bob kulick

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Paul Stanley (1978 solo album)


  Paul Stanley (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we know that Paul Stanley was capable of pretty much running Kiss by himself.  During much of the 1980s, Gene Simmons’ participation in Kiss had a severe drop.  Paul took the reins and the band more or less sounded like Kiss.  With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Paul’s 1978 solo album was also very Kiss-like.  Of the four, Paul’s album had an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  His solo songs sound very much like his Kiss songs.  Co-producing with Paul was Kansas producer Jeff Glixman.

Paul had an “ace” in his pocket, so to speak.  On lead guitar was shredder Bob Kulick.  Previously, Bob auditioned for Kiss but was squeezed out at the last minute by Ace Frehley.  He also played ghost guitar on the studio tracks of Alive II.  Now he was out of the shadows on Paul’s album, and his work here absolutely stuns.  It’s a feedback-laden monster of rock.

Paul’s songs are often overblown, and usually loud.  “Tonight You Belong to Me” is one such track:  melodramatic, riffy and loud.  It rocks hard.  It has loads of hooks, killer playing, and lead vocals that slay.  Few singers could touch Paul Stanley in his prime.  If that riff sounds familiar, the Hellacopters ripped it off for the intro to a song appropriately titled “Paul Stanley” (from 1999’s Grande Rock).

“Move On” is upbeat, Kiss-like rock and roll augmented with female backing vocals.  It’s the only song that Kiss played live on their 1979 tour.  It probably fits that standard Kiss mold better than any other tune on the album.  “Ain’t Quite Right” brings things down with a dark acoustic ballad, quite different from past songs Paul has written.  Its sad sound was fairly new territory for an upbeat rocker.

Hold on tight for “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me”.  If this song was covered by a pop-punk band (pick one:  Sum 41, Blink 182, any of that ilk) it could be huge today.  It’s loud, brash and incredibly rocking, but Paul outsings any punk-pop upstart.  When Paul released his solo One Live Kiss album/video in 2008, “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me” was one of its highlights.  Kudos must be given to drummer Richie Fontana for kicking it in the nuts.

One of rock’s most legendary (and hardest hitting) timekeepers plays drums on the massive “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  You don’t associate Carmine Appice with Kiss, but there he is one of Paul’s songs.  It’s a bombastic arrangement of electrics and acoustics, and one of Paul’s most devastating tracks.  Carmine turns it from “stun” to “kill” with his dominating presence.  At 5:26 this is the longest song on the album and as close as Paul gets to epic.

Side two is just as vigorous as side one.  “It’s Alright” has a bright shimmer, plenty of hooks and guitars.  It easily could have been a Kiss classic.  “Girl if you want me to stay satisfied, girl if you want me to stay for the night, it’s alright.”  Sure sounds like Kiss to me.  The guitars have a very “rock and roll” vibe, a classic progression.  Paul has a knack for riffs like this, and “It’s Alright” is one of the best.

Paul’s single was the schlocky piano ballad “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)”.  Fans will either love it or hate it.  It’s a song that could have been an AM radio hit on a 70s light rock station.  Lionel Richie could have recorded it.  The guitar solo cooks, and that is all Paul.  He handled all the guitars on this song.  Love it or hate it, it was the second most successful solo Kiss single after Ace’s “New York Groove”.

As the album draws to a close, “Love in Chains” hits hard with punchy drums and choppy guitars.  But it’s just a jab, compared to the closer “Goodbye”, which finishes things off with a flourish and hot riffing.  There is a cool descending guitar part, a superior chorus, and some seriously cool and busy bass by Eric Nelson.  “Goodbye” is a brilliant closer, and it held that slot on Paul’s 2006 solo tour.

Paul’s was the second shortest of the solo albums (only Peter’s being shorter), but it packed more punch than any except Ace Frehley’s.  Everybody has their favourites, and Ace’s album is always held in high esteem.  Ace stepped out of his box and delivered.  Meanwhile, Paul stuck to what he does best, and nailed it.  It’s a “safe” solo album, but lethal when it clicks with you.

5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original review:  2012/07/22


REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – First Blood…Last Cuts (1993)

scan_20161125W.A.S.P. – First Blood…Last Cuts (1993 Capitol)

When grunge took over the airwaves in 1991-1992, a lot of older guard bands found themselves without a record contract.  W.A.S.P.’s 1992 concept album The Crimson Idol failed to generate enough interest for Capitol Records to continue investing in the band.  A greatest hits contractual obligation album was a typical move for bands in this situation, and that is how First Blood…Last Cuts came to be.  With that in mind, the 16 track album is great bang for the buck.  Rarities and new songs add value, and the photo-loaded booklet is tons of fun.

A rarity right off the bat, “Animal” was a non-album single and W.A.S.P.’s first.  It’s better known as “Fuck Like a Beast”, and that might explain why it wasn’t on the W.A.S.P. album.  A good but not exceptional track, it does boast a nice metal chug, but it’s otherwise just there for shock value.  It is primitive metal akin to the first LP, with Blackie in full screech.  You either like W.A.S.P. or you don’t.

“L.O.V.E. Machine” from the first LP is remixed with the first verse re-recorded, for some reason.  Presumably Blackie must have been dissatisfied with the original.  There are several remixes on this CD, including singles “I Wanna Be Somebody”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (a metalized Ray Charles cover via Humble Pie), “Blind In Texas” and “Wild Child”.  The remixes generally have a sharper drum sound, particular the tracks originally from the muddy first album.  The remixing leads to an uneven listen.  Rather than sounding fresh, the remixes feel off-kilter and slightly unfamiliar, especially when butted up against non-remixed tracks.  The muddy “On Your Knees” follows the remixed “I Wanna Be Somebody”.  The transition between the two songs, both originally from the same album, could be better.

Thankfully the strong songs outnumber the middling by a hefty margin.  “Headless Children” and “The Real Me” (a Who cover from Quadrophenia) remain two highlights of the W.A.S.P. canon.  The chugging heavy epic “Chainsaw Charlie” has never been topped by Blackie.

The final incentives are the two new songs, although one (“Rock and Roll to Death”) was recycled on 1995’s Still Not Black Enough.  “Sunset and Babylon” is special as it features Lita Ford on guest lead guitar.  The nimble-fingered Ford adds some character to the tune, a pretty standard rock n’ roller from Blackie and cohorts.

At 75 minutes, First Blood…Last Cuts is a long running album providing great value.   Perhaps it runs a song or two too long, but nit picking aside it is a solidly hot listen through.  The drunken cowboy blasts of “Blind in Texas” are as fondly remembered as the gentle strumming on ballads like “Hold On to My Heart”.  Indeed, as the album runs on to its second half, ballads begin to outshine the rockers.  “Forever Free” remains one of W.A.S.P.’s brightest stars, as likeable as it was in 1989.  “The Idol” is a darkly beautiful ballad demonstrating that Blackie Lawless is indeed deeper than just his assless chaps.  Although the album dialogue should have been chopped for this greatest hits CD, it just breaks up the flow.

Most people do not need all the W.A.S.P. albums.  In fact, scientific studies have shown that one or two W.A.S.P.’s is all the average homo sapiens will ever need.  First Blood…Last Cuts would be solidly recommended CD for your first or only W.A.S.P. purchase.

4/5 stars


REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (both versions)


W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (Castle, US and UK versions)

This one came up due to some discussion between myself and Jon Wilmenius who suggested that I not outright dismiss Still Not Black Enough.  I decided to give it a listen again, all the tracks from both versions, and listen with an open mind.  I haven’t listened to this album in years.  I went through a brief W.A.S.P. phase not long after quitting the store.  I bought Helldorado, Unholy Terror, and both Neon God CDs, which might not have been a good idea; doing so many at once.

Still Not Black Enough was a treat to revisit.  It’s top-loaded with some pretty great W.A.S.P. songs.  In fact the album rocks and rolls along quite excellently for four solid tracks in a row:  “Still Not Black Enough”, “Skinwalker”, “Black Forever” and the awesome “Scared To Death”.  I’ve never heard Blackie attempt anything like “Scared To Death” before.  Female backing vocals on a W.A.S.P. album?  It actually works, and brings this track to a much higher level.   Nothing wrong with the other three songs either — all are catchy, heavy W.A.S.P. songs with that Crimson Idol sound.

The album skids to a halt upon track 5, “Goodbye America”.  The unfortunate thing is that “Goodbye America” is a great W.A.S.P. song, kinda similar to “Chainsaw Charlie”, like a shorter twin brother.  Blackie chose to introduce it with a boring, spoken word political thing, which sucks all the air out of the room.  Cut the shit, Blackie.  You’re a rock star who drinks fake blood from a fake skull for a living.  Leave the politics to Bono on the left and Ted on the right.  Shit, even Ted doesn’t write his songs about it.

After a rousing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love”, Blackie gets out the piano and does the first ballad of the album.  It’s essentially a reprise to “Hold Onto My Heart” from Crimson Idol.  It’s even called “Keep Holding On”.  Nice song, but no need to do it twice.  OK sure, “Keep Holding On” is a different slant, on a lot of different instruments, but it’s the same damn song.

“Rock And Roll To Death” is both old (previously released on 1993’s excellent First Blood…Last Cuts compilation) and too gimmicky.  It’s an old-timey rock and roll song a-la Chuck Berry played metal style.  I guess it’s supposed to sound like “old W.A.S.P.”, like “Blind In Texas”?  Regardless it’s out of place on Still Not Black Enough, and it was already on the last album, so to me, that means “delete”.

The original ten-track version of the CD placed a ballad here, after “Rock And Roll To Death”.  The acoustic-with-strings ballad “Breathe” was removed from the re-release, and I get why.  It’s similar once again to Crimson Idol songs like “The Idol” and “Hold On To My Heart”.  The actual sonic quality of the song is not good at all, it sounds like a demo.  The drums are obviously not real, they sound like a drum program.  The strings are obviously synth.  It sounds unfinished, compared to the rest of the album.

No matter which version of the CD you buy, track 9 is “I Can’t”.  It’s also acoustic, so again it’s good they removed “Breathe” from the CD, two acoustic songs in a row is too much for a W.A.S.P. album.  This one’s a little edgier, it’s not a ballad.  It’s more a cheesy bad-ass cowboy song with gratuitous “fucks”.  Thankfully it turns electric at the end.  Track ten, and original album closer, is “No Way Out Of Here” which sounds like any number of songs from Crimson Idol.  The similarities are more than superficial.  There are lyrical references to that album, and both albums were performed by the same band:  Frankie Banali and Bob Kulick.

The re-release of Still Not Black Enough has three bonus tracks.  (It also has “Skinwalker” which was track 2, but not on the original release of the CD.)  Track 11 is “One Tribe”, which is pretty different and pretty cool.  It’s a softer song, but it’s about the most original song on the album.  It has strong melodies, and a dramatic enough arrangement.  There’s also what sounds like an electric violin solo!  Lyrically, this sounds like redemption.

Then come the unnecessary covers:  “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”.  Of the two, I would say “Tie Your Mother Down” works best.  It brings back the female backing vocals from “Scared To Death” and it’s fun!  “Whole Lotta Rosie” isn’t particularly notable.

I was surprised that I like Still Not Black Enough as much as I do.  I dismissed it outright years ago as an inferior clone of Crimson Idol.  It has moments like that, most definitely.   It’s also a pretty enjoyable listen, and now that I’ve dusted it off, I’ll spin it a couple more times.  Regardless of which version you get (track listings for both below), I think Still Not Black Enough is worth about:

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

Part 26 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster


KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

October, 1988.  Articles had been spinning through the rock magazines for months that this was the end:  Kiss was on the verge of breaking up.  Gene Simmons was still focused on his label and management company, the last album (Crazy Nights) was a disappointment, and the word on the street was that Kiss were no longer cool.

So, when Gene Simmons was to appear as co-host of the Pepsi Power Hour that day in October, they said it was for a special announcement.  I fully expected it to be an announcement of the farewell tour.

It was not.  It was to promote his new label, $immons Records, and his signing, the excellent House Of Lords.  And, to announce the forthcoming release of Smashes, Thrashes & Hits:  the new Kiss greatest hits CD with two new songs.  And a remake of “Beth”.  With Eric Carr singing.

I received the album for Christmas that year.  My feelings were quite mixed.

Both new songs were written, sung and produced by Paul Stanley, another indication that Gene was still off in la-la land.  “Let’s Put The X In Sex” is a pretty lame, pretty pop, pretty un-Kiss tune, with a somewhat redeeming horn section.  I was horrified that, in the music video, Paul wasn’t even holding a guitar anymore.  He was just dancing.  Dancing!  At least in the videos from Crazy Nights, he was holding a guitar while dancing.   Somehow I saw this as a symptom of what was wrong with Kiss in the late 80’s.  This was not the same band anymore.

The second new song, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” (a double entendre that I missed completely), is a slightly more uptempo song which almost qualifies as a rocker.  It has an insanely catchy pre-chorus.  Which is something I’d actually like to draw your attention to.  See below, please:

Try to ignore the dancing, Paul hugging a very bouffant Gene, just skip to the 1:50 mark.  Watch Gene’s lips.

Paul sings, “You make me sweat, you turn me ’round,” but Gene can be clearly seen mouthing, “you turn me up.”  He doesn’t even know the words to the song, and that made it into the video.  He was clearly asleep at the wheel!

The rest of the album was filled with hits, none with Ace nor Peter singing.  Hence, “Beth”.  It’s always been said that Kiss have tried to erase Ace and Peter from their history and here’s a great example.  In addition, Eric’s voice is simply too sweet, it needs rasp to do this song.  It’s unfortunate that this was Eric’s first lead vocal.

You should know that many of the hits were remixed — virtually everything from the original lineup.  Some of the remixes are quite good (I love this version of “Love Gun” with the extended guitar bit), some are not.  “I Love It Loud” lacks the oomph of the drums, and the false ending.

Of note:  Not one song from Crazy Nights made the cut (except in the U.K., where “Reason To Live” was added).  I’ve always felt this was a subliminal message as to the quality of that album too.

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits represents the absolute lowest point of this era of Kiss.  The dancing, the pop, the terrible videos, I was fed up.  Fortunately, Gene got his brain back and the band began to steer the ship back in the right direction.  In my opinion the first real step began with Paul Stanley’s solo tour (with Bob Kulick and Eric Singer), where he reconnected with the fans and the music.

Better things were to come, but not yet.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1981 German and Japanese editions)

Part 18 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!


KISS – Killers (1981)

Killers is a greatest hits CD with four “new” tracks, released in ’81 everywhere except North America. After The Elder bombed, the European record company requested demanded a greatest hits album with new songs, specifically rock songs, no exception. Paul Stanley sings lead on all four new songs, and Paul, Bob Kulick & Robbin Crosby play guitar in Ace’s absense.  Yes, Ace was on the album cover but nowhere on the album.  He was effectively though not yet officially out of the band.

The new songs:

“I’m A Legend Tonight”: A great song with Eric Carr finally showing off what he can do on the drums. Although Paul himself tends to disown the songs on Killers, this is great. The riff is very memorable and the song is catchy (even if the chorus reminds me somewhat of “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters).

“Down On Your Knees”: Co-written by Bryan Adams (his first but not last collaboration with Kiss), this is a nondescript rocker. Catchy enough as an album track, but not outstanding. The cymbals are mixed a little high.

“Nowhere To Run”: The was one of the first songs written for The Elder sessions, and you can kind of tell by the falsetto that Paul employs in the bridge. It was dumped when they decided to go all concept album on The Elder, but here on Killers it is the standout track. The riff is stellar, the acoustic intro is cool, and Paul’s singing is perfect.

“Partners In Crime”. The weakest song. It’s a slow plod with nothing really going for it.

The rest of the album is filled with the greatest hits, but it is crucial to note that aside from one track on an Australian-only version (“Talk To Me”), all songs are sung by Paul and Gene. I do not believe any of the hits are remixed, but some feature edits/fades not present on the original albums (“Detroit Rock City”). I loved that “Sure Know Something” was included as it’s one of Paul’s under appreciated classics.


The Japanese, which I have, included “Shandi” from Unmasked and “Escape From The Island” from The Elder. An instrumental, “Escape From The Island” was one of the few rockers on The Elder, which Ace wrote. Therefore, the Japanese version is a much more complete version and the version I recommend.

Killers is actually a great CD for new and old fans alike, which is a rare thing in the KISS catalog. There are cheaper compilations out there, but this one has a nice variety of tunes including oddballs like “Sure Know Something”. Of course there’s the four new songs too, two of which are really special.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Paul Stanley (1978)

Part 14 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!   This time, we’ll look at the final of the four solo albums (and my favourite) released under the Kiss banner in 1978:  Paul Stanley.

KISS – Paul Stanley (1978)

Paul Stanley’s contribution to the Kiss solo album quadrilogy was very much like what Paul was doingin within Kiss itself.  As such it was warmly received by fans turned off by Peter Criss’ and Gene Simmons’ records.  From Paul Stanley, it seemed clear that he was not creatively confined at all within Kiss.  Recruiting old friend Bob Kulick on guitar, Paul laid down an album of hot rockers and a few tender ballads.

“Tonight You Belong To Me” starts off with some lush acoustic guitars (maybe a 6 and a 12 string? I can’t tell), and Paul singing in his classic falsetto. It doesn’t take long though for this to stop however, before a killer angular riff kicks in. (The Hellacopters ripped off the riff for the intro of their song called “Paul Stanley”, actually.) The riff is pure Paul Stanley, and is augmented by loads of juicy feedback.  Bob Kulick just tears through the guitar solo.

This is followed by fan favourite “Move On”, which was played live on the 1979 Kiss tour. It’s another rocker that would have felt at home on Rock and Roll Over or Love Gun.  “Ain’t Quite Right” is Paul’s first ballad of the album, and the first song I’d consider skipping. However Paul comes roaring back next, with the best song on the album.  “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?” is fast paced and it rocks hard, and I think if Green Day did it today it would be classified as pop-punk, a genre which didn’t exist in 1978.  Side 1 closes with “”Take Me Away (Together As One)” which might be called Zeppelinesque. It starts off slow and acoustic, turns dark and electric in the very catchy chorus, and goes back to acoustic. Dramatic is a good word.  And Paul’s voice has never been stronger.  I believe he was singing at his absolute peak at this point, personally.

Side 2 starts off with another rocker, “It’s Alright”, which is very Kiss circa Love Gun. The guitar riff and chorus melody are the main selling features of this song. “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)” is a title that can only belong to a ballad. As sappy as it is, I like this song. It’s a piano and strings ballad that might have suited the Peter Criss album, if not for the melodic and memorable guitar solo courtesy of Paul himself. “Love In Chains” follows this, a guitar oriented rocker with great singable verses. The album ends appropriately with “Goodbye”, a song which Paul used to close his 2006 solo shows. It is another stellar song, extremely catchy and well written.

Songwriting is the main selling point of Paul’s solo album. It is Paul’s song craft that makes this album special, that and Bob Kulick’s great guitar tones and talents. Paul had a lot to be proud, it is a gem of an album and one that no Kiss fan should be without.

It’s only a shame that the 2006 followup, Live To Win, didn’t even come close to reaching this level of quality.

5/5 stars

Paul performing “Wouldn’t You Live To Know Me” in 1989 with Bob Kulick and Eric Singer

REVIEW: Gene Simmons – Asshole (2004)

GENE SIMMONS – Asshole (2004 EMI)


This unfortunately titled album is easily the worst music that Gene has ever put his name on, and that’s saying something. Sprinkled within are some good ideas hither and yon, but by and large this is pretty much shite.

Have you seen the album cover?  Am I the only one who thinks that Gene bears an unsightly resemblance to Danny DeVito’s character from Big Fish?

If Asshole wasn’t choked down in production, it might have had a couple listenable songs.  “Sweet & Dirty Love” would be a killer opener. I believe this one is a Kiss reject. It sounds like it probably was, being one of the few rock songs on the album. “Firestarter” is a horrible, horrible cover, and the unfortunate first single. I have no idea why Gene thought it was a good idea to cover a Prodigy song, but this is also the same guy who covered “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Dave Navarro — lead guitar. (Who cares?)

“Weapons Of Mass Destruction” and “Waiting For The Morning Light” are both Kiss rejects. “Morning Light” as a ballad rejected from the Revenge album, co-written by Bob Dylan. (Not the lyrics though.) It’s nothing special, and that’s why it didn’t make the Revenge album, I guess.

“Beautiful” is non-descript and not memorable in any way. The title track “Asshole” is a catchy song, albeit a total novelty that only makes my road CDs today because it is somewhat funny. It’s a cover too, by the way.  (“Bucket full of pee”?  Seriously?  That’s a lyric?)

Bob Kulick (longtime Kiss collaborator since the early days) co-wrote “Now That You’re Gone”, another song that fails to stick in the memory. I couldn’t even tell you how it goes anymore.  Better is “Whatever Turns You On”, with its catchy sing-along chorus. Unfortunately, this pop song sounds like…God, like Sugar Ray or somebody from the 90’s that we’d rather forget.

“Dog”, co-written by somebody named Bag (a Simmons Records protege I think) is another unremarkable track. I couldn’t hum it for you if you held a knife to my neck. “Black Tongue”, however is remarkable. It is remarkable because it is, somehow, a lost Frank Zappa tape that Gene resurrected and wrote a song around. That’s Frank on guitar. The Zappa family sang on it. Now, I have no idea what the hell Gene had to do with Frank Zappa. I really know of no history there.  They are diametrically opposed musically. I love Frank. It’s great that Gene found a way to get some Frank music out there, but weird that it’s in such a contrived manner. Frank’s guitar is, of course, like butter.

“Carnival Of Souls” is another Kiss reject. It was written I believe for Revenge, considered as a bonus track for Alive III, rejected for the Carnival Of Souls album (though it lent its name to it) and rejected again for Psycho Circus. Four times rejected: Gene, take the hint! It’s because the song kinda sucks!  Its chorus jars awkwardly against the rest of the song, sounding like a different animal completely.

“If I Had A Gun” is another novelty song, but probably the best song on the whole album. It’s catchy, it’s fun, but again it sounds like some 90’s band that we’d all rather forget. Len, maybe.  Name a band, fill in the blank, I’m sure you can figure out a band that this sounds like. “1,000 Dreams” is this album’s “When You Wish Upon A Star”, just pure drivel, garbage, not worth playing.

And that’s the album. There’s also a clean version with no swearing, but what’s the point?

1.5/5 stars