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.
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