Phonogram

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1982 import)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 21:  

  Killers (1982 Casablanca, German and Japanese versions)

No matter how you feel about Kiss’s concept album Music From the Elder, it was a commercial dud.  It was Kiss’ first serious flop as a band since hitting the big time in 1975 with Kiss Alive!  More significantly, it was part of a trend:  Kiss chaos.  Since the solo albums, Kiss were fragmented.  The band weren’t playing on all the songs anymore, and members were leaving.  They had strayed from their music roots and become a comic book novelty act.  The Elder was not so much an album that people didn’t “get”, but one they didn’t care to “get”.  Fans were moving on.

The European record label, Phonogram, was in damage control mode.  They drew up plans to issue an album consisting of new and old songs; a compilation to put some money back in the coffers.  They weren’t mucking around.  They wanted a batch of new rock songs, but Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Ace Frehley hadn’t left the band officially, but he was no longer involved creatively.  Filling the guitar slot again was Bob Kulick.  As he did on Kiss Alive II, Bob played lead guitar on the new songs.  A 1988 book called Kiss: Still on Fire also named Ratt’s Robbin Crosby as a guitar player on the new songs, though this is a claim not backed up in any other source.  Paul provided the new songs, written with old and new friends:  Mikel Japp, Adam Mitchell, and some Canadian guy named Bryan something.  Bryan Adams?  Cuts like a knife indeed!  Adams co-wrote the lethal “Down On Your Knees”, and it wouldn’t be his last songwriting credit with Kiss either.

The best new tune in the batch was called “Nowhere to Run”, and it was one of the rockers that Kiss were working on before they decided to do The Elder instead. The sheer quality of this Stanley-penned underdog really supports the theory that doing The Elder was a mistake.  “Nowhere to Run” was classic Stanley, as good as anything on his solo album and exactly the kind of song that Kiss should have been doing.  In an alternate universe where The Elder never came out, what could have happened to Kiss?  Unfortunately the new compilation called Kiss Killers was never released in North America.   “Nowhere to Run” could do very little to change Kiss’ fortunes without being released in their native country.

The second-finest of the new songs is a little ditty called “I’m a Legend Tonight”.  Paul has somewhat disowned these songs since, but it is really hard to understand why.  This is a hard hitting Paul rocker, as only Paul can do.  It’s all innuendo and hot guitar licks.  The riff is simple and hooky, while Kulick plays for all he’s worth.  No longer was Bob being told to “play like Ace”.  His signature scorch really makes these new songs sound like a continuation of the Paul Stanley solo album.  Then there is “Down on Your Knees”, the one with Bryan Adams’ fingerprints on it.  It’s hard to tell, although it’s not outside the Adams ballpark.  It’s a sleazy rocker, spare and sounding great.  The new tracks were produced by Michael James Jackson, who finally captured Eric Carr’s drums properly.  Bob Ezrin buried them under mud on The Elder.  Kiss Killers sounds more like the real Eric Carr debut album.  The last of the new songs, “Partners in Crime”, is the weakest of the four.  Paul takes it down to a slow sexy grind, but “Partners in Crime” lacks the charisma of the other three.

As far as the new songs could be considered a “comeback”, it’s close but no cigar.  There’s no discernable Demon.  Where is Gene Simmons?  The lack of any audible Simmons vocals makes you question whether he even played bass on the new songs.  Regardless, Kiss is about a balance between Gene and Paul, and Killers represents the first heavy skew towards Paul.

 

The hits on the record make for great listening.  Most of the key bases are covered:  “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “God of Thunder” and even “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.  There are no Peter Criss songs, and the only Frehley is “Cold Gin”, which Gene sings.  The only ballad is “Sure Know Something”, a minor hit in Germany where this album was issued.  In a cool touch, the record closes with the “live” (quotation marks!) version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” that made them superstars.  It is the more well known, and arguably superior version.  (Some of the other tracks are edits or single versions.*)

Kiss’ very first Japanese bonus tracks were on Killers.  The Japanese version is an even better listen.  They put a bonus track in the second-to-last position on each side:  “Shandi” (massive hit in Australia) and “Escape From the Island” (previously unreleased in Japan — it wasn’t included on their version of The Elder).  “Shandi” is just a great fucking song, and “Escape From the Island” is a cool inclusion because of a) its obscurity, and b) its total Ace Frehley shreddery.  It is interesting to note, that only Japan had tracks from the two most recent Kiss albums, Unmasked and Music From the Elder.  The rest of the world did not.  Were Kiss already trying to bury those records?

Periodically, the new songs on Kiss Killers have reappeared on single B-sides, compilations and box sets.  The best way to get them is just to pick up a copy of Killers.  Choose your format, sit back and rock!

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

* “Shout it Out Loud” is a single version with a different mix on the lead vocals and an early fade.  “Detroit Rock City” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” are edited versions.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/27

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RE-REVIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (1979) #0wordchallenge

Brief explanation:  After the #200wordchallenge, I was inspired to come up with an even more daunting task.   Could I do a review in 0 words — without using any words at all?  I invite you to the #0wordchallenge!  Mine is below, but use your imagination and come up with something uniquely you!  This review is a part of…


The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 19:  

  Best of Solo Albums (1979 Phonogram)


Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/09/03

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Two Steps Behind” (1993 CD single)

This is the sixth and final part in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize era, including hard to find B-sides!  This is a bit of a “bonus” review, since this song wasn’t actually on Adrenalize!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0014DEF LEPPARD – “Two Steps Behind” (1993 Phonogram)

From a B-side to an A-side in its own right, “Two Steps Behind” has seen more releases than most Def Leppard songs. Sure, it’s significant that it was Def Leppard’s first acoustic song, but it’s really not that exciting.  When Arnold Schwarzenegger comes a-knockin’ and says “I need a rock band to give me ballad for my new movie” in that threatening Arnie voice of his, nobody’s going to refuse him.*

However it unfolded, “Two Steps Behind” was selected for the Arnie turd, Last Action Hero in 1992, next to bands such as AC/DC, Alice in Chains and Megadeth.  In comparison to the aggressive contributions from them, Def Leppard’s track seemed hopelessly behind the times.  It still charted in the US, going to #5.  It was spruced up with strings courtesy of Michael Kamen, and was given a high-budget music video.

This single falls between two albums.  Visually, the cover art recalls the prior Def Leppard singles with its yellow and red lego, but features the photographic style that the Retro-Active singles would sport.  Since it cleans up a few B-sides from the era that didn’t carry over onto Retro-Active, I’ve decided to include it here.

The first B-side is a “warts and all” acoustic version of “Tonight”.  This was later released on the deluxe Adrenalize as the “Sun Studios version”.  In many regards, it’s as good as the original.  Perhaps it’s even better, with its sparse but rich sound.  Without the layers of a typical Def Leppard recording, the song breaths like never before.

The final track on the single (and this series!) to discuss is “S.M.C.” which is still unavailable anywhere else.  Unfortunately it is only 1:14 long.  Written and performed solely by Collen, it is a pretty acoustic instrumental track.  Jaunty and light, it sounds classical in vibe.  Leppard fans would be well advised to seek out this single, to add this brief guitar workout to their Leppard libraries.

4/5 stars

* I’m not sure that this is exactly how it played out, but it could have!

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Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”
Part 3: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”
Part 4: “Heaven Is”
Part 5: “Tonight”
Bonus Part 6: “Two Steps Behind”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Tonight” (1993 CD single)

Part five in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEF LEPPARD – “Tonight” (1993 Phonogram CD singles)

LeBrain HQ has two different “Tonight” singles in the library, each with its own B-sides.  Things get murky when we start looking at singles released in different territories, but each CD features the same great A-side.  Although the lushly layered harmony vocals that lead off the track sound overly sweet, that’s not indicative of the song itself.  “Tonight” is the sparsest ballad on Adrenalize, and also the toughest.  Original guitarist Steve Clark had a hand in writing it, so perhaps he supplied some of the memorable guitar hooks.  As far as the Adrenalize album went, “Tonight” was a highlight in a mixed bag of songs.

The US single has “She’s Too Tough” as its second track, but we already looked at that song (originally released by Helix but written by Joe Elliot) last time.  Skipping to the end, we get a live version of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” from the 1992 club tour.  This was from Bonn, Germany and is also available on the deluxe Adrenalize.  I don’t think “Sugar” has ever particularly worked well live.

Onto the UK single, there are some more interesting B-sides. For Def Leppard fans, one of their most memorable appearances had to be the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992. As part of their set, Brian May came out on stage to play “Now I’m Here”. What a great version of a Queen song perfectly suited to Def Leppard. With Brian May on stage it doesn’t get much more authentic. From Bonn once again comes “Photograph” performed live.  This is probably the best of the recordings from Bonn.

Unusually for Def Leppard singles of this period, every single track is available elsewhere. “She’s Too Tough” was on the single for “Heaven Is”, and all the live songs were later reissued on the deluxe Adrenalize. Therefore, collectors can breath a little easier. If you don’t have “Tonight”, you probably don’t really need it. If you do, at least the two singles combine to form an excellent listening experience.

4/5 stars

Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”
Part 3: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”
Part 4: “Heaven Is”

Up next:  bonus instalment  “Two Steps Behind”

REVIEW – Def Leppard “Heaven Is” (1993 CD single)

Part four in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0007DEF LEPPARD – “Heaven Is” (1993 Phonogram CD single)

“Heaven Is” and “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” were released as singles at roughly the same time (different territories and whatnot),  but I don’t have a copy of “Stand Up”.  It doesn’t matter though, since both singles shared the exact same B-sides.  These are an interesting mix of new and old.

The Canadian rock band Helix released “She’s Too Tough” on 1987’s Wild in the Streets album.  While their version is faster and louder, the Leppard version sounds way better.   Helix had production issues on their album, while Leppard recorded theirs with trusted engineer Pete Woodroffe as a quartet during the Adrenalize sessions.  The single contains the original version of the track.  Rick Allen re-recorded the drums in June 1993, and that version was released on the Retro-Active album.  No matter which version you have, it’s an absolute pleasure to hear Leppard with Joe screaming like he used to.

“Elected” is indeed a live cover of the Alice Cooper classic.  This one dates back to 1987 and features the late Steve Clark on guitar!  A young, energized Leppard  have no problem filling this with all the electricity needed.  One must assume the old tapes were not the best, since the credits claim the track was “salvaged” by engineer Pete Woodroffe!  Following this is a new live recording, of “Let’s Get Rocked” in 1992, from Bonn, Germany.  Naturally that means this features the new boy Vivian Campbell on rhythm guitar.  This version, from the 1992 club tour, is available on the deluxe Adrenalize.

As for the A-side itself, “Heaven Is” works as a pleasant enough pop rock song.  Fans were tiring of that schtick, but “Heaven Is” is fine for a second-tier Def Leppard hit.  When Steve Clark died I don’t think the band felt it was the time to stretch out and find new musical avenues.  Writing safe rock was the easiest and probably only real course of action.

4/5 stars

Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”
Part 3: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”

Up next:  “Tonight”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” (1992 CD single)

Part three in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0005DEF LEPPARD – “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” (1992 Phonogram CD single)

On their last single, “Make Love Like a Man”, Def Leppard released their first acoustic recording in a song called “Two Steps Behind”.  This time, they went all-in.  Not content with a couple acoustic guitars, Joe called up some friends from Hothouse Flowers (Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and  Peter O’Toole) and formed an octet* called the Acoustic Hippies from Hell!  As the Acoustic Hippies, they did three songs:  an unreleased Joe original called “From the Inside” and two covers.  The Flowers brought tin whistle, piano and mandolin to the table.

“From the Inside” is a haunting number, with Joe singing about addiction from the perspective of the drug.  “I’ll shoot through your veins, I’ll drive you insane.”  Joe first played it for a television program called Friday at the Dome.  Liam Ó Maonlaí and he played it together as an experiment in artists from two different fields colliding.  Joe liked the song enough to record it here with the Acoustic Hippies.  This song was re-released in 1993 on Retro-Active, but added the original count-in from the session.  It’s certainly a good song but not easy for some Leppard fans to appreciate.

The guys then jam on 7 1/2 minutes of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  This is a highlight of the single, a fantastic version that deserves more attention. You might be surprised just how good this is. It sounds 100% live, with people calling out cues and hoots and hollers. Almost as good is Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. Softer and less rambunctious, it is haunting more like “From the Inside”.  Thankfully these two tracks were later reissued on the Adrenalize deluxe edition.

These three B-sides completely outshine the A-side, the putrid “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” from Adrenalize.  This annoying title is only slightly worse than the song itself, one of the most by-the-numbers ballads that Def Leppard have foisted upon the fans.  Of course it became a top 10 charting single in the US.

3.5/5 stars

* There are no drums but Rick Allen is credited for “acoustic inspiration”.

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Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”

Up next:  “Heaven Is”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Make Love Like a Man” (1992 CD single)

Part two in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0003DEF LEPPARD – “Make Love Like a Man” (1992 Phonogram CD single)

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why this song from Adrenalize was ever chosen as a single, let alone the second one.  As stated in my album review, it “sounds like a hard rock version of a Shania Twain hit”.  No thank you.

Def Leppard singles are always exciting for collecting B-sides, but “Make Love Like A Man” was the first one to include three brand new songs. Each one was completely different from the other, while remaining of very high quality.

First up is a not-cover of “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, originally recorded by Paul Rodgers’ band The Law. Phil Collen wrote it, but The Law was first to release it in 1991. Atmospheric, moody, but bright, it was a worthy successor to the lofty heights of Hysteria.  It’s superior to some of the songs that made it to Adrenalize, and it’s certainly better than its own A-side.  In fact, a bare piano version was later as released as a single in its own right, supporting Retro-Active in 1993.

Next is cover of The Sweet’s “Action”. This is the original mix.  The one on Retro-Active has re-recorded snare drums and possibly additional backing vocals.   Leppard have played this one live, steadily for years.  It fills the niche of a solid rocker with a solid riff needed on this otherwise fairly mellow single.  Like “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, it too was released as a single in 1994, but with the re-recorded drums.

“Two Steps Behind” was the band’s first ever acoustic recording, a trend picking up at the time. It was a bit of a throw-away at the time, with a sparse unadorned arrangement and a pleasant but ordinary melody.  However, it too was released a single as well!  It was chosen for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero soundtrack, and had strings added courtesy of Michael Kamen.  Once again this is the original version and the first to feature “new guy” Vivian Campbell!

In the context of 1992, this was a pretty special single.  Viv’s first Leppard recording, Lep’s first acoustic foray, and some quality tunes ensured solid play time that summer.  A-side aside, this was Leppard’s most satisfying single for the dollar yet.

4/5 stars

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Adrenalize singles part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”

Up next:  “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Let’s Get Rocked” (CD single)

Do you wanna get rocked?  Time for a new series!  When we looked at the deluxe edition of Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, it was noted that many B-sides from that era were missing.  Songs such as “Only After Dark”, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, “Action”, “From The Inside” and “She’s Too Tough” were not included on that disappointing deluxe.  Fortunately, LeBrain HQ has a stack of Def Leppard CD singles right here, to help inform readers where you can get the original versions of these tracks.  Let’s get rocked!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0001DEF LEPPARD – “Let’s Get Rocked” (1992 Phonogram CD single)

Hell and back — those words are as good as any to describe Def Leppard.  This, the first Def Leppard single in what seemed like ages, was also their first single without “Steamin'” Steve Clark.  That left a monster riff-sized gap in Leppard’s arsenal.  Rather than seek out a replacement immediately, Phil Collen stepped up to the plate and recorded all the guitars on Adrenalize himself (with a little acoustic help from Rick Savage).

“Let’s Get Rocked” hit the airwaves in early 1992, and immediately shot up the charts, such was the value of Def Leppard.  Even though the band maintained their disciplined studio techniques, layering guitar shimmer and vocals galore, “Let’s Get Rocked” sounds sparse compared to the Mutt Langue produced Hysteria.  Though Collen did his best in difficult circumstances, Steve Clarke is missed, as are his riffs.  “Let’s Get Rocked” was one of a few songs on Adrenalize without his name in the writing credits.

Def Leppard have a knack of picking interesting but obscure covers, which is one reason collecting their singles is so much fun.  The Mick Ronson (R.I.P.) solo song “Only After Dark” has that glammy vibe that Leppard love so much.  The liner notes state that “Mick’s been ill, and this track is out acknowledgement of his importance.”  Indeed, Mick passed away at the terribly young age of 46, from cancer.  This is a fun little cover, more lively than many of the album tracks.  It certainly sounds like the band were having fun doing it.

This version of “Only After Dark” is the original studio version.  The version released on the Retro-Active album features newly overdubbed guitars by Phil Collen and new guy Vivian Campbell, added in 1993.  You can also hear additional vocals on that mix.  Therefore the original B-side version is still exclusive to the single.

Unfortunately, “Let’s Get Rocked” only has two B-sides, one being “Only After Dark” and the second being a live take of “Women”, this one lifted from their live home video, Live – In The Round In Your Face (Denver 1988)  Strangely though, this track was previously released as a B-side on the previous Def Leppard single, 1989’s “Rocket”.  It’s also on the Hysteria deluxe…and the Adrenalize deluxe!  Talk about oversaturation.

“Let’s Get Rocked” was an acceptable first single.  The track itself was good enough, though it certainly broke no new ground at all musically.  “Only After Dark” was different than typical Def Leppard and another welcome B-side to the collection.  “Women” was just another re-release.  It could have been better.

3/5 stars

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Coming next:  “Make Love Like a Man”!