eric carr

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1982 import)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 21:  

  Killers (1982 Casablanca, German and Japanese versions)

No matter how you feel about Kiss’s concept album Music From the Elder, it was a commercial dud.  It was Kiss’ first serious flop as a band since hitting the big time in 1975 with Kiss Alive!  More significantly, it was part of a trend:  Kiss chaos.  Since the solo albums, Kiss were fragmented.  The band weren’t playing on all the songs anymore, and members were leaving.  They had strayed from their music roots and become a comic book novelty act.  The Elder was not so much an album that people didn’t “get”, but one they didn’t care to “get”.  Fans were moving on.

The European record label, Phonogram, was in damage control mode.  They drew up plans to issue an album consisting of new and old songs; a compilation to put some money back in the coffers.  They weren’t mucking around.  They wanted a batch of new rock songs, but Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Ace Frehley hadn’t left the band officially, but he was no longer involved creatively.  Filling the guitar slot again was Bob Kulick.  As he did on Kiss Alive II, Bob played lead guitar on the new songs.  A 1988 book called Kiss: Still on Fire also named Ratt’s Robbin Crosby as a guitar player on the new songs, though this is a claim not backed up in any other source.  Paul provided the new songs, written with old and new friends:  Mikel Japp, Adam Mitchell, and some Canadian guy named Bryan something.  Bryan Adams?  Cuts like a knife indeed!  Adams co-wrote the lethal “Down On Your Knees”, and it wouldn’t be his last songwriting credit with Kiss either.

The best new tune in the batch was called “Nowhere to Run”, and it was one of the rockers that Kiss were working on before they decided to do The Elder instead. The sheer quality of this Stanley-penned underdog really supports the theory that doing The Elder was a mistake.  “Nowhere to Run” was classic Stanley, as good as anything on his solo album and exactly the kind of song that Kiss should have been doing.  In an alternate universe where The Elder never came out, what could have happened to Kiss?  Unfortunately the new compilation called Kiss Killers was never released in North America.   “Nowhere to Run” could do very little to change Kiss’ fortunes without being released in their native country.

The second-finest of the new songs is a little ditty called “I’m a Legend Tonight”.  Paul has somewhat disowned these songs since, but it is really hard to understand why.  This is a hard hitting Paul rocker, as only Paul can do.  It’s all innuendo and hot guitar licks.  The riff is simple and hooky, while Kulick plays for all he’s worth.  No longer was Bob being told to “play like Ace”.  His signature scorch really makes these new songs sound like a continuation of the Paul Stanley solo album.  Then there is “Down on Your Knees”, the one with Bryan Adams’ fingerprints on it.  It’s hard to tell, although it’s not outside the Adams ballpark.  It’s a sleazy rocker, spare and sounding great.  The new tracks were produced by Michael James Jackson, who finally captured Eric Carr’s drums properly.  Bob Ezrin buried them under mud on The Elder.  Kiss Killers sounds more like the real Eric Carr debut album.  The last of the new songs, “Partners in Crime”, is the weakest of the four.  Paul takes it down to a slow sexy grind, but “Partners in Crime” lacks the charisma of the other three.

As far as the new songs could be considered a “comeback”, it’s close but no cigar.  There’s no discernable Demon.  Where is Gene Simmons?  The lack of any audible Simmons vocals makes you question whether he even played bass on the new songs.  Regardless, Kiss is about a balance between Gene and Paul, and Killers represents the first heavy skew towards Paul.

 

The hits on the record make for great listening.  Most of the key bases are covered:  “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “God of Thunder” and even “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.  There are no Peter Criss songs, and the only Frehley is “Cold Gin”, which Gene sings.  The only ballad is “Sure Know Something”, a minor hit in Germany where this album was issued.  In a cool touch, the record closes with the “live” (quotation marks!) version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” that made them superstars.  It is the more well known, and arguably superior version.  (Some of the other tracks are edits or single versions.*)

Kiss’ very first Japanese bonus tracks were on Killers.  The Japanese version is an even better listen.  They put a bonus track in the second-to-last position on each side:  “Shandi” (massive hit in Australia) and “Escape From the Island” (previously unreleased in Japan — it wasn’t included on their version of The Elder).  “Shandi” is just a great fucking song, and “Escape From the Island” is a cool inclusion because of a) its obscurity, and b) its total Ace Frehley shreddery.  It is interesting to note, that only Japan had tracks from the two most recent Kiss albums, Unmasked and Music From the Elder.  The rest of the world did not.  Were Kiss already trying to bury those records?

Periodically, the new songs on Kiss Killers have reappeared on single B-sides, compilations and box sets.  The best way to get them is just to pick up a copy of Killers.  Choose your format, sit back and rock!

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

* “Shout it Out Loud” is a single version with a different mix on the lead vocals and an early fade.  “Detroit Rock City” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” are edited versions.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/27

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RE-REVIEW: KISS – Music From the Elder (1981)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 20:  

  Music From the Elder (1981 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster, 2014 Universal vinyl)

Kiss had gone as far as they could go in the pop direction that they travelled on Unmasked.  The band’s stature was in jeopardy.  The image was outweighing the music and they suffered their first member defection.  As discussed in chapter 18, Peter Criss was out, but he was replaced by an energetic young drummer henceforth known as Eric Carr.  His abilities put sounds in reach that the band weren’t able to do with Peter Criss.  The smartest move, albeit the safest, would be a return to the band’s hard rocking roots.  Songs were written and demoed, including “Don’t Run” (Frehley/Anton Fig), “Every Little Bit of My Heart” (Stanley), “Deadly Weapons” (Stanley/Simmons), “Nowhere to Run” (Stanley), “Feel Like Heaven” (Simmons) and an instrumental called “Kix Are For Kids”.

Based on what we know of these songs today, Kiss easily could have turned them into a classic sounding album.  Whether it be ego, fear, ambition or sheer hubris, Kiss scrapped the demos and aimed instead to shoot in another direction.  That is, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and manager Bill Aucoin changed direction at the protest of Ace Frehley.  Eric Carr had no say, being an employee.  Playing on the strengths of Kiss’ larger than life comic book image, Gene concocted a fantasy story that they wanted to turn into a concept album.  If that was successful, they could spin the album off into sequels, a tour and a movie.  And who else would be better to produce a concept album than Bob Ezrin?

The addition of Ezrin was another grievance for Ace Frehley.  It was Bob Ezrin who replaced him on 1976’s Destroyer album with Dick Wagner on “Sweet Pain”.

So a fractured Kiss went into separate studios to record the concept album.  Ace stayed in his new home studio in Connecticut and recorded his guitar parts there, painstakingly taking his time to get just the right crunch.  Much to his chagrin, Bob Ezrin used only bits and pieces of what he was sent.  Bob was dealing with a severe drug problem, and had isolated himself so that the only lines of communication regarding the album were Kiss and Bill Aucoin.  Nobody outside of the circle heard a note until they were done.  There was talk of a double album, but it made sense to do it one at a time…just in case it didn’t sell.  Hence the title, Music From the Elder.  Like Star Wars, this was meant to be only a part of the whole story.

A word about the running order.  When Music From the Elder was first released in North America, the story didn’t make much sense.  It was supposed to begin with the instrumental “fanfare” and then the acoustic strumming of “Just a Boy”.  Instead the record company shuffled the song order to start with something heavier:  “The Oath”.  But the concept never made any sense.  In 1997, Mercury released the Kiss remastered series, and restored the original intended track order.  They even restored a snippet of “lost” music, a Gregorian chant bit between the first two tracks.  The original Japanese pressing came with the tracks in the right order, but was missing one overall (“Escape From the Island”).  The Japanese version also came with a neat full cover obi with pictures of the band — something fans missed out on with the normal release.  (When fans did finally see pictures of the 1981 Kiss, they were taken aback by the modern hair and image.)  The current 2014 LP edition on 180 gram vinyl also has the restored track order.

The album begins quietly (and pretentiously) with strings and woodwinds of “fanfare“, credited to Ezrin and Stanley, and based on the melody of second track “Just a Boy”.  “Who steers the ship through the stormy seas?  If hope is lost then so are we.  While some eyes search for one to guide us, some are staring at me.”  The Elder is the tale of a reluctant hero known only as “the boy”.  He is the archetypal “chosen one” selected by the mysterious and powerful Council of the Elder.  “When the Earth was young, they were already old,” reads the liner notes.  He must face the evil Blackwell, but he can’t believe there is anything special about him.

Although “Just a Boy” is a deep cut loved only by those with Kiss infecting their blood, you can hear its charm.  It sounds nothing at all like Kiss, and its soft acoustics don’t even sound like a rock band.  Paul sings the chorus in an insane falsetto, which he also utilizes elsewhere on the album.  The powerful guitar solo is all his, and one struggles to hear Ace Frehley on the track at all.  “Just a Boy” is a good song, with structure and dynamics and thoughtful composition.  It isn’t something that could be performed well on stage, and the production leaves a muddy haze over the lead vocals.  It’s hard to hear 50% of Paul’s lyrics.  Fortunately, the 2014 vinyl reissue comes with something the 1997 CD did not:  a lyric sheet.  With that in hand, you can follow the story.

In fact, it must be recommended to listen to The Elder on vinyl at least once to fully appreciate the album.  Something about sitting there with a gatefold jacket open and following a story on a record sleeve works as a sort of time machine.  It’s truly an experience that you cannot feel with CD alone, and the only way to do that with the songs in the proper order is with the 2014 vinyl reissue.

Kiss have thrown obscure covers on their albums before, but it’s strange to see such a thing on a concept album.  “Odyssey” by Tony Powers fit the story at this moment, although nothing could sound less like Kiss.  It is a fully orchestrated song and it doesn’t even have Eric Carr on it.  Ezrin didn’t think he was getting the right vibe so he brought in Allan Schwartzberg who also played on Gene’s solo album.  “Odyssey” is as overblown and pretentious as a song can get, as if Kiss suddenly became the Beatles and this was their “Hey Jude” moment.  This many soft, un-Kiss like songs right off the bat is a good way to throw listeners, so the record label ended up moving it to side two.  Paul Stanley has disowned the song, but what Paul failed to appreciate is that though campy, “Odyssey” is also incredibly fun.  It has no place in the Kiss canon, but there it is, and it’s hard to forget that delightfully pompous orchestra.

The first appearance of the mighty demon Gene Simmons is “Only You”, a choppy and spare guitar number that is the first rock moment on the album.  It’s an attempt to be progressive and rock, and it more or less works.  It’s simple and blocky, but it shifts into a few different sections including a reprise of the “Just a Boy” theme.  Paul also guests on a verse as the boy character, questioning his destiny:  “I can’t believe this is true, why do I listen to you?  And if I am all that you say, why am I still so afraid?”  The Elder respond, “In every age, in every time, a hero is born as if by a grand design.”  In an interesting twist, Doro Pesche later covered this song with completely different lyrics.

According to their self-written Kisstory (volume 1) tome, Eric Carr expressed some doubt as to the band’s current direction.  In response Gene challenged him to come up with something of his own, so Eric provided the beginnings of “Under the Rose”, on which he also plays acoustic guitar.  “Under the Rose” became his first writing credit on a Kiss album, with Gene Simmons.  “Under the Rose” is soft/heavy, soft/heavy, and features an ominous choir on the chorus.  But through this, Ace Frehley’s presence cannot be felt.  Such an important part of the Kiss sound before, now relegated to the sidelines.  Ace had only one lead vocal on The Elder, a song based on a riff written by Anton Fig.  Their “Don’t Run” demo was re-written by Gene Simmons and Lou Reed, yes Lou Reed, to become “Dark Light”.  In context of the story, “Dark Light” warns of coming evil.  Ace’s presence is welcome, providing some much needed rock foundation and a brilliant guitar solo.  Unfortunately “Dark Light” is probably his weakest in his Kiss career, a disappointing followup to prior classics like “Talk to Me”, “Save Your Love” and “Shock Me”.

Lou Reed co-wrote the lyrics to the single “A World Without Heroes”, which originated as a Paul Stanley ballad called “Every Little Bit of My Heart”.  Reed came up with phrases like “a world without heroes is like a world without sun.”  These clicked with Gene and Bob Ezrin who completed the song.  Paul plays lead guitar on a somber single that, again, sounds little like Kiss.  Kiss had done ballads before and even had hits with them, but nothing like “A World Without Heroes”, one of their darkest songs.  Strangely, it ended up being covered by Cher.

At this point of the story, the boy agrees to fulfill his destiny and become the hero.  This happens on the most heavy metal song on the album, “The Oath”.  This is the track that opened the original released running order of the album, completely destroying any comprehensible plot.  You can still understand why they did this.  Its metal riff and impressive drums are the intro that the album really needed.  Paul sings in falsetto again:  “Now inside the fire of the ancient burns, a boy goes in and suddenly a man returns.”  The song was performed live once in 1982 on a TV show called Fridays.  Although the performance seemed sloppy and awkward, Ace burned up a couple wild guitar solos.  If this is the kind of material that Bob Ezrin cut from the album, it was a big mistake.

So the boy has taken the oath, and it’s time to meet the evil one. Gene and Lou Reed wrote “Mr. Blackwell” about the character, who doesn’t seem to be too worried about the discovery of the chosen one. “Here’s to the kid, a real man among men,” mocks Blackwell in the lyrics. (The song also contains the phrase “rotten to the core”, which was a song title Gene had been batting around since the mid-70s.) Musically, “Blackwell” is spare and revolves around the words. A bumping and thumping bass is the main feature of a song that is more words than music.

At the exact moment that you need Ace Frehley to come back and save the album, he does with the instrumental “Escape from the Island”. Co-written with Eric Carr and Bob Ezrin, “Island” delivers the thrills and action-packed guitar action. Because it’s an instrumental it’s hard to determine exactly how it fits the story, except it sounds like an action scene. Perhaps Blackwell launched a preemptive strike on the boy, who escaped. Ace’s guitar attacks the surroundings, chopping them down with fatally loud riffs.

The final song (on all versions of the album) is the single “I”. Gene and Paul split lead vocals on this Simmons/Ezrin song, but once again Eric Carr was secretly replaced on the recording by Allan Schwartzberg. The story is wrapped up with the boy now proclaiming he believes in himself and is ready to take on the evil. The end of the album, yes, but clearly intended as only the first chapter of something bigger. Gene spoke of a heavier sequel album called War of the Gods which would depict the conflict. Instead, “I” serves as the ending, and at least it’s a kicker. Like vintage Kiss, the riff and chorus meld into one fist of rock. The lyrics are suitably uplifting. “I believe in something more than you can understand, yes I believe in me!” That’s pure Kiss in a nutshell right there.

A short hidden track following “I” provides the only dialogue on the album (over a reprise of “fanfare“), although more was recorded. The hidden coda reaffirms that the Elder have found the right kid. “He’s got the light in his eyes, and the look of a champion. A real champion!”

There are two ways to listen to The Elder.  If you want the whole enchilada and would like to hear the story in its correct order, pick up a remastered edition of the album either on CD or vinyl.  If you’d like a more even listening experience that is the same as that of fans who dropped the needle on the album in 1981, then go for the original CD or vinyl release.  But if you’re a Kiss maniac, you simply must do it both ways.

Music From the Elder is a flawed album, mostly marred by sonic muddiness.  It has an uncharacteristic quantity of ballads and un-Kiss-like songs, so fans stayed away in droves.  What they missed was a decent concept album for Kiss, a band that never should have attempted a concept album in the first place.  Because the album failed to sell, Kiss’ ambitious tour plans were scrapped and the band stayed home.  Aside from the three songs played on the Fridays TV show (“The Oath”, “A World Without Heroes” and “I”), Kiss never played any songs from The Elder live until their 1995 acoustic Konvention tour.  The lack of a tour meant Kiss’ momentum was all but halted.  The new drummer that fans barely knew only ever played one show in North America!

A bigger problem was brewing, and that was a bitter and disenfranchised Ace Frehley.  Once again, fans were not aware of the problems brewing in Kiss, but The Elder was the last album Kiss Ace played on until 1998.  It was a repeat of the Peter Criss situation only two years prior.

If Kiss had stuck to their plan of recording a hard rock album again, perhaps things would have played out completely differently.  We’ll have a chance to check out some of the songs they were working on in upcoming chapters for they would not stay buried long.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

2/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Some of my favorite records ever have been “concept” records.  Operation: Mindcrime, Misplaced Childhood, 2112, Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From a Memory, El Corazon; to name just a few of many.  When it comes to The Elder, my one sentence review of this album would simply be:  Some bands should not make concept albums.  Bob Ezrin came straight from The Wall to record this mess.  I read somewhere recently, and it may even have been in the comments here perhaps, but Ace Frehley hates this album.  Which completely makes sense considering he had been on such a roll until it halted with this record.  It’s kind of a hard album to break down individually, but some quick notes:

“The Oath” – Very chuggy heavy song.  I think the [domestic] album starts off with the best song.  Song begins as if it’s Manowar meets Kiss.  More reminiscent of Creatures of the Night than this record.  Perhaps some bombastic Tenacious D-like moments.

“Just A Boy” – Starts off like early ELP and first reaction is that Paul Stanley could never come close to singing this song again.  Solid song.  Overall I get a Wishbone Ash feel. 

“Dark Light” – As mentioned earlier, Ace’s roll slows down with a dull track.  I do like the guitar solo over the bongos though.

“Only You” – An even duller track that starts with Gene singing, and morphs into Stanley singing with some stupid effect on his voice.  Right producer, wrong band.   (That could be another one sentence review of The Elder)

“Under the Rose” – This clunker doesn’t flow for me.  Gregorian Monks?  Bah….

“A World Without Heroes” – I thought it was lame then and it’s only slightly less lame to me now.  Could have used more Lou Reed.

“Mr. Blackwell” – Funky novel track.  Dancy and quirky but one of the strongest songs on The Elder for me.  One of the only songs for me that has a great hook to it.  Unmasked this album is not.

“Escape From the Island” – Good solid rocker.  Great drumming.  This would have been a great live jammer, but I’m doubting they have ever played this live.   LeBrain?  [Nope]

“Odyssey” – WTF?  Was this Paul’s tryout demo  for Phantom of the Opera?  This song alone is an unforgivable sin, and just another reason why this album should have been aborted in the womb.

Favorite Tracks”  “The Oath”, “Mr. Blackwell”, “Escape From the Island”

Forgettable Tracks:  Take your pick….


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/26

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Unmasked (1980)

bThe KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 18:  It’s a KISS three-fer!  LeBrain and Uncle Meat discuss KISS Unmasked below.  Meanwhile Deke at Stick it in Your Ear has an accompanying piece called Peter Criss:  Tossed and Turning!

  Unmasked (1980 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster)

“I think Unmasked is a pretty crappy album.  It’s wimpy” – Paul Stanley, KISS Behind the Mask

Here we are at Unmasked, the very album that inspired the Kiss Re-Review series in the first place.  It’s a polarizing platter.  The band often trash it and shun it in concert.  Meanwhile, some fans have grown to appreciate it, particularly in Europe and Australia.  There is even a tribute CD on a German label with covers of the entire album.  Indeed, Unmasked is not without strengths.  Ace Frehley contributed another three songs of his own, continuing the growth he demonstrated on his solo album and Dynasty.

On the other side of the ledger, there were factors that fans see as a diluting of the Kiss sound.  Co-writers were now the norm.  Returning producer Vini Poncia had eight co-writes.  They used a track by songwriter Gerard McMahon.  Even ghost guitarist Bob Kulick had a co-write on Gene’s “Naked City”.  Most importantly, but publicly unknown at the time, was that Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Peter Criss’ substance issues had come to a head and he was not involved with the album at all.  He was on the cover, and in the credits, but all Peter did was mime some drums for the “Shandi” music video.  When that shoot was done, Peter was gone.  Anton Fig (Dynasty, Ace Frehley) returned again to fill the gap behind the scenes.

The album demonstrated a slick turn towards pop rock.  Not disco so much, although the compression on the drums and guitars gives it a disco sound.  The keyboards and slick production sweetened the album to the point that the thunder of Alive! or Love Gun was completely absent.  Kiss were becoming caricatures in pursuit of megahits.

The Gerard McMahon song “Is That You?” was selected to open Unmasked.  This sexy grind is one of the best tracks, with Paul in peak voice showing off what he can do.  The slow and dirty pop rock number gets the job done, with minimal loss of integrity.  That’s Paul on lead guitar too, one of several songs on which he solos, though it is hard to tell.  In fact Unmasked is one of those Kiss albums on which you can’t be sure who played what.

Only one Kiss member appears on the big single, “Shandi”, and that’s Paul Stanley.  On bass was Tom Harper, and Holly Knight on keyboards.  There is little doubt that “Shandi” is a fantastic song, and it worked particularly well live in the acoustic setting.  While Unmasked blurred the lines between rock and pop, “Shandi” is pure pop joy — almost adult contemporary!

Frehley’s first track was a favourite called “Talk to Me”, a song many Kiss fans easily embraced.  These first three songs were performed on the Unmasked tour, which demonstrates their worth.  “Talk to Me” has a cool guitar riff and one of Ace’s most infectious choruses – an instant classic.  Ace had really grown as a singer by this point.

The waters get murkier after the first three tracks.  Gene’s “Naked City” is a grower.  It possesses hooks and great verses, but the main guitar riff doesn’t hit the spot.  Gene’s falsetto voice is employed to great effect.  It takes a few spins, but “Naked City” has a cool darkness to it and a strange kind of class.  That is followed by the very pop “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”, a keyboard-heavy Paul Stanley tune.  It sounds very little like Kiss, but Paul’s performance (guitar solo included) is stellar.  Falsetto must have been very popular at the time.  Bee Gees, anyone?

Paul’s side two opener “Tomorrow” is just as pop as “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”.  These would be great songs for somebody else’s album.  Perhaps Rick Astley.  Fortunately the side is quickly redeemed by Ace’s excellent “Two Sides of the Coin”.  Notably, this song inspired the title of Michael Brandvold’s Kiss podcast, “Three Sides of the Coin“.  Ace’s track is a fan favourite, upbeat and melodic with just enough guitar bite.  If the production was meatier, as on Ace’s solo album, it would be an absolute killer.

Gene continues chasing the ladies on “She’s So European”, a filler track with familiar themes.  “She makes love on a brass bed, because her parents are still awake.”  Not Gene’s finest moment.  “Easy As It Seems” is a Paul track, and also not one of his finest, but the bouncy bass (by Paul) is quite great.  But is that a bloody keyboard solo that I detect?

One of the most interesting tracks, and most instrumentally impressive, is Ace’s surf rock classic “Torpedo Girl”.  This is just a fun summertime track with infectious ooh-ahh vocal hooks.  His role within Kiss resulted in some of their more unique songs, and “Torpedo Girl” is unorthodox.  Ace’s picking is enviable, and the lyrics are just pure fun.  “Come on, get your feet wet.”

Album closer “You’re All That I Want” is one of Gene’s tunes, but Paul’s vocals on the outro sell it.  It’s a little on the light side, as is much of Unmasked, but it remains a good song.

On a personal note, I have one very strong memory of Unmasked.  I first heard it by taping it off a friend, my late neighbor George.  George dropped the needle on the record, hit record on my tape, and then got out his bass and played bass along to every song.  Unbeknownst to him, his bass playing bled onto the tape.  From that point until I finally got a store-bought cassette copy, I always heard George’s bass on the fade-outs of every song.  I can still hear it in my head.  I suppose that’s one way that George is still alive, in my memory.

Unmasked was released on May 20, 1980, with a bright cartoony cover including Peter Criss.  Meanwhile the band were already preparing for their first of many lineup changes, something that was kept quiet until the right moment.

In July, Kiss were ready to unveil the new member.  Paul Caravello, from Brooklyn, impressed Kiss with his audition and humble personality.  The story that everybody remembers is that Caravello asked the guys for their autographs in case he never saw them again.  No worries there; the job was destined to be his.  But Kiss couldn’t have another guy named Paul, and his last name was too “ethnic” (obviously Italian), so his name was changed to Eric Carr.  (Fortunately, Gene’s suggestion of “Rusty Blades” was discarded.)  The newly dubbed Eric was an energetic mighty-mite of rock, and the band quickly grew to love him.  Everything was new to him.

“The Hawk”

A new makeup design was required.  This was a big deal — a new challenge.  A hawk concept was tried, but in the costume Carr looked more like Big Bird than a rock star.  He drew up an inspired fox design which immediately clicked.  The new character was born!

Carr’s first appearance with the band was at their only US date on this tour: New York on July 25 1980.  The rest of the tour took place in Europe and Australia where “Shandi” became a hit.  There were only 41 shows in total.  Despite their best efforts, Kiss’ fortunes were shifting.  Opening acts on the tour included Iron Maiden, which must have been quite the mismatch.  Given Maiden’s reputation for blowing away headliners (much like Kiss when they started out), you must wonder how this went down.  Girl, featuring future Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen and future L.A. Guns singer Phil Lewis, also opened a handful of gigs.

Unfortunately for fans, especially in North America, this was the last tour for a long time.  It was also the only tour featuring this lineup.  While Kiss had endured their first lineup change, that was only just the beginning of the problems to solve.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Unmasked was released in May of 1980. A couple of months later I had heard that Kiss was going to introduce their new drummer on a show called Kids Are People Too. Seeing Kiss in the Phantom movie on TV was one thing. But knowing they were being interviewed, and introducing their newest member…Eric “The Fox” Carr. I watch it today on YouTube, and it’s so…umm…not what I remember. But it was monumental at the time for me. At this point, I had heard Unmasked once at a friend’s place and was underwhelmed. But I loved the album cover and still think it is probably their best. My take on Unmasked is much different now, and was how LeBrain’s Re-Reviews started in the first place. First of all I will address this. Mike referred in the beginning of this series to the two “Disco” era Kiss albums of Dynasty and Unmasked. Dynasty has one Disco song. Unmasked does not have anything close to a Disco song. Some would say “Shandi”, but that is Kiss capitalizing on the Soft Rock success of the day. Unmasked may not be a typical Kiss album, but thanks to Vini Poncia it’s a great album of Rock tunes and one of my favorite Kiss albums.

The drumming on this album is a major high point. Anton Fig shines all over this disc. Ace also continues his consistent roll with great rock songs like “Talk To Me”. He has such a great Rock and Roll voice. The background vocals are great too. “Two Sides of the Coin” is another song with incredible drumming, and a single writing credit. Both this song and “Talk To Me” are the only two songs on the album that don’t have an outside writing credit. Subsequently these songs sound more like classic Kiss than the rest of the album. However “Torpedo Girl” is another story. This might be the shining moment of Ace’s career in Meat’s opinion. Unbelievable guitar riff and funky drum beat. I have had it in my head for days now.

It seems that the addition of Vini Poncia to the Kiss machine inspired Gene Simmons as well. Unlike Dynasty where his songs were mostly forgettable, a couple of his songs on this album shine here. “She’s So European” is “completely ridiculous” but a “great fucking tune” (according to my longtime Kiss-mate Scott) . That about says it all. “Naked City” sees the falsetto of Gene Simmons on display here in another catchy song. There are great hooks within this song, which is indicative of the whole album really. However the album closer, “You’re All That I Want” might be the weakest track on the album. I do though love the ending, which you hear Stanley screaming in his typical live-show style.

Paul Stanley’s contributions on this album are good as well, with a few curveballs thrown in. “Shandi” was a massive Australian hit, and even though the song is about as limp as it can be, I still love the song. Reminds me of the Little River Band and Ambrosia songs of the Soft Rock era that I still dig. “What Makes the World Go ‘Round” is a solid song, with some of the greatest solo guitar playing Paul Stanley has put to record. “Tomorrow” sounds a lot like .38 Special to me and is just OK. “Easy As it Seems” is a solid song that incorporates keyboards in an interesting way, and might be the best Stanley song on Unmasked.

Overall Unmasked is a misunderstood, understated classic. I am curious to see if time has changed LeBrain’s take on this album. All I can say is…this may be Kiss’s last truly great album. From here on in, the “Meat’s Slice” section will start to get a lot shorter, with a couple exceptions.

Favorite Tracks: “Torpedo Girl”, “Shandi”, “Is That You”, “Talk To Me”, “She’s so European”

Forgettable Tracks: “You’re All That I Want”, “Tomorrow” (both borderline)


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/25

 

 

 

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Milwaukee Live ’87 (2015)

scan_20161014ACE FREHLEY’S COMET – Milwaukee Summerfest Live 1987 (2015 Echoes radio broadcast)

In 1987, Ace Frehley had just begun his comeback.  He recorded a well received debut as Frehley’s Comet, with a notable appearance by drummer par excellence Anton Fig.  Anton had been working steadily for the Letterman show since 1986 and so was not on the tour this CD was captured from.   This version of the Comet featured new drummer Billy Ward.  They were recorded live in Milwaukee at Summerfest on June 29th of that year.  It was taped for broadcast and somehow survived.  Live radio broadcast CDs are so common now that you can even find them at Walmart.  Some are worth the cash, others less so.  A Frehley’s Comet broadcast from the first tour is automatically interesting to Kiss collectors.

Unfortunately what buyers will discover is that this CD is a harsh chore to listen to.  Vocals are back in the mix, bass way up front, and there is a thin haze of staticky air over it.  Ace’s perennial opener, “Rip It Out” (from his 1978 solo album) is but a shadow of the better produced version on the Live + 1 EP.  This is through no fault of the band, featuring mainstay bassist John Regan, singer/guitarist Tod Howarth, and Ward.

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Ace sings lead on most of the material, but Tod Howarth has a couple songs from the first Comet LP.  “Something Moved” and “Breakout” (co-written by the late Eric Carr) are fast paced action, while “Calling to You” is anthemic pop rock.  Howarth was in excellent voice that night, this much is certain.  Ace sings a handful of Kiss tunes as well as solo and Comet material.  Gene Simmons originally sang “Cold Gin”, but Ace took it back for himself by singing it live.  At the same time, Kiss were also playing “Cold Gin” live (a song Ace wrote) and fans will have to decide who pulled it off best.  Ace even tackles “Deuce”, a song Gene wrote.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?

It really is a shame that the audio hampers the listening experience.  It sounds like a legitimately great Ace performance.  Having a guy like Howarth in the band enabled Ace to have multiple lead singers like Kiss did.  On the Kiss covers, Howarth takes the Paul Stanley role.  Billy Ward and John Regan make the songs a little more complex rhythmically than the Kiss originals, but Ace also adds in new and extended solos.  The end results are enhanced, Ace-ified covers.  No notable tracks are missing; it is a really solid set list of Ace Frehley classics.

There are some who will happily purchase anything with Ace’s name on it (guilty!) and there are others who can live without.  Decide who you are and spend your money appropriately.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: KISS – Deadly Demos (1995 bootleg)

First of a Kiss two-fer.
Scan_20160808KISS – Deadly Demos (1995 Firehouse Records bootleg)

Some Kiss fans are willing to pay money for every burp and fart that Gene or Paul have committed to tape.  Deadly Demos (or Deadly Kisses according to the CD itself) definitely has some material that is difficult to listen to quality-wise.  It also has some decent versions of rare tracks that Kiss fans are seeking.  When it comes to collecting Kiss, the band occasionally cough up official versions of heavily bootlegged rarities.  The Kiss Box Set gave us a number of these tracks, as did Kiss 40 and the Love Gun deluxe edition.  That may sound generous, but there are so many more Kiss demos out there that the band could easily compile onto a few CDs worth of decent tracks.  Gene has always said “don’t worry, they’re coming”.  Impatient fans have had to settle for shoddy unofficial discs like Deadly Demos to get their fix.

“Nowhere to Run”, originally from Kiss Killers, is an early version of the song, but the demo is unfortunately hampered by the too-fast tape speed.  This can easily be fixed digitally, but the track suffers from high static and low clarity.  It’s too bad because the demo version sounds fiery.  “Secretly Cruel” (Asylum) is better and rocks harder than the album version.  Because these are demos, you have to expect a certain lack of clarity, but it’s cool hearing slightly different arrangements and lyrics.  “Nobody’s Perfect” is a great little song that didn’t appear officially until 2009’s Sonic Boom, heavily re-written, but the chorus was intact a long time ago.  Another Gene demo “It’s Gonna Be Alright” just has a drum machine and simple guitar part, but it would be one of Kiss’s pop rock classics if they ever decide to commit it to album.

A Paul demo (“Get All You Can Take” from Animalize) breaks up the Gene party, but it is an instrumental version.  It has a heavy Zeppelin sound without the vocals, but the sound quality is pretty poor.  When these guys were recording demos like this, it was mostly just to get the idea down onto tape so you could show the others what your idea was.  Fidelity was not considered essential, and a lot of these tapes had been copied many many times before they were finally digitized onto CD.  “Thrills in the Night” is probably from the same source.  You can hear other music leaking through too.  The sound is atrocious, but what is cool here is that it gives you an idea how Paul Stanley writes.  The music and melody are all but complete, but the lyrics are not, so Paul sings it in “doo doo doo” vocals.  It’s incredible how intact the song already was at this stage, including a guitar solo that is clearly by Mark St. John.  An earlier song, Paul’s “Deadly Weapons” from the Kiss Killers period would have been a fun hard rocking addition to that LP.  Some of the lyrics were used on Gene’s “Love’s A Deadly Weapon” from Asylum, which is the reason it has a Stanley/Simmons/Swenson/Beech writing credit.  Paul and Gene weren’t writing together for pretty much all of the 80’s, but Gene lifted some words from “Deadly Weapons”.

Populating the demos from the late 80’s, “Hide Your Heart” is outstanding, very close to the album cut, and has decent audio.  However the real holy grail is “Sword and Stone”, the track Paul wrote but was recorded by Bonfire for the Shocker soundtrack.  Having it on bootleg is not as good as having an official quality release, but this will have to do for now.  Kiss really should have put out this version on something back when it was recorded.  They shouldn’t have given it away.  As such it’s become a fan favourite over the years.  (Maybe Kiss should considering re-recording some of these old songs and releasing an album like Van Halen did.)

Other interesting tracks include “Let’s Put the X in Sex”, which isn’t even a demo.  This sounds flat out like a bad remix of the album version.  There are three “Let’s Put the X in Sex” remixes on this disc.  These are supposed to be promotional dance-y remixes done to get the song some club play.  While it’s nice to get tracks like this, the disc is called Deadly Demos, not Deadly Misc. Rarities.  Come on people.  The sound quality isn’t even a vinyl rip, so the origin of these remixes is questionable.  A much better (though still not a demo) inclusion is “Hard Luck Woman” performed on Leno by Kiss and Garth Brooks in 1994, to promote the Kiss My Ass tribute album.  From the same period, it’s Gin Blossoms and Kiss doing “Christine Sixteen”, on Letterman.  There are a few other live tracks, from unknown (broadcast) origins, but you can tell it’s Eric Singer on drums, so it must have been the 90’s.

The most infamous Kiss outtake of all time is the song “Feels Like Heaven”, which Peter Criss actually recorded himself on his second solo album, Let Me Rock You.  It’s an urban funk/soul combo but what exists on tape is just a snip of the song.  The reason it is so infamous is that Gene ends the song with a pretty crude statement that I won’t even reproduce here!  (And I’m a guy who’s written multiple articles about poop and pee!)   Oh Gene, you smooth talker you.

In order to rate a disc like this, you have to remember that it doesn’t simply boil down to numbers.  There are some valued tracks here, such as “Sword and Stone” and “Deadly Weapons”.  There is also a lot of material that will strain you just to listen to it.  As always, spend your money appropriately.

2/5 stars

 

 

#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

KISS ARMY FRONT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tales
#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

A while ago I recorded this segment for a proposed podcast over at KingCrimsonProg.  The podcast hasn’t come together yet, for the moment anyway, but I’ve decided to use my segment right here because it’s a subject of interest.  Listen to the embedded video below to hear my Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss!

REVIEW: KISS – 40 (2015 single CD Japan Commemorative edition)

 

NEW RELEASE

KISS 40 2015_0001KISS – 40 (2015 Universal Japan single CD Commemorative edition)

Wait a minute, I’m confused — did I just buy Kiss 40, again?

Wait a minute, it’s 2015 now — shouldn’t this be Kiss 41, or something??

Wait a minute, what the hell is “Kiss vs. Momoiro Clover Z”???

Eager to buy anything new from Gene and Co., I got this new single CD version of Kiss 40 without really knowing what it was about.

Now that the CD has arrived at the door, I discovered that Momoiro Clover Z is a Japanese all-girl pop group with similar intentions as Kiss themselves.  They dreamed big dreams for themselves and aimed to entertain and bring a spectacle to the people.  They have colour coordinated members and characters, so perhaps a Kiss collaboration seemed like the next step for them.  I don’t know how the collaboration came to be, but the result was a brand new Kiss song written by Paul Stanley and producer Greg Collins.

This edition of Kiss 40 commences with a Kiss-heavy mix of the new collaboration, “Samurai Son”. There are other versions available on two singles and on iTunes, but reviews for those will wait until they arrive at LeBrain HQ.  The good news is that the “U.S.” mix of “Samurai Son” has no problem hanging out on a Kiss greatest hits CD.  Musically, it’s not too much of a departure of the direction from Kiss’ last album, Monster.  It’s just more produced, polished and embellished.  The girls from Momoiro Clover Z come in during the chorus, but it’s not the first time Kiss have had female backing vocals on their albums.  It’s the first time since 1989, but remember old classic tunes like “Tomorrow and Tonight” from Love Gun, and “Sweet Pain” from Destroyer?  Female backing vocals.  The new twists this time are the lines in Japanese, and the very slight J-pop slant.  It’s not too far of a departure.

Collector's card included inside Kiss 40

Collector’s card included inside Kiss 40

It may not be to your taste, but I love “Samurai Son”.  The lyrics address Kiss’ experience of hitting Japan for the first time back in 1976:

“I took a flight into Tokyo,
Into the Land of the Rising Son,
I heard my song on the radio,
Blowin’ my mind like a shot from a gun.”

Paul then proceeds to tear it up all over town, “Livin’ life with no regrets.”  The words suit one of those fast paced Kiss rockers that they’ve been doing of late — think “Hell or Hallelujah”.  There are some cool Thayer licks and you can tell that Gene Simmons showed up for the sessions, because you can hear him singing on the choruses.  The overall impression is that “Samurai Son” is one of those solid Kiss catalogue rockers.  It’s like the new material on side four of Kiss Alive II: pretty good but living in the shadow of the Kiss greats.

KISS 40 2015_0006From this point on, Kiss 40 (the 2015 abridged version) continues with the “best” hits from the full length 2 CD version…but not quite.  There have been some major tweaks to the tracklist, perhaps to maximize the listening pleasure of consumers who just need one CD of Kiss in their lives.  The classic live version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” has been replaced with the studio version from Dressed to Kill.  Same for “Shout it Out Loud” and “Detroit Rock City”, here in their original full Destroyer guises instead of live. I like the way the car crash ending of “Detroit” merges into “Calling Dr. Love”.  “Dr. Love” and “Love Gun” were thrown into the pile here, even though they weren’t on the original Kiss 40 in any form.  A little further down, a different song was plucked from Kiss Killers:  The superior “I’m a Legend Tonight” replaces “Down on Your Knees”.

Moving on from the makeup years to the non-makeup 1980’s, the original version of “Crazy Crazy Nights” replaces that unreleased live version from the double Kiss 40.  That sums up the song substitutions; the album still continues chronologically to the current era.  I’m pleased that even though early songs from the first two Kiss albums were axed, songs from the last two Kiss albums were not.  I think Sonic Boom and Monster are Kiss albums the band should be proud of, so you get “Modern Day Delilah” and “Hell or Hallelujah”, as it should be.  Other albums excluded from this compilation are The Elder, (surprisingly) Creatures of the Night, Hot in the Shade, the live records and the solo albums.

With all these tweaks and alterations, the overall listening experience is enhanced albeit at the cost of some deeper tracks. It’s a give and take, so the overall score for the new Kiss 40 remains:

4/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004)

KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004 Universal)

These 20th Century Masters DVDs were a fun way to pick up key music videos from major bands at a cheap price.  Today this role is largely filled by sites such as YouTube.  The Kiss edition features five of their biggest from the 1980’s:  One with makeup, four without.  One each from Creatures, Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, and Crazy Nights.

“I Love It Loud”, of course, features the band in full makeup and costumes, including Ace Frehley, even though he did not play on Creatures of the Night.  This brilliant video spoofed the popular “rock and roll is brainwashing our kids” fears of the 80’s.  In this video, Kiss use their incredible brain powers to do that very thing.  Gene can even melt objects with his fire breathing, through a fucking television set.

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Let me set the stage for you in the clip for “Lick It Up”:  It is the Future.  Nuclear war has seemlingly reduced America to a wasteland, the population are dressed in rags.  The only human beings left alive are women…and of course the four guys from Kiss (now including Vinnie Vincent on guitar).  Only they can bring salvation (and music) to the surviving ladies.

“Heaven’s On Fire is a pretty standard 80’s video.  The band frolic with babes, Gene wags his tongue, Eric shakes his hair.  This video is however notable as the one and only appearance of guitarist Mark St. John (who replaced Vinnie Vincent) on lead guitar.

The clip for “Tears Are Falling” isn’t the best.  It’s a better song than a video, but there’s a cool part where Bruce plays a guitar solo in the rain.  It’s too bad that Kiss chose the Asylum period for a garish set of sequined covered bathrobes, a popular 1985-86 trend.

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“Crazy Crazy Nights” boasts some pretty big production values and the debut of the “new” late-80’s KISS sign.  I hated the softening of the musical and visual direction of Kiss in this video.  This is the beginning of Paul Stanley merely dancing with his guitar in videos, rather than playing it.  Watch the video.  At no point is Paul doing anything more than wearing or dancing with his guitar!

Eric Carr was the drummer on all tracks, rest his soul.

3/5 stars

KISS DVD 20TH CENTURY MASTERS_0001

REVIEW: KISS – 40 (Japanese import with bonus track)

NEW RELEASE

KISS – 40 (2014 Universal Japan)

Alright people. I got a question for everybody here (and I didn’t forget about you people upstairs neither, woah yeah!).  How many of you people believe in rock and roll?

If you believe in rock and roll, like you say you believe in rock-and-ro-oh-oll, then you know that 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the very first Kiss album.  Gene Simmons believes in rock and roll.  So does Universal music.  They believe in rock and roll’s ability to fill their pockets again and again.   As fans, we have learned to accept this.  You don’t have to buy every re-package and reissue that comes out; we all choose which releases to buy based on our wants and budgets.

Unreleased music is a top priority for me, so seeing Kiss 40 coming out with a number of unreleased tracks, I was excited about this release.  I bought the Japanese edition from the folks over at CD Japan, for the Japanese exclusive bonus track.  I’ll talk about that track in a bit, for now I want to express how happy I am with Kiss 40, as a compilation aimed at fans both new and old.

Sets like this are tricky.  You have to include familiar versions of familiar hits for the people buying their first Kiss CD.  You have to include value to the cantankerous old fan, and present the old songs in novel ways.  What Kiss and Universal chose to do was include one song from every Kiss album, including every live album.  Sprinkled into that are the unreleased songs.

High points:

I love that they used the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, the fast one.  Marko Fox has been using that as his theme song on his show for a while, and I’ve really grown to love this version.  All four solo albums have a song included.  (I would have preferred a harder song from Paul’s album, but “Hold Me, Touch Me” was the single after all.)  Killers is represented, via “Down on Your Knees”.  Not a bad song.  I’m glad to have the radio edit of “Jungle”, finally.  I never had that before, and “Jungle” probably wouldn’t be on the album if it wasn’t edited down from its full seven minutes.  (Although not stated, “Psycho-Circus” is also edited to remove the “circus” intro.)

Low points:

The goal of including Kiss songs from every album also means that you have to hear “Let’s Put the X in Sex”.  Although this would have been a great place to use a rarer remixed version, it’s just the same one from Smashes, Thrashes & Hits.  Another total miss that is here is the dreadful “Nothing Can Keep Me From You”, from the Detroit Rock City soundtrack.  Whyyyyy.

Nitty gritty details:

The first rarity is a 1977 Gene Simmons demo called “Reputation”.  You can hear that aspects of this song later made it into other Gene Simmons compositions such as “Radioactive”.  This is one of those song titles I’d read about for years, but have never heard until now.  Cool.  While the song is definitely a demo, and not quite as good as most finished Kiss songs, it does boast a cool dual guitar solo and rocking piano a-la “Christine Sixteen”.

KISS 40On the second CD are the rare live tracks.  In addition to live songs sampled from You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!!, Alive IV: Kiss Symphony and The Millenium Concert, there are rare ones here from Instant Live CDs.  Instant Live CDs are live albums you buy at the concert, immediately after the concert — a souvenir of the show you just saw.  Extras are then sold online.  I have a handful myself, but nobody has all of them (at least, nobody I know of!).  “Deuce”, “Cold Gin”, and “Crazy Crazy Nights” are all from these Instant Live albums.  “Crazy Crazy Nights” is the one I was most interested in.  Live performances of that song are scarce in my collection.  It is from the Sonic Boom tour, and it’s pretty solid.  The song is played in a lower key to accommodate Paul, who does pretty good anyway.  Eric and Tommy help him out on the chorus.  Thayer simplifies the original Kulick solo, adapting it to his style and keeping the key hooks intact.  The result is a tasty guitar solo which is a cross of both players.

Finally, those lucky lucky fans in Japan got a brand new live song:  “Hell or Hallelujah” recorded at Budokan.  Although the song itself smokes, Paul’s voice is really sore on this one.  (Both the intro and outro, which could have been neatly edited out, are really harsh.) The song includes the line, “No lies, no fakin’,” and that is totally appropriate, because this sounds 100% live and untouched.  Gotta give ’em credit for not trying to fix Paul’s voice in the mix.

Notable omissions:

“Love Gun”, “Creatures of the Night”, “Hotter than Hell”, “I Stole Your Love”, “Rocket Ride”, “Sure Know Something”, “Hide Your Heart”, “Domino”.

The verdict:

Buy this CD.  The concept of “one track per album” creates some interesting listening results.  The ratio of rarities to hits keeps it fresh all the way through.  And if you’re a Kiss fan absolutely get the Japanese version.  Just go to CD Japan and order it.

4/5 stars

Disc One

  1. ‘Nothin To Lose’
  2. ‘Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll’
  3. ‘C’mon and Love Me’
  4. ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ (Live)
  5. ‘God Of Thunder’ (Demo)
  6. ‘Beth’
  7. ‘Hard Luck Woman’
  8. ‘Reputation’ (Demo) – Previously Unreleased
  9. ‘Christine Sixteen’
  10. ‘Shout It Out Loud’ (Live)
  11. ‘Strutter ‘78′
  12. ‘You Matter To Me’ (Peter Criss)
  13. ‘Radioactive’ (Gene Simmons)
  14. ‘New York Groove’ (Ace Frehley)
  15. ‘Hold Me, Touch Me’ (Paul Stanley)
  16. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ (Single Edit)
  17. ‘Shandi’
  18. ‘A World Without Heroes’
  19. ‘I Love It Loud’
  20. ‘Down On Your Knees’
  21. ‘Lick It Up’
  22. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’

 

Disc Two

  1. ‘Tears Are Falling’
  2. ‘Reason To Live’
  3. ‘Let’s Put The X In Sex’
  4. ‘Forever’ (Remix)
  5. ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II’
  6. ‘Unholy’ (Live)
  7. ‘Do You Love Me?’ (MTV Unplugged)
  8. ‘Room Service’ (Live)
  9. ‘Jungle’ (Radio Edit)
  10. ‘Psycho Circus’
  11. ‘Nothing Can Keep Me From You’ (Detroit Rock City soundtrack)
  12. ‘Detroit Rock City’ (Live)
  13. ‘Deuce’ (Live 2004) – Unreleased commercially
  14. ‘Firehouse’ (Live – 1999/2000)
  15. ‘Modern Day Delilah’
  16. ‘Cold Gin’ (Live 2009) – Unreleased commercially
  17. ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ (Live 2010) – Unreleased commercially
  18. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’
  19. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’ (Live in Japan 2013) – Japanese bonus track

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Rockology (2000)

ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the Fox!

3/5 stars

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