thought that Mark wasn’t nailing the feel, they asked Bruce Kulick to fill in on two songs. He appears on “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”. So, technically Animalize was Bruce’s first Kiss album, although nobody knew at the time that Kulick was destined to replace St. John, who was struck with a freak arthritic condition that left him unable to tour.
Kulick wouldn’t be granted full member status until the next album, while the band felt him out. Later, St. John too went on to make some great solo work — check out his Magic Bullet Theory CD.
Animalize is far from outstanding. I would rank it among Kiss’ three worst albums, the other two being Hot In The Shade and Psycho-Circus. It’s historically important because of how popular the tour and album were. Most of the good songs, however, can be found elsewhere such as the Kiss box set.
Mark St. John passed away in 2007. Rest in peace.