revenge

VHS Archives #49: KISS – Gene and Bruce interview mega-mix (May 1992)

Gene Simmons and Bruce Kulick of  visited MuchMusic in May of ’92 for an interview, and to host the Power 30.  There are some real moments of sincerity, such as when they are asked about Eric Carr.  However the clips you are about to watch are also notable for showing how the Power 30 was a drop in quality from the Power Hour.

Unlike previous MuchMusic visits, this one was broadcast in separate segments.  First is an interview by Teresa Roncon; the best part.  Then there is a Power 30 co-hosting gig, and a smattering of interview outtakes from the Kiss Spotlight.  All filmed the same day, but split apart since the Power 30 was too short.

I’ve recently given you two great Power Hour shows with guest hosts.  Rik Emmett from Triumph was a fabulous co-host and also played music in addition to a substantial interview.  Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. picked the tunes for his co-hosting gig, and the candid interview made it one of the best episodes of the entire run of the Power Hour.   Now, here is Kiss co-hosting the shorter Power 30, and there is very little substance.  A bad joke by Gene that went too far and got censored is the only particularly notable moment.  Well, that and Gene’s advice to “fat girls”.  Bruce Kulick seems far more engaged, but it’s jokey and short compared to what the Power Hour used to do.

Stuff to look for:

  • Cool live footage from the Phoenix club in Toronto
  • Gene’s Canadian jokes, which Bruce eventually apologises for
  • Talking about the club tour and playing obscure songs
  • A brief clip from the famed Creatures-era limo interview with Jeanne Bekker
  • Another brief clip from a 1992 Peter Criss interview

I remember when the Kiss spotlight aired, my mom really liked when Gene compared Kiss to “electric church”.  Yeah, my mom loved that….

 

This one required a bit of editing to make it cohesive; I hope you enjoy.

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#690: Unholy Kisses

GETTING MORE TALE #690: Unholy Kisses

Kiss’ Revenge album (last discussed in Part 43 of the Kiss Re-Review Series) was an album that I had been waiting for a long time.  Not just in terms of the three year gap between it and Hot in the Shade.  I loved Kiss, but it had been a long time since they put out an album quite as solid as Revenge.  I wore my Kiss shirt with pride.

I can still remember the day I got my Revenge shirt, in Kincardine Ontario of all places.  My parents bought it for me at a local now-defunct clothing store.  As we browsed my dad asked, “Did you find a shirt, son?”

“Yep,” I answered.  “This one is cool, because it has the new Kiss member on it.”

“Yeah,” my dad said with a disapproving smirk.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bearded guy before…”

But the new guy wasn’t Gene Simmons, silly dad.  It was the blonde Eric Singer, the first guy to break the Kiss hair colour code.  Yeah, I was proud to rock that shirt.

The parents were good to us.  Any time there was a record show (or record faire) within an hour’s driving distance, they would take us.  You usually had to drive to either Guelph or London.  Sometimes they’d even help us out with a little cash.  No matter how much you budget for a record show, you’ll never bring enough cash.  The treasures are far too numerous and tempting.

One has to learn to categorise and quantify things in order to successfully navigate a record show on a limited budget.  I have really distinct memories of one in Guelph; the one where I found the indispensable Kiss Unholy Kisses bootleg.

I knew going in that I wanted to buy a bootleg on CD.  I had a few on cassette, but never a CD before.  Record shows always had a table or two with guys selling CD bootlegs.  They were never cheap and you could typically expect to pay $40 for a single CD.  That’s how I budgeted it out.

I did plan to buy a little more than that, so I brought extra cash.  My first buy was a 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More, a UK import.  It had two live tracks on the B-side (“Woodpecker From Mars” and “Epic” recorded by the BBC).  I was trying to get a decent Faith No More collection so I picked that one early.

Meanwhile my sister found Bryan Adam’s first single, “Let Me Take You Dancing”.  Bryan started as a Disco artist, and his voice was sped up in the mixing in order to make it higher.  He has since disowned the song, and a CD release in any official capacity is highly unlikely.  She definitely found something of value to her.  As an added bonus, the record came with a story.

“I tried to get Bryan Adams to sign it,” said the vendor.  “I handed it to him and he refused.”  So my sister owns a record that Bryan Adams actually refused to sign and we both think that is pretty hilarious.

One thing about record shows that you need to be aware of:  there are always some vendors who are assholes.  It’s just part of the scenery of a record show.  As my sister and I looked around, one of them shouted out at her.

“People will think you stole that,” he said pointing to her Bryan Adams record.  “It’s not in a bag.”

We explained that she bought the record from another vendor.

“You need a bag.  Buy something from me and I give you a bag.  People will think you steal.”

“Here, put it in my bag,” I said to my sister.  “No thanks,” I added to the vendor, as we made sure not to buy anything from him.  He didn’t have anything we wanted anyway.

But what about bootlegs?  That decision had to be weighed.  There was so much to choose from.  The Black Crowes?  Black Sabbath?  They had a CD of early Def Leppard tracks with Frank Noon on drums.  That one was sorely tempting.  Leppard were another band I was trying to collect.  What I really hoped to find though, was Kiss.

There it was:  Unholy Kisses.  Recorded live in San Francisco April 23, 1992.  Revenge wasn’t even out yet when it was taped.  Although other Kiss bootlegs were present, I chose Unholy Kisses for a number of reasons.

  1. My first live versions of “Unholy” and “Take It Off”.
  2. My first live Kiss with Eric Singer.
  3. My first live version of “I Was Made for Loving You”, the old Kiss Disco classic.
  4. A host of other Kiss oldies they hadn’t played live in ages.

I chose wisely.  Unholy Kisses is a great fucking bootleg.

The club setting provides for a very loud concert recording.  It only amplifies the raw heavy new sound of Kiss.  Bruce Kulick nailed a greasy toned and Eric Singer?  Holy shit, did the oldies ever sound amazing with him behind them!  Yes indeed, the new Kiss lineup was excitement personified.  God bless Eric Carr, who will forever have a place in every fan’s heart.  With Eric Singer, Kiss found a credible way to carry on.  Any new member brings their own style and influence to Kiss.  When a drummer is a talented and versatile as Eric Singer, it enables a band to really play.

And strangely enough, during the Singer/Kulick era, one could make serious arguments for Kiss becoming a player’s kind of rock band.  Kulick, for certain, is one of the most talented guys to ever play guitar in Kiss, up there against Vinnie Vincent.  Kulick can play absolutely anything and strove to do new things on every Kiss album.  Whatever Bruce wrote, Singer could play.  This would spill onto the next studio album.

The Kiss Re-Review Series does not require another Unholy Kisses review.  It is bang-on.  For your convenience, you will find the full review below.

If you are even just a casual Kiss fan, pick up Unholy Kisses if you find it in the wild.  There are few official live Kiss albums as good as this.


KISS – Unholy Kisses (Audience recorded bootleg, 1992 Flashback)

“You know who we are, let’s kick some ass!”

That’s how Paul Stanley introduced the legendary Kiss on their stripped-down 1992 club tour, April 23 1992 in San Francisco.  The Revenge album was a “reboot” of sorts, out of necessity.  New drummer, new attitude, and a return to the producer (Bob Ezrin) who helped make them huge.  A return to the clubs without the lights, stage show, and costumes helped Kiss transition into the 90’s.  If this one bootleg CD is any indication, then the club tour was a huge success.

Eschewing their normal opening routine, the band entered to the sound of “Love Gun”, but heavier than ever.  Many fans consider the Simmons/Stanley/Kulick/Singer lineup to be among their best, and this live bootleg proves why.  In fantastic voice, Paul leads this devastating lineup to demolish the clubs in their wake.  Full of adrenaline, “Love Gun” is faster than its studio counterpart, and Bruce Kulick creates his own individual guitar solo that fits the track.

Gene’s next on “Deuce”, the new lineup infusing it with menace.  The CD, though obviously a bootleg, sounds great.  Even though the drums are a bit distant you can hear that Eric Singer has come into the band paying homage to the drum parts he inherited.  Then Paul takes a moment to tell the audience that they’ve been so fired up about the way Kiss have been sounding, that they just got to come down to San Fransisco and play.  A rough opening to “Heaven’s On Fire” is a mere hiccup after they get going on the hit single.  For the first time you can clearly hear new guy Eric Singer singing background vocals.

“You ready to hear something old? One of those Kiss klassics?  Bruce – let ’em have a taste.”  Then the shocked audience picked up their jaws as Kiss slammed through “Parasite” for the first time since 1976.  Returning to songs like this was critical for a band who spent the 80’s largely ignoring the deep cuts.

One thing I love about bootleg CDs is the chance to overhear some audience chatter.  “Shout it Out Loud” however is marred by one nearby fan who keeps singing “You got to have a party,” even when that’s not the current part of the song!  Minor beef, as “Shout it Out Loud” rocks and is another song that was tragically ignored during most of the 80’s.

“How many of you people have Kiss Alive?  Gene must know this one.  Gene’s got Kiss Alive.  Goes like this!”  There begins “Strutter” (also from the first Kiss album) and the crowd goes nuts.  “Dr. Love” follows, with Eric Singer showing off some fancy footwork on the double bass drums.

Fans who were shocked by these old tunes must really have lost their minds when “I Was Made For Loving You”, heavy as hell, tore through the club.  “I Was Made For Loving You” was re-imagined as a chugging metal track and in the club environment, it’s only more raw and aggressive.  Then Paul lets another bomb drop when he introduces “100,000 years” from the first album.  “Oh my God!  I don’t fucking believe it! I do not fucking believe it!” says one nearby fan, obviously excited by this rarity.  It’s incredible how well Bruce and Eric adapted to the sound of old raunchy Kiss.

But what of new Kiss?  The band weren’t ready to start unveiling all the new songs, as Revenge hadn’t even come out yet.  They did roll out two: the first single “Unholy”, and album cut “Take it Off”.

“We got a new album about to come out,” begins Paul.  “And I’ll tell you something, this album is the shit.  I’ll tell you, this album is our fuckin’ Revenge and when you hear the album you’ll know what I’m talking about.”  Indeed, as promised the new songs kick ass, though “Unholy” is kind of awkward in the live setting.  “Take it Off” is more like Kiss.

It’s all oldies from here.   Aside from the new Revenge songs, the most recent track that Kiss played here was “Heaven’s On Fire” from 1984!  (Note: this CD is not the full concert and 1985’s “Tears are Falling” was also played that night.)  I think it’s safe to say that Paul and Gene understand some of the errors in direction they made over the last 10 years, and successfully steered the ship back on track.  “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin” from the first album are present. “I Stole Your Love”, “Detroit Rock City”, and “I Want You” close the CD.  “I Stole Your Love” with the backing vocals of Eric Singer is top-notch!

The songs played that night that aren’t on this CD are “God of Thunder”, “Lick It Up”, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” (its live debut), “Rock and Roll all Nite” and the aforementioned “Tears Are Falling”.  Too bad this is only a single CD bootleg, but bootlegs were so expensive that a double would have cost at least $60-80.  If it was a double, I never would have bought it and heard what I have of this awesome show!

4.5/5 stars

UNHOLY KISSES_0003

CD KISStitics

Songs:

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Revenge (1992)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 43

 – Revenge (1992 Polygram)

The first three-year gap between Kiss albums.  The first Kiss record produced by Bob Ezrin since 1981.  The first shared Simmons/Stanley lead vocal in ages.  The first lineup change since 1984.  And saddest of all, Kiss’ first album without Eric Carr since 1980.  Revenge was a shakeup for fans and band alike.

The pendulum of rock had swung back to “heavy”, with Metallica scorching the charts and grunge pummelling everyone else with new sounds.  It was obvious that Kiss had to go heavier, too.  In 1992, most rock bands had to sink or swim.  In order to swim, bands tended to heavy things up.  A lot of the time they called it “going back to the roots”.

Kiss began making tentative steps back that way.  Hot in the Shade (1989) toned down a lot of the keyboards and 80s trappings.  On tour, they played more old material like “Dr. Love”, “God of Thunder”, and “I Was Made for Loving You”.  Then, as an experiment, they got back together with Bob Ezrin for a song from a movie soundtrack.  Everyone was writing, even the sick Eric Carr.  The initial plan was to have Eric play on half the new album, so he could have time to recover from his cancer surgery.  The drummer from Paul Stanley’s solo tour, Eric Singer, was available to play on the other half.  Singer was on tour with Alice Cooper during the summer of 1991, but would be home soon enough.  Then, on November 24, Eric Carr passed.

The most obvious choice to replace Carr was Eric Singer.  He was already working with the band, he knew the songs, and he was a fan.  Bruce Kulick found him inspiring to have around, as Singer loved his guitar work.  In fact the only thing about Eric Singer that didn’t fit was his hair colour!

The energetic new drummer was a godsend.  With albums to his name by Black Sabbath and Badlands, Kiss couldn’t have asked for a more technically adept player.  He could hit hard (though Eric Carr takes the belt in that regard) and he could authentically do any era of Kiss.  Be it the early, slippery Peter Criss material or the heavy metal of Eric Carr, Singer had it all covered.  And he could sing!  Though we wouldn’t get there quite yet.

It was the heavy metal side that was most immediately apparent.  The first track and first video from Revenge was “Unholy”, something very unlike anything Kiss had done before.  And it came about in a most peculiar way.  Enter:  Vinnie Vincent.

Those who say “Vinnie saved Kiss” will point to “Unholy” as one such song that saved Kiss.  After years of estrangement (and preceding even more), Vinnie came out to write with Gene and Paul.  “Unholy” was one of three songs he contributed.

With a fury unlike any before, Gene Simmons and company swirl in rage on “Unholy”.  The closest they got to this kind of heavy before would be Creatures, but there’s something just pissed off about it that wasn’t there before.  With a concrete riff and angry slabs of drum tribalism, Kiss announced their return loudly.  Not to be outdone, soloist Bruce Kulick laid down his noisiest guitar assault yet.  There isn’t an ounce of fluff to “Unholy”.

Thanks to Bob Ezrin, Revenge is Kiss’ best sounding album since Lick It Up or Creatures.  It’s no Destroyer, and it’s no Elder.  This time they cut the extras down to the bone, leaving the four Kiss guys to rock it themselves.  Err, mostly themselves.  That’s Kevin Valentine on drums for the second song, “Take It Off”.  Strange that Kiss continued to have ghost musicians on albums when they clearly didn’t need to.  An ode to strippers, “Take It Off” is lyrically juvenile, but gleams like stainless steel.  Paul Stanley wrote it with Ezrin and ex-Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts, and it could have been used as a single had Revenge needed another.  A dirty, dirty single.

Paul, Bruce and Ezrin composed “Tough Love” with a slower, chunky riff.  Kulick’s solo is remarkable, but it’s also just nice hearing Paul do a sex song that has some balls.  There is no “X” in this sex, although there’s a little BDSM for the 50 Shades crowd.  Then, teaming up with Gene, they do their first co-write and co-lead vocals together in the first time in a dog’s age.  “Spit” is old school fun with a modern heavy edge.  Bruce pays homage to Jimi Hendrix in his complex guitar solo, a composition all to itself.  Eric Singer gets to throw down tricky beats and fills, making “Spit” one of the most deceptively clever songs Kiss has done.

“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” was released as a single the year before.  It was the experiment with Ezrin that kicked off Revenge in the first place.  It was the only song that Eric Carr was alive for, and you can clearly hear him on backing vocals.  Singer handled the drums, though Carr did it in the music video.  The album mix is different from the single or soundtrack, in order to better suit the sonics of Revenge as its sole anthem.

Gene tells a story about a girl who “kisses like the kiss of death” to end side one.  “Domino” hearkens back to early Kiss, with a sparse arrangement and Gene playing rhythm guitar instead of Paul.  This greasy rocker just screams “Kiss”.  There is nobody else with songs like “Domino”.  It was the third single from Revenge, sporting a nifty video with Gene cruising around in a convertible while Kiss plays as a trio!  Paul Stanley: bass guitar.

“Heart of Chrome”, the second Vinnie Vincent collaboration, rocks with attitude.  Once again, anger seems to be the emotion of the day.  The 90s-look Kiss could deliver anger in spades.  Then Gene takes the mantle on “Thou Shalt Not”.

He said “kindly reconsider the sins of your past,”
I said “Mister you can kindly kiss my ass.”

These are not songs for the Kiss hits mix tape you’re making for your roadtrip.  These are songs to be experienced in context of the album, where they deliver mighty riffs and enough hooks for the long-player.  “Thou Shalt Not” has another one of those Kulick solos that could be a study in string manipulation, and Singer just keeps it kicking the whole way through.

You could choose from two schools of thought regarding “Every Time I Look at You”.  As the album’s only true ballad, some see it as a mistake on a record as heavy as Revenge.  Others see it as a reprieve from a fairly relentless onslaught.  Indeed, it does sound as if from another album.  With a string section, Ezrin on piano, and Dick Wagner on ghost guitar, one could even argue that it’s an album highlight.  A little re-sequencing though, and you probably wouldn’t even miss it.

Gene makes it heavy again on “Paralyzed”, not an outstanding track but a little funkier than usual.  “I Just Wanna” is far more entertaining, though it is a shameless and obvious rip-off from “Summertime Blues”.  It was chosen as the second single, and lo and behold, it’s the third Vinnie Vincent song too.  “I Just Wanna” is immediately catchy and memorable for days.  Probably because you already knew it as “Summertime Blues”.

As a touching surprise, Revenge ends on an instrumental called “Carr Jam 1981”.  Bob Ezrin dug up an old demo from The Elder with a hot riff and a complete drum solo.  It had been bootlegged before, notably on Demos 1981-1983, but not with very good sound.  Ace Frehley even recorded it as “Breakout” on his second solo album.  Ezrin cleaned up the original demo for Revenge, edited it for length, and overdubbed Bruce on lead guitar.  “Carr Jam” has become Eric’s signature drum solo.  Placing it here at the end of Revenge was not only poignant but also just great sequencing.

Album in hand, now it was time to tour.  Kiss would start with a short run in the clubs.  More on that next time.

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/10

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 42:  Eric Carr solo #2.

EC_Unfinished_Business_2011ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)

Even though 2000’s Rockology compilation released a treasure trove of unheard goodies for the fans, there is always more to sell.  For the 20th anniversary of Eric’s passing, another batch of tracks were unearthed.  Some are mere filler, some are pretty decent.  Fans of the beloved  drummer will have to sift through the bad to get to the good.

There are a couple Kiss songs here for the diehard fans.  “No One’s Messin’ With You” is yet another demo of what would become “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.  A third called “Ain’t That Peculiar” was released on the 2001 Kiss Box Set.  This is an almost completely different set of lyrics, although it does have the “Hey Little Caesar” chorus.  In chronological terms, this version probably falls between the other two, with lyrics still a work in progress and a different verse melody.  Then there’s “Shandi”, from Eric’s Kiss audition tape, with brand new acoustic backing music.  Unfortunately, Eric’s shaky voice (or a warbly tape) makes this totally unlistenable.

One of Rockology‘s highlights was “Just Can’t Wait” which was crying out for a lead vocal to finish it off.  This was completed by Ted Poley of Danger Danger.  Though the backing track lacks the fidelity of a proper Kiss recording, the song has taken shape as the shoulda-coulda-been hit that it is.  Eric would have been proud and very happy to hear it as a finished song.

The unfinished “Troubles Inside You” is a demo with regular Kiss collaborator and Beatlemania member Mitch Weissman.  It was recorded at Gene Simmons’ house, but the old cassette must have deteriorated pretty badly.  The music is barely audible, though hints of a good song shine through.  Two more Kiss outtakes include the legendary “Dial L For Love” and “Elephant Man”.  These were written for Crazy Nights and Revenge, respectively.  Neither were finished by Carr.  “Dial L For Love” has the bones of a good song with a unique riff.  Eric only managed to finish the lyrics for “Elephant Man”, but here it is given music and life by a group of musicians including the late A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, and ex-Europe guitarist Kee Marcello.  Singer Bob Gilmartin did a great job of it, turning “Elephant Man” into a cross between ballad and rocker, and something Kiss totally could have done on Revenge.  “Midnight Stranger” is another unfinished riff.  Ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was slated to overdub brand new solos for this instrumental, but he too passed before he could finish.  This is the original cassette demo.  The riff sounds like a brother to “Carr Jam”.  They are definitely related.

“Carr Jam 1981” is, unfortunately, not the original unaltered Elder demo.  It is a cover by drummer Joey Cassata, and a very authentic one at that.  Same with “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Just a cover, not a demo, by Cassata’s band Z02. Pretty good stuff, at least.  New backing music was recorded for “Eyes of Love”, a song previously released on Rockology.  The Rockology version with Bruce Kulick on guitar is superior.

Finally, some real serious archival treasures:  an Eric Carr drum solo basement tape (same as his live Kiss solo), and a 1967 recording by Eric’s first band The Cellarmen!  That’s Eric on lead vocals too.  It definitely sounds of its time. Added filler include a few interview bits and clips, including one with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin about Eric.

If the first Eric Carr CD release was best left to hardcore fans, it’s doubly true of the second one.  This is a fans-only release, period.  It is highly unlikely anyone else would get much enjoyment from this low-fi set.

2/5 stars

Although Carr’s loss was devastating to both fans and the band, there was no question Kiss would carry on with imminent Revenge….

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 single)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 40:

 – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 Interscope single)

Kiss’ Hot in the Shade tour wasn’t a sellout, but it was well received by fans who appreciated that a bunch of older songs were back in the set.  The tour was unfortunately highlighted by the June 15, 1990 date in Toronto, igniting a feud with Whitesnake.  Kiss were third on a four-band bill, with David Coverdale, Steve Vai and company in the headlining slot.  Paul Stanley used his stage raps to complain that Whitesnake wouldn’t let them use their full setup, including a giant sphinx.  When Whitesnake hit the stage, it was to a chorus of boos.  Steve Vai later stated that it was the first time he had ever been booed.  Vai once even walked onstage to the sound of people chanting “Yngwie! Yngwie! Yngwie!”, but he had never been booed until the incident with Kiss in Toronto.

When the tour wrapped up in November, Kiss took a few months off before gearing up again in the new year.  It was to be another album, another tour, but suddenly real life interfered.

Eric Carr hadn’t been feeling well.  Flu-like symptoms turned out to be heart cancer.  Simultaneously, Kiss received an offer to record a song for the sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Carr underwent surgery in April, with chemotherapy following.  Having little choice, Kiss recorded without him.  Eric Singer, who had performed so well on Paul Stanley’s solo tour, filled in on drums.  Eric Carr, in a wig, was able to play for the music video taping.  He gave his all, and did a full day’s shoot, with excellent (pun intended) results.

Unfortunately a rift was developing, with Eric Carr feeling shunned and excluded from Kiss.  He was afraid he was going to be replaced, permanently, and his relationship with the band was strained.  Although everybody hoped Eric would make a full recovery, he passed away from a brain haemorrhage on November 24, 1991.  Eric Carr was 41.

On the same date, Freddie Mercury of Queen succumbed to AIDS.  Carr’s death was barely mentioned in the news, including Rolling Stone magazine who missed it completely, prompting a harsh reply from Kiss:

If anything positive came from Eric Carr’s death, it was that Kiss were going to put all that anger and frustration back into the music.  The music was to be their Revenge.

It started with “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”, a re-imagining of an old Argent song for the Bill & Ted movie.  Eric Carr may not have been well enough to play drums, but that didn’t stop him from singing.  His vocals on “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” were his last.  The song wouldn’t be the same without Carr, as he can be heard sweetly harmonising with Paul Stanley.   Eric Singer wasn’t credited on the single, or the final soundtrack for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  It simply says “performed by Kiss”.

“God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was important for two more reasons.  First, and very significantly, it was produced by Bob Ezrin.  Ezrin was responsible for the two albums that some consider Kiss’ best, and Kiss’ worst.  It had been 10 years.  A Kiss-Ezrin reunion was very big news for fans.  It indicated that Kiss meant business this time.  Secondly, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was the first Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons (with Bob Ezrin and Russ Ballard) co-writing credit since 1985, and their first shared vocals in ages upon ages.

Although it didn’t make waves in 1991, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” has become enough of a favourite to make it onto 2015’s Kiss 40 compilation, and continue to be played live.  It shows off what Kiss can really do.  Yes, they can sing!  Yes, they can play!   This lineup could do it particularly well.  It’s appropriate that Eric Carr went out on a good Kiss track.  And Eric Singer was the right guy to continue.

There are three released versions of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”:  The single edit (3:57), the soundtrack version (5:23) and the final 1992 version that was later released on the next Kiss album (5:19).  The single edit cuts out too much of the grand, pompous arrangement, including the epic opening.

In an ironic twist, the version of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” that is in the movie has a guitar intro solo by Steve Vai.  The same guy whose band got booed in Toronto thanks to Kiss.

The CD single is rounded out by two more songs from the Bill & Ted soundtrack, by Slaughter and King’s X.  The King’s X track, “Junior’s Gone Wild” (previously reviewed in our mega King’s X series) has never been one of their better tunes, but as a non-album rarity, a nice one to have.  Just don’t judge King’s X by this one track.  Slaughter turned in something better, a fun party tune called “Shout It Out”, also a non-album recording.  Slaughter, of course, were one of Kiss’ well-received opening acts on the Hot in the Shade tour.  And what was their Kiss connection?  Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum were in a band with Kiss’ old guitar player, called the Vinnie Vincent Invasion!

As work proceeded on the next LP, the world suddenly changed.  Hard rock was out, and grunge took over MTV.  This single bought Kiss a little bit of time, but it was going to be the longest gap between Kiss albums yet — three years.  Revenge had to wait a little longer.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/08

 

 

REVIEW: KISS – Unholy Kisses (1992 bootleg)

UNHOLY KISSES_0002KISS – Unholy Kisses (Audience recorded bootleg, 1992 Flashback)

“You know who we are, let’s kick some ass!”

That’s how Paul Stanley introduced the legendary Kiss on their stripped-down 1992 club tour, April 23 1992 in San Francisco.  The Revenge album was a “reboot” of sorts, out of necessity.  New drummer, new attitude, and a return to the producer (Bob Ezrin) who helped make them huge.  A return to the clubs without the lights, stage show, and costumes helped Kiss transition into the 90’s.  If this one bootleg CD is any indication, then the club tour was a huge success.

Eschewing their normal opening routine, the band entered to the sound of “Love Gun”, but heavier than ever.  Many fans consider the Simmons/Stanley/Kulick/Singer lineup to be among their best, and this live bootleg proves why.  In fantastic voice, Paul leads this devastating lineup to demolish the clubs in their wake.  Full of adrenaline, “Love Gun” is faster than its studio counterpart, and Bruce Kulick creates his own individual guitar solo that fits the track.

Gene’s next on “Deuce”, the new lineup infusing it with menace.  The CD, though obviously a bootleg, sounds great.  Even though the drums are a bit distant you can hear that Eric Singer has come into the band paying homage to the drum parts he inherited.  Then Paul takes a moment to tell the audience that they’ve been so fired up about the way Kiss have been sounding, that they just got to come down to San Fransisco and play.  A rough opening to “Heaven’s On Fire” is a mere hiccup after they get going on the hit single.  For the first time you can clearly hear new guy Eric Singer singing background vocals.

“You ready to hear something old? One of those Kiss klassics?  Bruce – let ’em have a taste.”  Then the shocked audience picked up their jaws as Kiss slammed through “Parasite” for the first time since 1976.  Returning to songs like this was critical for a band who spent the 80’s largely ignoring the deep cuts.

UNHOLY KISSES_0001One thing I love about bootleg CDs is the chance to overhear some audience chatter.  “Shout it Out Loud” however is marred by one nearby fan who keeps singing “You got to have a party,” even when that’s not the current part of the song!  Minor beef, as “Shout it Out Loud” rocks and is another song that was tragically ignored during most of the 80’s.

“How many of you people have Kiss Alive?  Gene must know this one.  Gene’s got Kiss Alive.  Goes like this!”  There begins “Strutter” (also from the first Kiss album) and the crowd goes nuts.  “Dr. Love” follows, with Eric Singer showing off some fancy footwork on the double bass drums.

Fans who were shocked by these old tunes must really have lost their minds when “I Was Made For Loving You”, heavy as hell, tore through the club.  “I Was Made For Loving You” was re-imagined as a chugging metal track and in the club environment, it’s only more raw and aggressive.  Then Paul lets another bomb drop when he introduces “100,000 years” from the first album.  “Oh my God!  I don’t fucking believe it! I do not fucking believe it!” says one nearby fan, obviously excited by this rarity.  It’s incredible how well Bruce and Eric adapted to the sound of old raunchy Kiss.

But what of new Kiss?  The band weren’t ready to start unveiling all the new songs, as Revenge hadn’t even come out yet.  They did roll out two: the first single “Unholy”, and album cut “Take it Off”.

“We got a new album about to come out,” begins Paul.  “And I’ll tell you something, this album is the shit.  I’ll tell you, this album is our fuckin’ Revenge and when you hear the album you’ll know what I’m talking about.”  Indeed, as promised the new songs kick ass, though “Unholy” is kind of awkward in the live setting.  “Take it Off” is more like Kiss.

It’s all oldies from here.   Aside from the new Revenge songs, the most recent track that Kiss played here was “Heaven’s On Fire” from 1984!  (Note: this CD is not the full concert and 1985’s “Tears are Falling” was also played that night.)  I think it’s safe to say that Paul and Gene understand some of the errors in direction they made over the last 10 years, and successfully steered the ship back on track.  “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin” from the first album are present. “I Stole Your Love”, “Detroit Rock City”, and “I Want You” close the CD.  “I Stole Your Love” with the backing vocals of Eric Singer is top-notch!

The songs played that night that aren’t on this CD are “God of Thunder”, “Lick It Up”, “Got Gave Rock and Roll to You II” (its live debut), “Rock and Roll all Nite” and the aforementioned “Tears Are Falling”.  Too bad this is only a single CD bootleg, but bootlegs were so expensive that a double would have cost at least $60-80.  If it was a double, I never would have bought it and heard what I have of this awesome show!

4.5/5 stars

UNHOLY KISSES_0003

CD KISStitics

Songs:

  • 5 from Kiss (1974)
  • 2 from Destroyer (1976)
  • 2 from Rock and Roll Over (1976)
  • 2 from Love Gun (1977)
  • 2 from Revenge (1992)
  • 1 from Hotter Than Hell (1974)
  • 1 from Dynasty (1979)
  • 1 from Animalize (1984)

Sh*t LeBrain’s Dad Says: Gene Simmons’ Beard

Happy birthday Dad!!

We were in Kincardine, Ontario, on Queen street, or “the main drag” as my dad calls it.  We were in this crappy clothing store called Sandy’s that’s not there anymore.  But this time, they had a Kiss T-shirt for sale!  I never saw any cool band shirts in Kincardine before.  We spent much of each summer there, and when I was younger the place seemed kind of dull.  Finding a Kiss shirt there, well obviously I had to get it.  It was 1992, a Revenge shirt.

My dad asked, “Did you find a shirt, son?”

“Yep,” I answered.  “This one is cool, because it has the new Kiss member on it.”  [Eric Singer]

“Yeah,” my dad said with a disapproving smirk.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bearded guy before…”

BEARD

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!

REVIEW: KISS – Carnival Of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997)

Part 38 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Carnival of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997, recorded 1994-95)

Finally!  Five years since Revenge, a studio album!

But not the studio album that the general public had been expecting.  The average person on the street would have expected an album by the original Kiss, since they’d just finished a long worldwide smash hit reunion tour.  Carnival of Souls was an album by Paul, Gene, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer; the album they had finished just before the reunion tour was announced.

Prior to the reunion tour, Gene hyped the new material:  “Very much a brother record to Revenge,” was a quote he gave to M.E.A.T Magazine.  “Head music” was another phrase he used to describe the new album, which was then still called Head (original artwork from Bruce’s website below).

COSartworkFlameHeadjpg

With 20/20 hindsight, I think it’s obvious that Kiss were choosing to evolve by jumping on the grunge bandwagon.  The producer was Toby Wright, best known for cutting two records with Alice In Chains.  The riffs were downtuned, heavy, and obviously not from the streets of New York like classic Kiss.  These sounded like riffs from Seattle.

The thing is, I like Carnival of Souls, quite a bit.  I absolutely loved it back then.  I paid $30 for a bootleg copy (at one point, this was the most heavily bootlegged album ever) back in 1996.  I like almost every song, and this record was historic for Bruce Kulick.  Not only did he have a whopping 9 writing credits out of 12 songs, but he also had his first lead vocal:  “I Walk Alone”.  (Today, Bruce sings lead vocals on his excellent solo albums — check out the BK3 album featuring Gene & Nick Simmons.)

Ironic that Bruce would indeed walk alone in early ’96, having been a driving force of this record.

Kicking off with a lot of noise, feeback, and Paul’s backwards distored vocals, “Hate” opens Carnival of Souls.  Anchored by a complex drum & cymbol pattern by Eric Singer, “Hate” is probably the heaviest song Kiss has ever recorded.  It is a relentless Soundgarden-ish assault with a drum pattern straight out of the Matt Cameron book of tricks.

Paul’s “Rain” is another good, grungy song, but it is nothing compared with “Master & Slave”.  Also known as “Tell Me” on some bootlegs, this is a bass-driven number, with an actual chorus that can be sung along to.  Kiss fans latched onto this one as an early favourite.

“Childhood’s End” is the first epic ballady type song on the album, a Gene title stolen from an Arthur C. Clarke classic.  Lyrically unrelated, this song features a children’s choir and probably could have been on an album like Revenge had Bob Ezrin produced.

Perhaps unwisely, this is followed by a true ballad, Paul’s “I Will Be There”, a song written for his son.  It is a beautiful, sparse, strictly acoustic piece with a soaring vocal.  Bruce’s intricate solo sends this one into the net for a goal.

Closing this “side” of the album is “Jungle”, the only single from Carnival.  Clocking in at almost 7 minutes, this is the album’s standout song.  It is a powerful bass-driven groove, with the kind of anthemic Paul chorus that keeps me coming back.  I love this song, and when I played it in the store, people loved it too.

The second “side” of the album opens with “In My Head”, probably the weirdest Gene song on the album.  Heavy, angry, weird.  I love this song, but it’s pretty different.  Lyrically, musically, this is unlike anything Kiss have done before and I’m at a loss to compare it to something by somebody else.

“It Never Goes Away” follows “In My Head”, another slow one, this one very powerful and perhaps like something that would have been on an album like Superunknown.   “Seduction of the Innocent” continues the slow song pattern.  It sounds a little like heavy Beatles.  I can hear some of that psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows” vibe, but in a heavy context.  Gene’s chorus tops the cake.

An epic is up next:  Gene’s “I Confess”.  The verses sound much like outtakes from The Elder, with strings and a dark vibe.  Then Gene’s chorus nails the foot back to the gas pedal.  The song alternates between heavy choruses and quiet verses, much like the popular music of the time….

Paul’s final song of the album, “In The Mirror”, is a scorcher.  It has a killer riff and could have fit on any number of Kiss albums.  Imagine it recorded by the original lineup.  If you can picture it in a “I Stole You Love” vibe, suddenly it sounds like something that could have been on Love Gun.  As it is, the guitars are very 90’s in their sound and the drums very dry.  It was the fashion.

Carnival of Souls ends with what ended up being Bruce Kulick’s swan song, his first and last lead vocal:  “I Walk Alone”.  This fan favourite has a very tentative lead vocal, he’s noticeably improved in the years since.  Still, it’s a nice ballad, and when Gene joins him singing the end, it’s perfect.  Strangely enough, this song never made any of the bootleg discs out there.  Perhaps it was never meant to be on the album?  I don’t know the answer to why.

Carnival has two obvious weaknesses:  the trendy grungy sound, and the fact that so many songs are slow or ballads.  I feel that the ballads are more than made up for by the heaviness of songs like “Hate” and “In My Head”.  I think that Paul’s best two songs, “Jungle” and “Master & Slave” make up for any dull moments.  As for the sudden defection from rock n’ roll to grunge?

Well, keep in mind that this is the band who went disco in ’79.

There was one outtake from this album, which is on the Kiss Box Set:  “Outromental”, which made it onto promo cassettes but was cut from the album itself.

The biggest disappointment with this album was the packaging.  The band decided against the original cover art, and to avoid confusion put the bare-faced lineup on the cover.  But there’s no booklet, no lyrics, and only a couple pictures.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – MTV Unplugged (and a word about the Konvention Tour)

Part 34 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

KISS:  MTV Unplugged (1996)

Kiss had been releasing a lot of product (KISStory the book, a live video and album, and a tribute CD) but not a lot of new music since Revenge.  In ’95 they decided to go out and do an “official” Kiss Kovention tour, charging a then-insane $100 a pop, but giving you an acoustic performance for your dollars.

The Konvention tour yielded some great performances, with Kiss taking requests for songs they barely remember and doing their best to play them.  “Lover Her All I Can”, “Shandi”, and “Nothin’ To Lose” with Eric Singer on lead vocals were all rolled out.  See below for a cool bootleg CD and tracklist from an Australian show on the tour.

              

Kiss were invited to do MTV Unplugged.  What the audience that night didn’t know is that after a full set by Paul, Gene, Bruce and Eric, two “members of the family” would come out:  Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  They were greeted with disbelief and joy.

The evening began with the current Kiss, rolling out rarely played classics like “Comin’ Home”, “Got To Choose” (on the Japanese release, anyway) and “A World Without Hereos”.  They even tackled “See You Tonite” from Gene’s solo album, and “Every Time I Look At You” (with strings) from Revenge:  both firsts.

You can’t complain at all about the tracklist on MTV Unplugged.  I raved about the album then, and I still rave about it now.  I don’t understand why this wasn’t a massive smash hit across the board.  This is a great Kiss album that almost anyone can enjoy.  From Paul’s stirring vocal on “I Still Love You” to the classic “Rock Bottom”, this is awesome all the way through.

But of course, they saved Ace and Peter for the end.  Out they came to do two of their signature songs:  “Beth” for Peter, and the Stones’ “2000 Man” for Ace.  Last but not least, Bruce and Eric returned to the stage to form a formidable 6-man Kiss lineup.  With everyone but Bruce taking a turn at the lead vocals, they rolled out “Nothin’ To Lose” and of course “Rock and Roll All Nite” to end the show.

Expertly recorded and mixed, my only beef is the cutting short of some of Paul’s raps.  I would love a two disc deluxe edition of this one day.  Kiss played for three hours that day, doing multiple takes and playing songs that didn’t make the show:  “Spit”, “Hard Luck Woman” with Paul on lead vocals, and a country version of “God of Thunder”!

5/5 stars