eric singer

#711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

GETTING MORE TALE #711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

In a recent episode of Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley said, among many things, that it would take $100,000 per show for him to play on Kiss’ recently announced End of the Road tour.  While that amount of money may seem like ransom, Ace might be able to make those kinds of outlandish demands.  He may have Kiss over a barrel of sorts.

Ace is in a good position right now.  2018 is an interesting time for this Kiss farewell tour to happen, because of what Frehley has been up to.  Since acrimoniously splitting with the band in 2001 (after a previous “farewell” tour), Ace has rebuilt his credibility and his standing.  Over the last decade he’s regained the respect of fans who feared he could no longer write, with a series of increasingly good solo albums.  AnomalySpace Invader, and the recent Spaceman have been well received by fans and critics alike.  Most importantly, since 2016, some crazy things have happened.  First Ace reunited with Paul Stanley on Origins, Vol. 1, a covers album.  Then Ace re-ignited his friendship with Gene Simmons, as Gene promoted his Vault box set.  Gene appeared on Spaceman, and now Ace is touring with Gene’s solo band.  Ace appears cozier with Kiss than he was when he was actually in Kiss.

Throw the farewell tour into the mix.  Kiss will be touring with the current lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.  Some fans still call Singer and Thayer “scabs”, merely imitating Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  Eric Singer has won over more fans than Tommy Thayer has.  Perhaps it’s because Singer has been in the band longer and played on the legendary Revenge.  More likely, the fans resent how closely Thayer imitates the licks of Frehley — on the orders of Simmons and Stanley, let’s not forget.  At the end of the day, they sign the paychecks, and the employees play the way they want them to.  That’s why they are still in the jobs all these years later.  Regardless, fans have largely accepted Singer as the drummer in the Cat makeup.  Peter Criss has retired with dignity, and realistic fans know that he’s no longer really capable of playing the kind of tour that Kiss are looking at.  Peter had his farewell with Kiss and his chapter certainly appears to be closed.

Frehley, however, is on a new leg of his career and the quality of his new material is encouraging.  In addition to his ask of $100,000 per show, Ace has also suggested the real way to end Kiss would be one final studio album.  It’s almost as if he’s throwing down the gauntlet to Kiss.  An Infinity Gauntlet with only four stones:  Ace, Paul, Gene and Eric.

A studio album might be a bit far fetched.  Monster is from 2012, and Kiss seem scared of their own shadows in the studio.  But Ace on tour?  It simply has to happen before it’s over.  Not doing so would be a slap in the face.

Fans are going to demand it.  Black Sabbath blew it on their The End tour.  Bill Ward probably couldn’t have done a tour, but to not invite him back, for at least a few songs at the end?  A wasted opportunity that can never be repaired.  The original Black Sabbath were all still alive.  Bill Ward was willing and able.  The Sabbath camp didn’t want to hear it, and so finished with 3/4 of the original band plus Ozzy’s drummer Tommy Clufetos.  It’s sad to say, but the next reunion of the original Black Sabbath might have to be at one of their funerals.

Deep Purple can never reunite their original or even their Mk II lineup.

Led Zeppelin will never be whole again.  Neither will Queen, Styx, Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden.  Sabbath had the chance, and they let it go.  Truly a regrettable, ego-driven mistake.

Kiss cannot make the same mistake.  True, without Peter Criss, it’s not the originals, but Criss has not expressed interest or ability.  Ace has.  Repeatedly.  And we know the clean and sober Ace today can do it.  He is on another creative high, and already getting along with Paul and especially Gene.  To lose this opportunity in the face of the fans would be a mistake some would be unwilling to forgive.

Start the tour, as normal, with Tommy.  Bring Ace out for a couple guest appearances.  See how it goes.  I’ll tell you how it will go.  Ace would sing “Shock Me”, the crowd would go bananas, and you’d be forced to do it again.  And again.  And again.  Eventually, Tommy could bow out gracefully having had his farewell.  Ace could take over from that point.  Or do half a show each.  There are many permutations for this to work.  This is almost exactly how Duff McKagan returned to Guns N’ Roses.  You’re Kiss; you can figure it out.

Don’t let money stand in your way, Kiss.  Money is not forever.  History is.  You do not want to go down like Black Sabbath, when you could go out the way fans want to see you.

Nobody knows how much time they have left on Earth.  The next reunion cannot be a funeral.  We also don’t really know how many shows Paul’s voice has left before it’s gone for good.  A reunion with Ace Frehley must happen before it is too late.

What about Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick, you ask?  It would be wonderful to see them guesting too, but let’s not set hopes too high (even though Vinnie has been spotted in Kiss makeup).  Focus on what is important:  that is getting the original Spaceman back for the final leg(s) of this tour.  Fans may have to be vocal.  (As if Kiss fans are anything but.)

What if Kiss just flat out refuse to pay Ace’s greedy ransom, and Ace can’t be negotiated with?  It would be a loss for all parties, particularly the fans.  While Kiss will still play spectacular shows, would ticket sales be any different from the last few tours?  Kiss have always done well enough (that’s why they keep touring), but the 1996 reunion tour made $144 million gross, which Kiss haven’t equalled since.  A farewell tour without Ace, and with Paul’s voice in its current condition, simply won’t touch that.

With Ace though?

With Ace, they would generate a lot more hype, press and positive reviews.  Ace Frehley, playing as great as he is today, could inspire yet another generation of kids to pick up the guitar.  It’s what Ace does.  He is a superstar, and even the most staunch fan must admit that Tommy Thayer is not.  If Kiss want to go out as big as they can, they need Frehley.  It’s that simple.

No dates have been announced yet.  Paul Stanley has teased on his social media that the band is rehearsing.  They’re talking about doing a 25 song set.  There is plenty of time for more pieces to fall into place.  A big piece is Spaceman-shaped.  They need to make it fit.   Without Frehley, The End of the Road tour will just be another Kiss tour.  New costumes, sure.  That alone won’t sell tickets.

Kiss have always been a band that claimed to “listen to the fans” and “gives the fans what they want”.  This then would be Kiss’ last chance to live up to it.

 

 

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#707: Alice Cooper…Live!

GETTING MORE TALE #707: Alice Cooper…Live!

I’ve seen Alice Cooper twice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write a review either time.  I certainly should have.  Both shows were special and perhaps unique in unexpected ways.  I have a couple stories to tell you.

The first time I witnessed the Alice Cooper show was on his Rock N’ Roll Carnival tour (no opening act), August 28 1998.  We were lucky enough to get the lineup with Reb Beach (Winger) and Eric Singer (Kiss), who had recently rejoined the band.  It was the now legendary Lulu’s Roadhouse featuring the world’s longest bar.  Thanks to the internet, we know the entire setlist.

  • Hello Hooray
  • Sideshow
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Public Animal #9
  • Be My Lover
  • Lost in America
  • I’m Eighteen
  • From the Inside
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Steven
  • Halo of Flies
  • Nothing’s Free
  • Cleansed by Fire
  • Poison
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Unfinished Sweet
  • School’s Out

Encore:

  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Under My Wheels

I went with Lyne (one of our store managers) and her husband. A little while later Lyne was bullied right out of the organisation and went to work for HMV instead.  (I used to call her “Lynie Lynie Boing Boing” for some reason.)  We had an amazing time and I remember being impressed that Alice was still playing material from 1994’s The Last Temptation.  “Sideshow”, “Nothing’s Free” and “Cleansed By Fire” were unexpected treats.  It was also a pleasure to hear so many Nightmare-era songs.

At the end, as per usual, Alice introduced his band, and then himself.  He tore open the front of his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said “Alice Spice”.  Yes, 1998 was the time of Girl Power and Spice Girls were the biggest thing in the world.  It got the required laughs.

One weird memory stands out.  A few tables ahead of us was a girl who was missing an arm below the elbow.  But that didn’t stop her from getting into the show, air guitar and all.  The missing arm was her strumming arm and she was just pumping it and going for it.  It was an unusual thing to see but she had a great time and that’s all that matters.  An unforgettable night.

The thing about the late 90s period of Alice Cooper:  It was a remarkably unproductive time as far as new material.  From 1994’s The Last Temptation to 1999’s A Fistful of Alice (a live album), there was nothing new.  In 2000, Alice cranked the machine again for a rapid-fire series of new albums starting with Brutal Planet.  The live setlist had changed dramatically too.  When I saw Cooper in 2006 with my new girlfriend (now known as Mrs. LeBrain), we got a very different show.

My mom had early access to tickets at the Center in the Square and surprised us with second row seats. On May 9, Alice rolled into town with his new band and new show. On drums once more: Eric Singer of Kiss. Opening act: Helix! Another favourite of mine in a hometown setting! Alice’s latest album was the excellent Dirty Diamonds and we got to hear the title track plus “Woman of Mass Distraction”.  In addition Alice rolled out a few forgotten oldies like “You Drive Me Nervous”, and “Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills” which was dedicated to Paris Hilton.

  • Department of Youth
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Dirty Diamonds
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • Be My Lover
  • Lost in America
  • I Never Cry
  • Woman of Mass Distraction
  • I’m Eighteen
  • You Drive Me Nervous
  • Is It My Body
  • Go to Hell
  • Black Widow Jam
  • Feed My Frankenstein
  • Welcome to My Nightmare

Medley:

  • The Awakening
  • Steven
  • Only Women Bleed (with Steven reprise)
  • Ballad of Dwight Fry
  • Killer
  • I Love the Dead
  • School’s Out

Encore:

  • Poison
  • Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills
  • Under My Wheels

There’s no record of Helix’s setlist, but they were able to play a number of songs including a brand new one: “Get Up“.  I was sad to see that a few people in the front row didn’t bother coming early enough to see Helix, but that made it easier for Brian Vollmer to see me in the second.  I pumped my first and sang along to every song — including the new one, once I got the hang of the chorus.  Vollmer obviously noticed the one guy singing every song, and came down to shake my hand.  Vollmer is one of the most fan-friendly artists in rock, bar none.   This was only the first of several times he’d shake my hand.

(Back) Brent “Ned” Niemi, Alice Cooper, Brian Vollmer, Rainer Wiechmann
(Front) Jim Lawson, Jeff “Stan” Fountain, Cindy Wiechmann – May 9 2006

From Planet Helix

 

As good as Helix were that night, nobody puts on a show like Alice Cooper.  Kitchener was no exception.  Mrs. LeBrain found herself swooning over guitarist Damon Johnson.  (I thought bassist Chuck Garric would be more her style, based on a previous Tommy Lee crush.)  Guitarist Eric Dover and the aforementioned Eric Singer rounded out the band, with Alice’s daughter Calico playing numerous roles as stage dancer!  (“Put some clothes on!” said her dad after introducing her.)

I remember two things about the show very clearly.  At one point, right in the middle of a song, a woman walked up to the front of the stage and held up a CD for Alice to sign.  I didn’t get it…you expect him to sign your CD while he’s performing?  While he’s in character as Alice Cooper?  Who did she think she was?

Alice ignored her until he was obviously fed up.  Swinging his cane in the air, he smashed the CD out of her hands.  The sour looking woman returned to her seat dejected.  You don’t interrupt Alice when he’s doing his show.  “What a self-centered idiot,” was all I could think.

Alice’s action with the autograph seeker was made all the more noteworthy later in the show.  Contrasting his attitude towards the previous woman, Alice paid special attention to a young girl in the front row.  Wearing proper ear protection, the young girl was with her dad, possibly seeing her first ever rock concert.  Recognising this, Alice personally handed her some of the fake Alice money lying on stage after “Billion Dollar Babies”, and some of the plastic pearls from “Dirty Diamonds”.  The little girl was the only person in the audience who got special attention from the performer.  Cooper, the consummate showman, plays for everyone not just the front row.  That girl will never forget Alice Cooper as long as she lives, and he made sure of it.  I couldn’t help but think Alice was also making a statement.  “Treat my show with respect and this kind of stuff happens.  Don’t interrupt me mid-song for an autograph.”

Whether I’m right or not, that’s one outsider’s impression of the events of the night.

Whatever I happen to think, there would be no argument that Alice Cooper puts on some of the best concerts in rock, and you should try to see him.  Make it a bucket list goal.  The lineups change, and the setlists evolve.  You’ll always get “School’s Out” but chances are you will also hear a smattering of special classics that don’t get rolled out very often.

Go see Cooper and come back with your own stories to tell.

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive III (1993)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 44

 – Alive III (1993 Polygram)

A brief club tour warmed ’em up.  The full arena tour put Kiss back on the big stage, this time with a huge statue of liberty in addition to the Kiss sign.  As the show went on, the statue crumbled to reveal a skulled figure…giving the finger.  Not everybody got that.  The tour suffered from very poor attendance in the United States, partly blamed on grunge, and partly blamed on a late start (October).

Regardless, it was clearly time for Kiss Alive III.  There was early talk of Alive III back in 1986, set to follow the next studio album.  That never materialised, and some would argue rightfully so.  Kids of the 80s generation already had their own Alive III:  It was called Animalize Live Uncensored, and with the benefit of hindsight, it easily could and should have been the official Alive III.

The real Kiss Alive III was issued in 1993, produced once again by Eddie Kramer, and in the sacred tradition of all Kiss Alives….was heavily overdubbed in the studio.  It is the only Kiss Alive from the non-makeup era, and therefore the only Alive with the lineup of Stanely, Simmons, Kulick and Singer…and Derek Sherinian on ghost keyboards.  He followed Eric Singer over from the Alice Cooper group.

Although there is some overlap with Kiss Alive and Alive II, the third instalment is largely made of newer material, like opener “Creatures of the Night”.  Some fans were upset that “Detroit Rock City” was moved to the end of the set, but a shakeup on a Kiss setlist is usually a good thing.  Opening with “Creatures” was fresh and set the scene firmly back to the heavy sound of 1982, which really seemed to be what Kiss were trying to re-create.

Gene takes over on “Deuce” (1st repeat – Kiss Alive) and for the first time in years it seemed like Gene didn’t look and act goofy on stage.  Give credit to the beard.  It finally gave Gene an image he could work with.  Meanwhile on stage right, Kulick nails a vintage Kiss guitar sound, but without losing his technical advantages.  Another first:  Kulick finally sounded at home playing Ace Frehley guitar solos.  His revamped greasy rock solos fit love a glove.

But wow, does that crowd noise ever sound fake, and fans say that Paul’s stage raps were recorded later, because they’re not from Detroit, Cleveland or Indianapolis where the album was recorded.  “I Just Wanna” is the first Revenge track, but it sounds sterile like a studio version with glistening backing vocals.  It’s also too early in the album to stop the song for a singalong (and a bad singalong at that).  That’s followed by a fairly flat “Unholy” which, Kiss were discovering, didn’t work as well on stage.  Paul’s “Woo-woo” intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” sounds very dubbed, but the track smokes hotter than it did on prior tours.  You can hear Eric Singer clearly on backing vocals, adding a bit of sweetener to the mix.

“Watchin’ You” came as a surprise, an oldie from Hotter Than Hell (and 2nd repeat – Kiss Alive).  With Eric Singer on drums, they captured the jazzy Peter Criss drum vibe once again, but this time with more power and precision.  This is as close as it ever got to original Kiss.  Some would say it’s even better than original Kiss, but that would just be stating a preference.

Back to Revenge, “Domino” is the first song to really click live.  That’s probably because it was always close to that vintage Kiss vibe.  Another surprise is rolled out:  “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” from 1979’s Dynasty, but Wikipedia says this version was recorded at soundcheck.  Whatever the case may be, it’s not as purely heavy as the one on bootleg Unholy Kisses but it’s still good to have it on an Alive.  A set highlight is “I Still Love You” from Creatures, a real chance for Paul to sing.  In 1992 and 1993, Paul was arguably at his vocal peak strength.

They chose an interesting slot for “Rock and Roll all Nite”:  the first track on side two (original cassette version, side three for LP)!  Again, some fans loudly stated a preference for “Rock and Roll all Nite” (3rd repeat – Kiss Alive) as a closer, but it’s stale no matter where it sits.  It’s followed by 80s classic “Lick It Up”, a good song but always a little sparse in the live setting.  Don’t forget the overplayed “I Love It Loud” which was chosen as the only Alive III single.

“Forever” is a little surprising by its inclusion in the setlist that.  A good ballad, yes:  but was a ballad necessary?  It must have been because according to Paul “Every time we play this one, the place lights up like a damn Christmas tree.”  Also true:  Paul’s stage raps are not at all memorable this time out.  A great example is “Detroit Rock City”, although that may also just be that “Detroit” doesn’t belong near the end of an album (4th repeat – Kiss Alive II).

There was a Japanese/vinyl bonus track, finally available on wider release within the Alive! 1975–2000 box set:  “Take It Off”.  This is the one where the strippers came up on stage; yes indeed, a calculated move to shed Kiss’ kiddie image in the 1990s.  As a live song, it’s way better than  “I Just Wanna”.

Kiss closed the show with the complex anthem “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” followed by an actual anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” as a Bruce Kulick guitar showcase.  This works surprisingly well to wrap up a Kiss Alive that is very different from the other Alives.  Turn it up and hear the bombs bursting in air!

Where does Kiss Alive III sit today among the Alives?  It’s not the worst Alive, but we’ll get there.  Think of it like a movie.  Superman was amazing, and nobody expected Superman II to be as good as Superman.  But it was good enough to make a Superman III which wasn’t as good as I or II.  In reality, Superman III was a total bed-shit, but Alive III is not.  For its flaws, it is a pretty good live album.  There were a lot of live albums out in 1993 for Kiss to compete with:  Iron Maiden (two singles), Ozzy (a double), Van Halen (a double) and Metallica (a triple CD and triple VHS monstrosity).  Alive III is better than most of them (you figure out which).  Kiss were only modestly asking you to part with a single CD’s worth of money, and if you bought it at certain stores you’d get an Alive III poster while supplies lasted.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

Alive III finally behind them, Kiss were still not ready to record their next studio album.  For better or for worse, the post-Alive III era was a complicated, scattershot period with a few interesting releases to cover.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/11

#690: Unholy Kisses

GETTING MORE TALE #690: Unholy Kisses

Kiss’ Revenge album (last discussed in Part 43 of the Kiss Re-Review Series) was an album that I had been waiting for a long time.  Not just in terms of the three year gap between it and Hot in the Shade.  I loved Kiss, but it had been a long time since they put out an album quite as solid as Revenge.  I wore my Kiss shirt with pride.

I can still remember the day I got my Revenge shirt, in Kincardine Ontario of all places.  My parents bought it for me at a local now-defunct clothing store.  As we browsed my dad asked, “Did you find a shirt, son?”

“Yep,” I answered.  “This one is cool, because it has the new Kiss member on it.”

“Yeah,” my dad said with a disapproving smirk.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bearded guy before…”

But the new guy wasn’t Gene Simmons, silly dad.  It was the blonde Eric Singer, the first guy to break the Kiss hair colour code.  Yeah, I was proud to rock that shirt.

The parents were good to us.  Any time there was a record show (or record faire) within an hour’s driving distance, they would take us.  You usually had to drive to either Guelph or London.  Sometimes they’d even help us out with a little cash.  No matter how much you budget for a record show, you’ll never bring enough cash.  The treasures are far too numerous and tempting.

One has to learn to categorise and quantify things in order to successfully navigate a record show on a limited budget.  I have really distinct memories of one in Guelph; the one where I found the indispensable Kiss Unholy Kisses bootleg.

I knew going in that I wanted to buy a bootleg on CD.  I had a few on cassette, but never a CD before.  Record shows always had a table or two with guys selling CD bootlegs.  They were never cheap and you could typically expect to pay $40 for a single CD.  That’s how I budgeted it out.

I did plan to buy a little more than that, so I brought extra cash.  My first buy was a 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More, a UK import.  It had two live tracks on the B-side (“Woodpecker From Mars” and “Epic” recorded by the BBC).  I was trying to get a decent Faith No More collection so I picked that one early.

Meanwhile my sister found Bryan Adam’s first single, “Let Me Take You Dancing”.  Bryan started as a Disco artist, and his voice was sped up in the mixing in order to make it higher.  He has since disowned the song, and a CD release in any official capacity is highly unlikely.  She definitely found something of value to her.  As an added bonus, the record came with a story.

“I tried to get Bryan Adams to sign it,” said the vendor.  “I handed it to him and he refused.”  So my sister owns a record that Bryan Adams actually refused to sign and we both think that is pretty hilarious.

One thing about record shows that you need to be aware of:  there are always some vendors who are assholes.  It’s just part of the scenery of a record show.  As my sister and I looked around, one of them shouted out at her.

“People will think you stole that,” he said pointing to her Bryan Adams record.  “It’s not in a bag.”

We explained that she bought the record from another vendor.

“You need a bag.  Buy something from me and I give you a bag.  People will think you steal.”

“Here, put it in my bag,” I said to my sister.  “No thanks,” I added to the vendor, as we made sure not to buy anything from him.  He didn’t have anything we wanted anyway.

But what about bootlegs?  That decision had to be weighed.  There was so much to choose from.  The Black Crowes?  Black Sabbath?  They had a CD of early Def Leppard tracks with Frank Noon on drums.  That one was sorely tempting.  Leppard were another band I was trying to collect.  What I really hoped to find though, was Kiss.

There it was:  Unholy Kisses.  Recorded live in San Francisco April 23, 1992.  Revenge wasn’t even out yet when it was taped.  Although other Kiss bootlegs were present, I chose Unholy Kisses for a number of reasons.

  1. My first live versions of “Unholy” and “Take It Off”.
  2. My first live Kiss with Eric Singer.
  3. My first live version of “I Was Made for Loving You”, the old Kiss Disco classic.
  4. A host of other Kiss oldies they hadn’t played live in ages.

I chose wisely.  Unholy Kisses is a great fucking bootleg.

The club setting provides for a very loud concert recording.  It only amplifies the raw heavy new sound of Kiss.  Bruce Kulick nailed a greasy toned and Eric Singer?  Holy shit, did the oldies ever sound amazing with him behind them!  Yes indeed, the new Kiss lineup was excitement personified.  God bless Eric Carr, who will forever have a place in every fan’s heart.  With Eric Singer, Kiss found a credible way to carry on.  Any new member brings their own style and influence to Kiss.  When a drummer is a talented and versatile as Eric Singer, it enables a band to really play.

And strangely enough, during the Singer/Kulick era, one could make serious arguments for Kiss becoming a player’s kind of rock band.  Kulick, for certain, is one of the most talented guys to ever play guitar in Kiss, up there against Vinnie Vincent.  Kulick can play absolutely anything and strove to do new things on every Kiss album.  Whatever Bruce wrote, Singer could play.  This would spill onto the next studio album.

The Kiss Re-Review Series does not require another Unholy Kisses review.  It is bang-on.  For your convenience, you will find the full review below.

If you are even just a casual Kiss fan, pick up Unholy Kisses if you find it in the wild.  There are few official live Kiss albums as good as this.


KISS – Unholy Kisses (Audience recorded bootleg, 1992 Flashback)

“You know who we are, let’s kick some ass!”

That’s how Paul Stanley introduced the legendary Kiss on their stripped-down 1992 club tour, April 23 1992 in San Francisco.  The Revenge album was a “reboot” of sorts, out of necessity.  New drummer, new attitude, and a return to the producer (Bob Ezrin) who helped make them huge.  A return to the clubs without the lights, stage show, and costumes helped Kiss transition into the 90’s.  If this one bootleg CD is any indication, then the club tour was a huge success.

Eschewing their normal opening routine, the band entered to the sound of “Love Gun”, but heavier than ever.  Many fans consider the Simmons/Stanley/Kulick/Singer lineup to be among their best, and this live bootleg proves why.  In fantastic voice, Paul leads this devastating lineup to demolish the clubs in their wake.  Full of adrenaline, “Love Gun” is faster than its studio counterpart, and Bruce Kulick creates his own individual guitar solo that fits the track.

Gene’s next on “Deuce”, the new lineup infusing it with menace.  The CD, though obviously a bootleg, sounds great.  Even though the drums are a bit distant you can hear that Eric Singer has come into the band paying homage to the drum parts he inherited.  Then Paul takes a moment to tell the audience that they’ve been so fired up about the way Kiss have been sounding, that they just got to come down to San Fransisco and play.  A rough opening to “Heaven’s On Fire” is a mere hiccup after they get going on the hit single.  For the first time you can clearly hear new guy Eric Singer singing background vocals.

“You ready to hear something old? One of those Kiss klassics?  Bruce – let ’em have a taste.”  Then the shocked audience picked up their jaws as Kiss slammed through “Parasite” for the first time since 1976.  Returning to songs like this was critical for a band who spent the 80’s largely ignoring the deep cuts.

One thing I love about bootleg CDs is the chance to overhear some audience chatter.  “Shout it Out Loud” however is marred by one nearby fan who keeps singing “You got to have a party,” even when that’s not the current part of the song!  Minor beef, as “Shout it Out Loud” rocks and is another song that was tragically ignored during most of the 80’s.

“How many of you people have Kiss Alive?  Gene must know this one.  Gene’s got Kiss Alive.  Goes like this!”  There begins “Strutter” (also from the first Kiss album) and the crowd goes nuts.  “Dr. Love” follows, with Eric Singer showing off some fancy footwork on the double bass drums.

Fans who were shocked by these old tunes must really have lost their minds when “I Was Made For Loving You”, heavy as hell, tore through the club.  “I Was Made For Loving You” was re-imagined as a chugging metal track and in the club environment, it’s only more raw and aggressive.  Then Paul lets another bomb drop when he introduces “100,000 years” from the first album.  “Oh my God!  I don’t fucking believe it! I do not fucking believe it!” says one nearby fan, obviously excited by this rarity.  It’s incredible how well Bruce and Eric adapted to the sound of old raunchy Kiss.

But what of new Kiss?  The band weren’t ready to start unveiling all the new songs, as Revenge hadn’t even come out yet.  They did roll out two: the first single “Unholy”, and album cut “Take it Off”.

“We got a new album about to come out,” begins Paul.  “And I’ll tell you something, this album is the shit.  I’ll tell you, this album is our fuckin’ Revenge and when you hear the album you’ll know what I’m talking about.”  Indeed, as promised the new songs kick ass, though “Unholy” is kind of awkward in the live setting.  “Take it Off” is more like Kiss.

It’s all oldies from here.   Aside from the new Revenge songs, the most recent track that Kiss played here was “Heaven’s On Fire” from 1984!  (Note: this CD is not the full concert and 1985’s “Tears are Falling” was also played that night.)  I think it’s safe to say that Paul and Gene understand some of the errors in direction they made over the last 10 years, and successfully steered the ship back on track.  “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin” from the first album are present. “I Stole Your Love”, “Detroit Rock City”, and “I Want You” close the CD.  “I Stole Your Love” with the backing vocals of Eric Singer is top-notch!

The songs played that night that aren’t on this CD are “God of Thunder”, “Lick It Up”, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” (its live debut), “Rock and Roll all Nite” and the aforementioned “Tears Are Falling”.  Too bad this is only a single CD bootleg, but bootlegs were so expensive that a double would have cost at least $60-80.  If it was a double, I never would have bought it and heard what I have of this awesome show!

4.5/5 stars

UNHOLY KISSES_0003

CD KISStitics

Songs:

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Revenge (1992)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 43

 – Revenge (1992 Polygram)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/10

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

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 40:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/08

 

 

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

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

 – “Forever” (1990 Polygram EP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars (cassette and vinyl versions)

0/5 stars (CD)

To be continued…

 

 

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

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 38: 

 – Hot in the Shade (1989 Polygram)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gene, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

“Still say you’re nuts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US picture CD

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

1.5/5 stars

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

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/07

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 36: 

 – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988 Mercury)

Though hard to believe, in 1988 Kiss needed the money.  According to CK Lendt in his book KISS and Sell, they were in trouble financially.  Some bad investments and too many expenses, plus the underperformance of Crazy Nights, had the band in a bind.  The traditional easy solution is to throw together a “greatest hits” set.

Gene announced this album to Canadian audiences on a trip to the Great White North promoting his record label, Simmons Records.  House of Lords were the band he primed to be big, and their debut album is held in high esteem by rock connoisseurs worldwide.  It seemed to fans that Simmons was transitioning from Hollywood to businessman.  Surely, it was hard to believe him when he claimed Kiss was still his priority.

Greatest hits albums need something new to sell them.  This was left to Paul Stanley, who produced two new songs co-written with Desmond Child (and Diane Warren on one).   It seems unlikely that Gene cared much at this point.  In the music video for one of the new songs, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”, he can be clearly seen miming the wrong words.

Speaking of music videos, “Let’s Put the X in Sex” was something new for the band (and it wasn’t the lawsuit from the people who owned the building in the video).  Suddenly, Kiss were a three-piece backing band with a guitar-less frontman.  At least in the videos for Crazy Nights, Paul Stanley wore and danced with a guitar.  In “Let’s Put the X in Sex”, he is front and center, without instrument:  the frontman.  Gene’s just the bass player in these videos, looking completely lost.  Paul was doing all the work behind the scenes, therefore he was going to take the spotlight.  And why not?

Getting two new Kiss songs on a greatest hits was good in theory.  Even back then, we sensed they were more the “Paul Stanley Project” than Kiss.  For Kiss, they are too light and glossy.  “Let’s Put the X in Sex” has horns (or is it synth?) making it sound vaguely like an Aerosmith outtake from Permanent Vacation.  At least Steven Tyler injects a little cleverness into his innuendo.  Both Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr rise to the occasion with worthy work, but the tune is a dud.

Likewise with “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”, which passed for a rocker at the time.  Neither of the new tracks are as good as the four on Kiss Killers.  Paul must have just been out of gas.  He states these songs were the best he could do at the time without his partner in crime.  “Rock Hard” is just Kiss by numbers.

First two tracks aside, Smashes, Thrashes & Hits contains 13 of the greatest.  Most are remixed (ill-advisedly) to bring all the tracks to a standard sonic backdrop.  The remixes are from a variety of names in a number of studios:  Dave Wittman, David Thoener, Jay Messina for example.  Some played it a little more loose with the tracks, others didn’t meddle much.  “Love Gun” is an example of a remix that changes things up, but still works.  Ace’s solo is given more emphasis by mixing out the vocals.  It’s a cool alternate arrangement.  Excess echo is added on the drums…you can’t win ’em all.  Many of the remixes suffer from drum related issues.

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits takes a scattershot approach to running order.  It’s very telling that no tracks from Crazy Nights were included, except in the UK where “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “Reason to Live” were hits.  No tracks with an Ace Frehley writing credit were included, and only one from Peter Criss.  That’s another gripe that fans have with this album.

“Beth” is included, a throwback to one of Kiss’ biggest hits, which they tended to shun since Peter’s 1980 departure from Kiss.  It’s considered a slap in the face to Peter that Eric Carr was called in to re-record the lead vocal.  The backing track is identical.  Carr never felt comfortable in this role, but had never been featured on an album lead vocal before.  It was a hell of a dilemma for the drummer.  He’d been in the band for six years and six albums, and never got a lead vocal.  He did the best he could.  The re-recorded “Beth” didn’t replace the original, and it remains an oddity in the Kiss canon.

One afternoon in the summer of 1990, Bob and I were hanging out with these two girls at his trailer that we were going out with.  We were listening to songs, but Bob and I didn’t seem to get much say in what songs.  One of the girls said, “I have some Kiss!” and put on Beth.  As soon as she did, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the original.  Simultaneously, Both and I both said, “Oh no, it’s Eric!”  The girls had no idea what we were talking about or why it was a big deal.

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits was the first compilation to reconcile the makeup and non-makeup eras of Kiss.  The majority are from the makeup years, as it should be, with only three from non-makeup albums.  You could argue for this song and that song, but the running order is jarring.  “Heaven’s On Fire” into “Dr. Love” is not even as bizarre as “Beth” into “Tears are Falling”.  The less familiar remixes don’t help the situation.  Incidentally, the only songs untouched by remixers’ hands are “Lick It Up”, “Heaven’s On Fire”, “Tears are Falling” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.

There was no tour for Smashes, Thrashes and Hits.  Gene had his label stuff, including a new Canadian band called Gypsy Rose to think about.  (Remember “Poisoned By Love” on Simmons Records?)  Paul Stanley didn’t want to sit idle, and so did a 1989 solo tour.  Kiss family member Bob Kulick returned to his side on guitar.  Kiss keyboardist Gary Corbett was there with bassist Dennis St. James and ex-Black Sabbath drummer Eric Singer.  The setlist featured a number of old Kiss classics that hadn’t been played live in 10 years, such as “I Want You”.  Eric Carr was unhappy about the solo tour, worrying about what it meant.  Like most Kiss fans, he wondered if it was the beginning of the end.  He also worried that Paul didn’t ask him to be his solo drummer.  Paul said it was because two Kiss members wouldn’t be right for a solo tour.  Ominously, Eric Carr said about Singer:  “That’s the guy who’s going to replace me.”

Fans were confused and some were unhappy.  Like they had once before, Kiss were drifting further and further into pop music.  This time, it was without Ace Frehley to keep them anchored.  Paul Stanley now seemed to be a Bon Jovi-like dancing frontman.  These new songs were not easy to stomach, and the Eric Carr vocal felt all wrong.  Had Kiss lost all credibility?  Smashes, Thrashes and Hits wasn’t winning any back.

Today’s rating:

2/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/06

REVIEW: KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition bonus CD)

This review is for reader Juan, from Spain — thank you for reading!

KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition, 2013 Universal Japan)

In my 32 years of collecting music, I have learned a number of immutable laws of the hobby.  The Three Laws of Collecting are:

The First Law:  Japan shall always get the best stuff.
The Second Law:  Anything worth releasing is worth re-releasing.
The Third Law:  Kiss fans shall buy anything, often more than once.

The Three Laws of Collecting are why I now have purchased my fifth copy of Kiss Monster.  The album came out in 2012, meaning I have bought more than one copy per year since its release:  Original CD, vinyl, iTunes, Japanese CD, and now this 2 CD Japan Tour Edition, which has all the tracks from all the versions, and then some.

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This is not a review of Monster; we have reviewed that album twice now (once by Mike Ladano and once by Tommy Morais).  Rather this is a review of the Tour Edition’s second disc, which is a pretty cool “best of” collection covering a very nice chunk of Kisstory.  What can another greatest hits possibly offer?  Believe it or not, the Monster Tour Edition has a slightly different slant that might be interesting to die-hards.

This is the first time “Psycho Circus” has opened a Kiss compilation.  It was their tour opener in 1998-99 and so naturally fits this slot.  It was one of the stronger tracks from Psycho-Circus itself, which was otherwise a pretty disappointing reunion album.  Mainly because Peter and Ace barely played on it.  Indeed, on this track you will get Kevin Valentine on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar, uncredited.  That said, the track still kicks ass and has proven to be the only song from that album that still gets played now and then.

I’m always happy to hear oldies like “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” on a hits CD.  The same goes for “Black Diamond”, one of the more epic Kiss tracks.  These old album cuts might not be as well known to casual fans and might surprise even Kiss haters.  However, no casual fan or Kiss hater is going to be hearing the Monster Tour Edition.  So the die-hards again will be hearing “Shout it Out Loud”, “Rock and Roll all Nite”, “Detroit Rock City”, “God of Thunder”, “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” for the umpteenth time.  Mixed in among these are some of the second-tier hits from the 80’s:  “I Love it Loud”, “Lick It Up”, “Heaven’s On Fire”.  The exact mixture of ingredients is different, but these songs have been on best-of CDs by Kiss before.

The one unique inclusion is “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom, its first appearance on a hits disc.  Its place here is deserved.  Sonic Boom represented a strong return to the studio for Kiss after a decade long absence.  “Say Yeah” was one of three songs played live in concert, and sounds the most like a timeless Kiss anthem.  (Sonic Boom was represented on the last greatest hits compilation, Kiss 40, by “Modern Day Delilah”.)

Finally there is the riffy “Right Here Right Now” which was previously the iTunes bonus track for Monster.  A physical copy is always better, and a Japanese high quality HMCD is even better than that.  And don’t worry — the original Japanese bonus track, a live version of “King of the Night Time World” from the Rock the Nation tour, is still intact on disc one.  (More on that in the video below.)

This version of Monster is finally the definitive one with all the tracks in one place.  The bonus hits disc is some pretty awesome icing.  When you have as many hits discs as Kiss do, you may just wonder “what’s the difference”?  Each one is different in its own often minor ways, and fans who appreciate this stuff will enjoy hearing a couple unique tunes for a change.

The only flaw with this HMCD reissue is that it lacks the original 3D lenticular cover. That is a bummer. I simply kept my original cover (it is a separate piece you can take out) from a prior version of Monster which I later gifted to a friend.  In fact that friend reviewed the single disc Japanese Monster!

I must add another law to my Three Laws of Collecting:

The Zeroth Law*:  You shall always have some buyer’s regret.

It is true.  I had all these songs before.  The only one I didn’t have physically was the iTunes download “Right Here Right Now”.  But I “had” to have it.  I could question that.  “You could have put that money towards some new tires”.  The CD could have paid for a week of lunches at Harvey’s.    A fool and their money?

I’m fine with that.

$/5 stars

*I didn’t make that word up.  Isaac Asimov added the Zeroth Law of Robotics to his Three Laws in 1985.