The Unofficial KISS Kommunity On Lunch You Wanted The Best, You Got The KISS Kommunity! <![CDATA[ "Calling Dr. Love" In Style]]>
The last time I ventured into Hot Topic, I picked up a Black Sabbath tee and a wonderful KISS tee featuring an alternate version of the Rock And Roll Over album cover.  It is a  black tee with a red and grey rendering of the iconic "four heads" that were painted on the album's original cover by artist Michael Doret.  Doret's version features a lot more color than this tee does, but the shirt version is still very cool.

I'll include a photo of the album cover and the shirt for comparison below.  If you're a fan of KISS, especially classic KISS and songs like Calling Dr. Love and Hard Luck Woman (both of which are featured on Rock And Roll Over), I highly recommend getting this tee.]]> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 16:18:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Solo Buttons]]> Ace Frehley, were confused by Peter Criss, got what they expected with Paul Stanley, and found Gene Simmons to be the most eclectic. 

I myself enjoy all four of them for different reasons, but all of the members of the KISS Army agree on one thing:  The cover art was awesome!  Eraldo Carugati painted all four of the covers and to this day, his work shows up on everything from t-shirts to mugs and, yes, even buttons.

Since I've been going to science fiction and comic conventions, one of my cheapest hobbies has become collecting buttons.  I already have a substantial amount of them although I've only been collecting them for roughly four years.  My collection includes everything from Doctor Who characters to Batman and The Flash.  I also have a few custom buttons including one of Ace Frehley and another featuring Darth Maul.

I found this pack of four KISS album cover buttons at a local hobby shop.  I had to get them.  They are very simple, featuring nothing but the album artwork for each individual project, but they are wonderful. 

I do not display my buttons, keeping them safely tucked away in a keepcase, except for when I attend a comic convention.  I grab a handful of them and wear them on my camera's case strap.  They receive a lot of attention and I fully intend to wear the Peter Criss button in the fall when I get to meet the original Cat himself at Mad Monster Party in New Orleans!]]> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:48:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ The "Eyes" Have It!]]> Creatures Of The Night emblazoned below their faces and the almighty KISS logo above their heads. 

I had finally found a tee with one of my favorite KISS album's cover on it.  Yes, I've seen them on the web many times, but I'm always leary of purchasing clothes online due to the fact that I'm not the most slender of fellows. 

I tried on the shirt and then immediately bought it.  When I went home to show off my prize to my wife, she looked at me with a slightly-disgusted-but-not-at-all-surprised look on her face.  It was the same look I've seen many people give their cats after said feline holds up the bird they just killed in their mouth as if to say, "Look, I did this for you.  Aren't you proud?"

If you're a KISS fan, get this shirt.  The lettering is in bright pink and the photo is exactly like the album cover.  It's a great shirt featuring, at least in my opinion, one of KISS' coolest album covers.

Get it!!!]]> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 17:22:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Back From The Dead And Better Than Ever!]]> KISS has made teasing and tempting their fans a rather annoying habit over the last couple of years.  Their current album, Monster, was rumored about and dangled in front of fans for over two years before the band finally released it.  I'm happy to say that it is one of their best albums in my opinion and was well worth the wait.

Also hinted at for quite some time was a re-release of KISS' epic Destroyer album that is quite possibly their best known album outside of Alive.  It had already been remixed once before whenever KISS had all of their all of their studio albums pre-Hot In The Shade back in the 1990's (most likely to cash in on the reunion tour I'm betting), but the band was promising bigger things with the new remix.

As expected, rumors floated around about the album's cover, the track listing, the release date, the producer, potential extras included with the album, etc. for months.  Here is what eventually happened:  The album's original and rejected cover art by Ken Kelly was placed on the album.  The track listing wasn't tampered with, excepting the addition of one track at the end of the album that I'll mention later.  The release date was finally pinned down to August 21, 2012.  Bob Ezrin, the producer of the original album, helmed the remix.  Extras were slim and a bit disappointing.  They varied depending on where you purchased the album.  Wal-Mart offered a photo book with the CD, but I skipped on it and went with the standard edition instead.  Best Buy supposedly offered a couple of extra tracks, but I never investigated it to find out if it were true.  In short, the only definite extras everyone got were great liner notes from Ezrin, some unreleased photos, and the track Sweet Pain with Ace Frehley's original guitar intro placed at the end of the album.  Dick Wagner provided the intro in the 1976 version of the song which is still on this album and bookended by Flaming Youth and Shout It Out Loud.

When I popped the album into my CD player, I honestly wasn't expecting much of a difference between the 2012 version or the 1990's version.  I have to admit that I was very surprised by what I actually heard. 

The album is crystal clear.  Ezrin went through and cleaned up all sorts of things on the album.  The two players that benefit most from this remix are Gene Simmons and Peter Criss.  Criss' drums are crisp, pounding, and a tad louder.  Simmons' bass sounds a lot cleaner.  While these changes are noticeable, neither of them are overbearing or annoying.  Ezrin also cleaned up Frehley's work on the album, most notably in Detroit Rock City.  There are parts of Frehley's performance in that song that I had never heard before.  It wasn't until after I listened to the old version of the song a bit closer that I noticed that Ezrin had not added some of the guitar work, but enhanced it instead.  He also added minor flourishes here and there on the album, but they won't be noticed by casual KISS fans at all.  There's an additional vocal of "Get up, get down" during Detroit Rock City, as well as an added, "AhhhAhhh" during Beth.  It's the exact same "AhhhAhhh" that Peter Criss ends the song with, but it adds a nice touch during the song.

Speaking of Beth, Ezrin manages to take KISS' most successful single and actually makes it sound better!  The acoustic guitar (played by Dave Wagner) pops almost immediately and stands out from the orchestra that everyone knows and loves from the song.  Beth becomes even more unique with this remix, and I love it.  Flaming Youth's calliope also gets the "popping" treatment, as it also stands out against the barrage of guitars in that track.

As a whole, Ezrin has made Destroyer sound better.  His minor alterations are, for the most part, lost on casual fans, but hardcore members of the KISS Army will pick up on the changes immediately.  They will also notice a minor glitch in one of the tracks (and I'm not going to say which tune it is, so if you're not a KISS fan, google it) that has supposedly been corrected in new pressings of the album.

Should you rush out and buy Destroyer Resurrected?  If you're a KISS fan like me, you probably already have.  I bought it on its release date (and got angry every time they changed the release date).  I only waited this long to review it because I've been brutally slow with reviews for over a year now.  If you aren't a major KISS fan and already own an older version of the album, skip it.  The changes aren't monumental enough for a casual fan to recognize or appreciate.  However, if you've just discovered KISS or ever wanted to know what all the hoopla is about, pick up Destroyer Resurrected

P.S.  I've included photos of both the rejected Resurrected cover and the album's cover from 1976 so you can see the differences.

]]> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 16:46:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Tip Back The Head And "Lick It Up!"]]>
While almost all of the product descriptions I've read for this set say that it features the likenesses of the original lineup, in my opinion (and I'm looking straight at the dispensers as I'm typing this) the four dispensers feature the likenesses of the band's current lineup of Gene Simmons (the Demon), Paul Stanley (the Starchild), Eric Singer (the Catman), and Tommy Thayer (the Spaceman). Singer's face is a tad pudgy looking in the sculpt, and the Spaceman looks a lot more like Thayer instead of Frehley in my opinion, so if you're an Ace Frehley or Peter Criss fan, you might want to skip out on this set (or at least give it a good once over before purchasing).

Otherwise the set comes in a very nice tin that features the KISS logo, a photo of the band (again, the current lineup) on the back, and KISS artwork all over the rest of the tin. It also comes with six packs of PEZ candy.

Hardcore KISS fans will snap this up like hotcakes, and I'm sure a few hardcore PEZ collectors will want this set as well. It suits loyal fans of both the band and the candy dispensers. I've only purchased one so far, but a part of me wants to tear the tin open and put the PEZ dispensers to good use. I'll probably end up buying a second set to use.

For my fellow KISS fans, pick this up! For PEZ fans, I'll let you decide on your own.]]> Wed, 7 Nov 2012 22:50:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ Unleashing The Beast!]]> I've been a huge KISS fan for quite a few years now, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I've been eagerly waiting for the release of Monster.  After the release of Sonic Boom (which I waited over a decade for) and the highly successful world tour in support of it, KISS announced that they would be releasing their next album some time in late 2011 (November if memory serves me correctly).  When I heard this news, I became ecstatic.

KISS would leak tidbits of information about the writing and recording process (which baited fans even more) but as November drew near, the band became somewhat quiet.  Soon enough, they announced that there new album wouldn't hit shelves until February of 2012.  "Okay," I thought, "it's just a few more months."  As February drew closer, however, KISS announced the date would be "sometime in the spring."  I became discouraged and even a tad angry.  I wanted something new from the band.

Finally, KISS announced the release date of October 9 here in the good ol' U.S. of A.  They released the first single, Hell Or Hallelujah in July and the media onslaught began.  Just a few months before the release of the single, KISS released info on their Monster book and also leaked out pictures for what would eventually be known as the album's photoshoot.  They also toured with Motley Crue (which I took in at The Woodlands, TX).

Finally, October 9 arrived and I picked up my copy of the album.  I can honestly say that it is the first album from KISS that immediately grabbed me.  Despite being a loyal soldier in the KISS Army, it has always taken me at least a few months (or in the case of Music From The Elder, years) to warm up to each KISS album.  Monster chewed me up and spit me out from the first time I heard Hell Or Hallelujah

The lead single opens the album with an assault on the ears.  It beats the listener down and sets them up for the pounding Wall Of Sound.  The track (as well as the entire album) is string heavy, and Gene Simmons' thudding and plodding bass hits you hard.  Following Wall Of Sound is the Paul Stanley fronted Freak.  It's one of my favorite tunes on the album, an anthemic track for weirdos and outsiders like myself.

Back To The Stone Age finds Gene on the mic once again and Eric Singers pounding drums really drive this tune.  It's quickly followed up by Long Way Down and Shout Mercy, two steady rockers that kept my fists in the air.

It's after these three rockers that KISS does something that threw me for a loop at first.  Eat Your Heart Out opens with the band singing acapella.  The complete lack of instruments after six loud, screaming, and electrified tracks is a bit of a shock, but somehow it works extremely well, as Eat Your Heart Out uses its humble opening to set you up for a slap in the face from the Demon!  It's one of the best tracks on the album, and its unique opening sets it apart from the rest of the tracks on the album.

Next up is another Gene tune, The Devil Is Me.  Much like Wall Of Sound, it consistently dashes listeners on the rocks.  It's followed by the Tommy Thayer fronted Outta This World.  Despite the title referencing the old Space Ace moniker originally worn by Ace Frehley, Thayer makes this track all about him.  It does remind me a bit of Lightning Strikes from Sonic Boom, but I think that is primarily due to Thayer's voice.

Following the Space Man's tune is the track that I personally believe is the best on the entire album.  Gene and Paul might not like me saying this, but Eric Singer's All For The Love Rock & Roll is brilliant.  It manages to harness the soul of classic KISS tracks that were inspired by bands from the 50's and 60's.  It's a metallized version of boogie soul, if that makes any sense.  It's not the hardest track on the album, but it is definitely my favorite.

Take Me Down Below is next, and it finds Gene and Paul swapping lead vocals.  It's a token dirty track from the band, but it sounds new and fresh.

Last Chance tops it all off with a fast and steady rock beat, and draws KISS' best album (in my opinion) since Revenge to a close.

Overall, the main points I feel should be highlighted about this album is the fact that it's a rock n' roll record and nothing else.  KISS didn't try to make it the next Destroyer or go off an an experimental tangent as they did with Music From The Elder.  There are no slow songs, power ballads, or overly complicated tracks as the band did on many of their albums (particularly during the 80's).  Nope, there's nothing but a beatdown waiting for the listener here.

Also, Gene's vocals are amazing on this album!  I've always believed that he had the best voice in the band over the years, despite not having the range of Paul Stanley.  He melds his voice to the "wall of sound" created by the instruments and doesn't sound like he's forcing anything.  Stanley does an excellent job as well, but I believe his best work came from putting this album together and producing it with Greg Collins.  While Gene might be the branding god of the group, Paul is the heart of the band, and his use of old fashioned analog recording equipment made the album sound ten times better than any polished digital music cranked out by today's bands.  Eric Singer established himself as KISS' drummer many moons ago, so it's no surprise that he handles his duties perfectly on Monster.  I really do wish he would get more lead vocal opportunities, though, as I believe he has a great voice.

I'm going to single out Tommy Thayer in his own paragraph here.  Why?  Because with Monster, Thayer is finally given breathing room to play in his own style.  He was made to mimic Ace Frehley's style of playing on Sonic Boom to a degree and has often been criticized for being nothing more than a Frehley clone.  Those arguments should be null and void with the release of this album.  Thayer's chops are awesome on this album, and I found no "cloning" of the Space Ace in Thayer's work on this album.  He contributed writing to nine of the albums tracks, and it's very noticeable.

Monster is a grinding, fierce album that lets everybody know that despite knocking hard on the door of their fourth decade of rock and roll, KISS has no plans to stop any time soon. 

This Monster is a beast!


]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2012 14:40:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ An Album Best Served Cold...]]>
The brutal "Unholy" opens the album, and it tells the listener that the Demon is back, and the lost soul that was Gene Simmons in the 80's was long gone. It sets the bar high for the rest of the album, and for the most part "Revenge" manages to hit that bar with success.

Two Paul Stanley tracks follow "Unholy," bringing a bit more of his signature pop sound back to the album, particularly with "Take It Off." "Tough Love," while a bit harder, is also pop-tinged.

The next tune shows us that the evil side of the Demon also brought the raunchy side with it. "Spit" talks of the virtues of plus-sized lovers and how "what you are is what you eat." It's pretty disgusting, even by KISS' standards, but it works perfectly on this album.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons swap lead vocals on the next track, a cover of an old Argent track that KISS entitled "God Gave Rock N' Roll To You I." The song was originally featured on the soundtrack to "Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey" and proved to be very popular. I've personally heard it played live, and it sounds great. The track is one of if not the first tune recorded by KISS with Eric Carr's replacement, Eric Singer. Carr provided backing vocals, but was too sick to actually play on the track.

After the cover tune comes another one of the Demon's raunchy tunes, a bluesy track entitled "Domino." I personally prefer the acoustic version featured on "MTV Unplugged," but this version is very good as well.

After that comes "Heart of Chrome" and "Thou Shalt Not." While there is nothing particularly bad about these tunes, I have never felt that they were stand out tracks, especially on an album like "Revenge." In my opinion, they weigh the album down and sound too generic.

The next track is the Stanley penned and performed "Every Time I Look At You." It's a ballad that is a bit more restrained than the full-on glam ballad "Forever" from KISS' previous album, "Hot In The Shade." It was released as a single but failed to match the success of "Forever" despite being a solid track in my opinion.

When the ballad comes to a close, "Paralyzed" hits the listener with more mediocre hard rock similar to that of "Heart of Chrome" and "Thou Shalt Not." It's not bad, but nothing stands out about this track. In fact, I'd say it's the weakest track on the entire album.

"I've go a body built for sin and an appetite for passion" opens up the next tune, "I Just Wanna," which gives us a perfect blend of Paul Stanley's songwriting from the 70's and his power pop sound developed during the 80's. It's a dirty track that reminded me a lot of "Read My Body" from "Hot In The Shade" and "Love Gun" from the album of the same name. It's a fun, silly, nasty tune that was a token of KISS during the 80's. It's the perfect counter-tune to "Unholy."

The album closes with "Carr Jam 1981." It's an instrumental demo that Eric Carr recorded along with Ace Frehley not long after he became the band's drummer. It's also a source of controversy for fans of the band. Why? Because Frehley's guitar tracks are replaced with Bruce Kulick's work, and many fans saw that as a snub towards Frehley and Carr as well. Carr was a brilliant drummer, and his death was a huge blow to fans of KISS. Despite replacing the much loved Peter Criss, Carr went out of his way to make himself accessible to fans, often staying much longer than the rest of his bandmates to sign autographs and take photos. Couple the appreciation of Carr with the devotion to Frehley from many fans, and "Carr Jam 1981" became a sour spot on the album for many. Personally, I enjoy the Carr/Kulick dubbed version, but it would have been very cool of KISS to have let Frehley's original work remain on the track.

Overall, "Revenge" was the heaviest and best album put out by KISS in the 1990's. That's not saying much considering the fact that the only competition was "Carnival of Souls" and "Psycho Circus," but when stacked up against the group's legendary works like "Destroyer" and "Love Gun," "Revenge" can hold its own.

Recommended.]]> Fri, 14 Sep 2012 20:05:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ KISS and The Treatment Bring Their "A" Game]]>, or on Facebook or any number of other social arenas, knows that I am a huge KISS fan.  What some of my newer friends and acquaintances might not know is that when I was younger, I was an even bigger Motley Crue fan.  I used to smuggle their albums like Shout At The Devil and Girls, Girls, Girls into my bedroom so that my parents wouldn't catch me listening to the Crue's music.  They were raunchy, had album artwork and imagery that referenced Satan (although they are anything but Satanists), and sang songs about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll.  Needless to say that I was forbidden to see them in concert when they made it to a city within driving distance of my home.

Whenever KISS and Motley Crue announced earlier this year that they would be touring together for the first time since the Crue opened for KISS way back in the early 80's, I was ecstatic.  Two of my favorite bands (both being by favorite and different points in my life) were combining forces to put on a spectacle that I was sure would blow me and every other fan of KISS or the Crue out of the water.  As soon as tickets went on sale, I secured two seats and prepared myself for the ultimate concert for a guy like myself.

When August 3rd finally rolled around, I drove to the north Houston suburb of The Woodlands with a friend and we headed to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion with our tickets in hand.  Once we arrived, we hung out briefly in front of the venue until the House of Blues Courtesy Tent opened up.  Entrance into this tent gave you partial access to the show (the gates were still locked), but more importantly, the tent served ice cold drinks and grub until the gates opened.  All of this was in a climate-controlled tent that was much nicer than standing out in the 90+ degree heat of east Texas.

Once the gates opened, I headed for the merchandise tent and grabbed a KISS t-shirt.  Then myself and my friend headed for our seats and waited for the first band, a young glam metal act from the United Kingdom called The Treatment, to take the stage.  I knew nothing of these guys except that they were from the UK, but when they started playing, I immediately became a fan.  They opened their show with Drink, F*ck, Fight, which is about as self-explanatory as you can get.  From there they played hard rock and glam-infused tracks like Shake The Mountain and The Doctor.  I would rate their set as 4/5 stars.

After their set, which ran a little over thirty minutes, the crowd was pumped up.  The band headed to the merchandise area and took photos, talked to fans, and signed autographs.  I managed to get a photo with the lead singer and the rhythm guitarist.  Both of these guys were really cool and I hope that the band eventually hits the big time.  If you enjoy hair metal circa 1986, you'll love The Treatment.

After getting the quick photo, myself and my friend headed back to our seats and awaited the first of my heroes that I would be seeing that evening:  Motley Crue.  A large clock counted down to their set, and when it was time for them to take the stage, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, and Tommy Lee literally paraded out through the crowd just five rows away from me.  I was excited beyond belief.  Mick Mars met them on the stage and the headed straight into Saints of Los Angeles.  It was at this moment that I noticed a couple of things about the Crue.  Firstly, Mick Mars was on fire on the guitar and secondly, Vince Neil was apparently only capable of singing (more like mumbling) the first few lines of each verse and then promptly turned the microphone to the crowd to finish the lyrics.  Mars, Sixx, and Lee were outstanding.  They entertained the crowd, played out their hearts, and had fun on the stage while tearing throug tracks like Live Wire, Dr. Feelgood, Home Sweet Home, and Kickstart My Heart.  They also performed the title track from their new album Sex.

The stage show featured ribbon dancers, scantily clad backup singers (who did a better job than Vince Neil), a flamethrowing bass, and Tommy Lee's rollercoaster drumkit.  It was quite a spectacle to see, but I was a bit let down by Vince Neil in the end.  The show lasted about ninety minutes.  I give Sixx, Lee, and Mars 5/5 stars and Neil 2/5.

Then it was time for my current heroes to take the stage.  I was already aware of the fact that their set was chopped in half due to the fact that it was a co-headliner tour, but I knew that KISS would give 100% in their show. 

The black "KISS" curtain draped the stage and the crowd went nuts.  They chanted and cheered until that world famous line was uttered:  "Houston, you wanted the best and you got the best, the hottest band in the world....KISSSSSSS!"  The curtain fell, the stage exploded and the Demon, the Starchild, the Spaceman, and the Cat pounded out Detroit Rock City for their fans.  They went on to play classics like Love Gun, Lick It Up, Shout It Out Loud, Firehouse, Cold Gin, Shock Me, and I Love It Loud.  They also squeezed in Hell Or Hallelujah from their upcoming album Monster and gave the crowd a treat when they played War Machine from Creatures of the Night

The shortened setlist and time constraints meant less banter with the crowd, but Paul Stanley managed to get in a few good lines for the KISS Army in attendance.  Paul's voice held up quite well, despite having recently had throat surgery.  Musically, the band was tighter and louder than Motley Crue, but there were a couple of miscues during the set.  Gene Simmons repeated the second verse of Shout It Out Loud while singing that song, and immediately after playing War Machine they started up the opening riff again.  Stanley played it off for the crowd, jokingly saying, "You thought we were gonna play it again?" 

Simmons spit blood, blew fire, and flew into the rafters as was expected, and Stanley soared into the crowd to perform Love Gun.  Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer were amazing, removing any doubts that they don't belong in the band.  To be quite honest, these two guys inject new life into the group, and I'm glad they are a part of KISS.

The show ended with Rock And Roll All Nite and a ton of confetti, smoke bombs, and fireworks.  When KISS finally left the stage, I wanted more.  Hopefully they'll be returning to the Houston area soon without the Crue in tow.  I give their show 4.5/5 stars, taking that half star off for the miscues.

Overall, the show was excellent.  I refused to let Vince Neil's poor performance ruin my overall experience at the show.  The Treatment rocked, 3/4 of the Crue was on fire, and KISS dominated the show.  It was definitely a spectacle to see.

Rock on, kiddies!]]> Mon, 20 Aug 2012 14:50:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Excessive As The Band Itself!]]>
It's in 3D, and the group's eyes follow you wherever you go.  Gene Simmons' tongue lashes out in brilliant excessiveness, a signature quality of the band.

My wife completely hates it, of course, but that won't stop me from finding a place to hang it on the wall.  In all honesty I will probably put it in my office at work, since I'm sure it will quickly go missing if I hang it anywhere in my house!

If you are a huge KISS fan, grab one of these posters.  Per the print itself, this poster was published back in 2010.  Obviously there are a few of them still out there to collect.  If you see one, buy it!]]> Tue, 19 Jun 2012 13:09:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ A "Killer" Greatest Hits Combo]]> I've always felt that in order to rate a greatest hits package properly, you have to look at the overall offering of tracks (these are, after all, supposed to be "great") and any extras that the album comes with (whether it be new songs, liner notes, or some type of freebie).  Killers came out in an era when CDs were still out of reach for mainstream music lovers and the LP and cassette tape ruled. 

While KISS is well known for giving their fans plenty of freebies (such as stickers, tattoos, and a punch-out "Love Gun"), Killers came with nothing new or free with the exception of four tracks.  The album was originally only released outside of the United States, and in true KISS fashion, there were multiple versions of it available for the buying public.  There was the original European version, a Japanese version featuring two extra tracks, an Australian version with two extra tracks, and a German version known primarily for having two backwards "zz" letters instead of the traditional stylized "ss" on KISS' logo due to the fact that the "ss" in the band's traditional logo resembles the old Nazi "SS" insignia.

I have the German version of the album on compact disc.  The cover features the altered KISS logo and a photo of the band from their Music From The Elder album shoot.  It also features bright pink and blue graphics.

 Musically, the album focuses primarily on tunes from Destroyer and Dynasty with nods to KISS and a live version of Rock And Roll All Nite.  The four new tracks have heavy power pop influences and would have fit comfortably on Unmasked.  The new songs are I'm A Legend Tonight, Down On Your Knees, Nowhere To Run, and Partners In Crime.  To be very honest, none of these tracks are worth buying the album for.  While they aren't bad songs, they just don't stand up to the hits in this package.  Nowhere To Run sounds like an early version of Thrills In The Night, aaa song that would appear on the group's 1984 album Animalize.  Down On Your Knees was co-written by Mikel Japp and Bryan Adams....yes, THAT Bryan Adams!

Paul Stanley supplies vocals for all four of the new songs and Bob Kulick (brother of future KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick) plays guitars on the tracks in place of Ace Frehley who was well on his way out of the band by the time Killers hit store shelves.

The album features an edited version of Shout It Out Loud, Detroit Rock City, and I Was Made For Lovin' You.  The edits are subtle and won't be noticed by general listeners of the group. 

Hardcore fans originally wanted this album because of its rarity outside of the US, but CDs, import sales, and the web have made it just another greatest hits package to own.  The German version is very easy to find and unless you just have to have every version of every album KISS ever released, I'd stick with the German version as the one to purchase. 

This is probably the most radio-friendly greatest hits release for general listeners to own.  It features tracks from the group's peak of popularity such as Love Gun and God Of Thunder, and leaves out lesser known tracks from the band's earlier albums (excepting Cold Gin, which is from their debut album).  

 The new tracks are forgettable and not really reason enough to buy this album, but for a casual fan, this is a decent purchase.  Hardcore fans and completionists such as myself will buy it simply because it is a KISS album. 

Recommended to casual fans and fans of greatest hits albums.

]]> Mon, 27 Feb 2012 16:26:34 +0000
<![CDATA[ Heaven Is On Fire!]]> Do you really love KISS?  I mean REALLY LOVE KISS?  Would you like to spend eternity with the band?  Well, thanks to a joint venture by the band and Eternal Image, you can be buried with the hottest band in the world.  Although KISS has made the KISS Kasket available since 2001, production ended and the last coffin was sold in 2008.  In February of 2011, KISS and Eternal Image released two new versions of the KISS Kasket.

The "standard" version of the KISS Kasket is black with the KISS logo both inside the coffin and on the top of the casket, as well as pictures of the original members of the group from their solo album covers.  This particular version of the Kasket is my favorite because although it lets fans know that you are a "die" hard fan of the band, you won't send anyone into anaphlyactic shock when they walk up to view your body one last time.

The "premium" version of the Kasket is a bit more "in your face" what with its flames on all sides, a coffin-lengthed photo of the current members of the group on the top and concert photos around the sides.  While my friends know that I"m a huge fan of the band, most of my acquaintances and people that will only show up to make sure I'm dead have no clue how much I love KISS.  If they see me in this bad boy, I'm sure they'll either be very surprised or disgusted, depending on their moral leanings.

Some people find it both morbid and distasteful to spend eternity in a Kasket emblazoned with images of a band that is known for their over-the-top stage shows and songs about sex, ladies, partying, sex, excess, and sex.  I personally believe that if you truly love the group as I do, it's just the final step in loyality that a true fan can take.

I've never laid down in a KISS Kasket (or any casket for that matter), so I can't speak for the comfort, but I can say that Eternal Image has been in business for quite some time and have made coffins, urns, and headstones for fans of everything from Major League Baseball to Star Trek and they haven't received any complaints yet.  Also, they've been given the seal of approval by the Roman Catholic Church, so you know that God's on their side.  Perhaps Pope Benedict is a KISS fan????

In closing, all I have to say is that a KISS Kasket is one of the most unique gifts you can give a loved one.  It's also a massive signal to the world that even when you're gone, you'll be ready to "Rock And Roll All Nite" with the angels or demons, depending on where you stand with the Big Guy upstairs.

]]> Sat, 10 Dec 2011 15:43:03 +0000
<![CDATA[KISS Destroyer Resurrected Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Fri, 9 Dec 2011 16:47:02 +0000 <![CDATA[Unfinished Business Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Fri, 9 Dec 2011 16:36:26 +0000 <![CDATA[KISS Pop! Vinyl Figure Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Fri, 9 Dec 2011 16:35:10 +0000 <![CDATA[KISS Kruise Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Fri, 9 Dec 2011 16:33:54 +0000 <![CDATA[Koolest KISS Merchandise Released In 2011!]]> It's beginning to look a lot like KISSmas!  With 2011 about to wrap up, it's time to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year and reflect on the insanity that was 2011.  Here for your viewing pleasure is a short list of some of the coolest KISS merchandise released this year (and a preview of next year as well). ]]> Fri, 9 Dec 2011 16:19:38 +0000 <![CDATA[KISS Quick Tip by BaronSamedi3]]> Sun, 27 Nov 2011 14:30:28 +0000 <![CDATA[No Regrets Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Tue, 8 Nov 2011 22:22:34 +0000 <![CDATA[ A Trunk Full Of Alive!]]> KISS Alive!  1975-2000 might be cause for overkill.  However, any true KISS fan knows that overkill is one thing that KISS knows how to do right so it should come as no surprise that this set was released.  

Included in this bulky fold-out box is the first three of KISS' original live albums (two of which include bonus material) plus a fourth live recording (dubbed the Millenium Concert).  If you're looking for the MTV Unplugged album that signaled the reunion of the original band members, you're out of look.  That set still hasn't been included in any shape or form outside of the CD and KISSology Three DVD set released in 1996.

For the sake of brevity, I'll say that Alive! sounds better than ever in the remastered form included here, as does Alive IIAlive III also sounds excellent, though I don't believe it was remastered for this release.

Alive II comes with one bonus track, a rather stale radio edit of Rock And Roll All NiteAlive III features a live bonus cut of Take It Off, which comes from the studio album, Revenge.

If you don't own any of KISS' first three live albums, this boxed set is a very convenient and easy-on-the-budget way to collect them all in one place.  If you do own them, then the only real reason to purchase this set if for the fourth disc, The Millenium Concert, which was recorded on New Year's Eve, 1999, in Vancouver, B.C. 

The Millenium Concert features all four original members of the band.  It features fan favorites such as Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, Black Diamond, Beth, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite, and Firehouse.  In fact, all but three of the songs on this disc are available in their older live versions on the other discs in this boxed set.  The three in question include one classic,  Do You Love Me? (from the album Destroyer), and two songs off of the group's 1998 studio "reunion" album, Psycho Circus.  The songs are the album's title track and the Ace Frehley-fronted Into The Void.

I gave this album five stars for the simple fact that it combines the group's first three live albums and their would-be fourth Alive! album in one convenient set (KISS Symphony:  Alive IV is officially recognized as the group's fourth live album, despite being released after MTV Unplugged).  I also gave it five stars due to the fact that Alive! is considered to be one of the greatest live recordings in music.

If you don't own any of KISS' material, this is an excellent place to start.  Not only do you get to hear their legendary live performances, you also get to hear almost all of their greatest tracks.  Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys live music or wants to own a piece of music history.  This set will not let you down.

]]> Mon, 7 Nov 2011 18:26:30 +0000
<![CDATA[ This Third Time Is A Charm!]]> Riding the popularity wave of their successful 1992 studio album, Revenge, KISS recorded and released Alive III in 1993. 

Alive III, much like its predecessors Alive! and Alive II, does an excellent job of capturing the raw energy of one of KISS' live shows.  Unlike those ablums, though,  Alive III does it without Ace Frehley or Peter Criss, the band's original guitarist and drummer, respectively, who were featured on the previous albums.  Both of these founding members had been out of the lineup for over a decade, and Alive II was released in 1978, so many changes (musically and lineup wise) happened before Alive III was released.  Bruce Kulick, who was the group's lead guitarist throughout most of the 80's and up until the return of Frehley for Psycho Circus, provides the strings on this album while Eric Singer, who replaced Eric Carr after his death in 1991, sits in on the drums.

The playlist on the album features quite a few KISS Klassics that longtime fans of the group will immediately recognize like Detroit Rock City, Rock And Roll All Nite, and Deuce, all of which can be heard on the other live albums.  What makes Alive III worth giving a listen, though, is the addition of live recordings of popular songs by the band from albums like Dynasty, Animalize, and Hot In The Shade that weren't previously available as well as a heavy dose of tracks from Revenge. 

It's very interesting to hear Kulick's take on tracks like Detroit Rock City, Lick It Up, and Heaven's On Fire.  While the songs sound very much like the original studio recordings (all of which featured different guitarists), Kulick puts just enough "spin" on each track to let the listener know that Ace Frehley, Vinnie Vincent, and Mark St. John aren't playing the tunes this time around.

Singer adds a bit of flair to the drums on many of the tracks as well, giving some great tunes a fresh sound.  I especially enjoyed his take on I Love It Loud on this album, as I consider it to be one of Eric Carr's best studio performances with KISS.

Gene Simmons provides steady bass as usual and gives solid performances on his lead vocals on tracks like Unholy (which, in my opinion, is the most "Demon" sounding track from KISS during their non-makeup years).  He also sounds great on Domino.

Paul Stanley manages all of the chaos with his typical energetic style, and his vocals sound strongest on tracks like Forever and Lick It Up.

While the entire album sounds great, I must single out one song as THE song to purchase this album for.  While it is a classic, it isn't a KISS Klassic.  In fact, it's a KISS cover of a song that has been covered by numerous bands over the years.  It's a song that was inspired by events that took place during the War of 1812 and was actually a poem before it became a song.  It was penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814, and any good citizen of the United States of America recognizes it as our national anthem.  So what is it?  It's The Star-Spangled Banner.  KISS performs the track as an instrumental and, yes, Jimi Hendrix fans will scoff at the following statement but I stand by it:  This is the greatest performance of The Star-Spangled Banner I've ever heard!  Bruce Kulick is a monster on this track as he strings out the song.  We get to hear the fireworks explode and the crowd's reaction.  There are no excessive flourishes added to the song at all.  It's just KISS giving the people a straight-ahead rendition of our national anthem.  THIS song makes KISS Alive III worth picking up.  It's the kind of track you want to crank up when the Fourth of July rolls around, and it's KISS' best live recording ever.

Whew!  I got a bit carried away with that last paragraph but I completely meant it.  KISS Alive III may not feature the original lineup of the band, but it does come packed with some great tracks and a killer finisher.  Highly recommended to any KISS fan and recommended to anyone who likes to rock out to the national anthem!


]]> Thu, 3 Nov 2011 14:31:03 +0000
<![CDATA[ Alive And On Fire!]]> Just about any time that rock music fans and musicians come together to talk about live albums, one album's name crosses the lips of the more learned members of the group.  That album is KISS' fourth album and their first live album, Alive!  While I personally don't see it as their best live album (Alive III gets the nod barely beating out Unplugged, with Alive II being the best original lineup recording in my opinion), for its time it was an amazing feat in both production and promotion.  It is also a huge source of controversy for music as well.

Not only was it a risky album to make since live albums at that time sounded terrible, it was also a big risk for both KISS and their record label since the band had yet to really "breakout" from the pack of current rock acts.  In short, the success of the band, the label, and live albums in general were riding on this album's back.

The recordings came from four U.S. shows by the band and they were placed into the care of producer Eddie Kramer to be cleaned up and perfected for release.  Here's where the notoriety of the album comes into play.  There is no real certainty as to how much of the album was actually live.  While members of the band hold that very little overdubbing or other studio work was done to produce the album, Kramer has been documented as saying that a whole lot of the album was overdubbed with studio corrections.

It really doesn't matter in the long run, however, because the final product sounds great.  Whether it is all live or 95% studio work, Alive! is a wonder to listen to.  It captures KISS on the cusp of greatness.  They sound raw, young, and eager to play their hearts out.  Songs like Strutter, 100,000 Years, Cold Gin, and Hotter Than Hell wrecklessly play out for the listener.  Paul Stanley screeches out tracks like Got To Choose.  Gene Simmons growls his way over Firehouse (with fire alarms to boot) and his bass sounds excellent.  Peter Criss' raspy voice belt out Black Diamond while his drums pound away.  Ace Frehley sounds as professional as always, but with just a touch of chaos to his strings. 

The crowd roars on enthustiastically as their painted warriors run their way through early KISS Klassics, many of which would become staples of the group's live shows.

People can laugh all they want at KISS and their music, but the fact remains that the band knew the only way they could truly make it as a group was to have the energy of their live show successfully captured on vinyl.  With Alive!, they did this and proved that a good sounding live album was possible. 

Love'em or hate'em, with KISS' Alive! their probably wouldn't be that many live albums today.

If you don't own any KISS albums, KISS Alive! is a great place to start.  It's also the perfect album to put on when you want to get a bit rowdy.

Highly recommended!

The video below is part one of a VH-1 series on the "ultimate albums" of rock n' roll.  You can see the rest of this episode which focuses on Alive! on

]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2011 16:14:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ Even More "Alive" Than The Original]]> Despite having produced three albums before it, KISS' 1975 release of Alive! is considered the album that not only put them on the map, but was also a technical wonder that blazed a trail in live album production.  KISS released three highly successful albums after Alive!:  the massive Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over, and Love Gun.  All of this was done in the course of two years. 

While touring in support of Love Gun, KISS began preparing for their second live album, Alive II.  The album was released on October 14, 1977 and proved to be very successful.  It sold extremely well, but time has worn dwon the popularity of the album.  Much like any sequel to a highly successful film, it is often looked at as "just another live album" instead of a groundbreaking work like its predecessor.

I might be calling down thunder from members of the KISS Army when they read my next statement, but I stand by it proudly:  Alive II is a better album than Alive!  Why?  Basically this album trumps the original for the simple fact that KISS as a band sounds tighter, plays better, and were at the top of their game as far as the original four members are considered.  Alive! gets all of the attention because of its importance as one of the first live albums to be successfully recorded and released.  It also draws attention due to the fact that there was a bit of studio doctoring before the "live" album was released and many modern day naysayers scream foul over this fact.

Alive II features the band's biggest tracks from Destroyer, Love Gun, and Rock And Roll Over, and wisely avoids tunes that were released on the first live album, thus giving listeners a reason to shell out money for this second live release.  Some of the songs featured include Detroit Rock City, Calling Doctor Love, Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, Beth, Christine Sixteen, and God Of Thunder

Three songs on this album deserve to be singled out.  The first one is Hard Luck Woman featuring drummer Peter Criss on vocals.  Amidst all of the hysteria surrounding the bulk of this performance (only Beth really slows things down), Hard Luck Woman takes the group's sound in a completely different, and somewhat country, sound.  King Of The Night Time World, fronted by Paul Stanley, sounds better here than it does on Destroyer, and that's saying quite a bit in my opinion.  The third song that deserves extra attention from the listener is Shock Me by Ace Frehley.  While I'm a big fan of the studio version of this track from Love Gun, this live version features an extended solo by Frehley at the end of the song that confirms the rumors that Frehley was a huge influence on Eddie Van Halen.  This solo is the highlight of the album and one of Frehley's best!

Outside of featuring only live tracks that weren't on Alive!, KISS added five new studio tracks at the end of the album to entice buyers.  The tracks are All American Man, Rockin' In The U.S.A., Larger Than Life, Rocket Ride, and Anyway You Want It.  To be honest, most of these tracks are fairly forgettable, and are the only reason I gave this album four stars instead of five.  The first three are particularly ho-hum and detract from the album overall.  Bob Kulick (brother of Bruce Kulick, who would later become KISS' longest playing lead guitarist) played guitar on four of the five tracks, and while he does a good job, only the Dave Clark cover Anyway You Want It is worth multiple listens.

On the other hand, Rocket Ride, the only studio track to feature Ace Frehley (he played lead and bass guitar and lead vocals), is an instant KISS Klassic in my book.

When looking solely at the live tracks on Alive II, the album gets five stars and easily trumps Alive! as the best sounding live album that KISS produced with the original lineup.  Throw in the tepid studio tracks, and I have to knock off a star. 

KISS fans both new and old should pick up a copy of this album.  Better yet, try to grab the Alive! Box Set and snag all three of the band's first live albums and the never-released Millenium concert that features the original band members in one convenient set.

If you're just curious about the band, this is also a very good pick as it gives you a taste of some of the group's biggest tunes from three of their biggest albums.

The video below is a bit dull, but it features the live version of Shock Me from Alive II.  Enjoy!

]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2011 14:55:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ KISS And Spirit Halloween: A Winning Combination?]]>
This year, Spirit and KISS have teamed up to offer fans complete costumes (from wigs to facepaint and even those platform shoes) in stores and on the web. The promotion also includes a very unique prize package that I'll get to in a moment.

I want to first address the in-store promotion of KISS. It is pretty lackluster (at least in the Lake Charles area). Spirit set up the KISS area on the end of an aisle (which I've read in some media was the agreed upon area of placement). The promotional area featured Starchild and Demon costumes for children and adults, as well as wigs for both of these costumes. There were a few half masks and temporary face makeup kits too. Also included were a few generic "rocker" items that have been in Spirit stores for years now. KISS licensed makeup was also available, but that was it.

All of the deluxe costumes, Rock The Nation official costumes, platform shoes, women's KISS costumes, and even the questionable screenprint costumes are available online only. You can't find them in stores at all! In short, the good stuff isn't available to be tried on before you buy it, which left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I really wanted to see if I could squeeze my big rear into one of the deluxe Demon costumes, but I'm not going to shell out the near $70 for something that might end up being too tight. I might as well make my own KISS costume for just a few dollars more.

I will say that the sweepstakes that is tied in with this promotion is an excellent one if you are a KISS fan. It includes airfare to and from Las Vegas, two nights at the Hard Rock Hotel, a lifetime membership to the Monster Mini Golf Presents KISS mini golf course, a guitar signed by KISS and my favorite part of the entire sweepstakes, an actual KISS KOFFIN from Eternal Image!

I've already entered the contest, and can only hope that I win. This prize package is the only reason I gave a +3 rating to this promotion.

If you plan on dressing up as a member of KISS this Halloween, save the drive time and buy online. The selection is better and you don't have to go to the store to sign up for the sweepstakes. If I win the contest, I'll definitley do a write up on it.

Keep rockin'!

]]> Mon, 3 Oct 2011 20:18:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ Wal-Mart's Sonic Screw-Up]]> Like most hardcore KISS fans, I was excited to find out about the release of KISS' Sonic Boom way back in October of 2009.  What I wasn't so wild about was that KISS was releasing the album exclusively at Wal-Mart and the massive department store had plans for exclusive KISS promotional areas known as KISS Korners.

I'm sure that when KISS sat down with Wal-Mart executives, Gene Simmons probably saw the potential for making tons of cash with the exclusive deal, but I don't believe that even he was able to see just how badly Wal-Mart would botch their end of the deal. 

Of course, Gene and the rest of KISS had nothing but good things to go on.  Popular acts like The Eagles and Garth Brooks had very successful exclusive runs with Wal-Mart, and AC/DC, the last group to have an exclusive promotion with the retail giant, saw their album Black Ice rocket to #1 in sales behind a very aggressive in-store campaign that featured large displays in storefronts and in the music department that included t-shirts and reduced prices on their older albums.

KISS, always one to do things bigger than everybody else, took things to the next level with the KISS Korner, a display very much like AC/DC's display, but with everything from KISS M&M's and blankets to KISS t-shirts and even Halloween makeup.  They also did a hilarious commercial that had a lot of people, including my KISS-hating wife, laughing out loud.

The only problem was that Wal-Mart completely misfired with the promotion, with many stores not even bothering to set up the displays or having the KISS items scattered all over the place.  While I completely understand the stores having the Halloween makeup, masks, and wigs in the seasonal department of the store, I don't see why everything else couldn't be found in the KISS Korner. 

Depending on which store you went to, you might find KISS Mr. Potato Heads in the music department, toy department, or on some random aisle in the craft department.  The KISS M&M's were literally all over the place, being found in just about every department that had empty shelf space.  The KISS t-shirts, cheaply priced at only five dollars, were usually in the men's clothing area (understandable) but instead of set up in a highly visible area in order to make them stand out, they were jumbled in with all of the other cheap t-shirts available at the store.  The KISS blankets and action figures were the hardest items to find, if the store you happened to be in sold them at all.  In my area alone, only one of the four local Wal-Marts sold the blankets and action figures.  I managed to find the blankets in the Halloween area and the action figures smashed somewhere between Thomas the Tank Engine and Little People toys in the preschool area!

They even botched the release of Sonic Boom.  The album wasn't supposed to hit shelves until October 6th, but Wal-Mart apparently forgot to tell their employees, as the album was readily available a few days before that.  Of course, this mistake was in my favor, so I snatched up the album as soon as I saw it.  At first, I thought that it might have been some sort of single release of Modern Day Delilah, the album's first single, but nope, it was a Wal-Mart screw-up.

The only good thing about the whole KISS Korner debacle was that people who wouldn't normally be exposed to KISS were given heavy doses of it all over the department stores.  Imagine the look on granny's face when she bends down to pick-up some M&M's to hand out to kiddies on Halloween and the Demon's tongue is wagging back at her from the candy bag!  Or how about the toddler who wants a new toy train and he sees Paul Stanley straddling his guitar next to Thomas the Train!

While the album managed to reach #2 in it's debut, I often wonder that if Wal-Mart had done a better job with the KISS Korner promotions, would Sonic Boom have made it to #1?  We will never know. 

Hopefully KISS won't do the same thing with their newest album, Monster, expected to land in 2012.
Oh, here's that commercial I mentioned earlier. I love the smirk from Tommy Thayer (Spaceman) when the members of the group are first introduced as the newest Wal-Mart employees, as well as Gene's expression while scanning an Aerosmith album for a customer. ]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 14:54:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ Don't Spill It Or You Might Just Have To Lick It Up!]]>
Well, while the mug does feature  a photo of the current band (Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, and Paul Stanley) engulfed in rock n' roll flames with the KISS logo above them, there's not much else that's too hot about this mug.

The picture, which is featured on both sides of the mug, is simply a printed paper slid inside the outer mug shell.  The lid doesn't screw on, but merely snugly slips on.  There is no cover for the drinking spout either.

For KISS fans who just have to have something with the band's moniker on it, I recommend this travel mug as a keepsake.  However, I'm sort of leary of putting any hot liquids in this travel mug because I don't trust the lid, so if you're just looking for a travel mug to actually use on a daily basis, you might want to look elsewhere.]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2011 19:00:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ "The Amplifiers Start To Hum..."]]> Psycho Circus supposedly heralded the return of KISS in all of its original glory on a brand new album in 1998.  While fans rejoiced over the original lineup's return, Psycho Circus would prove to be just one more controversial part of the ongoing Stanley/Gene Simmons versus Ace Frehley/Peter Criss debate. 

Stanley, Simmons, and former bandmates Frehley and Criss reunited in 1995 to the surprise of fans sitting in on the recording of the band's KISS Unplugged album and television program.  Frehley and Criss sat in for a few songs along with Stanley, Simmons, and then current drummer, Eric Singer, and lead guitarist, Bruce Kulick.  The reunion was so well received that the four original members decided to get back together and go on a highly successful two year reunion tour. 

This lead up to the recording and release of Psycho Circus.  Frehley's "Space Ace" and Criss' "Catman" images were on the album cover, but much like the last few albums that featured the duo before their individual exits, their actual musical contributions were very limited.

Criss played drums on only one song.  Kevin Valentine, who worked with KISS on Revenge, played the drums on the rest of the album.  Ace Frehley recorded guitar tracks for two of the album's songs, but the rest of his string duties were recorded by his eventual replacement in the band and current "Spaceman," Tommy Thayer. 

Considering these factors, Psycho Circus managed to turn into a decent album that has managed to remain one of KISS' heaviest albums to date.  Like many of its non-original predecessors from the 1980's and early 90's, the album features a few really great tracks and a decent amount of filler.  These filler songs aren't bad, but they do nothing to stand out on their own on the album.

Here's a track by track listing of each song and my opinion of each one:
  1. Psycho Circus--The album's title track starts things off with a bang.  It's one of KISS' heaviest songs and really pulls the listener into the album.
  2. Within--The first song to feature Gene Simmons on vocals, Within is a dark and very "Demon" sounding track.  Simmons' voice sounds excellent and is accompanied well by Thayer's guitar work.
  3. I Pledge Allegiance To The State Of Rock And Roll--With its long and somewhat awkward chorus, this track, while a nice rocker, is the first tune to derail the KISS train.
  4. Into The Void--Ace Frehley takes over vocals and the original lineup played their instruments on this groovy rocker.  Ace is known for injecting a heavy dose of metal into his songs, and Into The Void does not disappoint. 
  5. We Are One--A somewhat nostalgic track with undertones of the band's "reunion," We Are One has a Beatles vibe to it (no surprise, since Simmons penned the track) that, in my opinion, once again derails the album. 
  6. You Wanted The Best--Featuring all four original members on vocals (but not on instruments), You Wanted The Best punches naysayers in the face and reminds critics that KISS ain't going nowhere any time soon.  It's pretty much a big hug to fans, and is one of the best tracks on the album.
  7. Raise Your Glasses--Another nostalgic track, Raise Your Glasses, written by Paul Stanley and Holly Knight, has a bit too much pop in it to make it stand out on this album.  It isn't a terrible track, but doesn't fit with the rest of the album.
  8. I Finally Found My Way--Peter Criss' raspy voice is in excellent condition, and this slower tune actually manages to hold its own on an album loaded with heavy tracks. 
  9. Dreamin'--Written by Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick, this tune sounds a lot like some of KISS' 80's and 90's work.  It's no surprise since during that period, Kulick was their primary guitarist.
  10. Journey of 1,000 Years--Simmons's vocals shine once again on this final album track.  It slowly builds up into a very dark tune laced with a wonderful string section and even a piano.  It once again hints at his "Demon" persona and how it feeds off of the crowd.  It's an excellent track.
My personal favorite tracks are You Wanted The Best, Into The Void, Psycho Circus, and Journey of 1,000 Years.  These four tracks keep the album from being an entire muddled mess.  I Finally Found My Way is another tune that rises above the rest of the album, as is Within.  Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks do nothing to add to the album or the nostalgia of the original band reuniting. 

The album's production quality is brilliant, with each guitar lick, bass thump, snare snap, and Stanley screech sounding crystal clear and mixed to perfection.

As I've already stated, Simmons' vocals are great and his bass is just as steady as ever.  Stanley is his usual over-the-top self.  Frehley, on the only two tracks he plays guitar on (Into The Void, You Wanted The Best) sounds heavier and very refined.  His vocals are good, but I've never really been impressed by his voice.  Criss' drums sound great, if uncharacteristically heavy for him, on Into The Void, and his vocals sound better than they did back when he was known for tunes like Beth and Hard Luck Woman.

The session guys, Valentine and Thayer, do very good jobs.  Valentine's style is a lot heavier than Criss', and it shows on all of the tracks he performs on.  Thayer, a brilliant guitarist in his own right, is a very good Frehley mimic.  Having seen him live and hearing him on a number of studio recordings with Stanley and Simmons, he was the perfect choice to handle the guitar work on the bulk of the album.

So, after a long and wordy explanation, should you purchase Psycho Circus?  If you are a KISS completionist or have no problems with people other than Frehley or Criss being on a KISS album, absolutely.  If you enjoy heavy rock n' roll, yes.  If you want an entire album featuring all four members of the original band on every song, skip this and purchase Love Gun.

Recommended, but with a few reservations about some of the tracks.]]> Fri, 9 Sep 2011 15:55:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ Set The Fur Flying!]]> Two guitarists who will forever be a part of KISS' legacy and also considered by many to be key members of the group despite their brief runs with the band, are Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John.  Vincent's energetic style of guitar playing and knack for catchy lyrics and hooks helped put Lick It Up on the map and re-ignited interest in KISS.  His ego and onstage antics, however, got him booted from the group after only recording one album. 

In April of 1984, Mark St. John was handpicked to be Vincent's replacement and quickly established himself as a team player and an amazing guitarist.  His active duty with the band would be even shorter than Vincent's, but his exit came due to chronic Reiter's Syndrome and not his ego.

With that said, St. John's only recorded contributions to KISS came in the form of September, 1984's Animalize.  Fans would not be disappointed.

Animalize wakes up the listener right away with the very fast, heavily glammed I've Had Enough (Into The Fire).  It is followed by the equally glammy Heaven's On Fire, the biggest single to be released from the album and one of just a select few 80's KISS tracks to make it into their concert rotation.  The next song doesn't slow down the high rate of speed set by the previous tracks.  About the only thing it does differently is make the album dirtier....a lot dirtier.  The track, entitled Burn Bitch Burn, has nothing to do with the Salem Witch Trials and everything to do with Gene Simmons' favorite pasttime.  If I have to explain this track any more, your ears are much too tender for the rest of this album!

Get All You Can Take comes next, and serves up a little inspiration for those of us who are struggling to make something of ourselves.  That's followed by the very slinky Lonely Is The Hunter, which is probably the slowest song on the entire album.

Next is the fast but forgettable Under The Gun.  If anything plagued KISS' music during the 80's, it's that they often had a  bit of filler on each album.  This song, along with Simmons' Murder In High Heels play that role on this album.

Two other tracks that are very good are sandwiched between Under The Gun and Murder In High Heels.  Those songs are the album's second single, the pop rocker Thrills In The Night and the very up tempo While The City Sleeps.

St. John, while more than capable of playing excellent glam guitar, did a brilliant job of holding back when necessary and unleashing his fury when called upon.  His solos throughout the album gave listeners more than enough proof as to why KISS picked him to be Vinnie Vincent's replacement.

Paul Stanley, ever the professional, juked and danced his way through all of his tracks, all the while taking the controls as producer and co-writing five of the albums songs.

Gene Simmons, when available, sounded exceptionally good, but I felt as if his bass work was pushed to the background on this album more than any other album he performed on.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was also hoping to break ground as an actor and not giving 100% to the band.

Eric Carr was flawless as usual.  There's really not much more to say about the man other than he remains one of the best drummers in rock history despite having been deceased for twenty years.

It should be noted that Mark St. John played guitar on all but two tracks on this album.  Those tracks, Lonely Is The Hunter and Murder In High Heels, featured St. John's eventual replacement, Bruce Kulick.

While Animalize might lack a lot of recognizable tunes to the casual KISS fan, hardcore KISS Army soldiers realize what a gem this album really is.  Like all of the band's other 1980's offerings, it takes a few listens to truly appreciate how good this serving of KISS really is.


]]> Tue, 6 Sep 2011 21:40:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ One Insane "Asylum"]]> Creatures of the Night back in 1982, it was an attempt by the band to reclaim their proper place in the rock hierarchy after a string of lukewarm and disastrous album performances.  The album itself was excellent and extremely heavy, but suffered due to the fact that many fans had just given up on KISS or were still licking their wounds due to the departure of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.

Their next release, 1983's Lick It Up, turned out to be one of the band's biggest albums and re-ignited their popularity, particularly helping the band pick up more mainstream fans.  The album found the group without makeup, with another lead guitarist in Vinnie Vincent, and with Eric Carr very comfortable in his role as the band's permanent drummer. 

Of course, egos will collide, and Vincent split from the band.  He was replaced by Mark St. John, who joined the group for the release of 1984's Animalize.  This album bested the success of Lick It Up and KISS seemed to finally be back on track.

Well, as it is in the rollercoaster world of rock n' roll, St. John had to leave the band due to his suffering with Reiter's Syndrome.  KISS found themselves without a lead guitarist for the third time in just a few short years.

Thankfully, Bruce Kulick (who toured with the group when St. John was unable to play) came along and KISS was a solid unit once again.  Kulick outshined the entire group with his performance on his debut album with the group, 1985's Asylum.

Asylum is one of those albums that doesn't sound that good when you run through the tracks for the first time.  I find this to be true of all of KISS' releases in the 1980's.  Only after multiple listens did I come to appreciate this album for what it really is, a glam rock gem.

Opening with the punchy rocker King of the Mountain and then followed up by the Gene Simmons' tune Any Way You Slice It, fans of the group noticed that KISS was finally beginning to meld their raunchy past with the current sounds of the 80's.  The next track on the album, Who Wants To Be Lonely, is an excellent blend of equal parts anthemic rock and power ballad.

Arena rocker Trial By Fire and pop rock tune I'm Alive follow up Who Wants To Be Lonely.  These tracks lead up to the rapid-fire of Love's A Deadly Weapon. 

The next track eventually became one of KISS' biggest hits.  I'm talking about the power ballad Tears Are Falling.  This particular song, despite being a ballad, is very heavy.  It's also one of the most flamboyant videos for the band.

Secretly Cruel comes up next, and is a fairly standard glam rocker for the 1980's.  It, along with the next track, a very forgettable Radar For Love, are the only reasons I am not giving this album five stars.  While Secretly Cruel isn't a bad song, it suffers from the mediocrity that I found on many of the non-single tracks throughout KISS' 80's projects.  Radar For Love is just plain bad.  It sounds forced, and is only saved by Kulick's strings.

The final track on the album is one of my favorites from the 80's from KISS.  While I wouldn't put it in my top ten favorite KISS tunes, it's definitely knocking on my top fifteen.  Uh! All Night really needs no explanation.  If you don't know what KISS is singing about on this blunt anthem, you have lived a very, very sheltered life.  The video for this song is one of their best as well.

Asylum is one of KISS' strongest offerings from the 80's.  While it does contain a couple of misfires, the album as a whole is pretty good.  Paul Stanley turns in another solid performance and took part in production duties for this album.  Gene Simmons, despite being listed as one of the producers, was losing a grip on his role in the band, but you can't hear it on this album.  As stated before, Kulick's performance is brilliant, and he solidifies the argument that he is possibly KISS' best guitarist.  Eric Carr keeps things moving at an always wonderful pace, and his rock n' roll credentials bleed through best on King Of The Mountain.

1987 would bring on an even more mainstream sounding KISS album with Crazy Nights, and the group would sustain its popularity into the very early 1990's.

Highly recommended.

]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2011 19:02:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ "The Demon" Gets Visibly Shaken]]>
While bobbleheads do little more than sit there and stare at you until you give them a shake, it's always cool to have one around in my opinion.  I've had an Ozzy Osbourne bobblehead sitting on my desk by my computer for roughly six years now, and he always draws comments from first-time visitors.  Needless to say, Gene Simmons' black and white bat-winged moniker will definitely draw a bit of attention, and I'm sure he'll spark up a number of conversations.

The bobblehead features Gene in his "Destroyer" album gear (slightly modified).  The paint scheme is great, and I especially appreciate how clean the make-up on Gene's face looks.  There are no blemishes on the figure at all.  The only thing missing is Gene's signature axe bass, but I think I can let that slide for now.

In closing, hardcore fans of KISS have probably already gotten their hands on at least one of these Wacky Wobbler bobbleheads.  I plan on getting the rest of the band in the near future.  Specifically, I plan on getting the Spaceman (Ace Frehley) very, very soon!]]> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 15:05:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ The REAL Disco Album From KISS]]> After the successful one-two-three punch of Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun, along with the live Alive and Alive II albums, KISS seemed poised to take over the music world for good.  Instead of attacking the masses with another big album in 1978 however, the band decided to go the solo route with all four members of the band releasing solo projects to mixed reviews.

Depending on whom you ask, the four album project was either a money-making ploy or an attempt to salvage the strained relationships within the band itself.  Regardless of what truly motivated the project, it was deemed a failure by the band and 1979 promised bigger things with Dynasty, the first album featuring all four members (albeit very loosely) since Love Gun.

produced one major hit, I Was Made For Lovin' You, and spawned two other mildly received singles.  Hardcore KISS fans who were turned on by the bands earlier hard rock sound were turning off Dynasty's milder, pop rock feel.

In May of 1980, KISS once again released an album that had fans hoping for a return to their grittier roots.  What they got instead was Unmasked, a pop rock album that leaned heavily on the disco sounds that were still popular at the time.  In fact, I would so far as to say that Unmasked and not Dynasty is the real KISS "disco" album.

Produced by Vini Poncia (who also produced Dynasty and Peter Criss), the album is the farthest to stray from the KISS sound in my opinon.  Even the band's next release, the concept album Music From The Elder, sounds more like a KISS album to me. 

The album found Peter Criss on the ropes and about to bail out of KISS due to personal problems.  Although he is featured on the album cover, he contributed nothing musically to the project.  Anton Fig took over Criss' duties on the album.  Ace, who's solo project was the most successful of the bunch, was beginning to realize that he might be better off as a solo artist (even he admitted this).  Perhaps as a result of this, I personally find Ace's guitar work a bit uninspired on this album.  Gene and Paul were still attempting to hold the band together according to their own accounts.  

With all of this knowledge in tow, is Unmasked a bad album?  Not at all when it is compared to other pop rock and adult contemporary projects from that time.  It is a very, very good pop rock album.  While the bulk of the tunes have a disco sound to them, none of them are all that bad.

Paul Stanley is especially good on this album.  He co-wrote four of the album's tracks and performs lead vocals on five songs.  In fact, Stanley performs all vocals and guitars on the biggest hit off of the album, Shandi.  His production and overall leadership skills really shine through on this album.  The man just knows how to write and/or perform a great pop song.

Anton Fig's drum work is flawless and, although I hate to say it, is probably some of the best drum work you'll ever hear on a KISS album outside of Eric Carr's contributions to the band.

Gene is as steady as always, and it isn't until his first co-penned song and lead vocal on the album, the track Naked City, that I actually hear some of the old KISS sound. 

The always reliable Ace Frehley isn't so reliable this go-round.  All three of his contributions to the album, Talk To Me, Two Sides Of The Coin, and Torpedo Girl, fall short of the expected hard rock sound that is a signature of Ace's playing style.  Ace's guitars sound as if they are being held back and I actually hear a few of his old solos laced through many of these songs (in particular, his solo from Black Diamond).  Of the three tracks he did, Two Sides Of The Coin is probably my favorite.

Is That You?, What Makes The World Go Round, Tomorrow, and Easy As It Seems (all of which feature Stanley on lead vocals) are all solid pop songs and sound great.  Gene Simmons' tracks, She's So European, You're All That I Want, and the aforementioned Naked City, are a bit edgier sounding and as I've already stated, they are the closest sounding tunes to the old KISS sound. 

So Unmasked is somewhat of a disappointment as a KISS album when compared to the rest of KISS' music catalogue, but when put up against other pop rock from that era, Unmasked is a solid project.  Personally, I find myself singing along to a lot of the songs, especially Shandi and Tomorrow.

Hardcore KISS completionists will pick up this album simply to have it in their collection but, much like Music From The Elder, it probably won't get much airplay.  Pop and adult contemporary fans will enjoy this project because it is a very good pop album.  KISS fans like myself, who actually enjoy it when KISS experiments with their sound (and their lineup) will most likely enjoy this album as well.

]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 19:44:24 +0000
<![CDATA[Love Gun Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:39:49 +0000 <![CDATA[Forever Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:39:15 +0000 <![CDATA[Lick It Up Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:37:48 +0000 <![CDATA[Crazy Crazy Nights Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Crazy Crazy Nights is the best and most fun to sing along with.]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:36:45 +0000 <![CDATA[ KISS Alive And Unplugged!]]> It's no secret that KISS' popularity was solidified by their live albums, particularly 1975's Alive!, and their live shows.  Full of electricity, smoke, fireworks, theatrics, and tongue-in-cheek tunes, KISS worked their lives shows as if each one was their last.

When the popular 1990's MTV series Unplugged, where popular acts were stripped of their electronic equipment and played acoustic sets, announced that the hottest band in the world would be performing on their show, I have to admit that I had my doubts.  How exactly would KISS sound without the electric guitars, pounding bass, and all of their signature fireworks?  The planet was about to find out.

On August 9, 1995, KISS took the stage and surprised not just their fans, but the entire world when they turned in one of the best performances of the entire Unplugged run.  Instead of leaning on KISS live show standards such as Shout It Out Loud, I Was Made For Lovin' You, Lick It Up, and Detroit Rock City, the band picked tunes that your average listener might not recognize and hardcore KISS fans hadn't heard in a long time.  The result was an excellent acoustic hard rock show that captured the power of the individual songs and the band members themselves.

The actual show incorporated more songs than the Unplugged disc, but the CD comes packed with fifteen wonderful KISS tracks that are sure to please not only the KISS crowd, but people who appreciate acoustic music in general.

The album opens with Comin' Home, an upbeat rocker originally from Hotter Than Hell.  Paul Stanley's vocals sound wonderful, and the band (consisting of the then current lineup of Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, and Bruce Kulick) never sounded tighter.

From this point on, the band hits the audience with excellent acoustic renditions of some of their lesser know tracks and a couple of obvious ones as well. 

With Plaster Caster off of Love Gun, Gene's bass pushes the tune along.  As sleazy as this track is, it fits perfectly into this acoustic set.

The twisted breakup tune Goin' Blind, another Hotter Than Hell track, about a ninety-three year old man wanting to cut ties with his sixteen year old lover, sounds even better than Plaster Caster in this setting.  Of particular excellence is Bruce Kulick's guitar solo.

The epic Destroyer album, which is quite possibly KISS' greatest studio album, is represented by two songs in this acoustic set.  The first song off of that album to be played is a personal favorite of mine, Do You Love Me?  The song sounds great and loses none of its original electricity.

Another studio album favorite of mine, Sure Know Something, from 1979's Dynasty, is also featured on this album.  I love this version of the song.  In fact, I might go as far as to say that this version is my favorite.

KISS ventures into their 90's tunes with Revenge's Domino and the ballad Every Time I Look At YouDomino is quite possibly one of KISS' dirtiest tracks (and that's saying a lot), and it gets an excellent bluesy acoustic treatment here.

Other albums represented in this set include Creatures Of The Night, Music From The Elder (which seems like an odd choice but actually works here)and, of course, KISS.

After perusing some great lesser known tracks in their catalogue, KISS then drops a huge surprise on the crowd by bringing out original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  Ace sings Dynasty's 2000 Man and Peter belts out Beth.  Then Eric Singer and Peter Criss double up on an excellent rendition of KISS' Nothin' To Lose.

So what song closes out an acoustic KISS concert?  The same song that closes out every KISS concert, Dressed To Kill's Rock And Roll All Nite!  Gene starts off the track by singing the first two verses and then after the chorus, Ace and Peter split the next pair of verses.  While there are no explosions or flaming guitars by the end of the tune, the song is no bombastic in its stripped down acoustic version.

There are very few KISS albums that I would recommend to non-KISS fans that aren't greatest hits packages, but I have to say that if any album deserves a listen from non-fans, Unplugged is definitely the one.  It would become the concert that triggered KISS' successful farewell tour with the orignal lineup and spark interest in the band once again, proving that great bands always come back for more.

Highly recommended!

Here's the track listing by song and original album:

 1.  Comin' Home - Hotter Than Hell
Plaster Caster - Love Gun
 3.  Goin' Blind - Hotter Than Hell
 4.  Do You Love Me? - Destroyer
 5.  Domino - Revenge
 6.  Sure Know Something - Dynasty
 7.  A World Without Heroes - Music From The Elder
 8.  Rock Bottom - Dressed To Kill
 9.  See You Tonight - Gene Simmons
10.  I Still Love You - Creatures Of The Night
11.  Every Time I Look At You - Revenge
12.  2,000 Man - Dynasty
13.  Beth - Destroyer
14.  Nothin' To Lose - KISS
15.  Rock And Roll All Nite - Dressed To Kill

 ]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2011 01:24:17 +0000
<![CDATA[ It's All Conceptual And Almost Works]]> Music From The Elder. 

Under the guidance of producer Bob Ezrin, the band, along with new drummer Eric Carr, created an album that is generally hated and despised by the bulk of KISS' core fanbase.  There are a few of us out there, though, who either love or at least appreciate the album and what it stood for at that point in KISStory. 

Before Elder, KISS was looked at as a mostly loud and hairy rock band with an explosive live show.  Then the group produced the four solo projects, Dynasty, and the ill-received Unmasked, and this left many fans wondering exactly where the group was headed. 

If works like Dynasty and Unmasked estranged their fanbase, Music From The Elder put a boot through their foreheads.  It was unlike anything the band created before or since, and it has taken all of the thirty years of its existence to finally gain a bit of acceptance.

The album was a concept album, which was in stride with contemporary bands of the time such as The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, and Styx.  The sound, however, was completely alien to standard KISS fans. 

In September of 1981, when fans hit the record stores to purchase KISS' latest album, what they received was an album that waded through ballads (with orchestral arrangements to boot), Paul Stanley singing in falsetto, and hints of Rush laced throughout the album.

The album opens with orchestral fanfare and then goes into Just A Boy, a tune with music and Paul Stanley vocals very reminiscent of the Christian rock band Petra during the Greg X. Volz years.  The next two tracks, Odyssey and Only You, ar slow tempo ballads, with Only You being just a tad bit heavier.

The album gets even heavier with the very Rush-sounding Under The Rose, which features Gene Simmons on vocals.

It isn't until the Ace Frehley co-written Dark Light where hints of the old KISS sound rise to the surface.  Frehley shines big on both his vocal and string performance on this tune.  It is, in my opinion, the best song on the entire album.

A World Without Heroes, is next, and stands just behind Dark Light in quality in my opinion.  If you've ever listened to Gene Simmons' solo album, you can hear just how much of his solo sound is in this song.

After the somewhat quiet interlude of A World Without Heroes, KISS kicks it up a notch with The Oath.  While I personally like this tune, it doesn't work as well as Dark Light in my opinion.  In fact, I prefer the song that follows it, Mr. Blackwell, and the instrumental Escape From The Island, much more. 

Mr. Blackwell follows Dark Light as the most KISS sounding song on the album to me.  If the lyrics weren't about the villainous Blackwell and were instead about sex or scantily clad women, it would be the perfect sludgy Demon tune for an album like Hotter Than HellEscape From the Island features some fine stringwork by Frehley, and excellent drum work from Eric Carr.

The concept album closes with the anthemic I.  It is the only song on the album that I find myself singing along with out loud.  It has a very Queen feel to it and the excellent chorus keeps me interested throughout the entire song.

So, is Music From The Elder a bad album?  Not at all.  In fact, when compared to other concept albums of that time, it holds up quite well.  When compared to the rest of KISS' catalogue, however, it fails to crack my personal top ten.  I appreciate what the band was attempting to do with this album, and actually quite enjoy Dark Light and A World Without Heroes, but I feel that at this point in the band's career, they were lost and searching for anything to spark interest in their music again.  Thankfully, the KISS ship would be righted somewhat by the band's next album, Creatures of the Night, which allowed Eric Carr to show people what type of drummer he really was and give Gene Simmons meatier tunes to sink his tongue into.

I recommend Music From The Elder to non-KISS fans who enjoy concept albums like The Wall and Kilroy Was Here.  I also believe that any true KISS fans should own this album whether they enjoy it or not for the simple fact that it includes the last musical contributions from Ace Frehley until 1996's KISS Unplugged.]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 20:30:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Flame Isn't "Hotter Than Hell," But The Lighter Sure Is!]]>
The version that I have in my possession is a standard black disposable lighter with black-and-white images of members of the group on it.  The other version that I've seen features the band's logo.  Both of these versions have been available since late 2010.

For those of you who are interested, the current version features all four of the original members of the band (Ace and Peter fans, rejoice!).

While I don't smoke cigarettes, I do like having a lighter handy in both my house and my vehicles.  You'd be surprised how often you need a flame for something and are out of matches.  I also carry lighters when I go camping or on business/pleasure trips. 

Of course, KISS fans need no real reason to carry a lighter.  We will buy it simply for the fact that it features our favorite band, KISS!]]> Mon, 4 Apr 2011 18:38:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ Next Time I Have Coffee, I'm Gonna "Lick It Up!"]]> The Demon Ceramic mug online and got it for me as a surprise Christmas gift.

All four members of the legendary band are available, but I have to admit that The Demon is probably the best looking one of the bunch.  This particular line of mugs was produced in 2003 and sold by Spencer Gifts.

It features a thick base and the head of Gene Simmons with his iconic makeup on.  The handle is made up of Gene's tongue, which leaves his mouth and touches his forehead.  The band's name is printed in relief on both sides of the mug as well.

The mug is big, and definitely a conversation starter.  I have plans to collect the other three mugs soon!]]> Thu, 27 Jan 2011 22:25:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ More Criss, Less KISS]]> Peter Criss gives KISS fans a look into the sounds that inspired Criss and shows just how much of an artist he really is. 

If you expect to hear typical KISS fare such as Black Diamond or Strutter, you're in for a surprise.  In fact, this album would probably be a lot more comfortable placed on the music rack next to albums by artists as varied as Eddie Rabbitt and The Platters.

The first two songs, I'm Gonna Love You and You Matter To Me, show Criss at his blue-eyed soul best.  Next is a straight cover of Tossin' And Turnin' which has a great boogie-woogie sound to it.  Don't You Let Me Down slow things down a bit with it's jazz and blue-eyed soul influence.  That's The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes picks the pace back up and lyrically is the closest thing to a dirty KISS song (but this claim is a real stretch).

The rest of the album alternates between slow tracks like Easy Thing, KISS The Girl Goodbye, and I Can't Stop The Rain and faster, R&B-tinged rockers like Rock Me, Baby and Hooked On Rock N' Roll. 

Hooked On Rock N' Roll is my favorite track on the album, followed closely by That's The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes and I Can't Stop The Rain.

While this project was one of the poorest received albums by the KISS Army, it has found some footing within KISS' fan base among Criss' loyal fans.  Time has seemed to soften the strangeness of this album when compared to the rest of the group's solo projects.  Many KISS fans who used to hate this album have grown to love it for the fact that it isn't a standard KISS album.  Personally, I enjoy it for what it is:  a solid R&B, jazz, and blue-eyed soul album.

I recommend this album to KISS completionists and anyone who enjoys a good bluesy tune once in awhile.]]> Thu, 27 Jan 2011 00:53:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ Concise KISS]]> While many bands release only one or two greatest hits packages over their careers, KISS has released a multitude of them.  I'll always consider Double Platinum to be KISS' best single disc greatest hits collection, but I have to give The Very Best Of KISS a nod as the second best single disc collection.

The compilation was released in August of 2002 and appears to have become very popular with old and new fans of the band for it's collection of hits spanning the early successful years (1974-1979) and then picking and choosing highlights from the 1980's and the inclusion of one of their biggest tunes from the 1990's.

I personally didn't mind the minor remixes and edits of Double Platinum, but many of the band's early loyal fans didn't like the edits made.  The Very Best Of KISS includes only original recordings from the original albums excepting one edited song (Detroit Rock City).  I'm sure this one edit will not bother fans as it removes only the brief song set up and the car crash sequence.

Like Double Platinum, this compilation opens up with Strutter (albeit not the Strutter '78 remix).  From there, the compilation features many of the same songs as Double Platinum such as Deuce, Beth, Hard Luck Woman, Calling Dr. Love, and Love Gun

Where the albums differ are The Very Best Of KISS' inclusion of Got To Choose, Shout It Out Loud, Christine Sixteen, the wonderful Ace Frehley solo track New York Groove, I Was Made For Lovin' You, I Love It Loud, Lick It Up, Forever, and the sole track from the 90's God Gave Rock N' Roll To You II.

Tracks featured on Double Platinum but not here are Do You Love Me, Let Me Go Rock N' Roll, God Of Thunder, Firehouse, 100,000 Years, Rock Bottom/She, Makin' Love, Cold Gin, and the enormous Black Diamond.

Essentially, if you prefer KISS pre-1980, grab Double Platinum.  It includes the bulk of their hits with a few glaring omissions such as Shout It Out Loud and Christine Sixteen.  If you would rather have an album that features a pretty decent collection of the band's music through the early 90's, get The Very Best Of KISS instead.  Both albums give the listener an excellent shot of KISS, and I believe that both of them will serve the listener well no matter how much they love or know about KISS.


]]> Mon, 13 Dec 2010 15:48:26 +0000
<![CDATA[ Energized And Unmasked, KISS Licks It Back To The Top]]> The early 1980's found KISS constantly in a state of flux.  Their first three albums of the decade, Unmasked, Music From The Elder, and Creatures Of The Night, were ill-received by fans.  The drums were vacated by Peter Criss, causing a revolving door of drummers on albums until the band settled on Eric Carr.  Ace Frehley left for a number of reasons that ranged, depending on who you ask, from alcoholism to a total lack of interest in the band's direction, leaving the band with a number of guitarists filling his shoes on Creatures.   It was one of the axe men on that album, Vinnie Vincent, who would become the band's guitarist (although never officially) for a very brief, chaotic, and highly successful time.  The culmination of that brief period for the band came in the form of 1983's Lick It Up.

On September 18, 1983, KISS appeared on MTV sans makeup.  It was the first time in history that this ever occurred.  Many, including Paul Stanley, believe that this is the main reason that Lick It Up was such a successful album compared to the band's earlier work from that decade. 

I believe that it was both the album's quality of songs and the removal of the makeup that made it so popular.  While I personally consider Creatures to be the group's best 1980's album, Lick It Up comes in at a very close second place.  Much like Creatures, the album is much heavier than anything the group had done up to that point.

The album opens with Exciter, a hard hitting tune sung by Paul Stanley.  The next song, at least in my opinion, is the weakest track and only real misstep on the album.  That song is the Gene Simmons-fronted Not For The innocent.  Like many of the group's later songs in the decade, it feels a bit too forced, almost as if the group is intentionally attempting to sound toughter than they really are. 

The title track is next.  It's one of KISS' biggest non-original lineup tunes and there are plenty of reasons why.  It's catchy, easy to sing along with, and exceptionally fun to listen to.  Young And Wasted follows, and it is one of the groups best songs in my opinion.  Simmons' vocals sound demonically wonderful here and I personally feel that he never sounded better in his demon persona. 

The pumping Gimme More and the raucous All Hell's Breakin' Loose come up next, both fronted by Stanley.  They are energetic tracks that bleed with the influence of Vinnie Vincent.  A Million To One, the slowest tune of the album, and the electric Fits Like A Glove (loaded with great innuendo), keep the album at a very good clip. 

The album is finished off with the sludgy Dance All Over Your Face and the poundingly anthemic And On The 8th Day.

Vocals are split evenly between Simmons and Stanley, but Simmons definitely has the bulk of the best songs.  His bass and Stanley's rhythm guitar sound wonderful.  Eric Carr is dependable as ever, and really shines with his skinwork on this album.  Call him polarizing as much as you want, but Vinnie Vincent's lead guitar work is some of the best on a KISS album from the 1980's.  He co-wrote eight of the album's ten tracks.  Rick Derringer is credited as playing guitar on Exciter.

KISS would follow up Lick It Up with 1984's Animalize.  Even though Vincent was gone by that time, his influence on the group would remain long into the late 80's and he would also contribute one song to 1998's Pscyho Circus. 

Lick It Up injected new life into KISS, and seemingly stabilized the group despite Vincent's quick entry and exit with the band.  Of all of the group's releases from the 1980's, I would have to say that Lick It Up and Creatures Of The Night are the two most important albums of the decade.  Be sure to add both of them to your essential KISS collection.

Highly recommended.

]]> Fri, 3 Dec 2010 15:34:08 +0000
<![CDATA[KISS "Dr. Pepper" Commercial Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]>
]]> Thu, 25 Nov 2010 18:40:16 +0000
<![CDATA[Hard Luck Woman Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:22:41 +0000 <![CDATA[ Gene Simmons: The Man, The Money Maker, The Demon]]> KISS is known for their explosive live shows, dirty songs, and makeup.  Say the band's name, though, and most people have one image that comes to mind:  The Demon.  Gene Simmons' black and white batlike facepaint is the most iconic image of a band that put itself on the map with iconic imagery.  Simmons has also made a name for himself as a businessman, television star, and for being bluntly honest on many controversial topics. 

A lot of non-KISS fans may not be aware that Simmons is an immigrant to the United States.  He was born in Haifa, Israel in 1949 and came to the United States at the age of eight.  Raised by his mother, Simmons spent many years in a number of bands before meeting up with Paul Stanley and forming a band called Wicked Lester.  Soon enough, Wicked Lester would become KISS once drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley came onboard.

Throughout the mid and late 1970's, KISS would find a lot of success.  The band released seven albums within a six year period during this time, as well as the now legendary Alive live album in 1975.

It is at the very end of the 70's and the beginning of the 1980's that Gene Simmons' story would take a turn.  The band was beginning to lose steam with hardcore fans and with general audiences as well.  Their sound changed quite a bit (especially with 1979's Dynasty) and many people began to grow tired of the multiple KISS themed paraphernalia that was avaliable.  KISS was literally everywhere.  The group was plastered on t-shirts, lunchboxes, dolls, pinball machines, and plenty of other products.

This was also a time which found Peter Criss battling drug abuse problems and Ace Frehley struggling with alcoholism.  This dreary period for the band saw both Criss and Frehley leave the group, and many fans blamed not them, but Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons for their departure.

Simmons was seen as a man bent on making money by many of the group's fans and willing to sell out to the highest bidder no matter how silly or degrading the end result might be so long as he made a profit.  Stanley was looked on as the man trying desperately to keep KISS together but also being lured by success like Simmons.  This resulted in a large backlash against the group and it wasn't until the band took off their makeup and released 1983's Lick It Up that they once again started to gain popularity.

It should also be noted that during this period, Simmons claims to have become "detached" from KISS without their makeup.  He has personally acknowledged Stanley as the force that kept KISS alive during the 80's and early 90's.

When KISS reunited with Criss and Frehley in 1995, fans rejoiced.  Gone were the murmerings of Simmons and Stanley being money grubbers and control freaks.  Not long after the reunion, though, KISS released 1998's Psycho Circus and it was quickly found out that although Frehley and Criss were on the cover, their actually amount of recorded material on the album was slim.  Once again, many fans lashed out against the group (specifically Simmons).  Criss and Frehley talked about unfair profit splits between the four members and both would eventually leave the band again.

Despite their departure from the band, KISS has trudged on with new members donning the makeup of Frehley and Criss (Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, respectively).  

Why Gene Simmons took the brunt of the blame for Criss and Frehley's departure is unknown to me.  Granted, Simmons has never attempted to keep his thoughts on making money or on Criss and Frehley a secret, but both of them (as well as Paul Stanley) should get a bit of the blame as well in my book.

Love him or hate, Simmons is honest.  Being honest can be brutal, but considering the fact that KISS is still selling out shows, recently released a new album (2008's Sonic Boom), and Simmons has his own successful reality show, it's hard to say that being honest has been a bad thing for Simmons.

]]> Thu, 11 Nov 2010 19:19:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Raspy Rhythm Section Of KISS]]> EXPD. ROCK & roll drummer looking for orig. grp. doing soft & hard music.  Peter, Brooklyn.

When Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons came across the above advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine, little did they know that they'd soon meet the man who would become not only the first drummer for the band KISS, but one of the most beloved members of the group as well as the vocalist on some of their biggest hits.

Peter George John Criscuola, forever best known as Peter Criss, joined KISS in 1972 and thus began the legendary run of the raspy-voiced Catman.

Criss provided an energy to KISS that even all of their well known pyrotechnics couldn't overshadow.  Watching any of the group's live performances from the 70's and late 90's shows just how much Criss loved the fans.  He truly seems to appreciate each and every cheer he receives from the crowd.  Only Eric Carr, in my opinion, outshined Criss as a person who loved and respected the fans. 

Criss' drumming style is heavily influenced by jazz and R&B.  This is most easily recognized on his 1978 solo Peter Criss project (of which he actually played drums on roughly half of the album) and his non-KISS solo projects.  Many people feel that these influences hindered Criss as a rock n' roll drummer.  I disagree.  While he might not have been a "true" rock n' roll drummer (as Carr and current KISS drummer, Eric Singer, are), Criss' style added a boogie-woogie sound to KISS that has sorely been missed ever since he officially left the band in 1980.

Criss' time with KISS was rather tough.  His drug abuse has been well documented on countless KISS documentaries and in a number of books about the band.  Arguments persist over whether Criss freely left the band or was fired.  All that is known for sure is that Criss only played on one song on 1979's Dynasty and quickly fell out of favor with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

An amazing piece of video footage from the Tomorrow With Tom Snyder show from October 31, 1979 (which can be viewed on YouTube and within KISSology, Volume 2) shows a very quiet and reserved Criss as part of a band interview by Snyder.  The video is known primarily for the supposedly drunken antics of guitarists Ace Frehley, but Criss looks almost completely detached from the rest of the group.

Criss performed vocals on many of KISS' most popular songs, in particular Hard Luck Woman, Black Diamond, and Nothin' To Lose.  He is most well known for singing the vocals on and co-writing the very un-KISS sounding Beth, which remains KISS' highest charting song to date in the United States.

For the next fifteen years, Criss released a few more solo projects and worked with other bands, but never achieved a lot of mainstream success.  He rejoined KISS in 1995 and along with Simmons, Stanley, and Frehley, took off on a highly successful reunion tour.  Criss would again leave the band in 2000, rejoin them in 2002, and finally call it quits with KISS in 2004.  He has shown no interest in rejoining the band since, especially since both he and Ace Frehley's iconic makeup has been worn by current members Tommy Thayer (Spaceman) and Eric Singer (Catman).

Criss, much like Frehley,  still has a very loyal fanbase despite moving on from KISS.  He is also one of the most recognizable faces of men who suffered with breast cancer and as late as last month has participated in a number of breast cancer fundraising events. 

Peter Criss, despite being replaced by both Eric Carr and Eric Singer on the skins for the hottest band in the land, will always be the original Catman driving home the sounds of KISS.

]]> Thu, 11 Nov 2010 18:37:03 +0000
<![CDATA[My Favorite KISS Songs]]> Fri, 5 Nov 2010 18:00:32 +0000 <![CDATA[The Unofficial KISS Kommunity On Lunch Quick Tip by kfontenot]]> Wed, 3 Nov 2010 13:52:17 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Center Of The KISS Universe]]>
Of all of the monikers taken by members of the band over the years, none fit their bearer as well as the Starchild does.  Despite having no official lead singer, there's no question who the frontman for KISS is.  Paul Stanley is not only responsible for writing or co-writing the bulk of the KISS' songs, he's also co-produced a number of the band's albums as well as being the sole producer of 1984's Animalize and 1978's Paul Stanley (one of the four solo KISS albums).  Oh, and he'll wear out a microphone like it's nobody's business during a live show.

If you've never seen KISS live, I highly recommend it.  Stanley prances, shakes, and struts his way across the stage, spits and flicks guitar picks into the crowd and makes many, many innuendo-laden comments to the crowd (okay, primarily to the women).  He can quickly get the crowd into a frenzy, and have them believing that at that moment, they are part of the greatest show on earth.  He is the carnival barker of the biggest musical circus you'll ever experience.

Stanley has released three solo albums over his long and successful career.  There's the aforementioned self-titled KISS solo album, Live To Win (2006), and a DVD/Digital download called One Live Kiss from 2008.  He also played the part of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Other than that, though, Stanley's pretty much been a KISS man from the word go.

Some of KISS' biggest songs that Stanley either wrote/co-wrote or sings/co-sings on include Firehouse, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City, Shout It Out Loud, Hard Luck Woman, Love Gun, Lick It Up, Tears Are Falling, and Forever.  Of course, this is only a small sampling of the songs that Stanley was a part of.  To list them all here would require a lot more space than I'm allowed.

Of course, not all of Stanley's career has been hit music and partying.  He's had two hip-replacement surgeries.  He has also suffered from tachycardia, causing him to miss only one show in his long career.  There's also the tension between Stanley and Gene Simmons and former original KISS members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.  I'll keep my nose out of that business, since there are so many stories flying about that it's hard to tell what is actually the truth.

Overall, Paul Stanley is 100% showman.  He gives his all every time.  I've witnessed this personally.  He also appears to have a deep passion for KISS and the massive KISS Army. 

He's one Starchild that will never burn out.]]> Mon, 1 Nov 2010 21:51:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Quiet One]]>
He spent nearly twelve very productive years with the group (1984-1996) and recorded five albums with them.  He was with the band when they were on top in the 80's and when they were starting to fade in the 90's before the eventual reunion with original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  He's one of only two members (Mark St. John being the other) who never wore facepaint with the band, yet he is featured on some of their biggest singles (Forever, Crazy Crazy Nights, Tears Are Falling, and God Gave Rock n' Roll To You II). 

He's also one of the least talked about members of the group outside of KISS fan circles.  Why?  Because in a group that thrives on excess and showmanship, Kulick simply played the music.  He never really stood out from the rest of the band, seemingly content to be the steady guitar player in the background while Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons took the spotlight and Eric Carr embraced the fans as the "new guy" even though he hadn't been the new guy since Vinnie Vincent joined the band in 1982.  He also never got into trouble due to alcohol, ego, or illness.  In short, he was a good guy who played his role and let the rest deal with the drama that has followed KISS from the beginning.

Kulick's style was very similar to that of many contemporary glam and hard rock artists of the 1980's.  In fact, one listen to Crazy Nights and you'll be thinking that you're listening to Eddie Van Halen on a couple of the tunes.

Before KISS, Kulick was involved with bands like Good Rats, Meat Loaf, and even a Michael Bolton-fronted group called Blackjack.  After his KISS tenure, he'd go on to perform with artists such as John Corabi and has finally settled in with the classic rock group Grand Funk Railroad.

Kulick has been known to attend KISS expos and still has a large following of KISS fans including myself.  I missed the chance to see him live recently when Grand Funk Railroad played at a local casino. 

It really is a shame that Kulick hasn't had a more prominent role in music.  I would love to see him step back on the stage with KISS, even if it's just for a one off show, but with Tommy Thayer having solidified his spot in the group, I doubt that will ever happen.

Here's to Bruce Kulick, the quiet one from KISS.]]> Mon, 11 Oct 2010 20:24:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Ankh Warrior Ignites]]> Treasure and gained a solid reputation as a songwriter by writing songs for artists such as John Waite and by being a staff songwriter on Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi.

While Ace Frehley is featured on the album cover for KISS' 1982 release, Creatures of the Night, he actually recorded no material for the album.  Instead, a number of guitarists were brought in to fill his shoes.  Robben Ford, Steve Farris, and Bob Kulick (future KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick's brother) all played on the album, as well as Vincent Cusano.  Of this group, Cusano would contribute the bulk of the playing duties, as well as contributing on the writing of songs such as I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, and Killer.

When Frehley refused to tour in support of Creatures, Cusano was asked to replace him.  The band didn't want to hire Cusano permanently at first, primarily due to his somewhat abrasive and (as some have put it) egotistical personality.  With few options to go on, however, Gene Simmons suggested Cusano use the name "Vinnie Vincent" and Paul Stanley dubbed him the Ankh Warrior and the band then quickly headed out on tour.

Following the tour, KISS headed to the studio to record their next album, Lick It Up.  Vincent played guitar and wrote a significant amount of material on the album, most notably the title track.  The album is considered by many to be the one that put KISS back on the map.  Vincent has openly claimed that he was the primary reason for KISS' rebirth.  I personally think that it was a combination of the earlier addition of drummer Eric Carr (specifically his work on Creatures), the removal of the makeup, and Vincent's playing style (which was a perfect fit for the rising glam scene). 

When the band went on tour in support of Lick It Up, they quickly found themselves in the eye of a storm.  Vincent would expand his solos to long lengths, miss cues from bandmates (most likely intentionally), and was an all around tough person to get along with.  After being fired and then rehired by the band, Vincent was officially ousted in early 1984 and replaced by Mark St. John.

Vincent would never return to the spotlight in as big a way as he did with KISS.  He did start up his own band, Vinnie Vincent Invasion,  however, and released two albums with the group as well as a solo EP.

Vincent has also had many legal run-ins with his former bandmates in KISS, making numerous claims against them.  Despite these actions, the band called on him to write songs for 1992's Revenge.  His formal relationship was finally dissolved with the band in 2001 after more legal actions against the group.

No one can deny that Vincent's brief career with KISS helped spark the group in the 80's.  Lick It Up has proven to be one of the most popular songs and albums for the band.  However, to claim that he is the sole reason for the band's survival during the decade of excess is a very weak argument.  I bring two pieces of evidence against this claim.  First of all, KISS' other albums during that decade did just as good or better than Lick It UpAnimalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights, and Hot In The Shade were all commercial successes without Vincent in the lineup.  Secondly, had Vincent been such a key piece of KISS' 80's revival, wouldn't his solo career have been much more successful?  That's just my opinion, folks, and you and I both know what they say about opinions. 

It should be noted that Vincent's career did bear fruit with another band.  Two members of Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum, would go on to be members of the band Slaughter.

Overall, Vincent was and still is a very talented musician.  While he seems to work best when harnessed in by fellow bandmates, it appears that his ego got the best of him in the long run.  It's a shame, really, because not only could he play, he knew how to write excellent songs as well.]]> Wed, 6 Oct 2010 16:35:45 +0000