crazy nights

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 42:  Eric Carr solo #2.

EC_Unfinished_Business_2011ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)

Even though 2000’s Rockology compilation released a treasure trove of unheard goodies for the fans, there is always more to sell.  For the 20th anniversary of Eric’s passing, another batch of tracks were unearthed.  Some are mere filler, some are pretty decent.  Fans of the beloved  drummer will have to sift through the bad to get to the good.

There are a couple Kiss songs here for the diehard fans.  “No One’s Messin’ With You” is yet another demo of what would become “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.  A third called “Ain’t That Peculiar” was released on the 2001 Kiss Box Set.  This is an almost completely different set of lyrics, although it does have the “Hey Little Caesar” chorus.  In chronological terms, this version probably falls between the other two, with lyrics still a work in progress and a different verse melody.  Then there’s “Shandi”, from Eric’s Kiss audition tape, with brand new acoustic backing music.  Unfortunately, Eric’s shaky voice (or a warbly tape) makes this totally unlistenable.

One of Rockology‘s highlights was “Just Can’t Wait” which was crying out for a lead vocal to finish it off.  This was completed by Ted Poley of Danger Danger.  Though the backing track lacks the fidelity of a proper Kiss recording, the song has taken shape as the shoulda-coulda-been hit that it is.  Eric would have been proud and very happy to hear it as a finished song.

The unfinished “Troubles Inside You” is a demo with regular Kiss collaborator and Beatlemania member Mitch Weissman.  It was recorded at Gene Simmons’ house, but the old cassette must have deteriorated pretty badly.  The music is barely audible, though hints of a good song shine through.  Two more Kiss outtakes include the legendary “Dial L For Love” and “Elephant Man”.  These were written for Crazy Nights and Revenge, respectively.  Neither were finished by Carr.  “Dial L For Love” has the bones of a good song with a unique riff.  Eric only managed to finish the lyrics for “Elephant Man”, but here it is given music and life by a group of musicians including the late A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, and ex-Europe guitarist Kee Marcello.  Singer Bob Gilmartin did a great job of it, turning “Elephant Man” into a cross between ballad and rocker, and something Kiss totally could have done on Revenge.  “Midnight Stranger” is another unfinished riff.  Ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was slated to overdub brand new solos for this instrumental, but he too passed before he could finish.  This is the original cassette demo.  The riff sounds like a brother to “Carr Jam”.  They are definitely related.

“Carr Jam 1981” is, unfortunately, not the original unaltered Elder demo.  It is a cover by drummer Joey Cassata, and a very authentic one at that.  Same with “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Just a cover, not a demo, by Cassata’s band Z02. Pretty good stuff, at least.  New backing music was recorded for “Eyes of Love”, a song previously released on Rockology.  The Rockology version with Bruce Kulick on guitar is superior.

Finally, some real serious archival treasures:  an Eric Carr drum solo basement tape (same as his live Kiss solo), and a 1967 recording by Eric’s first band The Cellarmen!  That’s Eric on lead vocals too.  It definitely sounds of its time. Added filler include a few interview bits and clips, including one with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin about Eric.

If the first Eric Carr CD release was best left to hardcore fans, it’s doubly true of the second one.  This is a fans-only release, period.  It is highly unlikely anyone else would get much enjoyment from this low-fi set.

2/5 stars

Although Carr’s loss was devastating to both fans and the band, there was no question Kiss would carry on with imminent Revenge….

 

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RE-REVIEW: Eric Carr – Rockology (2000)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 41Eric Carr solo #1.

It’s back and picking up right where we left off:  the death of Eric Carr.  The previous chapter of this series was posted November 8 2017, with the intention to talk about Eric Carr’s demos next, before moving on to his replacement.  When Eric died of cancer in 1991, he left behind several tapes of unreleased material that have since been issued on CD.  Likewise, the Kiss Re-Review Series was derailed by Mrs. LeBrain’s cancer diagnosis, but will carry on now that she is well.  Thank you for your patience!

ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)

The late  drummer Eric Carr was frustrated towards the end.  He was writing good material, but it was always being rejected by Paul and Gene.  In the press, Eric would tow the company line and explain that everybody else had such good songs, that there was no room for his.  In his heart, he was hurt and felt shunned.

Eric Carr wasn’t just a drummer.  He could sing lead, and he could write.  Kiss’ single “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” was an Eric idea.  He co-wrote “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” with Bryan Adams.  Although his writing credits on Kiss albums were sparse, he had plenty of material in the can.  2000’s Rockology is a series of those demos, some in a near-finished state and some left incomplete.  Much of this material was intended for a cartoon Eric was working on called The Rockheads.  10 years later, Bruce Kulick finished recording some guitar parts and mixed it for release.  He also wrote liner notes explaining the origins and Eric’s intentions for each track.

Eric didn’t have a particularly commercial voice, falling somewhere south of a Gene Simmons growl.  There’s no reason why Gene couldn’t have sung “Eyes of Love” from 1989, which has more balls than a lot of Hot in the Shade.  This demo has Eric on drums and bass, and Bruce Kulick on guitar with a solo overdubbed in 1999.  It doesn’t sound like a finished Kiss song, but it could have been tightened up to become one.  Same with the ballad “Everybody’s Waiting”.  It sounds custom written for Paul Stanley.  But it was 1989, and nothing was going to displace “Forever” from the album, nor should it have.

Many of the demos have no words.  “Heavy Metal Baby” features Eric scatting out a loose melody.  This heavy and chunky riff would have been perfect for the later Revenge album, had Eric lived.  In a strange twist, several of the best songs are instrumentals.  The hidden gem on this CD is the unfinished “Just Can’t Wait”.  It could have given Journey and Bon Jovi a run for their money.   Eric, Bruce and Adam Mitchell wrote it for Crazy Nights, and you can almost hear a killer chorus just waiting to leap out at you.  This potential hit could have been the best song on Crazy Nights, had it been finished.

“Mad Dog” has nothing to do with the Anvil song of the same name.  The chorus is there but the verses are a work in progress.  This hard rocker from 1987 was probably too heavy for what Kiss were doing, though it would have added some much needed groove.  “You Make Me Crazy” is in a similar state of completion and boasts a tap-tastic solo by Bruce.  Apparently this demo was originally called “Van Halen” and you can hear why.  Two versions of a song called “Nightmare” exist, including a really rough one without drums.  This incomplete song could have really been something special.  It has a dramatic feel and different moods, and was probably too sophisticated for Kiss, though any number of 80s rock bands would have been lucky to have such good material.

The last batch of tracks show off the Rockheads material.  Whether Eric’s cartoon idea ever would have happened or not, the advent of bobble-heads and Pops would have made marketing easy.   The songs are virtually complete though the drums are programmed.  “Too Cool For School” is a little cartoony, which is the point, right?  For keyboard ballads, “Tiara” showed promise.  It’s not the equal of “Reason to Live” but it demonstrates a side to Eric unheard before.  Next, Bruce says that they always wanted Bryan Adams to cover “Do You Feel It”.  It would have fit Adams like a nice jean jacket.  Not that Adams really needed the help, it would have been awesome on Waking Up the Neighbors.  The set closes with “Nasty Boys”, nothing exceptional.  It sounds like a song called “Nasty Boys” would sound…or anything by 80s Kiss really.

Before you spend your hard-earned dollars, remember that these songs are definitely unfinished. They are as polished as possible given some of their rough (cassette) origins. Eric’s talent still shines, but you have to be a fan.  Especially a fan of 80s Kiss.  They will find it to be a crucial companion piece to their collections.

Long live the Fox!

Today’s rating:

3/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2014/04/24

REVIEW: KISS – In the Land of the Rising Sun (live 1988 bootleg)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 33

 – In the Land of the Rising Sun (Big Boy Records bootleg from 1988 tour)

If you are in the mood for some live Kiss from the late 80s, then your journey might just come to an end here: Kiss at the Budokan, Tokyo Japan, April 22 1988. It’s not the last live Kiss from 1988 that we’ll examine, but it’s decent.  This 2 CD set boasts a more extensive track selection than Monsters of Rock, recorded in Germany in August.  It’s an audience recording, but above average quality.  It sounds like it is sourced from a previous vinyl generation.

In Germany, Kiss opened with “Deuce”, but in Japan, they didn’t even play it.  Instead they opened with “Love Gun”, chased immediately with some “Cold Gin”.  Therefore, it’s cool to have a couple bootlegs from this tour, to get a broader range of songs.  Japan also heard “Bang Bang You” from Crazy Nights.  Not a highlight to be sure, but a rarity that Kiss fans will want in their bootleg collection.  In a strange twist, “Fits Like a Glove” is split into two tracks, just like it was on the Germany CD, made by a completely different company.

Bruce Kulick’s solo before “No No No” is much longer, leading us to think that the solo on the Germany CD was edited for length.  This is the one to check out, to hear what kind of solo Bruce was playing in 1988.  Kulick is continuously impressive.  He always does justice to the original Ace Frehley (or Vinnie Vincent) ideas, but by playing his own solos with the right feel.  His technique is all but flawless.  This disc also has the Eric Carr drum solo and Gene’s bass solo intro to “I Love it Loud”.

There are plenty of tunes here that either weren’t played in Germany or just weren’t on that CD:  “Bang Bang You” (see above), “Calling Dr. Love”, “Reason to Live”, “War Machine”, “Lick It Up”, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, “Shout it Out Loud”, and “Strutter”.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” hadn’t been played live since 1980.

Almost every bootleg CD I own has some amusing mistake or quirk that I enjoy picking out.  This has a couple.  The label can’t decide if it’s named “Big Boy” (inner sleeve) or “Big Apple” (disc itself).  There are three “producers” and two “engineers” credited, for a bootleg CD.  I guess Eddie Kramer wasn’t available.  Kiss is credited on the disc as — not Kiss! — as the “Metal Boys of New York”!  Finally, in order to appear that nobody was making money off Kiss’ back, it is claimed on the CD that this “promotional copy” is “not for sale”.

Don’t let that deter you.  Buy it if you find it.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: KISS – Monsters of Rock (live 1988 bootleg)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 32

 – Monsters of Rock (Mistral Music bootleg from 1988 tour)

Oh, live bootlegs!  A fascinating and labyrinthine assortment of live Kiss bootlegs are out there, but don’t always expect the covers and song titles to match the actual contents!  Kiss didn’t release a live album from the Crazy Nights tour, as was expected by many fans.  An old Faces magazine from 1986 proclaimed, “Already there is talk of the next studio album, and Alive III.”  Instead we have numerous bootlegs from this period to sift through.

This CD is without any notes, but fans pieced together that it’s Schweinfurt, Germany, August 27 1988.  Kiss opened with “Deuce” rather than “Detroit”, and the energy is electric.  Bruce Kulick did a fine job of adapting his style to the old Kiss songs, and “Deuce” demonstrates that Bruce really was the right guy for the band.  He’s awesome but he plays for the song and not himself.  “Love Gun” is next, truly an awesome song, and with Paul at the peak of his vocal prowess, it rarely sounds better.  Meanwhile, Eric Carr sings the backing vocals impeccably, but there’s an annoying electronic drum that he hits at the end of it, a very 80s touch that wasn’t necessary.

The Kiss classics you’ve heard a million times are great as always, but what about the newer material from Crazy Nights?  It takes a while to get there.  “No No No” and “Crazy Crazy Nights” are crammed back to back in the middle of the set.  “No No No” acts as Bruce’s big solo too, which is fantastic, but the song isn’t.  It’s a shambles, as if they don’t know exactly how to play it.  “Crazy Crazy Nights” is much better, almost a classic.  They follow that up with the also-recent “Tears are Falling”.

One cool surprise is a bit of “Heartbreaker” right before “Fits Like a Glove” which is strangely split up between two tracks.  Another surprise is obtrusive keyboards.  Since Kiss had an offstage keyboardist now, maybe they felt like they had to use him on songs like “Cold Gin” that totally do not need keyboards.  In fact it’s like oil and water.  The keyboards roll off the rock and roll like an annoying rain storm.

The CD has some audio issues, odd noises here and there.  Ignore the track list on the back which is nonsense.  You’ll find the real track information below for your convenience.  At least the back cover credited keyboardist Gary Corbett, surely a rarity.  For a real howler though, check out the front cover.  That’s not Bruce, and that’s not 1988!

With all respect to Ace Frehley, the originator and influencer, I think Bruce Kulick is the finest guitar player that Kiss ever had.  His solo career is certainly worth investigating, and so is live Kiss from his time in the band.  Monsters of Rock is difficult to recommend over others, but if you find it within your price range, go for it.

3/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 29 

 – Crazy Nights (1987 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Here’s a little song for everybody out there.

It’s a song that is a recurring theme for Kiss in the 1980s.  It’s a down and out song: Asylum failed to live up to commercial hopes and the band only  toured in North America.  Paul Stanley was still firmly in control of Kiss.  His partner Gene Simmons was now a record label mogul.  He signed Loz Netto and House of Lords.  Meanwhile, Paul observed bands like Bon Jovi who once opened for them, now eclipsing their success.

Kiss chose producer Ron Nevison for their next album tentatively titled Who Dares Wins.  Nevison had recently produced big hits for Heart and Ozzy Osbourne, and Kiss aimed to follow along.  The new music was the most commercial they’d written since 1980’s Unmasked.  Big name songwriters participated on all but two songs.  Much to the chagrin of Kiss fans, keyboards were brought on heavily for the sessions.  Paul had been writing on keyboards for the first time.  (In concert, keys were played offstage by Gary Corbett.)

The album was renamed Crazy Nights, preceded by first single and video, “Crazy Crazy Nights”. From the first “Woo!”, it’s far too bright and shiny. It’s one of those “gosh, this is so inspiring!” tunes that you’re embarrassed to like.  “They try to tell us that we don’t belong, but that’s alright, we’re millions strong.”  The awkward change to a higher key at the end is annoying as Paul hits absurd notes.  Bruce Kulick’s guitar playing is exemplary, a showcase of true technical mastery, but not the kind of playing associated with classic Kiss.

A pretty stinky song called “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” is a mish-mash of mismatched parts and very high notes.  It inspired my neighbor George to say, “If a song this poor made the album, can you imagine the songs that didn’t?”  Gene wrote about 25 songs for Crazy Nights.  Shudder.  “Bang Bang You” is pretty weak too, keeping things in “park” rather than “drive”.  It’s also the second time Paul referrs to a previous Kiss song in the lyrics.  This time Paul states that he’s gonna “shoot you down with my Love Gun, baby.”  On “Crazy Crazy Nights”, Paul stated that we “Love It Loud”.  Reminding fans of better songs from more nostalgic times?

Bruce Kulick gets a smoking guitar into on Gene’s first track, “No No No”.  Every trick in the book is thrown down in a mere 45 seconds.  The track is a sudden fast thrash into heavier territory.  However it’s track 4, and it’s Gene’s first song?  That’s problem numero uno.  The second issue is Gene’s newfound smooth singing style.  The demonic growl is gone, and Gene adopted a clean voice that does not really sound much like Gene Simmons.  He continues that style on “Hell Or High Water”, a pretty good tune in fact.

Things go a ridiculous extreme on “My Way”, another one of Paul’s “inspirational” tunes.  “I’m gonna talk like I talk, walk like I walk, My Way.”  Sinatra this is not.  What sinks it are the stupidly high notes that Paul hits.  Paul Stanley was simply one of the great voices in rock, bar none.  He could do things that few people this side of Freddie Mercury could do.  But just because you have a car that can go 200 mph doesn’t mean you have to keep it floored.  Save it for when it counts.

Side two commences with another atrocity, “When Your Walls Come Down”, which never would have been in consideration for a better album.  Consider that Eric Carr wrote a number of ideas for this album that weren’t used, like “Dial L For Love”.  That unfinished song had a Van Hagar vibe that was on trend, and potentially better than crap like “When Your Walls Come Down”.

The first Kiss ballad since “I Still Love You” on Creatures of the Night (1982) is “Reason to Live”.  A weak ballad is of little interest, and the music video surprised some by having Bruce Kulick on stage playing damn keyboards!  Paul and his buddy Desmond Child are responsible for a song we’d rather forget.

Simmons returns with a great number called “Good Girl Gone Bad”.  Cliche title aside, this understated dusky prowler has melodic qualities in common with some of Gene’s better material on Unmasked.  Another decent song, Paul’s “Turn On the Night” is a hokey but good enough anthem for the 80s.  It’s co-written by Diane Warren, who later scored it big with a little song called “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing“.  It will be too bright for some fans, but it’s a tasty pill if you can swallow it.  Paul has always had a way with a chorus.  Bruce’s solo is another standout.  “Turn On the Night” is actually pretty good.  The music video seemed to be a continuation from “Reason to Live”.  The blonde woman that torched Paul’s car seems to be now sabotaging a Kiss concert on a roof top?  I’m very confused.

Crazy Nights ends with a fart, a pretty low-grade Simmons tune named “Thief in the Night”.  On a better produced album like Creatures, a song like this could have smoked the competition.  On a plastic, thin album like Crazy Nights, it completely misses the gut.

It’s probably unfair to lay the blame for Crazy Nights at the feet of Paul Stanley and Ron Nevison.  If Gene wasn’t out trying to discover the next big band, and was actually focused on Kiss, could they have gotten it together?  The fact is that Kiss are at their best when running full steam.  It’s always been a partnership between Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons as the primary writers.  Crazy Nights represents a point at which these partners were working like broken cogs.

It’s a damn shame.

Today’s rating:

1.75/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

0/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  For this Meat’s slice, we include an actual commentary, as Uncle Meat listened to the album in real time.

Uncle Meat:
This first shit tune…sounds like a wrestling entrance.

Mike LeBain:
Totally.
It’s of the time.

UM:
It’s shit.

ML:
You couldn’t even give this 0 steaks.

UM:
It’s Warrant…It’s Poison…It’s shit.

ML:
You’d have to go to rotten ground beef for this.
And that’s…fuck what’s his name…

UM:
And that key change is ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!! So awful.

ML
…Ron Nevison produced.

UM:
This is shit.

ML:
Enjoy my friend.
It gets pretty silly later.
Wait until you hear My Way.
Mark my words.
Reemember: MY WAY.
I’ll walk like I walk, talk like I talk, My Way…

UM:
If I end up taking a walk and killing a 48 year old Chinese woman…It’s on you my friend.

ML:
I realize that.
It’s right here in permanent Internet records.

UM:
Well…first absolute shit tune is over…and it’s rated dung.

ML:
Second song is worse.

UM:
The shit storm is over Randy…
Oh no it’s not Mr Lahey…because here comes song 2.
I’m using that in my review of this album…

ML:
HAHAHAHAHAH

UM:
I’m so glad I shaved my head two days ago…or I would be lighting my hair on fire.
Bang Bang You…just about to start.
I see it’s a Desmond Child vehicle.
Grrrr
This is so garbage…hot steaming garbage.
I dont know if I can do this whole album.

ML:
HAHAHAHAHA Bang Bang You…
You have to finish it now.

UM:
I hate this.

ML:
You can tell this is the period when Gene wasn’t around anymore.

UM:
My bum is embarrassed for my ears right now.

ML:
You think this is bad, I invite you to play Hot in the Shade.

UM:
OK…fuck man…it’s only song 4 of this one…hold it now.

ML:
I’ll shoot you down with my love gun baby.

UM:
I’m not guaranteeing I’m getting through this one.

ML:
You can’t walk away now.

UM:
And…I might just review the first 4 songs…and say… ok…I’m done…don’t care about the rest…goodbye.
Goodbye.
That would make a point.

ML
Nope you HAVE to play MY WAY.
I need you to hear track 6.

UM:
Who is singing No No No?
Kulick?

ML:
Gene.

UM:
Doesn’t sound like him.

ML:
He doesn’t sound like him on any of the album.

UM:
Oh…ok…he sounds different.

ML:
Nevison forced him to drop his normal voice.

UM:
Passable.

ML:
Barely.

UM:
Kinda reminds me of Skyscraper by David Lee Roth.

ML:
Same era.
Very plastic and keyboardy and samply on the drums.

UM:
Better than the first 3.
Eric carr’s only writing credit.
Does Kulick or Carr sing any tunes?

ML:
Nope just Gene or Paul.
Eric was promised a song and didn’t get one which made him very bitter.
Apparently he stopped speaking to Paul around the next album.

UM:
I mean on any album.

ML
Eric sings two.
He sings Beth on Smashes and Thrashes.
And Little Caesar on Hot in the Shade.
Bruce sings one.
I Walk Alone on Carnival of Souls.

UM:
Ok…that’s weird.

ML:
Funny thing there:
Both guys sang their first original Kiss songs on their LAST Kiss albums.
In Fact Bruce’s song is the last song on his last Kiss album.

UM:
Neat.

ML:
In the current band Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer both have two lead vocals each.

UM:
Hell or High Water is…boring…not offensive like earlier.
Sounds like Tesla.

ML:
But you can hear his voice is smooth not rough.

UM:
I just wrote down one line now in the first minute of My Way.
“Bon Jovi can fuck right the fuck off already”.
Oh man this smells.
It’s like actual runny sharts are oozing throught this speaker.
OK… Reason to Live is on a new shelf of shit. Holy Fuck. Of course…Desmond Fucking Child. What a shit hat.
It sounds like St. Elmos Fire meets Michael Bolton working out in a shit gym.
OK…I’m done it’s off…I can’t do anymore…no fucking way.
Done.

 


Crazy Nights is the last album reissued in the Mercury CD remasters series.  No album more recent than this has been remastered and reissued.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/04

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Rockology (2000)

ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)

Eric Carr, who should by all rights be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his bandmates, is such a tragic loss.  He earned himself a legion of fans after just 10 years in Kiss.  Knowing that Marko Fox is one such fan, I asked him what the other Fox meant to him:

“Being both a Fox and a drummer, I can positively say that Eric Carr’s work on Creatures of the Night remains one of the coolest achievements in rock…If only I could figure out how to master his makeup design…”

All true.  But Eric Carr wasn’t just a drummer. He could play enough guitar and bass to write songs, and he could sing. His voice wasn’t super commercial, but neither is Gene Simmons’.  One reason his loss is painful is because Eric was a virtually untapped well of creativity.  I think every Kiss fan knows that Eric Carr was unhappy that he had so few lead vocals and writing credits on his Kiss albums.

Rockology is a series of demos, some in a near-finished state and some left incomplete. Recorded in the late 80’s, before Eric knew he was sick, these were to be used for cartoons and other miscellaneous projects. Bruce Kulick finished recording some guitar parts and mixed it 10 years later.  He also wrote liner notes explaining origins and intentions for each track.

While there is nothing here that screams “hit single” today, in the late 80’s it would be easy to imagine “Somebody’s Waiting” on the radio with Paul Stanley singing. It would fit right into that Kiss Hot In The Shade or Crazy Nights era. Other songs here are more heavy and riff based, such as the Gene-esque opener “Eyes of Love”. When Eric sings the heavier songs, his voice falls into a Gene-like monster growl. On the ballads, his falsetto echoes Paul Stanley. Most songs here would have made excellent Kiss album tracks. Most are better than the filler that Kiss was padding their albums with in the late 80’s. It is a shame none of these songs were finished by Kiss themselves, as the full band would have made them more special.

Best track: the unfinished “Just Can’t Wait”.  This instrumental has a really catchy guitar part, and I just know if it had been finished with verses and a chorus, it would have been classic.  It was written for Crazy Nights by Eric, Bruce and Adam Mitchell.

Special mention must of course go to Bruce Kulick.  He overdubbed guitar solos for a few of the songs, and I am sure each one came from the heart.  Bruce is a very intelligent musician, but he’s also more passionate than he often gets credit for.  I’m sure for Bruce it was passion rather than money that inspired him here.

Buyer beware, however: These songs are definitely unfinished. They are as polished as possible given some of their rough origins, but in some cases there are no drums, just drum machines. In other cases, there are no lyrics, just scratch vocals. Eric’s talent still shines on every song. His is a life that Kiss fans will continue to mourn.

The Kiss army, especially the lovers of the 80’s, need this as a crucial companion piece to their collections. Everybody else will have a tough time justifying owning it.

Long live the Fox!

3/5 stars

CARR_0003

REVIEW: KISS – The Ritz On Fire (2013)

NEW RELEASE

KISS – The Ritz On Fire (2013 Gold Fish, recorded 1988)

This is hard to get. I got mine via eBay; Scott the Scot found his locally. Fandom went into panic mode when all Amazon pre-orders were abruptly cancelled. We all figured that Kiss’ lawyers stopped its release. It had still made it to the manufacturing stage, and enough copies have surfaced on the market that it is already a collectible that can be afforded.

If you love that poorly documented period that is late 80’s Kiss, you will love The Ritz On Fire. August 12, 1988, The Ritz, New York City. A radio broadcast, from the Crazy Nights tour. It’s not live album quality, but it’s a radio broadcast and therefore listenable. There are issues on some songs, such as “Love Gun” where Paul’s voice is too low in the mix while the drums remain more than audible. It’s such a joy to have a live recording with Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick that fans will be happy to overlook such defects.

It’s also cool to revisit some under-appreciated Kiss klassics: “Fits Like A Glove” from Lick It Up, “War Machine” from Creatures, and “Tears Are Falling” from Asylum are among the songs that are hard to find in live form. It’s also a pleasure to hear this lineup tackle Destroyer‘s “Shout It Out Loud” which was rarely performed back then.

MVP: No disprect to the late Eric Carr intended, but Bruce Kulick blows me away with his dexterity and diversity. His solos are highlights of every single song. He doesn’t emulate his predecessors, nor does he play inappropriately for the songs. Also worth mentioning is Paul Stanley. Once they get the vocal levels right, it’s a pleasure to hear Paul Stanley at his vocal peak singing live. The songs aren’t all downtuned like they are today, and some songs like “Crazy Crazy Nights” are really up there.

Eric Carr…he had his own style, and after hearing Eric Singer ably fill his shoes for so long now, we can be reminded how Eric Carr played them. He had his own signature drum rolls, and of course that unmistakable raspy voice on “Black Diamond”. Nobody was confusing Eric Carr with Peter Criss, on the drums or on the microphone; Eric’s rasp was completely different from Peter’s. He was almost a cross between Criss and Simmons.

Best of all, this is really live. We saw Kiss “singing” to backing tapes at Dodger Stadium on Saturday January 25 on national television. Meanwhile, Paul wasn’t actually singing anything at all. Not so on The Ritz On Fire. Yes, keyboardist Gary Corbett was backstage sweetening the sound and adding backing vocals, but they were live. The Ritz On Fire is all the stronger for it.

4.5/5 stars

RITZ ON FIRE_0002

More KISS at mikeladano.com:

Complete KISS reviews + Complete ACE FREHLEY reviews 

PETER CRISSCriss EP review + GENE SIMMONSAsshole review

Record Store Tales Part 3:  My First KISS + Part 8:  You Wanted the Best +
Part 77:  Psycho-Circus Part 151:  24kt KISS…cheap at twice the price +
Part 152:  Carnival of Lost Souls Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos 
Part 179: Phantom of the Opera Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

REVIEW: Gene Simmons – Family Jewels Season One (with bonus CD)

Purchased in February 2013, at the same store in which Uncle Meat used to work.  I paid $9.99, used.

GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS – The Complete Season One (2004 A&E with bonus CD)

Since my primary interest in adding this to my collection is the music rather than the TV show, I’ll discuss the CD first.  The bonus CD is apparently an Amazon.com (not .ca) exclusive, currently selling for about $13 plus shipping.  The CD comprises just two songs:  ”Rain Keeps Falling” (sounds like a possible Crazy Nights/Hot in the Shade outtake) and “You’re My Reason For Living” (sounds much more recent).  These are from the “forthcoming” Gene Simmons box set called Monster.  (I’m guessing he won’t be using that title now eh?)  Considering that Amazon.com still advertises the Gene Simmons Monster box set as “coming in 2007”, I wonder how much longer it’ll be!

With demos of this nature it’s fairly usual for Gene to play all instruments himself and have a drum machine behind him, and that’s how “Rain Keeps Falling” comes across.  The guitar work is basic but it gets the idea across, but I do hate the sound of a drum machine!  It’s a pretty decent song.  The verses could use some work  but I think the choruses are pretty good!

SAM_2299“You’re My Reason For Living” is a ballad, and sounds like it could have been demoed for the Asshole album.  It’s too bad it’s not on there, as it would have been the classiest song on the album.  It was actually written long ago, pre-Kiss, but it’s obvious that this is a much more recent rendition.  This is a very basic soul song, as interpreted by Gene.  Although his voice is pretty limited, the intentions behind it sounds sincere.  It wouldn’t be a hit unless Gene gave it away to a more appropriate artist, but as a bonus track on a box set it’s a bit of alright!

[Note:  In my post-review proof reading and fact verifying, I discovered that “You’re My Reason For Living” was in fact included on Asshole…the Japanese version.  Along with another unreleased track called “Everybody Knows”.]

As for the DVDs:  when this show first started I was skeptical.  Ozzy had made a bit of a clown of himself on The Osbournes, and count on Gene Simmons to see an opportunity to promote himself.  So the formula’s basically the same, a rock star family in humourous situations, a funny dad, etc.  I preferred season one of Gene Simmons Family Jewels to Ozzy’s show, and although I didn’t keep up with the show regularly afterwards, I still think this set is pretty entertaining.

I like that, compared to The Osbournes, there’s hardly any cussing. Very rarely do you hear the “beeps” (and yes, it’s all beeps, no actual cussing).  I also found the family/”characters” to be more likeable. Nick Simmons is a bright, funny young guy, and who doesn’t love Shannon Tweed?  (Loved you back in the 80’s version of The Liar’s Club, Shannon!). Third, you can understand what Gene is saying, unlike the Ozzman (although that is certainly part of Ozzy’s charm).

I think my favourite episode was “Fan…tastic”, during which an awkward Gene Simmons spent his day with a mega mega mega FAN.  And Shannon loves every second.  She invited the mega-fan home to have dinner with Gene and the fam.  And isn’t Gene just thrilled.  Another episode, the “unaired pilot”, depicts Gene grilling the boy who is about to take young Sophie Simmons out to the dance. Just a priceless moment. I felt very sorry for that poor young man who had to sit across a very large desk from Mr. Simmons, and be grilled about dating his young daughter.

For Kiss fans and probably non-Kiss fans as well, I think this season is:

4/5 stars

GALLERY: Three More Great Finds

This time, I was in a store that a buddy of mine runs, the same location that Uncle Meat used to work in.   My buddy wasn’t in (sick) but one of my old trainees was working  I trained him towards the end of my run as a Record Store Dude.  I was pleased to see that he was as nice as ever, and had grown an awesome big bushy beard.

I found two treasures, and took a gamble on one vinyl purchase.  Here’s the details:

1.  GENE SIMMONS – Gene Simmons Family Jewels Season 1, with bonus CD

For $9.99, this was a decent find.  It’s missing the outer case, which I can live without.  I bought this for the bonus CD.  This is apparently an Amazon.com (not .ca) exclusive, currently selling for $13 plus shipping.  So I paid an acceptable amount.  The CD contains two songs:  “Rain Keeps Falling” (sounds like a Crazy Nights outtake) and “You’re My Reason For Living” (sounds much more recent).  These are from the “forthcoming” Gene Simmons box set called Monster.  (I’m guessing he won’t be using that title now.)  Considering that Amazon.com advertises the Gene Simmons Monster box set as coming in 2007, I thought it might be nice to have these two songs.

2. THE ROLLING STONES – “Doom and Gloom” 10″ single

This one was…I dunno…I like the song, “Doom and Gloom”, and I won’t be buying that Stones box set any time in the near future, so this seemed like a good way to get it.   What troubles me is this is a remix by somebody named Jeff Bhasker.  So I have no idea if this will be any good.  We’ll see.  Apparently it’s one track, with the second side etched with a Stones logo.  I haven’t cracked the seal yet.  At $18.99, this one was probably overpriced.  But I’m a sucker for gimmicky vinyl, so, whatever.

3. ERIC MARTIN – Pure (Japanese Import)

Eric Martin is, of course, the lead throat from Mr. Big, a band that is basically big only in Japan.  This solo EP collects new acoustic versions of his solo tracks and Mr . Big hits.  It even includes stuff written in his pre Mr. Big days, from his Sucker For A Pretty Face album.

I paid $8.99, which was way underpriced for this.  A European import version goes for about $7 on Discogs, but the much rarer Japanese you’ll be lucky to find for under $40.  They didn’t have the disc cataloged in their system as Japanese so I’m thinking they didn’t notice.  I did though!  The Japanese writing on the back was the dead giveaway, even though the obi strip is missing.

Another funny thing:  Somebody put a sticker over the cover statue’s nipple!  A pasty, so to speak.  (Sticker removed for this gallery; it’s only a statue after all.)

So; another enjoyable shopping experience.  Some treasures found.  Good tunes, good times.  Look for reviews one day on LeBrain’s Blog.

For ethical reasons, I don’t identify the place I used to work, considering the nature of the Record Store Tales.  However if I did a Store Report Card as I have done for other record stores, I would rank this particular location:

3.75/5 stars

Doom and Gloom

REVIEW: KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

Part 25 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

Gene Simmons, still off in la-la land ($immons Records, managing Liza Minelli), was about as far removed from the demon as you could get.  Looking quite womanly, and no longer singing in his “monster voice”, Gene had lost it by 1987.  Paul Stanley was writing songs on keyboards (not a good sign) although Bruce and Eric both made strong songwriting contributions.  The result is Crazy Nights, a record that Bon Jovi could have made, but Kiss?  It didn’t sound like Kiss to me.

Still, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Crazy Nights because it came out when I was in highschool, and I played it nonstop then, even though I questioned Kiss’ direction. (Over)produced by Ron Nevison, Kiss were trying way too hard for radio and video hits. The rock was all but gone. At the same time, the songs are actually pretty well written for the most part. Better, on average, than some songs on Animalize. It’s the gloss and production that sinks Crazy Nights.

Originally titled Who Dares Wins, the album does indeed feature too many keyboards.  I remember being so disheartened by the video for “Reason to Live”, and seeing Bruce Kulick playing keys instead of guitar. Stanley himself didn’t play guitar in the videos either — he wore one, and danced around with it. This didn’t seem like rock and roll anymore.

Here’s my song breakdown.  I just wish there was more oomph to them.

Good to great songs:

“Hell Or High Water”
“Good Girl Gone Bad”
“Turn On The Night”
“No, No, No”

OK songs:

“Crazy, Crazy Nights”
“Reason To Live”
“I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You”
“My Way”

Bad songs:

“When Your Walls Come Down”
“Thief In The Night” (a song written earlier and recorded by Wendy O. Williams first)

So, not bad. Not enough Gene though. That was a problem on a lot of albums from Dynasty to Crazy Nights, there just wasn’t enough Gene. He had become a sideman, not a frontman. Gene’s singing here is smooth, no rasp and no guts.  Paul’s singing is very high and something shrill. It was the 1980’s.

Only one song (“Crazy Crazy Nights”) has been played live since this tour.

Pick it up if you love 80’s rock. Avoid if you don’t.

2/5 stars

There are also several outtakes from this album that were later released:  “Time Traveler” is a Paul Stanley keyboard song that found its way onto The Box Set.  “Boomerang”, a speedy thrash-like number, was re-recorded for the next studio album, Hot In The Shade. “Dial L For Love”, an Eric Carr demo, was released on his posthumous Unfinished Business CD.  Finally, one of the better Paul Stanley songs called “Sword and Stone”, was recorded by Bonfire and released on the soundtrack to the movie Shocker.

I have a couple bootlegs from this tour, seen below.  (Yes, they put Vinnie on the cover of one by mistake!)