love gun

REVIEW: Klassik ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017)

KLASSIK ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017 EPs)

When I was a kid buying new Kiss albums likes Crazy Nights, I used to say “Kiss should go back and make a full album that sounds like Side Four of Alive II.” Either that or Kiss Killers. I thought either direction was worthy of re-visiting, since they were small collections of songs, not full albums.

The guys who created the original band Klassik ’78 read my mind, and decided to do something about it.  In the spirit of the Kiss sound circa Alive II, Klassik ’78 took it upon themselves to write and record a “lost” Kiss studio that could have followed Love Gun.  Imagine Kiss didn’t split to make solo albums or return with a Disco record.  Original Kiss, not ghost musicians.  Klassik ’78 aimed to create an album from that exact year in that precise alternate universe.  The remarkable thing is that they actually succeeded.


The Side One EP has a bangin’ opener:  the Paul-styled “Standin’ Tall”.   Paul-vocalist “Joe” nails the Starchild’s mannerisms, while the riff mimics that kind that Paul was writing around the time of Rock And Roll Over.  A slaying Kiss-like chorus drives it home.  Klassik ’78 member “Tom” rolls out a Gene-like song as authentic as the Demon’s long tongue.  “Please n’ Tease” is a “Love ‘Em Leave ‘Em” styled sleaze rocker just like Simmons used to write them.  There’s even an Ace-y solo that burns like the Spaceman’s rockets.  “Mean Business” definitely nails the Alive II vibe, kind of like a sequel to “Larger Than Life” with a guy who’s doing his best to sound raspy like Peter Criss.  Another perfect faux-Frehley solo is the ideal topping.  “Passion & Love” is obviously a “Paul” song, a mirror image of “Mr. Speed” and a nearly perfect vocal.  Every “Ooh yeah!” is spot-on.  There’s a good chance you could fool any casual fan into thinking “Passion & Love” is an actual lost Kiss song from 1977.  “Rock and Roll You” is another Gene-like vehicle, right in that Kiss pocket.  Finally, with a title like “Streetwise”, you’re probably already expecting a track like Ace Frehley.  That’s exactly what you get, with a crunchy Ace-like riff, sharp licks, and the same kind of spacey vocals (also by “Tom”).  “I grew up in the city, spent my time on the street.”  Every lyric on Side One is crafted to fit the Kiss member it’s for.  The attention to detail is remarkable.  Certain moments of the “Ace” guitar solo have bits inspired by Frehley’s 1978 solo album.  It’s uncanny.

The important thing is that these are not just tracks that sound exactly like Kiss songs.  These are songs that sound exactly like good Kiss songs.  Could Klassik ’78 deliver another six tracks to make it a full, good album?


“Joe” in the Paul Stanley guise opens Side Two with a stunning “World on Fire”.  It is in the style of Stanley’s ’78 solo disc, but with the Frehley guitar fills of Kiss instead of Bob Kulick.  Time for a “Gene” song next with “Ain’t No Fool”, kinda similar to “Mad Dog” as released on the Box Set.  Another obvious Ace title is “Jendell”; I say “obvious” because hard core fans know that Ace Frehley supposedly comes from planet Jendell.  “I was sent on a mission, light years ago.  To help the human condition, for how long I didn’t know.”  Yep, it’s a “Space Ace” track and a good one at that, once again with tones inspired directly from the Frehley solo album.  Back to Alive II (think “Rockin’ in the USA”), it’s another “Gene” song with “American Made”.  The title alone is perfectly Simmons.  “I”m American Made, and all my dues have been paid.”  In the vibe of “Makin’ Love”, it’s a Stanley-like “Hot On Her Heels” next.  Once again, you could easily fool friends into thinking this is actually Kiss.  Closing Side Two is “Victims (Nosferatu)”, implying a Kiss Demon epic.  Think “Almost Human” from Love Gun, but with more heft.  Klassik kloser, pardon the pun.

I’m not going to bullshit you.  If the Klassik ’78 album was a real Kiss album from 1978, it would be considered one of their best, with the original six.  Obviously Kiss have no intention of ever making an album like this, so why not let Klassik ’78 have some fun with it?  Obviously the fans responded, because the limited run of CDs (re-titled The Un-Originals) sold out immediately.

Check out Klassik ’78 on iTunes, put on your old jean jacket and set your time machine back to 1978.  This album will transport you back.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

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Sunday Chuckle: Love Gun

Mrs. LeBrain and I have been married nine years, but in many ways we’re still romantic like newlyweds.  The other night we went out together to take out the garbage.  It was beautiful outside.  The sun is up until late now, it was warm and there was a nice breeze.  Neighbors were out, kids playing…it was that sort of night.  I just threw on some pajama pants for the garbage walk.

As we were walking back, I started singing a silly song (it’s the kind of thing I do) and skipping ahead a bit.  I didn’t hear what Jen was saying as she was trying to get my attention.  I just kept singing and skipping.

Then I noticed my weiner was out.  Jen was trying to warn me that my love gun was giving the neighbors a show.  This explained why the one fella looked at me funny.

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Love Gun (1977)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 9:  

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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


“See Ronnie? His dick is the gun!”

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

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

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

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars

See Ronnie?  His dick is the gun!


Uncle Meat’s rating:

3.5/5 steaks 

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

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

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

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

Forgettable Tracks:  Look above


To be continued…

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

#430: Album Art – Where can it go?

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#430: Album Art – Where can it go?

How important is album artwork today?  Still important, I’d argue, though not as much as it was in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  You can tell that artwork is still important, because every major artist produces “cover art” any time they release a single, even if there is no physical product for it to be applied to.  Artists will commission art or pose for expensive new pictures to accompany the new music.

Columbia Records kicked off the era of album artwork in 1938, a full decade before the birth of the LP.  Columbia’s art director Alex Steinweiss is generally credited with the introduction of packaging art.  Before him, 78’s used to come in plain sleeves with very little printing on them.  Some sleeves would have large holes in the middle, through which you could read the label on the record.  After the dawn of the LP, the rest of the record manufacturers in the world had caught up and were using artwork on their LPs in the 1950’s.  The standard size was 12 – 3/8”.

When you think of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band today, you inevitably picture that incredible album artwork as well as the songs.  That cover, with its 57 different distinct figures pictured, became a high water mark.  They also included cardboard cutouts inside, a gimmick that Kiss were eager to copy and make their own.  Sgt. Pepper’s artwork cost 60 times more to create than the average album cover in 1967!  It took a band with the success of the Beatles to push the limits in this way.

The Rolling Stones included postcards in their Exile on Main Street (another unforgettable album cover), but they also brought album artwork into three dimensions.  Sticky Fingers featured a working metal zipper, with which you could open the jeans on the front cover, to reveal briefs inside.  It was a level of interactivity previously unseen.  The zipper tended to cause damage to the records and packaging in shipment, but pioneering is a process of trial and error!

Early 90's CD reissue of Sticky Fingers with zipper

Early 90’s CD reissue of Sticky Fingers with zipper

Perhaps Led Zeppelin took LP artwork to its end point, with 1979’s In Through the Out Door.  The record was concealed in a sealed, stamped paper bag that looked like a cheap bootleg, but inside would be one of six different album covers.  You would not know which you got until you tore it open.  The Grammy award winning packaging also included an inner sleeve that one could paint on, just by adding water!  If you wet a paintbrush (or anything, for that matter), you could dissolve paint embedded in it and colour it yourself.  Finding an original unpainted inner sleeve is the goal of a true collector.

Historically speaking, album artwork like this had several purposes.  The first and most obvious would be to identify the product inside (something Led Zeppelin messed with by not including their name on Led Zeppelin IV).  The second purpose was to attract the eye, in the crowded shelves of the record store.  It was noted by many that a brown cover just melted into the background.  Something striking would jump out, and be hard to miss in the racks.  Another job of the cover art was to tie together all the related marketing for the LP.  The artwork could appear in magazine ads, posters, and later on, in music videos.

The purpose of cover art that Kiss embraced was to give value for the money.  Not only did you get killer artwork with loud rock and roll inside, but you also got a cardboard Love Gun, or even masks you could cut out and wear.  Fans drooled over these extras.  For a while, any time Kiss put out an album, you knew that the packaging would be special.  For albums such as Destroyer and The Elder, they even used gatefold sleeves – an added, unnecessary expense for single LP packages.

Album artwork suffered in the 80’s and 90’s.  With cassettes and ultimately CDs replacing the 12.375” width of an album cover, the pictures were smaller and less striking.  You could not pack as much information onto a 4.75” CD sleeve.  Iron Maiden’s artist Derek Riggs was known for hiding secret messages and logos in his album covers, including a mischievous “Indiana Jones was here” and “Wot, no Guinness?” inside Powerslave.  These touches are lost on smaller CD covers.

There is no question that the majority of cover art suffered in the 90’s.  Some bands and labels still strove to give the buyer some extra value, but the canvas was now teeny tiny.  Tool are an example of a band who took advantage of the CD age.  Their AEnema CD had lenticular, “moving” cover art, thanks to a special jewel case that enabled 3D images.  You could even swap images by folding the booklet differently, and get a different moving scene.  Kiss copied this, less successfully, for Psycho-Circus in 1998.  Coloured plastic jewel cases were another way to get some attention on the CD racks.  Bands such as Alice in Chains and Collective Soul used coloured jewel cases for their self-titled albums in 1995, but these were fragile and prone to scratching.  The cardboard digipack was another method to enhance CD cover art, but they were not popular with everyone.  Some consumers complained that the covers wouldn’t fit properly into their CD towers, and would scratch up the discs if poorly designed.  And then of course, we had artists such as Garth Brooks who decided to milk the fans by releasing the same album with different cover art, encouraging them to “collect them all!”  His Double Live had no less than seven covers to collect.  That would come to well over $150 total for the collector who had to have each one.

LPs are currently having a second surge of popularity.  Will it last?  No.  Before you cry “heresy!”, remember that in today’s society, convenience is king.  That means portability.  Vinyl LPs are meant to be enjoyed at home.  The future will remain digital, although LPs will probably never die completely.  The advent of digital music has reduced the importance of cover art yet again.  You don’t need a cover, obviously, to enclose something that does not physically exist.  Yet, cover art is still being made.

Some have chosen to take cover art in the digital age to minimalist extremes.  U2’s Songs of Innocence was initially released digitally, with a very plain photo of a white LP sleeve with “U2” stamped on it.  Kanye West embraced minimalism on Yeesus, releasing the CD with no packaging to speak of at all.  A CD housed in a clear jewel case, sealed by a strip of orange tape, and a sticker with some credits – that’s all Yeesus gave us, surprising many by not going completely over the top with it.  It’s still an artistic statement, but is it the kind of art that a fan will embrace and cherish?

I feel that album artwork is currently in a state of flux.  LPs are having their moment again, and with them, lavish packaging that one can handle and enjoy.  On the other hand, simple digital pictures are all kids need today, to be attached to their mp3 files.  I hope that some enterprising, artistic individual, a modern day Alex Steinweiss, will innovate and bring back cover art in a lasting way.  I sure hope, because I do like cover artwork to accompany my music.

YEESUS

#342: All in a Day’s Drive

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#342: All in a Day’s Drive

Friday November 21, 2014 was a pretty nice day weather wise. There was no precipitation and the skies were clear. If you’re going to pick a day to make a drive down the 401, you couldn’t have picked a better one. Jen needed to see a doctor at the hospital in Mississauga, so off we went. [Note: don’t worry, she’s fine. This is regarding her epilepsy.]  I brought music and reading materials, and kept a log of the rock:

9 am: Depart Kitchener for Brampton. Playing in the car: Deep Purple – Smoke on my Mega-Mixa bootleg compilation CD of remixes and live tracks.

10 am: Pick up Jen’s mom in Brampton [she spent the weekend with us]. Depart for Mississauga. Playing on car stereo: Van Halen – 5150.  As a “bonus track”, I tacked on the live version of “Why Can’t This Be Love” (from the music video) to the end of the playlist.  Jen’s comment: “The singing on this is… (pause)…really not as good as the regular version.”  She’s right.

11 am: Arrive at hospital. Playing on mp3 player: Kiss – Love Gun (deluxe). Reading material: Martin Popoff – Live Magnetic Air: The Unlikely Saga of the Superlative Max Webster

4 pm: Depart hospital with mission accomplished.

6:30 pm: Finally arrive home after 2 1/2 hour crawl along Highway 401!  The whole way was brake light city. Just a tedious, slow drive. There was no reason for it.  From what I could tell, it was all caused by commuters that didn’t know how to properly merge.  When somebody leaves you 5 or 6 car lengths space to merge in, take it.  Don’t race further ahead to see if you can get in front of that transport truck and that guy in the Hyundai.  Car music: Van Halen – Fair Warning, Diver Down, and A Different Kind of Truth. Yes, that means Jen and her mom heard a LOT of Van Halen today. And that’s fucking cool.

For more information on epilepsy, please visit epilepsyontario.org.

REVIEW: KISS – Love Gun (2014 Deluxe Edition)

NEW RELEASE

KISS – Love Gun (2014 Universal Deluxe edition, originally 1977 Casablanca)

Mrs. LeBrain picked this CD up for me on Friday November 7 at the local HMV store, an adventure in itself that we will tell in a future Getting More Tale installment.  Love Gun is the first ever Kiss Universal “Deluxe Edition” to be released, hopefully the first of many.  You can understand why it would have been chosen first.  In 2012 they already released the newly remixed Destroyer (Resurrected), and the second most beloved studio album in Kisstory may well be Love Gun.

Like other Universal deluxes, Love Gun is a 2 CD digipack, with liner notes, rare photos, a fresh remastering and bonus tracks.  One of these bonus tracks is previously released.  The demo “Reputation” was only released a few short months ago on the commemorative Kiss 40 compilation.

First, let’s talk about disc one, the remastered Love Gun.  This sounds about as definitive as it gets.  The cymbals sound nice and crisp to me, not fizzling out in the distance.  I am very pleased with the sound.  You can see that it is not overdriven.  You can hear plenty of nuance in the instruments.  I hope this is about as close as you can get to the sound of listening to Love Gun in the studio control room.

GOT LOVE FOR SALE

2014 remaster of “Got Love For Sale”

For a more detailed review of the original Love Gun album, you can check out my original from my 2012 Kiss review series.  I rated it 5/5 stars.  From that review, “The classics here are among Kiss’ all time best. ‘Shock Me’, ‘I Stole Your Love’, and ‘Love Gun’ are still played in Kiss’ set circa 2012…’Tomorrow And Tonight’ and ‘Christine Sixteen’ were on Alive II.”  On the other hand I also said, “there’s a little bit of filler on here. I’m not a big fan of ‘Almost Human’ even though Gene is, and some people dislike ‘Hooligan’ although I love it. I could also take or leave ‘Got Love For Sale’.”  Since writing that, I’ve changed my tune on “Got Love For Sale” which I like a lot more today.

And yes, I did have “And Then She Kissed Me” played at my wedding.  I’m very proud of that fact.

The rarities here include some goodies that I have never heard before.  “Much Too Soon” is a slower Beatles-esque rock ballad.  Although I think it’s a pretty cool Gene Simmons experiment, it was clearly not suited to the heavier material on Love Gun.  If Gene had released it on his 1978 solo album, it would have been one of the stronger tracks.  The aforementioned “Reputation” is another decent tune from the Love Gun sessions.  In my review for Kiss 40, I said, “You can hear that aspects of this song later made it into other Gene Simmons compositions such as ‘Radioactive’.  This is one of those song titles I’d read about for years, but have never heard until now.  Cool.  While the song is definitely a demo, and not quite as good as most finished Kiss songs, it does boast a cool dual guitar solo and rocking piano a-la ‘Christine Sixteen’.”  The third and final unreleased song is called “I Know Who You Are”, which is actually a demo version of “Living In Sin” from Gene’s solo album, with a different chorus.  The verses are the same, and I think I might prefer it to the overly funky “Living In Sin”.

IMG_20141108_091221

Other unreleased goodies on the deluxe are 1977 demos of familiar songs.  “Plaster Caster” is pretty tight in terms of how the final version went.  Paul’s “teaching demo” of “Love Gun” is interesting.  He’s naming and recording the chords from the song as he goes, presumably to show the other members how to play it.  It’s in inessential track, interesting only to fans, but cool nonetheless.  This leads directly into an unreleased band demo of the song.  You get to hear the evolution in motion.  This band demo is all but identical to the final version, right down to the shimmering Frehley chord effects.  Then there’s a great instrumental demo for “Tomorrow and Tonight”.   Of the demo tracks, this is probably the greatest treasure.  I love hearing the bare guitars and drums of the four classic Kiss guys just playing together as only they can.  Ace Frehley’s solo is a work in progress but some of the key hooks are already in place.

Three 1977 live unreleased tracks are also quite the treat.  These are from December 20 1977, in Landover Maryland.  This was the second of a two night stand there.  If you ever wished the Alive II album wasn’t as polished sounding as it is, then you will be happy with these three tracks.  Yes, you get “Love Gun” four times, but who freakin’ cares?  It’s “Love Gun”.  You also get “Christine Sixteen” and Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me” complete with guitar solo.  So suck on that.

LOVE GUN DELUXE_0006The final audio bonus is a 7-minute Gene Simmons interview from 1977, from a radio station in Montreal Quebec.  It’s an interesting interview, but I’d be happier if more demos were on the CD rather than an interview.  However, let’s be honest — reasonable Kiss fans know that the Simmons/Van Halen demo of “Christine Sixteen” was not going to be on here.  Like Eddie and Alex want that to happen.

The packaging is great, with commentary from the musicians and writers involves, and artist Ken Kelly.  (These comments are re-printed from other sources.)  Also included is Ken Kelly’s original concept for the cover art, which was rejected for not being as grand and large as Kiss felt they were.   Finally there’s a two page essay by Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, who says he’s seen them play “Love Gun” live over 40 times, so I’d say he’s qualified.  Elliott waxes nostalgic about the days when bands used to release two albums a year.

A final note:  The Love Gun deluxe edition is supposed to come with a fridge magnet, but many have been opened and found to be missing the magnet.  I have already contacted Universal about a replacement.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)

Part 15 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

DYNASTY FRONT

KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)

Ahh, the disco years! Alice Cooper did it, so did the Rolling Stones. Kiss were bound to follow. Paul Stanley admitted that he used to go to disco clubs. He found the music simple but interesting enough to try to write. The result was the now-classic “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, a song which was a bit despised for a while.   Even though it was one of Kiss’ all time biggest hits, it dropped out of setlists in the glam-metal mid-80’s.

Dynasty was designed to be the biggest Kiss album yes, and indeed it did spawn their second biggest hit. Unfortunately, on the inside, the band were coming apart at the seams. In order to placate Peter Criss, his solo album’s producer Vini Poncia was chosen to helm the next album. Poncia then kicked Criss out of the proceedings, as his chops were judged to be not up to snuff anymore.  He appears on only one song, “Dirty Livin'”, a song he co-wrote.

Anton Fig, of Ace Frehley’s solo album (and David Letterman, and later Frehley’s Comet) was chosen to replace him in the studio. It would not be Fig’s last album with Kiss. This was all kept secret at the time.

On the bright side, Frehley had a bunch of lead vocals: the Stones’ “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, and the story of his childhood, “Hard Times”. All three are great songs, and probably better than Gene’s two on Dynasty. I find Gene’s songs to be dull and plodding: “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma”.

Paul, on the other hand, had nothing but great songs: the previously mentioned “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the majestic “Magic Touch”, and the excellent, underrated single “Sure Know Something”. All three are examples of his increasingly skilled songwriting and singing.

“Dirty Livin'” would be Criss’ last songwriting credit on a Kiss album, and his last appearance on one for a long long time. It is not a great song by any stretch, and it is one of the most disco sounding tracks on the album. Still, it has a street vibe that Criss was known for, and his fans love it.

Despite the flaws, Dynasty holds together remarkably well. Even the filler fits in the groove for a seemlessly enjoyable listening experience. After all, all four Kiss members sing lead on it, which was a rare thing that only happened on only a handful of Kiss studio albums.*Ace had more vocals than ever before, and then had lots more on the next album too. The band was tighter than ever with Fig on ghost-drums, and they actually make the best of the overly compressed production sounds.

Dynasty might not be as great as the first six legendary albums, but although cracks were beginning to show, it was still a continuation of the mighty Kiss legacy. What should have happened next was the band getting back to a solid rocker of an album and restoring the faith of the fans who were secretly and openly questioning the integrity of the band. That didn’t happen, and the original Kiss as we knew it was destroyed forever, never to be the same again. The phoenix that rose from the ashes was a different, albeit still powerful, beast.

A word about the Japanese version pictured here:  When Kiss began remastering their albums in the late 90’s, the Japanese got to hear them first, packaged in mini replica record sleeves.  Unfortunately, it does not include a replica of the LP Dynasty poster.  It was the first Kiss remaster I bought simply because I found it here on import before the others came out.

Don’t pick it up Dynasty as your first, but do pick it up.

4/5 stars.

*(Love Gun, Psycho-Circus, and Sonic Boom.)

REVIEW: KISS – Love Gun (1977)

Part 8 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

KISS – Love Gun (1977)

Love Gun, the 7th album by Kiss in a brief 3 year period, was the end of an era. It would be the last album by all four original Kiss members (Alive II was missing Ace Frehley on four songs, Dynasty featured Peter Criss on only one track). Yet at the same time, it also featured Ace Frehley’s first lead vocal on “Shock Me”.

Not terribly different from Rock And Roll Over, Love Gun is nonetheless a glossier package. “Tomorrow And Tonight” for example featured female backing vocals, and “And Then She Kissed Me” was a Phil Spector cover (the Crystals actually, with genders reversed).

Incidentally, I made sure I had “And Then She Kissed Me” played at my wedding!

Like Rock And Roll Over, there’s a little bit of filler on here. I’m not a big fan of “Almost Human” even though Gene is, and some people dislike “Hooligan” although I love it. I could also take or leave “Got Love For Sale”.

The classics here are among Kiss’ all time best. “Shock Me”, “I Stole Your Love”, and “Love Gun” are still played in Kiss’ set circa 2012 (with Tommy Thayer singing lead on “Shock Me”). “Tomorrow And Tonight” and “Christine Sixteen” were on Alive II and were often in the live set. (“Christine”, in this writer’s opinion, contains Peter Criss’ best-ever drumming. He channels Charlie Watts and plays the most interesting fills and beats of his career.) “Plaster Caster” was covered by the Lemonheads. Even “Hooligan” got played live by Kiss on the Love Gun tour.

The only flaw with this CD is that there’s no cardboard love gun inside like there was in the vinyl. Otherwise it’s a great sounded disc, with cover art once again by Ken Kelly.  Man I gots to get me some vinyl!

5/5 stars