REVIEW: Keel – The Right to Rock (Remaster/bonus track)

KEEL – The Right to Rock (1985, 2000 Metal Mayhem Music/bonus track)

From the Gene Simmons Song Factory, heeeeere’s Keel!

Let’s talk about the bonus track first.  Anybody could tell you that “Easier Said Than Done” was a Simmons song, just from one listen.  Surely enough, scan the liner notes, and it’s Gene and Mitch Weissman, whom fans know from 1984’s Animalize album.  Like many Gene Simmons productions, The Right to Rock bears his name on a few writing credits.  “Easier Said Than Done” is right down mid-80s Kiss alley.  What about the remix?  Structurally, it is unchanged.  The drums sound different, and on a whole the track sounds a little brighter.

That’s it for extras.  The booket is only a single fold-out, with no lyrics.  It has a note from Ron Keel, indicating that this is the first CD issue of the album outside Japan.

(The rest of this review was previously published in 2015)


The rest of the non-Simmons songs are basically reworkings of tracks from Keel’s first album Lay Down the Law. That album, like Ron Keel’s debut with Steeler (featuring one Yngwie J. Malmsteen) were on Shrapnel. For the A&M Records debut, they pulled out the big guns. They got Gene Simmons in all his wig-ness, and put out a very corny but tremendously fun music video.

It is “America 1989”, and rock and roll is outlawed. “Those who are apprehended suffer severe consequences.” Can our young teenage Keel lookalike get away from the rock police? Quiet Riot did something similar with their “The Wild and the Young” video a year later. It’s corny fun.

The song too is corny fun. I guess it’s a classic now. It has that stock heavy metal riff that you need: something Motley Crue or the Scorpions would be comfortable with. It has that rebellious rock theme that was so prominent in the 80’s. It has a shout-along chorus. “You got it! The Right to Rock!” Hey, I grew up in a Catholic school. I know what this is about. “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life!” I had a teacher call me out on the first day of school for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. I could relate to this song in a big way when I was 13.

It should be noted that Gene Simmons, as a producer, is not known for his sonics. The Right to Rock sounds pretty good for the period, but the drums ring shallow and weak. There’s not much presence for the bass guitar, and the backing vocals are the typical rock mush. That’s what you get with Gene behind the console.

“Back to the City” has a good Priest-like chug to it. I think Keel were going for something middle of the road with their music, like Priest-meets-Scorps-meets-Crue-meets-Kiss. If so, this hit the mark. Ron’s vocals are overwrought but that’s his style. If you don’t like that kind of vocal, you won’t like Keel.

Kinda stinky is “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. You know, I still gotta give the guys credit. They have made this into a pretty fine pop metal song. If you didn’t know the song, you’d assume it’s an original, in the pop metal genre. So from that perspective, I think it’s kinda cool. Stinky and cool — like good gorgonzola.

“Easier Said Than Done” was written by Simmons/Weissman, the same team responsible for much of the Animalize album. The lyrics even reference “Russian Roulette”, a song title Gene had been toying with for years. (A song called “Russian Roulette” was finally released on Sonic Boom.) So, guess who “Easier Said Than Done” sounds like? That’s right — it is a dead ringer for Simmons-style Kiss. And it’s actually a pretty good song. The problem is Ron’s Gene impression. I can’t help but chuckle at his dead-on Gene vocals. I dare you to refrain from a giggle yourself. Same deal with “So Many Girls, So Little Time”. Kiss fans will recognize that’s a line recycled from the Kiss song “Burn Bitch Burn”.

Onto side two, “Electric Love” is a Keel original, but you immediately notice that the song isn’t as immediate as the two previous Simmons tunes. “Speed Demon”, another original, sounds exactly as the title implies. Quality-wise, it’s only at “Priest outtake” level (Defenders of the Faith era). Then it’s back to Simmons outtakes, with “Get Down”, the weakest of the Simmons songs by a long shot. “You’re the Victim (I’m the Crime)” is a Gene-like title, but this too is a Keel tune. It’s in the same vein as “Speed Demon”, and the same level of quality.

It’s fun to revisit The Right To Rock periodically…but sparingly.

3/5 stars


REVIEW: KISS – Off The Soundboard – Poughkeepsie NY 11.26.1984

 – Off the Soundboard – Poughkeepsie NY 11.26.1984 (2023 Universal)

Are you getting sick of reading all the same complaints about the new Kiss Off the Soundboard CD from Poughkeepsie NY 1984, the fifth in this series?

Me too!

If you can’t appreciate the historical value of a Mark St. John show with Kiss, then I can’t help you.

If you didn’t know Kiss played these songs at lightspeed in the 1980s, then you never saw Animalize Live Uncensored.

And if you don’t know what an official bootleg is, then this CD is not for you anyway.

Actually, the only thing I’m really sick of is typing “Poughkeepsie”!

There are Kiss bootlegs with Mark floating around out there.  I can’t vouch for the audio quality on those.  This, I can tell you, is soundboard quality, which in my opinion is the best way to hear a live album.  Unpolished, the way it was that night on the board.  I love hearing the band make mistakes.  I have no problem with the fact you can barely hear the bass on some tracks, and too much on others.  The vocals are clear and each member is distinct in their singing.  Whether you think Paul is too “erratic” or not, that’s personal taste.

The setlist is similar to Animalize Live.  You won’t hear any Animalize deep cuts that were not on that video.  Two songs are incomplete (“Young and Wasted” and “Rock and Roll all Nite”) due to tape issues but are included for their historical significance.  No issues here.  In fact, “Rock and Roll all Nite” might be better this way…it often drags on too long at the end of a show!

The jazz-influenced Mark definitely added his own style and twists to the solos, even simple ones like “Detroit Rock City”.  There, he inserted an extra note or two to make it his.  Mark was a shredder, and that was the direction Kiss wanted to go in at that time.  It was the 80s.  Bands had to have shredders if they wanted the kids to take them seriously.  Mark wasn’t even Kiss’ first shredder, but he was certainly unique.  There’s a lot of whammy bar, and some pretty wicked licks on songs like “Fits Like a Glove”.  Now, before you get too excited, the “Guitar Solo” listed on the back cover is Paul Stanley’s familiar solo that he was playing during that era.

Mark aside, Eric Carr is a star on this album.  He was a busier drummer than Peter Criss and he goes to town on songs like “Cold Gin” and “Under the Gun”.  Fox fans will not want to miss this CD in their collection.  Peak Eric.  His drum solo will be familiar, yet will also most likely sound better than any version you currently own.  Unfortunately he stops singing on part of “Young and Wasted”, which is one of the partial songs anyway, so no big deal.  We have him singing that on Animalize Live.

Paul Stanley’s performance is pure rock and roll, and especially expressive on “I Still Love You”, but many have complained about the F-bombs dropped during his intro to “Love Gun”.  Hey…check out the Animalize Live version for something naughtier than an F-bomb!

If you’re Kiss collector, this is ending up in your library regardless.  Choose your format and go wild like the animals.

3.5/5 stars for the quality

3.5/5 stars as a “Kiss show”

5/5 stars for historical value and significance to the Kiss army

Happy Easter Gallery! KISS’ Off The Soundboard: Poughkeepsie 11/28/1984 has arrived!

Jen beat Covid just in time to enjoy a happy Easter with the family.

I rocked my brand new Grab A Stack of Rock “Faces” hoodie, and unboxed the new KISS Off The Soundboard:  Poughkeepsie 11/28/1984.  This is the only soundboard show with Mark St. John on lead guitar.  This will be an interesting listen to a period of KISStory that ended prematurely.  Also opened the deluxe Blackout by Scorpions, one of the few deluxes of theirs that I was missing.  No longer!

Finally, I opened a new Apexcam, underwater camera.  My cottage videos from last year were lacking in underwater footage.  The old camera case had finally cracked.  Now I have a new one, in time to up my cottage video game this summer!



Unfortunately the Jays beat the California Angels, ending Easter on a downer!  Hah.

On the bright side…we now have Tee Bone Man shirts!  Thanks Harrison!



Store address:

MarriedAndHeels is a Superstar on Grab A Stack of Rock!

It may have been -18 degrees Celcius here, but  “California Girl” aka “Edie Van Heelin’” aka MarriedAndHeels brought the sun!  This fun episode featured:

  • Lego & lightsabers with full custom M.A.H. sound effects!
  • Lots and lots of heels & heel knowledge.
  • Running in heels, peacocks and more.
  • Tea.
  • Kiss figures, though not unboxed, due to difficulty of doing so on camera.
  • Unboxing 7 rare Japanese import CD.
  • Stories, stories, stories and more!

We kept going until her battery ran out, and she’ll be back for more soon!

Everything I create is free.  I have never asked for money for any video or story.  I pay for WordPress and I pay for Streamyard out of pocket, and advertising dollars do not bring in enough to cover even half of the cost.  Therefore, if you’d like to buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, I would muchly appreciate!

kofi Ko-fi MikeLeBrain – buy me a coffee?

MarriedAndHeels Grabs Her Heels and Rocks your Friday Afternoon! (Special Time)

GRAB A STACK OF ROCK…with Mike and MarriedAndHeels
Episode 14:  More Heels, More Lego, More Rock!

You might know her as “California Girl” or “Edie Van Heelin’“, but I just call her my friend.  Her fans have spoken and MarriedAndHeels returns today to the co-hosting chair, but today she’ll be LIVE!  What can you expect this time?  Like her previous feature episode, we’re just going to wing it and have a good time…but we are planning the following:

  • Video footage and details about one of her many passions:  running!
  • “Ask California Girl” questions from the Mad Metal Man and Tee Bone.
  • Unboxing all four KISS “BST AXN” figures including the very rare Spaceman.
  • Mike gets to pick her heels for an upcoming event.
  • Music, Lego and lots more.

Please extend a warm welcome to one of my favourite guests, the amazing MarriedAndHeels, and get ready for a good time!

Friday February 3 at 3:00 P.M. E.S.T. and 12 Noon Pacific. Enjoy on YouTube or on Facebook.



#1038: Cool


Recently I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “cool”.  I certainly do not feel “cool”.  I have certainly pretended to be cool.  I had many phases of attempts at being cool.  They were mostly spectacular failures with a few notable successes.  Yet only rarely and sporadically did I ever actually feel “cool”.

As a young misfit kid with only a few close friends, I was a loner at school.  I was more interested in reading books while listening to John Williams soundtracks than hockey.  There’s a line in a Tragically Hip song called “Fireworks” that sort of outlines what it was like to have no interest in hockey.  “You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey, and I never saw someone say that before.”  The kids at school teased me because I didn’t know who any of the Maple Leafs were and I certainly had no interest in skating.  It was just something I had to do.  My mother made me take hockey lessons and I hated the way those skates made my feet ache.  I just couldn’t wait to get off the ice where my dad would buy me a Mountain Dew.  I could barely skate and still can’t.  My mom told me that “every good Canadian should know how to skate.”  I just wanted to go home and play with my beloved Star Wars guys.  My Luke, Han, Darth, and Stormtrooper figures were always a comfort at home.  I was not cool.

Along came music and I was still not cool.  The other kids had Duran Duran and Mr. Mister while I discovered the back catalogue of a dinosaur rock band called Kiss.  I made a pathetic attempt at growing my hair.  To the other kids at school, I was the nerd who wore the Han Solo shirt a couple years ago, and was now decked out in a Judas Priest shirt that said “Rock Hard Ride Free”.  I was not cool.

I sat in my basement with my VCR, and I watched and rewatched Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored and studied Paul Stanley.  He obviously had no problem being cool.  All he had to do was tell a story about his Love Gun and he had women throwing their underwear at him.  He looked so cool when he danced on stage.  He had these tassels on his pants that twirled when he did these spinning kick moves.  I would get a tennis racket and try doing the same moves in the street in front of my house.  I felt cool.  I imagined the music behind me.  I imagined it was a real guitar in my arms, and tassels on my pants.  I felt cool…but I was not cool.

Highschool came and went, and I had a pretty low profile.  Girls didn’t know my name and I didn’t raise my hand in class.  I wanted to be cool but anonymity was OK too.  I didn’t have the baggage of my nerdy Star Wars past so I established myself as a rocker from day one.  That didn’t really make me cool; the majority of kids were short-hairs who liked music I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  I got by, but I was not cool.

University came and went with the same anonymity, but the very foundations on which I had built my persona were crumbling.  In 1991 Kurt Cobain made greasy hair and ratty sweaters the new cool, and I was left behind in the dust.  It took two years, but in 1993 I finally cut my hair.  I went with a short hair and bearded look.  I didn’t even feel cool anymore.  I was not cool.

I don’t think I really felt a smidgen cool until I started working at the record store in 1994.  Then I had something I could boast about.  It was a cool job.  I felt a bit like an imposter, that I was not cool enough for that job, but I sure made people know I worked in a record store.  Grunge was popular, nu-metal was on its way, and I was still stuck in the 70s and 80s.  I really struggled with a persona during the record store years.  I had a variety of hair styles and colours.  I bought a pair of Doc Marten boots.  I got a whole bunch of piercings.  At this point, I started to become a little bit more successful in my dating life.  The ladies seemed to like the spiky blonde hair and the piercings.  I may have looked cool, but in hindsight it was just another attempt at being cool.  I was not cool.

I quit the record store, and I got married.  For the first time in my life, I started to feel a little cool.  I had a good job, the most amazing wife, and I had a killer wedding.  Awesome music.  We were told by mulitple guests from all age groups that it was the best, most fun wedding, they’d ever been to.  I felt awesome.  After marriage, Jen and I threw a number of killer house parties.  I did multiple studio appearances on radio.  I felt cool and I think for a little while, for a change, I was cool.

Age started creeping up on me and the years started taking their toll.  I began to take more value in how comfortable things were, rather than how cool they looked.  I had new priorities in life, like maintaining a house and taking care of a sick wife.  The things that used to matter more were trivial now.  I had to appear somewhat professional at work and be prepared to put on steel toe boots and a helmet.  Carefully crafted hair and flashy shoes had no place anymore.  I was not cool.

Yet the definitions of cool have once again changed.  Have they moved in a direction more to my favour this time?  I don’t know, but suddenly Star Wars is popular again and old rock bands pull in crowds of all ages when they embark on the second-last ever farewell tours.  Older guys with grey hair seem to be popular — looking at you Anson Mount (and Tim Durling).  Is it possible…that the time has come that I’m cool again?

I wear Crocs.  In fact now I wear Crocs with freakin’ headlights on them.  People know this.  They are aware of it.  Yet some of the coolest people in the world that I know…tell me I’m cool?

You can imagine why I’m skeptical.

I don’t think I’ll ever really feel cool.  Do you?  Have you felt cool in your life?  What did it feel like, and what did it do for your life?  I think when I feel cool, I feel more confident.  Confidence is important in moderation.  It won’t be long before I used to be with “it”, but then they changed what”it” was.  Then what I’m with isn’t “it” anymore and what’s “it” seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

Three cheers for Matt Starr!  Ace Frehley’s drummer is the “starr” of the show on 11 of the 12 tracks on Origins Vol. 2.  This is evident immediately on the Zeppelin cover “Good Times Bad Times”.  There are plenty of guests on this album, but doing justice to John Bonham ain’t easy.  Starr nails it!  Fortunately the Ace Man himself is also able to tribute Jimmy Page ably on his solo.

In fact the weakest part of the album are the vocals.  As Ace ages, his voice has gotten lower.  Some of these songs are in a lower key than usual to accommodate.  It’s also, quite frankly, difficult to get excited about a second album of covers.  A lot of the same bands are covered, including the aforementioned Zeppelin, Kiss, Cream, Stones, Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix.

It’s an OK covers album.  It’s nice to get so much Ace-sounding rock.  Frehley makes Mountain sound like his own originals, as he does “Kicks” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.  He’s a bit heavy-handed on “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”.  But “Space Truckin'”?  Not necessary, or even wanted.  “Space-Ace truckin’!” he sings and it’s borderline cringe.  “Hey where’s Jendell?”  While it’s good to put your own twist on a song, dropping your own name in doesn’t cut it.  And Ace is no Ian Gillan.  (Ian Gillan is also no Ian Gillan, but that’s beside the point.)

Among the guests, John 5 rips solos on “I’m Down” (Beatles) and the thumpin’ “Politician” (Stones).  He executes both modern and traditional rock and roll guitar solos, but goes wild for the “I’m Down” outro, on which he shreds.  Lita Ford also appears, but not on guitar.  She sings on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.  While there’s no denying that’s a classic song that influenced Ace, how many people have covered “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?  Lita’s voice has barely changed since the 80s and she is easily the charismatic highlight of this overplayed tune, and a highlight of the album as a whole.  One guy whose voice has changed a bit is Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, who sings on “30 Days in the Hole”.  He can still do it with power and range, but you can hear the years.  Speaking of voices, Ace doesn’t sing on the Kiss cover “She” but the vocals are split three ways among the backing musicians, and they capture a reasonable facsimile of that vintage Paul/Gene layered vibe.

The most interesting guest of the lot could be one of Ace’s replacements in Kiss, Mr. Bruce Kulick himself.  Of course, over the years Bruce and Ace have jammed a few times, and it’s sheer delight to hear them together.  Bruce has, arguably, the best guitar solo on the whole album, with “Manic Depression”.  The guy is greased lightning, extra greasy!  It’s warming to see Ace and Bruce put egos aside and just play some music.  Any time, guys, any time.

Giving credit to Ace for one more thing, “Lola” does sound like his kind of tune.  His vocal shortcomings are obvious here but don’t really get in the way.  Whether you like that song or not, Ace has a quirky side that “Lola” fits, just as sweet as Coca-Cola.

Bonus:  the album comes with nice liner notes by Kiss scribe Julian Gill.

Let’s hope Ace has the covers out of his system for now.  Another original album, hell even a live album would be cool, but no more covers Ace, please!

3/5 stars

#1034: December 27

RECORD STORE TALES #1034: December 27

In the Christmases of youth when families were bigger and healthier, it was close to a week-long celebration.  December 27 was a day we looked forward to annually.

Before I started working at the Record Store, we would depart for Stratford Ontario mid-day on the 27th for an early birthday celebration.  My sister’s birthday is the 28th, and she would have a second party that day too!  Stratford has a lot of really cool stores, especially if you’re looking for comics, books and board games like I was.  There was a small record store as well, and my sister and I would hit up these stores while my mother and aunt shopped for clothes and knick-knacks for what felt like hours upon hours.  One thing I know for sure:  we were the ones waiting for them, and not vice-versa!

I acquired many treasures in Stratford in those days.  After shopping, we would head to my aunt and uncle’s place for warming up.  My sister would receive her gifts, and we would eat treats while waiting for the main course to arrive:  garlic spaghetti, agio e olio, my absolute favourite.  Then we would settle in for a movie (always a comedy).  It was always a special day even though it wasn’t my birthday.

Even when we were young, I remember we were allowed to play some of our new tapes on my uncle’s big stereo during dinner.  I can recall listening to Kiss.  Smashes, Thrashes & HitsDynasty?  I can’t remember – could have been either, or both, but I know we listened to Kiss during dinner (or dessert).  My uncle made us listen to someone named Juice Newton.

In the Record Store days, I would only be able to make it for dinner and not the fun shopping part.  Stratford is a little colder and snowier, and I recall having to step over massive snowbanks to get to parked cars.  The cool shops made it worth it.  I came home with Stratford with Transformers comics, Star Trek comics, loads of science fiction books, and rare board games.  There was also a Scottish-themed shop where I bought Billy Connolly CDs and DVDs, Jaffa cakes, and other treats.

“Peak Stratford” would have been Dec 27 1990:  the year I found Kiss On Fire at the book store.  All those bootlegs!  I sat and read during dinner amazed at all the records I now knew I had to collect!  What a score for a kid.

#1029: Lick It Up (In Bed)

RECORD STORE TALES #1029: Lick It Up (In Bed)

When I was a kid I used to rock myself to sleep with music.  I missed doing that in my adulthood.  I don’t find headphones or earbuds comfortable to sleep in, and I’ve never found a really good device like that to fall asleep in.  I have a pair of “sleep headphones” which are basically little speakers inside a headband.  But I basically have to tie something tight around my head to get the little speakers close enough to my ears to be effective, and then the whole thing becomes too uncomfortable.

I remember my mom had this “pillow speaker”.  You could plug it into your Walkman, and it would convert the stereo signal down to mono, and you’d put this little speaker in your pillowcase.  But that wasn’t really a good solution either.

The best way to fall asleep then was with a tape or CD in the deck, and let your speakers rock you off to la-la-land.  Having a spouse might put a cramp in that tradition, as it has mine.  But nowadays, with Jen’s different health issues, we are on vastly different sleep schedules.  I’m usually in bed by nine and up by six.  She might be in bed by 2:00 AM, after all the late night hosts have signed off.  I might try returning to the “rock myself to sleep” method as an experiment.

I took a Saturday afternoon nap, but I was just too wired to get a good solid sleep.  I brought the laptop into the bedroom, put on “Lick It Up”, and tried to get some shuteye.  Unlike my youthful days, I didn’t fall asleep during the album, though I did doze off shortly after.

Sure enough though, memories of childhood came rushing back.  I think got Lick It Up for Christmas of ’85, the same year I was given my dual-deck Sanyo with detachable speakers.  I remember the Sanyo came with a sample cassette.  It had “Spanish Flea” on one side, and the other was blank for recording.  I think I tried to put “And On the 8th Day” on the second side, and I think it just fit.

Back in those days, I didn’t know most of the words to the songs, so I just kind of made up my own.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know the words.  In fact, only on the recently released Creatures of the Night box set can I clearly hear all the words to “Not For the Innocent”.  Otherwise, it was cool to hear Lick It Up, in bed like when I was a kid, but with perfectly clear sound, no tape hiss, no side change, and at perfect speed with no drag.  If only my 13 year-old self could have imagined that.  The sound quality, with my little laptop speakers, wasn’t great so I ordered another pair of small externals from Amazon.  That’s the next step of the test.

Lick It Up has been a favourite for a long time.  Back when I only owned one or two cases full of cassettes, it received frequent spins.  I remember accidentally dropping it into a bucket of wallpaper water.  My dad thankfully bought me a brand new copy.  I’d buy it again if Kiss offer another deluxe box set as they have recently.

We’ll see how my sleep experiment goes, but I definitely picked the right album for the first try.

Marco D’Auria and Tim Durling are Creatures of the Night! Box set dissected, bootleg DVDs examined, and Harrison questioned!

Marco, Tim and I had a blast taking a deep dive into Kiss’ Creatures of the Night album, box set, and tour!  Marco presented a collection of four Kiss bootlegs from the Creatures era.  Tim brought the vinyl and cassettes.  He even had a related 8-track tape.  I dove deep into the Kiss box set:  the book, the goodies, the music, the stories and the packaging!  (For those asking me for a box set review, this is pretty much it!)  Additionally, Uncle Meat stopped by with his memories of seeing the Creatures tour at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  Finally, “Ask Harrison” returned with two of the best questions for my Aussie co-host yet.  Harrison doesn’t have much in the way of Kiss but did present some interesting stuff in terms of Slade, Deep Purple, Def Leppard, and more.

“Ask Harrison” questions this time were asked by Lana (via Tee Bone) and our newest castmember, an actual Instagram influencer with 200,000 followers who discovered our Led Zeppelin list episode earlier this year, became a fan, and wanted to be a part of our little show herself! Please give her a big welcome.

Next week I’ll be doing a taping with Grant Arthur from Grant’s Rock Warehaus, but we’ll be back again soon.  Thanks for watching!