ace frehley

#930 Pour Some Sugar On ’88

RECORD STORE TALES #930: Pour Some Sugar On ’88

Ah, 16!  The age you’re supposed to get your driver’s license and go on dates with girls.  Maybe even get a part time job.  Except I did none of that.

The summer of 1988 was much like any summer.  It was marked by new music, trips to the cottage, and another visit from Captain Destructo, my cousin Geoff.  Predator was in the movie theaters and WWF wrestling was hot.  Summer was not going to suck.

Super Mario on the NES

I was well tanned from days at the beach, and when Geoff and family rolled into the cottage that July, Geoff brought his new toy:  a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  This was a whole new world for us.  I had never seen Super Mario Brothers or Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.  I sure saw a lot of them when Geoff came to visit.  Saw.  Not played.  I played a little bit, but Geoff monopolised the game.  I’ll never forget when he was playing Punch-Out and he was down to the second last boxer.  He thought he was going to knock him out and move on to Mike Tyson.  However my dad walked in front of the screen, Geoff started screaming, and lost the game.  You would have thought he lost the invasion at Normandy for all the fuss.  Me, I just would have liked another turn at the game.

Video games were exciting, but nothing was better than playing outside.  With Predator hot in the cinemas, and lots of plastic guns to play with, we scattered into the forest hunting for the stealthy alien.  Geoff insisted he was Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  That made me Blain (Jesse Ventura).  We forced my sister Kathryn to play Hawkins (Shane Black), the worst character and first one to die in the film.  Eventually we let her play Billy the tracker (Sonny Landham).

I love how this trailer gives away the whole movie.

Leaping, dodging, climbing.  We owned that forest.

There is so much joy running through the woods with plastic guns pretending to hunt a space alien.  And the best part was, in the movie the Predator was invisible for most of the time:  we didn’t need anybody to play the bad guy.  It didn’t take much imagination to pretend to see movement in the forest.  We were a team of three on a quest.  I know that this is one of the happiest summer memories for all three of us.

After a few days at the lake, we returned home to Kitchener, with Geoff still in tow.  We hung out in the basement watching WWF and the Pepsi Power Hour.  Cinderella were hot with “Gypsy Road” and I had to get that album.  Long Cold Winter was an odd title for a summer album, but it was most definitely a summer album.  I could not wait to get it but I had a birthday coming and I wasn’t allowed to buy stuff for myself until after.

For what was probably the last time, we went with Geoff to his grandfather’s huge property for an afternoon in the pool.  One last splash, in the bright figure-8 shaped pool.  That giant pond behind us in the background.  Maintaining that summer tan.

The three big albums for me that summer were Long Cold Winter by Cinderella, Second Sighting by Ace Frehley, and Ram It Down by Judas Priest.  I loved it for all its flaws.  It was heavy and I thought it had five potential single-worthy songs:  “Ram It Down”, “Heavy Metal”, “Hard As Iron”, and “Blood Red Skies”, in addition to the already-released “Johnny B. Goode”.  Only the Chuck Berry cover made it to music video form.  I waited all summer for a music video for “Blood Red Skies” to finally hit.  I could always predict the next single, and I just knew it had to be “Blood Red Skies”.  Week after week, I waited. I dreaded missing it during vacation at the cottage.  I just knew it would be any week now.  I had a dream one night of what it would look like.  There Priest were on the bridge of some kind of spaceship, hovering over the landscape beneath the blood red skies.  It never came.  I thought if Priest released a video for “Blood Red Skies”, it would chart.  Into the fall, Priest never released another single.  A disappointment and a mistake.

Into August, I finally got my copy of Cinderella.  After one listen correctly predicted that “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Til It’s Gone)” would be the second video.  I always looked forward to the new videos by bands, but like Judas Priest, Frehley disappointed me by never releasing a second video for Second Sighting.  I thought there were a number of potential hits, such as “Fallen Angel”, “Time Ain’t Running Out”, “New Kind of Lover” and “Juvenile Delinquent”.

In Stratford, visiting my Aunt and Uncle, I picked up Live + 1, also by Ace Frehley.  The Space Ace had two releases in 1988, with one being a live/studio EP.  This weekend was the first time I experienced strong insomnia.  I remember tossing and turning the entire night, not falling asleep once for even a minute.  Seeing the sun come up.  I was getting more and more upset that I couldn’t sleep, which made it worse.

Another cassette picked up that summer in Stratford was High ‘N’ Dry, which became an immediate favourite.  Def Leppard were the biggest band in the world that summer.  Hysteria was selling like hotcakes.  It didn’t take off in ’87, but when “Pour Some Sugar On Me” hit, that was all it took.  Many nights were spent listening to the radio at the lake, waiting for “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  Hysteria‘s singles were harder to predict.  I didn’t expect there to be seven of them, but I definitely thought “Love and Affection” would make it before “Rocket” did.

We visited with our friends the Szabos, we played games, and we listened to a lot of music.  I had my heavy metal, my sister had Glass Tiger and was starting to get into Def Leppard.  Our Walkmen came with us everywhere.  As the summer drew to an end we made a trip up to Tobermory to take the S.S. Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin island.  I loved boats and islands but the trip was a bit of a bore.  The gift shop didn’t have a lot to keep us entertained.  I bought one of those black and white wrestling magazines, and a wooden postcard to send to nobody.  It took a while for me to get my sea legs.  I felt nauseous and wasn’t sure I could eat.  Eventually the rocking of the boat became fun.  The wind on the top deck was exactly like the “Jack, I’m flying!” scene in Titanic.

There was more, much more, but who can remember it all?  Watching Rob Halford interviewed on the Pepsi Power Hour, recording it, and watching it over and over again.  Seeing new Van Halen (“When It’s Love”) on TV.  Suffering through rumours of Kiss breaking up.  Looking for the latest Def Leppard 7″ singles at Zellers.  So many memories, jumbled and out of order, hard to keep all straight.

The summer ended on a high, but what I didn’t know is that was only a precursor to my happiest school year, grade 11.  Hair metal was peaking but it was about to get even bigger in ’89.  Everything was in sync.  Summer, music, school — all extraordinary in 1988.

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (2021)

 – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan, March 13, 2001 – 2021 Universal)

Hell yeah, Kiss have started releasing official bootlegs.  Proving that they “get” the concept, the first in what we hope will be a long series, is a lineup never before heard on any official Kiss release.  After the lengthy reunion and Psycho Circus tours, Kiss embarked on a “Farewell Tour” that really wasn’t.  It was just the farewell to the original lineup, and specifically Peter Criss.  Ace Frehley stayed on board for the time being and Eric Singer was brought in as the new Catman.  This lineup lasted until Frehley left and Criss came back for the Kiss Symphony, but was never documented in any official capacity.

Confusing?  Just know three things:

  1. This is really valuable to fans.
  2. ACE FREHLEY, LEAD GUITAR!
  3. Paul Stanley was still in great voice back in 2001.

Alright, Tokyo.  You wanted the best, you got the best.  Let’s have a listen.

An electrifying “Detroit Rock City” opens, and immediately you can hear the pitter-patter of the new Catman making itself evident.  Stanley is in fine form, high energy.  And the sound is damn decent.  Sure, you could wish the vocals were mixed louder and the bass a little lower, but the “official bootleg” is a more honest experience than a polished-up Alive album.  And Paul really nails it.

“Deuce” has plenty of those Frehley solos and fills that we miss so much today.  Gene is fully engaged and frankly, you don’t miss Peter.  Paul says a quick hello in Japanese, and teases the crowd in expert frontman fashion.  Then it’s “Shout It Out Loud”, a pretty standard version.  Frehley’s “Talk To Me” from Unmasked is the real treat.  It is not the first live version released (there was an earlier live take on The Box Set with Eric Carr) but it is rarely heard.

Paul always asks the crowd “How we doin’ so far,” and the pace is slowed down for “I Love It Loud”.  This version has particularly good backing vocals in comparison with others.  Then Paul needs to know if the crowd is having a good time, just before he pulls off some impressive soulful bellowing.  It’s time to call the “Firehouse”, another solid version.  Eric Singer’s drumming is noticeably more regimented but the fills are big and bold.  It’s just great to have Ace on lead guitar.

Kiss setlists are often safe, and a steady stream of Kiss standbys roll out:  “Do You Love Me”, “Dr. Love”, “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  It’s a Kiss concert; none of these songs vary much from night to night.  None of them suck; Kiss were sounding good and Eric Singer helps beef up the vocals.  The extended intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” really highlights what a truly exceptional singer Paul Stanley was.  Gene on the other hand is pretty ragged on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”, not being able to decide what voice he’s singing in.  Great to hear Ace take a long solo on it though, all the while Eric Singer filling the backdrop with snares n’ toms.

Frehley takes the spotlight once more on “Shock Me” with his feature solo.  Gimme a Frehley version of “Shock Me” any day over a Tommy version.  Ace does a weird “Shock Me-ee-ee” thing on the chorus.  After telling the crowd that “Tokyo rocks,” he blasts through the fanfare of “Also sprach Zarathustra” on his Gibson.  It was indeed the year 2001!  Frehley’s solo (almost 10 minutes of it) is a CD highlight for those who miss the Spaceman.

Ending the first disc, “Psycho Circus” was the only track from the most recent Kiss album left in the set.  It is always reliable, sounding like classic Kiss, even more so when Ace plays the lead solo (which he didn’t on the album).  Continuing on disc two, “Lick It Up” makes its appearance.  This is a track that that rules completely with Ace Frehley.  “Lick It Up” has always been, let’s face it, a bland song.  When you add Ace soloing on it, it’s got some flavour.  Could be that the Tokyo Dome version of “Lick It Up” is the best available take out there.

Gene’s bass break is boring without the visuals, but “God of Thunder” is pretty hot, Ace throwing in some squeals that remind you why the real thing was special.  This track also includes Eric’s drum solo.  Momentum is built on “Cold Gin”, and the monolithic “100,000 Years”.  Raw and heavy Kiss with vintage Frehley?  Again, outside of Kiss Alive itself, these are probably the best versions you will hear.  Paul’s usual sing-a-long in “100,000 Years” is part of the party.  “Do you feel alriii-iii-iight!”  Nothing is edited out, even when Paul is busy handing out T-shirts and all you have is Eric keeping the beat.  Fans appreciate that authenticity.

There’s still plenty of heavy tonnage rock left to go.  “Love Gun” can’t be left out, fireworks blasting as Paul flies out over the crowd (which is why the song has an extended intro without vocals).  Once Paul’s on his platform in the middle of the arena it’s off to the races.  No place for hiding indeed!

The surprise is “I Still Love You” from Creatures of the Night.  The only ballad, and a track that was rarely played after the reunion.  It has always been a big Paul moment, and this is performed solo without Simmons, Frehley or Singer as part of the intro to “Black Diamond”.  Speaking of which, “Black Diamond” is also an album highlight; a version with Eric Singer on lead vocals and Ace Frehley on lead guitar!

The pairing of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” and “Rock and Roll all Nite” are an odd one, but that’s the closing duo that got the Tokyo crowd screaming.

Besides the couple rarely played songs, the cool thing about this Tokyo setlist is the pacing.  It starts with a bang, and it never really lets go.  Even the solo breaks are really just big intros or outros that amplify the moments around them.  Then the whole show manages to even pick up the excitement at the end with stellar performances of “Love Gun” and “Black Diamond”.  It is also encouraging that Kiss are realizing the value of past lineups, and official bootlegs.  As long as they remain willing to highlight songs and band members from nooks and crannies in the band’s history, then the Kiss Off the Soundboard series is a promising one.

4.5/5 stars

Sunday Screening: Trailer for KISS Off the Soundboard: Tokyo 2001

Just a quickie for you this Sunday.  In rather cool news, KISS announced a new series of live soundboard albums.  The first of these is Tokyo 2001, one of Ace Frehley’s last shows with the band.  The lineup is one never before represented on any official releases until now:  Stanley/Simmons/Frehley/Singer.

The vinyl can be purchased on black or “exclusive 3LP crystal clear vinyl with bone swirl”.  Or for those of us not made of money, plain ol’ CD.  Check it out.

 

1. “Detroit Rock City”
2. “Deuce”
3. “Shout It Out Loud”
4. “Talk to Me”
5. “I Love It Loud”
6. “Firehouse”
7. “Do You Love Me”
8. “Calling Dr. Love”
9. “Heaven’s On Fire”
10. “Let Me Go Rock & Roll”
11. “Shock Me”
12. “Psycho Circus”
13. “Lick It Up”
14. “God of Thunder”
15. “Cold Gin”
16. “100,000 Years”
17. “Love Gun”
18. “I Still Love You”
19. “Black Diamond”
20. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”
21. “Rock and Roll All Nite”

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (Japanese CD)

  Best of Solo Albums (Originally 1979, 2020 Universal Japan CD)

Third review for this Kiss compilation here, but why?  A couple reasons.  For one, it’s the first-ever official CD release of this album!  It took 41 years for them to finally put out a CD, and yet only in Japan.  More remarkably, there is one track here that I’ve never heard before in this particular version.

That song is the incredible Paul Stanley epic “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  On Paul’s solo disc, it fades away at the end of side one at 5:35 in length.  Here, it goes to 5:48, no fade, right to the end of the track.  It’s an ending I’ve never heard before.  This song isn’t even on the more common European version of Best of Solo Albums, just the Japanese.  And apparently the CD has an unreleased version without the fade.

“Oh boy!” you exclaim.  “I have to buy this import just to get 13 seconds of music I never heard before?”

No.  You don’t have to buy it.  I did, because I wanted a copy of this album on CD.  When I discovered the longer version of the track, I was ecstatic to unexpectedly get something extra for my money.

There’s no need to review this album track by track again.  I’ve done it twice, and I’ve also reviewed all four solos albums twice each.  There’s really no need to run through all the songs again, although this tracklist is quite different.  Unlike the European version, these songs are not arranged in three-track blocks for each member.  Additionally, seven of the European tracks were substituted with others.  That’s more than half the album!

Gene Simmons:  Instead of “Mr. Make Believe” and “See You In Your Dreams”, Japan used “See You Tonite” and “Living In Sin”

Paul Stanley:  “Move On” was replaced by the unreleased version of “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.

Ace Frehley:  “Speedin’ Back to my Baby” was removed in favour of the instrumental “Fractured Mirror”

Peter Criss:  All three of the Cat’s songs – “You Matter To Me”, “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, and “Hooked on Rock and Roll” were replaced!  I guess Japan didn’t care for those as much as they did “Don’t You Let Me Down”, “Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.

For me, I prefer the running order that Europe used, with each member of the band getting three songs in a chunk.  However, there are plenty of songs that I prefer on the Japanese version, such as “See You Tonite”, “Take Me Away (Together As One), “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Don’t You Let Me Down”.

It’s interesting that the solo albums are by and large panned by the masses, but nobody can agree on the “Best Of“.  Maybe those albums weren’t so bad after all, at least when you distil them down to the essential tracks.  The Japanese CD will become my preferred listening experience for two main reasons:  it sounds better than the vinyl, and I like more of the songs.  It would sound even better if I had an MQA decoder, a new-ish hi-resolution CD format from Japan, which will unlock an even better sounding version of the album, if you have a few grand to spend on upgrading your system.  If not, enjoy the disc and stellar packaging, with not one but two different covers to display.

4/5 stars

 

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Unmasked (1980)

Back for Round Three.  For the first two Unmasked reviews, click here and here.

  Unmasked (1980 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster)

This has been a weird year.  Comforting, nostalgic sounds in the age of Covid have dominated at LeBrain HQ.  There are two Kiss albums that have been absolute joys this summer for blowing the blues away.  They have been Dressed to Kill, and Unmasked.  Originally rated 2.5/5 stars, I was definitely wrong on Unmasked.  The band may have disowned it, and it might not be hard rock, but reviewing it is not as “Easy As It Seems”.  This album definitely has “Two Side of the Coin”.  It might not be “What Makes the World Go ‘Round” but this summer, I just want to say one thing to Kiss Unmasked:  “You’re All That I Want”.

One reason I may have judged Unmasked harshly before is that first impressions are strongest.  In a case of Classical Conditioning, my first impression was not good.  In fact, for the first two years of hearing Unmasked, my copy was all but unlistenable.  In the beginning, I taped my first Kiss albums from next door neighbour George.  He fancied himself a bass player.  While he was recording Unmasked for me, I sat in his bedroom while he played bass along to it.  Every song.  Unbeknownst to him, his bass bled onto my tape.  Every time I played the album, it was like a remix with George overdubbed on bass, and I had the only copy.  Sometimes he continued playing well after the fade, other times he came in prematurely.  Either way, my first two formative years with this album were awful.  Even after buying a proper copy on cassette, I couldn’t hear the album without the auditory illusion of George’s bass ringing in my skull.  Though not the only factor, that had to be one of several reasons for my dislike of the album.  A dislike which in no longer:  in 2020, it’s love.  Just a fun anecdote to colour in some history, nothing more.

“Is That You?” asks Paul Stanley on the opener, a Gerard McMahon song that boasts grinding verses and a killer chorus.  Piano tinkles quietly in the background, but the guitars are nice and rich, especially Paul’s solo.  His lead vocals absolutely rip, while a sultry Gene sings the backgrounds.

A second Paul vocal follows, and it’s the big hit “Shandi”.  Listening with 20/20 hindsight in the year 2020, it’s amusing to ponder how anybody thought this was Peter Criss on drums.  It was a secret that Anton Fig played on Unmasked and Dynasty, but it’s really obviously not Peter Criss.  That disco groove is too impeccably perfect to be the Catman.  Paul is, in fact, the only Kiss member to play on “Shandi”.  And while this song is a softie, it ain’t a baddie.  It’s clear that Kiss were not the rag-tag rock and roll beast they once were.  They had evolved.  Temporarily, at least.

If the first two tracks were light on Ace Frehley, that’s not indicative of the album.  Three lead vocals for the Spaceman this time, including the single “Talk To Me”.  Shiny and chromed-up, Frehley’s songs are among the best on Unmasked and “Talk To Me” could be the top track.

I always had problems with “Naked City”, but part of that might be that I can still hear George come in early on the bass.  Gene Simmons makes his album vocal debut here, and while the chorus and riff are still not top-notch, the verses are excellent.  Songs like this also demonstrate that Gene is an underrated singer.  He’s more versatile than people realize.

Paul strikes a cool riff on “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”.  He often talks about how the album had good songs, but they should have sounded different.  This one sounds like it could have turned out more like the first three albums.  You can imagine how the riff would have been more prominent.  As it is though, it’s one of the most unabashedly catchy songs Paul’s ever written, and his guitar solo is simply delicious.  You can slag Paul for doing something so pop, but can you slag him for doing it so well?

Side B’s opener is “Tomorrow”, with Paul’s vocals cleanly produced as per the pop trends of the day, with slapback delay and airy EQ.  But like “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”, this is pop rock done really well.  The keyboards are too prominent, but at least Ace gets a tasty solo here.  As Kiss songs got catchier, so did the Spaceman’s solos.  Frehley’s next lead vocal follows on “Two Sides of the Coin”, the song title which inspired a podcast (“Three Sides of the Coin“).  Y’see, Ace just can’t pick a girl!  But he has to.  “Two sides of the coin to choose from, I’m getting weary.  Which one should I choose?  I need time.”  He insists that the girls don’t mind, but I question that assertion.  But he has to pick a mate because he’s “tired of all those dates”!  Silly words aside, Ace has knocked out two top-notch songs on Unmasked so far.

Gene’s back on “She’s So European”, a song about a girl with a French accent who drinks pink champagne.  I’ve softed my stance on this one too.  You can certainly hear the rock n’ roll riffiness that it could have been.  That’s been replaced by keyboards and slick beats, and it’s fine.  “Easy As It Seems”, a Paul song, really sneaks up on you.  It disappears into the fabric of the album until one day you just can’t get it out of your heard.  Paul lays down another fine solo, and weaves a plaintive tapestry with his incredible voice.  What range he had.

An album highlight is the third and final Frehley concoction — a weird little number called “Torpedo Girl”.  Surf rock meets the Space Ace.  The guitar lick is a tricky little off-beat riff, but with Anton Fig behind on drums, Kiss could do complex stuff like this.  Especially since that’s Ace playing the bouncy bass part too.  It’s also one of Frehley’s most entertaining lyrics.  A submarine with a pretty girl on the bridge has surfaced in the bay!  Better go check it out.

The final track, “You’re All That I Want” is a Gene number.  Like “Easy As It Seems”, one day it just catches you.  Especially Paul’s “answer” vocals in the outro.  One thing (among many) that made Kiss truly special is the multiple lead singers.  And unless you’re a Catman diehard, you don’t really miss Peter in that mix.  Frehley more than made up for the lack of Criss.  While four singers is better than three, remember that Kiss only had three lead singers for their first five studio albums.

I don’t want to have to three-view the entire Kiss catalogue but it is amazing how Unmasked just opened up to me this summer.  I’m enjoying more than ever, with that nostalgic glow for days gone by.  The “good old days” were not always good, but at least the music was.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISSworld – The Best of Kiss (2017) – PLUS Kiss Re-Review Series complete directory

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 47: The Conclusion

Two years ago, I bought this CD to use as the final review for the KISS Re-Review Series. I hadn’t played it.  I hadn’t even opened it. I wanted to save it for our conclusion…so here it is. A lot happened since we started, most notably the current End of the Road farewell tour.  Let’s wrap this series up in a bow.  And to do that properly you’ll find links to every single part and supplement to the KISS Re-Review Series below!

 

KISSworld – The Best of Kiss (2017 Mercury)

You know what KISSworld makes me miss?  The good old days when bands would bribe you into buying their new hits compilation by including something you didn’t have already.  In 1978, Kiss re-recorded “Strutter” for Double Platinum.  In ’82, Kiss recorded “I’m A Legend Tonight”, “Partners In Crime”, “Nowhere To Run” and “I’m A Legend Tonight” for inclusion on the UK compilation Killers.  And in ’88, Paul Stanley produced two new songs (“Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”) for Smashes, Thrashes & Hits.  Not great songs, but new ones at least, so you felt less foolish for handing Kiss more of your money.  By the time of 1996’s Greatest KISS album, they tacked on a new “live” version of “Shout It Out Loud”, and from that point on they pretty much gave up giving you any added value.  True, they did record “Samurai Son” for 2005’s KISS 40, but that was a mere blip in the overall pattern.

So in terms of reviews, all you can really talk about is song choice and running order.  It looks like KISSworld is just a revamping of various versions of KISS 40.  The running order is no longer chronological, but the songs are the same.  Opener “Crazy Crazy Nights” was on the single CD KISS 40.  “Unholy” was on the double CD version of KISS 40, albeit live.  “I’m A Legend Tonight” was on both, and so on.  It would have been nice to hear something you don’t get very often, like “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” or “Got to Choose”, but nobody expects bravery from a Kiss tracklist or setlist these days.

Kiss Dynasty poster

Fans who were buying Kiss albums during the peak years probably miss the excellent packaging Kiss would throw in for free.  Look at the mirror finish of the original Double Platinum LP, or the posters and masks and booklets that came with other albums.  Buy a Kiss CD today, get nothin’!  KISSworld has one vintage 1974 black and white photo inside, song credits and nothing else.  Granted, we know that Kiss doesn’t come up with these releases, it’s the record label.  And we keep buying them and buying them, “for the collection”, even though we know we’re going to be disappointed.  The label isn’t thinking of us when they issue this stuff.  They think of it as a part of their latest marketing push, aimed at people buying their first Kiss (or first Kiss in decades).  But they know — they know — that we fans are buying these things too.  They can’t throw us a bone?  What is there here for us?

Nothing, except another CD to file in the appropriate slot, making our collections “complete” again.  Will you listen to it?  Maybe, if you’re tossing coins and can’t decide which greatest hits to play on this particular road trip.  It is, however, the most complete of the in-print, easily-acquired hits CDs.  For a first timer, it would appear to make sense to grab this over Double Platinum or one of the other choices at the CD shop.  You’d be getting a good variety of tunes from over their entire career.  But you’re not getting something assembled with any logic or care, nor are you buying a fair representation of their best stuff.  In fact, this CD only has one song from their first three albums (“Rock and Roll All Nite”)  You could make a greatest hits just from their first three albums!  KISSworld‘s ill-considered tracklist is its downfall.

1/5 stars

 

 

THE COMPLETE KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES

GETTING MORE TALE #551: “You’re Wrong on Unmasked“ (Introduction to the Kiss Re-Review series)
Part 1: Wicked Lester (1972) & the Eddie Kramer demos (1973)
Part 2: KISS (1974 Casablanca)
Part 3: Hotter Than Hell (1974 Casablanca)
GETTING MORE TALE #353: Hotter Than Hell
Supplemental: DUST – Hard Attack (1972) / Dust (1971) (2013 Sony Legacy)
Part 4: Agora Ballroom 1974 (2015 Go Faster)
Part 5: Dressed To Kill (1975 Casablanca)
Part 6: Alive! (1975 Casablanca)
GETTING MORE TALE #552: Alive!
Part 7: Destroyer (1976 Casablanca)
Part 8: Rock and Roll Over (1976 Casablanca)
Part 9: Love Gun (1977 Casablanca, 2014 deluxe)
Part 10: Alive II (1977 Casablanca)
Part 11: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978 Hanna-Barbera TV movie)
Part 12: Double Platinum (1978 Casablanca)
Part 13: Peter Criss (1978 Casablanca)
Part 14: Ace Frehley (1978 Casablanca)
Part 15: Gene Simmons (1978 Casablanca)
Part 16: Paul Stanley (1978 Casablanca)
Part 17: Dynasty (1979 Casablanca)
Part 18: Unmasked (1980 Casablanca
Supplemental:  PETER CRISS – Out of Control (1980 Casablanca
Part 19: Best of Solo Albums (1979 Phonogram)
Part 20: Music From the Elder (1981 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster)
Part 21: Killers (1982 Germany and Japan versions)
Supplemental: PETER CRISS – Let Me Rock You (1982 Casablanca)
Part 22: Creatures of the Night (1982 Casablanca, 1985 Polygram reissue)
Part 23: Lick It Up (1983 Polygram)
Part 24: Demos 1981-1983 (Bootleg)
Part 25: Animalize (1984 Polygram)
Part 26: Animalize Live Uncensored – audio portion (2015 American Icons)
Part 27: Runaway (1984 Tristar feature film)
GETTING MORE TALE #579: Entering the Asylum
Part 28: Asylum (1985 Polygram)
Part 29: Crazy Nights (1987 Polygram)
Part 30: VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986 Chysalis)
Part 31: eXposed (1987 Polygram VHS)
Part 32: Monsters of Rock (Bootleg from 1988 tour)
Part 33: In the Land of the Rising Sun (Bootleg from 1988 tour)
Part 34: The Ritz, NYC, 12th August 1988 (2015 American Icons)
Part 35: VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – All Systems Go (1988 Chysalis)
Part 36: Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988 Mercury)
Part 37: KISS – Still On Fire (Dave Thomas & Anders Holm (1988 book)
GETTING MORE TALE #608: Hot in the Shade
Part 38: Hot in the Shade (1989 Polygram)
Part 39: “Forever” (1990 Polygram EP
GETTING MORE TALE #690: Unholy Kisses
Part 40: “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 Interscope single)
Part 41: ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)
Part 42: ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)
Part 43: Revenge (1992 Polygram)
Part 44: Alive III (1993 Polygram)
Part 45: KISS My Ass – Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994 Polygram)
GETTING MORE TALE #697: Kiss My Ass
Part 46: Toronto – Scotiabank Arena, March 20 2019
Supplemental: KISS Playing Cards
Supplemental: KISS Crocs
Part 47: KISSWorld – The Best of Kiss (2017 Mercury)

AND THERE’S STILL MORE!

72 MORE KISS REVIEWS available by clicking this link!

 

#747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 148:  Navigate the Seas of the Sun

GETTING MORE TALE #747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

UFOs, life on other planets, first contact…these are subjects rarely explored in lyrics, right? If you start digging, there are actually more songs about it than you know. Make a list of songs about aliens, not human astronauts like “Space Oddity” or “Rocket Man”. (Both great tracks indeed, but not about alien intelligence.)

I also left off “Hanger 18” by Megadeth, even though the video is a landmark for aliens in rock music.  The lyrics deal mostly with Area 51, a military base, with only a few lines about aliens.  “Foreign life forms inventory, suspended state of cryogenics.”

Do you have a favourite alien song? Check out the list below. You’ll find one alien-related subject among them that dominates the rest. Can you guess what it is?


11. Judas Priest – “Abductors”
Key lyric:  “They come at night and they infiltrate you, they paralyse and they mentally rape you.”

When Rob Halford left Priest, Glenn Tipton took over writing the lyrics. Tipton is…well, he’s not a poet. “Abductors” is at the bottom of this list because the words are just a list of metaphors for maiming someone. That the maiming is done in an alien abduction seems secondary.

10. Van Halen – “Love Walks In”
Key lyric: “Some kind of alien, waits for the opening.”

This one has a tenuous connection with aliens at best, but I wanted to include it because it’s such a well known song. Sammy Hagar believes he has been abducted by aliens.  That alone makes this song a significant entry.  The lyric “Contact, asleep or awake,” can easily be interpreted as being about alien contact.

9. Dio – Magica (album)
Key lyric:  “Now we understand. All traces of Magica must be eliminated. Infection. Infection. Delete, delete…”

Ronnie James Dio only lived long enough to make one concept album of a planned trilogy. It was a sci-fi fantasy epic called Magica. The saga takes place on another planet called Blessing, which is visited by alien explorers centuries later. The fantasy elements are dominant, while the alien setting serves more as a bookend.

8. Fu Manchu – “King of the Road”
Key lyric: “Under forty over is UFO, hell bent stacked in rows, the galaxy is lined with hundreds more, small town you bet we’re sure.”

“King of the Road says you move too slow!” goes the panicked chorus.  Fu Manchu’s lyrics are usually vague, and more about setting a scene.  This one involves a chase and a repeat abduction.  “All through my head it’s happenin’ over again.”

7. Bruce Dickinson – “Abduction”
Key lyric:  “Are you the truth to sit in judgement on my sins?  Evil laser gadgets come to penetrate my skin.”

Bruce Dickinson makes the impression of a well-read science fiction fan.  “Abduction” is one of his most blatant lyrics on the subject.  He does a considerably better job of it than Judas Priest.

6. Helix – “Billy Oxygen”
Key lyric: “The ship’s landing gear was down, people started to gather round. The door slowly started to open, people were ready to listen. He said my name is Billy Oxygen, and I am the mission commander.”

Written by guitarist Brent Doerner, this Helix song was a little different than the usual rock fare.  Yes, Helix are known for writing about “Women, Whiskey & Sin”, but sometimes aliens too!  Billy Oxygen is the commander of the ES-335 (actually the model number of a Gibson guitar), and all he really wants to do is get high with some aliens.  Why not?  But he’s only got 14 days to fly!

5. Blue Oyster Cult – “Take Me Away”
Key lyric:  “Strange shapes light up the night, I’ve never seen ’em though I hope I might. Don’t ask if they are real, the men in black, their lips are sealed.”

Blue Oyster Cult get major points for singing about the men in black, long before Will Smith was doing it.  Clearly the B.O.C. guys (or at least Eric Bloom) know their conspiracy theories.  An earlier version with lyrics by Aldo Nova was called “Psycho Ward”.

4. Ace Frehley – “Remember Me”
Key lyric:  “Well I’m staring down from Venus in the dead of night, my mind is thinking back to when the world was right.”

Of course, Ace has quite a few songs about space, but they’re mostly double entendres like “Rocket Ride” (by Kiss).  “Remember Me” is a little more thoughtful.  An alien is watching from nearby Venus, a common theme from the golden age of science fiction.  He laments that Earthlings continue to wage war instead of feeding the starving.  The alien goes to Earth with a message:  make peace, or you’re not gonna last!  Very similar to Klaatu’s message in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

3. Steve Vai – “Little Green Men”
Key Lyric: “You look-a real keen, even though you are green, With those big, large heads, something off of the movie screen.”

Steve has a few titles about aliens, but some are instrumental. “Little Green Men” is a comical song that quotes the musical theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!  Thank you, John Williams.

2. Barstool Prophets – “Thrusters”
Key lyric: “Just as I rise to leave, I hear the old familiar sound, of thrusters pounding atmosphere.”

There’s a loner out there in a field looking up at the sky, waiting to see something — anything.  “I have spent many nights, Staring at the sky, All the distant stars that shine, How I’ve longed to make them mine.”  Then he finally hears the sound of the ships returning.  “I knew that they’d come back for me.”

1. Blue Rodeo – “Cynthia”
Key lyric:  “And you stood in their beam of light, and they showed you the bones on the moon, Well I hope I get to go there, With you real soon.”

Here’s a real curve ball for #1.  Did you expect Blue Rodeo to be on the list?

Greg Keelor is in love with Cynthia, who tells him stories of being abducted by aliens.  “So you saw that Fire in the Sky, well I think that’s so cool,” says Greg, referencing the film.  He doesn’t think she’s crazy.  “You are nobody’s fool,” he sings.  “Cynthia” is unusually upbeat and happy song about aliens, though really it’s just about that crush of new love.  Greg’s so head over heels, he’d follow her anywhere.  “Cynthia won’t you take me to Pyramid Lake with you.  We could watch the space ships, Maybe they’d take us on a trip, to that never ending sky.”  Incidentally, Pyramid Lake is near Jasper, Alberta, and lakes are common areas for UFO sightings.  One wonders if “Cynthia” is based on a real person that Greg may have met.


At least six of these songs are about being abducted by aliens, using the word “abducted” in a broad sense, even if the person goes willingly.  “King of the Road” is open to interpretation.  Ace Frehley’s is surprisingly one of the more thoughtful songs, with its classic message of “make love not war” brought by an alien intelligence.

It’s Blue Rodeo who have the best tune about aliens.  By framing it in a love story and using vibrant lyrics, “Cynthia” is the winner.

VHS Archives #56: Ace Frehley on the “Just 4 Fun” tour (1993)

“You read interviews, and Gene’s giving me digs, and I’m giving him digs, and stuff like that…one day it’ll just be Kiss in makeup again.” — Ace Frehley

I don’t know about you, but I remember being disappointed to hear that Ace Frehley was touring, but without any new music behind him.  The quote about a Kiss reunion proved to be rather prophetic.  No wonder Ace was laughing!  Check out this Ace interview with Teresa Roncon on MuchMusic. The news anchor was Lance Chilton.

#734: The Spaceman’s Wife and the Demon Sex Addict

GETTING MORE TALE #734: The Spaceman’s Wife and the Demon Sex Addict
“Guitars, Makeup and Murder”

Today, another in a long string of sad days in KISStory, we will dissect Ace Frehley’s incendiary statement to his ex-bandmate Gene Simmons.  (If it was written by Ace at all.  The statement appeared on Ace’s wife’s Facebook 22 minutes before it appeared on his.)  He was responding to a recent Gene Simmons quote:

Gene – “They [Peter Criss and Ace Frehley] were in and out of the band — fired — three times. For drugs, alcohol, bad behavior, being unprofessional…they weren’t carrying their load.  So the short answer to your question is we’d love to have Ace and Peter join us here and there. And if they don’t, it’s not going to be because of us. But they’re never going to be in Kiss again.”

Ace has been quite clear in recent months – he wants to be back in Kiss for their End of the Road tour.  The fans would be on board for that.  Kiss, meanwhile, continually shoot down these hopes, while proclaiming their show to be the best live performance ever.  They have questioned Ace’s ability to do a gruelling tour like this.  It seems Frehley has had enough of Gene’s trash talk.  Perhaps on his next covers album, Ace should tackle “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, because it sure sounds like he ain’t gonna take it anymore!

Let’s look at Ace’s statement piece by piece.

 

“Gene, your memory is really incorrect!”

 

Gene forgets the words to his own songs, and often inflates his own history.  At this point I think Gene simply “remembers” what he wants to.

 

“…I was NEVER FIRED from KISS, I quit twice (not 3-times) of my own free will, because you and Paul are control freaks, untrustworthy and were too difficult to work with!”

 

Gene was clearly talking about both Ace and Peter in that sentence about being fired “three times”.  Peter was indeed in and out three times.  But Ace is right, he was never fired from Kiss.  He quit both times.  The reasons he quit are not as clear as he’s making it sound.  He had severe substance abuse problems at the time and probably wasn’t thinking clearly or even functioning normally.  Yes, Paul and Gene are control freaks when it comes to their brand, but I’m sure they have a different perspective on who was difficult to work with.  Ace’s statement could very well be the pot calling the demon-kettle black.

 

“…Your slanderous remarks about my bad habits over the years has cost me millions of dollars and now that I’m over 12-years sober you’re still saying I can’t be trusted to play a whole nights show! Well that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the last 12-years with different configurations of ‘The Ace Frehley Band’ to you and Paul’s dismay!”

 

Slander is only slander when it’s not true.  Ace’s “bad habits” are well documented.  Being sober for 12 years is an achievement to be proud of, but I don’t think that is what Gene and Paul are talking about.  Once bitten, twice shy.  They’re very wary of working with Ace under those high-pressure situations.  A tour that like can cause a relapse in anyone.  It is not going to be an easy tour for those guys at that age.  It really helps to have younger guys like Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer behind them on tour.

 

“…I’m also the most successful solo artist to come out of the original KISS lineup, and proud of it!…You and Paul have tried to derail my solo career multiple times over the years unsuccessfully.”

 

True, Ace has had the most successful solo career, but there’s not much competition.  Saying that Paul and Gene have tried to derail it?  Multiple times?  That could indeed be slander.  Where’s your proof, Ace?  Did Gene go to Megaforce and say “Don’t promote Ace’s records”?  Of course he didn’t.  Innuendo like this just comes across as someone making excuses for their own perceived lack of success.  Gene was probably not all that helpful in the 80s, but shouldn’t that be water under the bridge this many years later?  Gene wrote songs for your new album, Ace!  Frehley was invited to be the opening act for Gene’s solo tour.  It went so well that Ace hired Gene’s solo band.  The point is, Gene’s been doing a lot lately that should have benefited both of you.  That’s not derailing anything.  Anything else should be ancient history now.

Of course, maybe by “derailing”, Ace’s wife refers to the time in the 70’s that Gene and Paul “tried to have Ace killed“.

 

“…I’ve tried to be nice and friendly by inviting you and Paul to perform on my past albums for eOne Music, give each of you guys one of my prized Gibson Les Paul 59’ models, but today’s comments have made me realize you’re just an asshole and a sex addict who’s being sued by multiple Women, and you’re just trying to sweep it all under the carpet!

“…The icing on the cake was when you groped my wife and propositioned her in Los Angeles at the Capitol Records building behind my back, when I was trying to help you out at one of your ‘Vault Experiences’ which I only found out about several weeks later…she was planning on pursuing a suit against you, but I told her to call it off!!!”

 

Woah!  Heavy shots fired!

Having Paul and Gene performing on Ace’s solo albums was a dream come true for the fans.  This is the kind of thing they have always wanted.  Kiss heroes working together!  United front!  The cooperation between members over the last few years has been an unexpected treat.  Now suddenly Ace is bringing up Gene’s womanizing.  Whether the event Ace’s wife is alleging ever happened as stated, we don’t know.  Gene is a flirt and may have been making inappropriate jokes.  But if it did happen, airing it in public isn’t helping anyone.  Deal with this stuff privately!  If Ace wants back in Kiss, how the hell does he expect that to happen now?

 

“…Well now the gloves are off after your terrible comments today and I’m thinking that this really may be ‘The End Of The Road Tour’ for you guys!!!”

 

Hopefully it’s the end of the road for real, because listening to Paul singing is painful.  He was one of the true greats.  Now he’s the worst singer in Kiss, but I digress.  “Gloves are off”?  What does that even mean?  Are we about to witness a geriatric street brawl?  That outta be amusing.

Now, here’s the real kicker below:

 

“….Without a complete and heartfelt apology, an offer to give me my old job back, and removing Tommy from the Throne that I created… THE SHIT WILL HIT THE FAN AND THEY’LL BE NO STOPPING IT – IT’S ON!!!”

 

(Oooft, grammar.  “THERE’ll be no stopping it”.)

Hahah!  Hah.  You’re joking, right Ace?  When does Gene Simmons offer complete and heartfelt apologies?  Very rarely, and not after being attacked by ex-bandmates.  To demand his old job back in this way is not only ridiculous, but a flight of pure fancy.  This will only put Kiss’ backs up to the wall.

If Ace had any chance of joining Kiss on tour this year, I’d say he has blown it completely.  I will say it:  Ace Frehley will never be on the same stage as Kiss on the End of the Road tour.  That door has closed.

Let me put what Ace is asking in my own words.  Tell me how it sounds to you.

“Gene, you better stop talking shit about me, and you better apologise to me and my wife for what I’m alleging without proof!  After that, I want you to fire Tommy Thayer regardless of whatever contracts you have in place or what your relationship is.  Even though I haven’t played stadiums in almost two decades, your only option now is to welcome me back with open arms!  If you don’t…empty threat!  Empty threat!  Empty threat!”

I am in no way defending Gene Simmons or Kiss.  Gene could have spoken far more kindly of both Ace and Peter over the years.  Kind words are free to offer, and solidarity does a lot for a band’s image.  Ace’s statement simply escalates this in a childish, juvenile way.

We are now in the Twilight Zone with a group of bickering children.  Rock and roll, baby?

 

#729.4: LeBrain’s Unorthodox Top 10 of 2018

Given everything that happened in 2018 (cancer, more cancer, death), I wasn’t as tuned-in to rock and roll as I normally would be.  I missed a lot of new releases, some on purpose, others by accident.  Therefore, this year I’m doing something different from my Top Lists of 2018.  Before we get to the lists, let’s talk about the past 12 months.


2018: RELEASES IN A NUTSHELL

January saw new CDs by Joe Satriani and Corrosion of Conformity, finally reunited with Pepper Keenan on vocals.  There was new Loudness, and a release by Beth Hart & Joe BonamassaDef Leppard had a low-key EP exclusive to iTunes (The Lost Session).  In February we got the return of the mighty Saxon.  March was a big month, featuring Judas Priest, Stone Temple Pilots, Jack White and Myles Kennedy.  The rock kept rolling in April.  The big metal one here was Stryper‘s God Damn Evil, along with new Godsmack and Thirty Seconds to Mars.  During this time I was personally only able to get the Stryper and Priest.

As temperatures warmed in May, Bad Wolves came out with their novelty cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries which became a predictable hit.  Frank Turner and Five Finger Death Punch also released new records in May.  News in June was unfortunately dominated by Kanye West and Drake, but don’t forget Ghost, The Darkness (with their first live) and Nine Inch Nails!  In July, Halestorm came out with the critically acclaimed ViciousAlice in Chains made their long awaited return in August with Rainier Fog, an album I bought but have not yet fully penetrated.

Autumn began with the biggest name in rock and roll, Sir Paul McCartney himself.  SlashPaul Simon, Lenny Kravitz and Suicidal Tendencies had records out on the same day.  VoiVod, Therapy?, Metric and even Rod Stewart returned in September as well.  October featured two big soundtracks:  Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is BornAce Frehley, Greta Van Fleet, and The Struts came out with new music the same month.  In November we got Mark Knopfler, the Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent and yet another live Beth Hart.  The month closed with the latest Def Leppard best-of.  December boasted Metal Church but not a lot of rock.  Thank the Metal Gods that Max the Axe swooped in with Status Electric to save the year.


I spent most of 2018 checked out mentally.  I missed most of the new releases and have a lot to catch up on.  The summer was spent on Highway 401, and a flash drive loaded with music helped me survive it.  New releases were not the be-all and end-all for me.  Therefore, my Top Albums of 2018 list includes some oldies that just helped me get through it all.  It seems right to do it this way, since I can’t really do a well-curated list of new releases without absorbing them properly.

TOP 10 ALBUMS THAT GOT ME THROUGH 2018

  1. Blotto – Combo Akimbo (1982)
  2. Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)
  3. Ghost – Prequelle (2018)
  4. The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith  (2018)
  5. Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)
  6. Blotto – Tonight At Toad’s (1982)
  7. Ace Frehley – Spaceman (2018)
  8. Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert (1997)
  9. The Sword – Used Future (2018)
  10. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe (2018)
  2. Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)
  3. Mike Slayen – Dude: A Guitar CD (2018)

TOP MOVIES OF 2018

Can’t do a movie list this year.  Not possible.  I didn’t see ’em all, but one movie blew away all the rest.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

A PEEK AT 2019

What’s hot for 2019?

  1. Star Wars:  Episode IX
  2. Motley Crue‘s long awaited movie The Dirt, and new songs too.
  3. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
  4. Avengers:  Endgame
  5. Queensryche – The Verdict

Stay tuned….