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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 – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions [Review]

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KISS – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions
1997, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Hate”
2. “Rain”
3. “Master & Slave”
4. “Childhood’s End”
5. “I Will Be There”
6. “Jungle”
7. “In My Head”
8. “It Never Goes Away”
9. “Seduction of the Innocent”
10. “I Confess”
11. “In the Mirror”
12. “I Walk Alone”

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

Producer: Toby Wright, Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley

The subtitle of this album is a bit misleading as the only thing “final” about it is that it is the last studio recorded by the Stanley/Simmons/Kulick/Singer line-up and it is also the last album from the band’s non-makeup era. The album was recorded in late 1995/early 1996 and was scheduled for a release in ’96 but then the big reunion with the original four members took place and this album was quickly forgotten about… just not by the fans. Bootleg copies of the album began circulating and despite the fact that KISS had put the make up back on and Ace & Peter were back in, this album was quietly released this album in October of 1997 because of demand for it. “Jungle” was released as a single and actually made it to #8 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts, despite the fact that the band wasn’t really promoting the release and they certainly weren’t playing any of these songs live.

Carnival of Souls shows a band definitely trying to keep up with the times, much as they were doing in the 1980s. This time around, the band was mimicking the grunge/alternative rock scene, specifically bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. You can even hear elements of Black Sabbath. I can imagine “It Never Goes Away” during that band’s Tony Martin era. The tone of the music and the lyrics are angry, serious and heavy. It’s a bit weird seeing KISS look so grungy and dour on the cover of the album. This is one of the band’s heaviest albums and I actually think it’s one of their best as well. Admittedly, KISS was already in the process of toughening up their image in 1992 with Revenge, so Carnival of Souls is just the next step. To point out the Revenge connection even more, I’ve always felt that “Hate” & “I Will Be There” were the next evolution of “Unholy” & “Every Time I Look at You”.

Granted, when you think of KISS, the sound and style on Carnival of Souls is probably not what you’d expect (or even want) to hear from the band. When I first heard it, I thought was weird but there was still something about it. I kept spinning it over and over and I started to become a big fan of the album. My first time hearing the album was probably somewhere between 1998 and 2000 and it’s something I still reach for every now and then all these years later. Songs like “Hate”, “Master & Slave”, “Jungle”, “I Will Be There” and “I Walk Alone” (Bruce Kulick finally get to shine!) still randomly pop up my head and bring me back.

Had the reunion not taken place, it would have been interesting to see how this album would have been received had it gotten a full promotional push and if KISS would’ve continued with this sound. Carnival of Souls is something different but also something good.

Highlights: “Hate”, “Rain”, “Master & Slave”, “Childhood’s End”, “I Will Be There”, “Jungle”, “Seduction of the Innocent”, “I Confess”, “I Walk Alone”

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”

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.

KISS – Monster [Review]

KISS – Monster [Limited Deluxe Edition]
(2012, Universal Music Enterprises/KISS Records)

1. “Hell or Hallelujah”
2. “Wall of Sound”
3. “Freak”
4. “Back to the Stone Age”
5. “Shout Mercy”
6. “Long Way Down”
7. “Eat Your Heart Out”
8. “The Devil Is Me”
9. “Outta This World”
10. “All for the Love of Rock & Roll”
11. “Take Me Down Below”
12. “Last Chance”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Tommy Thayer – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals
Eric Singer – Drums, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals

Producer: Paul Stanley & Greg Collins

I’m surprised KISS didn’t use the same business model as they did for Sonic Boom, which was an exclusive U.S. release through Wal-Mart. KISS may be wishing they had the muscle of Wal-Mart behind them again because even though Monster debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts, it only sold about 56,000 copies in its first week compared to Sonic Boom‘s 108,000 copies sold.

Although the album was not released exclusively through Wal-Mart, there is a limited deluxe edition that is exclusive to Wal-Mart. The CD comes with a 64-page booklet (it’s not really magazine-sized) full of photos, facts, features, interviews, lyrics and track-by-track commentary for the new album. I’m not sure if it can be picked up in stores. I got my copy on pre-order from Walmart.com. The CD doesn’t come bundled in its own digipak or even a jewel case. It’s inserted into the inside cover.

KISS is my favorite band so I’m definitely happy they released another new studio album but at times Monster feels a bit like “been there, heard that”. This is a good album but it sounds so familiar to Sonic Boom they might as well have labeled it Sonic Boom, Vol. 2: “Hell or Hallelujah” is “Modern Day Delilah”, “The Devil Is Me” is “I’m An Animal”, “Outta This World” is “When Lightning Strikes”, “All for the Love of Rock & Roll” is “All for the Glory”, etc. Okay, maybe it doesn’t all sound like Sonic Boom… “Eat Your Heart Out” sounds like a Gene number that could’ve been on Asylum!

“Hell or Hallelujah” and “All for the Love of Rock & Roll” were instant favorites for me but the rest has taken some time to grow on me, just as the last album did. Songs like “Wall of Sound”, “Freak” (which was supposedly intended for Lady Gaga according to another review I read online) and “Back to the Stone Age” didn’t grab me at first but there’s some good stuff going on there if you stick it out. I’m really starting to get pulled into the whole album the more I listen to it. Probably the only song on this album I don’t have any affection for is the closing track “Last Chance”. Not bad but it’s filler. Poor way to close an album and Monster would’ve benefited if they limited the album to 10 tracks.

Ultimately, I think if anyone liked Sonic Boom, they’ll like this album. I definitely think Monster is the more consistent of the two (Gene brought some real clunkers to the last album) but I also believe the strongest songs from Sonic Boom are better than the strongest songs from Monster, if that makes sense. Still, this is pure KISS — big dumb fun. “Back to the Stone Age” really embodies the band at this point. They aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, write thoughtful lyrics or expand their musical horizons. Do I think KISS can do better? Yes. But if this was the final KISS album, would I be okay with that? Yes, I would.

There is a bonus track if you buy the album through iTunes (and you have to buy the entire album to get it) called “Right Here Right Now”. It’s one of the better songs from the album and sounds equal parts ’70s KISS and late ’80s KISS. It’s a shame you can’t buy the individual track on iTunes because I definitely would as it’s better than most of what’s on this album.

Highlights: “Hell or Hallelujah”, “Wall of Sound”, “Shout Mercy”, “Long Way Down”, “Eat Your Heart Out”, “The Devil Is Me”, “All for the Love of Rock & Roll”

www.KISSonline.com
www.facebook.com/kiss
Buy the album at Amazon.com

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol [Deluxe Edition]

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol [Deluxe Edition] (2010, Universal Music/Sanctuary Records – UK Import)
Original Release: 1987, Warner Bros. Records

Disc One
1. “The Shining” … 5:59
2. “Ancient Warrior” … 5:28
3. “Hard Life to Love” … 5:00
4. “Glory Ride” … 4:49
5. “Born to Lose” … 3:43
6. “Nightmare” … 5:19
7. “Scarlet Pimpernel” … 2:05
8. “Lost Forever” … 4:03
9. “Eternal Idol” … 6:33
Bonus Tracks
10. “Black Moon” … 3:38
11. “Some Kind of Woman” … 3:15

Disc Two
1. “Glory Ride” … 5:21
2. “Born to Lose” … 3:41
3. “Lost Forever” … 4:17
4. “Eternal Idol” … 6:48
5. “The Shining” … 6:30
6. “Hard Life to Love” … 5:20
7. “Nightmare” … 4:49
8. “Ancient Warrior” … 4:54

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals (Disc One)
Ray Gillen – Vocals (Disc Two)
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Dave Spitz – Bass (Credited, does not appear)
Bob Daisley – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Bev Bevan – Percussion

I’m such a freak about the non-Ozzy/Dio years that along with the Seventh Star reissue, this was one of 2010’s most anticipated releases for me. Now they really need to give Born Again and Headless Cross the deluxe treatment as well. If you want my thoughts on the original album, check it out here. Included with the original album are two bonus tracks that were included on “The Shining” single as B-sides: “Black Moon” and “Some Kind of Woman”. “Black Moon” later appeared as a track on Headless Cross but in a different key. So having an alternate take of “Black Moon” and now having “Some Kind of Woman” was a pretty big deal to me. Just for the sake of being a completist.

As with the Seventh Star reissue, the main course in my opinion is the second disc. But there’s no live concert, this time it’s the complete album as it was originally recorded with Ray Gillen (though it is not what would have been the final mix). I’m not sure how Sabbath fans felt at the time, but when I read about Gillen’s short time as Sabbath’s singer from other reviews and whatnot, it seems like a lot of hope and promise rested on Ray’s shoulder as if he singled-handedly could lead Sabbath back to the Promise Land. Did he hold the key to the band becoming a respected and legit group once again? I don’t particularly think so. I think people are fantasizing. They see that the band didn’t work so well commercially with Martin, so they say “oh, if they stuck with Ray they could’ve done so much better”. Plus, I think another reason people embellish with it comes to Gillen is because he died so young. Now I’m not knocking Ray Gillen at all. He’s a great singer but I just don’t think he could’ve ushered in some great new era for Sabbath any better than Martin tried to do.

Let’s be honest, Sabbath was a mess for most of the ’80s and into the early ’90s. While, musically, Iommi was certainly the band’s driving force, I don’t think he was a very good band leader. He was a bit too laid back and seemingly almost shy. That could’ve been countered if the band had great management, but they didn’t. So what you ended up with was poorly promoted and misguided albums & tours along with constant personnel changes. It’s amazing they were able to put out the quality music that they did, even if it wasn’t the evil doom ‘n’ gloom old school Sabbath fans wanted to hear. So yeah — Ray wouldn’t have changed any of that.

What Gillen did do was turn in a great performance live and in the studio. You certainly can’t knock his singing. Whereas Tony Martin had similarities to Dio, Gillen has a bit of a higher register, sounding much more like what I would expect from an ’80s metal singer. Maybe it’s just because I’m more familiar with him or because he does sound more like one of my favorite singers but I still prefer the Martin version over Gillen’s.

If you refuse to believe Sabbath ever did anything worthwhile without Ozzy or Ronnie, well, this reissue isn’t going to change your opinion. But that’s okay because this reissue isn’t meant for you anyway. It’s meant for all of us who can enjoy Sabbath’s later offerings and for us fans, I think this reissue is an important album to own.

www.blacksabbath.com

Black Sabbath – Seventh Star [Deluxe Edition]

Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi – Seventh Star [Deluxe Edition] (2010, Universal Music/Sanctuary Records – UK Import)
Original Release: 1986, Warner Bros. Records

Disc One: Seventh Star
1. “In for the Kill” … 3:42
2. “No Stranger to Love” … 4:30
3. “Turn to Stone” … 3:29
4. “Sphinx (The Guardian)” … 1:11
5. “Seventh Star” … 5:21
6. “Danger Zone” … 4:27
7. “Heart Like a Wheel” … 6:37
8. “Angry Heart” … 3:07
9. “In Memory…” … 2:38
Bonus Track
10. “No Stranger To Love” (Single Remix) … 4:01

Disc Two: Live at Hammersmith Odeon
1. “Mob Rules” … 2:59
2. “Danger Zone” … 4:44
3. “War Pigs” … 8:11
4. “Seventh Star” … 5:03
5. “Die Young” … 3:58
6. “Black Sabbath” … 9:33
7. “N.I.B.” … 1:37
8. “Neon Knights” … 4:37
9. “Paranoid” … 3:29

Band:
Glenn Hughes – Vocals (Disc One)
Ray Gillen – Vocals (Disc Two)
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Dave Spitz – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Gordon Copley – Bass (on “No Stranger to Love”)

Two of 2010’s most anticipated releases for me were the reissues of Black Sabbath’s Seventh Star and The Eternal Idol. The non-Ozzy/Dio years are criminally underrated. While these two albums had not previously been hard to find (they were reissued/remastered in 1996 and again in 2004 by Sanctuary), these expanded versions feature bonus tracks and an extra disc of goodies. Let me say again that the import prices for both of these discs is outrageous. About $30 a piece. So if anyone is interesting in getting these, I suggest going to Amazon UK’s page and ordering the albums straight from jolly old England. After S&H, it was only something like $23 U.S. dollars TOTAL and they arrived pretty quick too.

I won’t comment on the first disc too much. You can read my original review here. I’m a fan of it, the songs are still great. It’s a good bluesy and melodic rock/metal album. The only extra included on Disc One is the single remix of “No Stranger To Love”. Nothing essential, but nice to have, I guess.

Disc Two is the real draw here — a live performance at the Hammersmith Oden in London from June 2 1986 with Ray Gillen on vocals! I’m sure this show has been available in bootleg form for years because it was recorded for a radio broadcast. Ray took over Glenn’s spot in Sabbath after Glenn famously bombed on the tour’s first five shows due to his drug addictions at the time. For some reason or another, after the tour and after already putting down vocals for The Eternal Idol, Gillen left Sabbath. I know there are a few other Gillen shows floating around as bootlegs, but it’s nice to have an official documentation of his short time as the lead singer of Black Sabbath. Reading about this era, it seemed like a lot of people embraced Gillen’s short run and it seemed like maybe Sabbath could’ve even made a return to commercial and critical success but it was not meant to be and Ray formed the group Badlands. He certainly does a fine job with the Dio material.

The audio quality isn’t the best, it’s a radio show recording after all. It’s not like this is what you’d expect from a full-fledged live album, but it’s still an interesting and perfectly acceptable listen and this edition is essential for hardcore fans of the years that didn’t include Ozzy or Dio.

www.blacksabbath.com

AVANTASIA – The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon: Deluxe Edition

Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon: Double Album Deluxe Edition [Import] (2010, Nuclear Blast Records)


Disc 1: The Wicked Symphony

1. “The Wicked Symphony” … 9:28
2. “Wastelands” … 4:44
3. “Scales of Justice” … 5:04
4. “Dying for an Angel” … 4:32
5. “Blizzard On a Broken Mirror” … 6:07
6. “Runaway Train” … 8:42
7. “Crestfallen” … 4:02
8. “Forever is a Long Time” … 5:05
9. “Black Wings” … 4:37
10. “States of Matter” … 3:57
11. “The Edge” … 4:12

Highlights: “The Wicked Symphony”, “Scales of Justice”, “Dying for an Angel”, “Blizzard On A Broken Mirror”, “Runaway Train”, “Crestfallen”


Disc 2: Angel of Babylon

1. “Stargazers” … 9:33
2. “Angel of Babylon” … 5:29
3. “Your Love is Evil” … 3:53
4. “Death is Just a Feeling” … 5:21
5. “Rat Race” … 4:07
6. “Down in the Dark” … 4:23
7. “Blowing Out the Flame” … 4:51
8. “Symphony of Life” … 4:30
9. “Alone I Remember” … 4:48
10. “Promised Land” … 4:47
11. “Journey to Arcadia” … 7:12

Highlights: “Stargazers”, “Death Is Just A Feeling”, “Rat Race”, “Blowing Out The Flame”, “Symphony Of Life”, “Alone I Remember”, “Promised Land”

Musicians:
Tobias Sammet – Lead Vocals, Bass
Russell Allen, Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Klaus Meine, Andre Matos, Bob Catley, Ralf Zdiarstek, Jon Oliva, Cloudy Yang, Oliver Hartmann – Guest Vocals
Sascha Paeth, Bruce Kulick, Oliver Hartmann, Henjo Richter – Guitar
Miro Rodenberg – Keyboards, Orchestration
Sascha Paeth, Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Simon Oberrender – Organ
Felix Bohnke, Alex Holzwarth, Eric Singer – Drums

Producer: Sascha Paeth & Tobias Sammet

An epic collection featuring two epic albums! This deluxe edition collects both of Avantasia’s 2010 releases plus features a fairly lengthy booklet full of pictures and notes on the making of the albums. This time, instead of pure laziness, I actually had a good reason for not reviewing this set when I initially planned… it was just too much to absorb at once!

For some strange reason, unlike The Wicked Symphony, Angel of Babylon has not been released as a single disc in the United States although it is available as an import. I bought this collection on Amazon shortly after the street date because it turned out it was cheaper than having to order both albums separately because Angel of Babylon‘s import price was ridiculous at the time. This collection itself is actually an import (some of the text of my particular copy’s cellophane wrap was in Spanish) and it was retailing for $60-70 at most online shops when I first looked. YIKES!!! There are some very good deals to be found for it in Amazon’s Marketplace though, that’s how I got my copy and only paid$27 for it.

The very first thing I think of when I think of Avantasia are the amazing vocals that are always involved. Of course there’s Tobias Sammet, who is one of my favorite metal vocalists but Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske and Russell Allen shine on both albums just as they did on The Scarecrow. Jorn is featured on so many of these songs he might as well be considered a full-time member of Avantasia alongside Tobias. A Sammet/Lande album, anyone? And that’s not all! Klaus Meine, Tim “Ripper” Owens and Jon Oliva make appearances as well.

To this day I still have not heard the first two Avantasia albums. Some have complained that Tobias has taken the music in a slightly different direction, which is his prerogative since Avantasia is a side-project and a labor of love after all. Actually… Now that I think about it, if anything, I think Avantasia has become a bigger focus for Tobias than Edguy has been lately. Even so, the line has been blurred and both groups are becoming a bit interchangeable in sound. Not that I’m complaining, I like the direction both bands are headed in: great melodies, huge fantastic vocals, big drums, a bit of pop music, some ’80s hard rock, catchy choruses. Not many can do melodic power metal better than this.

I leaned towards The Wicked Symphony when I first bought this collection but after giving both albums many spins, I think I like Angel of Babylon better. There’s really no filler on that album at all. Either way, both are better than The Scarecrow (which I liked) and are two of 2010’s better albums!

KISS – Asylum of Death Interviews DVD

KISS – Asylum of Death Interviews (2006, MVD)

Another DVD I streamed on my PS3 courtesy of Netflix. You know, I’m really starting to enjoy the titles of these unauthorized videos. They make no sense but sound darn fun: first “Krazy Killer” and now “Asylum of Death”! If only those had been actually KISS albums.

This is a collection of interviews and TV news pieces but unlike the oddball collection on Krazy Killer, there’s a bit more continuity here as many of these clips are from the Dynasty era. This is fine by me because I always thought KISS looked pretty cool during their disco rock phase (or as Ace calls it during an interview “rock disco”). I found it funny during one interview Ace is asked why they decided to go disco. He explains that it’s really only “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” that is “rock disco” and somehow ties this into a statement that disco is dying then three sentences later he says “disco is hot right now”. Of course, Paul steps in as the consummate promoter and says they must have done something right because the song is “number one or number two all around the world”.

The very first clip features the infamous appearance by Gene on The Mike Douglas Show then we get into an “unmasked” interview featuring KISS except they all have their backs turned to the camera. Next up is a round of Dynasty period interviews and then the video jumps to ’91/’92 with what I guess is the British MTV doing an interview with some guy who runs the “KISS Museum” and is a collector and seller of their memorabilia.

The final piece is an interview in England, by the same MTV veejay who interviewed the museum guy, talking to Gene, Paul, Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick. Appears to have taken place shortly after the release of Revenge. It’s an interesting piece notable for when the discussion turns to Eric Carr and after a few somber answers from Gene & Paul, you could visibly see talking about this was getting to them and they told the interviewer it was time to change the subject because they’d rather not dwell on not having Eric and would much rather celebrate the times they did have with him. I’ve read a few negative things over the years knocking Gene & Paul for the way they handled matters while Eric was sick, if there’s ever any proof that these guys truly cared for Eric and it was a tough situation for them as well, this interview is it.

It is during this interview where Paul and Gene state Revenge is heavy and almost like a return to the first album. Paul goes onto say this is KISS being true to themselves and not following trends. Pretty funny when you consider 30 minutes earlier on this video he was defending their “rock disco” album! He also bashes the power ballad craze of the day and likened “Everytime I Look At You” to a Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones ballad that has nothing in common with the pop metal (“pap” as he called it) ballads. Again, this is humorous because KISS did their best to fit into the ’80s pop metal (the very scene their “true” selves inspired)!

This is a solid collection that I’m sure hardcore KISS fans will appreciate. There’s even an interview conducted by Billy Crystal! The sound and picture quality varies, but it’s acceptable for clips that date back to the late ’70s. At one hour and available for less than ten bucks, this really isn’t a bad purchase for those that are huge KISS fans and it is definitely worth a rental at least.

Buy It!
Amazon
CD Universe

BRUCE KULICK – BK3

Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010, Twenty 4 Records/Rocket Science Ventures)

1. “Fate” … 3:31
2. “Ain’t Gonna Die” … 4:11
3. “No Friend Of Mine” … 4:09
4. “Hand of the King” … 4:55
5. “I’ll Survive” … 4:48
6. “Dirty Girl” … 3:59
7. “Final Mile” … 4:14
8. “I’m The Animal” … 4:42
9. “And I Know” … 3:17
10. “Between The Lines” … 3:54
11. “Life” … 4:32

Musicians:
Bruce Kulick – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals (“Ain’t Gonna Die”)
John Corabi – Lead Vocals (“No Friend of Mine”
Nick Simmons – Lead Vocals (“Hand of the King”)
Doug Fieger – Lead Vocals (“Dirty Girl”)
Tobias Sammet – Lead Vocals (“I’m The Animal”)
Steve Lukather – Guitar (“Between The Lines”)
Jeremy Rubolino – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jimmy Haslip – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums (“I’m The Animal”)
Brent Fitz – Drums
Kenny Aronoff – Drums
Cliff Calabro – Backing Vocals

Producer: Jeremy Rubolino with Bruce Kulick

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this release and while I expected it to be a solid effort, I didn’t realize how much I could would to enjoy this album.

Bruce is a vocalist in the style of Ace Frehley and Joe Perry — he’s not the greatest singer, but there’s a lot of charm to his voice and he makes it work. Not that he’s the lone vocalist for BK3. There are a number of lead vocal cameos: Gene Simmons and his son Nick get a song a piece, former Union band mate John Corabi sings, as does Edguy/Avantasia vocalist Tobias Sammet (who was recommended to Bruce by Eric Singer).

Musically, Bruce covers a broad range of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s some modern hard rock, old school hard rock, heavy metal, rock/pop, fast, slow, etc. You’d think this would make for a patchy album, but it doesn’t. Somehow, it all flows together and it’s a bit refreshing to go from the trippy Kulick-sung “I’ll Survive” to the rock pop of “Dirty Girl” sung by The Knack’s Doug Fieger. It keeps things interesting.

The album opens with “Fate”, which is a fast and fun song that throws a bunch of lyrics together that rhyme. Whether there’s a reason to any of this rhyming or not, I always enjoy songs like these. Good way to kick things off and it’s probably the must care-free song on the album.

“Ain’t Gonna Die” is up next with Gene on vocals. It’s an okay song but I have to say I think Nick outdoes his dad when he sings on “Hand of the King”. That’s a great heavy modern rock song and Nick’s voice is deep and powerful, sounding a lot like Gene. Both of these songs sound like they would have fit in well with KISS’ Carnival of Souls album. “Hand of the King” is probably my favorite song on the album but “No Friend of Mine” with John Corabi on vocals gives it a run for its money — another fantastic song with a modern edge.

Anytime I can hear Tobias Sammet, it’s a real treat. One of the best singers in rock today and “I’m The Animal” is  a throwback sounding something like what you might hear on a late ’80s KISS album or even Revenge. Eric Singer plays drums on this one. “Between The Lines” is an instrumental featuring Bruce & Steve Lukather. Very cool stuff with a Joe Satriani vibe.

Overall, this is a VERY cool release that went beyond my expectations. There’s definitely a number of iPod worthy tunes here for me (Where only the elite are playlisted!) and the album as whole has received steady play since it has come into my possession awhile back. I have not heard any of Bruce’s other post-KISS works previous to BK3, but if you were a fan of his work in that group, I think you’ll like this album.

Highlights: “Fate”, “No Friend of Mine”, “Hand of the King”, “I’ll Survive”, “I’m The Animal”, “And I Know”, “Between The Lines”

www.kulick.net
www.myspace.com/brucekulick

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