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The KISS Album Focus Volumes, 1 – 4 [Book Review]

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 The KISS Album Focus, Volume 1: Kings of the Night Time World (1972 – 1982)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 2: Hell or High Water (1983 – 1996)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 3: Roar of Greasepaint (1997 – 2006)
The KISS Album Focus, Volume 4: Never Enough (2006 – 2013)
by Julian Gill
KISSFAQ.com Publishing

For many years, the website KISSFAQ.com (not affiliated with or endorsed by the band KISS) was the source of a lot of great info on the band. What I found most entertaining and informative was the website’s “KISS Album Focus” series where the band’s recording history was broken down into detail. These considerably lengthy articles were all posted and available for free. Eventually, he Album Focus articles were pulled from the site and were slowly released in book format starting in 2002 (with updated editions being published at various points). As of this writing, the series covers the band beginnings all the way up to 2013.

In addition to KISS albums, these books also focus on what every band member was up to pre- & post-KISS. Various editions of albums and singles are discussed as well.

I’ve read a lot of KISS books over the years and these are some of the best. While this isn’t technically a biography of the band, it does cover every album the band has released (including compilations and live albums) and talks about events during and leading up those releases.

I started with Volume 2 because it covers my favorite era of the band. I think KISS’ run during the ’80s and early ’90s is much more interesting than the classic period. We’ve heard all the stories from the band’s 1970s heyday a million times. so my eyes and ears always perk up when I get to read about what went on post-originals/pre-reunion.

Next I purchased volumes three and four. Volume 3 was interesting because it focuses on the reunion and while I already knew that Psycho Circus wasn’t a true reunion album, I didn’t realize how much of a mess relations were in the band from the get-go. Volume 4 covers the shortest amount of time out of all the books and according has the least amount of pages. I was a bit disappointed with this one because I felt surely there’d be much more to say with the band kick-starting their creatives juices with the releases of Sonic Boom and Monster.

Finally, I picked up Volume 1. I almost bought the $5 Kindle version because the paperback was listed as being out of print and prices on copies of it skyrocketed up around $40. Just a few days earlier the paperback was in stock and had been listed at around $17 or so. I mulled over whether I wanted an e-book to complete the set but after doing that for a few weeks, Amazon got more paperback copies in, so everything turned out okay.

My biggest complaint about this series is that Julian Gill really could’ve used an editor (or a spell-check/grammar check program). Words are omitted, words are misspelled, entire paragraphs are repeated but worded differently… This happens throughout the entire series but seems to happen the most in Volume 1.

I wouldn’t recommend these books to a casual KISS fan that may only pick up a Gene Simmons book for a quick read, but all hardcore KISS fans should read and love this series. These are books I’ll be referring to and re-reading certain chapters for many more years to come!

KISS – Revenge [Review]

Kiss_revenge_cover

KISS – Revenge
1992, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Unholy”
2. “Take It Off”
3. “Tough Love”
4. “Spit”
5. “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”
6. “Domino”
7. “Heart of Chrome”
8. “Thou Shalt Not”
9. “Every Time I Look at You”
10. “Paralyzed”
11. “I Just Wanna”
12. “Carr Jam 1981”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Backing Vocals (“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”), Drums & Guitar (“Carr Jam 1981”)
Eric Singer – Drums, Backing Vocals

Additional Personnel:
Dick Wagner – Guitar (“Every Time I Look at You”)
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“Take It Off”)
Tommy Thayer – Backing Vocals
Jesse Damon – Backing Vocals

Producer: Bob Ezrin

By the mid-1980s, KISS was becoming a hair metal band. Not that I have a problem with that, because I consider KISS to be among the godfathers of hair metal (along with Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Van Halen). But by the early ’90s, the world was changing and music was definitely changing. Bubblegum metal was no longer the flavor of choice. Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth and the like were starting to experience great commercial success with a harder sound. While the band didn’t make a drastic change in sound like they would do for 1997’s Carnival of Souls, their was a conscious effort on their part to retool their image a bit and get a bit tougher. Most of the promo shots from this era feature the band in black denim and black leather.

The album was also a shot at “redemption” for Bob Ezrin as he helped take the band to new heights with Destroyer but his collaboration with the band on Music From “The Elder” took the band to new lows in popularity. What’s funny now is, in hindsight, it seems most KISS fans now enjoy Music from “The Elder”. Of course, the band reunited with someone else from their past in Vinnie Vincent, but in a songwriting capacity only. He receives writing credits on “Unholy”, “Heart of Chrome” and “I Just Wanna”. With Ezrin and Vincent having been called in, the band was making a serious effort to deliver the best KISS album yet. According to Bruce Kulick, Gene, Paul & Bob Ezrin were extremely picky when it came to song writing on the album.

In fact, Revenge is the album where KISS’ past, present & future unite. Gene, Paul, Vinnie, Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr, Eric Singer and future guitarist Tommy Thayer all participate on the album in some form or another. I guess Ace, Peter and Mark St. John were too busy to stop by!

For the music itself, Revenge generally receives good praise. Among fans, it competes most often with Lick It Up as the best non-makeup album. Given that this was one of the last KISS albums I needed to fill the hole in my own collection, I tend to look at many of KISS’ other outputs more fondly just because I’ve spent more time with them. In fact, I heard Alive III and MTV Unplugged before I ever heard Revenge, so even now the studio versions sound “off” to me because I’m used to the live/acoustic versions .

There’s definitely some great cuts on this album though. “Unholy” kicks off the album with a darker sound than KISS had previously employed. Gene completely owns this song, it’s one of his best and it works even better when performed live in the Demon make-up. “Take It Off” is a strip club song (and a great one at that), “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” is a re-imagining of the Argent song that will forever be tied to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and “Domino” is yet again another amazing Gene track. Meanwhile, Paul shines on the ballad “Every Time I Look at You” and the fun and nearly-naughty “I Just Wanna” (“fuh-fuh-fuh-forget you!”).

The album closes with “Carr Jam 1981”, which was a demo recorded by Eric Carr early in his tenure in the band and was included as a tribute due to his passing away from complications of heart cancer on November 24, 1991. I believe Bruce Kulick did some work on the track after Eric’s passing in preparation for its inclusion on the album.

Though it’s not without some filler (“Spit”, “Paralyzed”), Revenge is not only one of the band’s best non-makeup albums, it’s also one of their best albums in their whole catalog.

Highlights: “Unholy”, “Take It Off”, “Tough Love”, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”, “Domino”, “Heart of Chrome”, “Every Time I Look at You”, “I Just Wanna”

KISS – Hot In The Shade [Review]

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KISS – Hot In The Shade
1989, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Rise to It”
2. “Betrayed”
3. “Hide Your Heart”
4. “Prisoner of Love”
5. “Read My Body”
6. “Love’s a Slap in the Face”
7. “Forever”
8. “Silver Spoon”
9. “Cadillac Dreams”
10. “King of Hearts”
11. “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”
12. “You Love Me to Hate You”
13. “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell”
14. “Little Caesar”
15. “Boomerang”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Bass

Additional Musicians:
Tommy Thayer – Guitar (“Betrayed” & “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”)
Phil Ashley – Keyboards
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“You Love Me to Hate You”)

Producer: Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley

Another very commercial album though not as slick as Crazy Nights, even if it did produce the ballad “Forever” (that Paul Stanley co-wrote with Michael Bolton) which reached #8 on the Billboard charts as a single and the band’s first major radio hit in years.

The main problem with Hot In The Shade is that at 15 songs, it’s just too much and there’s obvious filler like pretty much ever Gene song. “Cadillac Dreams”, “Prisoner of Love”, “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” and “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” could’ve easily been left off but I’m sure Gene wanted equal time to Paul, even if the quality wasn’t there.

“Hide My Heart” was the lead single and was a very minor hit. I actually remember hearing that song on the radio when I was a kid though. It wasn’t until years later when I got into KISS that my mind was blown  after having heard the song again for the first time in nearly 10 years — “That was KISS?!?”

Anyway, this album is underrated despite being a bit bloated. “Rise to It” and “Betrayed” sound like they could’ve come from the Asylum album, “Hide Your Heart” is a pop-metal masterpiece, “Read My Body” is an enjoyable Def Leppard rip-off, “Love’s a Slap in the Face” is the one good Gene song here, “Forever” is one of the greatest hair metal ballads ever and “Silver Spoon” and “King of Hearts” feature Paul in all his pop-metal glory. “King of Hearts” starts off reminding me of “Shocker” from soundtrack for the film of the same name (which Paul also sang on).

Hot In Shade is a fine 1980s glossy slab of hard rock but in the early 1990s, the band would decide to get a bit tougher with their next release.

Highlights: “Rise to It”, “Betrayed”, “Hide Your Heart”, “Read My Body”, “Love’s a Slap in the Face”, “Forever”, “Silver Spoon”,”King of Hearts”

KISS – Crazy Nights [Review]

KISS-Crazy-Nights

KISS – Crazy Nights [Remastered]
1998, Mercury Records
Originally Released: 1987, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Crazy Crazy Nights”
2. “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”
3. “Bang Bang You”
4. “No, No, No”
5. “Hell or High Water”
6. “My Way”
7. “When Your Walls Come Down”
8. “Reason to Live”
9. “Good Girl Gone Bad”
10. “Turn On the Night”
11. “Thief in the Night”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Phil Ashley – Keyboards

Producer: Ron Nevison

KISS were no strangers to experimenting with pop music in the past (DynastyUnmasked) and Crazy Nights is a culmination of the lighter metal sound the band had started with Asylum. “Crazy Crazy Nights” immediately sets the pace, it’s drenched in keyboards has a high cheese factor. So, of course, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. And “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live” and “Turn On the Night” continue to work the keyboards into overtime.

The band was obviously in trend-chasing mode as bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Heart were huge acts in the late ’80s with their very polished hard rock/pop sounds. In fact, they recruited just the right producer if slick rock/pop was their goal as Ron Nevison was quite in demand, having recently worked with such acts like Ozzy Osbourne (The Ultimate Sin), Heart, Survivor and even on the soundtrack for the first Karate Kid movie.

At one point, both Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley denounced this album as a mistake, but apparently their stance softened a bit because just a few years back “Crazy Crazy Nights” made an appearance in their set list while they were touring in support of Sonic Boom over in Europe. “Reason to Live” is the big power ballad of the album. It’s very much of its era and features Paul in his element. He was made for this type of stuff. It was released as a single and it’s surprising that the song wasn’t a big mainstream hit for the band.

Just like “Crazy Crazy Nights”, this entire album is a guilty pleasure album. It’s glossy but it’s not without a little bite. “Bang Bang You” is a solid oversexed polished rocker that would’ve sounded fine right next to “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” on Smashes, Thrashes and Hits. “No, No, No” is frenetic and features some great guitar work from Bruce Kulick. “Good Girl Gone Bad” is a mid-paced rocker that’s one of Gene’s better songs from the 1980s.

I initially didn’t like this album but I’ve come to love it. It was given to me as a graduation present from my girlfriend at the time. I popped it in my car as we were driving somewhere and she immediately apologized for giving me a bad graduation gift! It wasn’t what I was expecting but I told her she did good. After all, I was trying to complete my KISS collection and, bad or not, I wanted the album.

If you’re a fan of glossy commercial hard rock from the 1980s, Crazy Nights is sure to please.

Highlights: “Crazy Crazy Nights”, “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “Bang Bang You”, “No, No, No”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live”, “Good Girl Gone Bad”, “Turn On the Night”

KISS – Animalize [Review]

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KISS – Animalize [Remastered]
1997, Mercury Records
Originally Released: 1984, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”
2. “Heaven’s On Fire”
3. “Burn Bitch Burn”
4. “Get All You Can Take”
5. “Lonely Is the Hunter”
6. “Under the Gun”
7. “Thrills in the Night”
8. “While the City Sleeps”
9. “Murder in High Heels”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Mark St. John – Guitar
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Bruce Kulick – Guitar (“Lonely Is the Hunter”, “Murder in High Heels”)
Jean Beauvoir – Bass (“Get All You Can Take”, Under the Gun”, “Thrills in the Night”)

Producer: Paul Stanley

At this point in the band’s history, it’s a game of musical chairs as to who plays on what. Then again, that was always kind of the case when it came to recording music. Even new lead guitarist Mark St. John only had a cup of coffee in the group as his tenure lasted only about half a year. This was due to a combination of personality clashes and the fact that St. John ended up being diagnosed with Reiter’s Syndrome. He played only 3 live shows with KISS before being replaced on the Animalize tour by Bruce Kulick (who later went on to have a 12 year career in the band).

What’s weird is that Gene Simmons would later say St. John was too flashy of a player and wasn’t a good fit for KISS… so why’d  they hire him in the first place? They already had one flashy player with Vinnie Vincent (who was also a great songwriter) so why did they think it would work out any better the second time around?

It was also during this time that Paul Stanley began to take control of the direction of KISS. Typically, the fate of KISS was determine by Paul and Gene Simmons, but Gene had stars in his eyes and was trying to make a name for himself as an actor, band manager and music producer which left Paul to carry on with the day-to-day duties of KISS. This included writing, recording and producing KISS albums. Due to Gene taking less active role in the band, Paul has stated that Animalize was pretty close to what a Paul Stanley solo album would’ve sounded like at that time.

Despite friction and changes within the band, Animalize is a solid album that delivered at least one classic in “Heaven’s On Fire”. It’s notable that this was one of two non-makeup songs (along with “Lick It Up”) that initially made it into the set list after the original four members reunited in 1996. It also happens to be one of the first KISS albums I ever bought so it’s got a special place in my heart.

This is when KISS started going glam and although the record is step down from Creatures of the Night and Lick It Up it’s still pretty enjoyable and was a commercial success upon its release. “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)” is one of my favorite songs from this era as is “Heaven’s On Fire”. “Burn Bitch Burn” seems a bit too simplistic for KISS and has a touch of misogyny, but even so, it’s another favorite from the album for me.

Some numbers are stronger than others but I don’t feel like there’s any duds here, but then again, they may just be because I have a soft spot for the album and have listened to it so much. All told, I think it’s a very good album but I can see why others would be quick to point out its faults.

Highlights: “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”, “Heaven’s On Fire”, “Get All You Can Take”, “Burn Bitch Burn”, “Thrills in the Night”

My thoughts on KISS getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and album reviews coming

If you follow the world of rock/metal online, you’d be hard pressed not to know that KISS is finally getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. You’d also have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the controversy surrounding which members are (and are not) getting inducted. It’s become quite a mess. Gene & Paul are having it out in the press with Ace & Peter, Gene & Paul are having it out with the HOF’s induction process, the fans are having it out with Gene & Paul, etc. It goes on and on.

Here’s what we know: the Hall of Fame is inducting only Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The original four members of KISS and that’s it. They aren’t inducting anyone else and they don’t want anyone else (such as Tommy Thayer & Eric Singer) performing at the induction ceremony. Frankly, that’s silly, but look — KISS has been eligible for induction for a long time and for the Hall of Fame execs to put this restriction on the band is just their way to make the induction as painful as possible for KISS. It’s like they couldn’t put off leaving KISS out of the Hall any longer because the public was becoming too vocal about their exclusion but at the same time the Hall of Fame didn’t want to make it a fun/easy process for the band.

No one is arguing the founders shouldn’t be in but I think all members should be inducted and that they should be allowed to perform with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer (which the Hall does not want). My dream scenario is that everyone who has ever been in KISS gets inducted and then the classic line-up plays and then the modern line-up plays and/or they have all six of those guys (plus Bruce Kulick) jam together.

It’s not a big deal to induct every single member of KISS, so I don’t see why the Hall is resisting it:

  • No question, Eric Carr definitely deserves to be in. Great drummer and he contributed to the band for 11 years on many successful albums.
  • Bruce Kulick — same situation. He was there for 8 years and played on a number of KISS albums that went gold/platinum.
  • Vinnie Vincent. Not sure if anyone could even find this guy and he didn’t have the best relationship with Gene & Paul but even they would admit his guitar work and songwriting skills played a big hand in freshening up the band’s sound and giving them some of the best albums they’ve ever produced.
  • Eric Singer first joined KISS in 1991 after Eric Carr’s death, had a short stint in the early 2000s filling in for Peter Criss and has been their drummer since 2004 when Peter Criss once again left and has sung lead vocals on a handful of KISS tracks.
  • Tommy Thayer is a big force in the modern band. Great guitar player and he’s been playing with them since 2002 and has songwriting credits/vocal duties on the last two KISS albums. I could see someone maybe arguing against Tommy though given the time frame he joined, but I think he’s contributed enough to warrant the induction.
  • Given his very short tenure, Mark St. John is probably the only KISS member you could question for HOF status and say that he didn’t contribute much to the band… provided you consider playing on a platinum-selling album as not contributing much.

It’s nice that the band is getting inducted into something called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when you consider the people who run the Hall and the list of people who have already been inducted, it’s anything but a legit rock hall. No one in their right mind would argue that if there is such a hall that KISS deserves to be there, but it’s sad that the RNR Hall of Fame is refusing to acknowledge the entire career of the band and wants to focus only on the 1970s.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for some KISS fans but I actually applaud Gene & Paul for refusing to give in and play strictly with Ace & Peter. They want all eras of KISS to be recognized and they think Eric & Tommy deserve to stand on stage. I agree. I know there is the whole Gene & Paul vs. Ace & Peter thing, and that’s sad, but I don’t have a problem with Gene & Paul’s “all or nothing” stance.

Now, I recently noticed there’s a surprising amount of KISS albums I haven’t yet reviewed. I could’ve sworn I reviewed them all! Well, with all the buzz regarding KISS these days thanks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the fact that this year is the band’s 40th anniversary, there’s no better time than now to finish reviewing the band’s catalog! Be on the look out for those reviews in the coming weeks.

The Metal Excess Awards: 2011 Edition

Last year I said 2010 was a better year for music than 2009 was. I went on to wonder how 2011 could even begin to top it. Well, guess what… 2011 did indeed top 2010! I’m looking back at my Top 25 list for 2010 and while those albums are all still good, this year’s Top 25 list is much stronger top to bottom.

2011 was a great year that saw classic rock/metal acts like Whitesnake, Warrant, Riot, Alice Cooper, Journey, Black N’ Blue and King Kobra deliver some of the best albums of their career while younger acts like Steel Panther, Reckless Love, Savage Messiah, Evile (who missed the list by this much) and Black Veil Brides have shown that they are more than capable of carrying rock & metal into the future.

Top 25 Albums of 2011

1. Whitesnake – Forevermore
2. Sixx:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt
3. Riot – Immortal Soul
4. Warrant – Rockaholic
5. Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare
6. Steel Panther – Balls Out
7. Megadeth – Thirteen
8. Anthrax – Worship Music
9. Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming
10. Reckless Love – Animal Attraction
11. Edguy – Age of the Joker
12. Hurtsmile – s/t
13. Journey – Eclipse
14. Chickenfoot – III
15. Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz – Stand Your Ground
16. Black Country Communion – 2
17. The Poodles – Performocracy
18. House of Lords – Big Money
19. King Kobra – s/t
20. Saliva – Under Your Skin
21. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
22. Black N’ Blue – Hell Yeah!
22. Savage Messiah – Plague of Conscience
24. George Lynch – Kill All Control
25. Joe Bonamassa – Dust Bowl

Best E.P./Single
In light of a few non-album singles being released this year, I’ve decided to make this a hybrid category.

1. Sixx:A.M. – 7
2. Black Veil Brides – Rebels
3. Who Cares – Out of My Mind / Holy Water
4. Wildstreet – II …Faster …Louder!
5. The Last Vegas – The Other Side E.P.

Best Compilation/Cover/Live/Reissue Albums
Kind of a catch-all category this year. Instead of listing each category individually, I decided to lump them all into one list and rank them that way.

1. Black Sabbath – Born Again [Deluxe Edition]
2. Stryper – The Covering
3. Vains of Jenna – Reverse Tripped
4. Whitesnake – Live at Donington 1990
5. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy – Live: Made In Stoke 24/7/11
6. Hell – Human Remains
7. Scorpions – Comeblack
8. Def Leppard – Mirrorball: Live & More
9. Eric Carr – Unfinished Business
10. Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer [Deluxe Edition]

Want to read more about the year in music? Check out some of the fine sites & blogs listed below! And be sure to keep checking back for more Year-End posts here at Metal Excess!

All Metal Resource — http://allmetalresource.com/

Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/

The Crash Pad of Ray Van Horn, Jr. – http://www.rayvanhornjr2.blogspot.com/

Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/

Hard Rock Hideout — http://hardrockhideout.com/

Hard Rock Nights — http://hardrocknights.com

Heavy Metal Addiction — http://heavymetaladdiction.com/

Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/

Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/

Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/

The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/

Eric Carr – Unfinished Business

Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011, Auto Rock Records)

1. Eric speaks to the fans
2. “Just Can’t Wait”
3. “Troubles Inside You”
4. Eric talks about his music
5. “No One’s Messin’ With You”
6. “Carr Jam 1981”
7. Eric talks about audition
8. “Shandi”
9. “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”
10. “Dial L For Love”
11. “Elephant Man”
12. Eric Talks about Mark St. John
13. “Midnite Stranger”
14. “Eyes Of Love”
15. Bill Aucoin talks about Eric
16. “Through The Years”
17. “I Cry at Night”
18. Eric kidding around at a Kiss album rehearsal

Producer: Linda Caravello & Beth Jordan

On the 20 year anniversary of Eric Carr’s death, the Caravello (Carr) family decided to honor Eric by releasing Unfinished Business, an album featuring a number of  Eric’s demos that were recently fleshed out and re-recorded with the aid of a number of musicians. Also featured are voice clips of Eric Carr. A similar project called Rockology was released by the family in 1999 but that album was nothing but demos & rough mixes with the only tampering being done by former KISS band mate Bruce Kulick who tried to re-mix the tracks and improve production as best he could.

Notes about the songs:

– “Just Can’t Wait” (1987) was originally released on Rockology as an instrumental but this time around there are lyrics & vocals for it and there’s a good reason this new version comes off like Danger Danger — Ted Poley sings on it. I think it was one of the better songs from Rockology. It’s nice to hear it with a vocal track but I think it still stands as a great instrumental as well.

– “Troubles Inside You” (1987) features KISS collaborator Mitch Weissman on vocals. Sound quality isn’t that great given that it’s a demo but it’s a cool rocker.

– “No One’s Messin’ With You” (1989) is an early demo of what would morph into “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.

– “Carr Jam 1981” (which originally appeared on KISS’ Revenge album) & “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” (originally appeared on KISS’ Lick It Up album) are covers by the band ZO2.

– “Shandi” features Eric on vocals and comes from his 1980 KISS audition. These demo tapes remained lost until 2006 when they were rediscovered by Eric Carr’s family. The entire four-song audition was produced on CD in extremely limited quantities and released as The 1980 KISS Audition EP and sold through http://www.EricCarr.com. This particular version lifts Eric’s vocals from the audition tape and adds new music performances and arrangement.

– “Dial L for Love” is a near complete demo track (no vocals) from 1987. Could’ve been a really good rocker.

– “Elephant Man” never got past the lyrics stage in 1991 when Eric passed away. Music was composed for this song from scratch by Bob Gilmartin (who provides vocals & guitar) and Nick Clements. Eric’s sister and niece sing backing vocals, Twisted Sister’s A.J. Pero plays drums and Europe’s Kee Marcello provided lead guitar on the intro.

– “Midnite Stranger” comes from a demo that Eric had given ex-KISS lead guitarist Mark St. John back in 1986. Mark had contacted the Carr family in 2006 and gave them the tape and the plan was for St. John to add more guitar parts but the project was never completed due to Mark’s passing away in 2007.

– “Eyes of Love” is another song that was originally on Rockology. This version is considerably better with newly recorded music. All of Eric’s vocals remain while Seether’s John Humphrey plays the drums and Benny Doro plays everything else.

– “Through The Years” is a compilation recordings of Eric on drums from his teenage years up to live performances with KISS. Very cool thing to hear.

– “I Cry At Night” is a song from 1967. It was written by Eric and recorded by The Cellarmen, which was his very first band. Very much inspired by the Beatles and general rock/pop sound of bands at the time.

The rest of the tracks are short sound clips from interviews either with Eric or about Eric.

Overall, this is a great disc for KISS fans to add to their collection. Carr is one of the most loved members the band has ever had and this is another great trip back in time to see what a cool guy and great talent he was. Hopefully the Carr family has more demos and outtakes ready to go because I’d love for third album to come along. Hopefully we’ll get some new kick-ass versions of “Somebody’s Waiting”, “Nightmare” and “Can You Feel It” if that ever comes about!

Highlights: “Just Can’t Wait”, “Troubles Inside You”, “Shandi”, “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, “Eyes of Love”, “Through The Years”

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Buy this album at Amazon.com

Upcoming Reviews…

Be on the lookout for reviews for Slash’s new live album, the new Eric Carr anthology and the latest from Riot!

KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits

KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988, Mercury Records)

1. “Let’s Put the X in Sex” … 3:48
2. “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” … 3:26
3. “Love Gun” … 3:31
4. “Detroit Rock City” … 3:45
5. “I Love It Loud” … 3:47
6. “Deuce” … 3:20
7. “Lick It Up” … 3:53
8. “Heaven’s on Fire”… 3:19
9. “Calling Dr. Love” … 3:38
10. “Strutter” … 3:38
11. “Beth” (Eric Carr vocal) … 2:46
12. “Tears Are Falling” … 3:54
13. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” … 4:29
14. “Rock and Roll All Nite” … 2:56
15. “Shout It Out Loud” … 3:07

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits is a KISS compilation aimed at the MTV generation that had helped breathe new life into the band during the ’80s (this album itself would go onto double platinum status). There are five tracks that come from either Creatures of the Night, Lick It Up, Animalize or Asylum while eight tracks feature some of the band’s classic ’70s material. Most of the songs from the 1970s were remixed for this collection.

Basically, the remixes amount to nothing and I could care less whether I’m listening to original or “remixed” versions, they sound the same to my unrefined ears. In the case of “Beth”, the vocals were re-recorded with Eric Carr (who does quite a good job on the song). Two additional tracks were recorded for this album and along with having the Eric Carr version of “Beth”, they are the only reason I was interested in owning this album.

“Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” are definitely songs of the time and follow the same pattern of the Crazy Nights album that came out in 1987 (which, surprisingly, is not represented here at all). Very cheesy and sexually-driven and they’ve always sounded to me as if they could’ve been recorded by Aerosmith around the same time. That’s probably because frequent Aerosmith collaborator Desmond Child co-wrote these songs with Paul Stanley! Future Aerosmith collaborator Diane Warren (“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”) helped to co-write “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” as well.

Despite Paul Stanley swearing off both of these songs, I love them for the guilty pleasures that they are. I loved both of these songs from the first time I heard them and the lyrics are just plain cheesy hornball fun to me.

For an album that devotes half its space to the 1970s KISS catalog and half to their 1980s output, I think this is a solid compilation that does its job of representing both decades well. It’s not the compilation I would recommend for people wanting to discover the band but for the diehards that happen to love ’80s KISS? This is definitely worth picking up (can easily be found at a low price) for the two new tracks and Eric Carr’s take on “Beth”.

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Buy ‘Smashes Thrashes & Hits’ at Amazon.com (See all Album-Oriented Rock (AOR) Music CDs)

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