mark st. john

Pre-Ordered: KISS 40 (Japanese with bonus track)

CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW AND DETAILS.
KISS40

You had to know Kiss were going to come out with another Greatest Hits set to celebrate their 40th anniversary. This is in addition to the massive, beautiful Kissteria vinyl box set. I’m looking forward to KISS 40, since it will include some live recordings previously only available on Kiss’ Instant Live discs. It will also include “Reputation”, an early Kiss demo previously unreleased.

In addition, the Japanese will get their own exclusive bonus track, so I have pre-ordered that version from the fine folks over at CDJapan. I have been a satisfied customer there since 2008.

Complete KISS 40 tracklist is below:

    1. ‘Nothin To Lose’
    2. ‘Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll’
    3. ‘C’mon and Love Me’
    4. ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ (Live)
    5. ‘God Of Thunder’ (Demo)
    6. ‘Beth’
    7. ‘Hard Luck Woman’
    8. ‘Reputation’ (Demo) – Previously Unreleased
    9. ‘Christine Sixteen’
    10. ‘Shout It Out Loud’ (Live)
    11. ‘Strutter ‘78′
    12. ‘You Matter To Me’ (Peter Criss)
    13. ‘Radioactive’ (Gene Simmons)
    14. ‘New York Groove’ (Ace Frehley)
    15. ‘Hold Me, Touch Me’ (Paul Stanley)
    16. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ (Single Edit)
    17. ‘Shandi’
    18. ‘A World Without Heroes’
    19. ‘I Love It Loud’
    20. ‘Down On Your Knees’
    21. ‘Lick It Up’
    22. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’
    23. ‘Tears Are Falling’
    24. ‘Reason To Live’
    25. ‘Let’s Put The X In Sex’
    26. ‘Forever’ (Remix)
    27. ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II’
    28. ‘Unholy’ (Live)
    29. ‘Do You Love Me?’ (MTV Unplugged)
    30. ‘Room Service’ (Live)
    31. ‘Jungle’ (Radio Edit)
    32. ‘Psycho Circus’
    33. ‘Nothing Can Keep Me From You’ (Detroit Rock City soundtrack)
    34. ‘Detroit Rock City’ (Live)
    35. ‘Deuce’ (Live 2004) – Unreleased commercially
    36. ‘Firehouse’ (Live – 1999/2000)
    37. ‘Modern Day Delilah’
    38. ‘Cold Gin’ (Live 2009) – Unreleased commercially
    39. ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ (Live 2010) – Unreleased commercially
    40. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’
    41. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’ (Live in Japan 2013) – Japanese bonus track

Good enough for me. KISS 40 comes out May 27 2014.

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REVIEW: A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration (2013)

Part 7.5 in my series on Ace Frehley, sorta!  Plenty of Ace related coolness here.  For the last part of the Ace series, 12 Picks, click here.

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration

Cancer sucks.  Kiss rules.  Agreed?  Buy this CD.

Mitch Lafon executive produced this sucker, and I suspect that means a hell of a lot of work.  I have never in my travels discovered a cooler Kiss tribute album.  Do you really need to buy another Kiss tribute album?  Do you?  Yes, you do.  Why?  For the following reasons:

  • IMG_00000937Profits benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.
  • Obscure track selections.
  • Rare Kiss related gems, such as two Peter Criss Band demos with Phil Naro.
  • New Brighton Rock!  Finally.
  • Superstar performers including Mark Tornillo of Accept, Russ Dwarf, Don Dokken, Bonfire, Sean Kelly, Vinny Appice, L.A. Guns, Doro, and many more.
  • Members of the Kiss family including Eric Carr, Peter Criss, Frehley’s Comet (minus Frehley), Bob Kulick and Phil Naro.

I can’t say enough good things about this compilation.  Upon first sight, it had enough rarities from artists I liked, as well as Kiss obscurities, to make it a must-have.  Hearing it, I’m blown away repeatedly.  It is a heady brew of hits and deep, deep cuts.  Since there are 51 tracks in total, I can’t go into too much detail.  I’ll point out some personal favourite moments.

I’m a huge fan of the Revenge album, and I’m a huge fan of Accept.  Hearing Mark Tornillo do his thing through “Spit” was awesome.   I think the man’s vocal cords must be made of steel or something for him to sing like that.  I also loved “Sure Know Something”, although I don’t know Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana.  It’s a slinky version, very true to the original but with a Rod Stewart vibe.  Jeff Paris does a pretty authentic “Shout Mercy” and I give him full points for doing a Monster tune, the newest Kiss song on A World With Heroes.

I’ve loved Brighton Rock since I was a kid, but I never expected them to unplug “Creatures of the Night”.  This twist takes a moment to get used to, but their haunting arrangement is very original and cool!  “Larger Than Life” from Alive II is revisited by Brian Tichy and friends, and they do it pretty straight to the original, almost lick for lick.  It’s great.  I love that Ron Young from Little Caesar sings “Little Caesar”, a nice wink and a smile there.  A band called Shredmill contribute their original song “Outerspace”…which was later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album (giving himself a writing credit).  Shredmill’s version is more Danzig, where Ace’s was more Ace.

On the second CD, surprises and highlights continue.  Ron Keel and friends from Tesla and Cinderella knock it out of the park on “Rock N’ Roll Hell”, with a nod at the start to Keel’s own “The Right To Rock”.  Rick Hughes of Quebec metal masters Sword helps blow the doors off “The Oath”, a favourite from The Elder.  The L.A. Guns guys (Phil Lewis included) tackle the difficult “Master & Slave” from Carnival of Souls, and it smokes.  They do it authentic to the grungy original but with Phil’s snarky vocals.

As a Killer Dwarfs fan, I’m always pleased to hear Russ Dwarf’s nasally twang, and he turns in a decent “Hard Luck Woman”.  (Meanwhile, another bunch of L.A. Guns guys did their own version on disc one.)  Bonfire contribute a live version of Paul Stanley’s unreleased song “Sword & Stone”, from their Live at Wacken CD.  I don’t really know who American Dog are, but I love that they covered the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, not the Gene Simmons take from Destroyer.  They do it the speedy rocked-up way that Paul originally demoed.  Jim Crean does justice to “Magic Touch”.  He’s almost Joe Lynn Turner style on this one.

A WORLD WITH_0001The second CD ends with two takes of “Beth” (Chris VanDahl sounding like the hoarse Peter Criss on Alive II, and Phil Naro).  This is in addition to Michael Lardie’s (Great White) version on disc one.  Naro’s is easily the best of the three.

But wait, that’s not all, folks.  iTunes are selling a 51 track version of A World With Heroes, including 11 exclusives.  Thankfully, you can buy these exclusives separately if you already bought the CD (like I did).  Once again, highlights are many.  Doro contributes a 2013 re-recording of “Only You”, which she had a previous hit with back in 1990.  Russ Dwarf returns with an outstanding “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II”.  There are two previously unreleased demos by the Peter Criss Band with Phil Naro.  These feature Peter on drums, but believe me, you can hear that it is the Cat Man and no one else.  In addition, there’s a third song from this period, but recorded by Phil in 2013.  There is also a second version of “Larger Than Life”, this time by somebody called Robot Lords Of Tokyo.  I don’t know who Robot Lords Of Tokyo are, but I love “Larger Than Life” and I have no problem with another version of it.  This one’s done quite differently, and heavier too.

But wait!  There’s still more!  Pledgers who pre-ordered the CD got four bonus tracks.  I missed the boat on these, and you can’t get them anymore.  I’m bummed about that, but for the sake of completion, the four bonus tracks are:

  1. ‘Calling Dr. Love’ – Performed by: Crash Kelly
  2. ‘Comin’ Home’ – Performed by: Sudden Flames
  3. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – Performed by: The Feckers (ft. Irene Slade)
  4. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ Performed by: Alain Pernot

I’d love to have these, especially Crash Kelly, but alas.  The project is still awesome and worth your coins.  Especially if you’re a self respecting Kiss fan.  Get it.

5/5 stars

EDIT:  I now have the tracks.  Crash Kelly’s is awesome!  Fun and awesome.

Disc 1:

  1. ‘Psycho Circus’ – Performed by: DDRIVE (Phil Naro, Don Mancuso, Dave Sessions, Jt Taylor & Bobby Bond)
  2. ‘Spit’ – Performed by: Ken Dubman, Jimmy Callahan, Scott Metaxas, & Mark Tornillo
  3. ‘Deuce’ – Performed by: Bill Leverty, Kevin Valentine, John Regan, & Russ Dwarf
  4. ‘Sure Know Something’ – Performed by: Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana
  5. ‘Detroit Rock City’ – Performed by: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Rex Brown & Brian Tichy
  6. ‘Eyes Of Love’ – Performed by: Eric Carr, Benny Doro & John Humphrey
  7. ‘Shout Mercy’ – Performed by: Jeff Paris, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham Jeff Labar
  8. ‘Creatures Of The Night’ – Performed by: BRIGHTON ROCK
  9. ‘Larger Than Life’ – Performed by: Rex Brown, Brian Tichy & Mark Zavon
  10. ‘Cold Gin’ – Performed by: Don Dokken & Tommy Denander
  11. ‘Love Gun’ – Performed by: Tony Harnell, Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder, Sean Michael Clegg, Kevin Valentine & Tommy Denander
  12. ‘Little Caesar’ – Performed by: Ron Young, John Regan & Tommy Denander
  13. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Chris VanDahl, Stacey Blades & Adam Hamilton
  14. ‘Outerspace’ – Original demo later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album – Performed by: SHREDMILL (David Askew, Jesus Mendez Jr, Jaime Moreno)
  15. ‘Goodbye’ – Performed by: IMPERIA & BOB KULICK (J.K.Impera, Matti Alfonzetti, Tommy Denander & Mats Vassfjord) – Additional Guitars by Lars Chriss
  16. ‘See You Tonight’ – Performed by: TODD FARHOOD & MYSTERY (Todd Farhood, Michel St-Pere, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Goyette, Francois Fournier & Benoit Dupuis)
  17. ‘Beth’ – The Grand Piano Version – Performed by: Michael Lardie
  18. ‘Tomorrow’ – Performed by: DRESSED TO CHILL (Matt Bradshaw, Rav Thomas & Rhys Lett)
  19. ‘Anything For My Baby’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, Seb Ducap & Peter Tzaferis)
  20. ‘Unholy’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Mark Slaughter (Guitar Solo), Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf

Disc 2:

  1. ‘Breakout’ – Performed by: Tod Howarth, John Regan & Kevin Valentine
  2. ‘Rock N Roll Hell’ – Performed by: Ron Keel, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham & Jeff Labar
  3. ‘Nowhere To Run’ – Performed by: DRUCKFARBEN (Phil Naro, Ed Bernard, William Hare, Troy Feener & Peter Murray)
  4. ‘The Oath’ – Performed by: Rick Hughes, Chris Buck & Bob Richards
  5. ‘Master & Slave’ – Performed by: Adam Hamilton, Scott Griffin, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
  6. ‘Calling Dr.Love’ – Performed by: BURNING RAIN (Keith St John, Doug Aldrich, Sean McNabb & Matt Starr)
  7. ‘I Stole Your Love’ – Performed by: S.U.N. (Brian Thomas Tichy, Sass Jordan & Tommy Stewart) With Derek Sharp (Of The Guess Who)
  8. ‘Reason To Live’ – Performed by: Johnnie Dee & Derry Grehan of HONEYMOON SUITE with Michael Foster & Bill Leverty of FIREHOUSE
  9. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
  10. ‘Forever’ – Performed by: Terry Ilous, Sean Kelly With Jeff Paris.
  11. ‘Sword And Stone’ – Taken From Bonfire Live In Wacken – Performed by: BONFIRE (Claus Lessmann, Hans Ziller, Chris Limburg, Uwe KöHler, Harry Reischmann)
  12. ‘God Of Thunder’ – Performed by: AMERICAN DOG (Michael Hannon, Steve Theado & Keith Pickens)
  13. ‘She’ – Performed by: RAZER (Chris Powers, Chris Catero, Jordan Ziff, Paul Sullivan, Eric Bongiorno & Chuck Alkazian)
  14. ‘New York Groove’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, , Elizabeth Lopez & Peter Tzaferis With Marty O’Brien)
  15. ‘Magic Touch’ – Performed by: Jim Crean, Phil Naro, Vinny Appice, Steve Major & Stan Miczek
  16. ‘Tears Are Falling’ – Performed by: Willie Basse, Bruce Bouillet, Scott Warren & Mike Hansen.
  17. ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ – Performed by: Harley Fine, John Regan & Atom Fellows
  18. ‘Shandi’ – Performed by: Dani Luv, Scott Griffin & Matt Starr
  19. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Chris Vandahl & Scott Griffin.
  20. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Phil Naro, William Hare & Ed Bernard

iTunes exclusives:

  1. ‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  2. ‘Wait For A Minute To Rock N’ Roll’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  3. ‘Back On The Streets’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Tod Howarth, Arthur Stead & Steve Werner (The Comet Band)
  4. ‘Only You’ (2013 Recording) – Performed by DORO
  5. ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’ – Performed by Russ Dwarf
  6. ‘I’m An Animal’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by the Comet Band
  7. ‘Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll’ – Performed by The Oddfathers
  8. ‘Surrender In The Name Of Love’ (Written by Peter Criss & Phil Naro) – Performed by 24K featuring Phil Naro and Mladen Alexander
  9. ‘Love Gun’ (Tommy Denander Guitar Solo Mix) – Performed by Tony Harnell, Kevin Valentine and Tommy Denander
  10. ‘Larger Than Life’ (2013 Remaster – Robot Lords Of Tokyo version) – Performed by Robot Lords Of Tokyo
  11. ‘Cold Gin’ (2013 Remaster from L.A. GUNS’ 1998 Wasted EP) – Performed by L.A. Guns

Gallery: A World With Heroes

This arrived in the mail today.  Haven’t even taken off the shrink wrap yet! Thanks @mitchlafon!

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration.  That’s a buttload of songs, people! (I love that Ron Young of Little Caesar SINGS “Little Caesar”.)

REVIEW: KISS – The Best Of Kiss (Green Series), Playlist Your Way, Legends of Rock, Superstar Series (2008-2009)

Part 47 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISSThe Best Of Kiss (Green Series) (2008), Playlist Your Way (2008), Legends of Rock (2009), Superstar Series (2009) (All on Universal)

These are all garbage.  All of these discs are part of a “series” spanning multiple artists.  None are particularly notable.  The ones that do have liner notes (Legends of Rock and Green Series) are just generic, with info readily available on wikipedia.

Playlist Your Way is amusing at least for pairing “Beth” followed by “Uh! All Night”.   It’s also funny to see “Uh! All Night” on a compilation like this at all.  I’m not sure why that song was chosen to represent the 80’s, along with the much more notable “Lick It Up” and “I Love It Loud”.   Of the four, this is the only one that has “Love Gun”, interestingly.

Playlist Your Way also has a big ol’ hole in the front cover, holding some kind of download card.  I think it’s for ringtones.  But it’s only good in the US, so it doesn’t matter to me.

The Best Of Kiss (from the “Green Series”) has “Shock Me” on it, which is an interesting choice.  Yet, it doesn’t have “Love Gun”.  Odd.

Superstar Series is definitely to be avoided, since it only has 7 tracks, and all 7 are repeated on Legends of Rock.  Bizarre.  Yet you see them at comparable prices.

Legends of Rock has a pic of a Fender strat on the back cover, a guitar that nobody in Kiss played onstage.  Again, it’s just lack of care, interest, and knowledge.  It has 15 tracks, at least, unlike Superstar‘s meager seven.

Tracklists are below.  Avoid at all costs.

1/5 stars

 

REVIEW: KISS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss Vol. 1, 2 and 3

Part 41 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!   We’re deep into the second compilation years of Kiss.  This time I’m doing three at once!

KISS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss Vol. 1, 2 and 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

This series is one I find quite enjoyable (The Millenium Collection in general, which spanned many artists). For a budget price you get 10 to 12 hits in a brief running time. Perfect for people who aren’t fans but want some hits.  If you know where to go you can get these for around $5.  Imagine that — three discs of awesome Kiss for $15.  Not a bad value.

Let’s start with Volume 1, shall we?

I am a fan. I don’t play this series often, but I do enjoy it. The problem here is, of course, you can’t sum up the early years of Kiss in 12 songs. Here’s the album breakdown:

  • 2 songs from Kiss
  • 1 song from Hotter Than Hell
  • 1 song from Dressed To Kill
  • 1 song from Alive!
  • 2 songs from Destroyer
  • 2 songs from Rock And Roll Over
  • 2 songs from Love Gun
  • 1 song from Dynasty

Considering what this album is, the only thing I don’t like is the inclusion of “I Was Made For Loving You”. I would have put on something like “Shout It Out Loud”. Dynasty doesn’t really fit in with the other albums included here, but it came out in 1979 and therefore couldn’t go on Volume II (the 80’s).

1. Strutter
2. Deuce
3. Hotter Than Hell
4. C’mon And Love Me
5. Rock And Roll All Nite
6. Detroit Rock City
7. Beth
8. Hard Luck Woman
9. Calling Dr. Love
10. Love Gun
11. Christeen Sixteen
12. I Was Made For Lovin’ You

Volume 2 continues the concept.  It contains tunes from the following records:

  • 2 songs from Creatures Of The Night
  • 2 songs from Lick It Up
  • 2 songs from Animalize
  • 2 songs from Asylum
  • 2 songs from Crazy Nights
  • 2 songs from Hot In The Shade

Although between Volume I and Volume II, a couple albums slip through the cracks (Unmasked, The Elder, Killers) this CD is a pretty good summary of key singles from 1982-1989. Only a few singles are missing (“Who Wants To Be Lonely”, “Turn On The Night”, “Let’s Put The X In Sex”, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”, “Rise To It”). I don’t think I would have subsituted any of those, for any of these:

1. Creatures Of The Night
2. I Love It Loud
3. Lick It Up
4. All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose
5. Heaven’s On Fire
6. Thrills In The Night
7. Tears Are Falling
8. Uh! All Night
9. Crazy Crazy Nights
10. Reason To Live
11. Hide Your Heart
12. Forever

Volume 3 is the shakiest of the three.  It leans a bit too much on live versions of popular hits for my tastes.  I would have preferred more studio songs, but KISS didn’t release that many studio albums in the 90’s so there’s not much you can really change. Here’s the album breakdown.

  • 2 songs from Revenge
  • 1 song from Alive III
  • 3 songs from Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions
  • 2 songs from MTV Unplugged
  • 3 songs from Psycho-Circus
  • 1 song from the Detroit Rock City soundtrack

I think 3 is too many Carnival Of Souls songs on a hits CD aimed at the casual fan, and I think “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is a terrible song with no redeeming value.  Sorry Paul.  In reality, it should almost be considered a Paul solo track:  No other members of Kiss played on or were anywhere near that song.  It’s also never been performed live by the band.

This disc is notable for being an easy, cheap place to get two rare tracks.  “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is one, and the unplugged version of “Got To Choose” is another.

1. God Gave Rock & Roll To You II
2. Unholy
3. Domino
4. Hate
5. Childhood’s End
6. I Will Be There
7. Coming Home (Unplugged)
8. Got To Choose (Unplugged)
9. Psycho Circus
10. Into The Void
11. I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll
12. Nothing Can Keep Me From You

For the whole set:

3/5 stars

BEST OF INNER

REVIEW: KISS – The Box Set (Deluxe mini guitar case edition!)

Part 39 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster! 

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KISS – The Box Set (Deluxe mini guitar case edition, 2001)

These days it’s pretty common to see deluxe versions of box sets, for the mega-fan who just has to have everything.  In 2001, it was less so.  Am I giving Gene Simmons credit for creating the concept?  Kind of, yeah.  This, the very first KISS box set, was available in three editions.  First I’m going to discuss the one that I chose — the mini guitar case edition — and we’ll go from there!  Gene is pretty much a business genius, and he knows if he makes something available, people will buy it.  “If you build it, they will come.”  I don’t blame him in the least and I’m the last person who’d call him “Greed Simmons”.  He’s not taking our money — we’re giving it to him.

So, leave it to KISS to package one version of their first box set in a miniature replica guitar case.  Granted there have been much cooler box looking sets before and since (see: ZZ Top, Pink Floyd) but everybody needs a KISS box set in a case like this, don’t they?

Well, I did.  It’s a handsome sturdy black case, with handle and silver KISS logo emblazoned on the front.  If memory serves it cost me about $250.  I got it from the American Amazon site, I had it on pre-order and I was so stoked to get it.

Included are 5 CDs (around 6 hours of music), an awesome hardcover book with loads of liner notes and rare photos, and 31 rare or unreleased tracks.  Some have been released on singles or compilations before, which I will discuss in greater detail, but most are previously unheard.
The box doesn’t hold the CD jewel cases all that well when you open it, so be careful.  Under one of the CDs is a secret compartment, with a thing of silica gel (“DO NOT EAT” helpfully written upon it) and keys for the case!

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Before I go through the discs, I’ll mention a few things that KISS fans often moan about when it comes to this box set:

  • “Gene promised the entire Wicked Lester album, and it’s not here.”
  • “There was supposed to be entire early KISS show would be in the box.”
  • “Gene said there’d be a video or a DVD.”
  • The Elder demos are not on here, and Gene said they would be .”
  • “Where’s ‘Rip And Destroy’ and the acoustic version of ‘Beth’?”
  • “I have bootlegs of this stuff already, and it sounds better on the bootlegs.”

Since the release of this set, KISS have released ample DVDs (the KISStory series will be hitting 4 volumes this year) so I think that point is moot.  When questioned on other points, Gene always responds, “Be patient.  It’s coming.”  A buddy of mine, Mike Lukas of the band Legendary Klopeks, actually asked Gene some of these exact questions in person, and Gene said, “I know.  It’s coming.  Be patient.”  I’m sure that will bear out to be true.  As for the sound quality issues, I have bootlegs of some of this stuff on CD already, and none of them sound better than this box set, so I don’t know where people got that better sounding stuff.  And plenty of this stuff has not been bootlegged before.

Onto the music!

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DISC 1:

This CD starts off with a whopping 12 rare tracks before you even delve into the first KISS album.  The first two, Eddie Kramer demos of “Strutter” and “Deuce”, have been released before on singles and compilations, but many casual fans did not have them until now.  These tracks just smoke, with “Strutter” being quite a bit longer.  They are raw and have great playing from Ace.  Three tracks from the Wicked Lester album are included.  Wicked Lester was Gene and Paul’s original band, which transformed into KISS when they fired the other three guys.  Many Wicked Lester tracks were later recorded by KISS.  Yes, it would have been nice to have the whole album.  Maybe it will be released officially one day, maybe we will have to live with the crap-sounding bootlegs.  If it is never released, I won’t blame Gene.  It’s pretty terrible.

More demos abound including an early Gene song and an early Paul song.  Both hint at some directions they would explore within KISS and their solo albums.  A live take of the unreleased song “Acrobat” follows (essentially: “Love Theme From Kiss” melded with an unreleased song called “You’re Much Too Young”, which contains an early version of the “Detroit Rock City” riff — whew).  From here, there are nine tracks from the first three albums, ending with “Rock And Roll All Nite”.  Not a terribly generous slice of music from those first albums, but it does prevent too much duplication with the songs already included as demos.

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DISC 2:

Live tracks from Alive! kick off this disc, which is mostly made up of songs from the 4th through 6th KISS studio albums.  One really cool track is “Doncha Hesitate” which was completely unknown to me  previously.  It is especially cool because unlike later KISS demos, it includes all four members.  Plus, it is actually a really great song!  It just didn’t fit in with the direction of Destroyer; it is clearly in the mould of early KISS, which is why it never made the album.

Paul’s “God Of Thunder” demo is here (Paul’s lead vocal and alternate lyrics about Aphrodite), as well as an early version of “Dr. Love” called “Bad Bad Lovin'”.  The disc ends with another previously unheard song, a Gene demo called “Love Is Blind” which reveals his crooning Beatles roots.

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DISC 3:

This disc chronicles KISS’ decline in popularity in the early 80’s.  It starts out with a bang, “Detroit Rock City”, which is out of chronology.  Some tracks from Alive II and the solo albums (with another Gene demo) take us into the disco years.  The demo and live versions of the disco tracks reveal the harder edge intended when those songs were written.  Not many rarities on this disc, although “Nowhere To Run” is included, one of my all time favourite songs from KISS Killers, an import-only hits compilation with bonus material.

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DISC 4:

There are even fewer rare tracks on this disc, which is strange because there are tons of demos from the 80’s floating in collector’s circles.  I guess they’re probably just not that good.  This CD covers Lick It Up (1983) through to Hot In The Shade (1989):  The non-makeup part of the 80’s.  “Ain’t That Peculiar” is one of the best rarities here, an Eric Carr demo of what would become “Little Caesar”.  There is also a demo of Paul’s “Time Traveller”, a keyboard-based pop rock song which has not aged well.  Unfortunately, due to squeezing so many albums onto this CD, Lick It Up is criminally underrepresented.  It had many more great songs than just the two singles presented here.  “Let’s Put The X In Sex” should have been dropped in favour of “Exciter”, “And On The 8th Day”, or “A Million To One”.

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DISC 5:

Eric Carr’s final recording (and Eric Singer’s first with KISS) was “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II”, which kicks off this disc.  Eric Carr was sick with heart cancer, and was unable to play drums on the track.  He did sing the background vocal, which is a highlight of the song.  Eric Singer, who had played with Paul Stanley on his 1989 solo tour, was called to replace Carr for the sessions.  Sadly, that replacement would have to become permanent when Carr died in November of 1991.  I would have preferred the original mix of this song, from the Bill & Ted soundtrack, personally.

As far as rarities go, there is not much on this disc.  A Gene demo of “Domino” is neat, but underwhelming.  “Got To Choose” from the Japanese version of MTV Unplugged is very welcome, but where is the live take of “New York Groove” from the Japanese version of You Wanted The Best?  I would really like to have that in a digital format — I only have it on vinyl.

“It’s My Life”, from the Psycho-Circus sessions, was an old KISS song written back in the 80’s and first released by Wendy O. Williams on an album written and produced by Gene Simmons.  KISS finally released their own version of it many years later on this box, and it purports to include the entire original band playing on it.  I am skeptical of this, but it does definitely have a verse sung by Ace Frehley, while Gene sings the main part.  “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is on here, a terrible song from the Detroit Rock City movie, and actually more of a Paul solo song since no other members appear on it.  The unreleased full-length version of “Childhood’s End” from Carnival of Souls (featuring a coda called “Outromental”) round out the non-album stuff.

A bad song choice or two from Revenge, some of the wrong tracks from Carnival of Souls, and a few too many from Psycho-Circus are the main flaws with this disc.  A track from Alive III would have been nice.

The box set ends with the “live” (not really though, actually dubbed) version of “Shout It Out Loud” from the Greatest KISS album, and a “preview track” from what was intended to be the forthcoming Alive IV:  “Rock And Roll All Nite” (the only song to be repeated).  This version of Alive VI ended up getting shelved in favour of a symphonic live album, which was then dubbed Alive VI: Kiss Symphony.  The original version of Alive VI has since been issued in another KISS box set.

SAM_2044

As I said earlier in the review, I am sure that KISS will release more rare stuff in the future.  It has already started to happen with the afforementioned KISS Alive Box, and KISSology DVD sets.  As Gene said, be patient, it’s coming.  On the whole, quibbles aside I very much enjoy listening to the KISS box set.  It is quite interesting to hear the band evolve, and you gain an appreciation for their charisma and songwriting.  Regardless of what the critics say, Kiss are quite talented songwriters.  Often simple, but we’re still listening to them almost 40 years later.  And they said it would never last six months.

The liner notes are quite insightful if not entirely accurate (Peter Criss did not play on any tracks from Psycho-Circus except one, no matter what the notes say).

I mentioned there were other versions available.  There is a basic version, with a softcover version of the book, in a simple black box.  It retails for around $100.  That’s the version most people should grab.  The only difference is the box it comes in, and the softcover book vs. hardcover.  Oh, and the guitar box also came with a print of a  note in what appears to be Paul Stanley’s handwriting, talking about the long awaited set.  Not a huge deal.

Then, for the ultimate fan, there is the box set that actually came in a full sized guitar case. The Premium Gold Edition. It appears to still be available.

It comes with an RIAA gold record of Kiss Alive!  and apparently “hand written” liner notes in gold ink on parchment paper.  Retail price to us Canucks:  $850 smackaroos!

For the music itself, I rate this one:

5/5 stars

BOOK REVIEW: KISStory

Part 33 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!  By 1995, Kiss merchandising was in full gear.  This was its flagship release.

KISStory, Jeff Kitts, 1995 ($149.99 in 1995, currently $320.70 new/$263.24 used, on Amazon, in CAD)

I got KISStory back when it came out, in early 1995 or so.  I ordered it (or, rather, my mom ordered it for me since she had the credit card in the house) back in July of 1994.   When it arrived, it took me a couple weeks to go through all the content.

Early pressings were all signed by Eric Singer, Bruce Kulick, Paul Stanley, and Gene Simmons. The second pressing was signed by the original band. Personally I am happy with my copy, as I love the Revenge lineup of the band, which was much shorter lived than the original. As a side note, according to the Firehouse fanzine, Bill Aucoin (ex Kiss-manager) stated that a good number of the copies signed by the original band are actually autopen.  For that reason I’m glad I have the Revenge lineup, which was contemporary to the release of the book.

Also, early pressings had a lot of binding issues. Be careful. A friend of mine had his copy of KISStory repaired professionally because his binding fell apart. I have been very, very careful with my book and in the 15 years since, the binding is still OK.  But I treat this thing with kid gloves, people.

Each book is numbered and comes in a black case. The book is massive. Absolutely huge. It’s always funny when the advertizing for a book states that it weighs over 8 lbs.

Content wise, it is rich but flawed. There are numerous errors in the book. For example, the book states that five new songs were released on Kiss Killers. Well, we all know it was four new songs. The timeline is a bit mixed up at times, and the 80’s are not covered in enough depth.  But let’s face it, you don’t buy a book like this for text.  You buy it for the pictures.  Text is kind of like…a bonus track.  The best text is probably in old newspaper articles and concert reviews contained inside anyway.

Where the book succeeds, it succeeds like no other. However you have to remember, when this came out this was the only authorized Kiss book. Now there are lots, and much cheaper. At the time though, some of these photographs had never seen the light of day before. Newspaper articles, reviews, magazine covers, it’s all here, in massive quantities.

I think my personal favourite things were sketches of costumes and basses out of Gene’s personal sketchbook. Also, early lyrics for songs released and unreleased. There are costume sketches for outfits never made. There are drawings for stage shows that never saw the light of day. Everything you can imagine.

Yes, the price tag is hefty. However, if I sold my copy of KISStory today, I’d make a good profit. This is an investment as much as a book, but I think you’ll want to hang onto yours.

4/5 stars.

REVIEW: KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

Part 26 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

SMASHES FRONT

KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

October, 1988.  Articles had been spinning through the rock magazines for months that this was the end:  Kiss was on the verge of breaking up.  Gene Simmons was still focused on his label and management company, the last album (Crazy Nights) was a disappointment, and the word on the street was that Kiss were no longer cool.

So, when Gene Simmons was to appear as co-host of the Pepsi Power Hour that day in October, they said it was for a special announcement.  I fully expected it to be an announcement of the farewell tour.

It was not.  It was to promote his new label, $immons Records, and his signing, the excellent House Of Lords.  And, to announce the forthcoming release of Smashes, Thrashes & Hits:  the new Kiss greatest hits CD with two new songs.  And a remake of “Beth”.  With Eric Carr singing.

I received the album for Christmas that year.  My feelings were quite mixed.

Both new songs were written, sung and produced by Paul Stanley, another indication that Gene was still off in la-la land.  “Let’s Put The X In Sex” is a pretty lame, pretty pop, pretty un-Kiss tune, with a somewhat redeeming horn section.  I was horrified that, in the music video, Paul wasn’t even holding a guitar anymore.  He was just dancing.  Dancing!  At least in the videos from Crazy Nights, he was holding a guitar while dancing.   Somehow I saw this as a symptom of what was wrong with Kiss in the late 80’s.  This was not the same band anymore.

The second new song, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” (a double entendre that I missed completely), is a slightly more uptempo song which almost qualifies as a rocker.  It has an insanely catchy pre-chorus.  Which is something I’d actually like to draw your attention to.  See below, please:

Try to ignore the dancing, Paul hugging a very bouffant Gene, just skip to the 1:50 mark.  Watch Gene’s lips.

Paul sings, “You make me sweat, you turn me ’round,” but Gene can be clearly seen mouthing, “you turn me up.”  He doesn’t even know the words to the song, and that made it into the video.  He was clearly asleep at the wheel!

The rest of the album was filled with hits, none with Ace nor Peter singing.  Hence, “Beth”.  It’s always been said that Kiss have tried to erase Ace and Peter from their history and here’s a great example.  In addition, Eric’s voice is simply too sweet, it needs rasp to do this song.  It’s unfortunate that this was Eric’s first lead vocal.

You should know that many of the hits were remixed — virtually everything from the original lineup.  Some of the remixes are quite good (I love this version of “Love Gun” with the extended guitar bit), some are not.  “I Love It Loud” lacks the oomph of the drums, and the false ending.

Of note:  Not one song from Crazy Nights made the cut (except in the U.K., where “Reason To Live” was added).  I’ve always felt this was a subliminal message as to the quality of that album too.

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits represents the absolute lowest point of this era of Kiss.  The dancing, the pop, the terrible videos, I was fed up.  Fortunately, Gene got his brain back and the band began to steer the ship back in the right direction.  In my opinion the first real step began with Paul Stanley’s solo tour (with Bob Kulick and Eric Singer), where he reconnected with the fans and the music.

Better things were to come, but not yet.

2/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: KISS – Exposed (1987)

Part 24 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Exposed (VHS 1987, DVD 2002)

While Kiss took some time off as Gene continued to pursue his movie career, Exposed was released in lieu of a studio album.  1986 was the first year to ever come and go without new Kiss music.  The band sought commercial success, and an outside producer as they worked hard to record hits.  This video nicely documented their career to that point.

A lot of long term KISS fans absolutely hate Exposed. It is not without flaws, but considering when it came out and what it aimed to do, it is actually one of the best home videos from the era.

Exposed is an early example of a mockumentary, or, as they say in the opening, “A rousing docu-drama. It will be disgusting to some, titilating to others.  But whether it disgusts you, or titilates you, it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” That right there tells you everything you need to know. Interspersed with the docu-drama bits are video clips, and live clips of the band during the makeup years.

The biggest flaw with Exposed is that it’s pretty sexist. It’s all meant to be in good fun I guess, but many will be offended by Gene using women as wall decorations. It was the 80’s; every band influenced by Kiss was doing the same thing, and Kiss responded by taking it to the limit. It is what it is, and if you’re likely to be offended, don’t watch.  It’s still nothing compared to some rap videos I’ve seen.

The second biggest flaw is the lack of Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick participation. They each get two scenes: In Eric’s scene, he meets the interviewer and leaves without any audible lines. In Bruce’s scene, he chases a girl down the stairs and has the line, “Is this for the documentary? Edit her out!” In the final scene, Bruce and Eric are seen taking Paul’s monkey Sonny Crocket for a stroll. Everything else is the Gene and Paul Show.

The docu-drama takes place at “Paul’s mansion”, and this is where the jokes begin.  It’s kind of an 80’s Monkees, with the band all living together in the same house.  There’s a butler and women everywhere.  Gene of course has a throne.

Paul and Gene are funny in Exposed. The interview segments are 50% “straight”, talking seriously about the early years of Kiss, and 50% comedy segments. I enjoyed the comedy. Gene in partiular is a very funny guy. In the “straight” segments there is a comraderie rarely seen between Gene and Paul, such as Paul razzing Gene about early song lyrics he had written. (“My mother is beauuuuutiful…,” Paul croons to an old Gene lyric.)

The music videos include some rarities such as the banned “Who Wants To Be Lonely” clip (more girls). Basically you get every music video from 1982 through to 1985., with a couple exceptions.

The live stuff proved to be just a taster for what Kiss had in their vaults. At the time, bands didn’t release a lot of archive concerts on home video, instead concentrating on documenting current tours. Now they do release such archival concerts on DVD, and since then Kiss have released more complete footage on Kissology I-III. The film quality, despite complaints from the fans, is pretty decent, especially the old 1974 clip of Deuce. Some fans claim their bootleg home videos look and sound better than the official KISS releases; I haven’t seen that.

The video ends with a brief audio clip of Paul answering the question, “What do we call this?” He responds, “Why don’t we call it Volume I?”

Volume II would come later in the form of Kiss’ X-treme Close Up, a more “serious” video, stripped of the girls and the jokiness. I find Exposed to be a much more entertaining video.

Check it out if you are a fan, particularly for 80’s Kiss. Avoid if you are not.

4/5 stars

Incidentally, you can get Kiss Exposed as a third bonus disc in a deluxe edition of Kiss Gold.  Seen below, the regular edition of Kiss Gold.  We’ll be talking about that CD much later on.

REVIEW: KISS – Animalize (1984)

Part 21 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!  Still flushing out the last of the lo-fi cell phone pics, sorry about that.

ANIMALIZE

KISS – Animalize (1984)

Exit Vinnie Vincent.  Enter Mark St. John aka Mark Norton, a music teacher that came highly recommended, but had no touring experience.  Looking for the next young hot shot to compete with Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie, Kiss took a chance.

In addition to yet another lineup change and third lead guitar player, there were other fractures setting in.  Gene Simmons was dead set to become a movie star, and played the villain role alongside Tom Selleck in a movie called Runaway, written and directed by Michael Crichton.  Paul Stanley was left to produce the next album.

Paul and Gene recorded in separate studios, shuffling Mark St. John between them when needed.  Gene didn’t play bass on several of Paul’s songs, and studio musicians were brought in to add guitar solos, drum overdubs, and backing vocals.  All songs but one were co-written by outside writers.

Animalize is one of those albums that was hugely popular (2 x platinum I think?). It has a couple hot singles, a couple decent album cuts, but disappointly Animalize is mostly filler. Gene’s material is particularly forgettable and uninspired. It’s like you’re listening to half a band.
Mathematically, here’s how it breaks down:

1. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) – good song
2. Heaven’s On Fire – good song (but overplayed)
3. Burn Bitch Burn – bad
4. Get All You Can Take – great song
5. Lonely Is The Hunter – bad
6. Under The Gun – bad
7. Thrills In The Night – great
8. While The City Sleeps – terrible
9. Murder In High Heels – terrible

4 out of 9 good songs, and not one of them by Gene Simmons. All of Gene’s stuff on Animalize sucked, leaving the kids of the 80’s to think that he was a sideman and Paul was the main guy. Gene also has the worst lyric in Kisstory here: “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”

However, a highlight of the album are some of the solos.  A fast neoclassical/jazz player, St. John was miles away from Kiss’ roots. It was the era of the fast classically trained player. Even so, when the band thought that Mark wasn’t nailing the feel, they asked Bruce Kulick to fill in on two songs.  He appears on “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”.  So, technically Animalize was Bruce’s first Kiss album, although nobody knew at the time that Kulick was destined to replace St. John, who was struck with a freak arthritic condition that left him unable to tour.

Kulick wouldn’t be granted full member status until the next album, while the band felt him out.  Later, St. John too went on to make some great solo work — check out his Magic Bullet Theory CD.

Animalize is far from outstanding. I would rank it among Kiss’ three worst albums, the other two being Hot In The Shade and Psycho-Circus. It’s historically important because of how popular the tour and album were. Most of the good songs, however, can be found elsewhere such as the Kiss box set.

2/5 stars.

Mark St. John passed away in 2007.  Rest in peace.