Ken Kelly

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Love Gun (1977)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 9:  

LOVE GUN DELUXE_0002kiss-logo – Love Gun (1977 Casablanca, 2014 Universal reissue)

By the late 1970s, Kiss had achieved more than most bands do in an entire career.  In 1977, Marvel comics released the first ever Kiss comic.  Famously, as a publicity stunt, each Kiss member had a vial of blood drawn, and poured into the red ink.  “Printed in real KISS blood”  proclaimed the front cover.  Can you imagine such a thing in 2017?  In 1978, the toy company Mego marketed the first set of Kiss action figures.  The phenomenon of Kiss was almost eclipsing the music.  Perhaps it would have completely, if Kiss didn’t continue to release excellent albums on a biannual basis.  Their first album of 1977 was the legendary Love Gun.  Even the Ken Kelly cover art depicts Kiss as demi-gods of some kind.  Inside, the merchandising spilled over to the album.  Kiss were determined to give their fans a little extra, and so the album was packed with little cardboard “love guns” that you could assemble yourself…accompanied by a Kiss merch mail-away form.

 

The music brightly outshone all the flash and trimmings.  Again with Eddie Kramer in the producer’s chair, Kiss sought to make a focused heavy rock record.  Their material had rarely been stronger.  Paul Stanley was becoming handy at writing opening tracks that defined what an album was going to sound like.  “I Stole Your Love” cranked it fast with one of Paul’s most thunderous riffs.  The tribal sounding drums by Peter Criss are an apt example of what made him great at the time.  Criss was not a technical drummer, but he had the right feel and a knack for the perfect fill.  Ace Frehley soars in and dive bombs with an unforgettable lightning solo.  Gene Simmons is there in the back, adding the thump.  “I Stole Your Love” in a mere three minutes encapsulates everything about Love Gun that makes it great.

Gene Simmons’ demon character had another side; that of the “creepy old man”.  “I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age, but when I saw you coming out of school that day, that day I knew…I knew!…I’ve got to have you, I’ve got to have you!”  Probably from the perspective of a highschool senior, but still, it came from Gene’s mouth.  The less said about the words the better, for “Christine Sixteen” is one of Gene’s most perfect musical moments.  Eddie Kramer provides the piano for a vintage rock and roll sound.  A Kiss classic it is, and Peter once again has the perfect fills for the song.

 

Moving on to “Got Love For Sale”, the lecherous Simmons now “has love, will travel”.  Uptempo sleeze is perfect for Kiss’ friendly demon, but Frehley is the real star here.  Speaking of whom, the Space Ace finally worked up the courage to sing his first lead vocal on his trademark Kiss song “Shock Me”.  On the prior tour, Ace nearly electrocuted himself on stage when he touched a railing that wasn’t grounded properly.  “Shock Me” is a humorous reference to this.  Any Frehley track has a unique flavour.  He attacks his Gibson and assembles chords and riffs in a style all his own.  “Shock Me” showed he could sing too, finally adding a fourth voice to a Kiss album.  For the first time, Love Gun has all four Kiss members singing lead.  The first side was bookended by another Paul Stanley track, the killer “Tomorrow and Tonight”.  Piano and Motown-style female backing vocals give the track a classic feel, and Paul once again came up with a sweet candy-coated chorus.  Echoing a previous hit, Paul sings “We can rock all day, we can roll all night.”

The most well known track from Love Gun is the title track itself.  It has been in the set regularly since 1977 and is generally considered one of Paul Stanley’s best songs (if not his very best).  All the ingredients click perfectly.  “Love Gun” kills and cannot be improved upon.  Even if, when you think about it, “Love Gun” is a metaphor for “penis”, and the lyrics amount to singing, “You pull the trigger of my…penis, penis, penis”.  Substitute “penis” every time Paul sings “Love Gun” and see.  Paul Stanley is an absolute genius, because he has gotten stadiums full of thousands of people to sing an ode to his cock, and that’s cool.


“See Ronnie? His dick is the gun!”

Peter Criss only had one track on Love Gun, a Stan Penridge co-write called “Hooligan”.  It was good enough to get some live performances, though it and Gene’s “Almost Human” occupy the lower rungs of the Love Gun album.  The best thing about both “Hooligan” and “Almost Human” is that both perfectly fit the personas that sing them.  Peter has always emphasized his tough street upbringing, but as the lovable cat character, and that’s “Hooligan”.  “Almost Human” is 100% the sex-crazed demon, almost a theme song.  The bass thumps, but there is some interesting percussion stuff happening too.  Simmons continues looking for love in “Plaster Caster”, his encounter with the legendary Cynthia Plaster Caster.   One can assume that Gene Simmons’ wang is among those on her display.  “A token of my love for her collection.”  “Plaster Caster” rocks hard (pun intended) and has balls (also intended).

Love Gun surprisingly closes on a Phil Spector classic, “And Then She Kissed Me” (gender reversed) by the Crystals.  Paul Stanley helms it, a romantic number perfect for Kiss content at weddings.  The Kiss-ified version is almost comically guitar heavy, but Kiss have managed a number of unusual covers over the years.  Adapting it to their sound, Paul owns “And Then She Kissed Me”, especially when topped by an awesome and appropriate solo.

The Love Gun tour that followed this album is one of Kiss’ most legendary: the dual staircases, levitating cat drums,  and of course the big Kiss logo in behind.  Kiss were huge.  A gallup poll put Kiss as the most popular band in America, over Zeppelin, Aerosmith and the Stones.  When bank accounts inflate, so do egos.  With success comes cost.  Though the Love Gun period is all but universally lauded, it was also the last unified album before some members became liabilities.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars

See Ronnie?  His dick is the gun!


Uncle Meat’s rating:

3.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  This was Peter Criss’ last album with Kiss for a long time.  Love Gun is a hit and miss record in Meat’s opinion.  Or maybe better put…hit and somewhat miss.  I think there are simply too many forgettable songs on this album.    “Then She Kissed Me”, “Hooligan”, “Got Love For Sale”, “Tomorrow and Tonight” and “Almost Human” are all average at best.  That’s half the album right there.  There are also standout songs. Obviously the title track is a Rock and Roll classic now, the album’s opener “I Stole Your Love” is a hot tamale, and I have always loved the catchy “Christine Sixteen”, especially that chorus.

However, Love Gun is a very significant Kiss album simply because of one song.  I don’t know a Kiss fan that doesn’t love “Shock Me”.  The debut of Ace Frehley as a “singer-songwriter” so to speak, made many wish he would have sung a few more before things all fell apart.  Some of the songs coming up in the next few albums, including his solo album, are some of Kiss’ best material in my opinion. 

Maybe they just ran out of ideas.  Should have been half an album of Ace songs instead.

Favorite Tracks:  “Shock Me”, “Love Gun”,  “I Stole Your Love”, “Christine Sixteen”

Forgettable Tracks:  Look above


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/011
Deluxe Edition review:  2014/11/09

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REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Space Invader (2014 Japanese release)

NEW RELEASE

ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader (2014 E One/Victor Japan)

Ace Frehley doesn’t exactly crank ’em out anymore, but the five year break between albums isn’t too bad by today’s standards.  Anomaly surfaced in 2009.  I think it could have delivered more than it did, but Space Invader is more immediate.

The title track “Space Invader” opens the album; a solid rocker with a strong chorus.  The guitar solos absolutely smoke.  Ace has lost nothing over the years, even his voice has barely changed.  His singing could be more melodic, but he has character.   This song takes me back to when I first heard Frehley’s Comet back in ’87.  Hearing Ace’s guitar front and center doing things I had forgotten he could do.  Awesome.

“Gimme a Feelin'” (hilariously labelled a “radio edit” even though it is also the album version) is plenty catchy enough, with a vintage Frehley vibe.  A song like this could have been on any Kiss album in the 70’s, although I find the production a bit…cluttered.  It fades abruptly, but “I Wanna Hold You” returns to that vintage Kiss vibe.  This time, it’s the pop side that albums like Dynasty explored, but with the heaviness that fans expect.  There’s nothing wimpy about “I Wanna Hold You” even though it could have come right from 1979-80.  Ace goes into a more ominous vibe for the strong “Change”.  Now it’s 1982 and it’s Creatures as if Ace was on it.  It really makes you wish for what might have been.  Then “Toys” feels like it’s aping the “She” riff, but in an obvious way.   It also shares characteristics with 1988’s “The Acorn in Spinning”.

SPACE INVADER_0002“Immortal Pleasures” is a change of pace, allowing Ace to play some acoustic guitar.  It’s a fairly simple song, and it took a bit to grow on me, as I didn’t like it at first.  “Inside the Vortex” is trademark Ace, and again I think what works is simplicity.  The riff is tricky, so Ace keeps it simple with the robotic vocal and it’s perfect.  This one might be an early runner for “personal favourite”.

A nice traditional rock riff is what I need next, and “What Every Girl Wants” hits the spot.  This one reminds me of…[gasp] Poison!  I don’t mean that in a bad way really.  It is true that Space Invader is not exactly innovative (“Inside the Vortex” notwithstanding), but it does deliver on rock and roll.  That’s all you can really expect from Ace Frehley, and that’s just fine.  “Past the Milky Way” has an appropriately spacey vibe, as Ace gets his acoustic out again.  The lyrics are cool:  “Now I’m runnin’ out of oxygen, but I’ve still got my guitar.”

Heading into the home stretch, “Reckless” stomps in a nondescript kind of way.  You may have heard Ace’s cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”.  Some love it, some don’t.  I am undecided.  I can’t say that I needed to hear the song anymore.  The standard album closer is the 7-minute “Starship”, which sounds at first as if it could fit in Ace’s “Quantum” series.  Then it goes in a number of different directions, all cool.  It’s a long instrumental that holds interest, and is an album highlight.  Bravo Ace.

The Japanese version comes with three bonus tracks:  an extended (4:44) version of “Reckless”, the radio edit (3:18) of “Space Invader”, and the “explicit” version (4:05) of “Gimme a Feelin'”.  (The vinyl has a “different remix” (?) of “Reckless” and an extended version of “The Joker”.  At least, I think that’s true, there’s conflicting info out there.)

I love the Ken Kelly cover art, which fits the classic sound of Space Invader.  The album is not perfect but it’s a step up from Anomaly and a proud addition to the Frehley library.  Any fan of the Space Ace who craves those licks and stuttery solos will find much to love here.

4.5/5 stars

 

More ACE:
ACE FREHLEY – 12 Picks (1997 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2009 Bronx Born)
ACE FREHLEY – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996 Attic)
ACE FREHLEY – Frehley’s Comet (1987 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Live + 1 (1988 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – Loaded Deck (1998 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)
ACE FREHLEY – Trouble Walkin’ (1989 Megaforce Worldwide)
Return of the Comet – Tribute to ACE FREHLEY (1997 Shock Records)
Spacewalk – A Salute to ACE FREHLEY (1996 DeRock/Triage)

REVIEW: Rainbow – Rising (2011 Deluxe Edition)

“There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard, See how he glides, Why he’s lighter than air”

RAINBOW RISING_0001RAINBOW – Rising (2011 deluxe edition)

I believe I’m well on record for being a connoisseur of deluxe editions.  I love to collect all the extra music, check out the liner notes, and feast on unreleased tracks.  The problem with Rainbow Rising is that no extra unreleased songs or demos survived. So, what you’ll get is three different and complete versions of Rainbow Rising, plus a tour rehearsal version of the quintessential Rainbow song, “Stargazer”. If you don’t want to hear the whole album three times in a row, plus a fourth version of “Stargazer”, then don’t buy this disc. Just stick with the regular CD.

The three versions of the album inside include a previously unreleased rough mix. This one is especially interesting because a lot of these song versions run slightly longer than the original album versions. Therefore, you will hear some valuable performance stuff that you haven’t heard before. The other two versions of the album include the “LA Mix” and “New York Mix”. The liner notes don’t go into detail here, but the original LP and CD versions of Rising had different mixes, and now they’re both here in one place. The differences are subtle, but those intimate with the album will recognize slightly different keyboard, vocal, and guitar parts. Previous to this, I had only owned the original CD edition, which was the “LA Mix”. Later CD editions had the “New York Mix” which I haven’t heard until now.RAINBOW RISING_0006

Lastly there is a tour rehearsal version of “Stargazer” from Pirate Sound, where Deep Purple rehearsed Come Taste the Band. It is surprisingly lo-fi considering where it was recorded. It sounds like somebody taped it on a hand held cassette deck. Not very listenable unfortunately, and kind of baffling why something this lo-fi would have been included at all. You can barely hear Dio at all at some points.  Still, there was room for it and why waste plastic, right?

This album itself is probably Rainbow’s best. That’s just my opinion. The renowned Martin Popoff ranked Down to Earth higher, but he did rank Rising highest of the Dio-era. I think five of these six songs are incredible. The only one I’m not especially fond of is “Do You Close Your Eyes”, which I just find doesn’t fit the overall darker direction of the album.  It would have sounded better on Blackmore’s Rainbow.  “Tarot Woman”, the album opener, is one of the most incredible songs Dio’s ever done. It’s absolutely a highlight of his storied career.  Cozy’s drum pounding is monumental throughout. “Light In The Black” is just furious jamming throughout. Incredible playing. And of course “Stargazer” is purely epic. The lyrics are cool and the keyboards just take the whole thing to another level. If I could only play one Rainbow song for the rest of my life, it would be “Stargazer”.

RAINBOW RISING_0004

The liner notes don’t the mention any sources or history about the three different mixes at all, and I don’t really know anything about it. There is, however, a great interview with keyboardist Tony Carey, supplemented by an old one with Cozy Powell. The packaging, including cover art from Ken Kelly (Kiss Destroyer), looks amazing in digipack form.

While normally Rainbow Rising would be a 5 star winner, hands down, I left this deluxe edition feeling slightly disappointed. It is what it is, but I think I would have preferred some different bonus material. Maybe some live stuff. If no outtakes or extra songs exist in the vaults, there’s only so much you can include I guess.

5/5 stars for Rising

4/5 stars for Deluxe Edition