rick derringer

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Lick It Up (1983)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 23:

  Lick It Up (1983 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

On September 18 1983, Kiss publicly unmasked on MTV.  They each appeared with a name tag at a desk and answered questions from the press.  Their first album with their bare faces on the cover was just released on that day:  Lick It Up.  With two non-original members now in the band, and their fortunes fading, it seemed like the best move commercially and artistically.  According to writer Robert V. Conte, the Kiss press conference was overshadowed by an MTV special on Van Halen, broadcast the same evening.

It would be easy for skeptics to dismiss Kiss’ unmasking as a mere stunt, and in many ways they would be right, but it was not a decision made lightly.  Kiss had legitimate fears about how they could carry on without the makeup and costumes.  They came to realize that they could just continue doing what they do – playing their songs live as they always have.

The new album, Lick It Up, was brilliant. It is “exhibit A” in the case of “Did Vinnie Vincent save Kiss?”  With eight out of ten writing credits, all of them great, it certainly appears that Vinnie gave Lick It Up a swift kick in the afterburner.

The stark white cover featured Kiss in their street clothes.  It was a minimalist cover with the only clue to their identities being Gene’s tongue.  In Japan, a full cover obi retained the band in makeup (including Vinnie) until you opened the package and saw the white cover inside.  This led to an urban legend that Japan actually had a rare makeup cover on their edition of Lick It Up.

Strangely enough, even though Lick It Up was Vinnie’s official debut as a Kiss member, He didn’t play the solo on opening salvo “Exciter”.  This was unknown to fans at the time, but “Exciter” was performed by Rick Derringer after Vinnie couldn’t nail the right vibe in the studio.  It was an ominous warning of things to come.

Otherwise, “Exciter” ushered Kiss into the 1980s with a sound that fit.  It had a chunky guitar chug, and killer melodic chorus, and left the sound of the 70s far behind.  Perhaps most importantly, it had no outside writers.  Nothing on Lick It Up required outside writers now that they had Vinnie in the band.

After the blowout opening of “Exciter”, Gene Simmons grinds it down slow with one of his heaviest tracks to date: “Not For the Innocent”.  Gene adapted his singing style to include a Demon scream, and “Not For the Innocent” features lots of it on the outro.  “Not For the Innocent” built on the heavy Kiss of Creatures of the Night and pushed it heavier.

The first single was the successful and surprisingly simple “Lick It Up”.  It’s basically a textbook guitar chug with verses and a chorus – no solo.  It was enough to go top 40 in the UK and Canada and has since become a concert staple.  In fact it’s the only Lick It Up song to remain in the set beyond the 80s, and it’s a pretty good song for what it is.

Simmons returned to the fore on the frenetic “Young and Wasted”, an example of speedy 80s Kiss keeping up with their metal compatriots.  Fortunately, Vincent provided a kicking riff.  Live, “Young and Wasted” was often given to Eric Carr to sing.  The studio version is the one to beat.  Then it was Paul Stanley’s turn in the driver’s seat with “Gimme More”, keeping things rolling in a non-descript top gear.

One of the most interesting tunes on Lick It Up is the side two opener and second single “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose.”  It was begun as a Zeppelin-y riff by Eric Carr, and finished by all four members – only the second Kiss song ever credited to all four members.  It became, in Eric’s words, a “rock and roll rap song!”  That’s not quite so, though Paul’s talk-singing in the verses evokes the basics of rap.  No worries though; this is one brilliant Kiss song that really deserved more exposure.  One worth buying the album for.

The Simmons-dominated second side of Lick It Up is where most of the treasures are found, but Paul had one more kick at the can.  Paul’s “A Million to One” is an unsung classic.  A defiant Stanley tells an ex that her chances of finding a better lover are “a million to one”.  With such an awesome song backing him, Paul makes a convincing argument.  He hits a homerun with melody and angst.

A trio of Simmons tunes ends Lick It Up as one of Kiss’ heaviest album.  “Fits Like a Glove” is speedy-Kiss again, hyper-caffeinated and playing as fast as they can.  Gene’s barking out the words, chewing them up, spitting them out and taking no prisoners.  Then, he brings it back to a groove on “Dance All Over Your Face”.  It’s a song you might not know, but you should.  Kiss’ deep cuts from the 80s have some rare diamonds, and this is one of them.

The closer was an apocalyptic rocker called “And on the 8th Day” which was based on a Vinnie Vincent demo.  The verses of that demo became “And on the 8th Day”.  The choruses became a later Vinnie Vincent Invasion track called “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”, which we will look at later on.  The two songs share DNA but have little else in common.  The Vincent demo is the kind of speed rocker that dominated Lick It Up.  Meanwhile the Kiss song “And on the 8th Day” has the slow monster plod, a killer riff, and a chorus that goes on for days.  Although it’s never seen the light of a concert stage, it really should have.

Though Vinnie Vincent co-wrote the songs that may or may not have saved Kiss, he was a real problem.  His personality didn’t mesh, and his ego got the better of him.  He couldn’t come to an agreement with Kiss over his contract, and in fact never signed one to become an official Kiss member.  This caused him to be let go at the end of the European Lick It Up tour.

Finding a replacement for Vincent wasn’t easy, and he was re-hired for the American tour, though he still delayed signing a contract.  Issues with Vinnie grew on this tour, as he grabbed more of the spotlight from his bandmates.  Like Ace Frehley before him, Vinnie was given a five minute solo spot, but sometimes Vinnie dragged them out well into overtime.  This caused plenty of tension, especially when he once broke into an impromptu solo leaving the band on stage not sure what to do.  The issue of Vinnie’s contract became a non-issue when he was let go permanently.  The band have had very little good to say about Vinnie Vincent since then, especially when the lawsuits began.  Despite this, Lick It Up was not to be Vinnie’s final collaboration with his former band.

Did Vinnie Vincent save Kiss?  This argument will go on as long as there are Kiss fans to discuss it.  Vinnie certainly did provide Kiss with some grade-A songs, both here and on Creatures of the Night.  However he wasn’t the kind of guitar player they needed, who could play the old stuff authentically and also shred with the new kids.  If Vinnie hadn’t come along, another talented writer would have, and Kiss would have continued.  This doesn’t do anything to discredit Lick It Up, a damn fine “comeback” indeed.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

3.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  After my scathing review of Creatures of the Night, I wasn’t sure how to approach this Lick It Up Meat’s Slice. I guess I’ll start with March 15, 1984. My buddy Scott Hunter and I went to Maple Leaf Gardens to see Kiss on the Lick it Up tour, with supporting act Accept! This was to be my second Kiss concert, as we were also at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Creatures tour on January 14, 1983. A concert in which we didn’t know until well after that it wasn’t Ace Frehley on guitar…but none other than Vinnie Vincent. Of course Vinnie was on guitar for the Lick it Up tour as well. Great show with openers The Headpins. Before my 15th birthday, I had now seen Kiss twice. I am 47 now and haven’t seen them live since.

Kiss had taken the makeup off between these albums. Years before I remember seeing a People magazine in my grandmother’s bathroom, while taking a shit, that showed Gene Simmons with a bandana over his face just over his nose. Up until now I had not seen any Kiss member without makeup. So there they are on the Lick It Up cover and all I can think is…”Damn…wish they still had makeup at least for that really ugly dude,” (Vinnie).  The title track of the album has become a bit of a Kiss classic and is still a great song. Not a lot of this album is exceptionally great in my opinion, but there are some good gems in there. The best of which I think is “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, which I have always loved and still do. Other than those two songs? The album lies somewhere between Meh and Good for me.

Funny Vinnie story for me though. Many years ago our makeshift band at the time were playing a Christmas assembly at St. David’s High School in Waterloo here. I was standing behind the soundboard as my guitar player was on stage doing a sound check. The sound guy asked my buddy Dave to play a bit to get a starting level. As per usual, Dave went ripping into some heavy metal bullshit soloing. After a few seconds of that I could see the sound guy waving his hands in the air in front of me, and after getting Dave’s attention, says into the microphone at the board, “Okay Vinnie Vincent…Settle down there.”  Always found that kinda defined the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.

Favorite Tracks: “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, “Lick It Up”

Forgettable Tracks: I don’t know about forgettable, but the rest isn’t that memorable.


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/20

 

 

 

 

#376: The Rock n’ Rasslin’ Connection

“Piledriver” by Koko B. Ware

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#376: The Rock n’ Rasslin’ Connection

My dad turned me on to wrestling.  He grew up with golden age greats — guys like Mad Dog Vachon, Sweet Daddy Siki, Little Beaver and many more.  I was raised on re-runs of those old matches (on the rare occasions they were on) and of course Vince McMahon’s WWF.

For me, it all began around 1985.  McMahon had been boosting the WWF with cross promotions into music and movies.  Hulk Hogan became pop star Cyndi Lauper’s “bodyguard”, and she began making appearances at WWF events, until “Rowdy” Roddy Piper assaulted her, kicking off a feud with Hogan that culminated in Wrestlemania I with Mr. T!  It was a fun time to watch wrestling.

WWFThe wrestling characters looked like rock stars.  Some, like the Demolition and the Ultimate Warrior, didn’t look too different from bands like Kiss.  Most of the guys had long hair.  It was easy to see the visual connection.

McMahon released The Wrestling Album in late ’85, capitalizing on his music connections.  Wrestlers were given the chance to sing campy theme songs, while rock star Rick Derringer contributed a legitimate rock track called “Real American” for Hulk Hogan, for which a music video was made.  This was followed by a second album called Piledriver, on which Derringer recorded a heavy metal theme song for the tag team Demolition.

“Real American” by Rick Derringer

Ozzy Osbourne appeared in Wrestlemania II, by the side of the British Bulldogs for the tag team championship. Wrestlemania III, even bigger than the first two, was attended by Alice Cooper in the corner of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Roberts was facing off against a music-based character, an Elvis impersonator called the Honky Tonk Man. While Roberts lost the match, he and Cooper exacted revenge by dumping a huge python named Damien all over Honk Tonk’s manager, “Colonel” Jimmy Hart (himself a musician – Hart had a Top 5 hit in 1965 with the Gentrys on a song called “Keep on Dancing”).

PILEDRIVERThe next step was a Grammy-style WWF awards show called the Slammy Awards. I caught the 1987 installment, billed as the “37th Annual” even though it was only the second. The wrestlers were given the chance to lipsynch their songs while chaos ensued backstage between “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and “King” Harley Race. It was plenty stupid, obviously completely fake, and a lot of fun.  I actually watched it again not too long ago and made it all the way through!

The family went to WWF events about once a year.  They were held at the Auditorium, and the seats were shitty, but we did get to see Randy “Macho Man” Savage when he was the champion of the world!  It was Boxing Day, Dec 26 1988.  All my shitty camera captured of him was a red and black sequinned blur.  You can see Miss Elisabeth’s hair and arm holding the ropes for him.  Both these stars are dead now.  Savage was facing off against Akeem (formerly One Man Gang) in a non-title match.  I also have some pictures of “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” Iron Mike Sharpe, and Axe and Smash (the Demolition with manager Mr. Fuji) from the same night.  A magical blur, these pictures are!  Emphasis on the blur.

I don’t follow wrestling anymore, and I haven’t since the 80’s.  If I see an old match from my day, I still stop and watch it.  Just like a good song, an old classic wrestling match sure can bring back the memories.

Who was my favourite, you ask? André Roussimoff, better know as André the Giant. Known for his huge size and equally huge heart, the Giant used to wrestle and defeat multiple opponents at the same time. Author of the Princess Bride, William Goldman said, “André was one of the gentlest and most generous people I ever knew.” For those reasons, he always will be my favourite wrestler.  Second to André would be his friends in Demolition, Axe and Smash, who you can see in the pictures below battling the Powers of Pain.

“Demolition” by Rick Derringer

REVIEW: KISS – Creatures of the Night (1982, 1985, 1997 editions)

Part 19 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

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KISS – Creatures of the Night (1982, 1985, 1997)

Creatures Of The Night is one heavy, over the top & loud Kiss album. Very very loud. Hot on the heels of The Elder and Killers, Creatures was a defiant “we’re back!” from a band who was written off by the end of 1981.

It is important to note that there are several versions of Creatures floating around. At one point in 1985, shortly after Asylum, it was reissued with new (non-makeup) cover art with Bruce Kulick  instead of Ace Frehley. Interestingly, neither played on Creatures. The reissue with the non-makeup cover has the songs in a different order, and they were remixed to bring down the loudness of the drums. I guess someone in the mid 80’s decided the album was just too loud, and the remix was done. Thankfully, the original loud drum mix was remastered in 1997, finally available on CD.

Interestingly, the 1985 remixed version featured a picture of Gene’s ass in leather pants on the back cover!  See below for a gander at Gene’s buttocks.

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And yeah, the drums are loud alright! They sound awesome, like John Bonham shooting cannons off the back of the stage. They are the cleanest, most powerful, natural and clear drum sounds this side of Led Zeppelin, and Kiss had a lot to be proud of. Just listen to “I Love It Loud”. Wow.

Creatures really is a stellar album featuring songwriting by Bryan Adams, Mikal Japp and a guy named Vincent Cusano, better known by his stage name Vinnie Vincent. Guitars were by Paul Stanley, Bob Kulick, Vinnie Vincent, Rick Derringer, Steve Ferris, and who-knows-how-many-others. Kiss claim to have lost track due to the process of auditioning and recording at the same time. Eric Carr, who had no songwriting credits this time, played bass on Paul’s “I Still Love You”.

“Creatures Of The Night” is an amazing fast paced opening, starting off with a barrage of Carr’s toms. I think The Elder was a dissapointing way to introduce the new drummer. Creatures overcompensates, and I am sure Carr was very happy. The main riff and guitar lick in “Creatures” is driving and catchy, and the chorus will stay in your head for days. This is Kiss’ statement of purpose.

Gene takes the tempo down a bit with “Saint & Sinner”, a rebellious one about standing your ground: “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please, you can go to hell.   Put my back against the wall, well, I’m not gonna fall on my knees, no, not at all.”  At this point Gene was trying to sing in his low “monster” voice more, and this is such a great song. Shame it has not been resurrected live.

“Keep Me Comin'” is a pretty self-explanatory Paul title. The riff is very Zeppelinesque, and Zep was a seemingly huge influence on this era of Kiss. It has some serious groove to it and Paul sings his ass off.

“Rock And Roll Hell” was a song that was played live a couple of times on the 1982 tour. I would describe this Gene song as a slow burner. It seems to be about a kid who “might even steal a guitar” to get out of his rock and roll hell, and make the big time. Very cool groove and lyric.

“Danger” is probably the weakest song on the album. It’s another fast Paul track with a somewhat weak chorus.  It would be followed in the exact same album slot (last song side 1) by similar Paul songs on later albums:  “Gimme More” on Lick It Up, and “I’m Alive” on Asylum.  All three songs are below standard and interchangeable.

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Side 2 begins with “I Love It Loud”. Everybody knows “I Love It Loud”. Your grandma knows “I Love It Loud”.  At the time as a kid, I thought this was the greatest Kiss song ever. That drum beat, that chanting, and Gene’s awesome lyrics about taking no crap — yeah! That’s what every grade 8 student felt like! Unfortunately the novelty wears off after a couple of days and today I feel it’s one of Kiss’ most boring songs. After all, there’s not much to it. Shame it still finds its way into setlists in 2012, while other songs have fallen by the wayside.

The sole ballad “I Still Love You” is next. When Kiss used to play it live (the last time was the 1995 Unplugged concert), it became Paul’s vocal centrepiece.  It’s a slow with not enough dynamics, but Paul again sings his ass off.  As mentioned, Eric Carr on bass.

“Killer” (probably written at the same time as Killers?) is a really cool Gene Simmons song that has lots of interesting riffs and twists. I can’t believe how cool this song still is today. It’s fast, it has interesting backing vocals, and is insanely catchy.

The album ends with Gene’s plodding epic, “War Machine” which still gets played live to this day, despite being retired briefly during the reunion tours. Gene wrote the song with Bryan Adams which would be a surprise to Adams fans. Who knew he could get so heavy? The lyrics are pure, vintage Gene: “Strike down the one who leads me, I’m gonna take his place, I’m gonna vindicate the human race.”

Creatures wound up being the first Kiss studio album to have only two lead singers:  Gene and Paul. Sadly this would remain the case until Eric Carr got his first album vocal much later in 1988. I am glad that the Kiss of today have decided to let all four members sing, as that was one of the factors that got me into the band in the first place.

This would also prove to be Kiss’ final album in makeup.  They had grounded themselves musically once again, while their biggest change was yet to happen….

5/5 stars