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Friday, July 27, 2007


KISS - WHAT LIES BENEATH

The rule of thumb in Hard Rock is that with very few exceptions the hit songs are not the best songs on the record. Kiss is a very good example of this.

In the new world of digital downloads it seems that a guide to what is actually good is necessary, so I will provide that service.

I'll start with Kiss, the first Hard Rock band that I got into way back when in a land called The Seventies.

KISS (1973)

A very strong debut, but it has it's regrettable moments, such as the super silly 'Kissin' Time'.

The hit, if you can call it a hit, was 'Strutter'. A silly song as well if you ask me. I guess there was a lot of struttin' going on back then.

The good songs on this record all appear on the breakout Live record from 1975 - 'Alive'. So in retrospect they seem like hits. They are as follows:

'Nothin' To Lose' - Featuring the vocals of Peter Criss on the chorus. Peter was the most talented singer in the band, too bad about the drumming skills.

'Firehouse' - If for no other reason, it's an excuse to use a siren during the live show.

'Cold Gin' - Written by Ace Frehley, and inexplicably sang by tea-totaller Gene.

"It's time to leave and get another quart

Around the corner at the liquor store

The cheapest stuff is all I need

To get me back on my feet again"

'Deuce' - One of the most confusing Riffs in Rock, coupled with lyrics that defy comprehension.

"Get up, and get your gramma outta here

Pick up, old Jim has been working hard this year"

Great show opener. Ace opened Frehley's Comet shows with it as well.

'100,000 Years'

Great Riff, great live track, unfortunate home to unfortunate drum solo.

'Black Diamond' - Again Peter's voice lends credibility. Used as the show closer where Paul smashes a guitar - not the one he played during the rest of the show, but a much less expensive Gibson Marauder.

HOTTER THAN HELL (1974)

If Kiss ever made a perfect studio record, this is it, or it's as close as they ever got. Those very few who are actually reading this completely unsubstantiated, unwarranted, and unnecessary post are probably screaming "What about Destroyer!".

We'll get to that one.

The hit would have been the title track I guess, which is Paul's obligatory silly chick tune, but the riff is divine, and I believe the guitar tone of said riff is responsible for the guitar playing of Mr. L Smart, aka Milkyum.

The only real sub-par tune is the Paul penned, Peter sung, 'Mainline'. It is better than a lot of Kiss tunes on other records though.

This is a very Ace driven record. He wrote my two favorite tracks, 'Parasite', the riff of which is absolute insanity, and the totally weird and forgotten 'Strange Ways'. The guitar solo in 'Strange Ways' is one of my personal favorite moments in all of Rockdom.

'Goin' Blind' is the best thing Gene ever did. That includes Cher.

'Let Me Go Rock and Roll' is another standout track, written by Gene and Paul. On the Live record, however, it becomes all about Ace.

'Watchin' You' is total bad ass Kiss. This is what Ace was talking about when he said in 1981 that they should make a Rock record instead of The Elder. It just kicks ass.

'Comin' Home' and 'All the Way' are decent meat and potatoes tracks, and again, the guitar tone on 'Comin' Home' is sent from above.

DRESSED TO KILL (1975)

A strong record when all is said and done, but the poorer offerings within are even more destitute than the weaker tracks on the first two.

The hit is, of course, 'Rock and Roll All Night'. Personally I don't need to ever hear this song again.

The record opens strong with three very good songs that got lost in the shuffle.

'Room Service' features Paul postulating on how often he has sex.

'Two Timer' is a well crafted number by Gene, followed by another Gene tune, 'Ladies In Waiting' which covers the same ground Paul trolled on 'Room Service'.

Ace's 'Getaway', sung by Peter, follows, and could well have been left off the record.

'Rock Bottom' features an Ace penned intro which feels tacked onto the Paul penned song. All in all it's decent, and made the live set, but it feels a bit thin to me in retrospect.

'C'mon and Love Me' is your basic Paul rocker from this period. It works, and makes the Live show as well.

'Anything For My Baby', Paul again, is another example of a great forgotten tune, the type of tune that inspired this lengthy and superfluous post.

'She' is the gem of the album. Like 'Watchin You', it's classic riffology a la Kiss. It's these tracks that have made Kiss so influential on the metal scene, without actually being a Metal band.

Other than the fore mentioned 'Rock and Roll All Night', the remainder is a decent Paul toss away tune - 'Love Her All I Can'.


ALIVE (1975)


After these three studio offerings Kiss dealt out the masterwork of their career, the live double record set, 'Alive'. This entire record is a must own for any self respecting Rock fan. It is worth mentioning again the astounding live version of 'Let Me Go Rock and Roll', because that's what we're talking about here, the really good stuff underneath all the bullshit.


DESTROYER (1976)


With a bit of success at hand, Kiss went to the next level with the Bob Ezrin produced 'Destroyer'. Much better produced than any other Kiss record, including the two other collaborations with Bob; 'The Elder' (1981), and ''Revenge (1992), 'Destroyer' is aptly titled, because it not only destroys records made by mere mortals, but also because the success of the record did bring Kiss to the next level. We call that level Crap. Kiss would never be this good again.


There was more than one hit from this record, there was three. The album opener 'Detroit Rock City' which is the exception to the rule that my thesis rests upon, but hey, I think we'll all survive somehow. 'Detroit Rock City' is probably the apex of Kiss' recording career.


'Beth'.........what can one say? It's a beautiful ballad superbly sung by Peter. It killed Kiss. It does hold up well though. 'Beth' is a good example of what Bob Ezrin brings to the table; maturity in arrangement, class.


I think Bob fucked up 'Shout It Out Loud'. Somehow I can't help but think that the song had more balls before Bob got a hold of it. It screams pop, specifically bubble gum pop.


'God of Thunder' is an odd bird. Certainly one of the best things they've done, but the studio cut is so amazingly produced that they never really could capture it live. The perfect Gene showcase, penned by Paul.


I think in hindsight they must regret the title and chorus anchor lyric of 'Flaming Youth', but it is a great tune, somewhat slightly marred by Paul's histrionics.


'Sweet Pain' is brilliant.


"My leathers fit tight around me, my whip is always beside me


You want the same thing everyday, I'll teach you love a different way"


'Do Ya Love Me' is a crowd pleaser, but it hasn't aged well considering the gratuitous explorations of financial gain associated with Kiss.


'King of the Night Time World' benefits from the segue link to the end of 'Detroit Rock City'. Otherwise it's forgettable Paul bluster. Something he would dish out quite a bit more of on later releases.


'Great Expectations' rounds the LP out with a direct rip from Rachmaninoff. Gene plays on the fantasy life of his very young female fans. Something he would dish out quite a bit more of on later releases.


"You're sitting in your seat


Then you stand and clutch your breast"


Well, it's better than the ever ready 'knees' and 'please' rhyme.


ROCK AND ROLL OVER (1976)


Back to basics, i.e. Eddie Kramer producing, was the order of the day on this hurried sounding follow up to the gazillion selling 'Destroyer'. Probably motivated by the need to get something in the can quickly, 'Rock and Roll Over' stops short of the mark, with the exception of some really great guitar work by Ace. Absent for much of 'Destroyer', Ace seemed to respond to Eddie Kramer's production style. Or maybe Ace just didn't care for Bob's.


The most clever thing about 'Rock and Roll Over' is it's title. While none of the songs suck, there's not much in the way of standout tracks. It's a very consistent album, but a bit of a ho-humer.


'Calling Dr. Love' was the hit. A great groove, musically the song moves well, but the subject matter was formulaic, and the lyric sophomoric. Gene issues crap and is rewarded with a gazillion sales.


'I Want You' leads off the record with zeal, and is probably the strongest tune on the record.


'Ladies Room' is vulgar. Vulgar can be good, and this is good vulgar.


'Hard Luck Woman' could be Rod Stewart. Literally, they tried to sell it to him. He passed. They gave it to Peter, but kept the Rod Stewart vibe. It works, but sounds out of place to me now - and it's the last song on the record, where out of place songs can work, sometimes.


The rest of the record (Take Me, Baby Driver, Love 'Em and Leave 'Em, Mr. Speed, Makin' Love, See You In Your Dreams) is all decent, but not deadly. Inexplicably, Gene would re-cut 'See You In Your Dreams' again on his Solo Record in 78.


LOVE GUN (1977)


Open up the crap gates.


I laugh when I listen to 'Christine Sixteen', but deep down it's very disturbing, and would not sell as a single today like it did then. Like, sixteen is illegal, right?


The best thing about the 'Love Gun' record, besides the paper 'pop gun' that came inside, is the fact that Ace finally stepped up to the mic to deliver 'Shock Me'. Ace sings like he's smiling, and high.


'Almost Human' is a refreshing number by Gene lost in a wilderness of insipid formulaic ( I know, I used that one already, but it's hard to keep coming up with disparaging musical terms when you are talking about Kiss......for this long!) phoned in crap.


The only other song even worth mentioning is the just plain ridiculous cover of 'And Then He Kissed Me', with appropriate gender switch of course.


ALIVE II (1977)


Did I use formulaic yet? Another three studio records, another live record, of sorts.


It is widely accepted that 'Alive II' wasn't recorded in front an audience, but in the studio with piped in crowd noise (which is standard - the crowd noise that is, most live recording don't actually have much crowd noise on them, it became de rigeur to add it into the mix).


The only reason to buy 'Alive II' is the 4th side which features 'bonus' studio material.


Ace's 'Rocket Ride' saves the day. For some reason his surface level ode to sex (the Kiss ethic) comes off, whereas Gene and Paul have to stoop increasingly lower into the gutter for material.


Having said that, Gene's 'Larger Than Life' is absolutely absurd in entendre, but absolutely brilliant. I would say that it is the last great Kiss song, but the fact that Ace doesn't play on it makes me think we've passed that mark already.


'All American Man' is okay.


I think we're done here.


DOUBLE PLATINUM (1978)


Greatest hits package only worth mentioning for the remake of 'Strutter' slyly titled 'Strutter 78'. The word 'why' comes to mind.


THE SOLO ALBUMS


Treat Peter's like the Plague.


All of Ace's is worthwhile, and occasionally brilliant.


Paul's mostly blows. 'Goodbye', 'Move On', 'It's Alright', and 'Love In Chains' are decent. The rest is crap, or worse, mellow crap.


Gene's has it's moments. 'Radioactive' is good, specially after the pretentious intro. 'Burning Up With Fever' follows and is decent as well. 'Living In Sin' has a certain novelty value, and 'When You Wish Upon a Star' is just hilarious. I'm still not sure if he meant that to be funny or what.


DYNASTY (1979)


The big comeback. The big comecrap is more like it.


We've now reached a point where Ace is carrying the record. Of course 'I Was Made For Loving You' was a big hit, and put the final nail in their credibility coffin, but Ace's cover of the Jagger/Richards number '2000 Man' is sublime. While Paul was courting disco, Ace was courting Rock.


Ace's 'Hard Times' isn't his best, but in a desert light beer is great.


I'd say that 'Sure Know Something' is a well crafted pop tune, but not what was desired at the time, at least not by anybody cool.


UNMASKED (1980)


Gene actually makes a bit of a comeback on this one, providing the few non-Ace numbers that don't make you puke, which are, ah......let me see here......oh, 'Naked City'. That's it.


Ace gives us 'Talk To Me', 'Two Sides of the Coin', and 'Torpedo Girl'. None Nobel worthy, but all decent - 'Torpedo Girl' simply because it's so ridiculous, and funky.


After 'Unmasked' Peter quit, much to Paul and Gene's relief, but that left Ace the odd man out.


In 1981 they brought back Bob Ezrin to produce their concept record, 'The Elder'. It was the end, and only Ace knew it.


Comments:
I actually had to do some research for this post... It has been a long (20+years) time since I went through the Kiss catalog.
"Kiss".. I mostly agree with your assessment.. I like Peters drumming though. I thought it was original, not always straight 'boom. tak. boom boom. tak' type stuff. I am glad you left out "love theme from kiss" ack.
"Hotter Than Hell" Geez... my moms gonna be pissed when she sees the word "Hell" on the cover.. Is that a boob? Zoinks! gotta hide this one!
'Parasite', 'Hotter Than Hell', 'Comin Home' (cool hollow sounding guitar, and 'Strange Ways' are my favorites on here.. The crunchy string-sweeping chords on HTH were most definitely responsible (good or bad) I remember saying that the solo in 'Strange Ways' sounded like someone ran over and unplugged Ace mid-solo for ripping too hard...
Looking back, this is def the best album.
fuckin great.
OK... I gotta shorten this up.
Of the later stuff, I actually liked "Love Gun" the most. 'Love Gun', 'Shock Me' and 'I Stole Your Love' Cool.
I think this had to do with my introduction to the band. My first record was Alive II. I loved that album more than any other... I actually brought it in to my 6th grade show-and-tell. I remember the comments claiming "REAL" Kiss fans liked Alive! and that Alive II was crap. It should be no surprise that I was a Paul fan. This album was more Paul-ish than Alive!... like a Vegas show.. I dug that for some reason. Perhaps I am gay... I am OK with that.
After Alive II, Paul became the reason I hated the band. A song would start out sounding good, and Paul would come in with his lame-ass falsetto. P.U.
I became an Ace fan.

Comecrap... Nice!
 
Yeah, this is all hindsight. Although I had Destroyer first, Love Gun was the first new record to come out after I had fallen under their evil spell.

I always hated 'I Stole Your Love', though the riff for 'Love Gun' is so heavy that I liked that tune a lot before Paul just started to make me ill, and that was the record where the illness began.
 
So well written and researched than I had to take notes while reading.

I couldn't argue a single point with your asessment. It's perfect. I forgot that all those great tunes were on the first album. "Deuce" is SOOOOOO badass.

HTH, Strange Ways" and "Goin' Blind" extremely good.

Sorry, Mr. Smart, the first live is top dog.

Destroyer, like all the tunes. Love 'Shout it Out Loud'.

RnR Over, I always like Mr Speed with that riff. I thought Hard Luck Women charted pretty high didn't it?

"Open up the crap gates" You are the man...LOL!
 
Bill and I were singing Mr. Speed somwhere after the fifth beer in Anaheim.

I think Mr. L. Smart was saying he had a connection with Alive II, I don't think he meant to say it was any good, at least outside of his emotional response to it based on childhood experiences and other societal influences - or sommink like 'at.

The song that really Inspired this post was 'Almost Human'. Part of me still loves Gene despite the fact that I hate most everything about the man.
 
Man battle-stations torpedo...

For my money it's all about ACE. He brought a certain Velvet Underground/NYC/Stones vibe to the ridiculous proceedings.

My first Kiss vinyl was Rock and Roll Over purchased in 1977 I think. I was living in Germany and had no idea what the band looked like. I thought the album cover was just a really cool graphic design. In any event the guitar riffs and solos hooked me and once I discovered the magazines, well it was all over.

Kiss and specifically ACE are the only reason I own a Les Paul. Jimmy who? All Kiss records had the impressionable phrase: "Kiss uses Gibson guitars and Pearl Drums because they want the best."

I have always argued that Ace's solos are perfection. Most bands at this time weren't trying to perfect the 8 bar solo. Ace always managed to say what he had to say in the time alotted, end with a flourish and lift the song.

Ace's solos were always way more difficult than they sounded. Take it from someone who's figured most of them out and continues to try and play alot like Ace. The string bending alone is enough to send most shredders crying home to momma.

I used to buy Kiss records at the PX and nab all the goodies (posters, tatoos, love guns) and go back and exchange them saying the records had scratches so I could have two of everything. Worked like a charm.

Fractured Mirror from Ace's solo record is pretty cool.

p.s.
Kiss meets the Phantom is must see TV if you haven't had the pleasure!
 
Right-on.. I now realize how artificial Alive II is. I was the kid who bought in for the spectacle.... Like I said... Paul fan... Im not proud.
Who the fuck was a Paul fan BTW.. I dont know anyone else.
 
MINIKISS
 
So erm, are you a Kiss fan?
 
Yep.
 
Milk,

I was a Paul S. fan big time until I saw them live as a grown up and my first thought was, "Will this guy shut up with his between song rambling...". Oh yeah, he fired Ace a billion times too.

I saw them 5 years ago or so with Ace, and the show was mindblowing still.
 
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