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Kiss

Why not just show a little honesty and go by 'Blowjob'?

Introduction
Kiss
          Hotter Than Hell 
Dressed to Kill
Alive!
Destroyer
Rock and Roll Over
Love Gun
Alive II
Gene Simmons
Peter Criss
Paul Stanley
Ace Frehley
Dynasty
Unmasked
Music From The Elder
Creatures Of The Night
Lick It Up
Animalize
Asylum
Crazy Nights
Hot In The Shade
Revenge
Alive III
MTV Unplugged
Psycho Circus

  The Lineup Card (1974-2002)

Gene Simmons  -  Bass, Vocals
Paul Stanley  -  Guitar, Vocals
Ace Frehley  -  Lead Guitar, Vocals 1974-1982, 1996-2001
Peter Criss  -  Drums, Vocals 1974-1980, 1996-2001
Anton Fig   Drums 1980
Eric Carr  -  Drums 1980-1990
Vinnie Vincent  -  Lead Guitar 1982-83
Mark St. John   Lead Guitar 1983
Bruce Kulick   Lead Guitar 1984-1995
Eric Singer   Drums 1990-1995, 2001

Oh, I don't know what my problem is, but I don't feel like writing any intro paragraph to Kiss...I feel like pulling out that many descriptions about how they suck ass but I still like them would give me a hernia. Suffice it to say, NYC's Kiss is a 'real rock band' who aimed to please its legions of fans through dumb, unwieldy songs about fucking girls while shooting off blood, spitting firecrackers, and waving their guitars all together at the same time like Spinal Tap does. They're frequently compared to the New York Dolls by deaf moron rock critics because they also wore makeup, appealing to the 7-year old comic book fans who later made up their entire audience and bought lunchboxes and Underoos with their pictures on it. Kiss was run like a (toy) company by their CEO and bass player Gene Simmons, and later nearly stopped making music altogether because they were too busy having their faces molded for action figures. But kids grow up, their audience left in droves for more intellectually stimulating pastures, and by 1980 their credit had run out. Original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left after struggling with Simmons and Paul Stanley over artistic (ha!) direction and the former's drug usage, and while the band attempted to soldier on with replacements, no one wanted any part of it until, in 1984, the makeup came off and Kiss happily converted itself into one of the most hairy (and wussy) of the late-80's hair metal legions. Still, by the mid-1990's, nostalgia and a disgusting sort of ironic 'cool' had elevated the status of 70's Kiss to the level of kitch Gods again, so the band did what everyone expected and made an astonishingly lucrative comeback with the four original members back in full bondage gear and makeup. The smiles and public chumminess with each other was all just a sham, though, and Criss was again kicked out during one of their stadium-packing exhibitions into the art of pyrotechnology, later followed by Ace again. They're all old and decrepit now, and Gene Simmons finally seems to have been completely consumed by his ego. They've made a return to 1983 again here in 2003, and God I hope this band stops embarrassing itself about now.

 

Kiss - Casablanca 1974

Dumb rock gets its birthday party. Kiss ushered in a new crassness in rock, tossing singer/songwriter 'ideals' in the trash, taking absolutely nothing from progressive or even most earlier heavy rock in terms of technical ability, and putting men in makeup that would force Joan Rivers to blush. What strikes me most about the 'Kiss Stance', if there is one, is that for all their talk of getting back to 'real rock 'n' roll', they sure don't actually rock all that well. A damn sight worse than a concurrent album by, say, Foghat, who just about was the damned poster child for all the bloated denim beergut-rock that Kiss was supposedly trying to rebel against. Granted, there's a certain sense of 60's-y simplicity on these early records, but I wonder if it's because they were really concerned about preserving purity in rock music or they just couldn't play worth a goddamn. Pull up a rock and have a seat, 'cos I'll tell you a story that sheds a little light on where Kiss are coming from. I read this interview with, damn, I guess it was Ace, but it could've just as easily been Paul or Gene, in this guitar gism-splashing fanzine thing that always gave late-80's Black Sabbath albums 5/5 stars. Anyway, this Kiss member got to talk all about where they came up with the fabulous, famous, freewheeling tunes to 'Strutter' and 'Deuce' and all of the other 'classics' that makes up a Kiss Army member's masturbation soundtrack. You know where they got them? More often than not, it's some Rolling Stones or Yardbirds chord sequence played backwards, or by twiddling one note here or there. How's about that for inspiration, guys? Besides the fact that Ace got into the band by playing all of his 'Jeff Beck licks' at the audition. Bullshit. If Ace Frehley can play any Jeff Beck licks and make them recognizable and not sound like he's fumbling all over the fretboard like a Kennedy at a beer festival, then I'm Mariah Carey's favorite pair of crotchless panties. For Kiss, the idea of instrumental prowess, or even sounding like they know what the fuck they're doing with an instrument, at least in these early days, is a complete and utter joke.

Back to Kiss though, this is supposedly their favorite album (or Gene's favorite, and when exactly was the last time he let someone else voice an opinion, anyway?) and, you know what? It does have some pretty cool riffs on it. The twiddling 'Deuce' is by far the very best of the lot, but even 'Love Theme From Kiss' has a really slimy charisma to it, but I'd say '100,000 Years' and 'Cold Gin' also have some pretty memorable riffs and fit the 'raw' designation everyone likes to put on these first few Kiss records. 'Raw' meaning 'just above the level of banging the instruments with rocks and throwing shit at the microphone. 'Raw' meaning 'Gibson wants their guitars back, please.'. But here's a key to my disappointment in this record: THEY PLAY EVERY FUCKING SONG ABOUT HALF THE SPEED THEY SHOULD BE PLAYED AT. Mark Prindle said it right, I don't even think I could play a song as slow as these guys do, even when I was on drugs. And weren't these guys supposed to be sober when they recorded this? Paul and Gene were anyway, and they're the goddamn songwriters. Seriously, 'Firehouse'....is this a joke or something? Were they worried they wouldn't be able to play it any faster than this? And even at a pace so leisurely that I can have a ham sandwich, do my taxes, pick an extra large booger out of my nose, and play a few games of Risk between the beats, Ace still screws up the solo something big time....these guys put on makeup to avoid being laughed at, that's all.

What's funny about it all is that they made this shit work. Somehow, on some level. Even the slower-than-shit rockers that make up the first 2/3rds or so of this record, I can't really find one I hate (besides 'Firehouse'...that one is just too slow for me not to wish a slow death to.) I keep moving the mouse up to that grade to knock the grade down even as low as a C-, but then I realise I can't do it. But I'll tell you what. Without the cheesy-ass album closer 'Black Diamond' and the goony instrumental 'Live Theme From Kiss', this album would be knocking it around in the C department. But 'Black Diamond' is so frigging over the top with its hard-luck (I actually wrote 'hard-lick' first, which is likely more accurate anyway) pulpy melodrama, I just love it like philly steak sandwiches and Pepsi. That slow, drawn out 'painful' section? Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhh. That's songwriting, fellahs. Now if only they'd taken more of their cue from faster nonsense rockers like 'Deuce' and cheesepuff 'dark' stuff like 'Black Diamond' and made a nice career of that, we might be talking. Buuuutt there's only one Blue Oyster Cult, I guess, and these guys aren't it. Instead they rewrote 'Firehouse' and 'Let Me Know' a zillion times. It took balls to make an album like that, especially when your band plays music that was considered stupid and childish even way back when Bread and the Carpenters were considered to be a major artistic movement, Tab a decent beverage, and 'Hawaii Five-O' good television. They weren't able to grow beyond this point for some time, though, and they never were able to write more memorable riffs than what we have here, so maybe it is something of a 'best of' for this band of geeks. Funny stuff.

Capn's Final Word: So rough and so slow it makes me think I'm having sex with your grandma again. She's a dirty girl, you know, and so is Kiss. Still knows some of those old tricks she picked up at an earlier age, though. And so does Kiss.

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Andrew R  stray_toasters@juno.com   Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Oh my God, I just listened to Kiss music for the first (and last) time not 24 hours ago.  See, I've read some interviews with Gene Simmons that pissed me off but good, but then I thought of something.  The guy obviously knows what he's talking about, so maybe I should try to learn as much as I can from him.  And he made some comments about bass playing that I agree with, so I thought I'd better give Kiss a chance before starting a "Behead Gene" campaign.

So I got the debut and Dressed to Kill.  'Strutter' is really good.  The rest of the songs are tolerable, but I just don't want to listen to them again.  The first song on Dressed to Kill, plus Rock and Roll All Nite, are also good.  The rest of that album is garbage.  I did check out another album that might give a listen, and maybe I'll hear that disco song they did at some point, but based on my one hour of listening to this band I have to say they are a total waste of my time.  Somebody hit the nail by calling them the "Pro Wrestling of Rock", and I think even Pro Wrestling has more artistic merit than these guys. 

 

Paul Houser  animalize89@yahoo.com  Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This was their first album, after the core (Gene and Paul), ended their "Jethro Tull" type band"Wicked Lester. On this album they maintain a hard rock sound that was the catalyst for many albums to come...


Dan Poe     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Most of the Kiss classics are here; 'Strutter,' 'Cold Gin' and my favorite on the album 'Deuce.' Not bad at all for a first album. Of course, it doesn't rock all that hard, but it's still a
pretty good Kiss album.

Then again, maybe it sucks.

(Capn's Response: I'm glad you reconsidered.)

Robert Grazer     Your Rating: D-
Any Short Comments?: There are few bands I dislike quite as much as Kiss. They're songs can be relatively catchy, occasionally, but not even on their most memorable (and I don't mean that in a good way) tunes they suffer from the fact that not one song they've written (that I know of, anyway) has even the slightest bit of brains behind it. It's not just stupid; it's forcefully stupid. It's designed to lower IQ points just from repeated listens. I suppose to their credit they were never
pretentious, never really TRIED to be intelligent, but they did try to have a certain "badass" attitude in their songs and, quite frankly, this is still a miserable failure. Any "party attitude" on a Kiss album can be found on any given AC/DC record. So what does that make Kiss? The worst thing a rock band can be, I suppose: utterly useless.

c downing bubbasmaster1@yahoo.com     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: deuce, cold gin, strutter, black diamond. how could you not love this album?  keep in mind this album is 30 yrs old, and it still rocks!!!!!!!
 


Hotter Than Hell - Casablanca 1974

Still just a few steps away from equaling Gentle Giant's Octopus in instrumental prowess-hood, Hotter Than Hell is a stripped-down, sleazier, less fatty and more calorific version of the debut album. In fact, if you want to go into generalities, every album this band has made with the exception of Music From "The Rectum" takes its influence from the very first of them all, even the band sez so, so I'm not just talking out of my ass here. And if I were talking out of someone else's ass I guess I must be Carson Daly in the middle of a very 'special' evening.

Well, shit, I guess this album is sorta better than Kiss in terms of the filler songs....I dig every rocker on here better than the ones on Kiss, at least as much as I can like purely derivative hard rock that has no speed, no tangible evil or even aggression, very few interesting musical passages, and agreeably preschool-ish lyrics.  guess it's precisely the sleaze that draws me in....these guys are like people I've never actually met before. That guy in 'Going Blind' who's trying to swat away an amorous 16 year-old like a horsefly....oh, to have problems like these right here. 'I'm 93, you're 16'....is this the Ballad of Anna Nicole Smith, or what? At least the music is hefty enough to, you know, illustrate how heavy Gene Simmons' heart must really be if he has to turn down the advances of a sophomore in high school. Okay, 'Hotter Than Hell' is about a girl Paul does want to fuck, 'Parasite' about a girl he did fuck and now wishes just would go away, but 'Got To Choose' is that very special version of the Evil Woman song...the Kiss version, where the cocky feeling that the girl is just gotta choose Paul Stanley and his extremely horsey-looking face, just 'cos he's so FRIGGING SEXY HE'S LIKE A FORCE OF NATURE, THOUGH I'VE NEVER ONCE HEARD OF A GIRL THINKING A MEMBER OF KISS WAS ATTRACTIVE, OR EVEN BEING ABLE TO TOLERATE THE MUSIC. Now, I know that men lusting after and/or bashing women for their real or imagined flaws is like the rock upon Western Popular Music was writ (Eastern Popular Music seems to be built on a foundation of neon orange sherbet ice cream), Kiss takes this relationship to such a cartoonish level that I have to just tell you that No Member of Seventies Kiss Ever Had Any Contact With Human Females Of Any Kind. They talk like 13 year olds in the locker room who saw the lingerie section of the JCPenney ad one time and now are suddenly getting laid in every anatomically-impossible manner. It's so unrealistic a setup that I fear this is how the goons in the Kiss Army actually think of women. I'm all for a few dirty jokes now and then to keep all of us from getting on a horse that's too high for its own good, and I'm about as horny as the captain of the slow boat from Malaysia most of the time, but Kiss has never come across as anything but predatory. They don't want to have sex with women, they want to consume them to feed their enormous egoes. Paul and Gene anyway...Ace and Peter are too busy getting fucked up behind the barn to roll in the hay in the loft. Why is it that I trust Ace and Peter Criss so much more out of the 'main four'?

Lots of blabbing, not much reviewing. I need to work on that. Mark Prindle can write a 100 word review that says everything he wants to say, mentions a funny new euphemism for vagina, tells us a few bittersweet details of his personal life, and even gives mad props to Larry Hagman just for bonus points. Me? I write a stupid huge paragraph about a band that I enjoy on such a base level, I'm not even sure I like them at all. You know what I really like on this album? 'Mainline', which I sincerely is about injecting heroin, but I totally doubt is the case. Probably about having her spread her legs or something, the crass bastards. I love the groove to this songs though, it's extremely Rock 'n' Roll. Dirtier than poopsnot. 'Coming Home' and 'Strange Ways' and 'Hotter Than Hell' and 'Parasite' are all really great, stupid, idiotic rockers that I totally think rule. 'Strange Ways' has six notes and vocal choruses that remind me of 'Witchy Woman' more than the Rolling Stones, but that doesn't give it this nasty feel that makes my rock 'n' roll itch. Kiss, if nothing else are all about the intangibles (the tangibles are all too poorly represented to acquit this band), and nowhere else is this more true than on Hotter Than Hell, a batch of crap that manages to be pretty not horrible most of the way through. Here, the raunch actually is the reason to like this album. Not so Dressed to Kill, unfortunately.

Capn's Final Word: Kiss Fact #3: The album has all that Japanese writing on it because, at the time, Kiss was a lot more popular in the Far East than in the U.S., and had to rush-release this album there to meet demand for all things Big, Brash, And Kabuki-like. Also, everyone on that album cover was so smashed they couldn't hardly keep themselves from yakking on their leathers. And this album isn't very good, but it's the best of the first three by a small margin of error. Oh, and Gene Simmons is a fat, talentless prick.

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Dan Poe     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Never cared much for this one at all. Except for 'Parasite' and maybe 'Watchin' You,' this is pretty bad. In fact, I think it's one of their worst albums; certainly their worst SOUNDING album.
And most of the tempos are just way too slow.
Ace's guitar solos are somewhat better, though. That's a plus.


Dressed to Kill - Casablanca 1975

One of their coolest album covers ever, but look! their pants are all about 5 sizes too small! hahahahahahaha! It seems they borrowed their suits from their manager, because none of them owned any. CapnMarvel's Rock Record Review Bonanza...more than just idiotic opinions cranked out in 30 minutes or less...you also receive Free Access to Ryan's Enormous Brain Full Of Useless Rock Trivia! Anyway, this is by far their stupidest album, at least out of the ones that anyone ever thinks are any good (pre-1980, you see). The lyrics just make me shrink into a little ball and wonder why they don't license the sale of ball point pens to keep people like Paul Stanley from writing lyrics like 'Room service...I'd like to get a meal....Room service....do what you feel!' Is that supposed to be sexy? If so, what kind of women find that sexy? Certainly not the three-dimensional kind, the one's who walk and talk and process ATP into energy and oxygen. But the problem is that this whole album is just packed full of this kind of shit, there's no ducking underneath it anymore. I can count the good songs on three of my toes: 'Rock Bottom', 'She', and 'Rock 'n' Roll All Night' are great Kiss rockers, much more focused than in their first two attempts to not totally suck. 'Rock 'n' Roll All Night' I'm sure you've heard, and there's always room for another anthemic, fist-pumping adrenal gland in the neck of Rock Music. I love it. 'She' makes a game attempt at being heavy, it's the closest Kiss has come so far to actually being Heavy Metal, rather than just poseur boogie rock. I also love the line 'as she takes off her clothes...', for once, Gene Simmons actually makes sex sound like something other than eating a hamburger, gives it some mystique, you know. This is supposed to be the 'mystery band', doncha know....mystique would later become a lot bigger part of their appeal. Before fame and Bob Ezrin got ahold of them, they didn't have a clue what to do with their kittycat/spaceman/Samurai cockroach/faggot personae.

'Rock Bottom' gets smack for having a 'sensitive' acoustic intro consisting of three notes played over and over, but 'cmon, for Kiss that's a big accomplishment. And anyway, its not the notes that grabs the attention, it's the fact that they're acoustic and glopped over with effects. The kids, they love the effects, you see. And at least the actual song seems like it took more than a few minutes to come up with that itchy riff. After that, though, the album is just one embarrassing Kissism after another. 'Anything For My Baby' ('I would steal...wheel and deal...' GAWD!), the riffless pissant 'Ladies In Waiting', whose tune is then slowed down for 'Two Timer'. 'Cmon And Love Me' and 'Love Her All I Can' are rewrites of 'Strutter' and 'Deuce' again, and as such don't suck quite so darn much as the others. The final word on this album is lack of effort. Kiss's career was going nowhere fast at this point, they'd released three marginal, horribly produced records that didn't even serve the main strengths of the band very well. They could've packed it in after one more strikeout in 1975, but instead they hit it big and were able to sign on with producers who tried to squeeze as much as they could out of the band. Funny how life turns out like that.

Capn's Final Word: Another piece of pulp from the Kiss, somewhat clearer musically, but lyrically in the toilet. Fornication, pontification, stagnation.

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Dan Poe     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Better production this time around. You're right about the lyrics, though-they pretty much suck. Some of these songs could have been better had they bothered to spend a little more time on the words. Example from Peter Criss' 'Getaway': "I know I have ta go, got no dough, should I stay or should I go?" Heh heh.

I still like 'She' and 'Rock and Roll All Nite,' and some bits of other songs like 'Room Service' and 'Rock Bottom.' I'd say this is the best of the originals.
 


Alive! - Casablanca 1975

If you somehow think that the versions of the songs performed on Alive! are inferior to their studio counterparts, just pack up your eardrums now, because you are hopeless. Alive! so totally blows away any trace of the first three albums...it's as if they didn't even exist. You know what, I really think I like some Kiss music, enjoy listening to it, get entertained by it, and not even just these fantastic (for Kiss, anyway) live sets. For everything I say against them, quite a bit of those bad feelings are wiped away when they are able to actually open themselves up full throttle like they do on this record. None of these songs ever sounded better. They're played faster, rougher, tighter, and balliser than had ever been imagined on, say, the shitty first side of Dressed To Kill. All parts work together in the Kiss engine...Peter Criss is rock solid and energetic, the solos are junky but rousing, the vocal harmonies are spot-on perfect, even Gene's bass takes on a completely new life. It's jacked up in volume, but most of all, these songs are played fast. Thank the good God for that.

Let me raise one contention, though, one that hasn't influenced my grade. It's alleged that 'nothing about this record is live except for the crowd noise, and that was taped at a Styx show' by producer Bob Ezrin, who I'm not sure is to be trusted. Though it's very possible that this album really isn't live (considering the overdubbed monstrosities released as live albums in the 1970's, no record company is innocent. Eagles Live, The Song Remains The Same, and Love You Live all probably have more silicon injection than actual boob tissue, if you stroke my Spiffy, and I think you do. Tiny little label Casablanca, desperately trying to push their one and only semi-successful rock band to the next level, probably can't be blamed for trying the same thing.) I don't personally think it matters much at all. I'm not one to take some Kiss dishonesty personally....it's all the name of the game for this band. They're not Fugazi, for God's sake, they're Product, and product has a right to sell itself, especially when it rocks as hard as Alive! does. Kiss never made any claims to 'integrity', 'artistic value', or 'not being crassly commercial', and shouldn't be held responsible for being just what they are.

Alive! has it's bad moments, of course...'Got To Choose' is still fucking assdingo, Paul Stanley's stage patter defines 'clueless' ("how many of you like GETTING HIGH!?!?!?!" in a voice that rivals Cindy Lauper's for Brooklynite screechiness), the drum solo during '100,000 Years' proves once and for all that Peter Criss is no Bobby Brady on the skins, and most of the Ace guitar solo sounds like a malfunctioning car alarm. But for all that, I still gotta say how much better 'Firehouse', 'C'mon And Love Me', and 'Cold Gin' get when exposed to the live treatment....I used to think these songs were hopeless. Now it's just 'She' that suffers, becoming slower and actually less catchy, just gaining weight and losing mobility. Aw, I can handle that loss when I get such a fantastic version of 'Black Diamond', still my favorite early-period Kiss song.

Regardless, this is all you really need to know about early-period Kiss...prepare to be overwhelmed if you've only heard the studio albums, and prepare to be disappointed in the studio albums if all you've heard is this album. It is just two albums full o' Kiss doing their very possible best, and that may not be enough for a lot of you. This may be a milestone of 70's hard rock, but it sure isn't in the elite level of live rock albums, don't be confused about that. Compared with the magic woven on Ya-Ya's or Live At Leeds, this is pretty pale stuff. But for Kiss, it's stepping up to the plate and delivering a touchdown pass across the blue line way downtown from the ladies' tees.

Capn's Final Word: Yes, EVERYTHING you need from early Kiss. A good bargain, a rocking good time, and a picture of a bunch of hippie Styx fans paid to hold up an 'I Love Kiss' sign on the inside.

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Tony Damato     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This album is by far one of the most energenic and electifying live albums ever recorded, it kicks ass! If I had to turn somebody on to rock and roll, or to try and convey the raw energy of a live concert, this is what I would play for them!  Yes, the drum solo is lame, and paul should just shut the fuck up sometimes, but it's a small price to pay, they gave 110% and their concerts were quite thrilling and not soon to be forgotten. There were no "off" nights for them, just in your face, loud and proud.  No excuses or comparisons to anyone else, they were original and apologized or answered to  nobody........... "get off, and get your grandma out of here".

 

Matt      Your Rating: D-
Any Short Comments?: I'm going to set the record straight right now.  Gene Simmons even said in an interview on VH1's Behind the Music that NONE of the songs on this record are live, and yes, Bob Ezrin did tape the crowd noise at a Styx concert.  This does influence my grade.  The only reason this does not receive an F is because the versions of these
songs are far better than the original studio versions.  But how the hell can anyone say that this is one of the best live albums ever???  IT IS NOT EVEN LIVE!!! IT IS A FAKE!!!  Kiss Army members, screw you if you think this is such a "great milestone" in rock history.  If you want a REAL live album, check out Live at Leeds by The Who.  That is far superior to this fake tripe.
 

Brian Deuel webmaster@orubin.com      Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: "...and most of the Ace guitar solo sounds like a malfunctioning car alarm."

Bahahahha! I've never heard Ace's solos described in that manner before. Classic.

My aunt gave me this album at the tender age of six, and my life hasn't been the same since. Ace was the man who made me pick up a guitar at a tender young age. Then I dropped it 20 years later later when I FINALLY realized that the life of a musician was a gigantic waste of time. Not having any real talent kind of helped in that decision.

Wait a sec. If  I remember correctly, she also gave me the soundtrack to Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band too. That explains everything. Fucking bitch.

 

Michael Flatters     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: In regards to the comments made by Matt, I have quite a few of the tracks from ALIVE! as bootlegs from 3 different shows, and yes they've been cleaned up (very few "live" albums are not) but to say they are "studio" creations is idiotic.(And since when has ANYTHING Gene Simmons  said about KISS been residing in the same hemisphere as the truth?!?).

All I know is this album is what made me (and millions of others) want to play rock 'n' roll. I think that was one of the great things about this band. If you could play power chords, you could suss out most of the set-list. You could apply your limited beginner "chops" (if you will) and feel like you were making progress;as opposed to listening to "Van Halen", and deciding you'd need to set aside a LOT more practice time (or become a bass player).

And finally, Matt,despite your obvious disdain for this band and album, I will agree with you about one thing: Live at Leeds KILLS!

 


Destroyer - Casablanca 1976

Following the hype that Alive! heaped upon the group, Kiss was facing a new challenge for their next studio album: They knew their fans would NEVER settle for another cruddily-produced batch of sub-standard songs like Dressed to Kill. They had to have some new firepower to keep the bucks rolling in, and their record label was happy to oblige them by bringing in orchestral-metal/schlock producer Bob Ezrin, the man who invented the weepy, sappy, career-turn power ballad with Alice Cooper's 'Only Women Bleed', but also the man who made Lou Reed's Berlin a favorite of depressed German nihilists everywhere ('Vee beleef in NUHH-think!'). Whatever Bob Ezrin is infamous for, his one true and long-lasting effect he had on Kiss was to introduce them to 'concept', and to help them with their image. So far, they'd just been the 'glam-metal band with makeup', but with Destroyer, began to create the facade, the Spice Girl-esque 'personalities' that would sustain them through the end of their popularity. Who could imagine buying an action figure of someone named Peter Criss? But make him 'The Cat' and you've got a sale...The Spaceboy, The Lover, The Pre-Menstrual Librarian...it's all here. This is also the first of the comic-book album covers, a tradition that would continue on through the end of the band's Mattel period (besides Dynasty, the album a lot of Kiss fans like to disown. At least 20 bad albums in a career and the fans decide to dislike the one with one, single disco hit song on it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.)

On a more immediate basis, Ezrin has created Listenable Kiss, and fer sure the best produced of their albums so far. It's all adorned with a bunch of sound affect window dressing (Ezrin also produced The Wall, you know) such as car crashes and kids talking through toy helmets. The band sound is also a lot more dynamic, you'd never heard such bright, glossy bubblegum from this group like 'Flaming Youth' (Do The Flaming Youth hang out with Debbie Gibson's Electric kind? And where do the Solarbabies fit into all this?) or as musical an intro as 'Shout It Out Loud' has...but, you see, this is all Ezrin. The guitar isn't Ace, there's a bunch of outside musicians all over the place....it's cluttered with non-Kiss, making the actual Kiss contingent pretty watered-down. In general, I feel like this isn't the band that played on Alive! at all. That's partly good, in their newfound hookiness and non-offensive lyric content (NO SONGS ABOUT FUCKING!!!! NOT A SINGLE ONE!!!) but I also feel like they're being posed like their action figures. I mean, did Peter Criss really write 'Beth'? If so, fantastic...it's a soppy piece of bathwater balladeering, but it's also charmingly out-of-character and sung by the drummer. Who has a really cool, smoky Smokie voice, as a matter of fact. Of course, I wouldn't want to hear an album full of Criss's low-cal mewling (I will, though...ugh!), but for a few short minutes it's pretty nice.

Okay, but the rockers all blow, except for the incendiary 'Detroit Rock City' (enough to make me believe all those legends for a few minutes) and possibly 'Shout It Out Loud', which is a 'Rock 'n' Roll All Night' rewrite, anyway. The rest of these stinkers are just bad Dressed to Kill two-noters, just gussied up with all these glittery vocals and reverb and shit. 'Do You Love Me?' has as much heat as a love scene between Melissa Ethridge and Rob Halford, and 'Sweet Pain' has some needling guitar solo by some L.A. hack scab that makes me long for Ace Frehley's boozy fumbling. Ezrin has one HELL of an ego, and that may be the way to get Gene Simmons to listen up (Ezrin speaks his language, you see), but for Ace it was poison. Ace was the unheralded star of Alive!, and would later become MVP of Kiss for, like, 3 years running, but this is very much a Paul Stanley album. It seems made for his chest-stomping, feet-molesting 'big star' style. For real rock 'n' rolling, wait another year, but if you like the 'seven inch leather heels' and 'the masquerade', Destroyer is custom made for you. This is Kiss as plastic heroes, not as a rock band, and while the hooks loom large and everything sounds like it cost a million bucks, I can't help but think they sound really clownish on this one.

Capn's Final Word: From deathly dumb to crassly commercial in two easy steps....somewhere along the way they were a pretty decent hard rock band. Pretty bad when the second biggest highlight is an orchestrated weeper done by your drummer.

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c downing     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: this album has stood the test of time. i got it in 77 and have loved this album ever since!!!!
 


Rock And Roll Over - Casablanca 1976

Yes!!! This is a Kiss studio album to love, respect, and trade a whole stack of baseball cards for. Somewhat lost in between the higher-profile Destroyer and Love Gun, Rock And Roll Over is definitely the rock-lovers' Kiss choice. It's as if they wanted to go back and redo one of their early albums, getting all nice 'n' dirty after being scrubbed squeaky on Destroyer. I mean, 'Take Me' isn't much of a song, really, but there's something about it, how the guitars rumble, how Paul controls the song rather than just molesting it, the solo section flares up like maybe Ace was a bit offended by being shoved aside by Bob Ezrin, and now he wants to shed sparks all over the studio floor. But it's not even this that makes it something special...what really puts this one over for me is the classic Kiss songs they saw fit to throw in here. 'I Want You', with it's pounding chorus and delicate acoustic intro (light and dark in the same song! When did Kiss turn into a prog band? Just kiddin', folks...), and what has to be the best-ever Kiss dumb-rocker, 'Calling Dr. Love', a song I love absolutely everything about other than the main riff. The garbly guitar-at-yo-mama sound, the disco falsetto background voices, and that irresistible hook....but if only they'd gussied up that main riff. Oh, it matches the hook line fine, but at the beginning it comes in like sort of a joke. But if I were to say it's my favorite Kiss song ever, more than 'Tears Are Falling' and 'Black Diamond', even, does that mean I can really dislike this riff? Probably not, but keeping score on this sort of thing ain't something I'm too good at.

Oh, yeah, another highlight is the Get Your Wings-era Aerosmith boogie rocker 'Mr. Speed'...these mid-tempo rockers were always just sorta eh when they filled up Kiss albums past, but here they're performed with such skill and suavity, no matter that the riffs still have three different notes and all the lyrics are still beyond 9th grade English poetry unit ('Mr. Speed' is another in that odd, obscure, naive club of hard rock songs championing how fast a guy can cum. Yup, you guys really know them wimmens well, huh? Goes hand in hand with Motley Crue's 'Ten Seconds To Love', I guess.), this is still the first Kiss studio record where I feel the guys are coming across like actual rockers and not either gimmicky gutter slime or blow-dried studio fries. But no Bob Ezrin could wring a delightfully sexist metal/acoustic monster like 'Makin' Love' out of this band...they needed a hands-off producer and a strong dose of Ace Frehley for that.

Also contains Peter Criss's Smokie outtake 'Hard Luck Woman', a song which, unbelievably, totally kicks the shit out of his last song ('Beth'), the one that was a #1 hit. I mean, this song is really really good, and I don't think it's even about fucking....

Capn's Final Word: Notice how I totally lose my funny when an album is good? There's just so little to make fun of on this record....probably Kiss's studio best.

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c downing     Your Rating: C-
Any Short Comments?: disagree, not the worst but definately not the best either.


Love Gun - Casablanca 1977

As Kiss-a-mania (get your very own Love Gun in this very record!! Just because you haven't quite grown your own yet doesn't mean you can't PULL YOUR OWN TRIGGER!!!!!) got a bit (Halloween costumes) out (blood-flavored Kiss toothpaste) of ('Got LOVE For Sale'!!! Kiss is proud to present Kiss Kall Girlss!!! Paul Stanley says 'They don't complain about my smell, ever!!' Kall A Kiss Kall Girl Today, let one of our 'Almost Human' 'Christine Sixteen' 'Plaster Casters' 'Shock You' 'Tomorrow and Tonight'!!!) control, Love Gun came out...and is the very LAST Kiss record that sounds anything like the group you know and dress up like to impress your 48 year-old male ass-slave. After this, what? Well, there's Alive II, which is pretty cool, and Ace's solo album, but after THAT, well....parts of Dynasty are okay but....erm, okay, but you see, my point isn't quite dead yet...This Is The Last Kiss Studio Album With The Four Original Members That Didn't Embarrass Anyone. No disco, no pop overload, no Bon Jovi-hair metalling, no showtunes, just one 60's schlock-pop cover and more of that crunchy business that gets between your teeth and slithers down your throat and makes your tummy aches after listening too many times. Ooh, but that first time! This album sounds really good, even more crackling than Rock 'n' Roll Over. Listen to how the guitars growl on Ace's 'Shock Me'....mmmmmmm.....sure, the riff is rigged as hell, it's a Stones cop, but an extremely effective one. Those note slides are perfectly timed, sirs! I guess the world realised what it was missing out of Ace Frehley while it was trying to sit through too many Paul Stanley ego-exercises all this time ('Girls lust after me...they really, really do! Listen to how much they love me!). Gene hits a high with the surprisingly funky haunted-house heebie-jeebie 'Almost Human'. And even Paul's 'Tomorrow and Tonight' is ridiculous in an It's Only Rock 'n' Roll starring the Partridge Family with Susan Dey Wearing Patent Leather Hip Boots and No Pants way, a good, stupid, empty-yer-head Kiss way, I mean. And then turns right around for the 'moody', 'dark' title track, which nevertheless kicks all sorts of ass in a really Yurrupean neo-Fascist way. But isn't Kiss sort of neo-fascist, anyway? If you don't believe me, listen to the goose-stepping hate mail this review page will no doubt generate...

After a middle section that pretty much satisfies the inner Pinhead in me, the rest of this album blows in a very Dressed to Kill manner. 'Hooligan' is all slow and lazy again, 'Plaster Caster' makes it sound like having a statue of your wiener done is really really boring. I've heard 'Christine Sixteen' and 'I Stole Your Love' and 'Love For Sale' several times before....this album loses nearly all of the consistency earned with the last one. The good songs are group sex with the swim team, the bad ones are sensual massage by the A/V club. But listen closely to those finely-tuned, grrrrrrrritttingly grrrrrrowllrrrllllinggg guittarrrsssss.....that's tha last yer gonna hear of them for a LONG time, on a Kiss studio album, anyhoo. I guess the winds of the future (fart) are signalled by the inclusion of a very faithful, well performed, professional, and ASTONISHINGLY AWFUL version of Ronnie Spector's 'And Then He Kissed Me' that should have probably sent most of the kids to the record store to exchange their Kiss albums for Cheap Trick and drug money.

Capn's Final Word: Love Gun shows Kiss at the top of the world, wasting no time trying to find the quickest way to throw themselves off through unprecedented levels of stupidity. The last of those nasty 'classics' you'll have to deal with...

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Alive II - Casablanca 1977

Another Christmas season, no Kiss studio album....what to do, what to do...well, it worked the first time, didn't it? I'm afraid Alive II won't create any converts, however. This album just delivers on what it says: Kiss is still a pretty good live band, and they have three more albums' worth of crap like 'Tomorrow and Tonight' for another double live. If the first version was possibly not what it said it was, this time around there's no question: this album is live. They wouldn't go to all the trouble of recording live in the studio and have it end up sounding this shitty. There's large sections where, you know, without the visuals provided by either Cinemascope or Mescaline, it's sort of hard to imagine what might be going on with that wacky quartet of Brooklynite Jewish Boys. Is Gene really spitting blood during 'God Of Thunder' or is an amp shorting out? Are those sparks shooting from Ace's guitar or is it just pops and whistles from the shoddy recording equipment? Ah, whatever...trust me, you probably won't really care all that much, you'll just be happy they spared you the drum solos and Gene Simmon's laff-a-minute standup routine that marred Alive! Nahh, we've got a different set of screws loose on this volume...since they kindly decided to spare us from performing any songs from Alive, they only have the last three albums to choose material from. And though these are the three best albums of their career, for some reason they can't locate enough good songs from them to stack full four entire live sides. No 'Rock and Roll All Nite', no 'Strutter', no 'Room Service'....Thinking about it, if they had included some stupid long solos and shit, maybe they would've been able to actually stretch this out to full, respectable 1977-scale Double Live length. But I'm frigging glad they didn't...instead of a whole 20 minutes of more useless fumbling around like Ace Frehley's laughably 'Van Halenesque' solo in 'Shock Me', we get a whole side of studio stuff that probably ranks as the best whole studio side of their entire career. Really! Paul Stanley's 'All American Man' is a shockingly above-par effort for the guy, complete with riff and all that usual shit other bands give you for free...and Gene's 'Larger Than Life' does the impossible: it actually out Led Zeppelins the originals! Compared with most of the ca-ca old-guy music that Presence was chock full of, 'Larger Than Life' is golden goodness. Complete things out with Ace's effective, compact 'Rocket Ride' and a cover of some dumb Dave Clark Five song of serious unintentional-humor levels, and this is really the last gasp Kiss had in 'em for hard rock. Some of this music even strikes me as being a tiny, miniscule, negligible bit punk rock. Shh! Don't tell anyone! Especially Spin Magazine, or they'll just overrate these guys even more in their next album guide.

Alternative my ass. Kiss is about as alternative as Wonder Bread.

Capn's Final Word: More live stuff, but this time you should probably just buy the studio albums. And just buy the studio side. I wonder what half of a record would look like? And on the other half, would it play 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' like all those gold and platinum records always do?

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Brian Deuel     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: This would get a B+ for side four alone, if Ace had actually played on most of the songs. Larger Than Life has one of the coolest solos, and is one of the heavier Kiss songs ever recorded. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that Ace only played guitar on HIS song (Rocket Ride, which is cool but annoying at the same time). The guitar work on side four was compliments of the bald Bob Kulick, who's younger brother... well, you know the fucking story by now...

Not a shabby album, but not one I listen to all the way through without skipping songs like the first Alive.

Tomorrow and Tonight was recorded in the studio and had the audience track overdubbed, by the way (see kissfaq.com/focus)...
 

Dangermouse     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Tomorrow and Tonight...why? why? why? Shock Me, what a surprise...a complete ripoff of Eddie Van Halen's eruption! I'd be a little more shocked to find that Ace actually played it. God of Thunder is cool with it's post drum-solo madness. Shout it Out Loud is a wasted attempt at RNRANII, which just makes my stomach turn. The rest of the album has some pretty good rockers, I Stole Your Love and Detroit Rock City are among the best.

The side 4 studio tracks are good? OK...just when I thought you were right on 90% of your reviews, I'm going to have to ask you to put that crackpipe down and let me take a hit. Paul and Gene's lame attempt to compete with Ace proves to be a pathetic foreshadowing of what was inevitable: Ace would become the star of the show. Step over Paul, you pathetic dork.  Rocket Ride is a fun jam!!!
 


Gene Simmons - Casablanca 1978

Releasing four simultaneous solo albums? None of which features any of the other members of Kiss? Oh, no....things were just fine in the group in 1978, no conflicts at all! No Gene Simmons wanting to release an album of goofy showtunes, no way! I mean, no telling what the kids thought when they saved all of their money that was supposed to go to the Scholastic Book order at school, you know, for some Heathcliff bestial romance novels or the Hardy Boys Guide to Breaking and Entering and spent it on the four of these things (okay, three...no one bought Peter Criss's album). But, you know, you want to open the Gene Simmons album first. I mean, he's the coolest! He wrote 'Calling Dr. Love' and sang 'God of Thunder' and totally kicks butt on that pointy bass guitar of his. You know his album's gotta be all dark and stompy and with a guitar sound about as filthy as his mind. It's like, guaranteed. Besides, on the cover, he's got this little drop of blood on the corner of his mouth. That's just, like, completely far out! Maybe he just de-virginized a 12 year old girl with that monster lingual tool of his...doesn't it just make you shudder at what kind of debauchery might be encased in the grooves of Gene Simmons' very own solo album?

Forget it all. This is sort of Gene Simmons' version of Ringo Starr's Ringo, Stephen Stills' first album, or, most accurately, The Brady Bunch All Star TV Special. Loaded with all kinds of 'names' like Donna Summer and Bob Seger and Cher, this is like Kiss as Showtunes. And while Gene acquits himself pretty well by showing some pretty flashy funky basswork on 'Burning Up With Fever' and 'Tunnel of Love' and writing a neato Badfinger song with 'See You Tonight', most of this record is forgettable forgettable forgettable. Too many messy overdubs, a 'party' feel that never translates into decent rocking (it's as if Gene Simmons records his rock songs at double speed, then slows them down to get that guttural grrr to his voice...hmmm....have I hit on something here? Or am I just trying to hit on YOU? you wanna come over to my place tonight? I've got four Pearl's in the fridge and I just rented Body of Evidence again, and I think I've washed the sheets in the last month or so....whaddya say, baby? Whaddya mean I've got a wife and child? What does that have to do with anything? Besdies the fact that I think I only have about three female readers. But that's still a vast female majority! Alright, that's enough with this parenthetical. And this paragraph. Fuck...what am I going to say in the rest of this fucking review? This album isn't that bad, but I sure don't like it very much. It sounds nothing like Kiss, but rather more like theme music to 70's situation comedies. See, I wasted that cool setup in the intro paragraph on this shitty review in part 2. That's it...the rest of these solo albums get, like, 3 lines or something. Except Ace's. That album kicks hiney so hard the Heimes feel it. Ha! Jewish humor licks ass. Okay. Fuck this review... )

Capn's Final Word: My mind wanders. A pleasant, hookless failure that I don't hate. Good bass. Lots of ego. Too many background singers. Welcome Back Kotter. Benson. Barney Miller.

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Elmo zulth@hotmail.com     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: If you think this(or any other Kiss album) is bad, you should check out some of the movies Gene Simmons has been in...
 

Brian Deuel     Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: The D+ is due to this only having four decent songs on the album, Radioactive, Burning Up With Fever, Tunnel Of Love (which I really dig for some odd reason; probably the groove), and See You Tonight (which actually kind of sucks, but I like it's short and to-the-point delivery). The rest of this is pure dreck.

Oh, and Peg Bundy sang backup on a few of the songs. You can actually hear her on the chorus to Tunnel Of Love. I think. Don't believe me? Check the liner notes, dicknecks.
 (Capn's Response: 'Dicknecks'? Touche! You're the one spending your time reading the liner notes of a Gene Simmons solo album, remember!)

Dangermouse     Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: OK, I have to confess...I like the freaky intro and jam on Radioactive...but this album is nothing but inconsistent trash. Gene must have written the script to Kiss meets the phantom too. What a pathetic sham.
 


Peter Criss - Casablanca 1978

Poor l'il Peter Criss has two more solo albums...and I've got 'em both. And one of them came out only two years after this flimsy collection of 'endearing' 'swinging' '50's rock 'n' roll' 'tunes' which 'eat the half-digested cashews' 'straight out of my rectum' then 'amplify their sound' and 'preserve them on tape and digital formats for all eternity' to 'make money' for 'drugs'. Oh, it's hard to be mad at Peter Criss....didn't he exceed your expectations? Not with the Captain and Tennille hogfart that makes up most of Peter Criss, not that....but, you know, with 'Beth' and 'Hard Luck Woman'? Let's tip our hats to the guy; he's not a good drummer, he probably couldn't write a song by himself unless you promised him a Mountain Of Free Crack at the end of it, his voice is really pretty thin when you hear enough of it, he's the frigging cat, for God's sake....but he still had his moment in the sun, made lots of money and I'm sure screwed most of Los Angeles County, California while blitzed out on the finest cash crops in all of Latin America. Good for him. Now, just don't buy this album. If you want to celebrate Mr. Criss, buy the 'Beth' single instead, or get the Criss doll from Toys R Us....I'm sure they're not sold out of him yet. But Peter Criss, you don't need to go that far.  This album is simply weak, overprocessed scrap material that would get thrown off the nearest Dion or Frankie Avalon album in a second...really boring coke-nosed late-70's faux doo-wop and other stuff that no one likes to talk about when reminiscing about 1978. Sure, sure, your parents saw the Stones at the Cow Palace in 1972, and even got front row tickets to Alice Cooper in '74, but what they don't tell you is they've got a whole host of Bread, Orleans, and Seals and Crofts albums that sound just like this. Now, please, let's just look the other way, have a little respect for Pete. He was in a time of need, you see.

Or maybe not. Freaking ego trip for these guys, is all. Fuck 'im.

Capn's Final Word: Bad badness....soppy balladeering that doesn't need to be encouraged. Erase this scourge.

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Brian Deuel      Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: "You matter to me, and that's why... because you matter to me, and that's the only reason I need, to get by..."

Someone kill me. Please.
 

Dangermouse     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Solid proof that Kiss did not need to take off their makeup to prove what pathetic losers they were at the individual level. I think I had Out of Control too, it is awful. So was Peter's early 90s pathetic attempt at heavy metal with Mark St. John.
 


Paul Stanley - Casablanca 1978

And a righteous bitch he is, true....Paul Stanley definitely comes across the most bland on his solo album, and also the least likely to fuck with the Kiss '78 pop-metal lean. These songs could've been a big part of Unrecorded Kiss Album 1978 (Stanley's The Dick Receptacle) had it actually been released, there's so few surprises in store. Just more poppy metal after more poppy metal after poopy ballad after poopy ballad. He is supposedly the 'romantic' one, for whatever reason (he wears the red lipstick? If so, who exactly is he trying to 'romance'? 'or 'love?' or 'rock 'n' roll'? 'or 'make?' or whatever other hammy euphemisms Kiss always uses for fucking.) and he feels it's his duty to make all these 'mature' disco-ey love songs like 'Ain't Quite Right' (sounds like early 70's Fleetwood Mac, you know, the kind that sucked ASS) and heart-rending and stomach churning and eyelid-drooping gick like 'Take Me Away (Together As One)'. Perhaps if he were a better singer...if Steve Perry were singing this proto-power-ballad nonsense, I'd probably love it. But it's Paul, and you know my feelings for this guy aren't too much higher than 'not currently on the Hit List'. But at least that song has discernable power...'Hold Me, Touch Me' is Barry Manillow-level dogshit, and there's just no excuse for having that around at all. I guess releasing four solo albums just allowed the quality control standards to become really lax.

But, oh man, there's a couple of GREAT songs on here. Okay, one, but that's one song more than on Gene's and Peter's albums combined. 'Wouldn't You Like Me To Know' indicates Paul's been listening (and paying close attention) to Cheap Trick, I guess trying to return the favor for the Kiss mention in 'Surrender', no doubt. This song IS Paul's best ever...power pop might just be the vein that he was built for...itchy riff, unforgettable vocal hook, and it's nice and snappy, too. This is some fantastic stuff, I'm just sorry it lasts only one song. I sorta like 'Love In Chains', it's corny, but it has this nifty funky part and a hook that could have been written by someone with a shred of talent. Aww...Paul Stanley's got talent. I've been awfully hard on the Beaver. It's just that he uses it for the advancement of Good so rarely, and falls victim to the Dark Side of Dookie Piffle Saccharine Overload Bladder Cancer altogether too often.

Capn's Final Word: Nyahhh...this certainly doesn't change my opinion of the guy very much. Shows that either A) he was too cowardly to take any chances or B) he was too shrewd to fuck with the formula.

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Dangermouse      Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: Hmmm...why does this sound so much like Kiss mid-late 80's material? It's Paul...with Bob Kulick instead of Bruce. While Tonight You Belong to Me might be sort of OK in the most desperate sense, this entire album sucks ass.
 


Ace Frehley - Casablanca 1978

Like I don't know what side my bread is buttered on (the evil one...narrr! narrr!!)....as if I wouldn't just totally love the stuffings out of Ace Frehley's record. It's guitar heavy, zippy rock that doesn't sound very much like Kiss at all...meaning, it sounds GOOD. Songs are fast. The rhythm section is crisp and crunchy. Hooks are clear. There's anger. There's lots of great soloing. In other words, the stuff we always imagine happens on Kiss albums, but it never actually shows up other than on a live album and about a single records worth of greatest hits. Oooh, but Ace, yeah, Ace needed this. He was sick of being the George Harrison of Kiss, and set out to make his All Things Must Pass. Well, he's still a zillion miles away from making that album, but what he has done is serve notice that the best songwriter in Kiss is the one playing the guitar that smokes 3 packs of Camel nonfilters a day. His songs are tough, no-bullshit affairs, and he doesn't even feel the need to write stupid come-ons and double- (and single-)entendres that never fail to sound stupid anyway. Nah, he goes with the other ol' rock 'n' roll standbys: the fast boy lifestyle and taking lots of drugs. He writes a love song to his favorite town ('New York Groove') that relies more on recreating the pulse in his head when he's back home than, you know, a travelogue or something. And that pulse is a Bo Diddley stomp...he really makes New York seem exciting by writing a simple, effective rock song about it. Isn't that great? It's not that hard after all....or maybe it is, because, even though I haven't reviewed my three other Ace Frehley solo albums, he hasn't ever topped this song, not in Kiss for sure. Not on this album, either, but he comes close...

'Rip It Out' is full bore thrash, and makes great use of his warty-but-effective voice that, like Keith Richards', never seems to actually hit or miss the note he's trying to get. He may use lines like 'I'm sad, I'm not glad to be with you today', and 'One of these things is not like the other one, not like the other one, not like the other one' and 'FOUR!!!! Four groupies in my hotel room....HA HA HA HAAAA!! *lightning crash*', but that doesn't mean he's dumb, oh no...he just realises that no one gives a flying fuck what the words are to a Kiss song other than the chorus, which is a fist pumping 'Rip it Out!!!' on this one. 'Ozone' sounds like a refugee from that Coverdale-Page album fifteen years early, 'What's On Your Mind' is a near Boston-ripoff, if you can imagine what that might sound like. Don't strain yourself...what you really need to know is that all these songs are great. So is 'I'm In Need Of Love', probably the hardest rocking thing on the album, and also the one with the cool-ass double-time solo section that proves someone's been practicing their solos since Alive!. 'Snow Blind' and the goony surf/J. Geils Band song 'Wiped Out' are both odes to fucking onesself up, and there's even a very hypnotic, very delicate, very pretty instrumental at the end called 'Fractured Mirror' that is much better than any of the Jimmy Page little solo things I've ever heard, despite the wide gulf in technical difficulty between this and 'Bron-yr-aur' or 'Black Mountain Side', Ace's soaring electric just evokes a lot more emotional reaction from the Capn. Evoking an emotional reaction....a Kiss solo album. Such is brilliance, my friends. I guess I can hear chunks of Jeff Beck's 'Beck's Bolero' on here, and it sorta flies around in circles, but I can forgive it...this is all one extremely well executed rock album, if not at the level of, say, AC/DC's concurrent albums, at least to the level of Rainbow and Aerosmith's. Even if you're extremely disappointed in all the other Kiss releases, it serves you well to search out Ace Frehley's solo album.

Capn's Final Word: If Paul's album is everything Kiss is, and Peter's everything Kiss isn't, this is everything Kiss should be....Ace Frehley's justification for all the kids who ever worshipped him.

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Pete    Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I agree with your assessment of the LP - a hugely surprising gem.  But I'll be pedantic here and point out that 'New York Groove' came from the prolific pen of Russ 'Since You've Been Gone' Ballard, not the mighty Ace.  But it's a great version.


 Dangermouse      Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Seriously. From the writer of Cold Gin and Parasite comes a complete worthy album. Too bad Ace didn't become the main frontman...but hell, he had a hard enough time standing up half the time...let alone cranking his guitar. A great effort from a Nazi prick.

 

Shabooboo     Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: For 99% of your KISS album reviews,I've more or less agreed on,but,with the talentless slab of vinyl that is 'Ace Frehley',I must severaly disagree.

I've never understood KISS fan's appreciation on Ace's songs,for,more often than not,they were the weak link in the songwriting team(granted,the songwriting team wasn't exactly stellar anyway^).

This album is shockingly bad. The whole concept of melody is an unknown one to Ace,his voice is atrocious,and,if you want to call this a set of "songs",go right ahead,but,almost nothing here is well-crafted or even approaches the level of "song".

Sure,his guitar sounds good in places,it's loud an' all,but,it's wrapped around such amusical fare,it almost makes Gene's solo album sound like a meisterwerk!

The D rating is for the handful of mildly pleasant moments -- New York Groove,Rip It Out & the odd good hook that survives this wasteland of out-of-tune caterwailing. As bad as 'Asylum'.
 


Dynasty- Casablanca 1979

Contains the muskrat sex-romp 'I Was Made For Loving You', all hairy chest 2/4 thump and echo-chamber bass grooving, probably the most timely item Kiss has ever put out, because if the decadence of disco was eating the genre alive by 1979, what better group to come along and put a few more coke spoons into the coffin than Kiss? Great song, very dark and insinuating...my sister used to swear that the shooty noises were actually the noises of Gene Simmons spitting blood, but if Gene eve spit blood during this song, he's more of a fool than I already know he is. Follows it right up with the Her Satanic Majesties Request #1 hit song (in my head) '2000 Man' covered by (who else) Ace Frehley...who punks it up and probably loses a bit of the mealy, snotty charm that the Stones brought to the original, but still, I can't argue with Frehley's taste in cover material. I'd rather listen to this than some dipshit Dave Clark Five cover anyday...but listen close, because this is the very last dose of genius Ace Frehley ever brings to a Kiss album. After this, he's a hired sideboard, and it's hard to even tell when he's playing.

Taking about not playing, Peter Criss was MIA on Die Nasty due to the fact that he was processing ethanol faster than a South Carolina drag strip on Saturday Afternoon and was probably driving even faster, causing one of those 'oops' kinds of accidents/injuries that rock stars on chemicals always find themselves in. Have you ever heard of a rock star getting in a car accident who you knew probably wasn't high? No way....rock and roll, Hall and Oates, Peaches and Herb, coke and disco, drinking and driving. It's the laws of the universe, dig? Anyway, Anton Fig, the guy who kicked ass on Ace's solo album, keeps the beat alive after being bludgeoned to pieces by Peter Criss's lame drumming all these years.

Following '2000 Man', the rest of this album drops all pretense of hard rocking altogether. There's distortion, sure, but its a very night-clubby, flimsy sort of rocking they're doing, all posture and no muscle. Check out Paul's 'Magic Touch' for examples and illustrations. Not the centerfold kind, loser...get your head out of the gutter, this is Kiss we're talking about! No thinking about boobs while listening to the modern literature that is Kiss lyrics!! They also drop all pretense of working as a unit, follow. This is a 'democratic' album, everyone gets a piece of the pie. Paul brings us another thumping bootie-shaker that I'm sure was a hit all over, erm...nowhere black people congregated. This one's called 'Sure Know Something', and I grudgingly admit it has a hook, but I still feel slimy and sleazy listening to it. Those amassed background choruses that coat all the items on this album are like batter breading on a Twinkie...totally unnecessary, and even worse, just make you that much more guilty after you're finished with it. Criss's 'Dirty Living' isn't good, but it does make you wonder why he couldn't do more of this kind of thing on his solo album, and Gene Simmons' 'Charisma' is just bloody rubbish...we wait half the album for the first Gene Simmons track, and he pulls out this slow, ugly, overproduced retread? With that wavering, rednecky chorus to boot? Fucker, and your second tune, 'X Ray Eyes', is even worse. This guy had writer's block, folks! No wonder it was around this time that the conceptual side of Kiss as a dirty rock band full of fags in makeup began to unravel. Now it was an incompetent, decadent pop band masquerading as 'ironic' glam stars. It's called posing, and while Kiss was always pretty good at it, as of Dynasty, it becomes their calling card. Only Ace retains some semblance of the old, pre-solo album Kiss, and he seemed to tap out his fountain of good songs with his solo album...his two originals on here aren't too hot. So without any reliable good new material coming through, and the gimmick of the Kiss Disco Song already run through....what's next? Oh, just don't ask...

Capn's Final Word: Interesting vibe masking mostly reject-quality material. '2000 Man' and 'I Was Made' are really the only things you need to know from here. 

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Unmasked - Casablanca 1980

If you were wondering when Kiss went from 'not particularly good' to 'completely stinky', look no further than Unmasked, the first album in the catalogue to truly have nothing going for it. On the surface, the album is pretty close to Dynasty, same poppy leanings, still some fishy disco beats here and there...but these songs are boooorrrriiinnnngggg....I wouldn't say there's even one on here that comes close to the better songs on the last album, and most are just downright vomit. I mean, all the edges were already filed down, and without the sleazy vibe that made Dynasty even partially interesting, this has nothing left to recommend it. It's just one faceless mid-tempo, riffless bag of bathwater after another. And when you give Ace three songs and he can't even come up with one that I can safely say beats out any of the Paul Stanley material...I mean, come on. There's just nothing reliable anymore. I've lost my innocence. Unmasked totally sucks, and not only that, I've also never been able to understand the cover comic. Is it trying to be funny? I know 'Shandi' is...what is this, the Go Go's? Did Gene start wearing a narrow tie onstage around this point? Where the hell is Gene, anyway? 'She's So European'? Fuck is that?

If you didn't already know it, this is the last album to make a show of having Peter Criss involved, though he really didn't have much involvement in the record, if any at all. After this, the sticks went to Eric Carr, who actually could play drums, so I've heard. But what was up with his makeup? What is he, a raccoon? Is it possible they actually came up with a worse idea than 'the cat'? Why not 'The television repairman?' or 'the Boll Weevil'? or...shock 'em all, put him in the 'Competent Musician' makeup!

Capn's Final Word: A foul record that combines the worse tendencies of Dynasty, but rips all the melodic bits out first. If Ace Frehley spent more than 5 minutes combined on the lyrics to 'Two Sides Of The Coin', I'll eat my wife.

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Brian Deuel      Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Only two songs held any sort of promise on this waste of plastic. Naked City could have been a decent hard rocker, and the same goes for Is That You. But Vini Poncia's style of Leif Garrett wuss production totally ruined any chance these two songs had to rise above.

As for the songs that truly shine in the Kiss Vault of Suck, Torpedo Girl and Easy As It Seems take the fucking cake. The rest of the album is a big pile of steaming goat loaf, but these two are absolutely the WORST Kiss songs ever written. Unmasked makes The Elder look like a platinum masterpiece in comparison.

 


Music From 'The Elder' - Casablanca 1981

If you need to ever 'talk to your kids about drugs' instead of, you know, yelling at them to turn off the Spice channel and get a job already, play them this record. It should, if nothing else, scare them off of cocaine for life. Music From The Elder is the kinds of music made when a lame band in a slump comes crawling back to the domineering cokehead producer (Bob Ezrin) who gave them their first taste of fame 6 years prior. The band isn't high and mighty enough to argue off the producer's fever dreams, but wait...they embrace his kooky ideas, because they've plum forgotten how to write even the most basic of stupid rock songs themselves (Unmasked). It'll be a concept album. About a young warrior who faces his fears and ends up surfing a wave of cliches snatched from Star Wars and the Hobbit (and whatever the last Uriah Heep album might have been in 1981) right to the overblown, orchestrated end. It'll be proggy, full of 'dramatic solos', falsetto vocals, and woodwind instruments (probably played by people not even wearing face paint...the fags). And it'll tank like a box of rocks, because not only has Kiss ceased to be a selling commodity at this point, it's doggarn progressive rock, which was about as cool as a dose of typhoid in 1981. And it's not like they even play this stuff all that well. Or, come to think of it, play it at all. God...this is just a formula for disaster, and if you ever come across a diehard member of the Kiss Legion (you can tell him because he leaves a trail of slime wherever he treads), just ask him about this record. Chances are, he'll just avoid you for the rest of the day. And that, my friends, is not a bad thing.

A little aside...notice how Kiss put 'The Elder' in the title in little quote marks to make it seem, you know, more important and shit? As if it were a movie? As in Kiss Meet The Phantom of the Park? (didn't they learn their lesson from that one?) Like, you know, if I were to name an album Love Songs For 'My Anus', people would be impressed as to how I was growing artistically and would buy my album and play it at art exhibitions and circle jerks and whatever else pretentious people do when they're not busy pissing me off.

Funnily enough, compared to Unmasked, Elder seems positively jumping with life. Thought he ideas are wrongheaded and clumsily executed, there are some of them here, and I can even point to a few songs that sort of, you know, rock. I like Ace's groovy 'Dark Light' with all his narrative asides like 'IT'S A DARRRK LIGHT (and I can't see my coke spoon) IT'S A DARRK LIGHT (and I think I just spilled my Dewar's), the opening 'Oath' shows traces of the Ozzy Osbourne/Iron Maiden side of gallumping metal, and Gene's 'Mr. Blackwell' shows definite signs of life after his complete absence on Kiss recordings since, like, 1978. And they really really try to make this thing work...it's got more effort put forth on it than any Kiss album I can remember. Solos are performed well, Paul puts his all into his singing (he has, like, the starring role, you see) Of course, none of this means that when you get right down to it, Music From The Elder isn't an extremely embarrassing listen. It is...the second side of this travesty goes down as containing the most unintentionally funny moments of blockheaded pretension I can remember. This is the sound of a band in desperate search of a sound, any sound, borrowed or otherwise, because they've totally lost the ability to write and play the songs they built their fame on. You could blame Ace Frehley's continuing drug problems, but 'cmon...he was contributing three songs to each album! The real truth was that Gene Simmons had run dry, and though I have no doubt in my mind that Ace was probably fucking himself up but good, I think that mostly what we have here is Gene freaking out that he was losing control of the band...and firing the last shred of decency they had left, their guitarist. Paul Stanley was still too good of a lapdog, happy to send his voice up a register and sing about swords being rent from the flame and shit like that. And since Gene was willing to debase himself and his band by going prostate with the rimjobbing Sheena Easton 'World Without Heroes', who could blame the fans for leaving in droves? Kiss didn't lose it's popularity for no reason, you know...

Capn's Final Word: I like how they blame this album on the critics, like 'we tried to make the critics happy instead of just satisfying the fans, and we promise never to do that again'. Well, what critics liked this exactly, may I ask?

Oh, I forgot. I think Rolling Stone Record Guide gave this 4 stars. Sorry. I guess my entire review and the opinion of 99.95% of the people who listen to this is completely wrong, then. Gosh, where would I be without the genius trendsetters over at Rolling Stone?

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Bernard     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Everyone seems to knock the crap out of Bob Ezrin.  He's a heavy-handed producer to be sure but before he showed up, Alice Cooper (the original band) had not real focus and he provided that and tightened them up.  Also, Pink Floyd's The Wall album was huge, and deservedly huge at that and Bob Ezrin was at the helm for that one.  I don't agree with every production choice the man has made but he's been associated with some great work (most notably, for me, Alice Cooper's Love It to Death album...scary, rocking, disturbing and fun).


Creatures of the Night - Casablanca 1982

After kicking out Ace Frehley following the tankitude of The Elder, Kiss was a different band...it was now completely under the thumb of Gene and Paul and their particular skewed way of looking at the world. All ties with the old band were severed, and while the makeup stayed on for just a little while longer, it was clear with Creatures Of The Night that all was beginning anew with the Sweathogs of the Tour Circuit. Unfortunately, the band lost quite a bit of its distinctiveness around this time...they were just another mid-to-low-heaviness hair metal band from here on out, but they were at least consistently reliable (and reliably consistent) in their output. They would never again attempt to 'challenge' anyone, (least of all themselves), but they wouldn't be hoisting anymore concept albums on us, either. And luckily, they relied on the good musicianship of their new sidemen to good effect...while their riffs weren't as good as in the old days, they certainly didn't embarrass themselves as much, either. In short, they became...boring. Decent, yes. But dull as dishsoap.

Creatures fires off the first shots from the revamped band, and it's a surprisingly satisfying album in comparison to their last few swine-swills. Guitarist Vinnie Vincent (who only lasted a year but still had the best makeup of any kiss guy ever...the golden ankh thing was totally cool. Beats the living crap out of the raccoon guy, anyway. In other Vinnie Vincent news, my sister actually has his solo album from back in the 80's, an outfit called the Vinnie Vincent Invasion...it's really quite a bit better than concurrent Kiss albums, for sure.) is a pretty nifty string bender in a sub-Randy Rhoads sort of way, and the whole album at least feels like hard rock music. They were obviously heavily influenced by Ozzy Osbourne-style 'charging boogie', and the riffs tend to suffer as a result...musically this stuff is darned generic metal. Of the riffy tunes, 'Keep Me Coming' sounds like it was ripped off of Led Zeppelin's Presence (or, more likely, Heart's Dreamboat Annie), but it's still mighty fine stuff. This guitar player has a snazzy way of stepping up and delivering a great riff as if it just came to his mind...or got telepathically transferred to him by Jimmy Page.  Gene fans will probably be changing their panties to hear that his apparent stage-fright writer's-block head-up-ass period dating from way back in 1978 has come to an end...he's right back up there again spitting out 'Killer' nasty enough to make Rob Halford cream. Yup, Kiss definitely sound more irritated on Creatures than they ever had before. Were they overcompensating for such limpness as Unmasked and having such small reproductive organs? Darn tootin', but at least their attempting to compensate at all.

Best song on the album is the crushing 'I Love It Loud', probably the best Gene Simmons song since 'Calling Dr. Love', and a whole lot better than his signature 'Shout It Out Loud', anyway, a real arena-rumbler that was exactly what Kiss needed. These guys could still write great songs, and it's a real fallacy to say that they left all ability to do so back in the distant 70's. Listen, their 70's hits weren't that good...it's not impossible to top frigging 'Rock and Roll All Night', you know. The musty chomper 'Saint And Sinner' and the monstrous 'War Machine' would have bumped The Elder up to a C+ had they been included there (they would seem to fit in better anyway) , but at least we can get them at all. Its these sorts of rockers that will save Kiss from the scrap heap. They need as many as they can get.  A lot of the remainder is pretty generic, but there's a real sense of quality control that never was present on even the best Kiss albums. If you're a fan of early 80's metal, or wish Kiss in their heyday were a bit heavier and meaner than they were, this is worth checking out.

Capn's Final Word: They wanted the most okay, and they got the most okay. Shockingly Crass Bit Of Kiss Marketing History: Ace was featured on the original full-facepaint glow-in-the-dark cover of Creatures Of The Night, even though he didn't play a note on it. Anything for a buck, I guess.

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Brian Deuel     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Probably Kiss' most convoluted recording experience, this album put the rock back into Kiss. I quite enjoy this album, even though most of the songs were written by outside writers. "Rock & Roll Hell" was a BTO cover, rewritten by Bryan Adams, for goat's sake!! There were three different guitar players on the title track alone (including Mr. Mister's Steve Faris, who played the solo), and three different album covers over the years.  Other songs were cowritten with Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance that were excluded from the album, but later appeared on Bryan Adam's Cuts Like a Knife LP. Other excluded songs appeared on Vinnie Vincent Invasion's first LP.

Like I said, weird. But it still rocked. Only clinker I can think of is "Killer" with too much reverb and not enough crunch. It's a good tune, but could have been heavier.
 


Lick It Up - Mercury 1983

Another hard-charging bit of bull pucky dipped in vinegar from the pre-hair metal days of 80's metal, Lick It shows Kiss reaching unheard-of heights of instrumental prowess courtesy of soon-to-split guitarist Vinnie Vincent, who rules. Maybe not in a totally revolutionary, jaw-dropping Rhoades/Van Halen kind of way, but he certainly gave the band a kick in the butt....they sound like they're comfortable, like this heavy ass-kicking is coming almost naturally. They're more puffed up and talking more patootie than ever before...this is a refinement of that special Creatures Of The Night anger, for sure. The songs, they aren't spectacular, you know...I sure can't really sing too many of them to ya, ya know, but it's still a professionally performed bunch of heavy metal tunes....you know, absolutely not what Kiss ever was in the 70's. Again, the watchword here is generic: This music could have been written and played by anyone. Whitesnake, White Lion, Great White, Walt Whiteman, E.B. White, Whites Only, White Out, White Lines (Don't Do 'Em), Forrest White-akker, a steaming piece of excrement laying on a Gibson Firebird....

What I'm saying is that Kiss finally achieved what they'd been trying for, a really decent bunch of rockin' tunes, but they'd sacrificed everything that had ever made them interesting in the first place. Whether this is a good or bad thing is still up to you to decide. I, of course, like this stuff equally as I do, say Love Gun, but then again, I don't have any emotional attachment to Kiss. They never were anything too special to me personally. You, on the other hand, may have slept on Kiss sheets and eaten from a Kiss thermos, attempted to lick the Kiss comic to find out if their blood would make you high, so, you know, you might think this stuff is automatically invalid. What you can't let get in the way is an allergic reaction to '80's Metal'. Yeah, there's lots of reverbed drums and shit, but this stuff isn't bad. Listen to 'All Hell's Breakin' Loose'...that's a party song, chaps!  It was influenced by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, man! It's fast, and everything goes 'gallump gallump gallump' like you're riding a battle horse on to Mordor (or, if you're Rob Halford, riding a particularly cute guy in 'leather armor' in your house in Malibu). It's really pretty hard for be to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' in this style of metal, it all sounds too much alike, but at least I never feel like it sucks. And what's more, Kiss seem perfectly at home playing this stuff. So, if you have the inclination and see Lick It Up cheap, why not go for it? It's a lot better than Dressed to Kill, I'll guarantee that, Mr. Maggoo!

Capn's Final Word: Hrm...maybe this generic metal thing is right up their alley. For sure, Paul Stanley has never been as benignly non-annoying as he is singing in this style. Chuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachuggachugga.....

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Animalize - Mercury 1984

Descending yet again into total mediocrity with Animalize, here's where the loss of a key member (this time guitarist Vinnie Vincent) really hurts. See, on Lick It Up, Mr. Vincent was not only in charge of some pretty crafty guitar work, he also contributed his writing skills to 8 of the songs. But he, as so many others have, has left Kiss at the altar...and who do they turn to in their hour of need (no possible way these guys could write their own songs anymore...that writin' shit's hard, man!) but  hack-meister Desmond Child, who had yet to sink his venomous claws into the carcass of Aerosmith (yup...you guessed it...he's the guy behind most of Pump and Get A Grip's girlie pussy vagina music). Granted, a little wrongheaded songwriting talent is much better than no writing talent at all, and apparently Kiss needed all the help they could get. Need I remind everyone that Kiss isn't Aerosmith, either in writing or performing or image? Ahhh, well, I guess that goes without saying. But strange things have a way of working themselves out in completely unimpressive ways, and Animalize at least bears witness to the fact that Kiss stands quite a bit to gain from some professional-pop spit 'n' polish. This Aqua Net tag fits a lot better on Kiss than it does Aerosmith, anyway...

So, I guess I'm saying this album could've come out a lot worse than it did, but instead what we get is something firmly planted in between the clockwork-generic metal kicks of the last two albums and a pretty sad run through the mud of glam-metal that was still to come. Just pretty nondescript running over the same riffs 'n' such that Def Leppard was making popular around the same time (albeit with much worse hooks and production and soloing and...okay, Def Leppard pretty much rips Kiss to shreds, shall we leave it at that?). They're just copping from different sources and doing a worse job at covering up their theftwork with interesting playing. It's definitely not a bad listen, and there's a few moments of cheap thrills ('Get All You Can Take' and 'Burn Bitch Burn' are fair enough) to make me forget that the biggest hit on here was the atrophied 'Heaven's On Fire', which has about as much punch as a Thalidomide baby. One-time-only guitarist Mark St. John leans way too much on his whammy bar, and instead of just playing, he commences to fucking about with all these smoke and mirror tricks like 'pinch harmonics' (making the guitar squeal like my wife when I accidentally pull her hair while I'm asleep) and 'wide tremolo' (think Katherine Hepburn) that cover up the fact that his riffs are weak, and no matter what he does he'll never sound like he's owning the instrument near as much as Vinnie did. Add to that stinker jalopies like 'Lonely Is The Cunt(er)' and 'While The City Sleeps' and you're running right along the razor's edge that is 80's metal. God...at least they weren't too wussed out yet. This still stakes its claim on the harder side of hammy metal, and while the attempts at thrashier stuff would be blown off the coke-mirror by a passing Metallica, they never embarrass themselves outrageously much on this album.

Capn's Final Word: Less of a selling point than the last two had, and the magic songwriting beans are beginning to cause some bloating....

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Brian Deuel      Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: The total stinker on this album was Thrills In The Night. But the rest of it at least rocked. A huge letdown after the decent Lick It Up.
 


Asylum - Mercury 1985

Not a completely awful record, this Ass-I-Lum, though it's got the worst album cover ever for Kiss (yes, even worse than Hot In The Shade...the Day-Glo paint blotches on the cover (and on their lips...eeeww! When we said we wanted the makeup to go back on, this isn't what we were getting at) belie a kind of ham-fisted tribute to Andy Warhol by way of whatever the kids on Charles in Charge were wearing that week.

You know what? I've watched some Charles in Charge lately, and that ain't such a bad show. They showed it daily in good ol' St. Petersburg. But, really...why Scott Baio's character never did bang the hot older daughter, I'll never figure out. What was the difference in their ages, like 3 years? Awww, go ahead...you know you want it, Charles. College girls all stop bathing regularly and cease shaving altogether, and end up smelling like cottage cheese mixed with Chai Mochas. High school girls...them's where its at. Even the brainy one was kinda hot...when you live in the same house as two pubescent blondes and you never make a move on any of them? Probably getting some Willie in his Ames, if you catch my meaning...

Anyway, Asylum has my top number one favorite 80's Kiss song, 'Tears Are Falling', a riffless, mid-tempo wonder that just blands its way to this MONDO chorus 'feels like it's raining....OH NO! TEARS ARE FALLING!!!", featuring some of the best application of Paul Stanley's girlie voice I've heard. He's not a bad guy, he just needs to be in the right place at the right time, and that place is a pretty small, quickly lost one. Case in point: most of the rest of this album. After the crackling bullseye of 'Tears', one much reconcile 'UH! All Night!'. Yup, that there's the title, and while it's only really the band's bazillionth arena-stroking rewrite of 'Rock and Roll All Night', it does indeed feature the 'hook line' 'And I wanna UH!!!....all night!' Now, the 'uh!' exclamation can mean several things....can mean 'What?' or 'Ouch!' or 'Oh baby baby!' or 'PPPBBBBBLLLLLTTTTTT!!!!!!! *splish!*'....you take whatever meaning from those choices you prefer. I'm not here to dictate the meaning of interpretable Kiss songs, I'm merely here to facilitate.

So, I guess without going into too much detail about an album I can't remember, Asylum is just more fair guitar riffing, now in the capable hands of Bruce Kulick, blood relative of Bob Kulick, who played on Paul Stanley's solo record so many aeons before. Not as good as Vinnie or late 70's Ace, but lighter on the lobes than that Mark dude, Bruce would actually buck recent trends and stay in the band for several years. What else to say, what else to say? 'King Of The Mountain' is cute in a 'too big for its serious little britches' way (Paul Stanley as Ronnie James Dio on that one), but 'Who Wants To Be Lonely' is another pretty great hook amongst a bunch of doinky sounding gated drums. Gene Simmons' songs are dull without exception, but his voice sounds better than it has in awhile. There's not too much overt sexism on this album, so wrestling fans may want to wait to pick this one up after Lick It Up. Mostly this album is just a pretty fair bore, but then again so was Animalize. At least this one has one classic on it, so if you need a selling point....ummm....

....I bet you don't own any Cheap Trick albums. Go buy some of those instead of this.

Couldn't I just write that on ALL of my Kiss reviews?

Capn's Final Word: More bores, but I only feel deeply offended once or twice. 80's Kiss is a paragon of consistent mediocrity.

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Crazy Nights - Mercury 1987

Now this shit I don't have time for. Kiss, since at least The Elder, hasn't made a single bad album. Loads of sad mediocrities like Animal Lice and Asinine and underwhelming hackwork like Lick It Up, sure, but ou have to go way back to Unmasked for the last honest-to-shittiness slimepile that would compare to Crazy Nights, probably some clear nadir of limp-wristed fist-pumping roof-raising hive-raising hollow rock for the mid- to late-80's. I mean, from the opening two songs, the zillionth-and-second rewrite of 'Rock and Roll All Night' title track and the Survivor-xerox 'I'll Fight Hell To Hold You', it's clear that it's not going to get much better than these poseur anthems. When, exactly, did Cher start writing songs for Gene Simmons? Didn't they go out about this time? Well, I'll tell you what: after hearing wwinners like 'Hell Or High Water' and 'When Your Walls Come Down', it's pretty clear to me that, of the two, Gene was the one who wanted to be writhing around on the deck of a carrier in see-through assless tights with a bunch of sweaty sailors looking on. Every song is another weak attempt at things that even Animalize and Asylum seemed not to have any problems with. Guitar tone, hooks that don't sound corny, keeping a beat, energy level...these used to be givens. I mean, they've used an army of outside songwriters for awhile now, but this time even all the hired guns in the world can't keep this album from sucking the basketball through the catheter. They reach a definite rock bottom with 'Reason To Live'....a reason to assassinate whoever played those oppressive humming 'sensitive' keyboards, I say. Were they trying to rewrite the theme song to St. Elmo's Fire or what? Not even Rob Lowe would like this piss. Please save me from writing any more about this mess of 80's mistakes, all balled into one foul wad of mung.

One highlight is Kulick's soloing...it's pretty exciting throughout, when he's allowed to play, anyhow. I guess the guy realised he had to make the most of it, because who knew when Kiss would just take the next step and turn into Spandau Ballet? So, a short, respecting hand for Bruce, keeping the long-lost dreams of Ace Frehley alive in his stead.

Oh, and there's a song called 'Thief In The Night' that has absolutely zippo relationship with Keith Richard's fine song of the same name. Don't be confused...all these songs about 'night' and 'hell' on this pisspile don't add up to the same amount of atmosphere as Keith Richards picking his nose would have.

Capn's Final Word: Really, there's no reason to waste valuable natural resources trying to track down this retch. Very, very bad....

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Andrew R   stray_toasters@juno.com  Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Thought you'd never get a reader comment for this album, didn't you?  Well you were wrong.  I listened to this album for 15 seconds in the library and it sucked.  End reader comment.


Brian Deuel      Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: The only songs I heard from this album were two that they had videos for- the title track and Reason To Live. That was enough for me...

Wasn't Forever on this too? Or was that the next album; another one that I didn't buy or listen to?

 


Hot In The Shade - Mercury 1989

Waaaaaaay toooooo loooonnnnggggg. Hot In The Shade just drags on forever, about 5 songs too long, and while it's not near as substanceless as Crazy Nights, it still contains a very strong odour d' peaux peaux. Must be because the legion of hacks just reuses the same tired chord sequences song after song. Is there even a riff to be found on this album? Ugh....just pounding over the same tired chords for the same tired reasons pulling out the same tired reaction. 'This is where you feel pumped up'...'this is where you feel vaguely angry and disillusioned'....'this is where you shed a tear at the unparalleled level of poignancy and sensitivity to the human condition that a Michael Bolton ballad can give you.'...'This is where you feel that maybe you wasted $3.99 and should have just gotten the Meat Puppets CD from the cut-out bin instead.'

Wait, did I say Michael Bolton? Does this shock you? Kiss has sunk so low that not only do they hire the guy to write a hit for them, they advertise it. And you know what? However bad this song sounds, it's still miles above the similar slime that polluted Crazy Nights. Yes, a Michael Frigging Bolton song...oof! How many more of these albums does this group of clowns have? I've heard so many of these songs before that I'm beginning to forget where I am in the goddamn Kiss discography. Is it 1982? 1986? 1989? Does it really matter? Not at all? Will I ever get a reader comment about my damn Hot In The Shade review? Right, sure....sure.... Have I just wasted the past few weeks on this damned band? Yes, indeedy doodly, sisters.

Forget about how bad some of this album blows for a second, because I would like to say a few positive things before I end this embarrassment of a review and move ever closer to finishing this untalented group of painted prostitutes and moving on to somebody a bit less, well, pro wrestling-like. First, the production is good again, a big step up from the cardboard walls of the last few....the guitar sounds tough, the drums pound, even the vocals kick up a notch or two. They're fired up to be playing this boring shit over and over. There's also a few little surprises in store, like how the first sound you hear on the album is a slide guitar. And, um....that's it. Gene tries his hand at writing an Ace Frehley hard-livin' song on 'The Street Giveth and....', there's a whole string of songs that have no hook, each chorus is shouted en masse like Def Leppard, each song is the same exact tempo, Elmer Fudd and Betty Boop do it back-door-style somewhere on Side 3, they sound exactly like Big Generator-era Yes on 'You Love Me To Hate You' and I wrote this review after making it through two listens of this neverending story just for you, brave reader, soldiering on with me through a jungle of 45 bazillion Kiss album, each one a sad rewrite of wither their debut or Lick It Up. When you finish reading this for the day, please promise me you'll drink an alcoholic beverage, write a poem, help a homeless person, bust your nut in some ho's mouth, something worthwhile. Kiss has converted my soul into a sinkhole of artistic thirst....I'm a black hole. sucking in all music regardless of whether it's good or bad for me. And judging by where you are on my page, apparently so are you....

Capn's Final Word: Don't buy! Don't buy! Don't buy! Are you listening to me?!?!?

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Brian Deuel     Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: One word. Boooooooooring.

Put this one on if you're suffering from insomnia. It'll cure it right quick.

Rise To It is ok, I guess. The rest? ZzZzZzZzZz....
 

Dangermouse      Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: An hour of sheer torture.

 


Revenge - Mercury 1992

 

Yeah, still dumber than a box of knockers, but this time Kiss shifts itself for profit again, now trying to appeal to fans of the grindier form of early-90's metal, your Helmets and Panteras and whoozit-begones I can't remember now. But, suffice it to say, this is the most pissed-off Kiss has sounded since probably Creatures Of The Night. Wait, no...maybe 'pissed off' isn't the right description...let's say 'miffed' (or even 'constipated'). Can Kiss actually sound convincing doing anything but acting like a bunch of leering queers? If they can, I sure haven't seen it before. Whatever. They can, though, still rock reasonably convincingly, as hard as that might seem to be to believe. But after so long sucking the slime off the bottom of the aquarium that was hair metal, this is where the band finally regains at least a shred of their dignity. Oh, don't be fooled, this is still essentially pop-metal dressed up in fetish gear, but at least they're not afraid of themselves (or their guitars) any longer. Anyone who thinks this music is truly heavy ought to have their head pooped like a soft grape in the c-clamp of their choice, because Revenge is about as comparable to Slayer as the last Frankie Avalon album. Heavy? Puhhhh-leeeze. But it is good light heavy metal simulation, and that's all we can really ask for. Bruce's guitar is right up front and sound better than ever, most of the songs have perfectly interesting little riffs that only sound slightly overcooked. 'Tough Love' is pretty snazzy just to name one example, and 'Domino' isn't bad for an AC/DC ripoff....now that I think about it a lot of this album rips off from The Razor's Edge directly. Except for 'Heart Of Chrome'...that rips off from Led Zeppelin's 'Wanton Song' in the intro and Judas Priest in the verse. The main bad thing I can say about it all, besides questioning the sincerity of a bunch of fat leathery dudes in their 40s trying to act all rough and gritty when they never, ever were that in the first place, is that the good hooks just aren't around much at all. They've resigned themselves to The Riff and given very little effort towards making the songs themselves catchy...there's certainly no well-crafted killer hooks like 'Tears Are Falling' around, you see, or even nice simple little razors like what AC/DC might have been able to produce. But on tracks like 'Spit', this band finally seems like it's gotten a new voice for itself, a raunchy biker-rock band that bears no resemblance to the poppy, glammy plastic-rock of days long gone. They sound good doing this kind of music, and even if it's artistically null and void, it's still pretty effective in it's own way. Why Kiss couldn't have gone on as this sort of grimy band of has-beens for awhile, generating new slabs of decent heavy riff-music every three years, touring with the likes of the Scorpions or Whitesnake, is a mystery that only analysing the band's penchant for tasteless selling out might be able to explain. Besides, seeing chubby ol' Gene Simmons with his greasy hair and little sneering goatee and leather pants kinda makes me itch. Bring on the face paint!

Right. This album also contains 'God Gave Rock and Roll To You II', which begs the question....

Do you think that chick on Alias is hot? I sure do...I hope she reads this site. And touches herself to screaming climax at my bottomless resovoir of hilarious witticism.

Probably just my luck I've got Paul Stanley reading the site and polishing the dolphin at the same time instead....such is my life. Put it away, Paul.

Capn's Final Word: I really can't castigate anyone for owning or even enjoying this record. The funny thing about Kiss is, the second they start playing harder and concentrating on their guitar playing more, I begin to like their stuff again. But not that much.

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Alive III - Mercury 1993

 

Yeah, Kiss's third live extravaganza is definitely for fans of the 80's work. I'd really analyse this thing, but I think that using my brain capacity on Kiss for too much longer might just drive me to playing with my own poop. Yeah, you know what would look great on that wall right over there? Some poop. Kiss is trying too hard to be metal on this album and Revenge, but I can't complain because they sound better trying to be metal (silly) than trying to make hit pop-metal songs (hideous). Poop really has a marvelous ability to look like an inexpensive substitute for stucco and shows that you're one of God's chosen prophets at the same time. The old songs here sure sound good, too, but I think that's mostly because Kulick is too professional a guitar player to make stuff as retardedly simple as 'Deuce' sound like shit. What he does do, though, is add the same brand of Alive! punch to old warhorses like 'Watchin' You', making them sound new and crackly. Neat trick, Bruce. There is a difference between poop and shit, you know...poop keeps the 3-headed cockroach/ferret beasts from telling the CIA about your whereabouts. Shit is what you use to channel Adolf Hitler and control all television broadcasts to influence all world leaders into mailing all their nuclear warheads to your apartment. Of course, it's hard to truly enjoy the more recent, much poorer material....like 'I Just Wanna' and the unscary 'Unholy'....when you know there's so many better songs they could be doing. Like, where the hell is 'Tears Are Falling', for fuck's sake? That's one of their best ever, dammit!!! I like the 'Creatures Of The Night' opener, though, and they make 'I Was Made For Loving You' punkier, faster, and even more oppressively dancable than before. 'Nother neat trick. You know what's another good trick? Leave some poop aside somewhere to dry and get all crumbly, and mix it with your fresh poop...it adds a very pleasant depth of texture, plus it helps the adhesion of the poop to walls, clothes, and passersby. What Alive III shows more than anything else is that this band is still mighty effective onstage, no matter what the poor level of their material might be...they have no interest and no ability to bring wussiness with them on tour, no matter how good a friend she might be in the studio. On the road, Kiss is about guitars and shout-along choruses. And if you get infections on your hands, I suggest cauterizing the open sores with your gas stove flame...it definitely decreases the recovery time, and think about all the crazed scat-play you'll be able to do in the meantime.

Capn's Final Word: Effective live album from the end of the lost-period Kiss. Can anyone lend me a Thorazine?

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MTV Unplugged - Mercury 1995

 

Tepid but entertaining 'unplugged' set from Kiss, who make a major step towards their big ol' out-of-retirement comeback here when old enemies Ace Frehley and Peter Criss get thrown a bone and are invited up on stage for a jaunt through such funsies as 'Beth' and '2000 Man'. '2000 Man'? What cool dude picked this setlist, anyway? You know that when you start with 'Coming Home', then go into 'Plaster Caster' and 'Goin' Blind', you're not really trying to interest anyone but the hardiest of the hardiest members of Da Kiss Army. 'World Without Heroes'? Pure balls, Gene....pure balls. Not that I'm complainin'...such nods to their filler of yore are what interesting listening are made of. But is all this arcana and teasing worth anything, in the pure entertainment part of it all? Not as much as you might think...tempos are slow, and moreover, Kiss was meant to revel in disgusting levels of distortion...this chimy mellowness is more suited to old farts like Eric Clapton than good ol' Kiss, for chrissakes! 'Do You Love Me' sounds like the perfect background song for a frigging garden party...I mean, is this James Taylor or what? Like take Paul Stanley's voice...he's simply not meant to sing this quietly, his pipes are designed to wail in competition with a wall of Marshall stacks. This is Kiss as Muzak, really...interesting for fans, good for a curious listen, but it simply doesn't cover any of the bases that Kiss is meant to cover. I mean, if you think you'll enjoy Kiss not kicking ass, go for it. Me? I've got priorities in life, see. This stuff is near useless to someone as Neanderthal as myself....if I want pretty acoustic stuff, I'll listen to John McLaughlin.

So, big question here is: What do Ace and Peter look like without their makeup on? Heh heh...suffice it to say that Ace looks like he's seen the bottom of more bottles of bourbon than salad bowls, and Criss looks like a Price-Waterhouse accountant after being stranded on a desert island for a few months. Plainly, they need the money, and as such are willing to drag themselves before Paul and Gene and beg forgiveness...anything for a buck, see? The resulting reformation in full regalia brought them all more money than they could know what to do with, who cared that it was as driven by greed as much as any desire to please 'the fans?' Ah well, call this the last chance to really enjoy Kiss as a creative outfit, if only because they put a few moments' thought into their song choices. And, of course, they play professionally and reliably...but lacking the fire and blood-splattering Rock God-hood that is the stuff of kids' wet dreams....these guys are just greasy, middle-aged New York hacks.

Capn's Final Word: Mistakenly puts the emphasis on the event rather than the music....Kiss Unplugged is a bad idea, no matter how much they try to make it work.

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Psycho Circus - Mercury 1999

 

Because huge world tours make more money when there's an album tie-in, Psycho Circus is the product of the original four members of Kiss, and its a pretty telling reminder that fifteen-odd years apart has done very little for their group chemistry. After listening to the 'new' band do a fairly respectable job on Revenge, it's very easy to tell who has the chops to make this band viable. Peter Criss is a horrible drummer...he sounds like a twelve-year-old vibraphone player having a bit of fun on the school trap kit, except his touch is a tad weaker...Each of these pseudo-grunge 'song units' runs along without a hint of gas in its tank. It's heavy stuff, but heavy needs to either be deceptively light on its feet (ala Deep Purple) or unremorsefully jarring in its very density (ala Black Sabbath), and this stuff, well....it's like early Kiss dressed up in 90's rock production. Everyone is delightfully clear in the mix, guitar tones have great fidelity and little personality, and each half-baked riff is placed starkly in the light of unoriginality. There's no hiding it, they simply don't gel together...Ace seems frozen in time (a good thing, really) and his voice has improved in depth and command, but the grunge-lite of Gene's basswork matches his bearded licks like soy sauce and custard pie. Each member is lost in his own realm of how things should sound, and the sum of the parts is a messy, incohesive one. I mean, Christ, there's even the Peter-crooned little piano ballad, 'I Finally Found My Way', a piece of bacon fat so thin that not even Michael Bolton would feel comfortable hoisting it upon the audience. But the reformed Kiss? No problem...it fits expectations, doesn't it?

Songwriting-wise, Psycho Circus tries its hardest to recreate past glories, but it's just a big put-on. 'We Are One', 'Raise Your Glass', 'You Wanted The Best', 'I Finally Found My Way'...right. There was probably more dewy-eyed reconciliation of old demons on the grooves of this record than there ever were in real life. They gave the audience what they wanted to hear, that this reunion buried all the hatchets, Peter and Ace were all sober and happy to be 'survivors', all was roses and grins in Kiss's universe, and all they wanted to do more than anything in the world was show everyone how much they loved each other now. Well, Kiss can publicly suck each others dongs as much as they want, but this stuff smacks of so much manipulation that I'm not surprised few fans actually bought it. And time was the ultimate judge, as it usually is, witnessing Criss's second firing several months later, soon followed by Ace's embarrassing public squabble with Gene. So much for group unity, guys. Ah well, I guess whatever the outcome of the Big Comeback, the abortion at least saved us another adventure in mediocrity like Psycho Circus. Now that the tour has ended and Gene's back shooting his mouth off like the head case he is, there's really no reason to revisit this annoying splash of crocodile tears.

Capn's Final Word: A forced smile is pretty painful to look at...combine that with four guys monstrous egos and you've got Psycho Circus, probably a pretty accurate picture of where Kiss would be in the late 90's had they never had broken up in the first place....the shitter.

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Noel longawayy@yahoo.com    Your Rating: C+
Any Short Comments?: You remember all those times that Gene refocused on his songwriting and help make a decent, or even good album, when Kiss had no right to?  This ain't it.  Paul, on the other had, delivered the goods (outside of his cover of Alice Cooper's Eighteen, which he retitled Dreamin').  Paul delivered the type of songs you think of when you think Paul Stanley, Starchild, whatever.  I pledge Allegiance..., Raise Your Glasses, even the title track, they're all big party rock anthems.  They force Ace to use Into the Void (since it fit that "spacey" persona), even though In Your Face (bonus track in Japan) is a _much_ better (and more rockin') song).  Then they make poor little Peter do another ballad, since they'll never let him live down Beth, but they won't let him have anything to do with it other than pretend he's at karaoke night.  No wonder it sucks so bad.

Then there's Gene.  Now, if you're gonna try to do an album where the songs are supposed to fit your persona, and you're "The Demon", then you're gonna write a few songs that fit somewhere between God of Thunder and Calling Dr. Love.  Right?  Maybe something the recalls She or Parasite?  Of course Gene pulls out a grunge leftover from Carnivals of Souls (where's the review of that one?), a We Are the World type acoustic singalong, a pretentious prog rock wannabe, and and amusing, but completely contrived, buddy song, where all four members get two lines apiece each verse.  He probably shoulda just let Paul write his songs for him, just like he did with God of Thunder. 

and just for comparison's sake, when I listen to Kiss, I usually skip anything by Paul.  On this one, that's all I listen to.

 

Dan Poe  Your Rating: B-

Any Short Comments?: Could have been a lot better, but you know...

I still happen to love the title track, though. Classic Kiss. And 'Dreamin'' certainly isn't a bad song. But what's upi with 'You Wanted the Best,' I Pledge Allegience' and the painful 'Within?'
 


 

 


 

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