– “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” (2014 Sony, from The Art of McCartney)
Kiss rarities can be so crushingly disappointing. Some, like the Ramones cover “Rock and Roll Radio” are catalogue highlights. Others, like “Don’t Touch My Ascot” are just curiosities. Unfortunately the Paul McCartney medley of “Rock Show” and “Venus and Mars” fall into the latter category. But why?
These tracks come from a Paul McCartney tribute album called The Art of McCartney. On the back cover, the track is clearly listed as Kiss. But Kiss must have had some lineup changes if that’s the case. Doug Petty on bass! Dan Petty on guitar! Jason Paige on drums! You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize those names as Kiss members last time you checked. Only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the real Kiss appear, and only in a vocal capacity. Why the false advertising? On the same album, Robin Zander and Rick Nielson “of Cheap Trick” are listed, but not Cheap Trick themselves. Yet Paul and Gene are credited as Kiss, tricking the fans into thinking they were hearing the band, not just two of the singers.
How is it?
Well, it doesn’t sound like Kiss, that’s for sure! Gene sings the “Venus and Mars” section, in his natural voice. Then a raspy Paul comes in, bringing a Kiss-like vibe with him. He gets to sing one of Paul McCartney’s coolest lyrics of all time:
What’s that man movin’ ‘cross the stage? It looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page.
Or Ace Frehley!
At no point do Paul and Gene sing together or harmonize like they used to when covering the Beatles on the streets of New York City. Doesn’t it seem like a colossal waste, having the two Kiss founding members appearing essentially separately? Would have been even better with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer playing, but…hey, nobody asks me ahead of time!
And here is another reason why physical media is important. If you had just downloaded this from iTunes, you might never know that what you bought wasn’t really Kiss. Then again, the front cover does say “The songs of Paul McCartney sung by the world’s greatest artists.” Nothing in there about the playing part.
Buying this CD (to be reviewed separately at a later time) would still not be a bad idea. You’ll get exclusives by Alice Cooper (double shot), Sammy Hagar, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, actual Def Leppard, Jeff Lynne, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, The Cure, B.B. King, Dylan, Heart, Dion and tons more. Cooper’s “Eleanor Rigby” is worth the purchase alone. This helps negate the soul-squashing disappointing of buying a “Kiss” song that isn’t.
When reports surfaced that Kiss were in the studio working on a song with country star Garth Brooks, some assumed this was to be a bonus track for the forthcoming Kiss Alive III. Little did we realize that Kiss were actually working on their own tribute album.
In the early 1990s, tribute albums were all the rage. Common Thread: the Songs of the Eagles. Stone Free: a Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Out of the Blue and Borrowed Tunes: tributes to Neil Young. There were many more, and Kiss were not on the trailing edge of this trend. They beat Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to the market.
Kiss My Ass was the clever title, but it was not the first. 1990’s Hard to Believe: A Kiss Covers Compilation featured soon-to-be-famous bands like Melvins and Nirvana. The ever-enterprising Kiss decided to corner the market with their own official tribute to themselves.
To toot their own horn, Kiss included a list of not only the musicians who appeared on Kiss My Ass, but even the ones that didn’t. Nirvana is on the list. According to the Melvins though, the truth is that they only dropped Kurt’s name as a guest on their track, because Gene didn’t seem too interested otherwise. Nine Inch Nails were going to do “Love Gun”. Both Ugly Kid Joe and Megadeth wanted to tackle “Detroit Rock City”. It’s hard to imagine what songs Run D.M.C. and Bell Biv Devoe were supposed to record, or Tears for Fears for that matter. Take this list with a grain of salt!
Kiss My Ass (or A** if you bought it from Walmart) is a weird album. It’s scattershot and not immediately likeable. It collected 11 (12 if you include the bonus track) covers by a diverse assortment of 90s artists. The cover art sucks and lacks the Kiss logo and Ace’s real makeup (which Kiss did not have the rights to in 1994). The only cool gimmick the cover had was the background flag was unique to the country of release. A Kiss album with a Canadian flag is neat to own.
The album hits the ground running with some 70s cred, as Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder do “Deuce”. Lenny funks it up while Stevie brings the harmonica. This is an example of a simply terrific cover. The artists put their own spin on it, changing its style but not its drive.
“Hard Luck Woman” was already up Garth Brooks’ alley. His version doesn’t stray from the Kiss original, and even features Kiss (uncredited) as his backing band! That makes it an official Kiss recording, just with a guest singer of sorts. Arguably the biggest country singer of all time, and a closet Kiss fan. The Garth Brooks track threw a lot of people for a loop, though it’s an easy song to digest.
Kiss only participated in two songs: the Garth track, and Anthrax’s “She”. Anthrax insisted that Paul and Gene produce it, and they did a great job of it. Anthrax are brilliant at doing covers anyway. John Bush-era Anthrax was truly something special, and “She” slams hard. Heavy Kiss songs made heavier are such a delight.
The Gin Blossoms turned in a very mainstream, very mid-90s version of “Christine Sixteen”. It kicks about as hard as the original, but something about it is very tame. After all, singer Robin Wilson is not Gene Simmons (which is probably a good thing), and guitarist Scotty Johnson is not Ace Frehley. Far worse through is Toad the Wet Sprocket’s soggy “Rock and Roll all Nite”, a buzzkilling country fart. “Calling Dr. Love” by Shandi’s Addiction (a collection of assorted big names) is also a hard pill to swallow. This quartet consists of (are you ready for it?): Maynard James Keenan – lead vocals. Tom Morello & Brad Wilk – guitar and drums. Billy Gould – bass. So, it’s Rage Against the Machine with the singer from Tool and a bass rumble right out of Faith No More. And the track is just as schizophrenic as you’d expect. It’s both brilliant and annoying as fuck.
J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. used his unique vision on “Goin’ Blind”, turning Gene’s murky song into something even darker. Then bright shimmers of a string section break through the clouds, shadowing everything dramatically. It’s a brilliant track. Much like Kravitz, J. Mascis took the song and changed the style but not direction. You could say the same for Extreme who do a brilliant spin on “Strutter”. Though by 1994 Extreme were well over in the public eye, they continued to push their own boundaries. “Strutter” became something slower and funkier, with Nuno Bettencourt slipping all over the fretboard and Gary Cherone pouring it all on. This is primo Punchline-era Extreme (Paul Geary still on drums). And listen for a segue into “Shout it Out Loud”!
The Lemonheads chose “Plaster Caster” from Love Gun, a sloppy garage rock version, and score a passing grade. It’s an admirable effort, but they are quickly overshadowed by their fellow Bostonians, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Bosstones had the balls to open their track with a phone message from Gene Simmons advising them to pick another song. “Dicky, about Detroit Rock City…” Ugly Kid Joe had dibs. Any other song would be fine…and then WHAM! The opening chords to “Detroit Rock City”. Gene was gracious enough to appear in the video. Their disciplined ska-punk horn ensemble lays waste to the town. Dicky Barrett’s gravelly throat is like a sniper taking out anyone left standing. The Bosstones win the whole CD, hands down. There is little doubt that Dicky Barrett would have shaken unfortunate Kiss fans unfamiliar with the Bosstones. Today it’s clear that they stole the show with their mighty, mighty cover.
The closest match to the Bosstones in terms of excellence, is a polar opposite. It’s Yoshiki (from X-Japan) and his orchestra version of “Black Diamond”. This is performed instrumentally with piano in the starring role. In this form, “Black Diamond” would make a brilliant movie theme. Yoshiki closes the album in style, unless you choose to go further and get the LP. Proceed with caution.
The vinyl bonus track by Die Ärzte is the only non-makeup Kiss track included: “Unholy”. This is a garbage version (in German no less) that you don’t need to spend your money finding. It’s only interesting when it briefly transitions into “I Was Made For Loving You”. Want a good version of “Unholy”? Check out the 2013 tribute A World With Heroes.
By 1994, Kiss needed a boost. Grunge was omnipresent and Kiss looked silly and outdated, even with their beards and scruffier appearance. Kiss My Ass was clearly a transparent attempt to try and latch onto some fans of the newer breed. Maybe some Lenny Kravitz fans would like it. If a few Garth Brooks followers bought a copy too, then bonus! But Garth Brooks fans didn’t buy the album, turned off by the cover art and tracklist. Likewise, fans of Lenny Kravitz, Tool and Rage Against the Machine didn’t run out en-masse either.
Fortunately Kiss had plenty of cards left in their deck. There was a Kiss My Ass spinoff video, a tour, and a coffee table book all in the works. This seemed to distract from the oft-rumoured next Kiss studio album. More next time.
The sixth review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again! This CD was given to me by A himself. This is also a SIMULTANEOUS REVIEW! The far more Stones-knowledgeable Aaron has reviewed the same album today:take a look!
STONE COUNTRY – Country artists perform the songs of the Rolling Stones (1997 Beyond Music)
Country artists covering the Stones? Sure, why not? You might be surprised by the common ground exhibited here on Stone Country.
You can’t mistake “Honky Tonky Woman” right from that opening cowbell. Travis Tritt sounds natural performing this one, because it’s already so country. I dig it. Travis Tritt’s always been one of those country guys who I respected. He didn’t seem like a sell-out to me. And he’s never cut his hair either, so fuck yeah! This is a very rocking country version, and it sounds very alive in the studio. It has some serious thump too.
Tracy Lawrence on the other hand, I wrote off years ago, because if you hit a woman, you lose my respect. However I gotta be honest — I dig his version of “Paint It, Black”. I told Aaron a while ago, “I never need to hear another cover of that song,” but I was wrong. I can add this one to my library without shame. It’s cool how the exotic and country sides meet without conflict in this version, and there are cool solos (organ and guitar) to boot!
“Ruby Tuesday” by Deana Carter, on the other hand, doesn’t “rock” per se, but it’s “Ruby Tuesday” and it doesn’t suck! It’s softer and has some twang in the vocal and fiddle, but the strings are still there pumping up the chorus. Up next, “The Last Time” is transformed into a bar room country chug by The Tractors. There’s plenty of cool guitar playing to keep you satisfied, but this isn’t one of my favourite Stones tunes to begin with.
Rodney Crowell then takes a challenge upon himself with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. What an iconic song, and inherently youthful and edgy. He changes the guitar riff to a fiddle one, and holy shit! It works! This track smokes! There’s even a sax solo. How rock n’ roll! High five, Rodney.
Sammy Kershaw has sold a lot of records over the years, but I truthfully don’t know if I’ve ever listened to him before. He chose to cover the ballad “Angie”, a bold choice, since it relies so heavily on the voice. The gamble paid off. “Angie” does not stray far from the original, and it’s amazing how well Mick’s idiosyncratic vocal delivery works with a little twang in it. Well done Mr. Kershaw, you have a great voice. Respect!
Blackhawk transform “Wild Horses” into a fast bluegrass ramble. I’m reminded of Blue Rodeo in a big way, who have plenty of songs that sound this way naturally. I’m not too keen on the vocals, but there is some serious pickin’ going on here! I don’t think I had ever heard Blackhawk before this. I can say the same for Collin Raye: heard of him, never heard him. Raye takes on “Brown Sugar” which has a great guitar sound. This sounds like a good bar band’s take on the song, which is all you really need. It’s punchy, and would work great just before a bar fight in a seedy strip club in some Bruce Willis cop movie.
I’m on record with “Beast of Burden” being one of my fave Stones tunes of all time. It’s untouchable to me. So Little Texas (out of Nashville!) have a lot to prove to me. But shit, they managed to do it! The song still has that swanky sway, punchy bass, and it does not suck, until the “pretty pretty girl” breakdown in the middle. Other than that, it’s pretty good. Then country veteran Nanci Griffith does “No Expectations”, which was originally a B-side, so kudos to her. It was originally a slide guitar country song anyway, but Griffith takes it up in tempo and mood. Just one comment: what a voice!
Saving the biggest name for last, George Jones sings “Time Is on My Side”, not a Stones original but a song they did make famous. This slow dance is perfectly suited to Jones’ balladeering. I can picture in my mind the ladies in the audience swaying to the sound of Jones’ spoken word section.
Aaron reckons that he found this CD for no more than $2. In that case I say money well spent!
I really had this coming. In Part 314 (The Musical Crimes of Mrs. LeBrain) I exposed the somewhat embarrassing contents of Jen’s CD wallet. I knew retribution would come. Enjoy this penultimate episode of Record Store Tales, and its final guest shot, courtesy of Mrs. LeBrain. (Warning: LOTS of pictures!)
By MRS. LeBRAIN
RECORD STORE TALES Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain
#10 HIM – And Love Said No. That deep dark gothic prince Ville Valo makes lonely girls swoon, but he is also hanging out on LeBrain’s shelf.
#9 Soundtrack – SMALL SOLDIERS. I don’t know how this made it into the LeBrain home. I understand his need for everything Geddy Lee has ever created, but “Mixed by DJ Z-Trip“?? Is that really worth it? (Not to mention that you have to rock out to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to get there.)
#8 ROD STEWART – “If We Fall In Love Tonight” CD single. Going through my adventure here, I came across this single, designed to get the listener to first base. YOU’RE MARRIED. THAT SHIT DOESN’T NEED TO STAY.
#7 Soundtrack – THE KARATE KID, Part III. “Wax on, wax off.” The case and book for this CD do not meet the demanding criteria that LeBrain enforces on his collection, but neither does the track list. (I don’t know who most of these people are, but I have heard of the Pointer Sisters.)
#6WOODSTOCK 99 – Various. Look at the first six tracks from crap bands, and try not to laugh (a challenging task). The second CD is just as bad.
#5 Soundtrack – SON IN LAW. The Pauly Shore franchise was known for making really bad movies. The soundtracks are not much better and this shouldn’t be taking up valuable shelf space.
#4 ELMOPALOOZA – Various. If LeBrain were a daddy, this CD might make sense (Steven Tyler has a song about trash). But LeBrain is childless, and Tickle-Me-Elmo is pretty pointless here!
#3 ZZ TOP: A Tribute From Friends – Various. Three words:
MIKE OWNS NICKELBACK!
#2 AVRIL LAVIGNE – The Lavigne Collection (see below). In Part 314, LeBrain threw me under the bus for wanting to marry Joey Mac from New Kids on the Block, 25 years ago. Payback time! Just because he wanted to be her “Sk8tr Boi” doesn’t mean he needed to buy her entire repertoire.
And #1! HIT ZONE 4– Various. LeBrain’s messiest musical moments have been in his “Various” section, but this one takes the cake. My husband owns tracks by NSync, the Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men? And to top it off this boy band festival, here’s Hanson! Regardless, I think the most disturbing thing about this CD is cover. Look at the scratches and scrapes on the case. This tells me the CD has been well enjoyed.
LeBrain, with all the mess on YOUR shelves, you really can’t make fun of me. But no matter what crap you listen to, you’re still mine.
Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996 DeRock/Triage)
Just in time for the massive Kiss reunion tour came this tribute CD. There were several versions of this. I have the second-coolest of the three:
Least cool: Regular domestic 10 track CD.
Second coolest: Import CD (Europe?) with brand new bonus track by Ace Frehley himself, called “Take Me To the City”
Most cool: Japanese import CD with that and Sebastian Bach’s “Save Your Love”
This is one of those tributes made up of a mish-mash of metal musicians, no real “bands” so to speak, although all are great musicians. Scott Travis plays drums on most of it (lending an awkward Priest-like vibe to the drums), Charlie Benate plays with Scott Ian on “Rip It Out”, and Vinnie Paul of course plays with Dimebag Darrel on “Fractured Mirror”. (This site has all the information and credits for the CD. Enjoy! You’ll notice the backing band is basically Racer X on most tracks.)
I’m good with every track on here except one: Bruce Bouillet’s version of “New York Groove”. I’m not into drum loops in general, and although the track has a funky groove to it, it’s just not my bag. On the other hand, Scott Ian’s cover of “Rip It Out” is Anthrax-worthy. Frankie Bello’s on bass, and somebody named Zach Throne sings it with Scott. Zach nails an authentic Ace-like vocal, while Charlie’s relentless on the drums. The Anton Fig drum solo is almost exact note-for-note. As is the signature guitar solo.
Gilby Clarke’s “Shock Me” is one of the better tracks. I don’t usually think of Gilby as a soloist, since in GN’R he didn’t solo. His soloing style is unlike Ace’s, but he performs an original solo of his own that is appropriate to song. On the other hand I wouldn’t count “Deuce” by Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) as a favourite. The vocal (by somebody called Tom Gattis) is a tad overwrought. Another “blah” tune is “Snowblind”, performed in a too-modern metally sound by Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) and Snake Sabo from Skid Row.
Ron Young (Little Caesar, the Four Horsemen) has a soulful but southern sound on “Hard Luck Woman”, an odd choice for a Frehley tribute. Written by Paul and sung by Peter, the original was created for Rod Stewart to sing! But it’s as good a cover as any, and I don’t have a lot of other stuff of Ron’s, so I’m cool with this. Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) is on guitar.
We all knew Sebastian Bach would knock it out of the park on “Rock Bottom”, and he does. “Rock Bottom” wasn’t written by Ace, but he did write the intro, performed here by Russ Parish of Fight/Steel Panther. Baz is obviously a huge Kiss fan and the song is in great hands, although the solo’s way too modern. Still, I wish I had “Save Your Love” too.
Tracii Guns is passable on “Parasite”, but again I think the song is done in a style too contemporary. Up next is John Norum of Europe, with “Cold Gin”! (Hey, two songs in a row written by Ace!) McMaster is back on lead vocals, not my fave singer in the world. John is a great guitarist, and this version of “Cold Gin” is heavy with fills. Some go with the song, some miss the mark.
Dime’s “Fractured Mirror” is perfect, even the production and sound of the acoustic guitar is eerily similar to Ace’s original. Dime may well have been the biggest Ace Frehley fan in the world. Darrell does throw some of his own personality into the song, but I think foremost on his mind was probably playing the song the way he remembered it. And he does.
Lastly, “Take Me To the City” is performed by Ace himself, with his crack band: Steve Werner on drums, Karl Cochran on bass, Richie Scarlet on guitar and backing vocals, and…Sebastian Bach is there too at the end! This Ace rarity is the best of all reasons to track down this CD. This is Ace back to a hard rocking Frehley’s Comet sound, with an anthemic chorus. When Baz shows up at the end, it’s icing on the cake (although you need to turn it ^UP^ to catch him in the fade).
I don’t really buy tribute albums anymore, because I find these mish-mashes of somewhat related artists to be a bit tedious. Still, it’s pretty solid, and definitely worthwhile to fans of bands like Pantera, Skid Row, or Anthrax. The Ace bonus track is pretty much a compulsory purchase.
Soon, we’ll also be talking about another quality tribute album with some surprising guests and alumni. Stay tuned.
Blank discs are so cheap, and musical tastes so fleeting today, that I wonder if anybody but me still has the first mix CD they ever burned?
I’m hoping some of you have, and I’m hoping to hear it about from you too. My first disc was made in early 2001 when we got our first burner. It was made for a very specific purpose.
At the store, there was an informal rule that if you were closing one day and opening the next, it was “OK” to borrow a movie overnight, watch and return it. So if that was true for movies, why not a CD? Why not a dozen? A few nights after having the CD burner installed, I borrowed a bag full of discs and burned this compilation on a Maxell CD-R 650. 74 minutes! Up to 16x certified!
I returned the discs the next day, all albums that I wanted one or two songs from, but not the whole album. Many were soundtracks and tribute albums. I ended up buying The Strokes’ album a few weeks later, an ill-advised purchase that yielded only two or three listens. I don’t have that one anymore. But I still have my mix CD with “Last Nite”!
The Robbie Williams + Queen track is taken from the soundtrack to A Knight’s Tale. I shall maintain the anonymity of the store employee who had the crush on Heath Ledger and inundated us with this soundtrack. The same disc also yielded “I Want to Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.
Track 3 is an industrial-rock hybrid tune called “Violent New Breed”. I later purchased the Violent New Breed album by Shotgun Messiah. Industrial rock fans will know that Messiah’s original bassist/singer was Tim Tim, aka Tim Sköld of KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, and his eponymous band. I liked the title track enough to later buy the album and the prior one too. Both were keepers.
I’ve been a Goo Goo Dolls fan for a while so I thought I would grab their INXS cover “Don’t Change” from an Ace Ventura soundtrack. Their cover of “Bitch” came from the 1993 No Alternative compilation album.
Apparently I was on a Warrior Soul kick at that time as well. Shame that there isn’t a great Warrior Soul compilation album that suits all my needs. I bought and sold their studio albums. As for Michael Jackson, I later decided to add a single disc compilation to my collection, offsetting my burning of “Billie Jean”.
This being a real odds n’ ends disc, it’s not a spellbinding listen today. It’s fun to remind myself of some oddball tracks that I liked enough to burn but not enough to buy. I’m also amused by the title Mix One, the first of many! And I was even doing cover art back then, too. On the cover is myself dressed up as the alien from Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun!
DEF LEPPARD – “All I Want Is Everything” (1996 two part Mercury CD single)
“All I Want Is Everything” was the first song from Slang that we got to hear. Def Leppard first revealed a live unplugged snippet on their Video Archive VHS. I was still surprised when I heard the whole studio version: It is a lot darker than I expected. I love it, don’t get me wrong. I love its sparse, organic sound. I think the chorus and verses are fantastic, but even better is the bridge.
A lot of my customers were turned off my Slang and songs like “All I Want Is Everything”. While I could argue that this song is every bit as good as “Hysteria” or “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”, it is obviously a lot darker. But it was also 1996. In 1996, bands like Def Leppard moved with the times. Bon Jovi made similar adjustments. This is no singalong hit, but it is quality songwriting and production.
Next up on disc 1 of this single is “When Saturday Comes” performed by Joe, Phil and Sav. This is apparently for a movie also called When Saturday Comes. This song would be more satisfying to those wishing for an older school vibe; indeed it is a dead ringer for Van Hagar. It is anthemic with some shredding from Phil. It wouldn’t make my own personal Def Leppard mix tape, but I thank them anyway for including the song so I wouldn’t have to hunt down an obscure soundtrack. “Jimmy’s Theme” performed by the same trio is an instrumental from the same soundtrack. Out of context from a film I’ve never seen, it doesn’t do much for me. It’s a nice slow blues with Phil playing some elegant melodies. But it’s just “nice”, I don’t regularly come back to this one. The CD ends with an edit version of “All I Want Is Everything” (whoop de do).
Disc 2, for whatever reason, also includes the same two versions of “All I Want Is Everything”. Why not just put the album version on disc 1, and the edit version on disc 2? Small gripe I guess but it got tedious when I had both discs in the changer and was too lazy to skip.
Also on disc 2 are a couple tracks from the Jeffology tribute record. Phil Collen does “‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”. Personally I don’t think anybody can touch Jeff Beck on this one. In fact Beck is so awesome on this, especially live, that I don’t really see the point of listening to a cover version. Sorry Phil, that is nothing against your playing, which is really really great, especially when you start cookin’ around the 4 minute mark. I just think nobody’s even in Beck’s league on this one, and I think that’s a fair assessment.
Vivian Campbell does “Led Boots” from Wired. I love the original “Led Boots”. It’s just funky, chunky and fucked up. I think Vivian’s style is more suited to Beck than Phil’s is. This is an enjoyable listen, Vivian gets to shred a bit. It’s definitely less fucked up sounding than the original, but Vivian is just a pleasure to listen to, he is clearly enjoying himself.
The “Work It Out” single previous to this contained post cards of the first four Def Leppard albums. CD 2 of “All I Want Is Everything” has the final four: Adrenalize, Retro-Active, Vault, and Slang.