eric carr

#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.

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!

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Revenge (1992)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 43

 – Revenge (1992 Polygram)

The first three-year gap between Kiss albums.  The first Kiss record produced by Bob Ezrin since 1981.  The first shared Simmons/Stanley lead vocal in ages.  The first lineup change since 1984.  And saddest of all, Kiss’ first album without Eric Carr since 1980.  Revenge was a shakeup for fans and band alike.

The pendulum of rock had swung back to “heavy”, with Metallica scorching the charts and grunge pummelling everyone else with new sounds.  It was obvious that Kiss had to go heavier, too.  In 1992, most rock bands had to sink or swim.  In order to swim, bands tended to heavy things up.  A lot of the time they called it “going back to the roots”.

Kiss began making tentative steps back that way.  Hot in the Shade (1989) toned down a lot of the keyboards and 80s trappings.  On tour, they played more old material like “Dr. Love”, “God of Thunder”, and “I Was Made for Loving You”.  Then, as an experiment, they got back together with Bob Ezrin for a song from a movie soundtrack.  Everyone was writing, even the sick Eric Carr.  The initial plan was to have Eric play on half the new album, so he could have time to recover from his cancer surgery.  The drummer from Paul Stanley’s solo tour, Eric Singer, was available to play on the other half.  Singer was on tour with Alice Cooper during the summer of 1991, but would be home soon enough.  Then, on November 24, Eric Carr passed.

The most obvious choice to replace Carr was Eric Singer.  He was already working with the band, he knew the songs, and he was a fan.  Bruce Kulick found him inspiring to have around, as Singer loved his guitar work.  In fact the only thing about Eric Singer that didn’t fit was his hair colour!

The energetic new drummer was a godsend.  With albums to his name by Black Sabbath and Badlands, Kiss couldn’t have asked for a more technically adept player.  He could hit hard (though Eric Carr takes the belt in that regard) and he could authentically do any era of Kiss.  Be it the early, slippery Peter Criss material or the heavy metal of Eric Carr, Singer had it all covered.  And he could sing!  Though we wouldn’t get there quite yet.

It was the heavy metal side that was most immediately apparent.  The first track and first video from Revenge was “Unholy”, something very unlike anything Kiss had done before.  And it came about in a most peculiar way.  Enter:  Vinnie Vincent.

Those who say “Vinnie saved Kiss” will point to “Unholy” as one such song that saved Kiss.  After years of estrangement (and preceding even more), Vinnie came out to write with Gene and Paul.  “Unholy” was one of three songs he contributed.

With a fury unlike any before, Gene Simmons and company swirl in rage on “Unholy”.  The closest they got to this kind of heavy before would be Creatures, but there’s something just pissed off about it that wasn’t there before.  With a concrete riff and angry slabs of drum tribalism, Kiss announced their return loudly.  Not to be outdone, soloist Bruce Kulick laid down his noisiest guitar assault yet.  There isn’t an ounce of fluff to “Unholy”.

Thanks to Bob Ezrin, Revenge is Kiss’ best sounding album since Lick It Up or Creatures.  It’s no Destroyer, and it’s no Elder.  This time they cut the extras down to the bone, leaving the four Kiss guys to rock it themselves.  Err, mostly themselves.  That’s Kevin Valentine on drums for the second song, “Take It Off”.  Strange that Kiss continued to have ghost musicians on albums when they clearly didn’t need to.  An ode to strippers, “Take It Off” is lyrically juvenile, but gleams like stainless steel.  Paul Stanley wrote it with Ezrin and ex-Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts, and it could have been used as a single had Revenge needed another.  A dirty, dirty single.

Paul, Bruce and Ezrin composed “Tough Love” with a slower, chunky riff.  Kulick’s solo is remarkable, but it’s also just nice hearing Paul do a sex song that has some balls.  There is no “X” in this sex, although there’s a little BDSM for the 50 Shades crowd.  Then, teaming up with Gene, they do their first co-write and co-lead vocals together in the first time in a dog’s age.  “Spit” is old school fun with a modern heavy edge.  Bruce pays homage to Jimi Hendrix in his complex guitar solo, a composition all to itself.  Eric Singer gets to throw down tricky beats and fills, making “Spit” one of the most deceptively clever songs Kiss has done.

“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” was released as a single the year before.  It was the experiment with Ezrin that kicked off Revenge in the first place.  It was the only song that Eric Carr was alive for, and you can clearly hear him on backing vocals.  Singer handled the drums, though Carr did it in the music video.  The album mix is different from the single or soundtrack, in order to better suit the sonics of Revenge as its sole anthem.

Gene tells a story about a girl who “kisses like the kiss of death” to end side one.  “Domino” hearkens back to early Kiss, with a sparse arrangement and Gene playing rhythm guitar instead of Paul.  This greasy rocker just screams “Kiss”.  There is nobody else with songs like “Domino”.  It was the third single from Revenge, sporting a nifty video with Gene cruising around in a convertible while Kiss plays as a trio!  Paul Stanley: bass guitar.

“Heart of Chrome”, the second Vinnie Vincent collaboration, rocks with attitude.  Once again, anger seems to be the emotion of the day.  The 90s-look Kiss could deliver anger in spades.  Then Gene takes the mantle on “Thou Shalt Not”.

He said “kindly reconsider the sins of your past,”
I said “Mister you can kindly kiss my ass.”

These are not songs for the Kiss hits mix tape you’re making for your roadtrip.  These are songs to be experienced in context of the album, where they deliver mighty riffs and enough hooks for the long-player.  “Thou Shalt Not” has another one of those Kulick solos that could be a study in string manipulation, and Singer just keeps it kicking the whole way through.

You could choose from two schools of thought regarding “Every Time I Look at You”.  As the album’s only true ballad, some see it as a mistake on a record as heavy as Revenge.  Others see it as a reprieve from a fairly relentless onslaught.  Indeed, it does sound as if from another album.  With a string section, Ezrin on piano, and Dick Wagner on ghost guitar, one could even argue that it’s an album highlight.  A little re-sequencing though, and you probably wouldn’t even miss it.

Gene makes it heavy again on “Paralyzed”, not an outstanding track but a little funkier than usual.  “I Just Wanna” is far more entertaining, though it is a shameless and obvious rip-off from “Summertime Blues”.  It was chosen as the second single, and lo and behold, it’s the third Vinnie Vincent song too.  “I Just Wanna” is immediately catchy and memorable for days.  Probably because you already knew it as “Summertime Blues”.

As a touching surprise, Revenge ends on an instrumental called “Carr Jam 1981”.  Bob Ezrin dug up an old demo from The Elder with a hot riff and a complete drum solo.  It had been bootlegged before, notably on Demos 1981-1983, but not with very good sound.  Ace Frehley even recorded it as “Breakout” on his second solo album.  Ezrin cleaned up the original demo for Revenge, edited it for length, and overdubbed Bruce on lead guitar.  “Carr Jam” has become Eric’s signature drum solo.  Placing it here at the end of Revenge was not only poignant but also just great sequencing.

Album in hand, now it was time to tour.  Kiss would start with a short run in the clubs.  More on that next time.

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/10

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….

 

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

Sunday Chuckle: Not Kiss!

A good buddy of mine has three kids.  He will often play them music via Youtube, and they have been enjoying classic Kiss lately.  In fact about a year ago, I myself was trying to teach them the correct words to “Shout it Out Loud”, for which they were singing their own variation.

My buddy tells me that the other day, Youtube shuffled to the “Lick It Up” video and he pointed out, “Look kids, Kiss.”  His infant daughter looked up, saw four guys with no makeup on, and yelled, “NOT KISS!”

Smart kid.  Just a child and already knows “new” Kiss from “old” Kiss.

RE-REVIEW: KISS – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 single)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 40:

 – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 Interscope single)

Kiss’ Hot in the Shade tour wasn’t a sellout, but it was well received by fans who appreciated that a bunch of older songs were back in the set.  The tour was unfortunately highlighted by the June 15, 1990 date in Toronto, igniting a feud with Whitesnake.  Kiss were third on a four-band bill, with David Coverdale, Steve Vai and company in the headlining slot.  Paul Stanley used his stage raps to complain that Whitesnake wouldn’t let them use their full setup, including a giant sphinx.  When Whitesnake hit the stage, it was to a chorus of boos.  Steve Vai later stated that it was the first time he had ever been booed.  Vai once even walked onstage to the sound of people chanting “Yngwie! Yngwie! Yngwie!”, but he had never been booed until the incident with Kiss in Toronto.

When the tour wrapped up in November, Kiss took a few months off before gearing up again in the new year.  It was to be another album, another tour, but suddenly real life interfered.

Eric Carr hadn’t been feeling well.  Flu-like symptoms turned out to be heart cancer.  Simultaneously, Kiss received an offer to record a song for the sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Carr underwent surgery in April, with chemotherapy following.  Having little choice, Kiss recorded without him.  Eric Singer, who had performed so well on Paul Stanley’s solo tour, filled in on drums.  Eric Carr, in a wig, was able to play for the music video taping.  He gave his all, and did a full day’s shoot, with excellent (pun intended) results.

Unfortunately a rift was developing, with Eric Carr feeling shunned and excluded from Kiss.  He was afraid he was going to be replaced, permanently, and his relationship with the band was strained.  Although everybody hoped Eric would make a full recovery, he passed away from a brain haemorrhage on November 24, 1991.  Eric Carr was 41.

On the same date, Freddie Mercury of Queen succumbed to AIDS.  Carr’s death was barely mentioned in the news, including Rolling Stone magazine who missed it completely, prompting a harsh reply from Kiss:

If anything positive came from Eric Carr’s death, it was that Kiss were going to put all that anger and frustration back into the music.  The music was to be their Revenge.

It started with “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”, a re-imagining of an old Argent song for the Bill & Ted movie.  Eric Carr may not have been well enough to play drums, but that didn’t stop him from singing.  His vocals on “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” were his last.  The song wouldn’t be the same without Carr, as he can be heard sweetly harmonising with Paul Stanley.   Eric Singer wasn’t credited on the single, or the final soundtrack for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  It simply says “performed by Kiss”.

“God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was important for two more reasons.  First, and very significantly, it was produced by Bob Ezrin.  Ezrin was responsible for the two albums that some consider Kiss’ best, and Kiss’ worst.  It had been 10 years.  A Kiss-Ezrin reunion was very big news for fans.  It indicated that Kiss meant business this time.  Secondly, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was the first Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons (with Bob Ezrin and Russ Ballard) co-writing credit since 1985, and their first shared vocals in ages upon ages.

Although it didn’t make waves in 1991, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” has become enough of a favourite to make it onto 2015’s Kiss 40 compilation, and continue to be played live.  It shows off what Kiss can really do.  Yes, they can sing!  Yes, they can play!   This lineup could do it particularly well.  It’s appropriate that Eric Carr went out on a good Kiss track.  And Eric Singer was the right guy to continue.

There are three released versions of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”:  The single edit (3:57), the soundtrack version (5:23) and the final 1992 version that was later released on the next Kiss album (5:19).  The single edit cuts out too much of the grand, pompous arrangement, including the epic opening.

In an ironic twist, the version of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” that is in the movie has a guitar intro solo by Steve Vai.  The same guy whose band got booed in Toronto thanks to Kiss.

The CD single is rounded out by two more songs from the Bill & Ted soundtrack, by Slaughter and King’s X.  The King’s X track, “Junior’s Gone Wild” (previously reviewed in our mega King’s X series) has never been one of their better tunes, but as a non-album rarity, a nice one to have.  Just don’t judge King’s X by this one track.  Slaughter turned in something better, a fun party tune called “Shout It Out”, also a non-album recording.  Slaughter, of course, were one of Kiss’ well-received opening acts on the Hot in the Shade tour.  And what was their Kiss connection?  Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum were in a band with Kiss’ old guitar player, called the Vinnie Vincent Invasion!

As work proceeded on the next LP, the world suddenly changed.  Hard rock was out, and grunge took over MTV.  This single bought Kiss a little bit of time, but it was going to be the longest gap between Kiss albums yet — three years.  Revenge had to wait a little longer.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/08

 

 

REVIEW: KISS – “Forever” (4 track single, 1990)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 39: bonus single review

 – “Forever” (1990 Polygram EP)

Kiss took the unusual step of waiting six months before going out on tour to support Hot in the Shade.  Bands were having trouble selling out arenas.  In the meantime they released singles and videos.  “Hide Your Heart” came first in October of 1989.  It did alright; for fans the best part of “Hide Your Heart” was seeing Paul Stanley playing guitar again in the music video.  The CD single was nothing special; just the Paul Stanley A-side, backed by two Gene Simmons B-sides, as had become the norm.  “Betrayed” and “Boomerang” were among the better Simmons tracks to chose from Hot in the Shade.

In January of the new year, they dropped what they hoped to be the big single, “Forever”.  The excellent music video was an MTV hit, going to #1, while the single went to #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  One reason the video was so well received is that it was a rare back-to-basics look at the band.  It was just four guys playing together in a room.  No girls, no gimmicks, no dancing.  Featuring exceptional performances by Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick, “Forever” was one of those rare ballads with integrity.  Having Bruce’s old Blackjack buddy, Michael Bolton, in the writing credits didn’t hurt.

Ace Frehley wasn’t impressed though.  In the July 1990 issue of Guitar for the Practising Musician, he dismissed it as pop.  He wasn’t wrong, but that doesn’t make “Forever” bad.

The single for “Forever” received a wider release on all three major formats (CD, vinyl and tape), and was expanded to EP length with four tracks.  It also received something very rare for Kiss:  a single exclusive remix, by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero.  It has some difference in levels and echo.  However, every CD copy of this single has a flaw, a skip at 1:40 that shouldn’t be there.  It’s not even a damaged CD; if you look at the track times, the single version is encoded few seconds shorter.  In other words a faulty master was used on every CD single.  You won’t find one without the skip.  Vinyl and cassette don’t have the flaw.

Fortunately this oversight was fixed when Kiss released their box set a decade later.  The correct remixed single version without flaw was remastered and included in the set.

The included B-sides are an interesting mix.  From the Hot in the Shade album, there’s the Gene Simmons throwaway “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”.  The other two are, strangely, two of Paul’s “new” tracks from Kiss Killers.  The logic here was the Kiss Killers was (and still is) unreleased in North America.  At least this gave us an easy way to get the amazing “Nowhere to Run” on CD.

Too bad about that flaw on the CD version.  Otherwise this isn’t a bad little single.

4/5 stars (cassette and vinyl versions)

0/5 stars (CD)

To be continued…