Gene Simmons

#980: Uh! All Night

RECORD STORE TALES #980: Uh! All Night

My final year of grade school, 1985-86 was momentous.  I’ve written an entire 1986 saga about those times.  I had mono which kept me home sick for much of the end of Grade 8.  This meant plenty of music listening time while I recovered.  Music and comic books.  Discovering so many new songs and bands made it a uniquely special time.  Being sick wasn’t so bad.  It kept me away from the bullies while learning about Van Halen songs such as “Unchained” and “So This Is Love”.  I sat in the basement and watched a lot of Pepsi Power Hours, during (arguably) the peak era of the show.

Additionally, it was the year I decided my favourite band was Kiss.

Kiss were hot on the TV with “Tears Are Falling”, the first single from their newest album Asylum.  Kiss were one of those bands that just made me want to collect them all.  Although I had acquired some used Kiss records in a trade, Asylum was my first brand-new Kiss purchase from a store.  That’s a special thing, because it felt like a rite of passage.  A year earlier I would have been walking up to the counter with an action figure in hand.  In autumn of 1985 I approached the cash register with what was once forbidden fruit.  Kiss used to seem dangerous, even disgusting when I was a kid.  Here I was buying the new Kiss album, for the first of many times.

I like to think that I have a knack for picking the singles for albums today.  It all started with Asylum and their little ditty called “Uh! All Night”.  While “Tears Are Falling” was a really obvious choice for single #1, it seemed to me that album closer “Uh! All Night” should be second.  A lot of albums I owned back then seemed to have a handful of good songs, and a lot of filler.  Asylum has filler (mostly the Gene songs) but “Uh! All Night” was catchy from first listen.  It was also far more upbeat than “Who Wants To Be Lonely”.

If Kiss were out to corrupt young minds, then they would have been happy to know that my sister and I jumped around the basement singing, “When you work all day you gotta UH! all night!”

I wasn’t 100% certain what “uh!” meant in this case.  The Pepsi Power Hour was little help.

With VCR at the ready, I watched attentively as VJ Christopher Ward introduced the video on the Power Hour for the first time.

“What does it mean, ‘Uh! All Night’?” teased Ward.  “Do your homework all night?  I think it means do your homework all night.”

I figured “uh” had to be something naughty.  Partying?

The video came on, and Paul Stanley descended a dark staircase wearing a white captain’s hat.  He removed his overcoat revealing more sequins, reflectors and hair than I could take in.  Dated looking by today’s standards.   The epitome of cool for 1985.  All of them looked cool, except for Gene who really struggled to find the right image, until the Revenge era.  The stage set was cool, like a construction zone at night adorned with lights and speakers.

Kiss danced, and posed, and lipsynched up a storm.  Kiss were designed for pubescent boys like me, who were giving up on action heroes and discovering rock and roll.  And girls.  The “Uh! All Night” video was criticised for, of course, objectifying scantily clad women.

Funny enough, this is where Kiss missed the mark with me.  I liked girls, but not…not the ones in “Uh! All Night”.

I liked David Lee Roth’s “California Girls”.  I ogled the ones in the video for “Blondes In Black Cars” by Autograph.  I didn’t like the platinum blonde Dolly Parton lookalikes in “Uh! All Night”.  Not at all.  Their striptease with the white nylons did nothing for me.  After Bruce Kulick whips out a wicked solo with tapping and guitar faces, the Partons beds turn into bed/car hybrids with headlights and grills.  But the Partons couldn’t drive the car-beds; they had to push them.  Dozens of Partons pushing the car-beds wearing fuzzy high heels and lingerie.  It was ludicrous and completely un-hot.

At least Kiss looked cool, so I watched the video over and over, doing my best to ignore the Dolly Partons in their white beds.

David Mallet directed “Uh! All Night” and the other two singles from Asylum as well.  They all share a similar look, but “Uh! All Night” stands out among them, and not for any good reasons.  Considering the good stuff that Mallet did direct (Maiden, Bowie, Leppard, Queen, AC/DC and many more) it’s best if “Uh! All Night” just goes forgotten on a dusty shelf somewhere in the Kiss archives.

#951: Set Your VCR, It’s 1986 and KISS Meets The Phantom Is On Tonight!

Special thanks to Jennifer Ladano for telling me to write this story down!

RECORD STORE TALES #951: Set Your VCR!
It’s 1986 and KISS Meets The Phantom Is On Tonight!

When thinking back about my earliest rock and roll discoveries, it’s important to recall the order in which I got the albums, or first heard the tunes.  It seems like I had always known “Rock N’ Roll all Nite”, but since my first Kiss albums were Alive! and Hotter Than Hell, those were the songs I knew best.  And I barely knew them!  I got my first Kiss in September of ’85.  But I was learning slowly.  Eventually I’d get Asylum, and gradually tape Kiss albums from my neighbour George.

Something else happened that exposed me to Kiss in a new way, that I sometimes forget about.  It was the first time I saw Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.

Everybody knew about Kiss Meets the Phantom, but few of us were old enough to have seen it.  When it showed up in the TV guide one week, on some Buffalo station, it seemed like every kid with access to a VCR set it to record.  It was being shown at something like 1:00 in the morning on a Sunday.

Upon waking, I got my sister up early and we raced downstairs to watch.  We did not have time to watch the whole thing that morning.  It was winter, possibly the tail end of Christmas holidays, and we were off to the lake for one day.  We watched some, went to the lake, had lunch at the Embassy, and came home to finish the movie.

I noticed there were far more ads to fast forward through on late night TV than during the day!


Actual ads from the actual tape of the actual night.

My sister recalls liking Kiss Meets the Phantom; my memories are quite different.  I was bored to tears any time Kiss wasn’t on screen, and you had to wait through, like, an hour (with ads) for Kiss to arrive at the bloody park!  I didn’t know who this Anthony Zerbe fellow was, but at age 13 I considered him possibly the worst actor I had ever seen.

It was my first time seeing Peter Criss on video and not just still photos, and I was surprised at his voice.  I told everyone, “Peter Criss sounds like Aquaman.”  I had the show right, but the character wrong.  Michael Bell did the voice of Peter Criss in Kiss Meets the Phantom, and Wonder Twin Zan in the cartoon Superfriends.  Legend has it that this was because Peter didn’t show up to loop his lines in post-production.  Whatever the case, it led to a different urban legends:  that Peter Criss had given up rock and roll, and taken up a lucrative career as a cartoon voice actor!

I thought Gene’s distorted voice was tiresome after a while, and Paul seemed the coolest.  My sister liked that Kiss were like superheroes with powers.  On the other hand, I didn’t like that.  If Paul Stanley couldn’t shoot a laser beam out of his eye in real life, I didn’t understand why he would in this movie.  They were still Kiss, still playing the same Kiss songs, but also super-powered.  My rigid brain couldn’t reconcile the two.

As for the music, the movie contains several songs that I heard for the very first time that day.  “Beth” (acoustic, no less), “Shout It Out Loud”, “God of Thunder” and “I Stole Your Love”.  (“Rip and Destroy” doesn’t count.)  Now, because I didn’t know these songs, and there were no captions, I had to guess at the titles.  “Shout It Out Loud” was the easy one.  But these were the live versions taken from Alive II, fast and reckless.  Not to mention we were hearing it on a TV with mono speaker; state of the art for the time, but not for proper music listening.  So that’s why, for that day at least, I thought “God of Thunder” was “Not a Doctor”, and “I Stole Your Love” was something that sounded like “I Ho-Jo-Ho”.

The process of discovering Kiss was so memorable because it’s so fun.  The superhero character aspect appealed to my sister and there’s no denying that it had something to do with why I loved Kiss too.  But hearing the songs and albums for the first time can only happen once.  And I can clearly remember a tinge of sadness when I finally acquired Rock and Roll Over, the last original Kiss album I needed to finish my collection.  I was starkly aware that I was having this experience for the last time:  hearing a classic Kiss album, guessing who was singing the songs by the title alone, and discovering hidden favourites.  As I learned when Crazy Nights came out, hearing a new Kiss album was simply not the same as discovering the classics!

Kiss Meets the Phantom was a struggle to sit through then, but fortunately I saw it at an age when Kiss still seemed larger than life.  Objectively, it is a pretty terrible film, best enjoyed as a trainwreck.  The best parts are the concert scenes, which was the closest I got to seeing Kiss live at age 13.  It was my first exposure to some really important songs even if I wondered why Gene was singing about being “Not a Doctor”!

[Re-Post] Part 241: Halloween, KISS style!

Always nice to repost a seasonal classic.  Enjoy this Halloween tale.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Our annual inventory count fell on October 31.  For five years straight, I never got to dress up, hand out candy, or do anything fun on Halloween because I was too busy counting discs and CD towers!  However in the early days, this wasn’t the case.  Halloween 1996 was actually a pretty good one.

Like most malls, ours had a few Halloween contests.  T-Rev entered the store in the Pumpkin Carving category.  He and I came up with the plan to do a Kiss pumpkin.  T-Rev, the store owner’s brother, and myself gathered in my mom’s workshop in the basement. My mom had plenty of paint, and I was good at drawing the Kiss makeup designs.  T-Rev had the idea to make the pumpkin Gene Simmons, and figured out how to make a pumpkin tongue stick out.  I must say he did an amazing job.

The first step was to spray paint the pumpkin white.  One of the guys did the cutting.  Then, I drew the Demon design with a black magic marker.  We thought the nose needed to be more three-dimensional, so I cut it out a bit.  Together, we began colouring in Gene’s makeup.  We needed something to define the eyes of Gene, and T-Rev thought of using pumpkin seeds.  We added a wig, and voila!

T-Rev propped Gene up on the magazine stand outside the store.  Immediately we started getting compliments, and the response was pretty unanimous:  We had done the best job in the entire mall.

Unfortunately, the judges didn’t base their ratings on who had done the best job.  They were only marking the results, whether the store employees did the pumpkins themselves or not!  A store that hired a professional carver won first place.  We came in second.  There was no prize for second.  T-Rev and I considered that to be cheating.  Cheatie-cheatertons.

The contest was over, and not too soon:  the pumpkin had begun to rot, as pumpkins do.  That didn’t stop a customer from coming in on November 1st and offering him $10 for it.  T-Rev accepted his gracious offer, even though the thing would be turning horrific in a day or two.  A fool and his money, right T-Rev?

By 1997, the store had moved out of the mall.  This was our last pumpkin carving contest, but at least we had the satisfaction of winning the popular vote.  As far as I’m concerned, we went out on top.  My personal consolation prize was later on, Halloween 2006.  By this time I had moved on to United Rentals.  They took Halloween very, very seriously at United Rentals!  I dressed up as Paul Stanley, and this time, I finally won first prize!

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (2021)

 – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan, March 13, 2001 – 2021 Universal)

Hell yeah, Kiss have started releasing official bootlegs.  Proving that they “get” the concept, the first in what we hope will be a long series, is a lineup never before heard on any official Kiss release.  After the lengthy reunion and Psycho Circus tours, Kiss embarked on a “Farewell Tour” that really wasn’t.  It was just the farewell to the original lineup, and specifically Peter Criss.  Ace Frehley stayed on board for the time being and Eric Singer was brought in as the new Catman.  This lineup lasted until Frehley left and Criss came back for the Kiss Symphony, but was never documented in any official capacity.

Confusing?  Just know three things:

  1. This is really valuable to fans.
  2. ACE FREHLEY, LEAD GUITAR!
  3. Paul Stanley was still in great voice back in 2001.

Alright, Tokyo.  You wanted the best, you got the best.  Let’s have a listen.

An electrifying “Detroit Rock City” opens, and immediately you can hear the pitter-patter of the new Catman making itself evident.  Stanley is in fine form, high energy.  And the sound is damn decent.  Sure, you could wish the vocals were mixed louder and the bass a little lower, but the “official bootleg” is a more honest experience than a polished-up Alive album.  And Paul really nails it.

“Deuce” has plenty of those Frehley solos and fills that we miss so much today.  Gene is fully engaged and frankly, you don’t miss Peter.  Paul says a quick hello in Japanese, and teases the crowd in expert frontman fashion.  Then it’s “Shout It Out Loud”, a pretty standard version.  Frehley’s “Talk To Me” from Unmasked is the real treat.  It is not the first live version released (there was an earlier live take on The Box Set with Eric Carr) but it is rarely heard.

Paul always asks the crowd “How we doin’ so far,” and the pace is slowed down for “I Love It Loud”.  This version has particularly good backing vocals in comparison with others.  Then Paul needs to know if the crowd is having a good time, just before he pulls off some impressive soulful bellowing.  It’s time to call the “Firehouse”, another solid version.  Eric Singer’s drumming is noticeably more regimented but the fills are big and bold.  It’s just great to have Ace on lead guitar.

Kiss setlists are often safe, and a steady stream of Kiss standbys roll out:  “Do You Love Me”, “Dr. Love”, “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  It’s a Kiss concert; none of these songs vary much from night to night.  None of them suck; Kiss were sounding good and Eric Singer helps beef up the vocals.  The extended intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” really highlights what a truly exceptional singer Paul Stanley was.  Gene on the other hand is pretty ragged on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”, not being able to decide what voice he’s singing in.  Great to hear Ace take a long solo on it though, all the while Eric Singer filling the backdrop with snares n’ toms.

Frehley takes the spotlight once more on “Shock Me” with his feature solo.  Gimme a Frehley version of “Shock Me” any day over a Tommy version.  Ace does a weird “Shock Me-ee-ee” thing on the chorus.  After telling the crowd that “Tokyo rocks,” he blasts through the fanfare of “Also sprach Zarathustra” on his Gibson.  It was indeed the year 2001!  Frehley’s solo (almost 10 minutes of it) is a CD highlight for those who miss the Spaceman.

Ending the first disc, “Psycho Circus” was the only track from the most recent Kiss album left in the set.  It is always reliable, sounding like classic Kiss, even more so when Ace plays the lead solo (which he didn’t on the album).  Continuing on disc two, “Lick It Up” makes its appearance.  This is a track that that rules completely with Ace Frehley.  “Lick It Up” has always been, let’s face it, a bland song.  When you add Ace soloing on it, it’s got some flavour.  Could be that the Tokyo Dome version of “Lick It Up” is the best available take out there.

Gene’s bass break is boring without the visuals, but “God of Thunder” is pretty hot, Ace throwing in some squeals that remind you why the real thing was special.  This track also includes Eric’s drum solo.  Momentum is built on “Cold Gin”, and the monolithic “100,000 Years”.  Raw and heavy Kiss with vintage Frehley?  Again, outside of Kiss Alive itself, these are probably the best versions you will hear.  Paul’s usual sing-a-long in “100,000 Years” is part of the party.  “Do you feel alriii-iii-iight!”  Nothing is edited out, even when Paul is busy handing out T-shirts and all you have is Eric keeping the beat.  Fans appreciate that authenticity.

There’s still plenty of heavy tonnage rock left to go.  “Love Gun” can’t be left out, fireworks blasting as Paul flies out over the crowd (which is why the song has an extended intro without vocals).  Once Paul’s on his platform in the middle of the arena it’s off to the races.  No place for hiding indeed!

The surprise is “I Still Love You” from Creatures of the Night.  The only ballad, and a track that was rarely played after the reunion.  It has always been a big Paul moment, and this is performed solo without Simmons, Frehley or Singer as part of the intro to “Black Diamond”.  Speaking of which, “Black Diamond” is also an album highlight; a version with Eric Singer on lead vocals and Ace Frehley on lead guitar!

The pairing of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” and “Rock and Roll all Nite” are an odd one, but that’s the closing duo that got the Tokyo crowd screaming.

Besides the couple rarely played songs, the cool thing about this Tokyo setlist is the pacing.  It starts with a bang, and it never really lets go.  Even the solo breaks are really just big intros or outros that amplify the moments around them.  Then the whole show manages to even pick up the excitement at the end with stellar performances of “Love Gun” and “Black Diamond”.  It is also encouraging that Kiss are realizing the value of past lineups, and official bootlegs.  As long as they remain willing to highlight songs and band members from nooks and crannies in the band’s history, then the Kiss Off the Soundboard series is a promising one.

4.5/5 stars

Sunday Screening: Trailer for KISS Off the Soundboard: Tokyo 2001

Just a quickie for you this Sunday.  In rather cool news, KISS announced a new series of live soundboard albums.  The first of these is Tokyo 2001, one of Ace Frehley’s last shows with the band.  The lineup is one never before represented on any official releases until now:  Stanley/Simmons/Frehley/Singer.

The vinyl can be purchased on black or “exclusive 3LP crystal clear vinyl with bone swirl”.  Or for those of us not made of money, plain ol’ CD.  Check it out.

 

1. “Detroit Rock City”
2. “Deuce”
3. “Shout It Out Loud”
4. “Talk to Me”
5. “I Love It Loud”
6. “Firehouse”
7. “Do You Love Me”
8. “Calling Dr. Love”
9. “Heaven’s On Fire”
10. “Let Me Go Rock & Roll”
11. “Shock Me”
12. “Psycho Circus”
13. “Lick It Up”
14. “God of Thunder”
15. “Cold Gin”
16. “100,000 Years”
17. “Love Gun”
18. “I Still Love You”
19. “Black Diamond”
20. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”
21. “Rock and Roll All Nite”

#888: The Limewire Days

RECORD STORE TALES #888: The Limewire Days

I got into the downloading business later than everyone else. As a Record Store manager, I had zero interest in downloads. I’ve never used Napster and I sided with Lars Ulrich when it came down to it.  You might not have cared about Lars’ bottom line, but I cared about mine.  Downloading hurt us.  And we weren’t a corporate entity, we were just a small indy chain.  Eventually in the year 2001, I relented and began using WinMX and Limewire to download rare tracks. I bought so many CDs annually, I figured “why not”? I quickly discovered all the new Guns N’ Roses songs that they played in Rio.

I still remember the first time using WinMX. It was at an old girlfriend’s house and she was showing me how she downloaded music. Hey neighbour was using WinMX too, and gave her a mix CD of all the tracks she had downloaded. I’ll never forget putting on this mix CD, and suddenly from the speakers it’s “Who Let the Dogs Out”!   As the song went on, I remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the verses to this song before. Just the chorus.” Do you know how the verses go?

I copied what the girlfriend showed me, downloaded WinMX, and before you know it, I was listening to “The Blues” by Guns N’ Roses.

After everything dried up on WinMX, we both switched to Limewire where I continued downloading the odd rarity. I accumulated a large music folder, and began burning all my new tracks to mix CDs. I have several volumes of mixes all with tracks downloaded during this period. But there were always odds and ends that I never fit onto a mix CD. I thought all those tracks had been lost, but I just dug up an old CD labelled “MP3 downloads”. It is here that I burned the stragglers, and then stuffed the CD in with some photo discs and forgot all about it.

The title “MP3 downloads” is misleading as there are video files here too (none of which work anymore). The downloads are also not exclusively from Limewire, as we’ll get to. Let’s have a look track by track at what mp3 files I still had in my music folder back in 2004.


This CD is only 303 mb (of 656).

First, the video files are a weird variety of stuff I downloaded and intended to keep.  I didn’t have cable back then, so “Gene Simmons on MTV Cribs” is one I wanted.  Then there’s a file called “Gene’s hair on fire”.  Then there’s a file called “some jackass tells a cop to fuck off”.  I remember that one.  I think I had been searching for Jackass videos, and came across this idiot getting beat by a cop after walking up and giving him the finger.  Some Star Wars videos include the Star Wars Kid vs Yoda, a deleted scene from A New Hope, and something called “Episode 3 Leaked Marketing Video”.  All the video files appear to be corrupt and won’t play on anything.

Onto the music.  I can see there are some tracks here from albums I didn’t own then, but do now.  From the compilation CD Spaced by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, it’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, “I Walk the Line” and “When I Was Seventeen”.  These are strictly novelty covers, although Nimoy does give it a good effort.  All of these songs were originally released on separate Nimoy and Shatner albums in the late 1960s.  Related to these, I also have “Shaft” by Sammy Davis Jr.  I have long loved Sammy’s glittery version of the Shaft theme.  Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks?  Sammy Davis Jr. was!  The guitar work on this is great slippery fun.  I’ll have to get a copy for real.

A fun treat next:  A full hour Peter Criss interview show by Eddie Trunk.  This is with all the songs and music.  Peter was out of Kiss once again, and he spilled the full beans on his whole perspective.  Doing the Symphony show with Tommy Thayer, Peter complains “without Ace, it’s not Kiss”.  This interview is definitely a keeper.  According to the file name, this interview is from May 4, 2004.

Several of the files are really, really low quality Dokken.  These are tiny files, they are so poor.  Demos of “Back for the Attack”, “We’re Illegal”, “It’s Not Love”, “Unchain the Night”, “Upon Your Lips”, and “Sign of the Times”.  A live version of “Paris is Burning”.  Remixes of “Nothing Left to Say” and “I Feel”.  I could have burned all these to a Dokken rarities CD, but the sound quality is poor, I knew I’d never want to listen to it.

There is also a smattering of rare Leatherwolf, including some live stuff.  Some were downloads from their social media pages at the time.  “Tension” is definitely one such official track, an instrumental solo that isn’t on any albums.  (You can tell by the file size it’s official, compared to the low quality Limewire downloads.)  I also have “Black Knight” live with original singer Michael Olivieri, and a partial instrumental called “The Triple Axe Attack”.  I’m not 100% certain what these are, but they don’t seem to have originated on the rare Leatherwolf live album called Wide Open.  Best of all the finds are the three official demos they did with singer Jeff Martin:  “Burned”, Disconnect” and “Behind the Gun”.  Martin did not last, and was replaced by Wade Black of Crimson Glory on the album World Asylum.  Fortunately I had already burned these tracks (and “Tension”) to a bonus CD.

There is a smattering of Gene Simmons demos, varying in quality.  “Heart Throb” is almost unlistenable.  “Howling for Your Love” is OK but I can’t identify if it was later rewritten into something more recognizable.  “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is bright and poppy with a drum machine backing Gene.  Then there is “Jelly Roll”, a heavier track with a riff like “Tie Your Mother Down”.  “Rock and Rolls Royce” is the track that was rewritten into “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” from Rock and Roll Over.  “Rotten to the Core” was recycled way later on 2009’s Sonic Boom as “Hot and Cold”.  Like the Dokken tracks, I never burned these to CD because of the poor audio that I knew I wouldn’t want to listen to.

Other miscellaneous rarities here include Faith No More, Motley Crue and Van Halen.  Faith No More were known to mess around with covers live, and here I have “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) and “We Will Rock You”.  Sound quality is awful and neither are full songs, just them messing around on stage.  The two unreleased Motley Tracks are “Black Widow” and something just labelled “unreleased track” which is actually “I Will Survive”.  Both of these are officially released now so I have no reason to keep them.  Onto Van Halen, not everything sounds shite, but “On Fire” is just a few seconds of a demo.  “Let’s Get Rockin'” is complete.  A good sounding track that later was reworked as “Outta Space” on A Different Kind of Truth.  Then I have 90 seconds of the sneak preview single for “It’s About Time” (2004).  And then just two seconds of shred on a track labelled “VANHwhee”.  So strange!

Other rarities include one Def Leppard treasure called “Burnout”, which was an official download from their site.  It was also available on the CD single for “Goodbye” and a Def Leppard boxed set.  I also have an audio rip of “Lick My Love Pump” from the movie This Is Spinal Tap.  I should really take this and add it to the soundtrack as a bonus track!

I downloaded some miscellaneous songs that I didn’t own the albums for, but intended to get later:

  • Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (I was watching Stephen King’s The Stand that year!)
  • Budgie – “Breadfan”
  • Buckethead – “Nottingham Lace” (might be an official download)
  • Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Down on the Corner” (mislabelled as “Willy and the Poor Boys”)
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
  • Iced Earth – “Dracula”
  • Iced Earth – “Jack”
  • Kenny Rogers – “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”
  • Marty Robbins – “El Paso”
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – “Elvis is Everywhere”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m An Adult Now”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “Hard to Laugh”

Of these, there are some I still have not bought and some I have no intention of getting anymore.  I do own the B.O.C., Budgie, Cat Stevens, CCR, Kenny Rogers, Marty Robbins, and Fleetwood Mac.  I’d still like to get Mojo Nixon to be honest with you!

Finally, there are bits of pieces of funny things that I liked to have hanging around for making mix CDs.  Many are from a website that used to have mp3 files of movie quotes, and the rest are from Homestar Runner.  Does that take you back to the 2000s?  From Homestar, I have “Alright 4 2Night”, “Strongbadia National Anthem”, “Everybody Knows It”, “Ballad of the Sneak”, “Cheat Commandos”, “CGNU Fight Song”, and a computer voice saying “back off baby”!  I might have been using that as an MSN Messenger alert sound.  Any time someone messaged me, the computer would say “back off baby”!  If I didn’t, I should have.  From the movie Sexy Beast I grabbed a bunch of Ben Kingsley’s best lines.  Saying he’s going to put his cigarette out in somebody’s eye, calling someone “porky pig”, yelling “no!” repeatedly, and announcing he had to take a piss.  Because of course.

The last files I found on this CD are strange, but for the sake of a complete and thorough inventory, they are:

  • no_respect:  24 seconds of the pretty terrible “Rappin'” Rodney Dangerfield song from the 80s.
  • 50_10sec:  Actually 11 seconds of the “Smoke on the Water” riff.  I can tell it’s Blackmore.  Why did I keep this?
  • MM Jukebox Plus Upgrade:  18 second software ad that obviously got left there by something I downloaded.  This is probably the first time in my life that I actually played this track!
  • cant_holdon:  36 seconds long.  This took forever to identify.  Lyric searches told me nothing.  Then I figured it out by uploading to YouTube and waiting for the copyright block to tell me what it was!  “Can’t Hold On / Can’t Let Go” by a band called Thunder, but not the band Thunder that you know today.  Probably downloaded by mistake is my guess.  Sounds like something you’d hear in an 80s Bruce Willis flick.

I don’t know how interesting this will be for you to read, but I found it entertaining enough to do this complete inventory.  I had clearly not tried to listen to all the files before, or I would have weeded at least a few out.  It is likely that in 2004 I was getting a new hard drive put in my computer and hastily burned my mp3 files to CD, intending to eventually put them on mix discs like I did with the rest of my mp3 collection.

After a little further digging, I did find that I had burned some of these songs to a mix CD.  Not all, but some.  You can get an idea here of how I’d make use of weird stuff like this.  The rest of the tracks never made it to the mix CD stage, so finding the original mp3 disc is a fun reminder for me of just what I was doing in 2004.  And I’m going to keep that Peter Criss interview, and a few other worthwhile things too.! Productive morning spent, and I hope you enjoyed this look at the way we did things a decade and a half ago.

 

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (Japanese CD)

  Best of Solo Albums (Originally 1979, 2020 Universal Japan CD)

Third review for this Kiss compilation here, but why?  A couple reasons.  For one, it’s the first-ever official CD release of this album!  It took 41 years for them to finally put out a CD, and yet only in Japan.  More remarkably, there is one track here that I’ve never heard before in this particular version.

That song is the incredible Paul Stanley epic “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  On Paul’s solo disc, it fades away at the end of side one at 5:35 in length.  Here, it goes to 5:48, no fade, right to the end of the track.  It’s an ending I’ve never heard before.  This song isn’t even on the more common European version of Best of Solo Albums, just the Japanese.  And apparently the CD has an unreleased version without the fade.

“Oh boy!” you exclaim.  “I have to buy this import just to get 13 seconds of music I never heard before?”

No.  You don’t have to buy it.  I did, because I wanted a copy of this album on CD.  When I discovered the longer version of the track, I was ecstatic to unexpectedly get something extra for my money.

There’s no need to review this album track by track again.  I’ve done it twice, and I’ve also reviewed all four solos albums twice each.  There’s really no need to run through all the songs again, although this tracklist is quite different.  Unlike the European version, these songs are not arranged in three-track blocks for each member.  Additionally, seven of the European tracks were substituted with others.  That’s more than half the album!

Gene Simmons:  Instead of “Mr. Make Believe” and “See You In Your Dreams”, Japan used “See You Tonite” and “Living In Sin”

Paul Stanley:  “Move On” was replaced by the unreleased version of “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.

Ace Frehley:  “Speedin’ Back to my Baby” was removed in favour of the instrumental “Fractured Mirror”

Peter Criss:  All three of the Cat’s songs – “You Matter To Me”, “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, and “Hooked on Rock and Roll” were replaced!  I guess Japan didn’t care for those as much as they did “Don’t You Let Me Down”, “Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.

For me, I prefer the running order that Europe used, with each member of the band getting three songs in a chunk.  However, there are plenty of songs that I prefer on the Japanese version, such as “See You Tonite”, “Take Me Away (Together As One), “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Don’t You Let Me Down”.

It’s interesting that the solo albums are by and large panned by the masses, but nobody can agree on the “Best Of“.  Maybe those albums weren’t so bad after all, at least when you distil them down to the essential tracks.  The Japanese CD will become my preferred listening experience for two main reasons:  it sounds better than the vinyl, and I like more of the songs.  It would sound even better if I had an MQA decoder, a new-ish hi-resolution CD format from Japan, which will unlock an even better sounding version of the album, if you have a few grand to spend on upgrading your system.  If not, enjoy the disc and stellar packaging, with not one but two different covers to display.

4/5 stars

 

Halloween Memories with your host, “Max the Axe”!

Thanks for joining me, “Max the Axe”, for this special episode of Halloween Memories! Where’s Pablo? I’m kind of a big deal. Three yolks, two whites, that’s how you make Hollandaise sauce.

If you watch the video below I’ll give you a sneak preview of the new song “Oktoberfest Cheer” and we’ll visit with special guests “Mean” Gene Simmons and Dr. Kathryn Ladano!

To hear “Oktoberfest Cheer” which I played twice, go to 0:02:35 or 1:31:15. Chose your sound quality — shitty or shittier!

To hang out with Dr. Kathryn, go to 0:13:40.

To see what Mean Gene Simmons has to announce, check out 0:34:05.

Happy Halloween everyone!

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Unmasked (1980)

Back for Round Three.  For the first two Unmasked reviews, click here and here.

  Unmasked (1980 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster)

This has been a weird year.  Comforting, nostalgic sounds in the age of Covid have dominated at LeBrain HQ.  There are two Kiss albums that have been absolute joys this summer for blowing the blues away.  They have been Dressed to Kill, and Unmasked.  Originally rated 2.5/5 stars, I was definitely wrong on Unmasked.  The band may have disowned it, and it might not be hard rock, but reviewing it is not as “Easy As It Seems”.  This album definitely has “Two Side of the Coin”.  It might not be “What Makes the World Go ‘Round” but this summer, I just want to say one thing to Kiss Unmasked:  “You’re All That I Want”.

One reason I may have judged Unmasked harshly before is that first impressions are strongest.  In a case of Classical Conditioning, my first impression was not good.  In fact, for the first two years of hearing Unmasked, my copy was all but unlistenable.  In the beginning, I taped my first Kiss albums from next door neighbour George.  He fancied himself a bass player.  While he was recording Unmasked for me, I sat in his bedroom while he played bass along to it.  Every song.  Unbeknownst to him, his bass bled onto my tape.  Every time I played the album, it was like a remix with George overdubbed on bass, and I had the only copy.  Sometimes he continued playing well after the fade, other times he came in prematurely.  Either way, my first two formative years with this album were awful.  Even after buying a proper copy on cassette, I couldn’t hear the album without the auditory illusion of George’s bass ringing in my skull.  Though not the only factor, that had to be one of several reasons for my dislike of the album.  A dislike which in no longer:  in 2020, it’s love.  Just a fun anecdote to colour in some history, nothing more.

“Is That You?” asks Paul Stanley on the opener, a Gerard McMahon song that boasts grinding verses and a killer chorus.  Piano tinkles quietly in the background, but the guitars are nice and rich, especially Paul’s solo.  His lead vocals absolutely rip, while a sultry Gene sings the backgrounds.

A second Paul vocal follows, and it’s the big hit “Shandi”.  Listening with 20/20 hindsight in the year 2020, it’s amusing to ponder how anybody thought this was Peter Criss on drums.  It was a secret that Anton Fig played on Unmasked and Dynasty, but it’s really obviously not Peter Criss.  That disco groove is too impeccably perfect to be the Catman.  Paul is, in fact, the only Kiss member to play on “Shandi”.  And while this song is a softie, it ain’t a baddie.  It’s clear that Kiss were not the rag-tag rock and roll beast they once were.  They had evolved.  Temporarily, at least.

If the first two tracks were light on Ace Frehley, that’s not indicative of the album.  Three lead vocals for the Spaceman this time, including the single “Talk To Me”.  Shiny and chromed-up, Frehley’s songs are among the best on Unmasked and “Talk To Me” could be the top track.

I always had problems with “Naked City”, but part of that might be that I can still hear George come in early on the bass.  Gene Simmons makes his album vocal debut here, and while the chorus and riff are still not top-notch, the verses are excellent.  Songs like this also demonstrate that Gene is an underrated singer.  He’s more versatile than people realize.

Paul strikes a cool riff on “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”.  He often talks about how the album had good songs, but they should have sounded different.  This one sounds like it could have turned out more like the first three albums.  You can imagine how the riff would have been more prominent.  As it is though, it’s one of the most unabashedly catchy songs Paul’s ever written, and his guitar solo is simply delicious.  You can slag Paul for doing something so pop, but can you slag him for doing it so well?

Side B’s opener is “Tomorrow”, with Paul’s vocals cleanly produced as per the pop trends of the day, with slapback delay and airy EQ.  But like “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”, this is pop rock done really well.  The keyboards are too prominent, but at least Ace gets a tasty solo here.  As Kiss songs got catchier, so did the Spaceman’s solos.  Frehley’s next lead vocal follows on “Two Sides of the Coin”, the song title which inspired a podcast (“Three Sides of the Coin“).  Y’see, Ace just can’t pick a girl!  But he has to.  “Two sides of the coin to choose from, I’m getting weary.  Which one should I choose?  I need time.”  He insists that the girls don’t mind, but I question that assertion.  But he has to pick a mate because he’s “tired of all those dates”!  Silly words aside, Ace has knocked out two top-notch songs on Unmasked so far.

Gene’s back on “She’s So European”, a song about a girl with a French accent who drinks pink champagne.  I’ve softed my stance on this one too.  You can certainly hear the rock n’ roll riffiness that it could have been.  That’s been replaced by keyboards and slick beats, and it’s fine.  “Easy As It Seems”, a Paul song, really sneaks up on you.  It disappears into the fabric of the album until one day you just can’t get it out of your heard.  Paul lays down another fine solo, and weaves a plaintive tapestry with his incredible voice.  What range he had.

An album highlight is the third and final Frehley concoction — a weird little number called “Torpedo Girl”.  Surf rock meets the Space Ace.  The guitar lick is a tricky little off-beat riff, but with Anton Fig behind on drums, Kiss could do complex stuff like this.  Especially since that’s Ace playing the bouncy bass part too.  It’s also one of Frehley’s most entertaining lyrics.  A submarine with a pretty girl on the bridge has surfaced in the bay!  Better go check it out.

The final track, “You’re All That I Want” is a Gene number.  Like “Easy As It Seems”, one day it just catches you.  Especially Paul’s “answer” vocals in the outro.  One thing (among many) that made Kiss truly special is the multiple lead singers.  And unless you’re a Catman diehard, you don’t really miss Peter in that mix.  Frehley more than made up for the lack of Criss.  While four singers is better than three, remember that Kiss only had three lead singers for their first five studio albums.

I don’t want to have to three-view the entire Kiss catalogue but it is amazing how Unmasked just opened up to me this summer.  I’m enjoying more than ever, with that nostalgic glow for days gone by.  The “good old days” were not always good, but at least the music was.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” (2014 McCartney tribute)

 – “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” (2014 Sony, from The Art of McCartney)

Kiss rarities can be so crushingly disappointing.  Some, like the Ramones cover “Rock and Roll Radio” are catalogue highlights.  Others, like “Don’t Touch My Ascot” are just curiosities.  Unfortunately the Paul McCartney medley of “Rock Show” and “Venus and Mars” fall into the latter category.  But why?

These tracks come from a Paul McCartney tribute album called The Art of McCartney.  On the back cover, the track is clearly listed as Kiss.  But Kiss must have had some lineup changes if that’s the case.  Doug Petty on bass!  Dan Petty on guitar!  Jason Paige on drums!  You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize those names as Kiss members last time you checked.  Only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the real Kiss appear, and only in a vocal capacity.  Why the false advertising?  On the same album, Robin Zander and Rick Nielson “of Cheap Trick” are listed, but not Cheap Trick themselves.  Yet Paul and Gene are credited as Kiss, tricking the fans into thinking they were hearing the band, not just two of the singers.

How is it?

Well, it doesn’t sound like Kiss, that’s for sure!  Gene sings the “Venus and Mars” section, in his natural voice.  Then a raspy Paul comes in, bringing a Kiss-like vibe with him.  He gets to sing one of Paul McCartney’s coolest lyrics of all time:

What’s that man movin’ ‘cross the stage?
It looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page.

Or Ace Frehley!

At no point do Paul and Gene sing together or harmonize like they used to when covering the Beatles on the streets of New York City.  Doesn’t it seem like a colossal waste, having the two Kiss founding members appearing essentially separately?  Would have been even better with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer playing, but…hey, nobody asks me ahead of time!

And here is another reason why physical media is important.  If you had just downloaded this from iTunes, you might never know that what you bought wasn’t really Kiss.  Then again, the front cover does say “The songs of Paul McCartney sung by the world’s greatest artists.”  Nothing in there about the playing part.

Buying this CD (to be reviewed separately at a later time) would still not be a bad idea.  You’ll get exclusives by Alice Cooper (double shot), Sammy Hagar, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, actual Def Leppard, Jeff Lynne, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, The Cure, B.B. King, Dylan, Heart, Dion and tons more.  Cooper’s “Eleanor Rigby” is worth the purchase alone.  This helps negate the soul-squashing disappointing of buying a “Kiss” song that isn’t.

2.5/5 stars