asylum

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 28 

 – Asylum (1985 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

When we last met our heroes, they were a fractured bunch with differing priorities.  Gene Simmons cut his hair and went to Hollywood.  Paul Stanley was steering the Kiss ship singlehandedly.  They were down a guitar player (Mark St. John) but were fortunate to find his replacement in Bruce Kulick.  Not only was Bruce an old acquaintance (his brother Bob played on a number of Kiss tracks) but he was also just what the band needed.  He added a shot of stability and wrote good material.  He has three writing credits on his first album Asylum, and that was just the beginning.

Paul and Gene produced Asylum, in a similar way to how Animalize was recorded.  As had become routine, Gene wasn’t around to record some of the bass parts in Paul’s songs.  Jean Beauvoir returned to fill in, while Paul also played some bass.  Without Gene fully committed, Asylum was the second Kiss album in a row hobbled by his reduced participation.  Animalize was a huge selling album for Kiss having gone platinum.  Asylum sounds like Paul wanted to duplicate that record.

Eric Carr opens the album with a thunderously memorable drum intro.  Carr didn’t have to try to impress anybody; his drumming brought Kiss to a higher level musically.  His double bass work on “King of the Mountain” would make Lars poo his pants.  For Carr fans, “King of the Mountain” surely must be considered one of his brightest moments.  Fortunately the song also kicks ass.  As one of the Kulick co-writes, the new guitarist impresses immediately.  His soloing style was so much smoother than his predecessor Mark St. John.  He had similar speed and ability but better composition when it comes to solos.  Meanwhile, Paul takes this high octane speed rocker and turns it into a rallying call of encouragement.

I’m gonna climb the mountain,
I’m gonna hit the top,
I wanna go where nobody’s ever been,
I’m never gonna stop.

Who needs Shakespeare when you just need a good shake?  “King of the Mountain” is fuel injection for the bloodstream.

Over to Gene.  “Any Way You Slice It” kicks ass.  He had a habit of barking out his lyrics in the 80s, and “Any Way You Slice It” is very bark-y.  The riff really catches air and takes off.  Back to Paul, and a big single.  “Who Wants to Be Lonely” has a chug and a plaintive chorus.  Paul’s vocal abilities were at a peak, but it sounds like Gene was nowhere near the studio when it was recorded.

There are a lot of contributions from outside songwriters on Asylum, from people such as Desmond Child and Jean Beauvoir.  One of the few songs without them is “Trial By Fire” by Gene and Bruce.  Once again the rhythm is a chug, but this simple little rocker is appealing.  There’s nothing wrong with the chorus, but it has never been played live.  Nor has Paul’s “I’m Alive” which just takes the speed thing to an absurd level for this band.  Kiss isn’t a speed metal band and “I’m Alive” isn’t a memorable song.  “I’m hot enough to give you chills.”  I’ll take your word for it, Paul!

Flip the album and you’ll hear “Love’s a Deadly Weapon”, which both Gene and Paul have a credit on.  This is noteworthy, because the pair hadn’t written anything together on Animalize and only one track on Lick it Up and The Elder each.  That’s all the co-writing credits they had together after the infamous Kiss solo albums.  However, “Love’s a Deadly Weapon” isn’t really a co-write.  It’s one of Gene’s songs, with a title and some words taken from a Paul Stanley demo called “Deadly Weapons”.  Again, Kiss takes the speed level to the absurd.  This ironically renders the song powerless.

Fortunately Paul’s big single “Tears are Falling” brings back the quality.  It was one of the few songs from this era to continue to be played live.  It was kept in the set on the Revenge tour, and had been brought back periodically by the current lineup of the band, even appearing on their last album Kiss Rocks Vegas.  That’s because it has a chorus that goes on for days and days.  Bruce’s guitar solo is one his most memorable, which doesn’t hurt either.

Gene’s “Secretly Cruel” shows off his sleazy side, on a likeable but forgettable album track.  He wrote this one solo, just as Paul did for “Tears are Falling”.  And it’s sleazy from there in.  “Radar for Love” is a Paul/Desmond composition with a groove and a chorus that nails it.

And then it’s “Uh! All Night”.  Yes, “Uh! All Night” is the name of a song.

I’ll confess that when I first heard “Uh! All Night” in 1985, I didn’t know what “Uh!” meant.  I figured it meant “partying” or something.  And there was a period when I really liked this song, but that was over 30 years ago and it sure has worn out its welcome.

Kiss went on tour again, never leaving home territory except for one date in Toronto.  This was a step backwards for the so-called “Hottest Band in the World”.  Asylum wasn’t the hit album that Animalize was.  Money was becoming a problem.  These are problems they aimed to solve next time.

The irony is, although Asylum wasn’t as big as Animalize, song for song it’s probably a better album.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/02

#579: Entering the Asylum

GETTING MORE TALE #579: Entering the Asylum
(Supplement to the  Re-Review series)

Back in Record Store Tales Part 3 (!), we took a nostalgic look at my first ever Kiss albums, that all arrived in one glorious batch.  The year was 1985, but Kiss also had a new album coming out in a matter of days.  Now that I had started on a Kiss collection, I would have to get their newest album too, called Asylum.  I didn’t even know how to pronounce “asylum” correctly, nor did I know what the word meant, but I did understand that it was their third album without makeup.

Next door neighbor George, who was my introduction to Kiss, came over one day talking about the new single “Tears Are Falling” and how much I would love it.  I didn’t have much money but by the time the snow fell, my dad bought me a copy of Asylum on cassette.  We got it at the Zellers store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.

My meager Kiss collection at that point consisted of Alive!, Asylum (cassette) and a bunch of LPs I recorded off George.  I didn’t know much about the discography but George was a good teacher.  George actually named one of his first bands Asylum.  Before long I could name all the albums, in order.  I even predicted that the next single would be “Uh! All Night”.  I didn’t foresee the third single “Who Wants To Be Lonely” because Kiss hadn’t done a third single in ages!

George was only missing two Kiss albums:  The Elder, and Double Platinum.  He was dying to get both and finish the collection.  His record collection was fascinating to me and a goldmine of music to tape and explore.  The album covers, particularly for Kiss and Iron Maiden, had me hooked.

As my interest in Kiss grew, a new kid at school who I later found out was a “liar liar pants on fire” claimed he had “all” the Kiss albums at home.  His name was Joe Ciaccia (pronounced “chee-chaw”).  I asked him if that meant he had The Elder.  He said yes.  I told George I knew a kid who owned it, and he just about shit his pants.  I made arrangements with Joe to meet up at his place on the next Sunday to do a trade.  All I asked for brokering this trade was recording the album.

George was really excited.  “I don’t care what he wants for it, I’m not leaving without that record.”  I distinctly remember a small group of us trudging through the snow to meet Joe at his apartment.  Who came with us?  I can’t remember.  Joe lived on Breckenridge Drive, just down the street from Brian Vollmer of Helix.  One thing that I can remember very clearly was grabbing my Sanyo ghetto blaster loaded with D-cell batteries, my Asylum tape, and rocking while walking to Joe’s.

Listening to a cassette on a ghetto blaster powered by D-cells was a warbly experience that kids today don’t understand.  Our small group lollygagging through the slush listening to “King of the Mountain” on that old Sanyo is an image I’ll always remember.  I carried it through the wet melting snow.  Those Sanyo ghetto blasters were built like tanks!  You could drop them and they’d keep on ticking.

We arrived at Joe’s apartment and buzzed.  No answer.  Buzzed again.  No answer.  I began to realize my fears.  Joe was all talk and no Elder.  We hung out down there a while but there was no sign of Joe.  George was partly crushed and mostly pissed off.  At school, Joe gradually earned a reputation for tall tales.  His were beginning to rival the lies of Ian Johnson – they even lived on the same street.

We flipped the Asylum tape over and began the walk home.  A wasted trip, and Joe dodged me at school the next day.  George kept pestering me to arrange a second hookup with Joe, thinking he still had that copy of The Elder that he wanted so badly.  I realized Joe was full of shit and told George the sad truth.  The record was not there.  Joe was telling stories, trying to seem cool to me for having all the Kiss albums.  Then he got caught in the lie, after going so far as to arrange a trade and giving me the address.  Very un-cool.

George did get a copy of The Elder a few months later, and he still taped me a copy.  It was a strange album, after being immersed in Asylum for many months.  Then, I definitely preferred AsylumAsylum was special to me.  It was my first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band!  I had boarded the Kiss train and I wasn’t getting off!

Part 173: Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos

RECORD STORE TALES Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos

Back in 1994-95, when I was working at our original store, I would always proudly fly the Kiss flag.  This was before the mega reunion, and on the heels of the Revenge album, which I was really into.

I had a small online presence back then, I had created our very first online ads in 1994.  I was talking about music on every single BBS (Bulletin Board System) in the area, and on one board, called Wanderer’s Rest, I had a forum for my reviews.  I was going by the online name “Geddy” (hah!) back then, and I was extremely prolific.  Very little has changed since!

One guy, name long forgotten, messaged me.  “Hey, I’m a customer at your store.  I have some rare Kiss demos.  Do you want to do a tape swap?”  Of course I did.  For him, I made a copy of the March 25 1974 show in Washington at the Bayou club.  It was a cool show because they played an unreleased song called “You’re Much Too Young”.

For me, he made a tape of Gene’s Asylum demos, on one of our Maxell UR60’s that we sold in our store.  Gene is a very prolific songwriter.  Not everything he comes up with is gold (clearly!) but he usually submitted a dozen tunes or more for consideration on each album.  Judging by this cassette, Asylum was no exception, even though he was very distracted by Hollywood at that time.

The tape, which unfortunately did not survive the years very well at all, contains 13 of Gene’s demos, 3 being instrumental ideas, and a bonus track.  A couple songs made the final album.  I tried to listen to the tape, to see if I recognized any ideas.  Unfortunately, this tape now sounds terrible and is unlistenable.  I ripped only one song, which was “Russian Roulette”, to see if it resembled the version that later ended up on 2009’s Sonic Boom album.  From what I can tell, only the title survived to Sonic Boom.

Musically however, the song was recycled on the Monster album, as “Eat Your Heart Out”!  It’s the same riff.  Although you can’t make out the lyrics on the demo version at all, you can tell they are completely different.

See the pictures below for the tape made for me by the Mystery Kiss Fan back in ’94-95.   If you know any of these Gene songs, please comment below!  We can hope that good quality versions will come out on Gene’s “Monster” box set, if it ever comes out!

REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

Part 23 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

KISS – Asylum (1985)

My bias with this album is simple:  Asylum was the “new” Kiss album when I first started listening to the band.  “Tears Are Falling” was getting a lot of airplay, and it was the latest thing.  I still think, on a whole, it is superior to Animalize.  The reason for this is all around stronger songs, with Bruce Kulick contributing heavily.  Recall that when we last checked in with Kiss, Bruce Kulick was temping, filling in for the ailing Mark St. John.   He was their fourth guitar player in as many albums.

By the time to record a new album, Bruce was a full member of Kiss.  Gene was still off in la-la land trying to become a movie star, as he was cast as a transvestite in the John Stamos vehicle, Never Too Young To Die.


The good news is, Paul was steering the ship as best he could, considering he was effectively working without his partner in Kiss.  Paul contributed some decent material with a bevy of cowriters including Kulick.

  • King Of The Mountain (awesome)
  • Tears Are Falling (awesome)
  • Who Wants To Be Lonely (great)
  • Radar For Love (decent)
  • Uh! All Night (decent)

Gene’s good songs include:

  • Trial By Fire (good)
  • Secretly Cruel (great)

That only leaves three duds by my counting: Gene’s and Paul’s first co-write in years,  “Love’s A Deadly Weapon”, Gene’s “Any Way You Slice It”, and Paul’s “I’m Alive”. “I’m Alive” is almost a carbon copy of other fast Paul songs such as “Gimme More”.

The cover art is bland, but it does have links to Kiss’ past such their traditional “aura” colours (purple for Paul, red for Gene, blue for the guitar play, and green for the drummer). Production is a little glossy on the drums (samples?), but there are no keyboards, or anything like what would happen later on Crazy Nights. It’s a little more pop than Animalize, but I think it’s just a better album. Just better songs.

3/5 stars