eric carr

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 21, 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

 

 

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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…

 

 

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

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 38: 

 – Hot in the Shade (1989 Polygram)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gene, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

“Still say you’re nuts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US picture CD

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

1.5/5 stars

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

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/07

BOOK REVIEW: KISS Still On Fire – Dave Thomas & Anders Holm (1988)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 37: bonus book review

 Still On Fire – Dave Thomas & Anders Holm (1988 Melody Line)

In the 1980s, there were generally no Kiss books on the market.  If you found one, you bought it.  The only widely known Kiss book back then was 1978’s paperback Kiss by Robert Duncan.  I was lucky to find Kiss Still On Fire in Stratford Ontario on December 27, 1990 in a great little store called The Book Vault.  Still On Fire is very very unofficial, but it was unequalled in its time:  130 magazine sized pages, mostly in full colour, loaded with pictures, facts and a few errors.

Peppered with old interviews and article snippets, Still On Fire takes a balanced look at the band and isn’t afraid to get critical when it’s warranted.  It also attempts to take a crack at who played what on some of those tracks where it wasn’t quite clear.  For example, Ace Frehley is pictured on the front cover of Killers, but didn’t play on any of the new songs.  Still On Fire quotes a Paul Stanley interview.  Was it Bob Kulick playing lead on these tracks?  “Bob did come out, yes, but he didn’t play.  When I couldn’t handle things — and I don’t consider myself the ultimate lead player — another friend of ours came in and gave us a little help.”  The book states this friend was Robbin Crosby of Ratt, a claim that is not backed up in other sources.  Did Crosby play on Killers?  Who knows, but according to this book, he did.  Other books such as Julian Gill’s Kiss Album Focus claim Bob Kulick did play some on Killers.  In other words, if you read something interesting in this book that contradicts what you’ve read elsewhere, take it with a grain of salt.

There’s a bit of content here about what Gene was doing in the 1980s outside of Kiss:  producing bands such as Black & Blue and EZO.  Gene was responsible for EZO’s fantastic single “Flashback Heart Attack”, co-written by James Christian of Simmons Record act House of Lords.  Gene was also working on movies but was having trouble finding the time.  Apparently Sergio Leone really wanted Gene Simmons for Once Upon a Time in America in the role of Max, ultimately played by James Woods.  Can you imagine?

Besides the ample photos, the most impressive feature of Still On Fire is the discography.  Though incomplete, Still On Fire attempts to document myriad Kiss bootleg recordings, including cover art.  There are also interesting promo and foreign releases, such as the Special Kiss Tour Album and Kiss – The Singles.  Side projects and solo albums are included, from major (Frehley’s Comet) to obscure (Bruce Kulick’s band The Good Rats).  A variety of singles, picture discs and videos are on display, fully illustrated.  All of this was completely new to me then.  Not to mention the titles of unreleased songs!  What the heck were “Don’t Run” and “The Unknown Force”?  (The Elder demos.)  This is also where you’ll find the most typos and spelling errors.  (I really want to hear this song called “Pick It Up”.)

Still On Fire isn’t definitive nor is it definitely 100% accurate, but it should still prove to be a valuable resource for your Kiss library.

3.5/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – The Ritz, NYC 12/08/1988

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 34

 – The Ritz, NYC, 12th August 1988 (from 4 CD set Radio Waves 1974-1988) (2015 American Icons broadcast release)

At last, we are at the end of the Crazy Nights era.  Radio broadcasts are the next best thing to a bootleg.  Actually, strike that.  Radio broadcast CDs are often better than bootlegs.  The audio is usually decent because it’s a professionally recorded broadcast.  They are almost always cheaper than an equivalent bootleg CD too.  Broadcast discs are easily found on various Amazon sites and all over Ebay.  Thanks to their abundance, sometimes you can even choose from multiple releases of the same concerts.

One such show is Kiss’ 1988 performance at the Ritz in New York in 1988.  It’s a tight, hot Crazy Nights recording, but there are pros and cons to the different releases.  There was a 2013 Gold Fish release of the Ritz concert, called The Ritz on Fire, reviewed here.  Fans immediately noted that “Reason to Live” was missing, although others had “Reason to Live” on different releases.  In fact The Ritz on Fire is missing two songs:  “Bang Bang You” is the other.

To get all the songs, one recommended version is the 4 CD set The Very Best of Kiss – Radio Waves 1974-1988.  Inside you will get:

  • Disc 1:  Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, April 1 1974.  We reviewed a better version of this show with bonus tracks from ABC In Concert and the Mike Douglas Show.
  • Discs 2 & 3:  Animalize Live Uncensored 1985.   Missing some of the stage raps, but including all the songs from the original VHS release.
  • Disc 4:  The Ritz NYC 1988.  All the songs, but missing some of the stage raps.

Nothing’s perfect.  These broadcasts are quirky that way.  You can buy Radio Waves 1974-1988 to get all the songs from the Ritz show, but not all of Paul’s stage raps.  You could, of course, compile the best of the two versions together into one custom complete concert.  The sound quality is virtually the same.  What about an official release?  The only Kiss-produced media of this concert is a rare 11 song bonus DVD that came with Kissology Vol. 2, but only at US Best Buy.

Regardless of which version you buy, this concert has a good reputation with fans and it is easy to hear why.  Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick rose to the challenge and gave a Kiss a hard, professional sheen.  Meanwhile, behind the curtain stood Gary Corbett, thickening up the sound with additional  keyboards and backing vocals.  Paul Stanley was in his prime, hitting notes only dogs could hear.  Meanwhile Gene Simmons was present in body if not spirit.  Notably, “Shout it Out Loud” was performed at the Ritz, making it a rare 80s appearance of that song.  “Dr. Love” was also something of a rarity at the time.

Choose according to your own preferences, but don’t be afraid to pick up some version of Kiss at the Ritz.

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2014/01/27

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

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5 stars

 

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

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – eXposed (1987 video)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 31

 – eXposed (1987 VHS/2002 Mercury DVD)

“Hello.  The show we are about to see is a rousing docu-drama.  It will disgust some, and titillate others.  But whether it disgusts you, or titillates you, it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…the truth.”

Kiss were on to something here.  The concept of a home video release that was more than just a compilation of clips was fairly new.  Kiss took the bull by the horns and put together a video that was all at once extremely sexist and innovative, offensive and invaluable.  Only fans need apply; anyone who is sick of Gene Simmons’ schtick will bore quickly of his oafish humour.  But when Kiss play it “straight” in certain interview segments, light shines through.  The old memories and the old friendships are fresh and vivid.

Interviewer Mark Blankfield strolls up to the “Kiss Mansion” where all four members live Monkee-like together in one house with dozens upon dozens of beautiful women. The doorbell plays “Rock N’ Roll All Nite”, and Paul Stanley is confused. He thought the interview was scheduled for…not noon, but 12 midnight! Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

The KISS Mansion

Some of the scripted bits are actually funnier than you’d expect. Paul and Gene are natural clowns, and playing the role of disinterested rock stars tickles the funnybone.  Blankfield keeps chasing them around, trying to get them to do some interviews.  All the while, he encounters scantily clad babes in various states of undress, and a butler intent on keeping him away from them.  Subjects of discussion in the scripted bits include nutrition and fitness.  Learn about Joseph Kiss Sr., who came up with the vision of Kiss in 1773.  Check out Paul Stanley’s workout video!  Meet his best friend, a monkey named Sonny Crockett. Cut to a music video!

The music videos are something. In a scripted bit, Paul is surprised that they have access to the uncensored version of “Who Wants to Be Lonely”, which neither MTV nor MuchMusic were willing to play. Censors were offended by images of women in bikinis spraying themselves with hoses, even though I’m sure George Michael did something similar a couple years later. Every music video that Kiss filmed from “I Love It Loud” (1982) to the Asylum album (1985) is included, except “Thrills in the Night”.*  All videos from eras prior to this are live and unreleased!

“Deuce” in San Fransisco

Live in Rio, from Kiss’ very last concert in makeup, it’s “I Love It Loud” with Vinnie Vincent!  This is good quality video and audio from a TV broadcast.  From the now famous bootleg Kissin’ Time in San Francisco (1975), it’s a nuclear version of “Deuce” in black and white.  It’s the first appearance of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in this feature, and the rawness of the old band is a delightful contrast to the new.  Then it’s “Strutter” at Cobo Hall in ’76, an Ace guitar solo from 1980, and “Beth” in 1977 with Peter Criss (and a pretty bad final note).  Gene’s got a bass solo/blood spitting clip to show off, but the most interesting clip of the batch could be “Detroit Rock City” in Australia, 1980.  Paul did the verse melody with a slightly different twist.  “Rock and Roll all Nite” is included from the same show, which had Eric Carr on drums.  “I Stole Your Love” and “Ladies Room” have the original lineup from the Love Gun tour; Kiss at their bombastic best.

Of the best of the “straight” interview clips is the question, “How did you two get together?”  Paul and Gene start busking to “I’ll Be Back” by the Beatles, and suddenly you can imagine what they sounded like in 1972.  They even sing bits of Gene’s more…obscure early material.  “I love Eskimos…”  “My mother is beauuuutiful…”  (Hopefully we will hear these songs on Gene’s upcoming 150 track box set, Vault?)  Another good question, to Gene, is “Have you gone Hollywood?” which he answers with candor.

Incredible special features

The very large issue with this DVD is the absence of Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr.  They only appear in brief cameos, and get a couple lines a piece.  That’s very unfortunate.  And then there is the excessive objectification of women.  It’s done as an obvious satire of the rock star stereotype, but not particularly well.  Too bad.  This isn’t Spinal Tap.

Some of the diehards would have preferred a home video with more music and less gags.  Fortunately Kiss got the message when they eventually  got around to a sequel.

3/5 stars

* It appears  that “Thrills in the Night” must have been intended for inclusion at one point, because it’s in the songwriting credits at the end of the video.

 

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/03

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 29 

 – Crazy Nights (1987 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Here’s a little song for everybody out there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a damn shame.

Today’s rating:

1.75/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

0/5 steaks 

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

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

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

UM:
It’s shit.

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

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

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

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

ML
…Ron Nevison produced.

UM:
This is shit.

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

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

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

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

ML:
Second song is worse.

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

ML:
HAHAHAHAHAH

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

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

UM:
I hate this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ML:
You can’t walk away now.

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

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

UM:
Who is singing No No No?
Kulick?

ML:
Gene.

UM:
Doesn’t sound like him.

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

UM:
Oh…ok…he sounds different.

ML:
Nevison forced him to drop his normal voice.

UM:
Passable.

ML:
Barely.

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

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

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

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

UM:
I mean on any album.

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

UM:
Ok…that’s weird.

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

UM:
Neat.

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

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

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

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

 


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

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/04

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 28 

 – Asylum (1985 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/02