monster

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Wicked Lester & Eddie Kramer demos (1972 & 1973)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 1:  

For once, it did not all start with a kiss-logo.

scan_20170220-4Wicked Lester (1972 unreleased album) & the Eddie Kramer demos (1973) (CD bootleg “promo” with “Epic” logo)

Stanley Eisen and Chaim Witz were two young New York musicians who didn’t particularly care for one another.  They met via guitarist Stephen Coronel, a mutual friend and bandmate of Witz.  Chaim, who came to the United States from Israel at the age of eight, changed his name to Gene Klein.  Stephen Coronel told Gene that young Stanley wrote songs too.  Unimpressed, Gene commanded, “Oh yeah?  Play one.”  Stanley played a prototype called “Sunday Driver”, but the encounter left a foul taste in his mouth.

Coronel eventually succeeded in bringing his two friends together, when Stanley Eisen joined their band Rainbow.  In was 1971, and Ritchie Blackmore had yet to form the most famous Rainbow of them all, but even so they needed a more unique name.  They already knew of one other band using the name Rainbow.  Both Paul and Gene had their sights set on bigger things than just New York City.  They wanted something original, and settled upon Wicked Lester.  They’d also drop their “ethnic sounding” real names in favour of the handles “Paul Stanley” and “Gene Simmons”.  They collected together some material they’d written and focused on their originals.  The lineup consisted of Stanley and Coronel on guitars, Simmons on bass, Brooke Ostrander (RIP, FYC) on piano and horns, and Tony Zarella on drums.

Wicked Lester performed only two gigs before an opportunity was offered by Ron Johnsen, a resident sound engineer at Electric Lady studios.  He saw something in the band, and put up the funds for some demo recordings.  Eventually, Epic had their curiosity piqued enough to buy the demos and agree to do make an album.  They had only one condition:  Get rid of Stephen Coronel.  Thus, the man that brought Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley together was fired from the band he shared with them.

Coronel was replaced by a player named Ron Leejack, and recording of the album commenced.  The majority of tracks were Simmons/Stanley (and sometimes Coronel) originals, with a handful of covers.  To cut a long story short, upon completion, Epic shelved the album and deemed it not good enough to release.

They were right to do so.

Only three tracks have ever been released officially, on the 2001 Kiss Box Set:  “Keep Me Waiting”, “She”, and “Love Her All I Can”.  The rest are only available on very poor sounding bootleg discs.  Even without the full fidelity of a proper release, one can tell from the available bootlegs that the album Wicked Lester was best left in the shadows.  When Kiss seemed to emerge fully-formed in 1974, nobody had witnessed their growing pains.

The running order of various bootlegs differ.  The red-packaged “Epic promo CD” (surely not) begins with the familiar “Love Her All I Can”, best known as one of Kiss’ early classics from 1975’s Dressed To Kill.  The unfocused Wicked Lester original sounds like a hippie commune on speed. Simmons today describes their sound as “like a cross between Three Dog Night and the Doobie Brothers.”  Throw in a healthy dose of acid.  Who knows where that came from, Simmons being so proudly anti-drug.

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An obscure cover “Sweet Ophelia” (Barry Mann/Gerry Goffin) really demonstrates how far out in left field everybody was.  It’s mildly disconcerting how well Paul Stanley fits the hippie vibe, far removed from his future Starchild persona.  A Stanley original “Keep Me Waiting” bears little resemblance to the style his is known for.  Though one could imagine the guitar solo section as part of a Kiss song, “Keep Me Waiting” is a delirious concoction of congas and horns.  Simmons’ “Simple Type” is more straightforward.  No annoying extra accoutrements.  No hooks either, or any balls, but it’s one of the earliest examples of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley sharing lead vocals on a song.  Even at this early stage, it was clear that Paul Stanley possessed a mighty throat.

“Simple Type” merges with the flutes and tambourines of “She”.  Flutes and tambourines, on “She”?!  Yes, this future Kiss grinder is set to the sultry sounds of more hippie instrumentation, to go with the organ and shakers.  As the song fades out, you can just hear the potential it had.  This potential is nowhere to be found on “Too Many Mondays” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil), light and flaky.  “What Happens in the Darkness” (Tamy Lester Smith) is all but indescribable.  Deep Purple Mk I gone terribly wrong,  but with Paul Stanley leading the choir instead of Rod Evans going it alone.  Tougher and better is “When the Bell Rings” (Austin Roberts/Christopher Welch) which again features Paul and Gene singing together.  This time, Gene utilizes his early high rasp, also heard on Kiss tracks like “Goin’ Blind” and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll”.  Sounding a bit more like our beloved demon, “When the Bell Rings” is actually listenable.  Paul Stanley’s dainty “Molly” brings the flutes back into the picture, and the sooner it’s over the better.  A cover of The Hollies’ “(We Want To) Shout it Out Loud” is not bad.  And it lent its title to something much better later on.

The “Epic promo” CD has terrible tape bleed-through.  It’s clearly a copy of a copy, generations down.  The cheap paper cover belies its actual bootleg manufacture.  It’s also missing a song called “Long, Long Road”, a soft country track that was recorded but perhaps cut from the intended album. That’s right — soft country.

Epic passed on the Wicked Lester album, which was mixed and even had cover art selected.  The boy was their mascot, “Wicked Lester”.  The cover art was originally intended for another band called Laughing Dogs.  Now that the album was shelved (and since Simmons and Stanley were the clear leaders of the group) the fates of the others were pre-determined.  Paul and Gene began looking for new members, and experimenting with makeup.  They wanted a strong, singular image, not five guys who looked like the line at the local soup kitchen.  They also wanted a focused direction, and that was to be hard rock a-la The Who, Cream and Led Zeppelin.

An experienced drummer (his band Lips had an album) named Peter Criscoula was first to heed the call.  The new Wicked Lester was a power trio consisting of Peter, Gene and Paul, who rehearsed in a loft located at 10 East 23rd Street in Manhattan.  The sound was incomplete:  a lead guitarist was needed.  Auditions were held at the same loft.  Legend has it that Bob Kulick (who features into the story much later) was about to get the gig, when they were rudely interrupted.  A spaced out guy with one red and one orange sneaker had plugged in and started wailing away.  Paul Frehley snatched the gig at the last minute, and Kiss was born.

The loft where Kiss was born.   10 East 23rd Street, photos by Mike Lukas.

The new focus became apparent when the re-named band entered Electric Lady one more time, in March of 1973, with legendary producer Eddie Kramer.  The band cut five new originals:  “Deuce” (Simmons), “Strutter” (Stanley/Simmons), “Cold Gin” (Frehley), “Watching You” (Simmons), “Black Diamond” (Stanley).  Each of these songs later made it onto Kiss albums in 1974.  They had the goods.

The Kramer demos sound better on this CD than the Wicked Lester tracks.  A different, younger tape generation would be the probable source.  Only two of these demos (“Strutter” and “Deuce”) have been released officially, on the Kiss Box Set.  These ferocious tracks are almost completely faithful to the final album arrangements.  A few extended solos here, and some longer bits there.  Tracks such as “Deuce” are faster than they were later recorded, and more akin to what Kiss sounded like live.  Playing to their strengths, keeping things simple, and with Eddie goddamn Kramer at the boards, the band laid down one hell of a demo.  This is something that bands today would release officially as their first EP, to build buzz for an album.  That wasn’t the strategy in 1973, so the band instead stuck to a regular regimen of songwriting, rehearsals and unforgettable club gigs.

Nine months after their debut gig as Kiss at the Coventry, they signed with Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records.  They had built up a repertoire of roughly 18 originals, including some holdovers from the shelved Wicked Lester: “She”, “Simple Type”, “Keep Me Waiting”, and “Love Her All I Can”.  These four songs were whittled out again in the process of coming up with the tracks to record for their first LP.

The Eddie Kramer demos and Wicked Lester album alike are important historical documents.  They are pieces of the puzzle coming together, and by the time they got with Kramer, the outline was in place.  The only way to go was up.

Today’s rating:

Wicked Lester 1/5 stars
Eddie Kramer demos – 3.25/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com Wicked Lester review:  2012/08/14

 

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REVIEW: KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition bonus CD)

This review is for reader Juan, from Spain — thank you for reading!

KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition, 2013 Universal Japan)

In my 32 years of collecting music, I have learned a number of immutable laws of the hobby.  The Three Laws of Collecting are:

The First Law:  Japan shall always get the best stuff.
The Second Law:  Anything worth releasing is worth re-releasing.
The Third Law:  Kiss fans shall buy anything, often more than once.

The Three Laws of Collecting are why I now have purchased my fifth copy of Kiss Monster.  The album came out in 2012, meaning I have bought more than one copy per year since its release:  Original CD, vinyl, iTunes, Japanese CD, and now this 2 CD Japan Tour Edition, which has all the tracks from all the versions, and then some.

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This is not a review of Monster; we have reviewed that album twice now (once by Mike Ladano and once by Tommy Morais).  Rather this is a review of the Tour Edition’s second disc, which is a pretty cool “best of” collection covering a very nice chunk of Kisstory.  What can another greatest hits possibly offer?  Believe it or not, the Monster Tour Edition has a slightly different slant that might be interesting to die-hards.

This is the first time “Psycho Circus” has opened a Kiss compilation.  It was their tour opener in 1998-99 and so naturally fits this slot.  It was one of the stronger tracks from Psycho-Circus itself, which was otherwise a pretty disappointing reunion album.  Mainly because Peter and Ace barely played on it.  Indeed, on this track you will get Kevin Valentine on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar, uncredited.  That said, the track still kicks ass and has proven to be the only song from that album that still gets played now and then.

I’m always happy to hear oldies like “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” on a hits CD.  The same goes for “Black Diamond”, one of the more epic Kiss tracks.  These old album cuts might not be as well known to casual fans and might surprise even Kiss haters.  However, no casual fan or Kiss hater is going to be hearing the Monster Tour Edition.  So the die-hards again will be hearing “Shout it Out Loud”, “Rock and Roll all Nite”, “Detroit Rock City”, “God of Thunder”, “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” for the umpteenth time.  Mixed in among these are some of the second-tier hits from the 80’s:  “I Love it Loud”, “Lick It Up”, “Heaven’s On Fire”.  The exact mixture of ingredients is different, but these songs have been on best-of CDs by Kiss before.

The one unique inclusion is “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom, its first appearance on a hits disc.  Its place here is deserved.  Sonic Boom represented a strong return to the studio for Kiss after a decade long absence.  “Say Yeah” was one of three songs played live in concert, and sounds the most like a timeless Kiss anthem.  (Sonic Boom was represented on the last greatest hits compilation, Kiss 40, by “Modern Day Delilah”.)

Finally there is the riffy “Right Here Right Now” which was previously the iTunes bonus track for Monster.  A physical copy is always better, and a Japanese high quality HMCD is even better than that.  And don’t worry — the original Japanese bonus track, a live version of “King of the Night Time World” from the Rock the Nation tour, is still intact on disc one.  (More on that in the video below.)

This version of Monster is finally the definitive one with all the tracks in one place.  The bonus hits disc is some pretty awesome icing.  When you have as many hits discs as Kiss do, you may just wonder “what’s the difference”?  Each one is different in its own often minor ways, and fans who appreciate this stuff will enjoy hearing a couple unique tunes for a change.

The only flaw with this HMCD reissue is that it lacks the original 3D lenticular cover. That is a bummer. I simply kept my original cover (it is a separate piece you can take out) from a prior version of Monster which I later gifted to a friend.  In fact that friend reviewed the single disc Japanese Monster!

I must add another law to my Three Laws of Collecting:

The Zeroth Law*:  You shall always have some buyer’s regret.

It is true.  I had all these songs before.  The only one I didn’t have physically was the iTunes download “Right Here Right Now”.  But I “had” to have it.  I could question that.  “You could have put that money towards some new tires”.  The CD could have paid for a week of lunches at Harvey’s.    A fool and their money?

I’m fine with that.

$/5 stars

*I didn’t make that word up.  Isaac Asimov added the Zeroth Law of Robotics to his Three Laws in 1985.  

Part 173: Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos

RECORD STORE TALES Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos

Back in 1994-95, when I was working at our original store, I would always proudly fly the Kiss flag.  This was before the mega reunion, and on the heels of the Revenge album, which I was really into.

I had a small online presence back then, I had created our very first online ads in 1994.  I was talking about music on every single BBS (Bulletin Board System) in the area, and on one board, called Wanderer’s Rest, I had a forum for my reviews.  I was going by the online name “Geddy” (hah!) back then, and I was extremely prolific.  Very little has changed since!

One guy, name long forgotten, messaged me.  “Hey, I’m a customer at your store.  I have some rare Kiss demos.  Do you want to do a tape swap?”  Of course I did.  For him, I made a copy of the March 25 1974 show in Washington at the Bayou club.  It was a cool show because they played an unreleased song called “You’re Much Too Young”.

For me, he made a tape of Gene’s Asylum demos, on one of our Maxell UR60’s that we sold in our store.  Gene is a very prolific songwriter.  Not everything he comes up with is gold (clearly!) but he usually submitted a dozen tunes or more for consideration on each album.  Judging by this cassette, Asylum was no exception, even though he was very distracted by Hollywood at that time.

The tape, which unfortunately did not survive the years very well at all, contains 13 of Gene’s demos, 3 being instrumental ideas, and a bonus track.  A couple songs made the final album.  I tried to listen to the tape, to see if I recognized any ideas.  Unfortunately, this tape now sounds terrible and is unlistenable.  I ripped only one song, which was “Russian Roulette”, to see if it resembled the version that later ended up on 2009’s Sonic Boom album.  From what I can tell, only the title survived to Sonic Boom.

Musically however, the song was recycled on the Monster album, as “Eat Your Heart Out”!  It’s the same riff.  Although you can’t make out the lyrics on the demo version at all, you can tell they are completely different.

See the pictures below for the tape made for me by the Mystery Kiss Fan back in ’94-95.   If you know any of these Gene songs, please comment below!  We can hope that good quality versions will come out on Gene’s “Monster” box set, if it ever comes out!

GALLERY: Three More Great Finds

This time, I was in a store that a buddy of mine runs, the same location that Uncle Meat used to work in.   My buddy wasn’t in (sick) but one of my old trainees was working  I trained him towards the end of my run as a Record Store Dude.  I was pleased to see that he was as nice as ever, and had grown an awesome big bushy beard.

I found two treasures, and took a gamble on one vinyl purchase.  Here’s the details:

1.  GENE SIMMONS – Gene Simmons Family Jewels Season 1, with bonus CD

For $9.99, this was a decent find.  It’s missing the outer case, which I can live without.  I bought this for the bonus CD.  This is apparently an Amazon.com (not .ca) exclusive, currently selling for $13 plus shipping.  So I paid an acceptable amount.  The CD contains two songs:  “Rain Keeps Falling” (sounds like a Crazy Nights outtake) and “You’re My Reason For Living” (sounds much more recent).  These are from the “forthcoming” Gene Simmons box set called Monster.  (I’m guessing he won’t be using that title now.)  Considering that Amazon.com advertises the Gene Simmons Monster box set as coming in 2007, I thought it might be nice to have these two songs.

2. THE ROLLING STONES – “Doom and Gloom” 10″ single

This one was…I dunno…I like the song, “Doom and Gloom”, and I won’t be buying that Stones box set any time in the near future, so this seemed like a good way to get it.   What troubles me is this is a remix by somebody named Jeff Bhasker.  So I have no idea if this will be any good.  We’ll see.  Apparently it’s one track, with the second side etched with a Stones logo.  I haven’t cracked the seal yet.  At $18.99, this one was probably overpriced.  But I’m a sucker for gimmicky vinyl, so, whatever.

3. ERIC MARTIN – Pure (Japanese Import)

Eric Martin is, of course, the lead throat from Mr. Big, a band that is basically big only in Japan.  This solo EP collects new acoustic versions of his solo tracks and Mr . Big hits.  It even includes stuff written in his pre Mr. Big days, from his Sucker For A Pretty Face album.

I paid $8.99, which was way underpriced for this.  A European import version goes for about $7 on Discogs, but the much rarer Japanese you’ll be lucky to find for under $40.  They didn’t have the disc cataloged in their system as Japanese so I’m thinking they didn’t notice.  I did though!  The Japanese writing on the back was the dead giveaway, even though the obi strip is missing.

Another funny thing:  Somebody put a sticker over the cover statue’s nipple!  A pasty, so to speak.  (Sticker removed for this gallery; it’s only a statue after all.)

So; another enjoyable shopping experience.  Some treasures found.  Good tunes, good times.  Look for reviews one day on LeBrain’s Blog.

For ethical reasons, I don’t identify the place I used to work, considering the nature of the Record Store Tales.  However if I did a Store Report Card as I have done for other record stores, I would rank this particular location:

3.75/5 stars

Doom and Gloom

VIDEO BLOG: Japanese Import! KISS Monster!

Think of this one as a coda to Mike And Aaron Go To Toronto.

And if you missed the original video, it is below.

Part 128: VIDEO BLOG – Mike & Aaron Go To Toronto! (now with Store Report Card!)

Join Mike and Aaron as they hunt for rare albums!

REPORT CARD

Sonic Boom, 782 Bathurst St – 5/5 stars

BMV, 471 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars (Mike) 4/5 stars (Aaron)

Rotate This, 801 Queen St. W – 3/5 stars  (no rating from Aaron)

Pauper’s Pub,  539 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars

Paradise Bound, 270 August Ave – 4/5 stars * note I got the name wrong in the video

Moonbean, 30 Saint Andrew Street – 5/5 stars

Sonic Boom Kensington, 201 Augusta Ave – 4.5/5 stars

HMV, 333 Yonge Street – 1.5/5 stars

Sunrise, 220 Yonge Street, 1.5/5 stars (no rating from Aaron)

 

See what Aaron bought by clicking here!

FINAL NOTE:  I procured a the Japanese import from eBay a week later, October 27, for $41, free shipping.

REVIEW/GUEST SHOT: KISS – Monster (2012)

You lucky, lucky boys and girls.  Not only do you get TWO KISS MONSTER reviews for the price of one today, but you are getting a guest review from the scholarly Tommy Morais!  This guy is one of the most fanatic rock fans I know, and one of the top rated reviewers on Amazon.ca.   

And then, after Tommy’s review, I present to you part 52 of my own series of Kiss reviews!  FYI, neither of us had read the others’ review when we did this.  Anything they have in common is coincidental!

TOMMY’S TAKE

Out of all the guest shots Mike “LeBrain” Ladano has had, it seems he knew the contributors for years and they wrote great personal stories. Well, I’ve always been the black sheep at anything I did and this is no exception. I’ve only known Mike since 2010 and we’ve never met in person. However, I know that Mike is one of the most enthusiast fan and a hardcore collector there is and his passion for the website’s content is genuine and largely impressive. Sure I have all the studio and live albums from all my favorite bands, books, magazine, flags etc. but Mike takes it one step further and owns stuff I could only dream to own and afford, his collection is like no other as you’ve probably seen here. I first came to know LeBrain when he read some of my Amazon reviews and e-mailed me about them. He was kind enough to let me know he liked some of my reviewing work, particularly the one I did for Ratt’s Infestation album (2010). I soon discovered we both shared a love for many of the same bands and we’ve been talking Rock N’ Roll since then: albums, musicians, gossips, upcoming releases what we’d like to see etc. Best of all, Mike knows his music and you cannot understate his love for music and those bands that personally, have kept me going and rockin’. What follows is both Mike’s and my review of the new KISS album, Monster. But just before here’s to your host, all his dedication and the time and effort he puts into this website which I admire and visit daily. Cheers!

KISS – Monster (2012)

I think it’s safe to say that even though they’ve truly upset and angered some fans (to the point of leaving the KISS army) Paul and Gene still command a vast KISS army around the world. With Sonic Boom, KISS was back and it was a nice return after 11 years of complete studio silence and lack of a new album. SB was mostly well received as a return to form and a great KISS album. Then there are fans who didn’t buy the album because it’s not KISS and it’s disrespectful to Ace and Peter who were the originals to have Tommy and Eric wear their makeup. I understand both sides completely and agree with both, but I liked Sonic Boom for what it was and three years later it’s follow up (and 20th studio!) album, Monster is I have to say, better. While I was glad that there was a new KISS album and I enjoyed it, SB sounded a little too 80’s rooted at times. However, Monster is heavier, doesn’t feel like 80’s KISS and its edgy and aggressive and did I say heavy? The guitars are turned up LOUD and the drum is almighty, the sound that comes from it is massive, anthemic and fist pumping Hard Rock formula pushing far into Metal territory and as a fan, that’s good. It helps that there are no ballads either. At this point it shouldn’t be about “Fake KISS” and so on like there was a lot of talk on the Sonic Boom Amazon page, the music should stand on its own. Buying the new KISS album was always like an event, an obligation in some way whether it was Love Gun or Dynasty or Crazy Nights and now, Monster.

Opening track and first single “Hell or Hallelujah  is in your face heavy, and I was surprised at how fast it sounded. To me it sounds like something from Love Gun in ’77 like “I Stole Your Love” meets the speed of “Gimme More” from Lick It Up or perhaps another fast 80’s KISS tune. It works really well, it’s anthemic, it’s pure KISS and Paul sings it like he’s on fire and the backing vocals just get it done. “Wall of Sound” is Gene being the real demon Gene Simmons again. He’s menacing and attitude comes throughout, it’s one of the best songs on Monster. “Freak” is a track that I love if not just for the lyrics, they’re representative of KISS in a way and Paul does nicely here, it’s catchy and hits it home. “Back To The Stone Age”, now this is what I’m talking about! The sound is massive, heavy and Gene’s voice, he’s got that angry demon voice we all love. The lyrics are cool and very Gene, there’s even a neat little breakdown and it’s one of the best songs here absolutely. “Shout Mercy” is undeniably catchy and has that classic, quintessential chorus that made their classic songs memorable and radio staples, and the “whoohoos” back vocals add to the catchiness, you’ll see.”All For The Love Of Rock And Roll” is one that I quite like, it’s slower paced and less aggressive and Eric Singer does a wonderful job on the vocals (“All For The Glory” was one of my favorite songs on SB).On an album where pretty much the songs are heavy it’s nice to have something to balance it out, and while not a ballad this song does just that. I could almost see it as a single on radio. “Eat Your Heart Out” starts out with just the band singing and nothing else, those harmonies sound great and you know it’s going to be a cool track. It kicks in and doesn’t let you down, another strong one. “Outta This World” is sung by Tommy Thayer and it fits the Spaceman persona nicely, I much prefer this one to the song he had on Sonic Boom, it’s a good rockin’ track I was impressed by Tommy and he comes off as more of his own this time around. “Take Me Down Below” has obviously sexual innuendo and the reason this one is special is because Gene and Paul share lead. Gene has his story that’s reminiscent of “She’s So European” from the 1980 Unmasked album (talks about a lady, standing there, champagne, perfume, now she’s standing next to me, very Simmons) and Paul comes up with something and then the chorus and it works nicely I wish they did this more often. The only song that didn’t really do it for me was “Last Chance” but while it’s not awful I think the album might have ended stronger without it. I haven’t gone through every song or every little detail but I think you get the idea of my appreciation.

I was initially worried about the album being delayed as usually that’s never a good sign, but the album is excellent and those fears were unfounded it turns out. They’ve been at it for 40 years now (almost) and it doesn’t show, they have that drive and that passion in the sound. I think it shows more of their influences too, in one song I detected a really Zeppelin-ish part and so on which I think was great.

Gene really surprised me on Monster with his lyrics, voice and attitude he really contributed amazing stuff time around that exceeds what he did on the previous album, I think his songs may just be the best ones here. It’s not a retro album, its KISS being KISS and kicking it up a notch and sounding tighter and heavier and it works extremely well. Sonic Boom grew on me, Monster I loved immediately (SB had that extra re-recorded KISS Klassics CD and live DVD but Monster stands proudly on its 12 songs people).

To me Sonic Boom wasn’t a five stars KISS album, while very good it didn’t take it to the next level which is exactly what Monster does. Is it the perfect KISS record? Look at this point it’s better than I could have anticipated, exceeds the last one which was really good and it stands on its own, plus they’re heavier this time around and it’s the record they needed to follow up SB with. To me it’s full marks on this one, Monster really is a Monster and it impressed me! Nicely done and I don’t say just because I’m a die-hard fan with everything they’ve made. Initially the band talked about having another painting as the album cover much like Destroyer or Love Gun and that didn’t happen, a slight let down. Now I’d just love to see KISS play a big chunk of this album in a LIVE setting, they sound made for the stage and I can only imagine how well it would work.

5/5.

I’ll leave you alone and let you read what you came here to read and what we’ve all been anticipating, LeBrain’s review of KISS’ new album, Monster. I’ve been anxious as to what Mike thinks and we haven’t even discussed it yet, I’m anxious to read it myself. Enjoy!

LEBRAIN’S TAKE

CHECK OUT MY QUICKIE VIDEO ON THE 3D COVER ART!

KISS – Monster (2012 3D lenticular cover, iTunes editions)

Right from that opening guitar salvo there’s no question:  it’s Kiss.  And Kiss have made a remarkable album.  Not only is Monster a logical follow-up (and up-ratchet) to Sonic Boom, but it shows that Kiss are not afraid of growth.  Monster succeeds in sounding like new Kiss, where Sonic Boom succeeded in sounding like old Kiss.  Nothing wrong with that, I like Sonic Boom.  But I already bought that album once.

Immediately you will notice that Monster is heavier, both song-wise and production wise.  It sounds as if Kiss are attempting to scale Mount Zep.  Songs like “Wall of Sound”, “The Devil Is Me” and “Back to the Stone Age” are all classic Gene attitude, totally up his alley and he kicks them in the ass.  Listen to his bass kickin’ it on “The Devil Is Me”!  Actually I want to draw special attention to Gene as a bass player on this album.  Producer Paul Stanley wisely chose to place emphasis on Gene’s bass, and meanwhile Gene decided to throw in some of the tastiest bass-licks from his bag o’ tricks.  Nobody will ever compare Gene Simmons to Geddy Lee, but there is absolutely no question that Gene’s bass playing is perfect for these songs.

Meanwhile, there’s Paul:  yes, his voice is really rough in spots, but he works around it successfully.  Eric Singer and Gene Simmons can be heard backing him on a song like “Freak” (another great tune) creating that classic Kiss sounding harmony.  The combination of all four Kiss singers helps conceal Paul’s roughness.  And besides, every once in a while he goes for the high notes, and using them sparingly makes you appreciate them more.  The first single, “Hell Or Hallelujah”, demonstrates how Paul still manages to kick ass in the studio within the confines of his voice.

At first the only song I wasn’t digging was “Eat Your Heart Out”.  It threw me, right from the a cappella harmony that opens the song.  Now, I’m digging it.  From Gene’s signature slinky bass to Eric’s cowbell and Paul’s sly backing vocals, I love this song.  It’s an upbeat party tune like you want from Kiss.

“Outta This World”, written solely by Tommy Thayer, is his vocal showcase.  It’s another great song, not too different from his previous “When Lightning Strikes”.  It’s a great example of Tommy’s songwriting prowess.  Clearly, this is the right guy right now for Kiss.

Not to be outdone, Eric Singer’s lead vocal, “All For the Love of Rock and Roll” (written by Paul) is my current favourite song.  It’s probably the most “rock & roll” sounding of all these new Kiss songs.  It has a certain guitar jangle that would have been at home on some of the first 6 Kiss albums.  Think “Mr. Speed”.  Eric has always been a great singer and I don’t understand why Kiss didn’t take advantage of this, by having him sing lead on albums back in the 1990’s.

Gene and Paul trade vocals on “Take Me Down Below”, but even better is “Last Chance” which closes the album.  At first, by the opening bass, I’m thinking “Plaster Caster”; but then the riff kicks in.  When Pauls sings the chorus, Gene’s infectious “Ahh, ahh ahh’s” under it seal the deal.  This is a great tune.  Hope it makes the live set.

Best Buy and iTunes have a bonus track:  “Right Here Right Now”.   The beginning is like Kiss meets AC/DC!  Then it slides into an old-school Kiss singalong rocker.  Awesome tune, shame some people won’t get a chance to hear it.

MVP:  Gene Simmons.  Not only did he contribute some great songs, but his bass kicks this whole album in the nuts.  Not to mention he’s singing a lot more backing vocals, which just makes it sound more like Kiss!

Most improved:  Tommy Thayer.  To quote the  Heavy Metal OverloRd himself, Tommy is throwing in fewer “second-hand-Ace-isms”.   I agree heartily!  He sounds less like Ace, and more like Tommy.  Just listen to his solo on “Wall of Sound”.  Ace wouldn’t have played something like that.  Which is fine — Kiss don’t have to keep trying to sound like 1977 anymore.  They should (and did) try to make an album that sounds like one that these four guys — Gene, Paul, Eric and Tommy — would make in 2012.  And that’s just groovy.

5/5 stars

OF NOTE:  I have not yet located the Japanese edition.  Oh, but I will.  Bonus track:  “King of the Night Time World” live.

REVIEW: KISS – Best Of Solo Albums (1979)

Part 50:  Here we are at the end!  We started with the first album, but I thought I’d end it with something a little special.  I got this about a month ago.  So:  on the final KISS review before Monster, here we are with Best Of Solo Albums!

KISS – Best Of Solo Albums (German import, 1979)

The compilation was never released in North America, so here it’s quite a rarity.  I have read that there never has been an official CD release either.  Any CD would be a bootleg.

It’s a very even-handed and enjoyable listen.  The album is divided into four sections, one for each member, and each member gets three tracks.  Ace’s solo album was the most popular, so logically they started it with him, and his biggest hit.

“New York Groove” isn’t my favourite song in the world, but to start this album with anything but the big hit wouldn’t have been logical.  A better song, “Rip It Out”, follows.  I think this just might be the Ace’s best song.  An upbeat rocker with a killer Ace riff, it easily stands up against any Kiss hit.  This also offsets any lack of momentum that the mid-paced opening lacked.

“Speedin’ Back To My Baby”, another one of Ace’s best tunes, finishes his set.  I like this cool rocker, although my pick from Ace’s album would have been “What’s On Your Mind”.  Regardless, the album was wisely sequenced so it starts strong and finishes strong.  Ace’s side assured a good start.  What followed was Peter’s.

I don’t think there will ever be a consensus on the best songs from Peter Criss.  It’s a pretty bland affair, and one song is hard to distinguish from another sometimes.  “You Matter To Me” is, well, whatever it is.  Bad 70’s synth, midtempo AM radio crap is basically what it is.  “Tossin’ And Turnin'” and “Hooked On Rock And Roll” are both better, being rock and roll songs at least.  Peter loans them his souful rasp and he turns in decent versions of both songs.   I suppose I would have thrown in “I Can’t Stop The Rain” or “Easy Thing” instead.  I guess Casablanca were avoiding the ballads.  Makes sense in a way — they were probably trying to collect the songs they thought would most appeal to Kiss fans, out of Peter’s lukewarm songs.

Ace and Peter take up side 1.  Gene starts side 2, another controversial album.  “Radioactive” is his signiture disco-rocker, and Kiss were playing it on tour that year (as they also were with “New York Groove”).  It is followed by one of Gene’s all-time best songs, “Mr. Make Believe”.  This acoustic Beatles-y ballad has always been a favourite of mine.  Gene’s remake of “See You In Your Dreams” finishes his suite.  I prefer Kiss’ version.  But again, it’s a rocker, unlike a lot of Gene’s album.

Much like Ace’s record, Paul Stanley was well received by Kiss fans, if critisized for being so Kiss-like.  “Tonight You Belong To Me” is a dramatic opener and one of Paul’s greatest songs.  Kiss were playing “Move On” on the Dynasty tour at this time, so it too appears.  It’s not my favourite song.  (That would be “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me”. )  Paul’s set, and the album, closes with “Hold Me Touch Me”, which was also a single that had some success.  I think it’s a great song if a little saccharine.  Paul plays the guitar solo.

As a straight listen, the album works.  I mentioned how I would have swapped one song for another.  Well, yeah, on paper that’s what I would have done.  As an album, it works as it is.  Whatever the rationale was for picking the songs, it’s a consistent listen and one I enjoyed.  Now that I’ve ripped the LP to CD, and I can put that record away, for special occasions.

4/5 stars.

Side 1

  • ACE FREHLEY – “Rip It Out”, “New York Groove”, “Speedin’ Back to my Baby”
  • PETER CRISS – “You Matter To Me”, “Tossin’ and Turnin'”, “Hooked on Rock and Roll”

Side 2

  • GENE SIMMONS – “Radioactive”, “Mr. Make Believe”, “See You In Your Dreams”,
  • PAUL STANLEY – “Tonight You Belong To Me”, “Move On”, “Hold Me Touch Me”

Notes From the Cottage

Now that we’re all but through the Kiss reviews, I’ve had numerous requests for what comes next!  The general consensus seems to be that I should review all the Maidens next.  I think that’s a grand idea!

But not right away.  Those 50+ Kiss reviews were a lot of fun, but keeping up that pace was nuts.  I give Jen a lot of credit, as she walked through album photo shoots and waited patiently for computer time during late editing sessions!

So; yes!  Let’s do this again.  But not right away, and not at that pace.

Time to chill!

REVIEW: KISS – Icon and Icon 2 (2010)

The 49th and penultimate instalment in my series of Kiss reviews, all leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Icon and Icon 2 (2010)

OK, this is where I lose it!

Fuck you, The Island Def Jam Music Group, for putting out these discs!  These suck!

Kiss Icon:  IDENTICAL to 20th Century Masters – The Millenium Collection:  The Best of Kiss Vol. 1Exactly the same, track for track.  Without the liner notes, and suckier cover art.

Kiss Icon 2:  This time, a 2 disc set.  Logically, you’d assume it would be Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 of the Millenium Collection, right?  Well, hell no.  It has some of those songs, but it also has songs that weren’t on those, like “A World Without Heroes” and “Shandi”.  But…BUT!  The first disc of this set?  It’s just Icon over again!  Yes, disc 1 of Icon 2 is just Icon, over again!  But it doesn’t tell you that.  It also has an incorrect song listed!  The cover says “Shout It Out Loud (Live)” is the last track of disc 1.  But no.  The last track on disc 1 actually is “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, just like the Millenium Collection.

But wait, I ain’t done!  Disc 2, track 1, is “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”…AGAIN!

GAHHH!  Just…stop putting this shit out!

-101/5 stars