bruce kulick

#1009: These are Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Nights

RECORD STORE TALES #1009:  These are Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Nights

 

I got my first Kiss albums in September of 1985, the first few weeks of school that year.  The band’s newest album Asylum was released September 16.  I was just learning about Kiss and spent the next year collecting all their albums.  All of them from the debut to the new one were in my collection in some way within two years.  To me they were one monolithic body of work that I had spent 24 months studying.  I had all this time, the formative years of my life, to dive deep into that body of work.  So it was an interesting feeling when, on September 21 1987, Kiss released another new album.

It’s not an experience people talk about much, but it’s a unique one:  hearing the first new Kiss album to come, after you fell in love with the band already.  And I had two years to figure out who Kiss were in my mind.  How would a new album change that image?

My next door neighbour George took the bus downtown to Sam the Record Man, picked up the new album Crazy Nights, and later that evening called me up.  “Wanna tape the new Kiss?”  Yes I would!  So with a Maxell UR60 tape in hand (I can still smell how they came out of the wrapper) I went over to record George’s brand new Kiss vinyl.

He had already told me earlier that summer what the title was going to be.  “Isn’t that ripping off Loudness?” I asked upon hearing the title Crazy Nights.  George also informed me that Paul said he had been writing new songs on keyboards.  I didn’t yet appreciate what that meant, but upon hearing the album, I was starting to get it.

George and I scanned through the track list, counted the number of Paul vs. Gene songs (seven vs. four) and discussed what we were hearing.

The most memorable quote of the night was George’s.  When we played “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, he said this.  “If a song this poor made the album, imagine the outtakes that didn’t.”

The keyboard factor was new and took some adjustment.  Keys like this were not present on prior albums.  Not like this.  The overly pop approach was also jarring at first.  Asylum Part II, this was not.  Asylum was a pretty straight sequel to Animalize, and I could hear that after two years of many listens,

I accurately picked what I thought would be the next two singles.  With the ballad “Reason to Live” I knew Kiss had a shot at a mainstream hit, so I knew that would be the next single.  After that, I hoped it would be “Turn on the Night”, and it was.  “Turn on the Night” is still the best tune on Crazy Nights, a total 80s Kiss anthem.

As a kid age 15 hearing his first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band, I had three main thoughts to consider.

1. Gene’s voice.  He was, at least for this album, leaving the growling and howling Demon voice behind.  His singing on Crazy Nights is smooth all the way through.  Immediately noticeable as different, but I kind of like it.  Gene didn’t have many songs but a couple of them were pretty strong:  “Good Girl Gone Bad” and “Hell or High Water”.

2. Paul’s dominance.  With the majority of songs being Paul’s by a historically wide margin, we sensed Gene was checked out.  Not to mention the atrocious quality of “Thief in the Night”.  Even the thrash-paced “No No No” was of questionable constitution.  Was a breakup imminent?  The rock magazines pushed this narrative.

3. The lyrics.  They were undoubtedly mostly dirty, but that was par for the course.   We already had Gene putting his log in some “bitch’s” fireplace so even Crazy Nights stuff was fairly tame.  Still, Gene singing about that “Good Girl Gone Bad”…I wanted a good girl gone bad!  I was absolutely useless at flirting or making moves or even talking to girls, so I figured a good girl gone bad could show me what to do.  Where was my good girl gone bad?  Nowhere near me and my GI Joe figures I assure you.  So I lived my fantasies through Kiss lyrics and although they were hugely unrealistic, Gene and Paul provided some of the imagery.

I had to wonder what a crazy, crazy night was.  The song was about empowerment, and doing what you believe in even when people try to keep you down.  But if life is a radio, turn it up to 10.  It’s that simple.  Don’t back down.  Keep on keepin’ on.  Don’t let the bastards wear you down.  Have your crazy, crazy nights.  But what the hell was that?  For me it was eating ketchup potato chips, renting Andre the Giant videos, and staying up late drinking pop and watching the Giant beat five guys at once.

Hey, whatever makes you happy.

Crazy Nights didn’t exactly make me happy though.  Songs like “My Way” were almost embarrassing, and as 1987 wore in 1988, Def Leppard replaced Kiss as my favourite band.  It got worse a year later with “Let’s Put the X in Sex”.  Was that going to be it for me and Kiss?

Of course not.  But this was the beginning of a low period that lasted almost my entire highschool life.

#1003: Animalize Live Uncensored

RECORDS STORE TALES #1003:  Animalize Live Uncensored

36 summers ago, I taped Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored off next door neighbor George.  I recorded the video (which he recorded from a rental) onto a VHS, and the audio onto a 90 minute blank cassette.  For that summer, Animalize Live was my Kiss live experience.  I only had Alive on vinyl, which wasn’t portable.  I didn’t have Alive II yet.  My cassette copy of Animalize Live was constantly in my ears all summer.

I knew every word of every Paul rap.

“Detroit let me tell ya something just between you and me.  That baby had the longest fuckin’ tongue I ever seen in my life!”

“Paul, what are you doing with a pistol down your pants?”

“Eric may look like a baby, but he’s built like a man.”

Paul did a striptease, and the guys hung the panties that they were thrown by girls in the crowd from their microphone stands.  The concert dripped of raw sex and I was like a kid in shock.  I had never seen anything like this before.  I didn’t even know if I wanted to!  But there it was in full glory, Paul Stanley telling stories about his “Love Gun” and me sitting there watching it multiple times a week.  The summer I had mono.  I couldn’t do much else.  I watched a lot of videos and a lot of them were Kiss.

Listening today, I remember every note of every solo.  Paul went first with a guitar solo.  Bruce Kulick, the new kid, was standing in for Mark St. John and didn’t even get an introduction or solo.  Eric’s drum solo was second, and Gene’s bass solo last.  I liked the bass solo.  It actually seemed more musical than the other two.  Its simplicity is one thing…but I was humming the bass solo hours later.

I still know every vocal divergence each song takes in this live incarnation.  Like old muscle memory.  And you know what?  There’s something to be said about 80s Kiss.  They were playing things faster and Eric Carr added his own unique elements to Kiss, as did Bruce.  On some songs the speed works.  I was just thinking that if they came out playing “Creatures of the Night” this fast today in 2022, people would lose their minds.

On my Walkman, I went for cottage adventures with this concert in my ears.  It was the worst recording possible; a cassette copy of a VHS copy of a VHS copy, in mono.  Bootleggy as hell.  But there I sat in the grass, as Paul Stanley told us of the women who wanted to “mother” Eric Carr.  And I had no idea what, specifically, “mothering” Eric Carr meant.  I knew it meant sexy times of some kind, but…nope, right over my head.

Animalize Live Uncensored was my Alive III from a time when we didn’t think we’d get an Alive III.  Or at least, I didn’t.  It was several albums and several years before we did get one, and Eric was gone by then.  I liked it.  I still do.

#980: Uh! All Night

RECORD STORE TALES #980: Uh! All Night

My final year of grade school, 1985-86 was momentous.  I’ve written an entire 1986 saga about those times.  I had mono which kept me home sick for much of the end of Grade 8.  This meant plenty of music listening time while I recovered.  Music and comic books.  Discovering so many new songs and bands made it a uniquely special time.  Being sick wasn’t so bad.  It kept me away from the bullies while learning about Van Halen songs such as “Unchained” and “So This Is Love”.  I sat in the basement and watched a lot of Pepsi Power Hours, during (arguably) the peak era of the show.

Additionally, it was the year I decided my favourite band was Kiss.

Kiss were hot on the TV with “Tears Are Falling”, the first single from their newest album Asylum.  Kiss were one of those bands that just made me want to collect them all.  Although I had acquired some used Kiss records in a trade, Asylum was my first brand-new Kiss purchase from a store.  That’s a special thing, because it felt like a rite of passage.  A year earlier I would have been walking up to the counter with an action figure in hand.  In autumn of 1985 I approached the cash register with what was once forbidden fruit.  Kiss used to seem dangerous, even disgusting when I was a kid.  Here I was buying the new Kiss album, for the first of many times.

I like to think that I have a knack for picking the singles for albums today.  It all started with Asylum and their little ditty called “Uh! All Night”.  While “Tears Are Falling” was a really obvious choice for single #1, it seemed to me that album closer “Uh! All Night” should be second.  A lot of albums I owned back then seemed to have a handful of good songs, and a lot of filler.  Asylum has filler (mostly the Gene songs) but “Uh! All Night” was catchy from first listen.  It was also far more upbeat than “Who Wants To Be Lonely”.

If Kiss were out to corrupt young minds, then they would have been happy to know that my sister and I jumped around the basement singing, “When you work all day you gotta UH! all night!”

I wasn’t 100% certain what “uh!” meant in this case.  The Pepsi Power Hour was little help.

With VCR at the ready, I watched attentively as VJ Christopher Ward introduced the video on the Power Hour for the first time.

“What does it mean, ‘Uh! All Night’?” teased Ward.  “Do your homework all night?  I think it means do your homework all night.”

I figured “uh” had to be something naughty.  Partying?

The video came on, and Paul Stanley descended a dark staircase wearing a white captain’s hat.  He removed his overcoat revealing more sequins, reflectors and hair than I could take in.  Dated looking by today’s standards.   The epitome of cool for 1985.  All of them looked cool, except for Gene who really struggled to find the right image, until the Revenge era.  The stage set was cool, like a construction zone at night adorned with lights and speakers.

Kiss danced, and posed, and lipsynched up a storm.  Kiss were designed for pubescent boys like me, who were giving up on action heroes and discovering rock and roll.  And girls.  The “Uh! All Night” video was criticised for, of course, objectifying scantily clad women.

Funny enough, this is where Kiss missed the mark with me.  I liked girls, but not…not the ones in “Uh! All Night”.

I liked David Lee Roth’s “California Girls”.  I ogled the ones in the video for “Blondes In Black Cars” by Autograph.  I didn’t like the platinum blonde Dolly Parton lookalikes in “Uh! All Night”.  Not at all.  Their striptease with the white nylons did nothing for me.  After Bruce Kulick whips out a wicked solo with tapping and guitar faces, the Partons beds turn into bed/car hybrids with headlights and grills.  But the Partons couldn’t drive the car-beds; they had to push them.  Dozens of Partons pushing the car-beds wearing fuzzy high heels and lingerie.  It was ludicrous and completely un-hot.

At least Kiss looked cool, so I watched the video over and over, doing my best to ignore the Dolly Partons in their white beds.

David Mallet directed “Uh! All Night” and the other two singles from Asylum as well.  They all share a similar look, but “Uh! All Night” stands out among them, and not for any good reasons.  Considering the good stuff that Mallet did direct (Maiden, Bowie, Leppard, Queen, AC/DC and many more) it’s best if “Uh! All Night” just goes forgotten on a dusty shelf somewhere in the Kiss archives.

#825: Klassic Kwote – Carnival of Souls

GETTING MORE TALE #825:  Klassic Kwote – Carnival of Souls

 

We were encouraged to put stickers on CDs to draw attention to them at the Record Store.  When Kiss’ Carnival of Souls was released in 1997, I put a sticker on there that read “FINAL ALBUM WITH BRUCE & ERIC”.  Because why not.  Other stores did things like that.  Stickers are fun.  Bosses didn’t like my stickers, but I was the store manager and I wanted to make stickers.

A dude picked up the CD and asked me, “What does this mean?  Final album with Bruce and Eric?”

I didn’t know how to respond so I simply answered, “It’s the final album with Bruce & Eric.”

“Oh OK,” he said and put it down.

Ask a stupid question?

 

 

REVIEW: We Wish You A Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year – Various Artists (2008)

WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS AND A HEADBANGING NEW YEAR (2008 Armoury)

Yep, It’s another Bob Kulick album with various guests.  You know what you’re going to get.  Let’s not dilly-dally; let’s crack open the cranberry sauce and see what a Metal Xmas sounds like.

Generic!  A truly ordinary title track features the amazing Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, but it’s a purely cookie-cutter arrangement with all the cheesy adornments you expect.  Ray Luzier fans will enjoy the busy drums, but this does not bode well for the album.

Fortunately it’s Lemmy to the rescue, with “Run Rudolph Run”, an utterly classic performance with Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl.  All spit n’ vinegar with no apologies and nary a mistletoe in sight.  I remember playing this for my sister Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the car one Christmas.

When Lemmy opened his yap, she proclaimed “This is bullshit!  How come they get to make albums and not me?”

Lemmy Kilmister, pissing people off since day one, has done it again.  You can buy the CD for “Run Rudolph Run” even if the rest is utter shit.

A silly “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper echoes “The Black Widow”, but novelty value aside, is not very good.  A joke song can only take you so far, and Alice is usually far more clever.  (At least John 5’s soloing is quite delicious.)  And even though Dio is next, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” comes across as a joke, too.  Which is a shame because the lineup is a Dio/Sabbath hybrid:  Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright.  Dio’s joyless, dead serious interpretation is amusing only because of its unintentional dry humour.

Funny enough, Geoff Tate’s “Silver Bells” has the right attitude.  Even though Geoff is perpetually flat, his spirited version (with Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo and Ray Luzier) kicks up some snow.  That makes me happy, but it pains me to say that Dug Pinnick’s “Little Drummer Boy” (with George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips) doesn’t jingle.  Ripper Owens, Steve More & pals team up next on “Santa Claus is Back in Town”, so bad that it borders on parody.

The most bizarre track is Chuck Billy’s “Silent Night”, with thrash buddies like Scott Ian.  Chuck performs it in his death metal growl, and it’s pure comedy.  Oni Logan can’t follow that with “Deck the Halls”, though it’s pretty inoffensive.  Stephen Pearcy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” adapts the riff from “Tie Your Mother Down” and succeeds in creating a listenable track.  “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” is ably performed by Joe Lynn Turner, sounding a lot like a Christmas party jam.

The final artist is Tommy Shaw with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”.  It’s an authentic version and while not a replacement for the original, will be enjoyable to Styx fans.

Christmas albums by rock artists are, let’s be honest, rarely worthwhile.  This one has only a handful of keepers so spend wisely.

2/5 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!

 

VHS Archives #49: KISS – Gene and Bruce interview mega-mix (May 1992)

Gene Simmons and Bruce Kulick of  visited MuchMusic in May of ’92 for an interview, and to host the Power 30.  There are some real moments of sincerity, such as when they are asked about Eric Carr.  However the clips you are about to watch are also notable for showing how the Power 30 was a drop in quality from the Power Hour.

Unlike previous MuchMusic visits, this one was broadcast in separate segments.  First is an interview by Teresa Roncon; the best part.  Then there is a Power 30 co-hosting gig, and a smattering of interview outtakes from the Kiss Spotlight.  All filmed the same day, but split apart since the Power 30 was too short.

I’ve recently given you two great Power Hour shows with guest hosts.  Rik Emmett from Triumph was a fabulous co-host and also played music in addition to a substantial interview.  Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. picked the tunes for his co-hosting gig, and the candid interview made it one of the best episodes of the entire run of the Power Hour.   Now, here is Kiss co-hosting the shorter Power 30, and there is very little substance.  A bad joke by Gene that went too far and got censored is the only particularly notable moment.  Well, that and Gene’s advice to “fat girls”.  Bruce Kulick seems far more engaged, but it’s jokey and short compared to what the Power Hour used to do.

Stuff to look for:

  • Cool live footage from the Phoenix club in Toronto
  • Gene’s Canadian jokes, which Bruce eventually apologises for
  • Talking about the club tour and playing obscure songs
  • A brief clip from the famed Creatures-era limo interview with Jeanne Bekker
  • Another brief clip from a 1992 Peter Criss interview

I remember when the Kiss spotlight aired, my mom really liked when Gene compared Kiss to “electric church”.  Yeah, my mom loved that….

 

This one required a bit of editing to make it cohesive; I hope you enjoy.

VHS Archives #10: KISS band interview 1992

In 1992, MuchMusic introduced a new Saturday show called Start Me Up that focused on rock.  It helped make up for the diminished Power 30.  It got to the point that Start Me Up was the show to watch for rock and metal, since the Power 30 detoured into grunge and thrash.

Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer of KISS dropped in one afternoon on the Revenge tour.  It’s a strange, stiff interview compared to past KISS appearances on MuchMusic.  Paul Stanley seems to want to answer all of Eric’s questions and aside from Bruce, everyone’s awkward.

By request of reader KK, enjoy this strange Kiss interview from 1992!

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive III (1993)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 44

 – Alive III (1993 Polygram)

A brief club tour warmed ’em up.  The full arena tour put Kiss back on the big stage, this time with a huge statue of liberty in addition to the Kiss sign.  As the show went on, the statue crumbled to reveal a skulled figure…giving the finger.  Not everybody got that.  The tour suffered from very poor attendance in the United States, partly blamed on grunge, and partly blamed on a late start (October).

Regardless, it was clearly time for Kiss Alive III.  There was early talk of Alive III back in 1986, set to follow the next studio album.  That never materialised, and some would argue rightfully so.  Kids of the 80s generation already had their own Alive III:  It was called Animalize Live Uncensored, and with the benefit of hindsight, it easily could and should have been the official Alive III.

The real Kiss Alive III was issued in 1993, produced once again by Eddie Kramer, and in the sacred tradition of all Kiss Alives….was heavily overdubbed in the studio.  It is the only Kiss Alive from the non-makeup era, and therefore the only Alive with the lineup of Stanely, Simmons, Kulick and Singer…and Derek Sherinian on ghost keyboards.  He followed Eric Singer over from the Alice Cooper group.

Although there is some overlap with Kiss Alive and Alive II, the third instalment is largely made of newer material, like opener “Creatures of the Night”.  Some fans were upset that “Detroit Rock City” was moved to the end of the set, but a shakeup on a Kiss setlist is usually a good thing.  Opening with “Creatures” was fresh and set the scene firmly back to the heavy sound of 1982, which really seemed to be what Kiss were trying to re-create.

Gene takes over on “Deuce” (1st repeat – Kiss Alive) and for the first time in years it seemed like Gene didn’t look and act goofy on stage.  Give credit to the beard.  It finally gave Gene an image he could work with.  Meanwhile on stage right, Kulick nails a vintage Kiss guitar sound, but without losing his technical advantages.  Another first:  Kulick finally sounded at home playing Ace Frehley guitar solos.  His revamped greasy rock solos fit love a glove.

But wow, does that crowd noise ever sound fake, and fans say that Paul’s stage raps were recorded later, because they’re not from Detroit, Cleveland or Indianapolis where the album was recorded.  “I Just Wanna” is the first Revenge track, but it sounds sterile like a studio version with glistening backing vocals.  It’s also too early in the album to stop the song for a singalong (and a bad singalong at that).  That’s followed by a fairly flat “Unholy” which, Kiss were discovering, didn’t work as well on stage.  Paul’s “Woo-woo” intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” sounds very dubbed, but the track smokes hotter than it did on prior tours.  You can hear Eric Singer clearly on backing vocals, adding a bit of sweetener to the mix.

“Watchin’ You” came as a surprise, an oldie from Hotter Than Hell (and 2nd repeat – Kiss Alive).  With Eric Singer on drums, they captured the jazzy Peter Criss drum vibe once again, but this time with more power and precision.  This is as close as it ever got to original Kiss.  Some would say it’s even better than original Kiss, but that would just be stating a preference.

Back to Revenge, “Domino” is the first song to really click live.  That’s probably because it was always close to that vintage Kiss vibe.  Another surprise is rolled out:  “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” from 1979’s Dynasty, but Wikipedia says this version was recorded at soundcheck.  Whatever the case may be, it’s not as purely heavy as the one on bootleg Unholy Kisses but it’s still good to have it on an Alive.  A set highlight is “I Still Love You” from Creatures, a real chance for Paul to sing.  In 1992 and 1993, Paul was arguably at his vocal peak strength.

They chose an interesting slot for “Rock and Roll all Nite”:  the first track on side two (original cassette version, side three for LP)!  Again, some fans loudly stated a preference for “Rock and Roll all Nite” (3rd repeat – Kiss Alive) as a closer, but it’s stale no matter where it sits.  It’s followed by 80s classic “Lick It Up”, a good song but always a little sparse in the live setting.  Don’t forget the overplayed “I Love It Loud” which was chosen as the only Alive III single.

“Forever” is a little surprising by its inclusion in the setlist that.  A good ballad, yes:  but was a ballad necessary?  It must have been because according to Paul “Every time we play this one, the place lights up like a damn Christmas tree.”  Also true:  Paul’s stage raps are not at all memorable this time out.  A great example is “Detroit Rock City”, although that may also just be that “Detroit” doesn’t belong near the end of an album (4th repeat – Kiss Alive II).

There was a Japanese/vinyl bonus track, finally available on wider release within the Alive! 1975–2000 box set:  “Take It Off”.  This is the one where the strippers came up on stage; yes indeed, a calculated move to shed Kiss’ kiddie image in the 1990s.  As a live song, it’s way better than  “I Just Wanna”.

Kiss closed the show with the complex anthem “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” followed by an actual anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” as a Bruce Kulick guitar showcase.  This works surprisingly well to wrap up a Kiss Alive that is very different from the other Alives.  Turn it up and hear the bombs bursting in air!

Where does Kiss Alive III sit today among the Alives?  It’s not the worst Alive, but we’ll get there.  Think of it like a movie.  Superman was amazing, and nobody expected Superman II to be as good as Superman.  But it was good enough to make a Superman III which wasn’t as good as I or II.  In reality, Superman III was a total bed-shit, but Alive III is not.  For its flaws, it is a pretty good live album.  There were a lot of live albums out in 1993 for Kiss to compete with:  Iron Maiden (two singles), Ozzy (a double), Van Halen (a double) and Metallica (a triple CD and triple VHS monstrosity).  Alive III is better than most of them (you figure out which).  Kiss were only modestly asking you to part with a single CD’s worth of money, and if you bought it at certain stores you’d get an Alive III poster while supplies lasted.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

Alive III finally behind them, Kiss were still not ready to record their next studio album.  For better or for worse, the post-Alive III era was a complicated, scattershot period with a few interesting releases to cover.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/11

#690: Unholy Kisses

GETTING MORE TALE #690: Unholy Kisses

Kiss’ Revenge album (last discussed in Part 43 of the Kiss Re-Review Series) was an album that I had been waiting for a long time.  Not just in terms of the three year gap between it and Hot in the Shade.  I loved Kiss, but it had been a long time since they put out an album quite as solid as Revenge.  I wore my Kiss shirt with pride.

I can still remember the day I got my Revenge shirt, in Kincardine Ontario of all places.  My parents bought it for me at a local now-defunct clothing store.  As we browsed my dad asked, “Did you find a shirt, son?”

“Yep,” I answered.  “This one is cool, because it has the new Kiss member on it.”

“Yeah,” my dad said with a disapproving smirk.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bearded guy before…”

But the new guy wasn’t Gene Simmons, silly dad.  It was the blonde Eric Singer, the first guy to break the Kiss hair colour code.  Yeah, I was proud to rock that shirt.

The parents were good to us.  Any time there was a record show (or record faire) within an hour’s driving distance, they would take us.  You usually had to drive to either Guelph or London.  Sometimes they’d even help us out with a little cash.  No matter how much you budget for a record show, you’ll never bring enough cash.  The treasures are far too numerous and tempting.

One has to learn to categorise and quantify things in order to successfully navigate a record show on a limited budget.  I have really distinct memories of one in Guelph; the one where I found the indispensable Kiss Unholy Kisses bootleg.

I knew going in that I wanted to buy a bootleg on CD.  I had a few on cassette, but never a CD before.  Record shows always had a table or two with guys selling CD bootlegs.  They were never cheap and you could typically expect to pay $40 for a single CD.  That’s how I budgeted it out.

I did plan to buy a little more than that, so I brought extra cash.  My first buy was a 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More, a UK import.  It had two live tracks on the B-side (“Woodpecker From Mars” and “Epic” recorded by the BBC).  I was trying to get a decent Faith No More collection so I picked that one early.

Meanwhile my sister found Bryan Adam’s first single, “Let Me Take You Dancing”.  Bryan started as a Disco artist, and his voice was sped up in the mixing in order to make it higher.  He has since disowned the song, and a CD release in any official capacity is highly unlikely.  She definitely found something of value to her.  As an added bonus, the record came with a story.

“I tried to get Bryan Adams to sign it,” said the vendor.  “I handed it to him and he refused.”  So my sister owns a record that Bryan Adams actually refused to sign and we both think that is pretty hilarious.

One thing about record shows that you need to be aware of:  there are always some vendors who are assholes.  It’s just part of the scenery of a record show.  As my sister and I looked around, one of them shouted out at her.

“People will think you stole that,” he said pointing to her Bryan Adams record.  “It’s not in a bag.”

We explained that she bought the record from another vendor.

“You need a bag.  Buy something from me and I give you a bag.  People will think you steal.”

“Here, put it in my bag,” I said to my sister.  “No thanks,” I added to the vendor, as we made sure not to buy anything from him.  He didn’t have anything we wanted anyway.

But what about bootlegs?  That decision had to be weighed.  There was so much to choose from.  The Black Crowes?  Black Sabbath?  They had a CD of early Def Leppard tracks with Frank Noon on drums.  That one was sorely tempting.  Leppard were another band I was trying to collect.  What I really hoped to find though, was Kiss.

There it was:  Unholy Kisses.  Recorded live in San Francisco April 23, 1992.  Revenge wasn’t even out yet when it was taped.  Although other Kiss bootlegs were present, I chose Unholy Kisses for a number of reasons.

  1. My first live versions of “Unholy” and “Take It Off”.
  2. My first live Kiss with Eric Singer.
  3. My first live version of “I Was Made for Loving You”, the old Kiss Disco classic.
  4. A host of other Kiss oldies they hadn’t played live in ages.

I chose wisely.  Unholy Kisses is a great fucking bootleg.

The club setting provides for a very loud concert recording.  It only amplifies the raw heavy new sound of Kiss.  Bruce Kulick nailed a greasy toned and Eric Singer?  Holy shit, did the oldies ever sound amazing with him behind them!  Yes indeed, the new Kiss lineup was excitement personified.  God bless Eric Carr, who will forever have a place in every fan’s heart.  With Eric Singer, Kiss found a credible way to carry on.  Any new member brings their own style and influence to Kiss.  When a drummer is a talented and versatile as Eric Singer, it enables a band to really play.

And strangely enough, during the Singer/Kulick era, one could make serious arguments for Kiss becoming a player’s kind of rock band.  Kulick, for certain, is one of the most talented guys to ever play guitar in Kiss, up there against Vinnie Vincent.  Kulick can play absolutely anything and strove to do new things on every Kiss album.  Whatever Bruce wrote, Singer could play.  This would spill onto the next studio album.

The Kiss Re-Review Series does not require another Unholy Kisses review.  It is bang-on.  For your convenience, you will find the full review below.

If you are even just a casual Kiss fan, pick up Unholy Kisses if you find it in the wild.  There are few official live Kiss albums as good as this.


KISS – Unholy Kisses (Audience recorded bootleg, 1992 Flashback)

“You know who we are, let’s kick some ass!”

That’s how Paul Stanley introduced the legendary Kiss on their stripped-down 1992 club tour, April 23 1992 in San Francisco.  The Revenge album was a “reboot” of sorts, out of necessity.  New drummer, new attitude, and a return to the producer (Bob Ezrin) who helped make them huge.  A return to the clubs without the lights, stage show, and costumes helped Kiss transition into the 90’s.  If this one bootleg CD is any indication, then the club tour was a huge success.

Eschewing their normal opening routine, the band entered to the sound of “Love Gun”, but heavier than ever.  Many fans consider the Simmons/Stanley/Kulick/Singer lineup to be among their best, and this live bootleg proves why.  In fantastic voice, Paul leads this devastating lineup to demolish the clubs in their wake.  Full of adrenaline, “Love Gun” is faster than its studio counterpart, and Bruce Kulick creates his own individual guitar solo that fits the track.

Gene’s next on “Deuce”, the new lineup infusing it with menace.  The CD, though obviously a bootleg, sounds great.  Even though the drums are a bit distant you can hear that Eric Singer has come into the band paying homage to the drum parts he inherited.  Then Paul takes a moment to tell the audience that they’ve been so fired up about the way Kiss have been sounding, that they just got to come down to San Fransisco and play.  A rough opening to “Heaven’s On Fire” is a mere hiccup after they get going on the hit single.  For the first time you can clearly hear new guy Eric Singer singing background vocals.

“You ready to hear something old? One of those Kiss klassics?  Bruce – let ’em have a taste.”  Then the shocked audience picked up their jaws as Kiss slammed through “Parasite” for the first time since 1976.  Returning to songs like this was critical for a band who spent the 80’s largely ignoring the deep cuts.

One thing I love about bootleg CDs is the chance to overhear some audience chatter.  “Shout it Out Loud” however is marred by one nearby fan who keeps singing “You got to have a party,” even when that’s not the current part of the song!  Minor beef, as “Shout it Out Loud” rocks and is another song that was tragically ignored during most of the 80’s.

“How many of you people have Kiss Alive?  Gene must know this one.  Gene’s got Kiss Alive.  Goes like this!”  There begins “Strutter” (also from the first Kiss album) and the crowd goes nuts.  “Dr. Love” follows, with Eric Singer showing off some fancy footwork on the double bass drums.

Fans who were shocked by these old tunes must really have lost their minds when “I Was Made For Loving You”, heavy as hell, tore through the club.  “I Was Made For Loving You” was re-imagined as a chugging metal track and in the club environment, it’s only more raw and aggressive.  Then Paul lets another bomb drop when he introduces “100,000 years” from the first album.  “Oh my God!  I don’t fucking believe it! I do not fucking believe it!” says one nearby fan, obviously excited by this rarity.  It’s incredible how well Bruce and Eric adapted to the sound of old raunchy Kiss.

But what of new Kiss?  The band weren’t ready to start unveiling all the new songs, as Revenge hadn’t even come out yet.  They did roll out two: the first single “Unholy”, and album cut “Take it Off”.

“We got a new album about to come out,” begins Paul.  “And I’ll tell you something, this album is the shit.  I’ll tell you, this album is our fuckin’ Revenge and when you hear the album you’ll know what I’m talking about.”  Indeed, as promised the new songs kick ass, though “Unholy” is kind of awkward in the live setting.  “Take it Off” is more like Kiss.

It’s all oldies from here.   Aside from the new Revenge songs, the most recent track that Kiss played here was “Heaven’s On Fire” from 1984!  (Note: this CD is not the full concert and 1985’s “Tears are Falling” was also played that night.)  I think it’s safe to say that Paul and Gene understand some of the errors in direction they made over the last 10 years, and successfully steered the ship back on track.  “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin” from the first album are present. “I Stole Your Love”, “Detroit Rock City”, and “I Want You” close the CD.  “I Stole Your Love” with the backing vocals of Eric Singer is top-notch!

The songs played that night that aren’t on this CD are “God of Thunder”, “Lick It Up”, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” (its live debut), “Rock and Roll all Nite” and the aforementioned “Tears Are Falling”.  Too bad this is only a single CD bootleg, but bootlegs were so expensive that a double would have cost at least $60-80.  If it was a double, I never would have bought it and heard what I have of this awesome show!

4.5/5 stars

UNHOLY KISSES_0003

CD KISStitics

Songs: