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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”

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 – 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)

KISS – Krazy Killer DVD

KISS – Krazy Killer (2006, MVD)

Being the KISS fanatic that I am, I was aware of this DVD’s existence for quite some time but you couldn’t pay me to sit down and watch some extremely low-budget unauthorized disc such as this. Well… Times change and no, no one paid me to watch this but I’m also a Netflix fanatic and they just happened to have this available to stream to my TV. It was a slow night so I figured I would go ahead and see what this was all about. So while I like to review only what I own, for some reason, I’m making an exception for music-related DVDs. Netflix has more than a few releases I’d like to rent but have no interest in buying, so look for more of these reviews in the future and I’ll be sure to note whether I actually own it or not.

After all, the DVD description sure does make things sound exciting what with Gene & Paul storming at 1994 KISS Konvention and taking back their own merchandise. They should’ve given this release the tagline of “They took the law into their owns hands.” Sounds like a good tag line for some ’80s direct-to-video action movie, doesn’t it? In fact, I’m fairly certain that’s where I stole it from. Krazy Killer also sounds like some weirdo ’80s direct-to-video movie but I’m thinking that it would be more of a slasher film.

Anyway, at worst I figured I would have wasted a few minutes of my quiet night and turned the DVD off promptly as the first signed of complete boredom. But I kept watching… and watching… and watching. You know? Because this much ballyhooed “Konvention” raid doesn’t even take place until about an hour into this ninety-minute DVD. So what’s eating up so much time on Krazy Killer?

An uncut interview with the band circa 1982/1983. Apparently the interview was being conducted for USA Network’s “Night Flight” late night program. I don’t remember that show at all but I do remember its successor “Up All Night” hosted by Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear. No doubt, this nearly one hour interview was probably clipped down to a few soundbites for a 3 minute segment when all was said and done.

Read the rest of this entry

KISS – Nashville 1984

KISS – Nashville 1984 (CDR bootleg)
Recorded: January 11, 1984 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, TN

Disc 1
1. “Creatures Of The Night” … 4:19
2. “Detroit Rock City” … 4:05
3. “Cold Gin” … 5:34
4. “Fits Like A Glove” … 4:35
5. “Firehouse” … 4:03
6. Paul Stanley Guitar Solo … 1:00
7. “Gimme More” … 3:44
8. Vinnie Vincent Guitar Solo … 5:12
9. “War Machine” … 4:06
10. Gene Simmons Bass Solo … 4:30
11. “I Love It Loud” … 3:15

Disc 2
1. “I Still Love You” … 5:44
2. Eric Carr Drum Solo … 6:35
3. “Young And Wasted” … 4:44
4. “Love Gun” … 3:55
5. “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” … 5:20
6. “Black Diamond” … 7:11
7. “Lick It Up” … 6:15
8. “Rock And Roll All Nite” … 7:37

Band:
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Vinnie Vincent – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eric Carr – Drums, Backing Vocals

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of live albums. If I want to hear a band warts and all, I’ll go see them in concert. When it comes to listening to them at home or in my car, give me the perfected and produced version of their songs. Besides, 99% of all live albums usually fall somewhere in between live and studio making them completely obsolete.

That said, for my most favorite bands, I’ll sometimes check out the myriad of bootleg sites out there just to see what’s available. The seldom times I’ll download a bootleg, my main goal is to hear songs that these bands will never play live again. Plus with bootlegs… It really is love! No overdubs, no touch ups! Straight from some sneaky fan to the rest of us!

This brings me to this KISS bootleg called simply called Nashville 1984 but was apparently recorded for the old King Biscuit radio show. It finds the band in fine form with a set list dominated by then-recent Creatures of the Night and Lick It Up albums– two of KISS’ best. Coupled with the fact that Vinnie Vincent is on guitar, this was a must have for me. According to the site I found this this at, this bootleg is straight from the soundboard. I’m no audio expert, but that sounds about right me. Really good quality here.

The band is absolutely on fire for this show and full of energy. The Stanley/Simmons/Vincent/Carr line-up is probably the best the band ever had in terms of power, abilities and songwriting. Paul’s voice sounds great and near identical to what he was putting on the albums at the time. Definitely a far cry from how he sounds today. Gene sounds a bit off on this show though.

It’s really great to hear so many Lick It Up songs (five) and Creatures of the Night songs (four). This whole era was incredibly underrated. One thing that I find hilarious is that KISS plays all of their ’70s material at a quicker tempo. I’ve read they did that throughout the entire decade. I guess they felt they needed to compete with the heavy, speedier bands of the day. It’s a bit silly but what makes things even sillier is the new stuff is played faster too! Why didn’t they just record it the same way? For the record, the original tempos found on the albums are better than what they play live for both songs new and old.

Another quirky thing about this show is Paul’s over-the-top stage rap shtick. With New Year’s Eve only a few days behind them, the intro to “Cold Gin” is an odd one with Paul bragging about how drunk (“fucked up”) he got that night. Really, Paul? Did you really down 12 shots of tequila in ten seconds that night? Given Gene & Paul’s disdain for alcohol, I have to believe this was just Paul trying to have some type of bad boy image to compete with other ’80s metal acts. By the way, does anyone else think it’s weird that Gene sings a song (still to this day) praising alcohol?

Then for the rap right before “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, Paul’s delivery of “there are some hot lookin’ girls here tonight!” cracks me up.

All in all, this is a classic live performance. Really makes you wish Gene & Paul would rethink their self-imposed setlist “obligations” of playing a show dominated by their 1970s material.

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VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – All Systems Go

Vinnie Vincent Invasion – All Systems Go (2003, Capitol Records)
Original Release: 1988, Chrysalis Records

1. “Ashes to Ashes” … 5:05
2. “Dirty Rhythm” … 3:38
3. “Love Kills” … 5:36
4. “Naughty, Naughty” … 3:30
5. “Burn” … 4:38
6. “Star Spangled Banner” … 5:31
7. “Let Freedom Rock” … 4:44
8. “That Time of Year” … 4:11
9. “Heavy Pettin'” … 4:38
10. “Ecstasy” … 3:56
11. “Deeper and Deeper” … 4:02
12. “Breakout” … 2:01
13. “The Meltdown” … 2:01
14. “‘Ya Know – I’m Pretty Shot” … 4:07

Band:
Mark Slaughter – Vocals
Vinnie Vincent – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dana Strum – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bobby Rock – Drums

Producer: Vinnie Vincent

The original VVI album was decent. There were spurts of creativity, but Vinnie failed to check his ego at the door and rein in his own guitar playing. He was playing for himself and not for the songs. With this album, he does a bit of a better job, though there is still some directionless noodling to be heard.

There is one vast improvement on this album though: the original singer Robert Fleischman is out and Mark Slaughter is in. Nothing against Fleischman, but Slaughter is a much better vocalist for an over the top glam metal band like this one. Fleischman’s voice is best suited for the AOR/melodic rock genre, which is where his roots are, having briefly sung for Journey. This band needed a squealer to match the squealing of Vinnie’s guitars and they that found that singer with Mark Slaughter.

The bottom line for this album is that if you love glam & hair metal, this is one of the essentials because it embodies the good and bad of those genres to the fullest. Of course, the band would split up not too long after this album and Dana Strum & Mark Slaughter went off to form the band Slaughter, which was even more successful than VVI.

As for Vinnie himself, barely a peep has been heard from the man in the last 20 years (outside of a lawsuit here or there and some co-writing for KISS’ Revenge album). The planned follow up to this album was Guitars From Hell (which, in demo bootleg form, is floating around) but it was canned by the record company. He did manage to squeeze out an EP called Euphoria in 1996 as a teaser to another album tentatively called Guitarmageddon, but that never arrived either for whatever reason. I guess he’s done with music, which is a true shame, because he’s extremely talented. Maybe he should form a new band with Ace, Bruce and Peter.

“The Meltdown” and “Ya Know – I’m Pretty Shot” are both instrumentals that were exclusive bonus tracks for the CD version.

Highlights: “Ashes to Ashes”, “Dirty Rhythm”, “Love Kills”, “Naughty Naughty”, “Burn”, “That Time of Year”, “Heavy Pettin'”

KISS – Lick It Up

KISS – Lick It Up [Remastered] (1997, Mercury Records)

Original Release: 1983, Mercury Records

1. “Exciter” … 4:11
2. “Not For The Innocent” … 4:23
3. “Lick It Up” … 3:56
4. “Young And Wasted” … 4:06
5. “Gimme More” … 3:44
6. “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” … 4:34
7. “Million To One” … 4:10
8. “Fits Like A Glove” … 4:04
9. “Dance All Over Your Face” … 4:16
10. “And On The 8th Day” … 4:03

Band:
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Vinnie Vincent – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eric Carr – Drums, Backing Vocals

Produced by: Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons

One of my absolute favorite KISS albums and it had a lot to do with Vinnie Vincent co-writing most of the album. Despite the struggle for power between Vincent and Simmons/Stanley, they made for a great musical force.

KISS in the 80s is extremely underrated, even by Gene & Paul themselves, but Lick It Up was the second punch in a great two-hit hard rock combo (1982’s Creatures of the Night is a definite Top 5 KISS album). Every song is full of bravado and great 80s metal. Despite starting the 80s with a solid, but very non-KISS album (Music From ‘The Elder’), the band was roaring by this point, full of the sex and sleaze they were known for in the 70s, but now with a more polished, faster and heavier sound. “Lick It Up” is the only non-make up song to have survived through the 80s and the reunion to still be played today.

It’s also a remarkable album in that it’s the very first without Ace Frehley (well, the first where he wasn’t credited as being a band member) and the first non-make up release. A must have for KISS fans and should convert those who like to bash anything done without the make up.

Highlights: “Exciter”, “Not For The Innocent”, “Lick It Up”, “Young and Wasted”, “Gimme More”, “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, “Million to One”, “Fits Like A Glove”

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VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – Vinnie Vincent Invasion

Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (2003, Capitol Records)
Original Release: 1986, Chrysalis Records

Track List:
1. “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” … 4:54
2. “Shoot U Full of Love” … 4:44
3. “No Substitute” … 3:52
4. “Animal” … 5:33
5. “Twisted” … 4:49
6. “Do You Wanna Make Love” … 3:23
7. “Back on the Streets” … 4:50
8. “I Wanna Be Your Victim” … 4:36
9. “Baby-O” … 3:43
10. “Invasion” … 7:50

Band:
Robert Fleischman – Vocals
Vinnie Vincent – Guitars, Vocals
Dana Strum – Bass; Backing Vocals
Bobby Rock – Drums

Produced by: Vinnie Vincent and Dana Strum

I’ve got a lot of respect for Vinnie Vincent. He wrote and/or played on some of the better non-makeup KISS songs. His personality didn’t mix too well with Gene & Paul and according to Gene he was fired for being “unethical”. In my own opinion, I think it probably had more to do with a struggle for power and control over songwriting, but then again, that could possibly cut Gene out of more than his fair share, so I guess to him losing money is unethical!

So how does the co-writer of KISS classics such as “Unholy”, “I Still Love You”, “I Love It Loud” and “Lick It Up” fare on his own? Well, it’s pretty generic 80s melodic hard rock/heavy metal with your generic nasally melodic rock singer. I guess Gene & Paul were right to cut Vinnie off during the middle of live solos and to edit the solos he recorded for the KISS albums because the guy is kinda all over the place. There’s just so much senseless noodling that it actually distracts and takes away from the songs. The talent Vinnie possessed cannot be denied, but maybe he really did need someone like Mr. Simmons or Mr. Stanley to rein him in.

Most of the album is very slick and polished and while you can say the same for the songs he wrote with KISS, there was still a bit of edge to those songs that I’m not hearing here. The song that stands out the most to me is “Back on the Streets”, but I prefer Europe singer John Norum’s 1987 cover version.

The band itself is pretty interesting: Ex-Journey singer Robert Fleischman (never released an album with ’em though), Dana Strum (would would later co-found Slaughter) and Bobby Rock (later joined Nitro)

Highlights: “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”, “Shoot You Full of Love”, “Animal”, “Back on the Streets”, “Baby-O”, “Invasion”

KISS – Creatures of the Night

KISS – Creatures of the Night [Remastered] (1997, Mercury Records/Casablanca Records)
Original Release: (1982, Casablanca Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Creatures of the Night” … 4:02
2. “Saint and Sinner” … 4:49
3. “Keep Me Comin'” … 3:55
4. “Rock and Roll Hell” … 4:12
5. “Danger” … 3:56
6. “I Love It Loud” … 4:15
7. “I Still Love You” … 6:06
8. “Killer” … 3:19
9. “War Machine” … 4:13

Band:
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar (“War Machine”)
Ace Frehley – Guitar (credited, but did not play)
Eric Carr – Drums, Bass (“I Still Love You”)

(Uncredited) Additional Musicians:
Vinnie Vincent – Guitar (“Saint and Sinner”, “Keep Me Comin'”, “Killer”, “War Machine”), Backing Vocals
Bob Kulick – Guitar (“Danger”)
Robben Ford – Guitar (“Rock and Roll Hell” and “I Still Love You”)
Adam Mitchell – Guitar (“Creatures of the Night”)
Steve Farris – Guitar (“Creatures of the Night”)
Jimmy Haslip – Bass (“Danger”)

Produced by: Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons

One of my favorite KISS albums found the band playing at their heaviest. This is not hard rock, this is not glam rock, this is pure heavy metal, as far as I’m concerned. The album opens strong with “Creatures of the Night” and only takes a breather for KISS’ best power ballad, “I Still Love You”.

The music is loud and fast and I don’t think Paul’s voice had ever sounded better than it does on this album. “Keep Me Comin'” and “I Still Love You” are fantastic vocal performances by the Starchild.

I don’t think KISS has ever turned in a “bad” album, but they did at times suffer from filler. There is no filler here. Every song is like a punch in the face and as much as I love the band’s pop-metal direction for the rest of the 80s, I would’ve loved to have seen this heavier sound continue as well.

Highlights: Everything

www.kissonline.com

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