KISS – Love Gun (2014 Universal Deluxe edition, originally 1977 Casablanca)
Mrs. LeBrain picked this CD up for me on Friday November 7 at the local HMV store, an adventure in itself that we will tell in a future Getting More Tale installment. Love Gun is the first ever Kiss Universal “Deluxe Edition” to be released, hopefully the first of many. You can understand why it would have been chosen first. In 2012 they already released the newly remixed Destroyer (Resurrected), and the second most beloved studio album in Kisstory may well be Love Gun.
Like other Universal deluxes, Love Gun is a 2 CD digipack, with liner notes, rare photos, a fresh remastering and bonus tracks. One of these bonus tracks is previously released. The demo “Reputation” was only released a few short months ago on the commemorative Kiss 40 compilation.
First, let’s talk about disc one, the remastered Love Gun. This sounds about as definitive as it gets. The cymbals sound nice and crisp to me, not fizzling out in the distance. I am very pleased with the sound. You can see that it is not overdriven. You can hear plenty of nuance in the instruments. I hope this is about as close as you can get to the sound of listening to Love Gun in the studio control room.
For a more detailed review of the original Love Gun album, you can check out my original from my 2012 Kiss review series. I rated it 5/5 stars. From that review, “The classics here are among Kiss’ all time best. ‘Shock Me’, ‘I Stole Your Love’, and ‘Love Gun’ are still played in Kiss’ set circa 2012…’Tomorrow And Tonight’ and ‘Christine Sixteen’ were on Alive II.” On the other hand I also said, “there’s a little bit of filler on here. I’m not a big fan of ‘Almost Human’ even though Gene is, and some people dislike ‘Hooligan’ although I love it. I could also take or leave ‘Got Love For Sale’.” Since writing that, I’ve changed my tune on “Got Love For Sale” which I like a lot more today.
And yes, I did have “And Then She Kissed Me” played at my wedding. I’m very proud of that fact.
The rarities here include some goodies that I have never heard before. “Much Too Soon” is a slower Beatles-esque rock ballad. Although I think it’s a pretty cool Gene Simmons experiment, it was clearly not suited to the heavier material on Love Gun. If Gene had released it on his 1978 solo album, it would have been one of the stronger tracks. The aforementioned “Reputation” is another decent tune from the Love Gun sessions. In my review for Kiss 40, I said, “You can hear that aspects of this song later made it into other Gene Simmons compositions such as ‘Radioactive’. This is one of those song titles I’d read about for years, but have never heard until now. Cool. While the song is definitely a demo, and not quite as good as most finished Kiss songs, it does boast a cool dual guitar solo and rocking piano a-la ‘Christine Sixteen’.” The third and final unreleased song is called “I Know Who You Are”, which is actually a demo version of “Living In Sin” from Gene’s solo album, with a different chorus. The verses are the same, and I think I might prefer it to the overly funky “Living In Sin”.
Other unreleased goodies on the deluxe are 1977 demos of familiar songs. “Plaster Caster” is pretty tight in terms of how the final version went. Paul’s “teaching demo” of “Love Gun” is interesting. He’s naming and recording the chords from the song as he goes, presumably to show the other members how to play it. It’s in inessential track, interesting only to fans, but cool nonetheless. This leads directly into an unreleased band demo of the song. You get to hear the evolution in motion. This band demo is all but identical to the final version, right down to the shimmering Frehley chord effects. Then there’s a great instrumental demo for “Tomorrow and Tonight”. Of the demo tracks, this is probably the greatest treasure. I love hearing the bare guitars and drums of the four classic Kiss guys just playing together as only they can. Ace Frehley’s solo is a work in progress but some of the key hooks are already in place.
Three 1977 live unreleased tracks are also quite the treat. These are from December 20 1977, in Landover Maryland. This was the second of a two night stand there. If you ever wished the Alive II album wasn’t as polished sounding as it is, then you will be happy with these three tracks. Yes, you get “Love Gun” four times, but who freakin’ cares? It’s “Love Gun”. You also get “Christine Sixteen” and Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me” complete with guitar solo. So suck on that.
The final audio bonus is a 7-minute Gene Simmons interview from 1977, from a radio station in Montreal Quebec. It’s an interesting interview, but I’d be happier if more demos were on the CD rather than an interview. However, let’s be honest — reasonable Kiss fans know that the Simmons/Van Halen demo of “Christine Sixteen” was not going to be on here. Like Eddie and Alex want that to happen.
The packaging is great, with commentary from the musicians and writers involves, and artist Ken Kelly. (These comments are re-printed from other sources.) Also included is Ken Kelly’s original concept for the cover art, which was rejected for not being as grand and large as Kiss felt they were. Finally there’s a two page essay by Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, who says he’s seen them play “Love Gun” live over 40 times, so I’d say he’s qualified. Elliott waxes nostalgic about the days when bands used to release two albums a year.
A final note: The Love Gun deluxe edition is supposed to come with a fridge magnet, but many have been opened and found to be missing the magnet. I have already contacted Universal about a replacement.