tommy thayer

#750: KISS II

GETTING MORE TALE #750:  KISS II

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley seems emboldened by the monumental success of their End of the Road tour.  Why “emboldened”?  Because they’re pulling it off with only half the original band.  Ace Frehley has not shown up to sing “Shock Me” and Peter Criss seems happily retired.  Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer remain in the greasepaint and the spotlight.  It’s proof that the majority of the masses don’t know or don’t care who is in a band anymore.  The “fans” who refer to Thayer and Singer as “scabs” have had no impact on ticket sales with their boycotts.

Many bands have toured successfully in recent years without key members.  AC/DC made headlines by replacing Brian Johnson with Axl Rose.  Deep Purple are going strong with only one original member.  Queen sell out with Adam Lambert taking Freddie Mercury’s place on stage, and bring home terrific reviews to prove it.  Kiss too are doing just fine.

Would they be able to do it with even fewer original members?  Like, say, none?  Paul Stanley thinks so.  He’s said so before and recently he raised the idea again:

“I think that Kiss has served a huge purpose and brings incredible joy to people on the End Of The Road tour. The shows are packed, and not only with the early followers of the band, but people who have heard the legend of what this band does live. And it’s something that’s more than music. It really is a preaching of self-empowerment and the idea that anything that you’re willing to work hard for, you can probably attain. And the idea of celebrating life. Things that may seem simplistic or overtly simplistic, but actually have a timeless depth to them. So when bands continue, ultimately the people in ’em need to change or have to, because of circumstances.

“So that’s a long explanation for me feeling that I would have an enormous amount of pride in knowing that we can continue the band once I’m not there anymore.  That would be the ultimate test of its credibility and the role, I think, that it serves.

“I didn’t invent the wheel. I am the product of all the people who I looked up to, all the musicians who I respected, and it was kind of like a stew, and then I added my own ingredients to it. But there are other people who are out there who wouldn’t necessarily imitate me any more than I imitated my heroes. But there are people out there, I’m sure, who are well equipped to pick up the flag and run with it.”

Paul is correct to say that bands must sometimes change out of necessity.  He is actually the best proof of this.  Paul cannot sing anymore and has been miming a huge percentage of his lead vocals on this tour.  We won’t go down that rabbit hole this time.  Suffice to say, if this wasn’t the End of the Road, Paul couldn’t really continue singing lead in Kiss.

But replacing him?  That’s a whole other bowl of Cheerios.

The idea of Kiss going on without Paul and Gene – let’s call the hypothetical band “Kiss II” – would certainly cross a line with me.  Bands with one or two original members is one thing.  Many bands have replacement members far more important than the originals.  Phil Collen is a key member of Def Leppard, vastly more so than his predecessor Pete Willis.  Same with Roger Glover and Ian Gillan in Deep Purple.  Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden.  The list goes on and on.

Could a Kiss II be a viable prospect with Eric Singer the longest serving member?  With Tommy Thayer as band leader?

No.  Paul and Gene control Kiss.  The other guys have just been hired guns ever since the originals left.  Kiss may have started as four guys, but for the last few decades it’s the vision of just two.  (In the 80s, just one, as Gene went Hollywood.)  You could imagine Paul and Gene controlling a Kiss II band from behind the scenes, but that is a hollow prospect.  Imagine Stanley and Simmons discussing new costumes and approving setlists for a Kiss II tour without them.  Would you pay to see that?

I wouldn’t.

Kiss have already gone down in history, many times, for their accomplishments.  Making the band immortal with all parts replaceable might also be historic, but not in a good way.  There are guys out there who can sing better than Paul, and play better than Gene.  Tribute bands have all the moves down pat.  But you can go see a tribute band for $10.  Kiss II would be, in essence, an “official” tribute band and with Paul and Gene behind the scenes they’d be charging a hell of a lot more than $10 per ticket.

I think Paul has lost perspective.  Kiss has been successful, against the odds, in replacing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  But there was precedent for that.  Kiss made fantastic albums without either.  That doesn’t mean you can remove Paul or Gene from the picture and still call it Kiss.  Paul and Gene have always been the ones with the drive and the vision.  They are not so easy to replace.  Can you picture some replacement guy imitating Paul’s stage raps?  There might have been a brief window in the late 80s when Kiss could have gone on without Gene, only Paul, since he had become the captain of the ship for a while.  However that ship sailed long ago and it’s all but impossible to imagine the band without them both.

No, Kiss II is a lousy idea.  It’s just a way to milk naïve fans in this era of hologram and nostalgia tours.  Would they sell tickets?  Sure, they’d sell some.  These hologram tours are proof that people will pay to see anything.  Would it be good?  Hell, no!

 

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: KISS – Toronto – Scotiabank Arena March 20 2019 by Uncle Meat

UNCLE MEAT:  Well…I guess tonight I experience the controversy head on.

LeBRAIN:  What’s tonight?

MEAT:  Members of Black N’ Blue and Badlands.

LB:  Kiss?  You are going?  If so you are REQUIRED to write something for me. Or else!!

MEAT:  Old buddy, Scott Hunter, who I saw Kiss with twice in 1982 and 1983, messages me out of nowhere and has a paid-for ticket. Him and his buddy have VIP but only two, but who cares.  They had the Vault Experience with Gene last year too.

LB:  Go go go.

MEAT:  Only been 36 years since I saw Kiss live.  Mid-arena, 20 rows up.

LB:  It’s gonna be sad I think. Just my feeling.

MEAT:  Fairly good tickets. But yeah. The spectacle is the part to enjoy I guess.

LB:  I hope you have a good time.  But seriously if you don’t write this up for me, I am going to probably hurt you very badly. You won’t see it coming. Maybe we will be driving to the farm and I will punch your nuts so hard that you bleed from your ears. Just saying. Not that you “owe” me anything, you just have to. Or have your nuts tenderised. Your choice! You won’t see it coming but it will happen!

 

– Toronto – Scotiabank Arena, March 20 2019
Review by Uncle Meat

Kiss in 2019 was the best “show” I have ever seen.  Easily.

What about the singing?  I had watched a cool video the other day, where a guy pointed out in each song where Paul is lip syncing and where he is actually singing.  Which was good because before that I thought it was pretty much all tape. That being said, I could notice both last night.  It’s like he is trying some songs’ verses (or what have you) on different nights. But, 60% of the vocals (at least) were the same as they had been on other stops. I have heard the “Love Gun” track several times, how the verses have been re-recorded, and he does exactly the same inflections within the verses.

BUT!!!

Truth is? 20 seconds in, and I didn’t give a shit.  And while I hold the same opinion about it, it literally took ZERO away from a show I can only describe as almost perfect.

Gene sings 100% of his vocals, at least on the verses, and was kinda goofy all night.  More aloof than he usually is. Less Demon. More Mike Myers.  He is getting fat in the face though, wow…he looked like Bea Arthur in Gene makeup.

Paul still is on the very top shelf of frontmen, as per between-song banter.  He had me right in the trenches, clapping along, laughing out loud several times, just fuckin’ entertaining.

Eric Singer was a great drummer.  LOVED his voice in “Black Diamond”, and really really enjoyed “Beth”.  Like alot.  Surprising.

I was really blown away by Tommy Thayer’s guitar tone.  Fucking powerful, and creamy.  He changed just enough of the Ace solos to put his mark on it, but leaving the important parts of the solo in to suit the songs.  Great set list too.  “100,000 Years” and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” were serious highlights.

4.5/5 steaks 

The missing 1/2 steak only because of the lip-sync stuff.

 

 

 

 

#711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

GETTING MORE TALE #711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

In a recent episode of Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley said, among many things, that it would take $100,000 per show for him to play on Kiss’ recently announced End of the Road tour.  While that amount of money may seem like ransom, Ace might be able to make those kinds of outlandish demands.  He may have Kiss over a barrel of sorts.

Ace is in a good position right now.  2018 is an interesting time for this Kiss farewell tour to happen, because of what Frehley has been up to.  Since acrimoniously splitting with the band in 2001 (after a previous “farewell” tour), Ace has rebuilt his credibility and his standing.  Over the last decade he’s regained the respect of fans who feared he could no longer write, with a series of increasingly good solo albums.  AnomalySpace Invader, and the recent Spaceman have been well received by fans and critics alike.  Most importantly, since 2016, some crazy things have happened.  First Ace reunited with Paul Stanley on Origins, Vol. 1, a covers album.  Then Ace re-ignited his friendship with Gene Simmons, as Gene promoted his Vault box set.  Gene appeared on Spaceman, and now Ace is touring with Gene’s solo band.  Ace appears cozier with Kiss than he was when he was actually in Kiss.

Throw the farewell tour into the mix.  Kiss will be touring with the current lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.  Some fans still call Singer and Thayer “scabs”, merely imitating Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  Eric Singer has won over more fans than Tommy Thayer has.  Perhaps it’s because Singer has been in the band longer and played on the legendary Revenge.  More likely, the fans resent how closely Thayer imitates the licks of Frehley — on the orders of Simmons and Stanley, let’s not forget.  At the end of the day, they sign the paychecks, and the employees play the way they want them to.  That’s why they are still in the jobs all these years later.  Regardless, fans have largely accepted Singer as the drummer in the Cat makeup.  Peter Criss has retired with dignity, and realistic fans know that he’s no longer really capable of playing the kind of tour that Kiss are looking at.  Peter had his farewell with Kiss and his chapter certainly appears to be closed.

Frehley, however, is on a new leg of his career and the quality of his new material is encouraging.  In addition to his ask of $100,000 per show, Ace has also suggested the real way to end Kiss would be one final studio album.  It’s almost as if he’s throwing down the gauntlet to Kiss.  An Infinity Gauntlet with only four stones:  Ace, Paul, Gene and Eric.

A studio album might be a bit far fetched.  Monster is from 2012, and Kiss seem scared of their own shadows in the studio.  But Ace on tour?  It simply has to happen before it’s over.  Not doing so would be a slap in the face.

Fans are going to demand it.  Black Sabbath blew it on their The End tour.  Bill Ward probably couldn’t have done a tour, but to not invite him back, for at least a few songs at the end?  A wasted opportunity that can never be repaired.  The original Black Sabbath were all still alive.  Bill Ward was willing and able.  The Sabbath camp didn’t want to hear it, and so finished with 3/4 of the original band plus Ozzy’s drummer Tommy Clufetos.  It’s sad to say, but the next reunion of the original Black Sabbath might have to be at one of their funerals.

Deep Purple can never reunite their original or even their Mk II lineup.

Led Zeppelin will never be whole again.  Neither will Queen, Styx, Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden.  Sabbath had the chance, and they let it go.  Truly a regrettable, ego-driven mistake.

Kiss cannot make the same mistake.  True, without Peter Criss, it’s not the originals, but Criss has not expressed interest or ability.  Ace has.  Repeatedly.  And we know the clean and sober Ace today can do it.  He is on another creative high, and already getting along with Paul and especially Gene.  To lose this opportunity in the face of the fans would be a mistake some would be unwilling to forgive.

Start the tour, as normal, with Tommy.  Bring Ace out for a couple guest appearances.  See how it goes.  I’ll tell you how it will go.  Ace would sing “Shock Me”, the crowd would go bananas, and you’d be forced to do it again.  And again.  And again.  Eventually, Tommy could bow out gracefully having had his farewell.  Ace could take over from that point.  Or do half a show each.  There are many permutations for this to work.  This is almost exactly how Duff McKagan returned to Guns N’ Roses.  You’re Kiss; you can figure it out.

Don’t let money stand in your way, Kiss.  Money is not forever.  History is.  You do not want to go down like Black Sabbath, when you could go out the way fans want to see you.

Nobody knows how much time they have left on Earth.  The next reunion cannot be a funeral.  We also don’t really know how many shows Paul’s voice has left before it’s gone for good.  A reunion with Ace Frehley must happen before it is too late.

What about Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick, you ask?  It would be wonderful to see them guesting too, but let’s not set hopes too high (even though Vinnie has been spotted in Kiss makeup).  Focus on what is important:  that is getting the original Spaceman back for the final leg(s) of this tour.  Fans may have to be vocal.  (As if Kiss fans are anything but.)

What if Kiss just flat out refuse to pay Ace’s greedy ransom, and Ace can’t be negotiated with?  It would be a loss for all parties, particularly the fans.  While Kiss will still play spectacular shows, would ticket sales be any different from the last few tours?  Kiss have always done well enough (that’s why they keep touring), but the 1996 reunion tour made $144 million gross, which Kiss haven’t equalled since.  A farewell tour without Ace, and with Paul’s voice in its current condition, simply won’t touch that.

With Ace though?

With Ace, they would generate a lot more hype, press and positive reviews.  Ace Frehley, playing as great as he is today, could inspire yet another generation of kids to pick up the guitar.  It’s what Ace does.  He is a superstar, and even the most staunch fan must admit that Tommy Thayer is not.  If Kiss want to go out as big as they can, they need Frehley.  It’s that simple.

No dates have been announced yet.  Paul Stanley has teased on his social media that the band is rehearsing.  They’re talking about doing a 25 song set.  There is plenty of time for more pieces to fall into place.  A big piece is Spaceman-shaped.  They need to make it fit.   Without Frehley, The End of the Road tour will just be another Kiss tour.  New costumes, sure.  That alone won’t sell tickets.

Kiss have always been a band that claimed to “listen to the fans” and “gives the fans what they want”.  This then would be Kiss’ last chance to live up to it.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

scan_20161018-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m fine with that.

$/5 stars

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

REVIEW: KISS – Kiss Rocks Vegas (3 CD/1 Blu-ray Japanese import)

Two reviews for the price of none! For Deke’s review of Kiss Rocks Vegas, click here!

NEW RELEASE

KISS – Kiss Rocks Vegas (3 CD/1 Blu-ray Japanese import, 2016 Eagle Rock)

Kiss put on a hell of a show for their nine gig run in Las Vegas.  You could argue that spectacle is 50% of the Kiss experience.  That said, the audio has to hold up, and it does.  I gave it two spins before review: one at home and one in the car, and only after that did I put on the Blu-ray.  As expected, Paul Stanley’s voice is the chink in the armour.  But it is the only one.  This is one of the most musically capable versions of Kiss ever, and vocally they can’t be touched.  When Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, and Gene Simmons start to harmonize together, it becomes a far stronger beast.  This is how Kiss have adapted to Paul’s current vocal shortcomings, and on a whole it works.  Check out “Tears Are Falling” for a version of a song that gets a serious boost thanks to these guys singing backup.  Now get ready to rock for the next 80 minutes.  Of note, some of Paul’s stage raps are trimmed for time on the CD version, as is Gene’s “bass solo”/blood spitting/flying.  The video has the whole enchilada.

The audio is clear; Gene’s bass nicely audible and in the pocket.  With the 5.1 surround sound cranked, let’s dive into the Kiss Blu-ray, a fine shining example of hi-def rock video.  You can try to count the sparkles on Paul’s guitar, when they open with “Detroit Rock City”.  Their stage looks like a cross between the Creatures-era tank stage and a Dalek.  Giant screens ensure everybody gets a good view, which is a good thing since there is so much going on.  From “Detroit” into “Creatures” itself,  and then “Psycho Circus”, Kiss started the show with three of their classic openers from three different eras!  On screen it’s clear Paul Stanley is still in excellent physical shape.  He doesn’t look like someone who’s had a double hip replacement.   He hops around a bit, plays guitar between his legs, and dances up a storm as always.

IMG_20160904_191221

Kudos must be given to Tommy Thayer, who takes many of the flashier solos from 80’s Kiss and adapts them to the style of the 70’s that Kiss tend to ply most.  Tommy’s re-imagining of guitar solos and giving them a Frehley-like vibe is one reason to check out new live versions of these Kiss classics.  Never to be underrated is Eric Singer, a talent to be reckoned with in this band.  His beats are always perfect, but so is his voice.  As usual, he sings “Black Diamond” towards the end of the show, with respect and class.

Other setlist highlights:

Gene’s “War Machine” from Creatures (Gene blows fire at the end).  Paul’s “Tears are Falling” from Asylum (“Some of you weren’t born in 1985!” says Paul, accurately observing his audience).   “Lick It Up”, featuring Kiss’ sometimes-segue into “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  “Hell or Hallelujah”, from Monster.  “God of Thunder” with its flying Gene, and playing way up high on a tiny little platform.  Paul running out to sing on a catwalk suspended over the crowd on “Love Gun”.  All of this is served up with lights, lasers, explosions, levitating platforms and larger-than-life sparkle.  Kiss still deliver it.

Admittedly, when there is so much great live Kiss from the past out there, it’s hard to get excited about a new one.  (Why watch a 2016 live version of “War Machine” when you can watch one from 1983, 1984, 1988 or 2004?)  The added bonus that makes the whole thing hard to say no to is a seven song acoustic set.  This is a makeup-free event in a packed conference room.  A few more rarities are served up here, such as “Love Her All I Can”.  The loose atmosphere is refreshing.  They goof around a bit on “Christine Sixteen” (in harmony!) and Paul helps with some forgotten words on “Goin’ Blind”.  Just don’t go and compare these with the acoustic ones on MTV Unplugged.  That was 20 years ago.  Controversially, Eric sings “Beth”.  The mitigating factor is that this is a small event for fans and not part of the main Vegas concert.  It’s worthwhile to get a version of this release that contains the acoustic portion on the bonus CD.

The Japanese release is an interesting one.  Instead of one CD, the Vegas concert is split over two.  This is probably because the concert is close to the 80 minimum maximum that a CD can hold, and the Japanese usually adhere to a higher manufacturing standard.  They also included a nice T-shirt in a shiny, embossed box.

As usual, any time Kiss release new product, fans will bitch that they’re over the hill.  They’ll complain that there are only two original members left, and that Paul’s voice is but a shadow of what it once was.  While these things are indeed true, Kiss have found a way to continue on with two talented members helping Paul out with the vocal burden.  If you don’t like it, fair play.  But let the rest of us continue to enjoy Kiss without your negativity.

3.5/5 stars

CD 1
1. “Detroit Rock City”
2. “Creatures of the Night”
3. “Psycho Circus”
4. “Parasite”
5. “War Machine”
6. “Tears are Falling”
7. “Deuce”
8. “Lick it Up”
9. “I Love it Loud”

CD 2
1. “Hell or Hallelujah”
2. Tommy guitar solo
3. “God of Thunder”
4. “Do You Love Me?”
5. “Love Gun”
6. “Black Diamond”
7. “Shout it Out Loud”
8. “Rock and Roll All Night”

CD 3 – Kiss Acoustic
1. “Comin’ Home”
2. “Plaster Caster”
3. “Hard Luck Woman”
4. “Christine Sixteen”
5. “Goin’ Blind”
6. “Love Her All I Can”
7. “Beth”

 

REVIEW: KISS – Greatest Live Hits (2015)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20151212 (2)KISS – Greatest Live Hits (2015 Concert Live limited edition)

“What’s this?”, you ask with scorn.  “Just another Kiss hits/live thing, is it?”

Yes and no.

Concert Live is a great company that records and releases “instant live” albums from major artists like Kiss and Alice Cooper among many.  You can buy them immediately after the concert, or online as I have.  Kiss have a lot of Concert Live releases.  I have three, all from the Sonic Boom tour:  Montreal, Saskatoon, and Atlanta.  They are live, not overdubbed, raw and real.  And expensive!  So when Concert Live announced they were releasing a Greatest Live Hits CD from these concerts, I clicked the “add to cart” button immediately.  The original order claimed there were only 200 copies available, but you can now get it from Concert Live as a part of a multi-album box set.

This 2 disc collection has all the classic hits (nothing more recent than ’83) from a variety shows from different nations.  There are three tracks of Kiss from the Download Festival, in 2008.  Paul’s voice is surprisingly strong, and the reason why is because they are from seven years ago.  There is no booklet with details, so only the location of the recordings is obvious from the packaging.  It is true that Eric Singer covers for Paul when his voice cracks or he cannot hit the note anymore.  Concert Live seemed to focus on the best versions they could find of these particular tracks, so you get a high ratio of good-to-bad Paul performances.

Below are the recording details, courtesy of rock journalist Mitch Lafon.  He suggests re-ordering the tunes to create an actual Kiss setlist.

702906_10153597285184193_861533072_n

At this stage, with so many Kiss live packages on the market, there’s no point in discussing specifics.  The recordings sound as you have come to expect from Concert Live.  Warts and all, but with sonic care and clarity, these are true live albums.  When Gene has to suddenly sing in a lower key in “Rock and Roll all Night”, that’s in there.  This is the kind of thing that drives casual music fans up the wall.  I actually know people who can’t stand live music because of such realities.  I find it hard to understand because that is a real moment captured in time, and it’s just a moment.  The song does not derail and Gene soon returns to the original key.

Random observations:

1. When “Strutter” begins, the first second sounds uncannily like “Hide Your Heart” and it always takes me by surprise!

2. It’s nice to get “Rock and Roll all Night” out of the way early, but “I Love It Loud” as a closer?  That’s a weird way to end an album: on a sluggish, way overplayed note!

3. On “Let Me Go Rock and Roll”, Eric Singer tries to do his version of Peter Criss’s shtick, talking to the crowd in the cool-cat voice.  Unfortunately I find this to sound contrived and awkward for the new Cat Man, Eric.

4. Tommy Thayer haters can suck it.  He’s playing the style Paul and Gene want him to play, and he does his job perfectly.  This is the Kiss sound they have gone for, a classic Frehley guitar sound, and Tommy Thayer’s the man for that job so long as the Ace Man isn’t.

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of this disc.  A few more concert details would have been nice, and some of the edits between tracks aren’t so great, but this is a worthwhile buy for any fan of the present day Kiss!

 

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – “Don’t Touch My Ascot” (2015)

Thanks kissnews.de for posting!


KISS – “Don’t Touch My Ascot” (2015 Warner, from the movie Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery)

The lovely Mrs. LeBrain got me a surprise gift a few weeks ago for our anniversary.  This is a blu-ray movie called Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery.  I haven’t watched it yet…I will some day…but it was a thoughtful gift idea because I’m a collector.  It features the voices of Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy, and hey…that counts for something, right?

According to the back cover, the story takes place at KISS-World.  Sharp minded fans will remember that in 1979, Gene Simmons wanted to do a travelling amusement part/rock concert called Kiss World.  Then there’s something about a witch and alternate dimensions and something called The Destroyer.  I think the bonus feature, a Kiss blooper reel, will probably be better than the feature, but we shall see.

The main thing I’m interested is the new original Kiss song “Don’t Touch My Ascot”, a reference to Fred’s neckware.  Kiss’s producer Greg Collins co-wrote this for the movie, and all four Kiss members sing on it.  “Don’t Touch My Ascot” is a cute, old-tyme acoustic number with barbershop-like vocals.  Paul Stanley goes first, but his voice is a mere whisper.  Gene Simmons’ lines are next, and he sings in an exaggerated nasal voice.  Cute, because he doesn’t normally sing like that on record.  Please note though, the guy can actually sing!  Take off the nasal intonation and that would be a pretty impressive bit of singing!  Eric Singer goes next with the bridge and another verse, in that rasp he does so well.  Here he reminds me of David Lee Roth!  (Think: “Big Bad Bill”.)  After a brief acoustic solo, Tommy Thayer goes last.  He has the blandest voice of the four, but since everybody is harmonizing behind him, it all works out OK.

There are two catches.  1) The song is only 1:13 long.  2) You can’t buy it anywhere.  It’s only in the movie (and on youtube).  There’s the rub.  You can make an mp3 file from the youtube video, but the fidelity is pretty iffy.

A rating for a track like this is pretty meaningless, especially without the context of the movie, but whatever.  It’s Kiss and I love Kiss.

4/5 stars

#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

KISS ARMY FRONT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tales
#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

A while ago I recorded this segment for a proposed podcast over at KingCrimsonProg.  The podcast hasn’t come together yet, for the moment anyway, but I’ve decided to use my segment right here because it’s a subject of interest.  Listen to the embedded video below to hear my Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss!

REVIEW: KISS vs Momoiro Clover Z – “Samurai Son”/”Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” CD singles

NEW RELEASE

MOMOIRO CLOVER Z vs KISS – “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” / “Samurai Son” (2015 King Records Japan CD singles, sold separately)

Here they are, the new singles featuring the Kiss vs Momoiro Clover Z collaboration.  “Samurai Son” appeared on the current Best of Kiss 40 CD, billed there as the “U.S. Mix”.  That meant there are other versions out there, so I ordered the singles (two separate releases) from Japan.  Even if I did not like the other versions of the song, the single covers were cool enough to keep as collectibles.  As it turns out they are printed on high quality textured parchment style paper, and have stunning inner and outer art.  They also come with transparent outer shells with shiny embossed symbols and writing.  For packaging, it’s 5/5 stars for these singles.

Between the two singles, there are four different mixes from the “U.S. Mix” of “Samurai Son”.  All feature Kiss, to a certain degree.  Here’s how the versions break down, from “Least Kiss” to “Most Kiss”:

5. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina”.  This is the full-on Japanese version with the spotlight primarily on Momoiro Clover Z.  They take the lead vocals and their elements of the song and style and brought up in the mix.  It’s funny to hear Kiss singing background vocals in English, underneath the Japanese lead vocals!  Who know if the words actually go together in any way.

4. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” (instrumental version).  Kiss are the backing band on this track and you can clearly hear Tommy soloing, but the Kiss and J-pop elements are mixed fairly equally here.  These first two renditions of the song are on both versions of the single.

3. “Samurai Son” (instrumental version). From the CD with the artwork emphasizing Kiss.  This instrumental is based on the Kiss rather than the Momoclo version of the song.  Tommy is in the spotlight a bit more on this version, as the instrumental mix leaves more room for his guitar licks to take the spotlight.

2. “Samurai Son”.   From the same CD as the above track, this is a Kiss-heavy version similar to the “U.S. Mix” on Best of Kiss 40…but not quite the same.  It follows the same blueprint of Kiss being up front and the Momoclo girls audible in the background and on the chorus.  It has vocal, guitar and J-pop parts that are not as apparent in the “U.S. Mix”.  Gene’s vocals also sound higher in the mix.  It’s audibly mastered way, way louder than Kiss 40, as you can see from the Audacity waveform below.  Track 3 from the CD is on top, the “U.S. Mix” from Kiss 40 is beneath.

1. “Samurai Son” (U.S. Mix). The Kiss 40 version; the mix that is geared to appeal mostly to Kiss fans.  Logically, it sounds the most like Kiss.  It’s only on Kiss 40; neither of these two singles have this mix which makes it a little more special for Kiss fans.

MOMOIRO CLOVER Z VS KISS_0004There are more tracks, but I’ll be frank — I didn’t even rip them to the computer.  These tracks are vocals and instrumental covers by Momoiro Clover Z of “Rock and Roll all Nite”.  I listened to it; it’s cute.  If you want to try and get your little niece into rock music, this might be the way to do it.  It has some guitars but it’s very cutesy.  (Probably still better than Poison’s version though, Mr. Rockett.)

Finally there is the Blu-ray containing the music video, that I cannot play due to region restrictions.  That’s why they invented Youtube, I think….

I give Kiss credit for doing something different like this and making it accessible to different audiences.  My favourite version is the one on Kiss 40, but that one was custom built for people like me.  These two singles are fun additions to the collection.  It’s one of those conversation pieces you can show that one guy you know who says he has “all” the Kiss CDs.

3/5 stars

SAMURAI SON

REVIEW: KISS – 40 (2015 single CD Japan Commemorative edition)

 

NEW RELEASE

KISS 40 2015_0001KISS – 40 (2015 Universal Japan single CD Commemorative edition)

Wait a minute, I’m confused — did I just buy Kiss 40, again?

Wait a minute, it’s 2015 now — shouldn’t this be Kiss 41, or something??

Wait a minute, what the hell is “Kiss vs. Momoiro Clover Z”???

Eager to buy anything new from Gene and Co., I got this new single CD version of Kiss 40 without really knowing what it was about.

Now that the CD has arrived at the door, I discovered that Momoiro Clover Z is a Japanese all-girl pop group with similar intentions as Kiss themselves.  They dreamed big dreams for themselves and aimed to entertain and bring a spectacle to the people.  They have colour coordinated members and characters, so perhaps a Kiss collaboration seemed like the next step for them.  I don’t know how the collaboration came to be, but the result was a brand new Kiss song written by Paul Stanley and producer Greg Collins.

This edition of Kiss 40 commences with a Kiss-heavy mix of the new collaboration, “Samurai Son”. There are other versions available on two singles and on iTunes, but reviews for those will wait until they arrive at LeBrain HQ.  The good news is that the “U.S.” mix of “Samurai Son” has no problem hanging out on a Kiss greatest hits CD.  Musically, it’s not too much of a departure of the direction from Kiss’ last album, Monster.  It’s just more produced, polished and embellished.  The girls from Momoiro Clover Z come in during the chorus, but it’s not the first time Kiss have had female backing vocals on their albums.  It’s the first time since 1989, but remember old classic tunes like “Tomorrow and Tonight” from Love Gun, and “Sweet Pain” from Destroyer?  Female backing vocals.  The new twists this time are the lines in Japanese, and the very slight J-pop slant.  It’s not too far of a departure.

Collector's card included inside Kiss 40

Collector’s card included inside Kiss 40

It may not be to your taste, but I love “Samurai Son”.  The lyrics address Kiss’ experience of hitting Japan for the first time back in 1976:

“I took a flight into Tokyo,
Into the Land of the Rising Son,
I heard my song on the radio,
Blowin’ my mind like a shot from a gun.”

Paul then proceeds to tear it up all over town, “Livin’ life with no regrets.”  The words suit one of those fast paced Kiss rockers that they’ve been doing of late — think “Hell or Hallelujah”.  There are some cool Thayer licks and you can tell that Gene Simmons showed up for the sessions, because you can hear him singing on the choruses.  The overall impression is that “Samurai Son” is one of those solid Kiss catalogue rockers.  It’s like the new material on side four of Kiss Alive II: pretty good but living in the shadow of the Kiss greats.

KISS 40 2015_0006From this point on, Kiss 40 (the 2015 abridged version) continues with the “best” hits from the full length 2 CD version…but not quite.  There have been some major tweaks to the tracklist, perhaps to maximize the listening pleasure of consumers who just need one CD of Kiss in their lives.  The classic live version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” has been replaced with the studio version from Dressed to Kill.  Same for “Shout it Out Loud” and “Detroit Rock City”, here in their original full Destroyer guises instead of live. I like the way the car crash ending of “Detroit” merges into “Calling Dr. Love”.  “Dr. Love” and “Love Gun” were thrown into the pile here, even though they weren’t on the original Kiss 40 in any form.  A little further down, a different song was plucked from Kiss Killers:  The superior “I’m a Legend Tonight” replaces “Down on Your Knees”.

Moving on from the makeup years to the non-makeup 1980’s, the original version of “Crazy Crazy Nights” replaces that unreleased live version from the double Kiss 40.  That sums up the song substitutions; the album still continues chronologically to the current era.  I’m pleased that even though early songs from the first two Kiss albums were axed, songs from the last two Kiss albums were not.  I think Sonic Boom and Monster are Kiss albums the band should be proud of, so you get “Modern Day Delilah” and “Hell or Hallelujah”, as it should be.  Other albums excluded from this compilation are The Elder, (surprisingly) Creatures of the Night, Hot in the Shade, the live records and the solo albums.

With all these tweaks and alterations, the overall listening experience is enhanced albeit at the cost of some deeper tracks. It’s a give and take, so the overall score for the new Kiss 40 remains:

4/5 stars