desmond child

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Hot in the Shade (1989)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 38: 

 – Hot in the Shade (1989 Polygram)

Step one:  Get Gene Simmons’ demon head back into the game.

Step two:  Record a rock album, not a Bon-keyboard-Jovi-Kiss hybrid.

Throw in the kitchen sink while you’re at it.  It’s Kiss, so what’s wrong with excess?  Why not a new album with 15 tracks?  Why not work with Vini Poncia, Desmond Child, Holly Knight, and Michael Bolotin Bolton?  How about bringing in Tommy Thayer from Black ‘n Blue to co-write some tunes?

Why not indeed.  The results yielded were interesting to say the least, and certainly more rock and roll than anything else Kiss did in the 1980s.  It is also overall one of the hardest Kiss albums to listen to front to back.  A for effort, D for songs.  Its bloated and unfinished track list seemed like Kiss was trying really hard on one end, but gave up on the other.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons self-produced Hot in the Shade, after the negative experience with outsider Ron Nevison.  This meant that there was no-one to push them to do better, as Bob Ezrin and Eddie Kramer would.  No-one to say “no” to using demo tapes on the finished albums.  No-one to say “no” to 15 tracks, to drum machines, and to sub-par songs.

Issues aside, Hot in the Shade is not all bad.  At least you can say that Kiss went for it.

Opener “Rise to It” begins with something new:  acoustic slide guitar (from Paul Stanley)!  In a time when rock bands were re-discovering the blues, this old-timey touch was a welcome sound.  The slide gives way to one of Paul’s most incendiary tracks of the decade.  Written with expert songsmith Bob Halligan Jr., “Rise to It” hits all the right spots.

“Rise to It” was eventually chosen as a third single to promote Kiss’ upcoming 1990 tour.  The music video opened a door that fans refused to allow them to close:  Kiss in makeup again.  Instead of the slide guitar intro, the video takes us to a theoretical 1975.  Gene and Paul sit in the dressing room, applying their legendary whitepaint.  The conversation was one that Gene and Paul may have had many times in the old days:  musing on a life without makeup.

“I saw that review today.  Some of those people don’t think this is gonna last.  They think it’s a joke,” says Paul.  Gene reassures them that it doesn’t matter as long as they believe in themselves.

“I bet you we could take the makeup off and it wouldn’t make any difference,” Paul retorts.  Gene calls him nuts.

“Gene, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

“Still say you’re nuts.”

At the end of the video, there they were: Paul and Gene, Starchild and Demon, in makeup for the first time in seven years.  What did it mean?  Was it just hype?  Of course it was.  It would be seven more years before they’d do a tour in makeup again.

But it was cool, and it made many fans smile ear to ear.

Like all the previous Kiss albums from the non-makeup era, all three single/videos were Paul songs.  Though “Rise to It” is the most noteworthy video, “Hide Your Heart” was first.  This Stanley/Child/Knight outtake from Crazy Nights was actually first recorded by Bonnie Tyler in 1988.   At the same time that Kiss were recording it for Hot in the Shade, Ace Frehley also did his own version for 1989’s Trouble Walkin’.  Confusing?  Kiss were the only band to have a semi-hit with it (#22 US).

As a nice change of pace from putting X’s in sex, the lyrics were a story about star-crossed lovers in gangland.  “Tito looked for Johnny with a vengeance and a gun, Johnny better run better run,” sings Paul.   In fact, “Hide Your Heart” does not get enough credit in fan circles for being lyrically different.  At least it is recognised as a great tune from a poor album.

Kiss weren’t worried about competition from Ace and did indeed record the best version of “Hide Your Heart”.

The most notable single was the ballad “Forever” (and we will take a closer look at the CD single in the next instalment of this series). Michael Bolton was an old bandmate of Bruce Kulick’s from the Blackjack days.  Before he was a superstar crooner, he was a rocker.  Together he and Paul wrote “Forever”, which became the big hit (#8 Billboard hot 100).

As an acoustic ballad, “Forever” is far more palatable than the keyboardy “Reason to Live” from ’87.  What gives it balls are the two unsung Kiss members:  Kulick and Eric Carr.  Eric’s heavy drumming on “Forever” really kicks it up a notch.  Listen to that hammering 1-2-3-4 bit at the 1:05 mark.  “When you’re strong you can stand on your own…” ONE TWO THREE FOUR on the snares.  Heavy as fuck on a ballad!  Then there’s Bruce’s acoustic solo, another first for Kiss.  The temptation would be to record a ripping electric solo like everyone else.  Bruce wrote and recorded a hook-laden acoustic solo that is as much a part of the song as the chorus.

Those are your three standouts from Hot in the Shade, leaving 12 more that don’t hit the same bar.

Of the remaining 12 tracks, Eric Carr’s lead vocal “Little Caesar” is significant.  Making him sing “Beth” on Smashes, Thrashes & Hits was unfair and a cheat.  “Little Caesar” is his “real” lead vocal debut.  Originally written as “Ain’t That Peculiar” (later released on a Kiss box set), the words changed to reflect one of Eric’s nicknames.  He was, after all, a little Italian guy!  The funky “Little Ceasar” was performed entirely by Eric and Bruce Kulick.

US picture CD

Gene’s “Boomerang” (written for Crazy Nights with Bruce) may be noteworthy as the closest Kiss have ever gotten to thrash metal.  Another Gene tune, “Cadillac Dreams” has a horn section and electric slide guitars.  Paul’s “Silver Spoon” is augmented by soulful female backing vocals.  You have to give them credit for stretching out and trying new things, but keeping it rock and roll.

Then there is a slew of filler, stuff that would never be played live nor remembered fondly.  Gene has a number of generic sounding songs, heavy but uninteresting:  “Betrayed”, “Prisoner of Love”, “Love’s a Slap in the Face”, “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”, and “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell”.  Paul is also guilty of providing filler material.  “Read My Body” isn’t bad, but sounds like his attempt to re-write “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  “King of Hearts” and “You Love Me to Hate You” both have good parts here and there, but not quite enough.

As unfocused as Hot in the Shade is, at least it was a step.  Sure, adding horns and slides smacked of Aerosmith.  Going almost-thrash was following, not leading.  Musically, Kiss have never been leaders, but what they do is create their own confections from the ingredients of their best influences.  Hot in the Shade represented a better mixture of  ingredients, just without the discipline to mould them into 10 (just 10, not 15!) good songs.

Today’s rating:

1.5/5 stars

The story of the next three years in Kiss will be explored in a series of reviews on CD singles, live bootlegs, and solo releases.  Don’t miss them!

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/07

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 28 

 – Asylum (1985 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/02

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Animalize

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 25

 – Animalize (1984 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Animalize:  a huge hit not proportional to the quality of the songs inside.  It went platinum on the strength of lead single “Heaven’s On Fire”, but going deeper into the record, Kiss did not have the goods this time.

New guitarist Mark St. John (formerly Mark Norton) replaced the fired Vinnie Vincent, and in doing so, continued Kiss’ quest for shreddery dominance.  In the 80s you had to have an Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen to get noticed, or so it seemed, and that was what Kiss went for.  In the meantime, Gene Simmons was off in Hollywood leaving Paul Stanley to do handle Kiss, something Paul eventually came to resent.

Paul Stanley re-teamed with his songwriting buddy Desmond Child.  Their last collaboration was 1979’s disco hit “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” from Dynasty.  The partnership struck gold a second time with “Heaven’s On Fire”, a simple song perfectly suited for the Kiss of the 80s and beyond.  Paul Stanley’s “Woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-OOOOO-ooo” intro is legendary and truthfully a song like “Heaven’s On Fire” isn’t too far removed from classic Kiss.  Paul’s sassy delivery is enviable.

Desmond Child also co-wrote the opening number “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”.  As the 80s began, Kiss seemed determined to write fast songs for their albums.  Very fast songs.  “I’ve Had Enough” is one of those, and it’s a good one too, though it was rarely played in concert.  You’d never guess Desmond was involved without reading the credits, but you’d also not imagine it was Kiss if it wasn’t Paul singing.

Another fine Paul song called “Get All You Can Take” is a co-write with Mitch Weissman whose name has repeatedly popped up on Kiss credits over the years.  This slow paced sleazy rocker has one of the few Kiss f-bombs in the chorus:  “What fucking difference does it make?”   Mark St. John’s solo is a blazing showcase of different tricks and techniques, but it suits the song rather awkwardly like an ill fitting tux.  Such was the problem with a jazz-influenced shredder in Kiss.

Another fast number is “Under the Gun” written by Paul, Desmond and drummer Eric Carr.  This one was played frequently on the Animalize tour though there are better songs.  Fluttery guitars sound like laser beams zipping back and forth.  Carr kicks ass, but it’s not a great track.  Paul gets in a cute double entendre though:  “There’s no speed limit where I’m coming from…let’s hit the highway doing 69!”

The final Paul song is probably the best one, although he has since criticized it as not good enough.  “Thrills in the Night”, co-written with Jean Beauvoir, deserves praise.  Sometimes the artist is their own worst critic, but “Thrills in the Night” is awesome, dramatic Kiss rock.  The chorus goes on for weeks and the soloing fits.

If Animalize was a Paul Stanley solo EP, there would be enough good songs to give it a passing grade.  However…we have the Gene Simmons songs.

Animalize shall forever be cursed as the album with the lyric, “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”  Yes, the man who once wrote a song with Bob Dylan also wrote a ditty called “Burn Bitch Burn”.  The riff is awesome.  It has its moments.  It’s also undeniably one of Gene’s worst lyrics, and that is saying something.  The song also sounds unfinished, as if he said, “OK good enough, onto the next song.”  Fortunately Mark St. John’s solo playing is awesome, though not especially accessible.  And that’s Gene’s best song on the album.

Gene’s other songs are “Lonely is the Hunter”, “While the City Sleeps” and “Murder in High Heels”.  Of these, “Lonely is the Hunter” is by far the best.  A slow sleazy groove is more up Kiss’ alley than these fast speed rockers.  All three of these songs have one quality in common with “Burn Bitch Burn”, and that is that they sound like rough ideas gone unfinished.  Animalize was produced by Paul (with a co-producer credit for Gene).  A Kiss producer like Bob Ezrin likely would have told Gene to go back and come up with better material.  The most interesting thing about “Lonely is the Hunter” and “Murder in High Heels” is the solo work.  It’s stellar.  It’s not overdone.  It’s melodic and memorable.  And it’s…familiar.  Future Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick stepped in to play ghost guitar on these songs.

The trend of Kiss using uncredited outside musicians was growing.  Allan Schwartzberg (who also played on The Elder) did drum overdubs.  Jean Beauvoir played bass on “Under the Gun”.  Gene played the rhythm guitars on his own songs.  That’s why the credits on Kiss albums always simply state:  KISS – and the names of the members.

Gene cut his hair short for a movie called Runaway.  He starred as the villain (of course) Dr. Luther, opposite Tom Selleck.  Kirstie Alley was in it, and it was written and directed by Michael Crichton.  Considering the year and the names involved, this was a fairly high profile role.  Gene went for it, and has since admitted his brain wasn’t in Kiss at the time.  The wig he wore on stage with the band made him look silly, and new fans considered Paul the singer and Gene a secondary guy.  Gene’s songs weren’t singles anymore.  They weren’t being played live.  “Burn Bitch Burn” was only ever played once!  These were all clues as to what was going on behind the scenes.  Paul was sailing the ship now.  He had no choice.  Animalize suffers for it.  Gene is to blame for his own downfall during the period and has since gracefully accepted that.

The Animalize tour was the biggest Kiss had done since the glory years, but troubles began early.  Mark St. John couldn’t play.  He was diagnosed with an arthritic condition called Reiter’s Syndrome.  His hands swelled up and he simply could not do the gig.  Mark passed away in 2007, but suggested that the arthritis may have been triggered by stress.  The aforementioned Bruce Kulick stepped in to take his place, and did so with professionalism and respect.  He got along with everyone. He was willing to learn.  He was a great fit.  The first great fit in many years.

The Animalize period put Kiss on MTV and on back the radio again, but its success was vastly disproportional to its quality.

Today’s rating:

2/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

2/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  There really isn’t much to say here. “Heaven’s on Fire” is a good song that I still enjoy hearing. Everything else is OK at best and non-essential. “Burn Bitch Burn” might have some of the worst lyrics of all time.

Favorite Tracks:  “Heaven’s on Fire”

Forgettable Tracks: take your pick


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/31

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Dynasty (1979)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 17:  

 

  Dynasty (1979 Casablanca, 1997 Polygram Japan remaster)

“The Return of Kiss”.  It sounds quaint today, that after a two year absence they called it “The Return of Kiss”.  Two years today means nothing.  But for Kiss, who were doing two releases a year, it did actually mean something.  Their last project was their series of four solo albums, one for each member, and unified by cover art.  This project only reinforced the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The truth is, the original Kiss were already over.  Peter Criss returned from his solo album and a car accident as a changed man, and not in a good way.  Upon walking in the door he insisted upon seeing sheet music for the new tunes.  That was a first.  It was quickly apparent that Peter was not in a condition to perform.  The band had even hired his solo album producer, Vini Poncia, to helm the new Kiss.  Poncia deemed Criss’ current abilities inadequate and he was replaced for the album by Anton Fig.  Anton was Ace’s solo drummer, and more than capable of filling in.  Previously, when Bob Kulick was hired to replace Ace on side four of Alive II, he was instructed to “play like Ace”.  Anton Fig was given no such instruction and was free to drum as he pleased.  Some Kiss fans were able to pick up on that.  Ultimately Peter Criss played drums on only one song, his own called “Dirty Livin’”.  And that would be Peter’s final appearance on a Kiss studio album until 1998’s Psycho-Circus, on which he also played drums on only one track.  Kiss was indeed broken, but few on the outside knew it.  Peter would never play on a whole Kiss album again.

A lot had changed.  Kiss’ massive marketing campaigns paid off, but was that a good thing?  Little kids were now coming to Kiss concerts.  Paul Stanley was actively seeking hits.  Together with new songwriting friend Desmond Child, Paul wanted to write a dance single.  Inspired by the clubs of New York, the pair produced “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the song that gave Kiss the “disco” tag.  The single sold a million copies.  Needless to say, it was not the last Kiss single written with Desmond Child.

The album went platinum and became the hit it was designed to be.  Inside the sleeve, the music was streamlined and more commercial than before.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” led the way, demolishing the walls between dance and rock.  Frehley had a hot solo in the mix, and the bouncy bass was performed by Paul Stanley.  The song had all the right ingredients and though thin sounding by today’s standards, it’s still a great little dance rock number.

The real revelation about Dynasty wasn’t the turn towards slicker, highly compressed recordings.  It was Ace Frehley coming out of his shell.  Newly confident after his hit solo experience, Frehley had three songs to sing on Dynasty.  Ace covered the Stones on “2000 Man”, a version that may be more beloved than the original.  It certainly sounds at home.  Ace rocks it up significantly.  Ace also had lead vocals on “Hard Times”, a track about growing up as an aimless youth in New York.  “We’d go to school, then we’d cut out, go to the park, and space our heads out.”  “Hard Times” is not an exceptional song, but it’s interesting since it’s so autobiographical.  Ace’s last song was the more aggressive “Save Your Love”.  This track closes Dynasty with the kind of rock that people often forget is on the album.  Ace’s tracks are the only ones that can be classified purely as “rock”.  He has more guitar riffage on “Save Your Love” than the other songs combined.  Without the Space Ace, Dynasty would have been a much weaker album.

The increase in Ace’s participation was balanced by a decrease in that of Gene Simmons.  Gene only had two songs on the album, neither of which were singles.  “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma” inhabit the same kind of compressed audio landscape as the rest.  “Charisma” is the best, due to its unusual echoey vocals, fitting for the demon persona.  Gene’s prime interest was still the opposite sex, and both songs have the demon’s stamp.  The main hooks on both are delivered by the backing vocals during the choruses.

The dominant force on Dynasty — and as it turns out, for the coming decade – was Paul Stanley.  Not only was “I Was Made for Loving You” a massive hit, but the second single “Sure Know Something” was also one of his.  Paul wrote this dancey ballad with producer Vini Poncia.  It’s not all simply dance floor moves though, as the chorus has the power chords and lung power that Kiss fans expected.  Stanley also wrote “Magic Touch”, a lesser known album classic.  “Magic Touch” burns slow, but hot.  Paul’s falsetto was a sign of the times, but the power chords explode on the chorus.

And that leaves poor Peter.  “Dirty Livin’” was written with Stan Penridge and Vini Poncia, and it was written as something more R&B in direction.  It was Kiss-afied and included on the album as Peter’s only appearance.  You can hear that it’s not the same drummer and that it’s a very different vibe.

For all outside appearances, Kiss maintained an image of solidarity.  There was no mention of a session drummer, and Peter was there on tour for all 82 shows.  However there were some cracks visible.  Several shows had to be cancelled for poor ticket sales, in areas such as New York City and Pontiac Michigan.  With the toys, comics and merchandise, Kiss were beginning to be seen as a kids’ band.  Dynasty was the hit it needed to be, but the situation was not sustainable.

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  The first of the two supposed “Disco Era” Kiss records LeBrain referred to in the introduction of this series, Dynasty really just is a pretty solid rock and roll record other than the mega-hit, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.  There really is not another song on the record that could be classified as Disco.  But more on that when I talk about Unmasked.

This album sees the beginning of a couple new eras in Kisstory. The first being the band’s writing collaboration with Desmond Child.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” was the first hit of many for Desmond Child.  He has “songwriter” credits (and yes I am using that term loosely) on such deplorable pap as “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “She Bangs”, and upcoming Kiss dung like “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “Uh! All Night”.  Basically when a band gets shittier, they go to Desmond Child.  When Ratt got shittier, in came Desmond.  When the Scorpions got shittier, he pops up again.  When Aerosmith started becoming a glossy joke, here comes Desmond Child and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”. Yes, as good as this album is, Kiss was starting to get shittier.

As George Costanza would say, worlds collide for me on this album.  For years I had no idea Peter Criss only played drums on his own song on Dynasty.  His phantom replacement turned out to be Mr. Anton Fig, who played drums in one of my favorite bands ever, Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band.  Even Anton’s dry humor on the show was a high point in Late Night with David Letterman for me.  I am a true Letterman head and always will be.  Anton Fig went on to be Ace’s drummer in Frehley’s Comet, so maybe Fig’s presence somehow inspired the Space man, since he is a high point of Dynasty.  The Rolling Stones cover “2000 Man” is a fucking great tune.  “Hard Times” is just as good and a personal favorite of many Kiss fans.

There are a few weaker-ish songs on the album but nothing egregious here.  Very good rock album with ONE disco song.  Thank you Desmond Child for injecting Kiss with your “Bad Medicine”.  (Yes, he wrote that too.  As well as writing songs for such wonderful artists like Hanson, The Jonas Brothers, Lindsay Lohan and Clay Aiken.)  Hey Desmond…in the words of Ricky…you are truly a FuckGoof.

Favorite Tracks:  “Sure Know Something”, “Hard Times”, “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, “Magic Touch”

Forgettable Tracks:  “Dirty Livin'”


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/24

REVIEW: Wes Craven’s Shocker – The Music (1989)

 

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

Scan_20160607Wes Craven’s SHOCKER – No More Mr. Nice Guy – The Music (1989 SBK)

1989’s slasher film Shocker was Wes Craven’s attempt to introduce a new character to the pantheon of horror.  Unfortunately, Horace Pinker and the movie he rode in on were quickly forgotten.  Also forgotten was the heavy metal soundtrack, so let’s have a gander and see what you may have missed.

Ever heard of The Dudes of Wrath?  This temporary “supergroup” consisted of various members from track to track, but the best song they did was “Shocker” itself.  With lead vocals by Paul Stanley and Desmond Child, it’s a must-have for Kiss maniacs.  If that’s not enough, Vivian Campbell, Tommy Lee and Rudy Sarzo also play on it.  It’s like a collision of some of those bands — Kiss, Dio, Motley.  The anthemic outro will slay you.

Desmond’s writing is all over this album, and he co-wrote a track with Alice Cooper that ended up being recorded by Iggy Pop called “Love Transfusion”.  Sub out the saxophone for guitars and you could easily imagine this being a Trash B-side.   In fact I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the backing track is from the Cooper sessions, because this sounds exactly like an Alice Cooper song with Iggy Pop overdubbed.  All the musicians are guys from the Trash album.  Do the math.

It’s hard to imagine a weirder team up than Desmond Child and Megadeth.  Dave Mustaine was deep into the powders at the time, and he recorded “No More Mr. Nice Guy” with a three piece Megadeth.  The late Nick Menza had joined the band already, but Marty Friedman was yet to be hired.   Most Megadeth fans are familiar with this track, since it was re-released on their Hidden Treasures EP.  Certainly not the band’s finest moment.

Paul Stanley reappears in a writing capacity on “Sword and Stone”, performed by Bonfire.   Paul wrote it for Kiss’ Crazy Nights LP with Desmond Child and Bruce Kulick.  If it had been on Crazy Nights, it might well have been the best tune on there.  Paul’s demo has yet to be released in an official capacity, but it’s been heavily bootlegged.  Bonfire’s version is fantastic, but it only makes me hungry for a fully recorded and mixed Kiss version.  One day….

Another version of The Dudes of Wrath appear on side two, this time with Alice Cooper on vocals.  “Shockdance” sounds like little more than a slowed down variation of the “Shocker” riff, with Alice and actor Mitch Pileggi rapping over it. Just terrible stuff, actually. Thankfully Desmond redeemed it a little bit with the song he wrong with Dangerous Toys, “Demon Bell”. Like Guns N’ Roses galvanized and electroplated, “Demon Bell” slays.

Voodoo X were the band of Jean Beauvoir, who Kiss fans know from his many co-writes and guest appearances on their records. He only made one record as Voodoo X, and his song “The Awakening” is damn fine indeed. At first you’re thinking, “Oh it’s just another crap ballad”. Then a riff kicks in, and it blasts right off. It’s a bit like 80’s Kiss meets Top Gun. The last band up is Dead On, pretty pedestrian thrash metal, and one of the few songs without any involvement of Desmond Child. The angry elf vocals are hilarious, but the song is almost a parody of bad metal. The album ends with a reprise of the title track “Shocker” from the first side. Basically what this means is that you get to hear Paul Stanley singing for another two or three minutes, when he was really able to hit some seriously high notes. Cool!

The worst track is probably the ballad “Timeless Love” by Sandi Saraya.  Guess who wrote this putrid sappy swath of heartbreak?  Desmond Fucking Child!

Shocker isn’t the greatest soundtrack, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the movie that spawned it!

2.5/5 stars

The helpful back cover doesn't even tell you who's on it.

The helpful back cover doesn’t even tell you who’s on it.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Freedom for Frankenstein – Hits & Pieces 1984-91

Scan_20160306ALICE COOPER – Freedom for Frankenstein – Hits & Pieces 1984-91 (1998 Raven, Australian import)

After a productive spurt of activity in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Alice Cooper laid low for a while.  A fun live album called A Fistful of Alice in 1997 was his first such release in 20 years.  There was then a long wait for the next Cooper studio album (Brutal Planet, 2000).  In the meantime, fans got to snack on interim treats such as the Australian release, Freedom for Frankenstein.

There are already a number of compilations that cover similar periods to Freedom for Frankenstein.  Prince of Darkness (1989) tackled the two MCA albums Constrictor (1986) and Raise Your First and Yell (1987) plus one single B-side. 1995’s Classicks summed up the Epic albums Trash (1989), Hey Stoopid (1991) and The Last Temptation (1994), with the bonus of rare live tracks from the 1989 live home video Alice Cooper Trashes the World, plus the Hendrix cover B-side “Fire”!  With those releases already on the market, does Freedom for Frankenstein offer anything unique?

Hell yeah!

1. “I Got a Line on You”.  Spirit wrote this one in 1968 and Alice Cooper covered it in 1988 for the Iron Eagle II soundtrack.  Alice’s version was released as a cool music video and stands as one of his best tracks from the era.  (You can also get this on the Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper box set.)  Here is an easy way to get the song, a must-own for fans of 80’s Alice.  This was our first look at Alice’s new musical direction: commercial hard rock!  He dropped the splatter horror direction and went full-on for radio and video hits.

2. Four-count-’em-four rare live single B-sides.  These are “Go to Hell”, “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, “Sick Things” and “Only Women Bleed/Wind Up Toy”.  None overlap with the other two compilations.  “Wind Up Toy” was only played on the Hey Stoopid tour.

3. “It Rained All Night”.  It is absolutely inexplicable how this song wasn’t included on the Life and Crimes box set.  An original Alice Cooper/Desmond Child composition, “It Rained All Night” was also too good to be just another B-side.  It backed the single for “Hey Stoopid” but stood as a better track than some on the album.  Perhaps it was nixed for being too ballady on an album that didn’t need any more.  You can get it most easily now by buying the Hey Stoopid 2013 reissue…but if you get Freedom for Frankenstein instead, you won’t need that reissue at all.

By getting this, you will also acquire “Fire”, and a good number of the best songs from this period.  “He’s Back”, “Teenage Frankenstein”, “Freedom”, “Poison”, “House of Fire”, “Hey Stoopid”, and “Feed My Frankenstein” were the big singles, all on one CD.  Then there’s “Side Show”, the incredible opener from Alice’s 1994 concept album The Last Temptation.  In fact, the only weakness with this CD is that there is only one song from The Last Temptation.  Classicks has three — but none of them are “Side Show”.

Freedom for Frankenstein was compiled with the help of Andrew Carpenter, “Australia’s biggest Alice Cooper fan” and archivist.  Full points are awarded for the interesting booklet and rarities in the tracklist.  I think the running order could be slightly tweaked for a smoother ride, but at over 78 minutes long, these hits and pieces provide value for your bucks.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Trash (1989)

I sure hope I don’t get “trashed” for this review!  Incidentally, this is the first CD I ever bought, in December of 1989.  I still have it.

COOPER TRASH_0001ALICE COOPER – Trash (1989 Epic)

After the strictly heavy metal n’ horror sounds of the previous two albums, Constrictor and Raise Your Fist And Yell, Alice decided it was time to get back to more diverse hard rock sounds. This time, he immersed himself in everything that was cool in the late 80’s, and created a “theme album” about sex. Cooper albums usually have themes — Alice Cooper in school (School’s Out), Alice Cooper in hell (Goes To Hell), or Alice Cooper insane (From The Inside). Sex was a new theme for this character.

Alice teamed up with Desmond Child, champion of many Bon Jovi and Aerosmith discs, as well as Mr. Jovi and Mr. Tyler themselves, among others. The result is unfortunately what I consider to be a weak disc, dated to the times, and with only a few strong songs that have held up over the years. It is certainly a creative low, though it did sell oodles of copies and was a sort of “comeback” album for Alice.

The first track and first single, “Poison”, is by far the best song. It is strong because it is based on the riff, and though it is commercial it is not blatantly so. It has a unique vibe to it, something authentic that other bands couldn’t touch. Sadly it’s mostly downhill from there. “Spark In The Dark” is unremarkable (though it does boast a killer riff), and so is the second single “House of Fire”. “House of Fire” at least has a catchy chorus, but it is simply too cookie-cutter. You could exchange it with virtually any single from any band’s albums in 1989.  Just look at the writing credits: Desmond Child, Joan Jett, and Alice.  Who was this song written for?

“It’s Only Heart Talking”, which was not written by Alice, is a decent ballad made more special with Steven Tyler’s duet. Otherwise, it is forgettable and inferior to later Alice ballads such as “Might As Well Be On Mars” and “Stolen Prayer”. Smash hit, though, so there’s that.

The lyrics to “Trash”, a duet with JBJ himself, are so bad it’s not even funny. “If my love was a lollypop, would you lick it?” Did Jon Bon just say that? “I’m Your Gun” is hardly better.  I just can’t bear to listen to those songs.  If you’re in the mood for some absolute dreck, check out “This Maniacs’ In Love With You”.

COOPER TRASH_0002One of the more interesting songs that didn’t make the album was “The Ballad Of Alice Cooper”, written by Jon Bon Jovi. There is a poor quality demo of Bon Jovi doing it in his best Alice voice out there. I think it might have been better than most of the tracks on the CD. The Japanese version, however, does have great live versions of “Cold Ethyl” and “Dwight Fry” recorded during this era.  (They can be found on the Alice Cooper Extended Versions CD today.)

This album like its sequel Hey Stoopid was loaded chock full of cameos.  Just scanning the credits, besides Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler, I see: Kip Winger, Hugh McDonald, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Steve Lukather, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton.  I think these cameos are very little more than hype.

Cooper’s albums tend to go in similar pairs (Nightmare/Goes To Hell, Constrictor/Raise Your Fist, Brutal Planet/Dragontown). Trash is no exception. Although Cooper realized that Trash was too soft and weak, Hey Stoopid is essentially a brother record to this one. I find it to be much much stronger by comparison.

I would tell casual fans instead of picking up this CD, to pick up something like Cooper’s Classicks. You’ll get the major tracks from this as well as some rare live ones.

2/5 stars

COOPER TRASH_0003

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid (1991)

First of an Alice Cooper double shot!  Tomorrow, The Last Temptation!

ACHS_0002ALICE COOPER – Hey Stoopid (1991 Sony)

When Hey Stoopid first came out in ’91, fans were still reeling from the disappointment (but commercial success) that was the Trash CD. Fans wanted Alice to get heavier and drop the cheese, and Hey Stoopid was a step in the right direction, to be fully realized on his next album The Last Temptation.

It was the era of the virtuoso, and Cooper certainly knows a good musician when he hears one. To me it was a stroke of genius to have Steve Vai and Joe Satriani record a guitar solo together for the first time, and on a song called “Feed My Frankenstein” no less! Guest shots by Ozzy (barely audible, though), Nikki Sixx, Vinnie Moore, and Slash provided enough hype for the fans to salivate.

Songwriting-wise, Hey Stoopid was a step up from Trash. The title track with its lyrical warnings of drug abuse was a fun catchy rocker with a tasty Satriani solo. The solos on this album are all too brief. Still the players being as good as they are create solos that enhance each track. Other standouts include the mindblowing “Might As Well Be On Mars”, an epic Desmond Child song that just aches before it explodes on the choruses. “Die For You”, written by Alice with Motley Crue’s Sixx & Mars, as well as Jim Vallance, has a chorus that bores its way into your brain and stays there like a parasite.

There’s still a lot of filler, something that plagues almost Alice album from Goes To Hell through to Hey Stoopid. “Snakebite”, “Hurricane Years”, “Little By Little” and “Dirty Dreams” are all songs that Alice will never play live in concert, and for good reason.

Yet there are still lots of hidden gems on this CD, all the way through to the final track “Wind-Up Toy”. A song about insanity, as only Alice can do, it is something that really hearkens back to Welcome To My Nightmare. What’s this about “Steven”?

There are also a couple lesser known tracks that aren’t on the domestic CD that are worth tracking down: “It Rained All Night” is a slowy, groovy track that was a B-side but better than some of the ballads on the actual album. “Fire” was a Jimi Hendrix cover with some fiery (pun intended) guitar playing.

The most disappointing thing about Hey Stoopid is the production by the normally excellent Peter Collins. Yes, Trash was too glossy, and yes, Hey Stoopid toughens the sound with more guitars. However the background vocals in particular are so dense, so saccharine, that even Def Leppard would blush. They are credited to different groups of people, and clearly there are a lot of voices here creating this gigantic mush of sound. It’s too much. I much preferred when Alice stripped it down on Dirty Diamonds, an album that deserves much praise. In 1991, production values just seemed to go to this extreme — witness Europe’s Prisoners In Paradise CD for a similar sounding album.

Hey Stoopid was Alice attempting to find his footing again, and while it stumbled, it did pave the way for Last Temptation. If grunge didn’t wipe out hard rock later that year, maybe Hey Stoopid would be regarded more fondly.

3/5 stars. Not great, but certainly not a failure.

Promotional "Hey Stoopid" memo

Promotional “Hey Stoopid” memo

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009 CD/DVD edition)

CIRCLE_0004BON JOVI – The Circle (2009 Island CD/DVD edition)

The Circle is an apt title for this Bon Jovi album. They returned from their pop country detour down the Lost Highway and returned to essentially exactly where they were on the previous album, Have A Nice Day. If you are familiar with Bon Jovi, you know that Have A Nice Day was an OK record full of pop rock like “Last Cigarette”, modern and slick. That’s what this record is too, but that’s starting to get a little old.

First single “We Weren’t Born To Follow” (I find that title ironic as Bon Jovi didn’t spend much of their career leading, musically) is a great, uptempo song with a catchy chorus and slick guitar playing by Richie Sambora. It’s another in a long succession of latter day Pop Jovi successes. The best tune on this record is the the “statement song” regarding the economic collapse: “Work For The Working Man”. However, isn’t there something we’ve heard here before? Doesn’t Hugh McDonald’s bassline sound a lot like the one from “Livin’ On A Prayer”?  Even if it’s little more than a rewrite of the same hook, it’s a great song with a powerful chorus.  It has some muscle to it, and is one of the few songs on the album that does.  Rhythmic and strong, this echoes not only “Prayer” but also “Keep The Faith” in some respects.

Elsewhere on the album, there are some intriguing sounds that almost remind me of the back-to-basics goodness that was These Days, and the heavier moments on Bounce (see: “Bullet”).  However “Bullet” is also bears unpleasant similarities to Collective Soul. There are also moments that take me back to Lost Highway and Crush ,but not in a good way.  Songs like “Fast Cars” and “Brokenpromiseland” (ugh!) just sit there like the flaccid Pop Jovi songs that they are.  Bon Jovi are on cruise control.

CIRCLE_0002My two favourite Bon Jovi albums of recent vintage (ie: post-Keep the Faith) are the criminally underrated These Days, and Bounce. What the band need to do is: A) get their MVP back, Mr. Richie Sambora.  B) write an album without all these outside writers like John Shanks and Billy Falcon, based on rock and roll, not the radio.  The Circle is close at times.  “Learn To Love” for example was written by Jon and Richie with Desmond Child, and approaches a vintage These Days epic quality.

How likely is Bon Jovi to rock out like they used to? The DVD documentary included with this edition of The Circle is not encouraging. Entitled When We Were Beautiful (named for the U2-like song on the album), it is an insightful look into the inner workings of Bon Jovi.  It also has some enticing live clips. (Please, Jon, please! Release a full length audio version of Richie singing “I’ll Be There  For You”, it’s great!) However it is quite clear that Jon is the driving force of the band, and the rest of the guys are salaried employees of the corporation.  Jon is very clear that he’s a businessman and he must make albums that he thinks people will like.  It’s unfortunate that he’s decided that pop music is the answer.  I think it’s unlikely Jon will be breaking new ground again soon.

But you never know.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Slippery When Wet (1986, 2010 Universal special edition)

I’m not blown away by the new series on Bon Jovi reissues. For the running time of a CD, they could give you a heck of a lot more content. I mean, I’ve bought this album 3 times. I bought it on cassette back in ’87, then I bought the first round of remastered CD issues of the entire Bon Jovi catalogue. Now, begrudgingly, I’m starting to pick these up, because I’m a completist. How many times have you bought Slippery When Wet already? At least once, I’m guessing.

Slippery When Wet is one of those oddball albums: It’s considered the classic landmark by a very successful band, but it is by no means their best.  I’ll tell you what it is though:  It’s a concept album.  When I listen to Slippery When Wet, all I can hear is a concept album about growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey.  Think about it!  “Wanted: Dead or Alive”?  That’s not about touring, man.  That’s a song about dreaming, while writing songs in Richie Sambora’s mom’s laundry room.  Lyrically, Slippery When Wet captures a more innocent era and presents it in the form of different characters from all walks of life.

She says we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not

Slippery is the album that made people like Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn into household names.  It’s notable for the presence of three smash hit classics: “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and “You Give Love A Bad Name”. All three are obviously available on various Bon Jovi hits compilations. There are a couple deep cut classics, but Slippery is mostly padded out with filler. Surely, “Social Disease” with its juvenile lyrics and terrible synth-horns is one that Jon would like to disown?  Also cheesy are “Wild In The Streets”, “I’d Die For You”, and the sappy “Without Love”.  What helps save these songs are earnest performances from Jon, but especially Richie Sambora.

Two of the best songs are the deep cuts.  “Let It Rock” is a cool song, a bit muddy in the mix, but with some really cool sounding keyboards.  The atmospherics of it were unique for the time.  It still stands as one of Jon’s better moments.  Then there is “Raise Your Hands” which opened side 2.  This one rocks, and has some blazing guitars.  I have always been a fan of “Raise Your Hands”. Remember when it was used in that one scene in Spaceballs? Sweet!

John freakin’ Candy

The production, by the late Bruce Fairbairn, is muddy at times and too glossy at others. Fairbairn’s work on the 80’s Aerosmith albums was more innovative and interesting. I’ve always liked talk-box on guitar solos though, so I’ll give him and Richie Sambora credit for the catchiest talk-box solo in history.  Regardless this album set new standards.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to work with Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn.  Aerosmith were next, then Poison, then AC/DC.  As for Desmond Child, his old pal Paul Stanley came-a-knockin’ when it was time to write for the next Kiss album.  Slippery When Wet was undeniably one of the biggest influences on the second half of the 1980’s.  Rock bands were adding keyboardists, and trying to find ways to get played on radio and MTV the way Bon Jovi had.  Jon also used his newfound influence by helping friends like Cinderella and Skid Row get signed.   Cinderella certainly benefited from having Jon and Richie appear as rivals in their “Somebody Save Me” music video.

As influential as it is, albums such as New Jersey, Keep the Faith, and These Days are superior in my ears.  When I was swept up in the Bon Jovi tide in ’87, I finally picked up Slippery on cassette.  I was surprised, because I expected it to be a lot better.  Considering all the hits, all the hype, and all the sales, I was hoping for more than half an album of good songs.

Nope, not on this CD.

As far as the reissue goes, the reason I picked this particular one up was that I saw there was a “live acoustic” version of “Wanted” on here. I hoped and prayed that it was the acoustic version from the original 1987 “Wanted” cassette single. (If you haven’t heard it, man, you absolutely need to.) I only have that on cassette.  However, it’s not the same version. It’s a good live acoustic version, with just Richie and Jon.  It’s purportedly from the Slippery tour, and made stronger by Richie’s powerful vocals. “Prayer” and “Bad Name” are the other two live songs included, sounding pretty standard.   These three bonus tracks are all there is; no era B-sides such as “Edge of a Broken Heart” or “Borderline” are included.  Songs like these would have gone a long way to strengthen an album that’s a little weak in the knees.

I was pleased to see a retro looking backstage pass included within the slipcase. That made me a bit happier with my purchase. Nice touch, this is the kind of thing that rewards people for buying the CD rather than downloading.

3/5 stars