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.
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