Author Topic: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation  (Read 60963 times)

nec13

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 2395
  • A gentleman who enjoys trading jabs!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2009, 12:05:07 AM »
Sorry, TRG, only the makeup-era studio and live albums.  I may mix in commentary on those subjects, but only in context.

I _might_ do Killers.




Eh. My idea was stupid anyway.
Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

JonFromMaplewood

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 2372
  • Persona au gratin
    • My Twitter feed
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2009, 12:33:10 AM »
Thankfully, I have never had a relationship with a lady as awful as the Peter Criss solo record, so I won't be taking that tack in my reviews.

For some reason I do not understand to this day, the Peter Criss solo record was the only one of the four that I bought. I liked it as an 8-year-old.  I shudder to think what it would sound like to me now.

I cannot wait for this review, Buffcoat.
"I'm riding the silence like John Cage up in this piece." -Tom Scharpling

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2009, 05:45:03 PM »
Sorry, TRG, only the makeup-era studio and live albums.  I may mix in commentary on those subjects, but only in context.

I _might_ do Killers.




Eh. My idea was stupid anyway.


Don't beat yourself up!  There's enough respect under the Gene Simmons-endorsed KISS tent for everyone!
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2009, 05:46:37 PM »
So, any excitement for Unma..., er, the #2 KISS album of all time, or is everyone bored of this already?










I have a very short attention span, but I can make it to 2 reviews.
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

nec13

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 2395
  • A gentleman who enjoys trading jabs!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2009, 06:15:12 PM »
The anticipation is killing me buffcoat.







Or it might be that salad I ate for lunch.
Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #20 on: May 28, 2009, 10:13:20 PM »
#2 Creatures of the Night


In latter day KISSdom, Creatures of the Night, the last of the consecutive makeup albums, has received a makeover.  Like the first VU album, everyone wants to pretend they were fans of this disc the moment they heard it.

Wrong!  Mostly wrong because they never heard it.  Who expects a band's heaviest record to follow three albums that 1) experimented with disco, 2) experimented with Grease-level pop, and 3) experimented with Andrew Lloyd Webber?  

Nevertheless, Creatures of the Night stands as a monument to KISS' power as a heavy metal band.  Sporting half their original lineup in the studio, and three-quarters on the cover, KISS finally released the return to hard rock that they'd promised for years.

Other reviews note Creatures as the heaviest KISS album since Love Gun.  Admittedly, outrocking "Then She Kissed Me" must have been daunting to Vincent Vincent (nee Cusano), but the new KISS Guitarist and songwriter painted on a pathetic "Ankh Warrior" look and got down to the rocking.  

Vincent's solo work is appalling, and he seems to be quite a weird dude (although he's just another in a long line of people that Paul Stanley let Gene Simmons screw over in the name of KISS).  On Creatures of the Night, he's an exciting guitarist and a solid songwriter.

Eric Carr, the "Fox," steps into his own after fully replacing Peter Criss, even on the cover this time.  Carr brought a much heavier drum sound to the group, and it works here better than it did before or after.  Criss' vocals are missing, as is his Gene Krupa-style "anyone can drum" moxie, but this album clearly needed a thundering sound that Criss couldn't deliver on his most sober days.

Stanley debuts a new songwriting style on the record, one that he would pretty much return to again and again, with decreasing results, through the rest of his career.  Simmons gives one last try to writing songs about ANYTHING but dirty chicks, and he comes through with several of his best songs since the first album.

Most songs on the album are co-written with a variety of songwriters, including Vincent for three songs and, er, Bryan Adams for one.  Once they gave up on the idea that they were Paul and John rather than Paul and Gene, Simmons and Stanley learned that they worked better with others, resulting in more solid songs.

The title track sets the tone for the album.  Entirely lacking in flutes and distant British voices, it must have sounded strange to the 20 people who bought it the week of its release.  It's actually *good,* as well.

On this record, Simmons introduces a stripped down, streetwise writing style.  "Saint and Sinner,"  "Rock and Roll Hell" (which sounds like a song that Bryan Adams might sing if he wore bat makeup) and "Killer" are no more than they claim to be, which is album-oriented hard rock.

Simmons two more famous songs from the record, "I Love it Loud" and "War Machine," showcase the harder edged sound of the group's two new (and younger) members.  Drums are thunderous, and the guitar is aggressive.  The solos don't match Ace Frehley's imagination, but they fit well with the stripped down sound.

Paul Stanley sings three more songs on the record: "Keep Me Comin'" and "Danger" which are aggressive, rock-y numbers, and "I Still Love You," at 6:06 one of the longest ballads of his career.  Unlike later Stanley ballads, though, there's nothing whiny or "look at me" here.  "I Still Love You" is a hard rock song merged with a power ballad.  In more popular (at the time) hands, it might have been a lighter-waving moment for years to come.  But the album's commercial failure doomed most of its songs ("I Love it Loud" being the exception) to KISS' deep cut dustbin.


Up next, what's #3?  And when will this guy feel like writing this much again?
« Last Edit: May 28, 2009, 10:17:17 PM by buffcoat »
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

nec13

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 2395
  • A gentleman who enjoys trading jabs!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2009, 10:27:32 PM »
Great review, buffcoat. It reads like Lester Bangs minus his tendency for excessive pedantry and snark.

I don't know if you've ever read the Sound Opinions Messsage Board, but some posters have actually reviewed entire back catalogs of artists. It's pretty amazing. I don't think that I'd have the time or the patience to embark on something like this.
Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

Trembling Eagle

  • Guest
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2009, 11:58:59 PM »
Do you guys think KISS might have had a slight Doo Wop influence because of where they are from?

nec13

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 2395
  • A gentleman who enjoys trading jabs!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #23 on: May 29, 2009, 03:01:33 AM »
Do you guys think KISS might have had a slight Doo Wop influence because of where they are from?

No. But I do hear the strong influence of money.
Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor.

Wes

  • Achilles Tendon Bursitis
  • *****
  • Posts: 703
  • TROUBLEMAKER
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #24 on: May 29, 2009, 09:37:24 AM »
Vincent's solo work is appalling, and he seems to be quite a weird dude (although he's just another in a long line of people that Paul Stanley let Gene Simmons screw over in the name of KISS).  
Can you expand on this at all? I like to refer to Vinnie Vincent as The Most Evil Member Of KISS, but I can no longer remember why I started doing so. I think it was due to some rockumentary (or, more likely, KISSumentary) where Gene and Paul were doing sit-down interviews about the various independent contractors who have worked for them as part of KISS Co., and when they got to Vincent, they just looked at each other for a few seconds and then mumbled something about him being a problem. They may have also fired Ace three or four times during this segment. My memory is hazy.

Most songs on the album are co-written with a variety of songwriters, including Vincent for three songs and, er, Bryan Adams for one.
I also wonder how that process works, when someone other than Gene or Paul but still employed by the band got a song on the album. Did Ace have to send his songs into the general KISS mailing address just like anybody else on the street and hope it got through Gene's people in the mailroom? Probably, right?

Entirely lacking in flutes and distant British voices, it must have sounded strange to the 20 people who bought it the week of its release.  It's actually *good,* as well.
What? How dare you. You better write at least 15,000 words on Music From "The Elder" to make up for that.

"Rock and Roll Hell" (which sounds like a song that Bryan Adams might sing if he wore bat makeup)
I would have enjoyed his career about forty thousand times more if he'd done that.

Some other random thoughts: What do you make of Eric Carr on the original cover of the album, where they all have the glowing eyes? Does the goofy little smile ruin the mood of the cover and thus the album, or is it just impossible for any KISS drummer - be they Catman, Fox or KISS Chicken - to even pretend to look imposing?

Also, Wikipedia claims that "The first initial pressings of the album featured on one side, John Mellencamp's "American Fool" and the album with one side of "American Fool," is RARE and highly sought after by collectors..." Is this true? If so, you should also review half of American Fool as part of this review, just to be complete.

And whether or not it is, shouldn't KISS and Mellencamp do this again? If Gene ever goes down or sells his half of the business to Paul, Paul should bring in Mellencamp to sing Gene's songs. Mellencamp could nail "Christine Sixteen" I bet. But what would his make-up be? They couldn't have The Catman and The Cougar in the band at the same time.
This may be the year I will disappear.

mcphee from the forum

  • Tarsel tunnel syndrome
  • ****
  • Posts: 261
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #25 on: May 29, 2009, 01:36:28 PM »
good stuff
My mommy made me boots.

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #26 on: May 29, 2009, 03:50:03 PM »
Quick answers to Wes' Questions:


1.  I don't have much of a grasp of VV, except that the VVI album was really, really bad - so he apparently could only write with such lights as Stanley and Simmons.  That Messrs. Witz/Klein and Eisen are not big fans does nothing to disqualify him, though.  

Did you mean that Ace was fired 3 or 4 times during the documentary?  Perhaps as he walked stumbled back and forth through the scene? Because I bet he was fired multiple times in the same day on more than one occasion.

Not to go too far down the path, but those videos are terrible.  Terrible.  So much more soulless than typical softcore porn.  At least the 80s Showtime variety, which is all I know of that genre.


2.   Ace and Peter had five minutes of each session where they could, after abasing themselves, crawl across the floor to Gene...

's personal assistant.  After they uttered the magic phrase, "KISS is Gene (pause) (pause) and Paul," they were allowed to present a copy of their songwriting suggestion, along with a waiver of all rights to the song in perpetuity.


3.   Oh, I'll have some things to say about "Music From 'The Elder.'"*  Don't you worry about that.


4.  Bryan Adams actually wanted to wear full leather and makeup for the "Prince of Thieves" videos, but Kevin Costner, in one of his few wrong career moves, nixed the idea.


5.  Heaven knows how many times Eric Carr was beaten for that half-smile.  They spent years and years remaking that album cover, as their faces drooped and wigs grew, trying to make up for that error.

No KISS drummer was ever masculine.  Even wearing Gene's boots, Eric Carr was only able to get to 5'4".  Peter Criss was already 47 when the band debuted.  And the less said about the blonde one, the better.

Speaking of KISS Chicken:  http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=97176

Quote
The musicians' menu while in Bulgaria consisted of meat and vegetarian dishes. The four KISS members prefer chicken and lamb meat as well as different vegetable soups. They have insisted that their dinner is served in china plates and with silverware.



6.  I meant to mention the "American Fool" debacle.  I actually bought tickets to see John Mellencamp once - Son Volt was opening.  I, uh, didn't stick around for the closing act.

I want to hear "The Cougar" do "Ladies in Waiting" at Farm Aid 2014.



*  Probably sometime in 2012.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2009, 03:51:53 PM by buffcoat »
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

mostlymeat

  • Tarsel tunnel syndrome
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #27 on: May 29, 2009, 04:39:12 PM »
a friend of mine made a mix called "Victims of the Moment" :

Brian and I have combined forces to bring you the latest entry in a continuing series of mixes that attempt to reassess or reveal the hidden greatness of an act whose oeuvre has been beaten and bloodied by the public at large, KISS: Victims of the Moment (1978-82). This mix doesn't spotlight the 1978-82 years as much as it casts a black light over them, revealing glowing neon evidence of unspeakable acts committed in the name of "artistic integrity" and the pursuit of cold hard cash. By '78 KISS were ridin' high on the backs of huge albums like Destroyer, and the Alive! & Alive II releases that showcased the band's gimmick-fueled stage show, while the callused fingers of third world children were being worked to the bone to supply the cheap KISS-themed merchandise that flooded the market. Ready to conquer the world, KISS found themselves either out of ideas or full of bad ones, unleashing in rapid succession a series of albums that jumped from one genre to the next, confounding audiences and keeping cut-out bins well stocked for decades to come. Assembled from the wreckage of this five-year fall, these 21 tracks run the gamut from hard rock killers to disco pop mutants, and whether a hit or buried obscurity, each in it's own way was a Victim of the Moment...

Initial copies will include a limited-edition KISS collectible, guaranteed to appreciate in value over the years - get yours before they're gone!



from Ace Frehley (1978)
1. Rip It Out
2. New York Groove
3. Snowblind
4. Wiped Out


from Paul Stanley (1978)
5. It's Alright


from Gene Simmons (1978)
6. Radioactive


from Dynasty (1979)
7. 2,000 Man
8. I Was Made For Lovin' You
9. Sure Know Something
10. Hard Times


from Unmasked (1980)
11. Shandi
12. Is That You?
13. Naked City
14. Talk To Me


from Music From The Elder (1981)
15. The Oath
16. A World Without Heroes
17. Dark Light


from Killers (1982)
18. I'm A Legend Tonight


from Creatures Of The Night (1982)
19. I Love It Loud
20. Keep Me Comin'
21. Creatures Of The Night

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #28 on: May 29, 2009, 11:43:54 PM »
#3 Alive II


This is a tough call.  Alive II is basically a 3-side live album with a pretty lousy studio side tacked on to fill it up.  Here's the story of the Alive II concert recordings, per Wikipedia:

Quote
Most of the live tracks on Alive II were recorded during the band's August 26-28 residency at the Los Angeles Forum while on the Love Gun tour. The 3:00 PM soundchecks at the August 26 & 27 shows were recorded, and later used on the album (i.e. "Tomorrow And Tonight") with crowd noise being dubbed in later. "Beth" and "I Want You" were lifted from the aborted Japanese live album and used on the finished Alive II.

So once again, a KISS live album really isn't a KISS live album, at least most of the way through.

So what?  It rocks, again.  The songs are better live, again.  Paul Stanley proves himself the best crowd-worker in rock again.  Ace shreds.  Peter croons.  Gene drools blood on the cover.  

Plus, it comes with TATTOOS, man!


Alive II's first three sides are as good a rock show as Alive!, which is saying something.  The album starts with a 1-2 punch off Destroyer - a blistering rendition of "Detroit Rock City" and its followup track "King of the Nighttime World" (ohhhhhhh yayehhhhh I'm the KING of the NIGHTTIME WOOOOOOORLD).  Ace's solo on "Detroit Rock City" is among his best work, and he imbues it with real feeling here.  Peter is gamely thumping along.  You can hear Paul preening through the microphone.

Gene "leads it to the 'Ladies Room'" next.  The faked crowd noise gets a little annoying and, frankly, embarrassing.  But it does capture what it was like to be at a KISS show - in the 1980s, in Australia or Brazil.  

"Makin' Love" and "Love Gun" continue the tradition of being better versions than the studio cuts (as do the later "I Stole Your Love" and "I Want You," the latter featuring an extended call-and-response session courtesy of Stanley).

Side Two features two of Gene's better middle period numbers, "Calling Dr. Love" and "Christine Sixteen" (see Love Gun review for content discussion).  Peter Criss' second major ballad, "Hard Luck Woman," and the somewhat limp "Tomorrow and Tonight" round out the second side.  

But the showpiece of this portion is Frehley's vocal debut "Shock Me," a song based on a real life electrocution he suffered in Lakeland, Florida in 1976.  A word of warning - Frehley absolutely cannot sing.  But his guitar work, and the Paul gem "ACE FRAAALEIGH, LEAD GUI-TAWWW" at the end of the song raise it to show-stopping.

Side three features a treacly "Beth" and, as closer, the follow-up to "Rock N Roll All Nite" known as "Shout it Out Loud."  The best song on side three is the seriously reworked (and improved) "God of Thunder," which actually does sound like a song about a rock god, as opposed to the Destroyer version, which sounds like a pervert yelling at a dwarf.

Side four almost ruins the album.  Again, per Wikipedia:

Quote
Although Ace Frehley was originally credited for lead guitar on the studio tracks, the remastered version released in 1997 confirmed what had been speculated by Kiss fans for years - Bob Kulick actually played lead guitar on three tracks ("All American Man", "Rockin' In The U.S.A." and "Larger Than Life"), not Frehley. Frehley's sole involvement for the studio songs was to handle all guitars and bass guitar for "Rocket Ride." Paul Stanley played all guitars on "Any Way You Want It" which was originally recorded by the Dave Clark Five in 1965.


Seriously, the Dave Clark Five?  "All American Man" and "Rockin' in the U.S.A." are typical Paul and Gene fillers.  Not terrible, not great.  The highlight is Frehley's "Rocket Ride," which may or may not feature any other members of KISS.  It does feature co-writing by Sean Delaney, the carnie-roadie-driver-choreographer known as the fifth member of KISS.  

Alive II side four is probably where what was going wrong started to eclipse what was going right.  But it's a good record up to that point.


Next up, #4 - it's taken this long to get to a 70s studio album?


« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 10:32:13 PM by buffcoat »
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

buffcoat

  • Space Champion!
  • ******
  • Posts: 6097
  • I don't give a rip!
Re: KISS: An Album-by-Album Critical Reevaluation
« Reply #29 on: May 29, 2009, 11:52:53 PM »
Also:

Quote
In November 1972, the trio played a showcase for Epic Records A&R director Don Ellis, in an effort to secure a record deal. Although the performance went well, Ellis hated the group's image and music. On top of that, as he was leaving, he was vomited on by Criss's brother.
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!