peter criss

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Peter Criss (1978 solo album)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 13:  

 Peter Criss (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Peter Criss’ dreams of superstardom died with his first solo album.

To assuage egos and blow off steam, all four Kiss members agreed to record and release solo albums simultaneously.  This was done under the Kiss banner to unify them, but each member had complete creative freedom on their own.

A project like this had never been attempted before by anybody, and Casablanca records gambled on all four being equally huge.  They gambled wrong.  Peter Criss’ album was the biggest casualty.  It sold the poorest and charted at a lowly #43 (Billboard).  He assumed he was the star of the band due to “Beth” being their biggest single.  He set out to make an album like that, but Kiss fans were not likely to buy an R&B ballad album.

Criss hired Ringo Starr producer Vini Poncia (his first of a few Kiss collaborations), and wrote part of the album with his old Chelsea partner Stan Penridge.  He had a band of studio musicians, but was unable to play drums on the whole album due to injury.  For those tracks he used Allan Schwartzberg who also played on Gene Simmons’ solo LP.

There was a clear R&B direction, the stuff that Peter loved and couldn’t play in Kiss.  There are horns a’plenty and cool non-rock grooves.  Opening track “I’m Gonna Love You” pointed the way:  mid-tempo, loads of soulful backing vocals, easy beats and raspy singing.  His drums fit the sound perfectly.  “You Matter to Me” brought 70s synth into the mixture.  Easy listening light rock ballads go down smooth but don’t leave you feeling satisfied.

“Tossin’ and Turnin’”, the old 1961 R&B hit, was the only tune played live by Kiss on the 1979 tour.  Peter’s version of course does not sound like Kiss, but it’s a lively version suited to his style.  Another ballad, “Don’t You Let Me Down”, is a tender song but lighter than light.  Absolutely too soft for Kiss, but one of the stronger Penridge/Criss compositions that might have worked well covered by an easy listening artist.  Unlike “That’s the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes”, which is not a good song at all.

Criss played all the drums on side one.  Schwartzberg was on most of side two, opening with the quiet yet epic ballad “Easy Thing”.  It has a slow build into something big and orchestrated, and for this album it works.  Sean Delaney’s “Rock Me, Baby” brings things back to rock and roll, but with a mediocre track that wouldn’t be good enough for Kiss.  “Kiss the Girl Goodbye” was another soft and light ballad, pleasant enough but far from outstanding.  Penridge’s guitar is a delight, but the only delight.  “Hooked on Rock and Roll” on the other hand is a standout akin to “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, a little bit of an autobiographical track about the Catman.  “Every morning at the break of dawn, you could see him dragging home his drums.”

The final track, and one of the most polarizing, is Sean Delaney’s “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.  Some love it, some hate it, but one thing for sure:  it’s one of most bombastic ballads Peter’s ever recorded.  Piano, orchestration and stellar guitar by Elliot Randall (Steely Dan) make for a huge ballad.  Love it or hate it, “I Can’t Stop the Rain” is schlocky and bittersweet.

When Peter’s album failed to sell, Casablanca rushed out two singles.  The other Kiss members only got one each.  Neither “Don’t You Let Me Down” nor “You Matter to Me” made any impact.  The fallout from this album was that Peter Criss was perceived as out of touch by his band and his fans.  He was hoping to become a blue-eyed soul star, but his image never recovered.  From this point on, Peter’s dedication to rock was always under scrutiny, and his time in Kiss truly began to tick away.

Today’s rating

1.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/17

 

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RE-REVIEW: KISS – Double Platinum (1978)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 12:  

kiss-logoDouble Platinum (1978 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remastered edition)

As 1977 turned into 1978, Kiss were buying mansions, and buying time.

Their next big project was a rock and roll first.  Four solo albums, all under the Kiss banner, simultaneously.  It had never been done before.  As each of the four members toiled separately on their albums, Casablanca Records and Sean Delaney put together the next Kiss package:  Double Platinum was intended to keep the band on the charts in the meantime.

The first Kiss “greatest hits” album is the most legendary.  Sparing no expense, the two records were housed in a brilliant gatefold sleeve, embossed in shiny silver foil.  Kiss made their hits package really look like one, and the 20 included songs meant fans would get a cross section of hit material from all six Kiss studio albums.

Therein lay the challenge.  Kiss studio albums were, at best, uneven sounding.  Their early work was marred by studio inadequacies.  Producer Delaney chose to remix (with Mike Stone) a number of the old Kiss tracks, in an attempt to bring everything up to the level of DestroyerDestroyer was considered the benchmark, the best sounding Kiss album.  Using it as the high water mark, Delaney and Stone attempted to bring the rest of the material to that level.  Remixed were “Firehouse”, “Deuce”, “100,000 Years”, “Detroit Rock City”, “She”, “C’mon And Love Me”, “Hard Luck Woman”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” and “Black Diamond.”

Most casual buyers don’t want remixes when they buy a hits package, but many won’t even be able to tell the difference.  Some are more obvious.  “Hard Luck Woman” has a longer acoustic section.  “She” now has the “Rock Bottom” intro.  “Black Diamond” is rearranged so that it ends where it begins and repeats to fade.  By and large, these remixes are not obtrusive.  They enable a great song flow.

And what songs!  “Detroit”, “Beth”, “Deuce”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Cold Gin”, “Firehouse”, “Makin’ Love” and more, with very few important exclusions.  The only track that earns scorn from many is “Strutter ‘78”, a re-recording done especially for Double Platinum.  It was done up with a late-70s production featuring compression and shakers.  The “disco era” was on the horizon.  Today, Gene Simmons questions why the re-recording was made.  To sell records, is the answer.

Double Platinum is the album to buy instead of Alive! if you would like to start your Kiss collection with a broad sampling of studio classics.  It’s still an enjoyable front to back listen for anyone.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/14
Review of foil embossed CD reissue:  2012/11/22

Official apology to Robert V Conte

In my November 2012 review I called the CD liner notes by Conte “shitty” and then added a snarky “Who?”  I knew who he was (I own lots of books with his name inside) and I didn’t need to be bitchy.  His liner notes to the 1997 remastered editions are what they are, and what he was paid to do.  Robert, I hope you accept this apology for what was a dumb comment on my part.

MOVIE RE-REVIEW: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)

A huge thanks to old buddy Scott who hooked me up with a DVD rip of this movie, taken from the original VHS release.

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 11:  

Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978 Hanna-Barbera TV movie)

A monster-sized, semi-transparent Gene Simmons prowls above a rollercoaster.  Ace Frehley and Peter Criss fly about on a floating amusement park ride, and Gene says “hello ladies” from the top of the rollercoaster.  Paul Stanley dances up a storm, all to the tune of the original “Rock and Roll all Nite” from Dressed to Kill.  This is how it all happened on October 28, 1978 when NBC broadcast the TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.

The sheer hubris of Kiss and their enablers in 1978 was out of control.  The band had always intended to conquer TV screens, and silver ones too.  When Gene hyped the proposed Kiss movie as the best thing since either Jaws or Star Wars, skepticism would be justified.   Kiss had a ready-made image for spinoffs, and Marvel comics had first dibs on illustrated Kiss.  But their ambition caught up with their abilities with Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.  Nobody in the band could act.  The script was being changed on a daily basis.  The special effects were a joke.  Stunt doubles looked nothing like the real Kiss.  Jokey fight scenes are accompanied by cartoony music from the Hanna-Barbera archives.

There is a superior European cut of this film called Attack of the Phantoms.  The cartoon fight music is replaced by actual Kiss songs, and it is generally just a better version.  It can be found in the Kissology II DVD set.  The cut that most of us saw on television has been issued on VHS, but never DVD.  For a complete breakdown of every difference between every version of Kiss Meets the Phantom, be sure to get Dale Sherman’s thoroughly incredible reference book, Black Diamond 2.

It is summer in sunny California at Magic Mountain amusement park.  Over the loudspeakers, an announcement is made:  “Kiss is in concert, starting tonight, for three great nights!”  The security guy, Sneed,  is worried about a riot.  Park owner Calvin Richards only sees dollar signs.  And there is a third party too:  Abner Deveroux (the acclaimed actor Anthony Zerbe in his most embarrassing role ever).  Deveroux built the rides and all the park’s robotic animatronics, but things are starting to break down.   Devereux fancies himself a scientist and can’t deal with his budget cuts while money is being spent promoting the Kiss concert.  Throw in a group of thugs (Chopper, Slime and Dee) and you have a potentially dangerous situation.  When Devereux’s assistant Sam goes missing, his girlfriend Melissa goes looking for him.  And, for some reason, she needs Kiss’ help.

Minute after agonizing minute, we sit through clumsy dialogue and wooden lines, as we wait and wait for Kiss to finally show up.  A creepy tour of Devereux’s underground robot-filled laboratory reveals he’s completely nuts, always a good thing to have in the designer of a kids’ amusement park.  He has the will and the means to exact his revenge on those who cross him…and he also has the missing Sam!  But when will Kiss show up?  Not for an incredibly slow moving 30 minutes…and that’s not including commercials.

Kiss’ grand entrance (to the tune of “Rocket Ride” from Alive II) is the first time the audience is given one vital piece of information.  Kiss, apparently, have superpowers.  They can shoot laser beams from their eyes, breath fire, teleport and more.  Why they have chosen to use their powers for rock and roll is never revealed  beyond “you got to have a party”.

The concert continues with “Shout it Out Loud” and “Black Diamond”.  Peter Criss’ drum kit elevates and fireworks explode.  When the movie first aired, it was the first time kids could could see what a Kiss concert was like from the comfort of home.  The concert footage is far too short, but all is not well with the park.  Abner Devereux is fired from his job (yet he’s not removed from the premises, and continues to work in his underground lab)!  He sets into motion a plan to get his revenge…on Kiss!   Fortunately, Paul can shoot a star thing out of his eye that lets him read minds.

“You’re looking for someone.  But it’s not Kiss.”

When Gene seemingly attacks two security guards at night, Kiss is questioned in the classic “pool scene”.   There used to be an urban legend that Peter Criss did voices for cartoons such as Superfriends.  The origin of this is Kiss Meets the Phantom.  Supposedly Peter Criss refused to overdub his lines (as is standard procedure for any show due to the flawed nature of on-location audio) so voice actor Michael Bell was called in.  Many fans never knew Peter Criss’ real speaking voice for years, since Bell’s was the only one we heard.  Worse, Ace Frehley barely had any dialogue at all, beyond yelping “Ack”.  The writers who were hired to follow Kiss around to get a feel for their personalities didn’t pick up much from Ace beyond odd noises.  Lines has to be added for Ace at the last minute when he flipped out over his lack of verbiage in the film.  Therefore, he also got “Hi, Curly!”  Most of Gene’s lines are just lion-like roars.

The plot thickens:

Calvin Richards:  “Look, someone vandalized our park last night, smashed some of our buildings, and injured a few of our guards.  Well Gene, they think it was you.”

Guard #1:  “Think!?  It was him!”

Guard #2:  “Or his twin!”

Peter Criss:  “Gene’s brother was an only child.”

Paul Stanley:  “Easy, Catman, they are serious.”

The best part is that Guard #1 is played by the then-unknown Brion James of Blade Runner and Fifth Element fame.

When Melissa returns (still looking for the missing Sam), Kiss reveals to her the truth behind their powers:  They possess talismans that grant them superhuman abilities…and now an eavesdropping Devereux knows, too!  The second Kiss concert goes off without a hitch.   An exciting “I Stole Your Love” features the band descending from elevating side stage platforms.  The song is edited for length, but Gene blows fire at the end.  What Kiss don’t know is that Devereux has sent Sam, who he now controls, to steal their talismans!

After the concert, Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace are joined by Melissa, heartbroken over Sam.  Neither Gene, nor Paul, nor Ace and Peter attempt to sleep with her.  No, instead, they serenade her to a very special version of “Beth”.  Some in fandom feel that this version is the best ever version of “Beth”.  It has Peter Criss’ vocal from the album, and a single acoustic guitar.  (Paul mimed this guitar part for the movie, though Peter felt it should have been Ace.)  Meanwhile, Sam is thwarted from stealing the talismans by a force field, but Kiss can sense that something is up.  They decide to check out the park and look for Devereux.

Cue that funky fight scene music, white cat!  Four white cat-like people get the drop on Kiss!  “They’re not real, they’re robots!” says Paul.  “It’s all unreal!”  The cats are followed by samurai, wielding lightsaber-like swords. But Devereux is not so easily beaten.  Sam, now equipped with a ray gun from Devereux, has stolen the talismans!  Kiss follow him into the spooky Chamber of Thrills, where they are attacked and captured by even more robots.  These campy fight scenes are either intolerably awful, or the highlight of the movie, depending on your point of view and level of intoxication.

The climax is an epic battle between Kiss and their evil robotic alter-egos, built by Devereux!  Devereux sends the phony Kiss-bots on stage to use music to incite the crowd to riot and destroy the park.  Changing the words to “Hotter Than Hell”, the Kiss-bots almost succeed.

It’s time for everyone to listen good,
We’re taking all we can stand,
You’ve got the power to rip down these walls,
It’s in the palm of your hand!

Rip, rip, rip and destroy!
You know the hour’s getting late.
Rip, rip, rip and destroy!
Break it down and seal your fate.

Can the real Kiss recover the talismans, beat the bots and retake the stage?

Other Kiss tracks heard in the movie include “Christine Sixteen” and “God of Thunder”, but let’s face it, Kiss Meets the Phantom is a shit-show.  It was an opportunity for fans to see Kiss on TV, but it did little to convert anyone to the Kiss cause.   The concert footage is fantastic, although songs are severely edited.  Its greatest value today is as a camp classic, but without a beverage of some kind, it is a lethargic undertaking.  The fact that Anthony Zerbe has this movie on his resume is astonishing; the fact that Kiss have yet to release this version on DVD is not.

1978 was a rocky year for the Kiss army.  Though the Alive II tour started the year on a high, and the Marvel comic was a pretty cool thing, fans were now being fed more product.  Double Platinum (up next) left some feeling exploited for their dollars, and Kiss Meets the Phantom could be considered a complete write-off.

Today’s rating:  1/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/09

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive II (1977)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 10:  

kiss-logoAlive II (1977 Casablanca, 2006 remastered edition from Alive! 1975-2000)

Kiss in 1977 were a band of four different personalities, and those personalities were beginning to drift apart. There was talk of allowing members some time to do solo albums and blow off some steam. There was a Kiss movie happening (Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park), not to mention Love Gun and its accompanying tour.  Kiss Alive! was the album that made them a household name, so why not try to buy some time with another live release?  The band had amassed three more studio albums in the interim.

Eddie Kramer was hired once again to recapture the magic.  Shows (and soundchecks) in L.A. were recorded, and older tapes from a pre-Love Gun Japanese tour were dusted off.  They had lots of material to work with, and so it was decided that Alive II would have no crossover with tracks from Alive!, a value-conscious move that  fans appreciated.  They were still short enough songs to make a full double live, so studio time was booked at Electric Lady to record new songs too.  As with the previous Alive, much fixing and re-recording was done to the live tracks.  Some of the soundchecks were used with audience noise overdubbed.  Two songs (“Hard Luck Woman” and “Tomorrow and Tonight”) were actually re-recorded completely.  Knowing now what we didn’t know then, this certainly explains why Alive II sounds more sterile than the first, and why you can hear Paul Stanley singing backup vocals to his own lead vocals.

Alive II has always been viewed as sort of a poorer cousin to Alive!  It’s hard to blame the studio tampering, because Alive! was done the same.  For whatever reasons, it’s a lot more noticeable on Alive II, although not to the point of distraction.  Alive II simply does not have the same oomph, the same fire bleeding through.  Even with tracks like “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “God of Thunder” and “I Stole Your Love”, it’s hard to compete with Alive! for sheer ferocity.

As is their penchant, some songs like “God of Thunder” are much faster live.  “God of Thunder” could be the heaviest version of that track on tape.  “Ladies Room” and “Dr. Love” are also faster and harder.  “Makin’ Love” blows away the album version, and “I Want You” comes close.  Ace Frehley’s vocal slot on “Shock Me” is a welcome treat and obvious highlight, featuring Ace’s big solo spot.  As for Peter Criss, “Hard Luck Woman” is a nice electric version, but “Beth” underwhelms.  Singing “Beth” to backing tapes is a “who cares” moment anyway, but Peter doesn’t nail it either.

The real point of interest on Alive II is side four, the studio side, for two reasons.  One is that it’s a surprisingly strong side even though only one of these songs has gone on to be a classic today.  Paul Stanley has dismissed these tracks as schlock, but fans don’t always agree.  The second is that Kiss’ internal problems had come to a head, and once again members were secretly replaced on recordings by outsiders.

Ace Frehley wasn’t around, except to record his own song (“Rocket Ride”), which has become a second-tier Kiss classic.  Maybe to spite Kiss, he played all the bass and guitars on it.  Ace’s track is immediate, Kiss-like and perfect for his persona.  With Peter Criss in the pocket, Ace lays down some seriously wild effects-laden six-string magic.  But that was it.  Ace was focussed on his forthcoming solo album.  The wheels were already in motion and songs were being written.   To keep things from falling apart and maintain a facade of unity, Kiss decided that all four of them would release solo albums, unified, under the Kiss banner.

Meanwhile, Paul and Gene came up with a few tracks for side four.   Replacing Ace Frehley on lead guitar was the man who he nudged out of the job in the first place — Bob Kulick.  Paul and Bob had maintained a friendship in New York ever since his 1973 Kiss audition.  Bob was asked to come in on the sly and record uncredited.  His task was to play like Ace would have done it, a difficult task.  “Ace wouldn’t play that note”, someone would say from the control booth as Bob struggled to come up with the enigmatic “right” vibe.  But he did it, and now that we know the truth, fans hold Bob’s work in high esteem.

Paul Stanley’s “All American Man” (Stanley/Sean Delaney) has the goods:  a signature guitar hook, a memorable chorus and a killer solo that we only know now was actually Bob.  “All American Man” is a natural extension of where Kiss were headed with Love Gun.  Gene had the next two tracks, “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.” and “Larger Than Life”.  “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.” sounds like Gene writing his own “Ballad of John and Yoko”, but a hard rock version.  As for “Larger Than Life”, you can guess what body part Gene’s talking about.  “Larger Than Life” works because of the combination of Gene’s “monster plod” riff with Bob’s sweet guitar lightning.  Finally a cover of the Dave Clark Five hit “Any Way You Want It” closes Alive II, quick and catchy.  Kiss have a way of adapting their blocky rock style to covers and making it work.  Suddenly the Dave Clark Five sound like Kiss, rather than vice-versa.

Alive II arrived in stores on October 14 1977, exactly two weeks ahead of the much-hyped movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.  There are some who would consider this the end of the beginning.  But Kiss weren’t done releasing albums before the big solo projects came to fruition.  We know today that making Alive II was a financial move rather than an artistic one, but the reality is it was conceived as a product.  At least it was a quality product.  As usual, Kiss and Casablanca rewarded fans with goodies inside the original LP.  It had a gatefold cover, a booklet entitled “The Evolution of Kiss”, and temporary tattoos.  Good luck finding those intact.  Our recommended edition:  The four disc 2006 box set Alive! 1975-2000.  The set contains four volumes of Kiss Alive, deliciously remastered, with each album fit onto a single CD without losing any songs.  There’s even a bonus track:  the single edit of “Rock and Roll all Nite”, from the original Kiss Alive!  This 3:23 version is from the 7″ single, edited down from the 3:59 Alive! album version.  It was the first CD release of that version.

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Alive II is an album that for me, gets kinda lost in the shuffle amidst the Kiss discography.  Not because it’s not a good live album, but more that it’s very much Alive-lite.  There are definite highlights on this record of course, but it doesn’t pack the consistent hit-parade punch as the first “live” record.  I also have never really understood why side four was all studio tracks.   Kiss did get a minor hit out of “Rocket Ride” though, a pretty good Ace tune here, and a sign of things to come with an Ace song on the charts.  The other studio tracks feature some good guitar work, but not memorable overall.  If Kiss has played any of these songs live at all I would be surprised, but I’m sure LeBrain will have some Turkish B-side thingy that will prove me wrong.  [I don’t. – LeBrain]

I was wond’ring aloud (purposeful and cheap Tull shout-out there) earlier about the whereabouts of a good “God of Thunder” cover in an earlier review, but perhaps that cover is right here.  Kiss plays it live here in double time and I like the feel of it.  “Shock Me” shines on this album.  So do a few other Kiss classics.  I just see a few unnecessary garnishes on this plate.

Favorite Tracks:  “Shock Me”, “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “God of Thunder”, “I Stole Your Love”

 Forgettable Tracks:    Side four


 

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/12

 

 

 

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

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Rock and Roll Over (1976)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 8:  

scan_20170302kiss-logo Rock and Roll Over (1976 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remastered edition)

Kiss were at a crossroads.  What to do next?  Destroyer, produced by maestro Bob Ezrin, introduced a new Kiss to the world:  glossy, indulgent, polished and augmented with plenty of highbrow non-rock instruments.  Would they explore that road and see where it lead?  If they had, an entire alternate KISStory would exist today.  Instead they chose to get back to basics.

Producer Eddie Kramer, who made Kiss Alive! so unforgettably thunderous, was called up again.  Kramer and Kiss departed for the Star Theater in Nanuet, New York to record.  The idea this time, as opposed to Destroyer, was to go for a live Kiss sound, but on a studio album.  The theater setting was intended to help capture that.  Peter Criss’ drums were recorded in a bathroom for the perfect ambience.  Rock and Roll Over followed Destroyer by a mere seven months, maintaining Kiss’ record of two albums per year.  As promised, it was a return to the core Kiss sound:  loud guitars and hard rock.  They had learned a trick or two from the Destroyer experience.  Rock and Roll Over was tighter and sharper than the first three Kiss albums.

The acoustic intro to Paul’s “I Want You” lulls you into a false sense of calm.  Then it completely explodes with one of Paul’s most passionate tunes.  In three minutes, Kiss laid waste once again.  A second Paul scorcher, “Take Me” was written with Kiss road manager and coach Sean Delaney.  The words are simple and c-c-c-catchy: “Go baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah!  Oh, baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah!”  Elsewhere, Paul asks “Put your hand in my pocket, grab on to my rocket,” just so there is no confusion.

Gene Simmons’ “Calling Dr. Love” (based off a demo called “Bad Bad Lovin”) was a single and a perennial concert classic.  You either like Gene or you don’t.  “Calling Dr. Love” won’t change any minds, but it will satisfy those who can’t enough of the sex-crazed demon.  It does boast a fiery Ace Frehley guitar solo, one of his most memorable.  Gene’s second track “Ladies Room” is just rock and roll, a lesser-known Kiss classic, but catchy as sin.  The LP’s first side was closed with a Peter Criss song, co-written with his Chelsea bandmate Stan Penridge.  “Baby Driver” is not listed among Kiss’ best tracks, but there isn’t much wrong with it.  It’s basic, it slams, and Peter screams his throat out.  Not a standout but worth a spin or two.

Gene’s “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” is the lovely kind of sentiment that many Kiss songs were built on.  This ode to groupies and hotel sex was not the first and not the last, but it had a memorable bop and catchy chorus.  “Mr. Speed” (Stanley/Delaney) is a standout with the kind of rock and roll guitar riff that Paul specializes in.  This killer track could and perhaps should have been a timeless concert classic, probably ahead of other tracks.  (It was also used on the soundtrack to Keanu Reeves’ 1994 action movie Speed.)  Simmons’ “See You In Your Dreams” was less timeless and memorable, so later on Gene took a shot at re-recording it.  The Rock and Roll Over version makes for the kind of song that is good for filling the spaces between better songs.

Speaking of better songs, Paul’s “Hard Luck Woman” is undeniably one of his best.  The lush acoustic six and twelve string guitars ring pure and clean.  Paul wanted to give the song to Rod Stewart to sing, as it has a light “Maggie May” aura.  Wiser minds prevailed and the song was kept for Kiss, and given to Peter Criss to sing as a followup to “Beth”.  Peter of course nailed it and “Hard Luck Woman” reigns as one of the best tracks Peter was given to sing, if not the best.  It might not have been as big as “Beth” but that means little; it is the far superior song.

Closing the record, Paul Stanley’s “Makin’ Love” ends Rock and Roll Over on the same kind of fast and furious riffing that it began with.  “I Want You” and “Makin’ Love” are bookends, starting and finishing Rock and Roll Over with hard guitars and good times.  Sean Delaney co-wrote “Makin’ Love” and his contributions to KISStory have too often been swept under the carpet.  Delaney had three co-writes on Rock and Roll Over.  Peter Criss had one, and Ace Frehley didn’t have any at all.

Rock and Roll Over gave Kiss another platinum album to hang on the wall.  Their success, and their sound, had solidified.  There was nowhere to go but up.

Today’s rating:  4.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:  5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:   This time let’s start with the negative, as small and nitpicky as that is in the case of this album.  I’m not a big fan of “See You in Your Dreams”.  Not awful, but just kinda bland in comparison to the rest.  “Baby Driver” could also be lumped in with that for the same reason. 

The other thing I could say about this album is that since Kiss were the “Kings of the Night Time World” at this point, this is where the lyrics started to get their most misogynistic or what have you.  Songs like “Ladies Room” and “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” are tunes I really like, however I can see that these were the gateway drug to some of the ridiculous lyrics in Kiss songs in the 80s and 90s. 

I love everything else about this album.  Rock and Roll Over was my favorite Kiss studio album as a kid, and it’s just a shade under Dressed to Kill now on my Kiss albums list. This seems to make sense now, since both albums were created in similar fashion:  Kiss under the gun and needing to write and record an album fast.   Good Rock and Roll instincts there.

My favorite ever Kiss ballad is on this record too.  “Hard Luck Woman” is an extremely catchy song, and could be my favorite song on the album.  I recall that somewhere around 2002, I was very drunk in a bar and ended up singing “Hard Luck Woman” on karaoke, and probably had not heard the song in many many years.  I sang the first 2/3rds, however well a pissed me could muster.  The end of the song surprised me and I had no idea what to sing and left in the middle of the track.  Not long after a girl came up to me and said, “I have never heard anybody sing that Garth Brooks song on karaoke before”.  She seemed so taken aback at my insistence that “Hard Luck Woman” was a Kiss song.  Maybe it was because I started freaking out on this poor girl.  “Hard Luck Woman” indeed.


Reproduction of the karaoke performance

Favorite Tracks: “Hard Luck Woman”, “I Want You”, “Makin Love”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Mr. Speed”

Forgettabe Tracks:  I’m done nitpicking on this one.


 

To be continued…

scan_20170302-4

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/09

 

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Destroyer (1976)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 7:  

scan_20170301kiss-logoDestroyer (1976 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remastered edition)

Kiss had “made it”.  Alive! put them where they wanted to be:  on the charts and headlining concert stages coast to coast.  The financial pressure was off and they didn’t have to simply crank out new albums to keep the band afloat.  They could now take their time and make something that was more thought out; a statement.

The first issue to deal with was Kiss’ past sonic inadequacy in the studio.  Prior albums produced by Kenny Kerner & Richie Wise, and Neil Bogart did not capture the full-on Kiss thunder.  They failed to shred the speakers.  They needed somebody “big time”, to give them the punch they desperately needed.  That somebody was Canadian producer extraordinaire Bob Ezrin.  Ezrin had been an instrumental guiding force for Alice Cooper.  Now it was Kiss’ turn to receive the platinum Ezrin magic touch.

Ezrin agreed to work with Kiss, reportedly influenced by a neighbor kid who liked to discuss music.  “The kids from school love Kiss,” the boy told Ezrin.  “The problem is, their records sound so shitty.  But the band is so good we buy the records anyway.”  Working with Kiss wasn’t much different from working with Cooper.  These were not schooled musicians.  Ezrin had to take them to boot camp.  Keeping the drums in time was a challenge.  Peter Criss had difficulty maintaining a steady tempo, so Ezrin would beat a briefcase to keep him in time.  He wore a conductor’s coat and tails, and pushed the rest of the band like a drill sergeant.  Even the mighty demon Gene Simmons was chastised, for finishing a take before the producer instructed him to stop.  And when Ace Frehley didn’t show up because he had a card game?  Shenanigans were not tolerated.  When Ace wasn’t available when he should have been, Ezrin’s buddy Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper) was there.  For the first time, a Kiss member was replaced on album by an outside uncredited musician.

kiss-and-ezrin-in-tails

One innovative technique that Ezrin brought in to thicken up Kiss’ sound was using a grand piano to back up the big guitars.  The end result doesn’t sound like piano and guitars, but one solid wall of rock, like Phil Spector channelled through Bob Ezrin.  Where Kiss used to rely on rag-tag recordings they now had a big glossy sound to play with.  Ezrin was also fond of sound effects and orchestration, and he brought both to Kiss.

The opening track “Detroit Rock City” was a slam-dunk intro to the new Kiss sound.  After an extended start with the sound of a fan driving to a Kiss concert, the band thundered into focus.  That trademark riff chainsaws through, before Paul Stanley’s powerful pipes take command.  What a song.  The new Kiss had arrived, shiny and sleek, souped up and fueled, as if they were a brand new band.

detroit_rock_city“Detroit” faded out into “King of the Night Time World”, an outside song brought in for completion by Ezrin and Paul Stanley.  They turned it into something that worked for a Kiss album, albeit very different from their past.  As for Paul, he contributed a fast hard rocker called “God of Thunder”.  Though reports sometime differ in the details, ultimately the song fit Gene Simmons’ demon persona better and the song was given to him to sing.  It was slowed to a monster plod, and a few lines were changed to suit.  (“Make love ’til we bleed” was changed to “Hear my words and take heed”.)  And those little demonic voices?  Bob Ezrin’s kids, playing with walkie-talkies.

“Great Expectations” (based on Beethoven) has to be the most bizarre song on the album and one of the weirdest that Kiss have attempted.  A lush ballad with strings and choirs and Gene Simmons in crooner mode, it is definitely different.  Even one of the rockers, “Flaming Youth” written by Frehley/Stanley/Simmons/Ezrin, is different for Kiss.  It’s a rock song…with calliope.  (Picture circus music.)  Gene’s “Sweet Pain” had female backing vocals like an old Motown single.  These are all interesting experiments, but none of those three songs have become live concert classics.

Bob Ezrin tricked the band into writing “Shout it Out Loud”.  He realized they needed one more song, so he told the band that they had lost the masters to “Great Expectations” and needed a replacement.  Gene and Paul hurriedly wrote “Shout it Out Loud” with the producer and had another instant classic.  Like “Rock and Roll all Nite” before it, “Shout” was an anthemic rallying cry that a concert audience could get behind.

The album closer was a track called “Do You Love Me”, another tune brought in by outsiders (Kim Fowley) to be finished by Kiss.  Though on the surface “Do You Love Me” is a bit repetitive and dull, it was later covered by Nirvana.  There must be something to it that struck a chord.

There was still one more song on the album, a throwaway.  It was used as a B-side to “Detroit Rock City”, as the band didn’t have much faith in it.  Peter Criss had brought forward a love song called “Beck”, named for a girl named Becky, written by Stan Penridge for their old band Chelsea.  The song needed work, including a new title.  Ezrin revamped it completely, and the result was one of Kiss’ all time biggest hits:  “Beth”.  Tender and accessible, the only Kiss member on “Beth” was Peter Criss himself.  Dick Wagner played acoustic and Bob Ezrin played piano.  The orchestra finished it off.  Eventually, radio stations started flipping the “Detroit” single and playing “Beth”.  This led to Casablanca reissuing “Beth” as a single A-side, Kiss’ highest charting ever.


With the help of “Beth”, Destroyer maintained Kiss’ stardom and opened up the doors for any future musical experiments they could fathom.  Its cover showed Kiss in an apocalyptic landscape, in full super hero mode for the first time.  Artist Ken Kelly created something that helped define Kiss as larger than life…and larger than life they did become.

That wasn’t the end of the story for Destroyer.  For years it became the benchmark that Kiss albums were measured against.  In 2012, Bob Ezrin revisited the backing tapes and produced an alternate mix called Destroyer: Resurrected.  This featured some previously unheard music such as an alternate Ace Frehley guitar solo for “Sweet Pain” (Dick Wagner played the original solo).

Destroyer is far from the definitive Kiss album.  In fact, it is more like a one-off, an experiment that was never fully revisited.  Some of its songs are less than classic.  Others are so classic that you can’t imagine the world without them.  The bottom line for Kiss was that Destroyer propelled them further towards their goal of becoming the hottest band in the world.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s Slice:  The general consensus of casual Kiss fans is that this is their greatest studio album.  Let’s examine this.  I’ll start with the iconic.

“SHOUT  IT OUT LOUD” – On May 22, 1976, this song went number one in Canada, the band’s first ever number one song.  40 years later and “Shout it Out Loud” might be the Kiss song with the longest shelf life.  One of two perfect “live concert” songs on Destroyer.  The other?

“DETROIT ROCK CITY” –  Thin Lizzy-esque two-guitar rock fest.   Sitting on the same shelf as “Shout it Out Loud”.  Iconic indeed.   Unperishable.   Even has a movie named after it. I have never seen  it.   Maybe it’s finally time to do so.

“BETH” – If any other member sang “Beth” it wouldn’t have been the same song, or had the same success.  Peter Criss has a special rasp in his voice that can both rock and schmaltz it up.  Like Rod Stewart, or that goof that sings for Slaughter.   I personally wish “Beth” would “fly to the angels” up in the sky, but this song did do one good thing for me.  My grandmother refused to get me anything Kiss related until I pointed out to her that “Beth”, on the radio in the car at the time, was actually Kiss.  So thanks for that at least.

“DO YOU LOVE ME” –  Perhaps this song is more iconic in my own mind specifically, since it is in my Top Five Kiss songs.  Classic Paul Stanley stuff here.

“GOD OF THUNDER” – Unique in every way for the time.  A lot of Ezrin tricks in this track including backwards drumming.  I still have not heard the great cover of this song I always thought I would from some Metal band.  There’s still time….

No wonder the casual Kiss fan believes this is the best of all of the Kiss studio albums.  It is a great collection of songs that are still loved today.  But everything else on Destroyer not listed above is average at best,  or much worse than that.  Maybe it’s because Kiss was too busy getting music lessons from Bob Ezrin while in the studio.  Maybe it’s simply that Kiss was tired of being looked at as a “joke” and wanted to get more serious, hence getting some more respect from the mainstream press.  Now again, this is my opinion and I’m sure that some might vehemently disagree with me about some of the deeper Destroyer tracks.  The best of which I think is “Flaming Youth”.   “King of the Night Time World” is pretty good, but borrowed from another song.  “Great Expectations” is blah stuff except for the melody stolen from Beethoven.  “Sweet Pain” sucks.  And “Rock and Roll Party” is just unnecessary filler, very much like “Inside”, the ending track on 5150.  Might as well take the needle off the record as soon as the song starts and put on something else immediately.

Let’s use this analogy

A couple raises 10 children.   Three of their children become world leaders.  Two others become successful doctors.  But half of their kids are in jail, some for unspeakable crimes against humanity.  Can you call them the best family overall because half of them are special?   Destroyer is definitely not the greatest Kiss album. 

Agreed?  Discuss….


 

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/06

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive! (1975)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 6:  

img_20170228_171256kiss-logoAlive! (1975 Casablanca, 2006 remastered edition from Alive! 1975-2000)

Music fans consider it one of the greatest live albums of all time.  Its name is spoken in the same breath as Frampton Comes Alive, Cheap Trick At Budokan, and Deep Purple Made in Japan.  It spawned thousands of young new guitar players (particularly of the grunge era), eager to emulate the six string heroism of Ace Frehley.  There is really only one miniscule issue:  Kiss Alive! is not really live.

Oh sure, Kiss and producer Eddie Kramer did record live shows.  When they listened back to the tapes, there were no performances that satisfied them.  Kiss were too rambunctious live.  They were busy jumping around, entertaining the crowd, not paying attention to each and every note.  For the live album, they weren’t looking for perfection, just performances without glaring mistakes or noise.  They realized they didn’t capture that with the shows they recorded.   So they did what most bands do:  went back into the studio and try to fix it.  Lead singer and guitarist Paul Stanley explained it in his book: “Yes, we enhanced it – not to hide anything, not to fool anyone.  But who wanted to hear a mistake repeated endlessly? Who wanted to hear an out-of-tune guitar? For what? Authenticity?”

Authenticity is an important part of great rock music, but not the only important part.  If you can’t tell the difference, then does it matter?  Fans listened to Kiss Alive! for decades, blindly enjoying every detail, from Ace Frehley’s extended “Rock and Roll all Nite” guitar solo, to Paul Stanley’s unforgettable stage raps.  Few suspected anything was out of the ordinary, unless they heard original bootleg recordings of the same Kiss gigs.  Eddie Kramer and the band re-recorded approximately 70% of the album.  The only thing they didn’t have to touch were Peter Criss’ drums, which were already pretty solid.  Bass, vocals, and even lead guitar was touched up and fixed, all but seamlessly.

img_20170228_171207

The reason Kiss Alive! was and is considered great is that you can’t tell the difference.  Unlike a double live Poison album (or even Kiss Alive II), you cannot hear obvious fixes and overdubs.  Kiss Alive! might not be authentic, but certainly sounds it.

With 16 scorching tracks all sourced from the first three Kiss albums, Alive! is all killer and no filler.  Even the typical “slow” moments, such as a long Paul Stanley rap backed by a Peter Criss drum solo (“100,000 Years”) is an unforgettable highlight.  Importantly, the new live version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” became the definitive one.  Today, it’s not the studio original version that still gets ready airplay.  It’s the Kiss Alive! version.  Many of these tracks usurp the originals as the superior versions:  “Firehouse”, “Cold Gin”, “Watchin’ You”, “Nothin’ to Lose”, and just about everything from Hotter Than Hell.  For the first time, all the warmth and energy are captured on Kiss vinyl.  If any of their studio material sounded sleepy, then this was a shot of caffeine.  Any sonic issues with the first Kiss studio albums are quickly forgotten by these volcanic recordings, finally capturing Kiss’ full power…in a roundabout way.

Kiss Alive! saved the band, and saved their record label Casablanca records.  Casablanca were on the verge of bankruptcy, and manager Bill Aucoin had to put the band on the road using his American Express card for currency.  Alive! put everybody back in the black.  It also put Kiss on the map as a rock and roll band to be reckoned with.  The two LP set was decked out with a gatefold sleeve, photos, a booklet, and even written notes from the band members.  For the first time, it felt like Kiss had released an album that lived up not only to their show, but their larger than life image.

Whether you decide to pick up Kiss Alive! on CD or LP, you will be in for a “rock and roll party” as per Paul Stanley.  Our recommended edition:  The four disc 2006 box set Alive! 1975-2000.  The set contains four volumes of Kiss Alive, deliciously remastered, with each album fit onto a single CD without losing any songs.  Fire away.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:   I would approximate that it was probably somewhere around 1978 when I first heard this record at a friend’s place.  I sat there and stared at the inner booklet and the album artwork, and I just wanted to be there.  I actually did get there many years later, but since I was like nine years old at this time and had not seen any sort of concert, it was all I knew of what a rock show was.  The picture on the back of the album taken at Detroit’s Cobo Hall is an unforgettable one, and makes you almost feel like you are there.  You get the scope of what it’s like to be on the floor for an arena show.  Tracks like “She”, “100,000 Years” and “Cold Gin” shine on this record specifically because of the banter of Paul Stanley.  I think it’s what truly makes the album special.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Bruce Dickinson may have learned a thing or two from the Starchild on how to connect with an audience.  Alive! is the most important album of Kiss’ career, and is especially significant for those who were lucky to be a Kiss fan at a young age, while their unstoppable takeover of the Earth was building and building.

Following the release of Kiss Alive! in September of 1975, the second half of the 70s became known as the “Live Album Era” of Rock and Roll. Not only were a lot of bands doing it, but they were having massive successes with them (At BudokanFrampton Comes Alive...Unleashed in the EastIf You Want Blood etc).  This pioneering album was able to make the listener feel like they were actually at a rock concert, better than almost any live record has since.  Kiss Alive! was truly the birth of what is now known as The Kiss Army.

However with all this good comes some bad.  It was revealed years ago what everyone had already suspected: Most of the record is overdubbed and even most of the crowd noise is dubbed in.  For this reason and this reason alone I didn’t give this album 5 steaks.  But I refuse to go lower than 4 ½ .

Favorite Tracks:   All of it.

Forgettable Tracks:  None


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/03

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Dressed to Kill (1975)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 5:  

scan_20170224kiss-logo – Dressed to Kill (1975 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remastered edition)

The band was expected to be huge, so what was going wrong?  They had the look and they had the stage show. They had two albums and both underperformed.  Casablanca label head Neil Bogart wasn’t about to give up, and took matters in his own hands. He brought the band back to Electric Lady in New York and economically produced the third album himself.

Kiss’ Dressed to Kill was their third LP in 12 months.  It was not a drastic change of direction. It offered the same basic rock and roll that Kiss presented on the first two.  Bogart provided a clean production, a better sound but not too dissimilar from the first Kiss.  It was miles away better than the sludge of Hotter Than Hell, and it was a shorty (just half an hour).  Like the first two albums, it recycled some old Wicked Lester songs and Kiss-ified them.

Kiss was touring relentlessly so it was no surprise to hear songs like “Room Service” among the new tracks.

I’m feelin’ low, no place to go,
And I’m a-thinking that I’m gonna scream,
Because a hotel all alone is not a
Rock and roll star’s dream.

But just when I’m about to shut the light and go to bed,
A lady calls and asks if I’m too tired or if I’m just to dead for…

Room service, baby I could use a meal,
Room service, you do what you feel,
Room service, I take the pleasure with the pain,
I can’t say no.

An upbeat workmanlike Kiss song about sex on the road?  Just what Dr. Rock ordered.  The jangly rock and roll of early Kiss is omnipresent, and so are the cat-like pitter-patter drum rolls of Peter Criss.  Ace Frehley’s solo is multitracked for extra harmonic punch.  Then the album goes for a slow groove on “Two Timer”, a Gene stomp powered by his melodic basslines.  Kiss’ voices blend consummately for a nice memorable monster chorus.  The “Ladies in Waiting” arrive next, and according to the lyrics, “You’ve been to the market, and the meat looks good tonight.”  He’s not singing about Porterhouse steaks (or Uncle Meat).  The groove has kick, and plenty of Ace’s guitar fireworks.

Peter Criss had only one lead vocal on Dressed to Kill: “Getaway”, written by Ace.  The guitarist hadn’t started singing lead himself, and he knew that Peter needed more material to sing.  “Getaway” is a traditional rock n’ roll lick with Pete’s rasp and smooth style.  There is nothing wrong with an enjoyably simple Kiss song, especially when it’s one of Ace’s.  That goes double if Peter Criss is singing on it.  “Getaway” might not be a classic but it’s a deeply enjoyable album cut.

Dressed to Kill‘s first side had a brilliant closer in “Rock Bottom”, a song in two parts.   In the years since, Ace Frehley has quite competently come up with some beautiful acoustic songs.  On his solo and Frehley’s Comet albums of more recent years, he usually has an acoustic instrumental in his “Fractured” series.  The “Rock Bottom” intro might be considered a prequel to the “Fractured” series.  A piece like this came out of left field on a Kiss album.  He and Paul Stanley created a lovely blend of acoustics, and Neil Bogart captured it warm and clean.  As long as the intro is “Rock Bottom” itself, another one in a series of classic Paul Stanley rockers.  Paul has a knack for punchy and memorable rock and roll guitar songs, and “Rock Bottom” gets you right between the eyes.

It’s actually two Paul songs in a row that deserve the “classic” tag.  Not just “Rock Bottom”, but the side two opener “C’Mon and Love Me” is as brilliant as a 100 watt bulb right in the face.  Paul is probably not recognized enough for his riff writing.  Iommi, Page and Young are icons of riff, but Paul has really written some corkers over the years.  “C’Mon and Love Me” remains so awesome today because of that biting riff.  Not quite so with the pop rocker “Anything For My Baby”.  It’s too similar to the forthcoming (and superior) “Rock and Roll all Nite”.  However side two is quickly redeemed by the heavy-as-fuck “She”.  Yes, “She”, the same “She” that sounded like Jethro Tull on acid when recorded for Wicked Lester (1973).  Kiss transformed a corny hippie experiment into Sabbathy metal shrapnel.  Instead of a wanky falsetto, Gene employed his deep monster voice on “She”.  Combined with Peter Criss’ tribal drums, “She” slams you to the wall so turn it right up.

“Love Her All I Can” is goofy filler, another old Wicked Lester remake.  Not one of their finest moments, but important to the history of the band.  It is notable as being another fine example of Gene and Paul blending their voices for a nice thick chorus.  Frehley’s solo smokes so hot it’ll set off your fire alarm, but the song itself ranks low.  This matters not, because “Rock and Roll all Nite” was held back as the final track.  When Gene and Paul wrote together, they created magic.  But it’s not just Simmons and Stanley that can take all the credit.  Peter Criss’ cat-groove is unmistakably integral to the song.  Neil Bogart did a better job of capturing the band than Kerner and Wise did.  He also pushed the band into writing an anthem for themselves, and write it they did.  Notably, for the first time outsiders were brought into the studio to appear on a Kiss album.  In this case it was just friends and roadies, but it was also the first Kiss “gang vocal”.

There we go.  Hit written.  Or was it?

“Rock and Roll all Nite” failed to scorch the charts as it was designed to do.  Bogart and Casablanca Records were in dire straits now.  They had unwisely banked on a Johnny Carson comedy album to sell millions, and were sitting on all that unsold product.  (It would not be the last time Casablanca got cocky and made that mistake.)  If the record label were in trouble, by extension, so was Kiss.

Dressed to Kill will always be fondly remembered for rocking and rolling us all nite, for the very first time.  It’s also a beautiful record jacket to look at.  The black and white photo of Kiss in ill-fitting suits, surrounded by embossed Kiss logos, was quite striking.  Simmons looks particularly demented, only deepening his Demon image.  It’s a good Kiss album, but if they were to survive they had to make a serious statement.  Most importantly, they had to capture that thunderous sound at its full potential, something every producer thus far had failed to do. It was time to come Alive!

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Almost exactly half an hour of perfect Rock and Roll.  The shortest Kiss album is the best Kiss album in Uncle Meat’s opinion.   After a sophomore slide, Kiss’ third album somehow improved the sound by getting the president of their record company to produce?  What shouldn’t have worked, worked perfectly with Kiss under the gun and writing, recording and releasing Dressed to Kill in a ridiculous five months after Hotter Than Hell.  Why does it take Metallica 45 years to make a fucking album again?  Don’t say ego…because we are talking about the Donald Trump of egos in Gene Simmons by himself here.  Fuck Metallica’s bullshit!!!  (* I apologize…this is for another time to be determined *)    Anyway,  Kiss became tighter as a band and better musicians through constant touring.  This prepared them to brave these unlikely circumstances and produce not only some of my favorite all-time songs of theirs, but undoubtedly the song that would live on as the very flagpole the Kiss Army flag is attached to, “Rock and Roll all Nite”.

Short but sweet has never been so apropos to describe a record. The chorus of “C’mon and Love Me”. The cowbell in “Room Service”.  Then “She” takes off her clothes and I’m sold.  Best album of their career. Another interesting Kiss note…Only twice have Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley shared writing credits alone on a song together:  “Comin’ Home” and “Rock Bottom”.  The former being a song I have already mentioned I don’t really like much, and the latter being a Top 3 Kiss song for me.  Ironically a song titled “Rock Bottom” is the exactly the antithesis of that.  Top shelf Rock and Roll from the band that got me into Rock and Roll.  Also in my Top 3 album covers of all time.  Scared the shit out of me when I was a kid.

Favorite Tracks:  “Rock Bottom”, “Love Her All I Can”, “She”, “C’mon and Love Me”, “Room Service”

Forgettable Tracks:  None


To be continued…

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Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/04

 

REVIEW: KISS – Agora Ballroom 1974 (Cleveland broadcast plus bonus cuts)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 4:  A brand new BONUS review!

Agora Ballroom 1974 – The Cleveland Broadcast – Plus bonus cuts (2015 Go Faster)

Radio broadcast CDs are common and cheap today.  They are a great way to get rare live recordings from bands you love, at a good price, with acceptable sound quality.  When this set was recorded at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland (April 1, 1974) Kiss only had one album out.  It’s a rare early glimpse at the band when they were just beginning to stretch their road legs.  Already, the performances on this CD were far more fiery than that on their studio albums — and that’s without Gene breathing fire.

The Agora set was a mere eight songs, and a strong representation of Kiss’ best early material.  Almost everything is from the first LP; nothing from the second that would be released a mere six months later.  The oddity is “She”, an old Wicked Lester holdover that wouldn’t come out as a Kiss song until 1975.  Also fascinating is that Gene Simmons even does some talking between songs, and you can see why he lets Paul do all the talking now.  “How many are you, a hundred?  Are you ready to rock?  Rock?”  Paul Stanley was clearly better at stage raps, and this CD offers a reason why Gene doesn’t do them anymore.

As with any radio broadcast CD, do not expect flawless audio.  This isn’t the greatest recording.  There’s hardly any bass.  What it is though is a great performance captured at the very beginning.  Tracks like “100,000 Years”, “Nothin’ to Lose” and “Cold Gin” have so much reckless energy that they make the originals sound sterile.   Kiss were a very active band on stage, and all that jumping around means bad chords, missed notes and vocals that drop in and out as Paul moves to and fro.  You wanted authenticity?  You got authenticity.  The most consistent member is Ace Frehley whose solos were often highlights of any Kiss song.

Best track:  “Black Diamond”.

But wait, there’s more!  From ABC In Concert (03/29/74) comes additional versions of “Nothin’ to Lose”, “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond”.  These are not flawless either, but they have more beef and a lot more bass.  The performances are just as ragged.  Then from their legendary appearance on the Mike Douglas Show (04/29/74) is the Gene Simmons interview and “Firehouse” once more.  “Let me spread my wings”, says an awkward Gene, not quite the character he’d become later, but quite the ham.  The audience (and guests) had no idea what to make of him. These are tapes that fans have had and loved for years, but to have them on a commercial CD is pretty cool.  Besides, these really are bonus tracks.  They’re not on other versions of Agora, such as the 4 CD Radio Waves 1974-1988 which only has the first eight songs.

Any Kiss fan needs the Agora show in some form. This CD may as well be your choice, since it’s affordably priced and has those lovely bonus cuts. Kiss is a band that evolved, year by year, from sheer touring experience. The early performances have a raw un-schooled edge, and that’s what makes them special.

3.5/5 stars