kiss

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Des Moines 11.29.1977 (2022)

Off the Soundboard – Des Moines November 29 1977 (2022 Universal)

We are now at the fourth Off the Soundboard series release from Kiss, and this is the most hyped yet.  It’s the second original lineup release in the series, but the first from the classic era.  This time we travel back with Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul to the Alive II tour.  Arguably the pinnacle before things began to slowly crumble, this Alive II show is unsurprisingly loaded with Kiss firepower.  However, with only one CD, it’s the shortest in the series so far.  It does appear to include everything they played that night.

Opening with the brand new “I Stole Your Love”, Kiss truly were on fire.  Playing fast, tight and enthused, this is the Kiss of legend, the Kiss we have heard stories of!  Unaltered Kiss live in their prime!  The sound is, as expected, bootleggy, but pretty solid considering it’s 45 years old.  Paul’s vocals are so good they can bring a tear to your eye, remembering the Starchild when he was bulletproof.

“King of the Night Time World”, still second in the set, benefits from Peter Criss’ trademark pitter-patter.  Ace is a bit shrill at the beginning, but it’s 1977 technology.  Star Wars was brand new and the Space Ace was in his element.  He always harmonized well with Paul, which he does on “King”.  Paul then invites the girls to meet ’em in the “Ladies Room”, which means it’s Gene’s turn to sing.  Gene messed up some lyrics:  “You say you like to play, well, yes you play with me anyway.”  Or something like that.  Sounds like his bassline is also off.  Doesn’t matter, in fact that makes it even more cool.  A snapshot of a moment in time.  It’s all more of less buried in the glorious noise they call live rock and roll.  The crowd certainly didn’t care.

Paul tells them that Kiss had a good feelin’ about comin’ back to Iowa.  Temperature’s rising, so they gotta call out the “Firehouse”!  A lot faster than album and more like Kiss Alive!, this version of “Firehouse” is incendiary for all its energy and flaws.  The only misfire is Paul’s intro to “Love Gun” itself.  He’s certainly done better.  “When it comes to shootin’, we ain’t gonna miss!”  You just did, Paul!  Fortunately the song is just as kicking as ever, with Paul absolutely roaring.  This is the Kiss I remember growing up with.  Unstoppable energy.  The power remains high on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll”.  In a quaint blast from the past, Paul wants to see some lights in the crowd, some matches!  This is a song that always sounds best with Ace Frehley on lead guitar, and those who love the Spaceman will appreciate his fearless fretwork and signature technique all over it.

A chunky “Makin’ Love” is a set highlight, all riff and bass with Paul audibly jumping around haphazardly.  Peter is awesome on this.  “Christine Sixteen” is a bit clunky and awkward, as is Paul’s intro.  The less said the better.  “Christine Sixteen” falls into place on the chorus.  Their vocals here are an excellent example of Kiss’ ability to actually sing.  Then the moment you have been waiting for:  Paul says they got a surprise, and Ace Frehley’s gonna do “Shock Me”.  This version of “Shock Me” is up there with the better ones and of course Ace gets his big solo at the end.  It’s not just the Alive II solo, it’s a different beast and by the middle, Ace gets his Les Paul roaring.

The gentle intro of “I Want You” is just a feint, we all know that the song absolutely slams.  Ace’s guitar stings on the verses, and he gets to take an extra solo at the end just before Paul goes into his “I waaaa-aaa-aaaant!” tease with the crowd.  Then he queries whether everybody’s ready to take their medicine?  It’s time to call out “Dr. Love” and Gene is loving it.  “Shout It Out Loud” follows, at a fast tempo similar to its Alive II rendition.  The vocals are better though; you can really hear Peter Criss in the back.  His drumwork is manic too.  Great rendition of “Shout It Out Loud” and one of the best on CD.

Gene’s bass solo precedes “God of Thunder”.  It’s noise; just bass through a digital processor. Skippable noise.  “God of Thunder” itself is much better, containing a Gene/Peter groove that doesn’t always fall right into the pocket like this one does.  Then the Catman gets his drum solo, which is better and longer than the Alive II rendition.  (Gene’s vocals are also better, way more aggressive.)

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the last song of the main set, the rock and roll national anthem according to Paul.  Like many of the songs, it’s faster too.  Very cool to hear both Ace and Peter on backing vocals quite clearly.  The Spaceman’s solo is sloppy stuttery greatness, and it’s hard not to enjoy this song that we already have live in dozens of incarnations.

Onto the encores:  “Detroit”, of course “Beth”, and the finale “Black Diamond”.  “Detroit” opens with a mistake and Kiss quickly recover, driving the thing into oncoming traffic with a reckless devil-may-care attitude.  By this point in the show, Kiss are playing on adrenaline and missing some of the parts.  Which is half the thrill.  As for “Beth”:  it’s “Beth”.  No more no less, though there is a lot of tape noise.  Peter’s vocals are so-so.  He struggles when he has to be tender, but he blasts on “Black Diamond”, which oddly opens with full band introductions which you rarely hear at a Kiss concert.  Paul gets a spotlight moment to play around with the “Black Diamond” intro on guitar before he starts singing.  Pound for pound, this is one of the best versions of “Black Diamond” by the original lineup out there.  From the vocals to the Ace soloing, to the explosive outro, this is one of the best renditions hands down.

Now that the vaults have been opened and we’re getting classic shows from the original lineup, the sky’s the limit what could come next.  This is the best one so far.  Let’s hope for an Eric Carr show soon.

4.5/5 stars

 

VIDEO: Opening a Contrarians Patreon prize from Marco

#1009: These are Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Nights

RECORD STORE TALES #1009:  These are Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Nights

 

I got my first Kiss albums in September of 1985, the first few weeks of school that year.  The band’s newest album Asylum was released September 16.  I was just learning about Kiss and spent the next year collecting all their albums.  All of them from the debut to the new one were in my collection in some way within two years.  To me they were one monolithic body of work that I had spent 24 months studying.  I had all this time, the formative years of my life, to dive deep into that body of work.  So it was an interesting feeling when, on September 21 1987, Kiss released another new album.

It’s not an experience people talk about much, but it’s a unique one:  hearing the first new Kiss album to come, after you fell in love with the band already.  And I had two years to figure out who Kiss were in my mind.  How would a new album change that image?

My next door neighbour George took the bus downtown to Sam the Record Man, picked up the new album Crazy Nights, and later that evening called me up.  “Wanna tape the new Kiss?”  Yes I would!  So with a Maxell UR60 tape in hand (I can still smell how they came out of the wrapper) I went over to record George’s brand new Kiss vinyl.

He had already told me earlier that summer what the title was going to be.  “Isn’t that ripping off Loudness?” I asked upon hearing the title Crazy Nights.  George also informed me that Paul said he had been writing new songs on keyboards.  I didn’t yet appreciate what that meant, but upon hearing the album, I was starting to get it.

George and I scanned through the track list, counted the number of Paul vs. Gene songs (seven vs. four) and discussed what we were hearing.

The most memorable quote of the night was George’s.  When we played “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, he said this.  “If a song this poor made the album, imagine the outtakes that didn’t.”

The keyboard factor was new and took some adjustment.  Keys like this were not present on prior albums.  Not like this.  The overly pop approach was also jarring at first.  Asylum Part II, this was not.  Asylum was a pretty straight sequel to Animalize, and I could hear that after two years of many listens,

I accurately picked what I thought would be the next two singles.  With the ballad “Reason to Live” I knew Kiss had a shot at a mainstream hit, so I knew that would be the next single.  After that, I hoped it would be “Turn on the Night”, and it was.  “Turn on the Night” is still the best tune on Crazy Nights, a total 80s Kiss anthem.

As a kid age 15 hearing his first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band, I had three main thoughts to consider.

1. Gene’s voice.  He was, at least for this album, leaving the growling and howling Demon voice behind.  His singing on Crazy Nights is smooth all the way through.  Immediately noticeable as different, but I kind of like it.  Gene didn’t have many songs but a couple of them were pretty strong:  “Good Girl Gone Bad” and “Hell or High Water”.

2. Paul’s dominance.  With the majority of songs being Paul’s by a historically wide margin, we sensed Gene was checked out.  Not to mention the atrocious quality of “Thief in the Night”.  Even the thrash-paced “No No No” was of questionable constitution.  Was a breakup imminent?  The rock magazines pushed this narrative.

3. The lyrics.  They were undoubtedly mostly dirty, but that was par for the course.   We already had Gene putting his log in some “bitch’s” fireplace so even Crazy Nights stuff was fairly tame.  Still, Gene singing about that “Good Girl Gone Bad”…I wanted a good girl gone bad!  I was absolutely useless at flirting or making moves or even talking to girls, so I figured a good girl gone bad could show me what to do.  Where was my good girl gone bad?  Nowhere near me and my GI Joe figures I assure you.  So I lived my fantasies through Kiss lyrics and although they were hugely unrealistic, Gene and Paul provided some of the imagery.

I had to wonder what a crazy, crazy night was.  The song was about empowerment, and doing what you believe in even when people try to keep you down.  But if life is a radio, turn it up to 10.  It’s that simple.  Don’t back down.  Keep on keepin’ on.  Don’t let the bastards wear you down.  Have your crazy, crazy nights.  But what the hell was that?  For me it was eating ketchup potato chips, renting Andre the Giant videos, and staying up late drinking pop and watching the Giant beat five guys at once.

Hey, whatever makes you happy.

Crazy Nights didn’t exactly make me happy though.  Songs like “My Way” were almost embarrassing, and as 1987 wore in 1988, Def Leppard replaced Kiss as my favourite band.  It got worse a year later with “Let’s Put the X in Sex”.  Was that going to be it for me and Kiss?

Of course not.  But this was the beginning of a low period that lasted almost my entire highschool life.

#1007: Kissathon Tomahawk

RECORD STORE TALES #1007: Kissathon Tomahawk

According to my Facebook memories, on this day in 2009 I was listening to a massive all-encompassing Kissathon.  This was done so I could review all the albums before the release of Sonic BoomThe first run of Kiss reviews here on this site came from that 2009 Kissathon.  By coincidence only, this past weekend was a mini-Kissathon, started on Thursday night with some music we don’t play as often in the car.

1. Crazy Nights (1987).  Even the underdogs deserve some love.  Listening to this album inspired me to write a new Record Store Tale about the experience of hearing it for the first time.  You see, for me this album was unique.  I got into Kiss in 1985 just as Asylum was released.  In two years, I collected, listened to, and absorbed all the Kiss albums to a degree only a kid that age can.  Crazy Nights, therefore, was the first “new” Kiss album to come after completing my journey through their discography.  And unlike Asylum, it was different.  I spent a morning writing up the impressions I had in 1987.  As for the car trip, we laughed at some of the terrible lyrics and obvious musical attempts to copy Bon Jovi, but it was an enjoyable listen.

2. Dynasty (1979).  After the Paul-dominated Crazy Nights, I wanted to hear something with all four guys singing lead.  There are very few albums like that, and only three with the original lineup:  Love Gun, Dynasty, and Psycho-Circus.  I went with Dynasty this time.  A short but very energetic listen as we passed through Palmerston, Wingham, and Whitechurch on the way to the cottage.

3. Gene Simmons (selections from) (1978).  Once we hit Lucknow it was time to put on an album for the last 20 minutes or so of our drive.  Gene Simmons was under-represented in our first two choices.  Only two Gene songs on Dynasty, and only four on Crazy Nights.  The Demon needed some love, and I wanted to expose Jen to some of his more…ahem…questionable material.  We played a lot, some good some bad.  The good:  “Radioactive”, “Mr. Make Believe”, “See You Tonight” “Always Near You/Nowhere To Hide”.  The bad:  “Burnin’ Up With Fever”, “Tunnel of Love”, “Living In Sin” and…yes…”When You Wish Upon A Star”.  I remember back in the old days going to the lake with my parents.  Sometimes they’d let us listen to an album on the car deck instead of our headphones.  My dad praised “When You Wish Upon a Star”.  “Finally, a good song!” he said.  Good song perhaps, but not a good vocal performance!  I explained to Jen how Kiss fans were shocked and flabbergasted when Gene’s album was finally released.

As the gentle strains of Pinocchio completed their final crescendos, we pulled into the driveway at our humble place in paradise.

Our little furry friends the chipmunks began visiting, as did a pair of blue jays that I named Domaso Garcia and Lloyd Moseby.  These blue jays were brave little birds and I managed to get a little bit of footage up close.  However by Friday morning the calm turned to distraction!  I worked on completing an upcoming list, my second collaboration with Jonathan Lee.  If you recall, Jonathan and I ranked all the Kiss albums from worst to first a short while ago.  Now we are finishing up another comprehensive pair of lists, on another band we both love (and you do too).  When they are ready, the lists will be revealed…but not until they are ripe!  I had to work on my list while the chipmunks and blue jays made annoyances of themselves, distracting me from my rock and roll duty.  Therefore the peanut supply was cut off for the rest of the weekend, especially when the chipmunk ate his way through the bag.

Unlike the last several weekends, this one was fairly uneventful.  We did get in a good swim, and some footage of crystal clear waters.  Listening to Kiss (and then Judas Priest) on the porch, working on writing, playing video games and cooking meals.  In fact the only “new” thing that really happened this weekend was the cooking of the Saturday steak.

For the first time we tackled a 2″ thick tomahawk steak.  It was actually 2 1/2″ at the thickest point.  It was fun to cook but the fat content caused lots of flame-ups so it was a matter of taking care.  Jen thought it was the steak of the summer.

Traveling home was uneventful, until we passed Listowel (home of the original Helix).  At this point, traffic was heavy.  An impatient pair of blondes in a red jeep decided that passing cars the conventional way going to take too long, and so they went onto the gravel shoulder, and passed three cars including myself on the right.  I gave ’em the horn as they endangered my life, and they didn’t even look over.  I imagine the inside of their jeep smelled like Patty and Selma from the Simpsons.  They had that kind of look.

A few miles down the road, I had an opening so I went for it and passed them, flipping them the bird as I did.  They didn’t seem to notice, but they remained stuck in the line of traffic for the rest of the ride home.  I never saw that red jeep again.  This all happened to the tunes of Raise Your First and Yell by Alice Cooper.  The exact song they passed me on was “Chop, Chop, Chop”.

We came home tired and had some naps.  Funny that even though the weekend was less active than others this summer, we were just exhausted.  I was too wiped out to work on a video, but hopefully that will come.  In the meantime I’ll just sleep and wish upon a star.

 

#1003: Animalize Live Uncensored

RECORDS STORE TALES #1003:  Animalize Live Uncensored

36 summers ago, I taped Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored off next door neighbor George.  I recorded the video (which he recorded from a rental) onto a VHS, and the audio onto a 90 minute blank cassette.  For that summer, Animalize Live was my Kiss live experience.  I only had Alive on vinyl, which wasn’t portable.  I didn’t have Alive II yet.  My cassette copy of Animalize Live was constantly in my ears all summer.

I knew every word of every Paul rap.

“Detroit let me tell ya something just between you and me.  That baby had the longest fuckin’ tongue I ever seen in my life!”

“Paul, what are you doing with a pistol down your pants?”

“Eric may look like a baby, but he’s built like a man.”

Paul did a striptease, and the guys hung the panties that they were thrown by girls in the crowd from their microphone stands.  The concert dripped of raw sex and I was like a kid in shock.  I had never seen anything like this before.  I didn’t even know if I wanted to!  But there it was in full glory, Paul Stanley telling stories about his “Love Gun” and me sitting there watching it multiple times a week.  The summer I had mono.  I couldn’t do much else.  I watched a lot of videos and a lot of them were Kiss.

Listening today, I remember every note of every solo.  Paul went first with a guitar solo.  Bruce Kulick, the new kid, was standing in for Mark St. John and didn’t even get an introduction or solo.  Eric’s drum solo was second, and Gene’s bass solo last.  I liked the bass solo.  It actually seemed more musical than the other two.  Its simplicity is one thing…but I was humming the bass solo hours later.

I still know every vocal divergence each song takes in this live incarnation.  Like old muscle memory.  And you know what?  There’s something to be said about 80s Kiss.  They were playing things faster and Eric Carr added his own unique elements to Kiss, as did Bruce.  On some songs the speed works.  I was just thinking that if they came out playing “Creatures of the Night” this fast today in 2022, people would lose their minds.

On my Walkman, I went for cottage adventures with this concert in my ears.  It was the worst recording possible; a cassette copy of a VHS copy of a VHS copy, in mono.  Bootleggy as hell.  But there I sat in the grass, as Paul Stanley told us of the women who wanted to “mother” Eric Carr.  And I had no idea what, specifically, “mothering” Eric Carr meant.  I knew it meant sexy times of some kind, but…nope, right over my head.

Animalize Live Uncensored was my Alive III from a time when we didn’t think we’d get an Alive III.  Or at least, I didn’t.  It was several albums and several years before we did get one, and Eric was gone by then.  I liked it.  I still do.

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Live at Donington August 17, 1996 (2022)

 – Off the Soundboard – Live at Donington (Monsters of Rock) (August 17, 1996 – 2022 Universal)

Third in the Off the Soundboard series, and we are gifted an original lineup show.  Reunion era, we add with a caveat, but an original lineup gig nonetheless.  This was a big one:  Monsters of Rock in 1996.  This gig is only 11 days after the Toronto show at which I saw Kiss, and the setlist is simply a shortened version of what we saw earlier.

Opening with “Deuce”, the reunited Kiss don’t sound vintage, but they do sound professional and hot.  The immediately noticeable flaw in the mix is an overly prominent bass.  Demon fans might love it!  Frehley’s guitar brings that almost-out-of-control quality that we miss today.

The simplicity of the drumwork on “King of the Night Time World” reminds us that the Catman Peter Criss is back on drums.  That’s all good.  After hearing Eric Singer on the past two instalments of this series, the Catman’s looser feel is refreshing.

Then an F-bomb from Paul:  “WOOO!  How you doin’ Donington!  You all ready to get a little fuckin’ nuts tonight?  You want a little rock and roll?”  Then it’s “Do You Love Me”, not usually one of those songs you go fuckin’ nuts on, due to its deliberate tempo.  I could usually skip it, but this version is pretty good.  That overloud bass makes it a bit heavier.  The backing vocals are also quite good.  “Dr. Love” has that patented Peter Criss pitter-patter on the drums that we can all admit we miss.

The Starchild seems to have a blast singing the word “Donington” over and over again just before “Cold Gin”.  Gotta admit this is a great album for Paul’s stage raps!  It’s Ace’s turn to shine, in that overdriven, on-the-edge style that nobody can copy.  It’s like chocolate it’s so good.  The Space Ace gets to sing a verse on his own, which is a perfect touch.  An album highlight.  Perhaps the best live version of “Cold Gin” available since the original Alive!

The original Kiss tear into “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll” and Gene’s voice is a bit rough at first…as it should be, 100% live.  There’s nothing like this song with Ace and Peter on drums.  Again, perhaps the best live version since the original Alive!  “Shout It Out Loud” is a bit more polished.  But if you want heavy, look no further than the thunderous “Watchin’ You”.  The vintage Kiss vibe is captured as they thump through this in a completely different way than they did four years earlier on Alive III with Bruce Kulick.  Another contender for best live version available since Alive!  Previously that honour went to the Alive III version.  Simmons is, pun intended, a monster on both tasty bass fills and meaty vocals.

“Firehouse” is simple fun, but once again, the Space Ace adds something that other guitar players do not have, which is nothing against any of them.  It is a matter of style, and the style that suits Kiss best.

Kiss turns the microphone over to Ace Frehley on “Shock Me”, which also doubles as his feature guitar solo.  You can hear every mistake, and even they are perfect in their own, flawed diamond sort of way.  This solo is pure smoke and fire, like a meteorite barrelling through atmosphere.  Perhaps the best stage version of “Shock Me” out there, arguably surpassing Alive II.

Over to disc two, it’s finally time for “Strutter”.  Paul’s stage rap is amusing if only because he says Kiss are having such a great time back together that they don’t know if it’s ever going to end.  Ah, hindsight.  This is a fantastic version only hampered by that overloud bass in the mix.  Vocals are outstanding.

Simmons takes center stage for his “bass solo” and “God of Thunder”.  A Simmons bass solo usually works best as a visual, not musical experience.  (Animalize Live bass solo notwithstanding.)  While you don’t necessarily want this stuff edited out of a live bootleg, it’s basically waiting for the song to start.  Gene is extra-growly on “God of Thunder” and Frehley is hotter than hell.  Stanley’s prominent backing vocals add an extra dimension.  And Peter’s got that beat nailed down like a beast.  He gets his drum solo on this track, a slow and tribal experience similar to, but not as energetic as, his Kiss Alive solo.

When Paul starts talking about size of his pistol, then you know it’s time for “Love Gun”.  Drowning in bass, but fiery hot.  Speaking of bass, “100,000 Years” is top notch too.  Do you feel alriiiiight?  Frehley’s soloing on the track is an essential ingredient.  The closing trio of “Black Diamond”, “Detroit Rock City” and “Rock and Roll all Nite” are somewhat predictable, but it’s bizarre that we had to wait this long to hear Peter Criss sing lead on something.  As for “Detroit”, easily one of the top five live versions on official release.

This set is pure electric vintage Kiss from 1974-1977, and nothing beyond.  No “New York Groove”, no “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.  No “Beth” either.  If you’re going to cut a track for time for the festival, “Beth” is one to cut.  Though sometimes hampered by the bass heavy mix, it is possible that Live At Donington is the best Kiss live album since Alive II.  The reunited lineup were certainly a lot better than I remember them being back in 1996, when I thought they sounded stiff.  With hindsight, though Peter is steadier than before, Frehley still provides all that danger that is necessary in a live Kiss show.  At Donington, the original Kiss brought it.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Virginia Beach 2004 (2022)

 – Off the Soundboard – Live in Virginia Beach (July 25, 2004 – 2022 Universal)

Some might question the logic of releasing a 2004 live release with the Stanley/Singer/Simmons/Thayer lineup in the official Kiss bootleg series.  Necessary?  We already have live material from this lineup, such as Kiss Rocks Vegas.  Fans could be forgiven for skipping this, the second instalment of the Off the Soundboard series of releases.  (It’s a little late now, but it would have been cool if Kiss numbered these releases!)

Opening with a sluggish sounding “Love Gun”, Paul Stanley is in good voice.  The cracks were beginning to show but there is no comparison to the Paul of today.  If you want vintage Paul, this is not the album for you.  If you want Paul before things went to hell, this is just fine.  Gene goes second with “Deuce”, also sounding a big sluggish.  Eric Singer is busy on drums, which will be either to your taste, or not.

It’s Tommy Thayer who fails to thrill in the night.  Something about his solo work here just falls short of lighting the spark.  It’s one of those things that’s not quite right, on the quantum level.  Your brain knows the solos, knows how they usually sound, and that’s with fire and a touch of reckless abandon.  Say what you will about Tommy Thayer, but nobody uses the word “reckless” to describe his playing.  Ace Frehley, on the other hand, had a song called “Reckless”.  You see where we’re going here.  It’s that touch of professionalism that these solos don’t need.  Tommy is welcome on backing vocals, where he helps thicken things up with Eric, such as on “Lick It Up”.

There are a few tracks here that are played live less often, which is one reason to pick up the disc.  “Makin’ Love”, “Tears Are Falling”, “Got to Choose”, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” and “Unholy” are fun when you get ’em, though “Unholy” always sounds a bit awkward live (Thayer butchers the solo).  One of the best of these tunes is “Got to Choose” which benefits from the backing vocals of the newer Kiss guys.  Creepy as it may be, “Christine Sixteen” is always fun, but Gene doesn’t need to keep augmenting the song with things like “I like it!”  And check out the sly Mott the Hoople melody in “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”!

We could all probably do without “I Love It Loud” at this point.  “War Machine” can be tiring.  As much as we love Eric Singer, he does overplay some songs.  “Shout it Out Loud” has a few fills that just don’t need to be there.  Yet somehow, “Psycho Circus” is refreshing and “King of the Night Time World” is never a bad thing.

There are two lengthy “jammers” on this album that make for good listenin’.  “100,000 Years” and “She” both steam on with the familiar Kiss instrumental bits that you know and love.  “Do you feel alriiiiiight?” screams Paul, and damn, he could still really sing.  Vocally, Kiss were really good at this stage.  Gene was kickin’ ass, Eric and Tommy were the solid backing, and Paul was still 90% there.

This lineup hadn’t been together long, and the members sound more comfortable in their roles today.  You won’t be reaching for Virginia Beach 2004 often when you reach for a live Kiss album.  It’s a good setlist for the most part though, and it’s good to have for that reason.  The sonics are also pretty decent, though obviously short of live album standards.  It’s an official bootleg, not Alive XIII.  You can hear every flaw and mistake, and that’s a good thing.  When you listen understanding that this is indeed 100% live, with Paul Stanley jumping around and his guitar banging erratically, then you realize, shit, Kiss are a pretty damn good live band!  A lot of the set sounds like the billionth time they’ve played the songs…but they don’t sound bored doing it.  There’s not a lot of that looseness, but plenty of excitement.

3.5/5 stars

 

#999: Slo-Mo Schnauzers, Stop Motion Autobots, and UFOs? Oh My! (Video)

RECORD STORE TALES #999:
Slo-Mo Schnauzers, Stop Motion Autobots, and UFOs? Oh My!

Nothing really went as planned when the internet went out.  So, we did what we could.  We pretended it was 1989 and had fun in old fashioned ways.  Good thing no LeBrain Train show was planned!  And boy, did we take advantage of the break.  Fortunately music was not an issue, so I warmed up the laptop and dug into the hard drive for some albums that reminded me of the old days.

To a soundtrack of Kiss, Kim Mitchell, Max Webster, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and many more, I grabbed the comic books and the Yahtzee.  It was too cold to swim (weird for July) so we had to do other things.  Jen worked on her adult colouring books.  I made food.  I also took plenty of video.

The wildlife this weekend was captured for your viewing pleasure.  Plenty of gulls, eating multitudes of beach insects (which were so plentiful you can clearly see them on camera).  We had a brave little chipmunk who seemed to enjoy the sounds of Aerosmith.  I think I’ll name him Joe Perry.  There were two cute doggos (one Schnauzer and one Miscellaneous), which I filmed in slow motion.  The visuals this weekend were unrivalled!  A pretty epic night fire, and sunsets that kill any you have seen yourself.  All captured and carefully edited to a soundtrack of unreleased Max the Axe music, and classic Tee Bone Erickson tunes.  Although the finished video is on the long-ish side, your reward is unreleased Max tuneage (one live, and a preview of a coming remix of “Randy”) and plenty of stunning visuals in HD slow motion.

We talked last time of being bored at the lake as a teenager.  If I had this kind of technology as a kid, I’d never had been bored.  That’s the truth.  There’s always something worth documenting.  The fact that I can have it finished and edited at the end of the weekend is actually pretty mind blowing.

The weirdest thing that happened (besides hearing a coyote calling at 11:30 at night, and then screaming at 5:00 AM), was the UFO.

Now, I’m not saying “aliens” when I say “UFO”.  Let’s be clear on that.  However the object was flying and none of us could identify it.  There were minimum three witnesses each time.  On the first night, the UFO appeared at sunset as a quickly brightening star, which eventually faded or was hidden by clouds.  It didn’t move.  My camera didn’t reveal much, although it looked like a blocky shape.  Our working theory was the International Space Station.

The second time, the object appeared in the same place at the same time, still motionless.  It looked like a flame in the sky, a frozen flame.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  It stayed in the sky until we eventually left the beach about half an hour later.  When I returned later at night, it was too cloudy to be seen.  Two examples below, and you can see more in the full video.

Internet outage aside, the only crappy thing about the weekend was that I did not get to visit Sausagefest as I’d hoped.  The internet outage disrupted Jen’s routines a bit and I elected to stay home and make sure she was OK.  As it stands I’m glad I made that decision, as she needed a little help doing a few things.

Otherwise, it was a delightful weekend of music and doing things differently.  I wish I had written down all the albums we listened to, but with no movies and no TV, music was the obvious dominant force.  A lot of Kiss this weekend, folks.  A lot of Kiss.

The video may be long but it’s worth it.  Slo-mo Schnauzer is your payoff!

 

KISS – RANKED! – All the albums in order, by Jonathan Lee #2 of 2

This was not easy at all. Some were, but most of them I had a hard time with. I had to go back and listen to quite a few to make sure I got this right. Mike and I talked about this, and we both agreed to include the four solo albums. We chose to leave out the live stuff becasue this is about the studio music. Had we chose to include those then it changes a lot because Alive! is my favorite. But on with the show.

So here we go. Worst to best.

LINK TO MIKE’S LIST:  CLICK HERE FOR GREAT EXPECTATIONS!


24 & 23.  SONIC BOOM and MONSTER (2009 and 2012)

I don’t count these two on purpose, because I don’t support them doing that.  Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer wearing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss makeup.  Because of this, I’m just not familiar with those two albums.  Next.

22.  PETER CRISS  (1978)

This one was easy as far as what my worst one would be.  What a total mess.  I don’t like one song off of it and that has to make it the worst, because even on my bottom list, I like things on every album.  But that one?  NO.

21.  (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981)

I’ve tried. It has it’s moments but it’s just not doing it for me. Kiss isn’t Pink Floyd. No one I know of wants a concept album from Kiss. I mean and (Music From) The Elder? There was no movie. This was dumb.They all looked silly in that era. Everything was a mess. And it damn near killed their career. You have to think about it that way. Moving on.

20.  GENE SIMMONS (1978)

Now here’s the problem. This is The Demon. It’s anything but that. Disney tunes. All them background girl singers. This just didn’t come off well. I like a few songs but they not even that great. I expected some “God of Thunder” type stuff and got a lot of silly shit. I do love the ballad “See You Tonite”.  It’s nice. Next.

19.  REVENGE (1992)

Yeah I know. So many of you love it and that’s just fine, but I think it’s mad overhyped. It isn’t heavy like so many say it is (minus a few songs).  I mean “Every Time I Look At You”, “I Just Wanna”, “Take It Off”, “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”, “Domino”, all stupid.
I don’t know. I mean it does have some awesome tracks like “Unholy”, “Heart of Chrome”, “Thou Shalt Not”, and “Tough Love” (them chants suck though).  Anyway I understand many love this album so enjoy it. I barely play it at all. Next.

18.  PSYCHO-CIRCUS (1998)

Not much of a reunion if you ask me. Peter and Ace are not on this album much. I think only on the title track and “Into The Void” which are both great. And Gene does one of his best songs ever with the closing track “Journey of 1000 Years”, but this album is just a mess for the most. That Peter song is horrible. It just seemed thrown together and it was brought to you by lies and deception because this was not a reunion. I mean why, after all them years, is it where you can’t have all four on every song? It’s just 10 songs. So this gets a low ranking for that alone, and it’s just not that great. It has its moments but it failed to live up o what everyone expected. I got nothing more to say about this album.

17.  LOVE GUN (1977)

Look. Imma just say it like this. I love three songs. The title track is a masterpiece. As is “Plaster Caster” and “Shock Me”. But I’m sorry, “Then She Kissed Me”, “Tomorrow and Tonight”, “Christine Sixteen” (really Gene?), “Got love For Sale”, “I Stole Your Love”, dumb songs. This is my worst Kiss album of the makeup years. I’m not wasting no more time on this one. Next.

16.  DRESSED TO KILL (1975)

Again, I like these songs better on Alive!  “Ladies In Waiting” is awesome as it gets though. Gene just kills it as does Ace on them sick leads. “Getaway” is slap awful though by Peter. It just annoys me. Ace kills it on the solo though. “Rock Bottom” maybe one of the top intros ever put down on wax. This song is just amazing in every way possible. I could listen to that acoustic intro forever. “C’mon And Love Me” is a total gem. That one is surely up there in my favorite Paul songs. “Anything For My Baby” is lame. “She” is alright but a bit overhyped to me. Sounds like something Bad Company would write. “Love Her All I can” is alright. Awful drumming by Peter on this. And “Rock And Roll All Nite”. I never need to hear this song ever again. So there you have it. Decent album. But it isn’t one I reach for much. As I said none of these going forward are bad but I have to choose. I think also if I didn’t hear a lot of these songs on Alive! these earlier albums would move up. So that does play a factor in this. Next.

15.  HOTTER THAN HELL (1974)

OK, let me be clear on this one. I love it for “Got To Choose”, “Parasite”, “Goin’ Blind”, and the title song. Here’s the problem. I like these songs better on Alive! “Goin’ Blind” is better on Unplugged. I don’t dislike this album by any means. “Got To Choose” and “Goin’ Blind” are absolute fire, even studio-wise. I never liked some of these songs though on the rest of the album. Stuff like “Let Me Go Rock N Roll” is just awful. The title alone is silly and the song is just as goofy. I know so many love “Strange Ways” but I just never got the appeal. It isn’t bad it just isn’t what so many claim it is (in my opinion).

It pains me to rank this so low because I do like this album but this is where everything gets tough for me. I hate putting this here but I just don’t play this album much.  In no means is it bad. Nothing is bad going forward but I gotta put them somewhere. This one hurt though. By the way, that is a awful album cover. Not that it played any factor in this, I’m just trying to make myself feel better for ranking this so low. I need to move on before I cry. Next.

14.  CARNIVAL OF SOULS: THE FINAL SESSIONS (1997)

Let me just say I love the songs “Master & Slave” and “It Never Goes Away”.  Paul goes in hard.  And Bruce just kills it guitar-wise on this album for the most. “Childhood’s End” is a damn nice Gene song. “I Confess” is pretty cool. I notice on this album Paul and Gene do more duets which was nice to hear since they use to do that a lot back in the day. I also find that Gene’s vocals are pretty damn top notch on a lot of this. Now I’m not saying this is a great album by any stretch but the songs that I mentioned are. I think they rushed this, and plus they had no promotion for it because the Reunion Tour with Peter and Ace came soon after this, so it was buried. It’s a shame because I think if they would have went back in the studio and worked on the bad half of this album they could have had something here. But if you want more modern heavy Kiss, this is it. Not Revenge.

13.  UNMASKED (1980)

Now this one is my biggest move up from couple years ago. I really like this album. “Shandi” is a hard NO though. But I love the rest. This album didn’t get the attention it needed because as I said earlier The Elder took them out hard for awhile. “Is That You” is a total awesome Paul song. Lot of Ace songs on this album and they all are awesome. Kiss was trying like hell to hold onto him.  Heck he had more songs on Dynasty than Gene.But he ended up leaving anyway. But Kiss did try and do the right thing. Peter you can replace but Ace…. They knew that was gonna be a problem because he sold the most of the 4 solo albums. He was the one who hated The Elder. He was the one who said this is getting way too comical. So they tried to cater to him and on the behalf of Gene and Paul what more could they do? Ace is my favorite but you can only do so much. Well Paul is really my favorite because he held Kiss together no matter what. So yeah, Ace 2nd. Anyway I find this to be a very good album and it is the one that jumped up most from my ranking a couple years ago. The songs are just good.If you were like me then I say give this a go again. It’s really good. Considering the turmoil during this era I think they pulled off a miracle. “Naked City” is one of best songs ever by Gene. And like I said, all these Paul songs are sooooo damn good (minus “Shandi”) and it climbed up 10 spots for me.I really do like this album so much now. “Easy As It Seems” I’m still touch and go on that one but it’s alright. So yeah go back and revisit Unmasked. It’s better than you probably remembered. Next.

12.  DYNASTY (1979)

Well what can I say? I like this album very much. I even like “I was Made For Loving You” and apparently a lot of fans do as well, since that song is a staple in their set list. Fine song by me. I think my favorite song on this album would be “Magic Touch”.  Now that is a great song. I always felt like that would have fit in great on Paul’s solo album, but least it is somewhere!  And I love ALL those Ace songs.  I won’t break them down because I think they are all great. I’m not a Rolling Stones fan, but Ace made that his song.  We’re talking about “2000 Man” here! I think they knew Ace was going to leave, so they seemed to try and make him happier by giving him more songs on “Dynasty” and “Unmasked”.  But it didn’t do no good, because he left anyway!  I really like the Gene songs on this album as well. “Charisma” is like a updated “God of Thunder” to my ears. And that is a good thing! The only song I do not like on here is “Dirty Living”.  Ughhhh, that song never gets no play from me. I fucking hate it. But that’s how it is with Peter sometimes. He’ll ruin a moment. So there you have it.  I’d move this album up some, but I think I like it just where it is. It is a bit better than Unmasked so that is where it will stay.

11.  HOT IN THE SHADE (1989)

Well where do we begin? OK, I love “Rise To It”, “Betrayed”, and “Hide Your Heart”.  Eric Carr is a beast on this album, as is Bruce. Paul and Gene sound top notch vocal wise. I think this one gets a lot of hate because of how long it is. But I just love this album. “Prisoner of Love” is a rocker by Gene. Bruce on fire in it! “Read My Body” is fun and full of groove! “Love’s A Slap In The Face” is fun! “Forever” is one of the best Kiss ballads ever. “Silver Spoon” kicks total ass. “King of Hearts” is another Paul gem. You all have to quit sleeping on this album! “You Love Me To Hate You” another awesome Paul song. I love that song just like I love most of this album. “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” another great Gene track.  I won’t go on about this album because I know so many don’t care for it. I’ll never understand that because I just love it beyond. And this album is much heavier than Revenge. See a pattern here. NEXT!

10.  ANIMALIZE (1984)

Only reason it isn’t lower is because of the first track. “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)” is in my top 10 Paul songs of all time. “Thrills In The Night” and “Heaven’s on Fire” are awesome. But if those three wasn’t on this album it would be way lower. I like the heavy, but considering how great Lick It Up was/is, they went to this and it just isn’t close. All these dumb ass Gene songs. He was too busy doing dumb movies. Paul saved Kiss. Gene had one good song on this one. “While The City Sleeps”.  All I know is he better be glad Paul kept it going or Kiss would be dead. I know I’m coming off hard on this album but Gene just let me down bad after all his greatness on the Lick It Up album, where he had the most songs and they were awesome.  All of them.  Then he gives you this. Even Paul wrote in his book how Gene was just mailing it in,  and you can tell. Lacklustre as it gets, minus one song. If it comes across as me being hard on this album, well I am. I’ve always had it in for this album even if I do have it fairly up there. It angers me how Gene just left Paul to save this, but Paul being the champ he is, did just that. Moving on.

9.  ROCK AND ROLL OVER (1977)

Some awesome classics here. I love “Ladies room” so much. That groove is just sick. And one of the few Peter songs I like is on this aka “Hard Luck Woman”
The only reason this isn’t higher is because i prefer these other songs on the live albums. But I do love this one. I like the production. Just has a good feel. Like it’s the backbone of KISS at the best. It’s raw but clean. “I Want you” is a masterpiece. The way that just punches you feels good. “Take Me” is a groove fest and fun as it gets. AH AH AH AH YEAH! LOVE IT! “See You In Your Dreams” is a awesome song to roll down the windows and haul ass to. Just pedal to the floor! I don’t encourage you to do this but yanno.. So yeah a totally great KISS album. It’s a straight up classic.

8.  KISS (1974)

Well, it has all the classics we love, though much better on Alive!  So I’m not gonna spend much time on this one. It started it all, and it is one of the best to ever be put down on wax. Everything you wanted and then some is on this. “Kissing Time” is awful as fuck though. No need in going on about this album because if you love or even like KISS you are very much aware of this one, so no need for the breakdown.  It’s great.

7 & 6. ACE FREHLEY and PAUL STANLEY (1978)

Look, I can’t fit them in, so they just going here as a tie because I love them both the same. I’m not gonna go into details about either because they speak volumes as they are.  I will say I do not like “New York Groove”.  I just never have. Sorry Ace.  So if I had to edge it out I go with Paul as my favorite solo album.  And couple on there that I don’t play much, but nothing as bad as “New York Groove”.  Next.

5.  CRAZY NIGHTS (1987)

Yeah, let the hate rain down. I know it’s coming. But I think Paul has some of his best vocals on this album, as does Gene. After doing dumb stuff on Animalize like “Burn Bitch Burn” he stepped his game up and put his focus back on KISS. “Good Girl Gone Bad” and “Hell or High Water” are amazing Gene songs. My main problem with this album is the bass. It lacks. Ron Nevison just isn’t a good producer. He ruins albums. This album would sound heavier with someone like, say, Mike Clink. But, is what it is.

Now, on to where it really shines. Let me first say “I’ll Fight Like Hell To Hold You” is in my Top five Paul songs ever. I just love this song. His vocals are off the chains.  I can go on and on about this song, but gotta keep it moving. “Reason To Live” is a masterpiece ballad. That’s all you need to know about that. “My Way” is Paul just nailing it. His vocals are on fire! “Turn on the Night” is a ton of fun. Makes you just wanna go to the beach and have a good time. This album in general is that. FUN. Remember fun people? “Crazy Crazy Nights”, c’mon. You know that is fun! A couple tracks on it I don’t care for are two of the Gene tracks. “No, No, No” — that is the dumbest song title ever. And a pain in the ass to type. I can never get it right. But I don’t need to since I never bring it up (well this time I did), and “Thief in the Night” is pretty bland. You kind of see a trend here. Paul carried KISS on his back.  He had to make up for the Gene laziness.  But yeah, a solid album that I quite enjoy a lot. Next.

4.  DESTROYER (1976)

My fave of the make up years for sure. I mean this has it all. Minus that awful song “Great Expectations” just WTF Gene? And I never need to hear “Beth” again. But man I love everything else on 10. This one gets me going. “King of the Night Time World” was first KISS song I ever heard and I was like yeah these are my guys. I think I was like 7. I won’t go in much on this album because so many like it as a favorite so I feel it has been talked about more than I can do it justice. But this is the album that got me into KISS and I’ve never looked back. It blew me away then and still does. “God of Thunder” still sends chills down my spine. I also feel like this was the last real KISS album where the original members were full on. Stuff went messy after this it seems. But hey, least they went out on top. Thank you KISS for getting little boy me into you with this album. Mad love to ya!

3.  ASYLUM (1985)

Now this one is where I felt they were at the heavy point. And Bruce Kulick is on FIRE. I don’t dislike one song on this, so it pains me not to have it higher but I just can’t put it over the next two.  This album is one I play lots.  I love “King of the Mountain”.  I mean what a great opening track.  Look, since I’m trying to get this done, I’m not going to go much on this one.  Just know I fucking love this album sooooooo much. This is a gem and minus the awful album cover, everything is perfect to me.  Amazing production.  Paul is on top.  Gene stepped up. Bruce is on fire.  Eric is beasting.  This is one fucking great album. I think I listen to this one more than others lately.  So there ya go.

2.  CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982)

Well, this barely — and I do mean barely, edged out Asylum but I give you two reasons. “I Still Love You” and “Rock And Roll Hell”.  And it’s sad that this album wasn’t appreciated for the greatness it was, but KISS kind of blew it with some albums like The Elder and people just weren’t having it.  Now this is looked upon as one of the best by many KISS fans, as it should. The drums are like cannons. Eric Carr will always be my favorite KISS drummer. This album is a fucking work of art. It just screams “amazing”. As much as I liked Unmasked and Dynasty this felt like hey man, they back!  They quit messing around with the poppy stuff like “Shandi” and such. This one is a killer from start to finish. If you don’t own this, I question your KISS fandom. Gene is on top of his game after some shaky grounds before. And Paul stays on top. If someone asked me “what KISS album should I get” and they didn’t have one, I wouldn’t be hesitant to say this one.  Yes, it’s that damn good. And you have to remember not everyone is going to like 70’s stuff so I think what they did with this album is they melded it all into one. You get the classic KISS sound, yet the heavy modern KISS. This album is sheer perfection. You should go play it now. Next.

1.  LICK IT UP (1983)

Here we are at the end. What a ride! Now, you may think I’m going to talk a lot about this one since it is my favorite album and that is where you will be wrong. I’ll tell you why it is number one though. “A Million To One” is my favorite Paul song ever, and “Not For The Innocent” is my favorite Gene song ever. I think that explains it.  And crazy Vinnie is on fire!  Eric is Godly on this. There is not one bad thing I can say about this album. The production is top notch. The songs are all great. “Young and Wasted”, man that song is so damn heavy it’s insane. This is the KISS album I go to most and will always go to the most. It is everything I love.


This has been fun.  NOW GO PLAY SOME KISS!

By Jonathan Lee

KISS – RANKED! – All the albums in order, by LeBrain #1 of 2

“Alright people, let me tell you something.  There’s a lot of people…well I should say there’s a lot of maniacs out there…who wanna see all the Kiss albums ranked!  Are you one of those people?  I said are you one of those people?  Well if you’re one of those Kiss maniacs like I know you are…then you gotta meet Mr. Jonathan Lee over here.  He may be young but he’s a rock and roller!  When he challenges you to make a Kiss list, you better believe he’s serious people!  So let me hear it!  You wanna see some Kiss lists?  Then let’s rock and roll all nite and party every day!”

Happy birthday to Jonathan too!

LINK TO JONATHAN’S LIST:  CLICK HERE TO SHOUT IT OUT LOUD!

 


24.  HOT IN THE SHADE (1989)

OK, so I know Jonathan has a boner for this album.  I have some personal history.  I was in grade 12 and Hot in the Shade was a critical album for me.  Kiss had to reclaim some integrity after the Pop Jovi of Crazy Nights.  And in terms of direction, they did.  15 songs, one ballad, hella diversity:  from thrash to funk to horn sections, Kiss were really going for it.  It was harder edged and keyboards were severely toned down from Crazy Nights.  Unfortunately, Hot in the Shade is the “kitchen sink” album for Kiss.  They threw absolutely everything at the wall and a few things stuck, but most didn’t.  The production was also lacklustre.  Highlights are the three singles, Bruce Kulick’s guitar solo on “Forever”, and Eric Carr’s first original lead vocal (and last), “Little Caesar”.  15 tracks, most filler.

23.  CRAZY NIGHTS (1987)

Another highschool Kiss album, and one that had me slightly embarrassed for my rock and roll heroes.  Paul was dancing in the music videos, not playing guitar.  Paul stated that he was writing on keyboards, and the album was bogged down with them.  Gene seemed clearly in the back seat of the car, with Paul driving and Bruce & Eric just passengers.  There are a lot of catchy songs on Crazy Nights, and a few misfires like “No No No”, “I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You” and…ugh…”Bang Bang You”.  At the time, it really did feel like it was the end for Kiss.  Breakup rumours circulated in the rock mags and they were not hard to believe.

22.  PSYCHO-CIRCUS (1998)

The infamous “Kiss reunion album” is one that I play the least.  Overly polished by Bruce Fairbairn (rest in peace), this was not the kind of sound anyone wanted from the original lineup.  And of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we know it wasn’t the original lineup at all.  Tommy Thayer and Kevin Valentine played more on this album than Ace and Peter.  They were mere tokens on an album they were deemed insufficient to play on.  Psycho-Circus was a fail, with a few tracks that could have really meant something if the originals played on them.  Highlights:  “Journey of 1000 Years” and the title track.

21.  PETER CRISS (1978)

While I’ve grown to appreciate the Catman’s solo album more in recent years, there is little question that Peter Criss was absolutely lost.  There’s nothing wrong with following your heart and wanting to play some soft rock.  The unfortunate thing is that Criss didn’t have the songs nor the vocal chops to compete with the likes of Rod Stewart.  Peter doesn’t have the same vocal charisma to carry an album like this for non-Kiss fans.  And this album really isn’t going to appeal to 90% of Kiss fans.

20.  ANIMALIZE (1984)

Animalize sucks.  While it may be a platinum success due to the hit single “Heaven’s On Fire”, this Paul-led travesty is bogged down with filler that the old Kiss never would have bothered with.  The best song, “Thrills In the Night”, is one that Kiss have dismissed in the years since.  One of the worst songs, “Burn Bitch Burn” contains the infamous Gene Simmons lyric, “I’m gonna put my log in your fireplace”.  Not even remotely clever and only funny for how bad it is.  Gene was busy with the film Runaway and was pretty much checked out of Kiss.  The most interesting thing about the album is that future Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick played on two tracks.  Jean Beauvoir, Mitch Weissman, and Allan Schwartzberg also played ghost tracks, diluting the real Kiss.

19.  ASYLUM (1985)

Though it sold half as well as Animalize, the followup Asylum was marginally better.  Bruce Kulick was on board with three writing credits, and the songs were an improvement.  Simmons was still checked-out, and Paul was left to do all the heavy lifting.  It did produce three singles, one of which (“Tears Are Falling”) was resurrected in the set occasionally on the tours after.   Sonically it’s a virtual carbon copy of its predecessor.

18.  GENE SIMMONS (1978)

Nobody expected this.  Gene might have had the most “heavy metal” image of the original Kiss members, but his solo album was anything but.  Climaxing with “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Pinocchio, the album ran the gamut from genre to genre, with dozens of guest stars including Cher, Joe Perry, Bob Seger, Donna Summer, Rick Neilsen, and many more.  The best tunes might be Gene’s folksy acoustic songs like “See You Tonite” and “Mr. Make Believe”.  Ditch the crap like “Tunnel of Love” and “True Confessions”.

17.  CARNIVAL OF SOULS: THE FINAL SESSIONS) (1997)

Not everybody was enthused about Kiss going grunge.  While I recognized it as the best way for them to survive in the early 1990s, the album was delayed and eventually cancelled by the 1996 reunion tour.  When it was finally released in late 1997, it seemed like Kiss didn’t even care about it.  There was no booklet and the original cover art was absent.  The album is notable for Bruce Kulick’s debut lead vocal on “I Walk Alone”, but the guitarist was already out of the band by the time it was released.  There are good songs here, particularly the heavy as fuck Gene songs like “Hate”, “In My Head” and “I Confess”, but the Paul song “Jungle” was the clear immediate highlight.  Regardless, it’s undeniable that this album was contrived and far too inspired by current happenings.  It’s like how The Elder was a strange pseudo-progressive one-off, Carnival of Souls is their sole pseudo-grunge album.

16.  SONIC BOOM (2009)

Back in the 90s, I used to imagine what it would be like producing a new Kiss album after Psycho-Circus.  I had certain rules I wanted the band to adhere to.  Two of them were:  no outside writers, and no outside musicians.  Just Kiss.  When Kiss finally returned to the studio after almost a decade, that’s exactly what they did.  The only difference was that Ace and Peter were gone, replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer.  They ditched the keyboards, the ballads, and the commercialisms.  They wrote and recorded a solid rock and roll album, and it’s not too bad.  A few songs could go – “Stand”, “Hot and Cold”, and “Never Enough” perhaps.  A few songs should have gone down as Kiss classics, “Say Yeah” in particular.  As a bonus, Tommy and Eric both had their first official album debuts as lead singers (“Lightning Strikes” and “All For the Glory”).  On the flipside, this is the point at which Paul’s vocal issues were first heard on a studio album.

15.  MONSTER (2012)

The followup to Sonic Boom was bigger and better.  It was certainly heavier, which some fans didn’t like.  The production turned some off, while delighting others who wanted the music to kick them in the balls.  With 13 new songs, there was plenty of room for filler:  “Freak”, “Long Way Down”, “Eat Your Heart Out”, “Shout Mercy”.  There was also lots of room for improvement, and we definitely got that with “All For the Love of Rock and Roll” with lead vocals by Eric Singer.  This classic rocker has a truly vintage Kiss vibe, along the lines of an old Peter Criss tunes.  “Hell or Hallelujah”, “Wall of Sound” and “Take Me Down Below” were also worth your listening time.  It was clear Kiss hadn’t lost it, but it’s a shame that this will likely be their final album ever.

14.  (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981)

Traditionally, The Elder used to be at the bottom of all the lists you’d see in magazines.  A misfire?  Absolutely.  A unique treasure regardless?  Arguably!  Kiss’ version of progressive rock is really just Neatherthal Prog, but there’s something to be said for that.  Songs like “The Oath” and “I” still have the riff power, albeit in a strange muddy mix.  Blame the cocaine that Bob Ezrin was doing.  “Just A Boy” and “Odyssey” are lovely songs if silly and bombastic.  The concept is baffling even if you put the songs in the correct order (as on the remaster) but The Elder has a certain naive charm.

13.  REVENGE (1992)

Revenge could be the most important Kiss album that isn’t from the 1970s.  They were shit out of luck commercially and musically bankrupt after Hot In the Shade.  They needed to right the ship and to do that, Kiss made several changes.  1) They heavied up.  2) They got back together with Bob Ezrin.  3) Gene got his head back in the game.  4) Gene and Paul even sang together again and shared a writing credit for the first time in ages.  Unfortunately, the biggest change was in the drum stool.  After a short but mighty fight with cancer, drummer Eric Carr passed away in November of 1991.  In tribute, the track “Carr Jam” was resurrected from the Elder sessions, featuring a Carr drum solo.  After his passing, Paul recruited the drummer from his solo tour, Eric Singer.  No real duds on this album, but there’s a certain flavour that does not match up with Kiss’ 1970s output.

12.  UNMASKED (1980)

Kiss’ most pop album by a long shot.  Peter was on the cover, but Anton Fig was on drums.  This album took years and years and much cajoling to finally appreciate.  Pop is a funny thing.  As rockers, we are conditioned to distrust and dismiss pop.  Once we learn that pop isn’t a dirty word, we can listen to Unmasked open minded.  There are lots of great tunes on Unmasked since as “Is That You?”, “Tomorrow”, and “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”.  What’s really special is that Ace Frehley had three lead vocals and co-writes on the album, including the hit “Talk To Me” and the funky fun of “Torpedo Girl”.  “Two Side of the Coin” was the third irresistible Frehley concoction, and possibly the best of the three.

11.  ACE FREHLEY (1978)

Though often considered the best of all the solo albums…is it really?  While certainly a great album, including “Rip It Out”, “Speeding Back to My Baby”, and “What’s On Your Mind”, there are some songs here that are not at the same level.  Still let’s not crap on Ace’s album.  We’re just explaining why it’s not higher on this list.  Ace’s was one of only two of the Kiss solo albums that rocked (Paul’s being the other).  Ace’s had no ballads, just a killer spacey instrumental called “Fractured Mirror”.  It also has “New York Groove”, the biggest hit from any of the solo albums, and a tune that Kiss played live in concert for a couple years.  You still hear it on radio and on TV today!

10.  DESTROYER (1976)

The big one.  The daddy of all Kiss albums.  “Beth”.  “God of Thunder”.  “Shout It Out Loud”.  “King of the Night Time World”.  You know ’em.  And you especially know “Detroit Rock City”, the Destroyer staple of all Destroyer staples.  Bob Ezrin took Kiss up several notches, for better or for worse.  His producer’s touch is unmistakable for anyone who’s heard an Alice Cooper album or The Wall.  He brought Kiss into the big leagues.  Destroyer might have some filler, though your experience may vary.  I could live without “Flaming Youth”, “Do You Love Me”, and “Sweet Pain”.

9.  DYNASTY (1979)

Heavy Disco.  Is that a term?  After releasing four solo albums to limited success, Kiss had started to backfire.  They needed something big, and that was “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.  Kiss were always influenced by what was going on around them, but this time some fans were embarrassed for them.   There’s a lot to like here, including lead vocals from all four Kiss members.  Ace Frehley had three in “Hard Times”, “Save Your Love” and the Stones cover “2000 Man”.  Alas, Peter Criss only had one, a lucklustre “Dirty Livin'”, also the only song he played drums on.  Anton Fig played uncredited on everything else.  The end was nigh, but the album was strong with Stanley tunes like “Sure Know Something”, one of his best love songs, and “Magic Touch”.  Unusually, Simmons only had two songs and neither were as strong as Paul’s.

8.  DRESSED TO KILL (1975)

Of the original three, Dressed to Kill might be the most underwhelming despite the inclusion of “Rock and Roll all Night”.  It’s great – -don’t get me wrong — but I prefer the other two.  Over the years I’ve grown to love Dressed to Kill more and more for its deep cuts.  Stuff like “Two Timer”.  But the centerpiece is C’mon and Love Me”, one of Paul Stanley’s most incendiary guitar riffs.  This album and the self-titled debut share a certain vintage “rock and roll” production value, many steps away from heavy metal.  It’s quaint.

7.  KISS (1974)

This album and Dressed to Kill are a pair.  The difference is the debut has more classic songs.  Just about all of ’em in fact.  “Cold Gin”, “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Black Diamond”, “Firehouse”, “100,000 Years”, “Nothin’ To Lose”, “Let Me Know”…that’s eight stone cold classics right there.  That leaves only the instrumental “Love Theme from Kiss” and the single “Kissin’ Time” as filler.  Impressive.  A lot of concert perennials came from this album, and Kiss won’t let you forget ’em.

6.  ROCK AND ROLL OVER (1976)

After the lush and orchestrated Destroyer album, Kiss had two choices.  Continue along that road and see where it led, or try and recapture their rock and roll roots.  Although they would later attempt to re-capture the Destroyer vibe on Psycho-Circus, the choice was to go rock and roll again.  They recruited Eddie Kramer of Kiss Alive fame and holed up in a small theater to capture a “live” vibe.  They didn’t, but Rock and Roll Over does harken back a bit to their first albums.  Lots of classics here with “Hard Luck Woman” as the best of them.  A few duds like “Baby Driver”.

5.  LOVE GUN (1977)

Kiss didn’t stray too far from the formula when they followed up Rock and Roll Over with Love Gun.  This time they had a strong batch of songs including the dual highlights “I Stole Your Love” and “Love Gun”.  Ace Frehley stepped up with his first ever lead vocal, “Shock Me”, and there was no turning back for the spaceman.  Simmons had a dud with “Almost Human” but also provided the classic (but creepy) “Christine Sixteen”.  Even Peter’s “Hooligan” has a primitive charm.  Love Gun is enjoyable any time, any day.

4.  LICK IT UP (1983)

It’s neck and neck when it comes to Lick It Up and Creatures, the two albums of the Vinnie Vincent era.  Creatures probably has the better pack of tunes but Lick It Up is no slouch.  There’s some filler (“Gimme More”) but this is rock solid.  Deep cuts “A Million To One”, “Dance All Over Your Face” and “And On the 8th Day” are on the same level as the hits “Lick It Up” and “All Hell’s Breaking Loose”.  Then we get to tunes like “Exciter” and “Not For the Innocent” and you have an incredibly strong and heavy Kiss album.  No ballads, no pop, no compromise.  The fact that this is the first Kiss album without makeup is the only commercial hook.  Everything else sounds like Kiss were writing what they wanted to.  Vinnie saved Kiss?  Not really but two albums in the top five speaks to his songwriting and lead work while in Kiss.

3.  CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982)

Kiss were in trouble at the start of the 80s.  They lost a considerable amount of credibility with the “disco albums” and The Elder.  A European compilation called Kiss Killers with four new songs indicated that Kiss were ready to put the experimenting to rest and rock again.  By the time they had assembled Creatures of the Night, they had gone full-blown heavy metal.  My friend Uncle Meat would call it “heavy metal bullshit” because it was most certainly a contrived move on Kiss’ part.  The sincerity here comes from young Eric Carr, who blew the nuts off the album so hard with his drum parts that in 1985 they tried to tame the beast with a remix.  Channeling his inner John Bonham, the Fox was the star of Creatures, regardless of some very strong songs.  But all was not well.  He may have been on the cover and video, but Ace Frehley was not on the album.  Secretly, young Vinnie Cusano wrote and played on a number of songs.  Also a young Canadian upcomer named Bryan Adams co-wrote several songs.  In return, Eric Carr co-wrote “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” which Adams recorded,  Creatures was the last hoorah of the makeup era, and indicative of the changing times, was the first Kiss album with only two lead vocalists:  Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

2.  PAUL STANLEY (1978)

Now here’s a hot take!  Paul solo at number two?  You better believe it people.  I’ll tell you something, you know it too, Paul Stanley could write a Kiss song in his sleep!  Well oh-yeah!  And let me tell you something else and you better believe it!  Bob Kulick – lead guitar!  And people, every song on here coulda been a Kiss classic!  There’s a lot of people out there, well I should say there’s a lot of diehards out there who like Ace best.  Ace fans lemme hear ya!  But I’ll tell ya something else — Paul ain’t no slouch!

If the solo albums prove only one thing, it is that Paul Stanley was the only member of Kiss who had nothing to get off his hairy chest.  Peter clearly had things he wanted to do.  Simmons was able to indulge his every decadent desire.  Frehley was able to do an entire album true to his own unique style and personality, and being the heaviest of the albums, fans absolutely loved it.  But Paul’s is nine songs of quintessential Paul Kiss.  It’s what he would have been doing anyway.  But it is oh so very good with no filler, and some oustanding rockers.  Even the schlocky power ballad “Hold Me Touch Me” strikes the right chord, with Stanley delivering one of his best guitar solos.  Yes, on the ballad, that’s Paul on lead guitar!  Well oh-yeah, lemme hear ya!

1.  HOTTER THAN HELL (1974)

Kiss’ worst sounding album is my favourite.  It was inevitable.  It was my first Kiss!  And when I first heard it, it was on a kid’s Fischer Price turntable.  In mono, with the worst stylus.  It doesn’t sound much worse than that.  But that’s all I had for listening to records.  It didn’t matter.  I listened to Hotter Than Hell night after night after getting it in a trade at age 13.  I loved it, every song.

Age 13 was the worst year for bullying at my school.  I took refuge in Kiss, Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Helix, and Judas Priest, but it was mostly Kiss.  I didn’t have a lot of money so I taped the Kiss albums one by one from my neighbor George.  In fact I traded my Kiss album to George, as it was one of only two that he still needed.  I got a wealth of goodies in return, and he taped Hotter Than Hell for me on a Scotch 120 minute cassette.   So don’t talk to me about this album sounding worse than Born Again by Black Sabbath.  That’s my favourite Sabbath album anyway.

There is no filler on Hotter Than Hell.  “Goin’ Blind”, “Watching You”, “Got to Choose”, “Mainline”, “Parasite”, the title track…I would not want to live without any of them.  “All the Way” matters to me in a big way.  I remember singing it loudly during gym class, the only way to tolerate such a class.  No wonder I had no friends!  Only “Strange Ways” could really be argued to deserve the chopping block.  I know Jonathan doesn’t care for “Let Me Go Rock and Roll”, but he’s wrong.  I love when Kiss go old school.

The fact that my mom and dad didn’t mind me listening to Kiss, and bought me Kiss tapes when I asked for them, is one of the best things about my childhood.  I love you mom and dad,

And though not as much, I love Kiss.  And this is my favourite Kiss album, and has been since I first heard it in 1985.


We chose to exclude the following albums on our lists, but they all deserve mention.

KISS ALIVE!  My other first Kiss album!  But this one I kept.  As a kid, live albums were not as good as studio albums but over the years I have grown to understand.  I love Kiss Alive.  Top five album.

KISS ALIVE II  Notable for its five studio tracks.  Bob Kulick played on four.

DOUBLE PLATINUM  Worth mentioning for its new version of “Strutter” called “Strutter ’78”.  Also features a bunch of remixes.  A cornerstone Kiss compilation that makes a good “first”.

KISS KILLERS  Four new songs, available only in Europe and Japan.  Mostly good songs, with Paul on lead vocals.  “I’m A Legend Tonight” and “Nowhere To Run” are important songs in my Kiss upbringing.

SMASHES, THRASHES & HITS  Two new songs and the much hated new version of “Beth” with Eric Carr singing.  People hated the new Paul songs (too cheesy and commercial) and Eric Carr had misgivings about singing Peter Criss’ signature song.  It seemed that Paul and Gene didn’t want Ace or Peter to have any lead vocals on this 1988 compilation.

New and unreleased songs also appeared on albums such as Alive IV, Kiss 40, the Kiss Box Set and more.  We could have gone to town but this seems like enough to capture the Kiss that really matters.  I hope you enjoyed this list!

 

By LeBrain