A person who hasn't heard of the rock group Kiss is almost as rare as a person who hasn't heard of the Beatles. The quartet of arena rockers (originally consisting of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) gained great fame and notoriety in the 1970's for their wild and visual stage shows. The band wore kabuki-mask-like makeup and comic-book-hero-like costumes, and used pyrotechnics and other flashy visual effects on stage. In the 1980's, when only Stanley and Simmons remained from the original lineup, Kiss removed the makeup and were generally considered to be out of fashion. Ironically, the band still achieved gold and platinum record sales for most of that decade, thanks in large part to the business acumen of Stanley and Simmons. In the mid-1990's, the original quartet reunited and reapplied the makeup, and their reunion tour made Kiss a huge media phenomenon all over again. At the turn of the millennium, Kiss undertook a lengthy "farewell" tour. However, as of this writing, Kiss continue to perform live, with Stanley and Simmons as the only original members. Most of the Kiss catalogue is currently in print, but some related recordings have become rarities.
Before meeting up with Stanley and Simmons in late 1972, drummer Peter Criss gained years of experience by playing in a number of short-lived bands. The best-known of Criss’ pre-Kiss bands was Chelsea, who recorded one self-titled album for the Decca label in 1970. The scattershot Chelsea (on which Criss is credited as “Peter Cris”) finds that quintet dabbling sloppily in British-style pub rock, blues rock, folk rock, Merseybeat, and psychedelia -- proving themselves to be equally inept at all of them. A guest appearance by the Velvet Underground's John Cale, who plays the viola on "Long River" and "Good Company", doesn't help much. Strictly for the curious.
1. Rollin' Along
2. Let's Call It A Day
3. Silver Lining
4. All American Boy
5. Hard Rock Music
7. Long River
9. Polly Von
10. Good Company
In the early 1970’s, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were both members of a band called Wicked Lester, which eventually evolved into Kiss. Wicked Lester recorded an album for Epic Records in 1972, but the label refused to release it. Kiss purchased the rights to the album in 1976, and have prevented it from ever being released to this day. Naturally, the album has been much-bootlegged over the years. Three tracks (marked with an asterisk below) are available on the 2001 Kiss box set.
The personnel for the Wicked Lester album consisted of Stanley (guitar and vocals), Simmons (bass and vocals), Ron Leejack (guitar and banjo), Brooke Ostrander (piano and horns), and Tony Zarella (drums). Wicked Lester’s sound was somewhat different from that of Kiss, as the band attempted folk-rock and various styles of pop, including Anglo (“Molly”, “When The Bell Rings”) and Brill Building (“Sweet Ophelia”, “Too Many Mondays”) varieties. Several songs are not as far removed from the Kiss sound as they may seem; in fact, “Love Her All I Can” is roughly identical to the version which surfaced on the 1975 Kiss album Dressed To Kill. Where Kiss specialized in hard rock with pop hooks, Wicked Lester tended to play pop songs with slight hard rock edges. However, their recorded songs suggest that they were stylistically unfocused, and that they probably were trying different things in order to see what worked. Stanley’s New York swagger sometimes sounds out of place in this pop context, although he uses just the right voice for the gentle “Too Many Mondays”. On the other hand, he seems out of his depth singing the old-fashioned folk song “Long, Long Road”. Simmons’ notorious "demon" persona is conspicuously absent on his vocal turns. He seemed to be aiming for sensitivity on the Hollies cover “(We Want To) Shout It Out Loud”, which incidentally bears no resemblance to the Kiss song “Shout It Out Loud”. One amusing moment: the Wicked Lester version of the Kiss song “She” seems to draw equal inspiration from Jethro Tull and Shocking Blue! Warts and all, the Wicked Lester recordings are fascinating listening for Kiss fanatics.
Track List (in no official order):
1. Sweet Ophelia
2. Keep Me Waiting *
3. Love Her All I Can *
4. Simple Types
5. She *
6. Too Many Mondays
7. What Happens In The Darkness
8. When The Bell Rings
10. (We Want To) Shout It Out Loud
11. Long, Long Road
* -- available on the 2001 Kiss box set
In 1978, Kiss made music history when all four members simultaneously released self-titled solo albums, making them the first band ever to have all of its members release solo albums while still remaining together as a group. The album recorded by drummer Peter Criss unexpectedly consisted of mellow pop which was very unlike Kiss' hard-rock sound. It was therefore not surprising when Criss was the first to leave the band in 1980. Shortly after his departure, Criss recorded two more solo albums in 1980 and 1982, both of which were commercial failures. Criss virtually disappeared for a decade afterward.
On the 1980 album Out of Control, Criss came on like Billy Joel with more heart and a bit less depth. The album is satisfying on that type of superficial pop-rock level, especially on the more upbeat songs ("I Found Love", "There's Nothing Better", "My Life"). The songs which attempt to convey a sense of tension ("In Trouble Again", "Where Will They Run", the title track) sound a bit more strained and less genuine. It's best not to take any of the songs seriously, especially when Peter sings about "starting over again" on the opening string-ballad "By Myself". The pop begins to lose its fizz toward the end. Peter's rendition of the Young Rascals' "You Better Run" sounds awfully dull compared to Pat Benatar's popular version from the same year. The original LP ended with a short snippet of Criss singing two lines from the song "As Time Goes By" from the movie Casablanca.
Let Me Rock You is even less ambitious. Peter only co-wrote two of the tracks for this well-produced but lightweight offering. Two of the contributing songwriters were Kiss associates. Gene Simmons penned "Feel Like Heaven", one of the album's harder-rocking tracks, and Vinnie Vincent co-wrote "Tears" (later a hit for John Waite, whose version was better). But the best contributions came from Russ Ballard ("Some Kinda Hurricane" and the title track are both high points) and a then-unknown Steve Stevens, whose guitar helps the ballad "First Day In The Rain" stand out. Let Me Rock You is a tolerable but forgettable trifle.
OUT OF CONTROL
1. By Myself
2. In Trouble Again
3. Where Will They Run
4. I Found Love
5. There's Nothing Better
6. Out of Control
8. You Better Run
9. My Life
10. Feel Like Letting Go
11. As Time Goes By (hidden track on LP only)
LET ME ROCK YOU
1. Let It Go -- (Tommy Faragher/Davey Faragher/Brie Howard)
2. Tears -- (Vincent Cusano/Adam Mitchell)
3. Move On Over -- (Vini Poncia/Peter Criss)
4. Jealous Guy -- (John Lennon)
5. Destiny -- (Charlie Midnight/Cash Monet/Jeff Schoen)
6. Some Kinda Hurricane -- (Russell Ballard)
7. Let Me Rock You -- (Russell Ballard)
8. First Day In The Rain -- (Steve Stevens)
9. Feel Like Heaven -- (Gene Simmons)
10. Bad Boys -- (Peter Criss/Jim Roberge)
Killers was a 1982 compilation released in Germany, Japan, and Australia. Its selection of tracks isn't very career-comprehensive, but the songs are ordered in a sequence which makes for fairly intriguing listening. What makes Killers special are four tracks (marked with an asterisk below) which were specially recorded for this collection, two of which are still unavailable elsewhere. The guitarist on these tracks was Bob Kulick, the brother of Bruce; even though Ace Frehley was pictured in the cover art, he was not involved with the recording of these four tracks. The producer was Michael James Jackson, who also helmed the band's proper 1982 album Creatures of the Night. These four tracks are must-listening for lovers of that album. They are in the same hard-metal vein, and are good enough to have qualified for inclusion. Maybe they should be added as bonus tracks to future CD editions of Creatures.
Notes: The track listing below applies to the German version of Killers. The Japanese version adds "Shandi" and "Escape From The Island", while the Australian one adds "Talk To Me". The songs "I'm A Legend Tonight" and "Nowhere To Run" are currently available on the Gold compilation. A different mix of "Nowhere To Run" can be found on the 2001 Kiss box set.
1. I'm A Legend Tonight *
2. Down On Your Knees *
3. Cold Gin
4. Love Gun
5. Shout It Out Loud (single version)
6. Sure Know Something
7. Nowhere To Run *
8. Partners In Crime *
9. Detroit Rock City
10. God Of Thunder
11. I Was Made For Loving You (single version)
12. Rock And Roll All Nite (live)
* -- newly recorded for Killers
After his 1982 departure from Kiss, original guitarist Ace Frehley formed a band called Frehley's Comet. This talented heavy metal quartet also consisted of journeyman drummer Anton Fig (best known as a member of Paul Shaffer's band on David Letterman's talk shows), guitarist/vocalist Tod Howarth (who has since worked as a touring keyboardist for Cheap Trick), and bassist John Regan.
The five-song EP Live + 1 contains four live tracks recorded in Chicago in September of 1987, and one studio outtake from the 1987 album Frehley's Comet. Ace and his bandmates perform the Kiss song "Rocket Ride" and songs from both of Ace's previous non-Kiss releases. Frehley's flashy guitar heroics are satisfactorily displayed throughout. Fig's drum solo on "Breakout" is equally impressive. Howarth does well with his lead vocal turns on "Breakout" and "Something Moved". The studio track "Words Are Not Enough" is as good as anything on the album from which it was excluded. Good stuff.
(Note: Live + 1 was reissued by the Wounded Bird label in January 2010, as part of a 2-on-1 CD with the Second Sighting album).
3. Something Moved
4. Rocket Ride
5. Words Are Not Enough
Second Sighting, the second and final studio album from the Frehley's Comet band, played to diminishing returns. Anton Fig was replaced by former Eric Clapton drummer Jamie Oldaker. The songs that Frehley wrote and sang are the better ones, especially "Insane" and "Dancin' With Danger". But Ace made the mistake of allowing Tod Howarth to do fully half of the singing and songwriting. Although Howarth had far more vocal range than Frehley, his pop-metal style was much too trite. This is especially true of Howarth's keyboard-laden ballad "It's Over Now", which belongs on someone else's album. When Frehley and Howarth attempt a vocal duet on "Loser in a Fight", their styles don't mesh very well. Frehley's guitar work delivers the goods as always, but Second Sighting isn't likely to make anyone wish for a third Comet sighting.
(Note: Second Sighting was reissued by the Wounded Bird label in January 2010, as part of a 2-on-1 CD with the Live + 1 EP).
2. Time Ain't Runnin' Out
3. Dancin' With Danger
4. It's Over Now
5. Loser in a Fight
6. Juvenile Delinquent
7. Fallen Angel
9. New Kind of Lover
10. The Acorn is Spinning
Frehley's next release was billed as a solo album, although Trouble Walkin' did feature two members of the Comet band (John Regan and Anton Fig); Peter Criss is credited with "additional vocals and percussion". Trouble Walkin' doesn't offer anything original or profound, but it doesn't disappoint. Ace rocks unapologetically hard, expressing his frustrations with city life ("Lost In Limbo", "2 Young 2 Die") and the world in general (the solid live track "Remember Me"). But Ace's true aim here is to have a good time, as evidenced by the rousing "Shot Full of Rock" and an energetic cover of Jeff Lynne's "Do Ya". His version of the Paul Stanley co-composition "Hide Your Heart" is slightly better than the one Kiss released the same year on Hot In The Shade. (Amusingly enough, Stanley did not approve of Ace's use of the song here). After Trouble Walkin', Frehley did not release another non-Kiss recording of new studio material for two decades.
(Note: Trouble Walkin' was reissued by the Wounded Bird label in January 2010).
1. Shot Full of Rock
2. Do Ya
3. Five Card Stud
4. Hide Your Heart
5. Lost in Limbo
6. Trouble Walkin'
7. 2 Young 2 Die
8. Back to School
9. Remember Me
10. Fractured III
Hard To Believe was a tribute album full of covers by early-‘90’s underground bands of Kiss songs and two selections (“Snowblind” and “Rip It Out”) from Frehley’s ’78 solo album. Many of the participating artists hailed from the Seattle grunge scene that spawned Nirvana – including Nirvana themselves. Most of the tracks are faithful lo-fi recreations of the originals, with the type of inferior vocals that one would expect from ‘90’s alternative acts. The high points include the Melvins’ way-cool reproduction of “God of Thunder”, which acknowledges both the studio and live versions; Coffin Break’s sped-up variation on “Beth”; and Bullet LaVolta’s appropriately frenetic “Detroit Rock City”, whose intro parodies that of the original. The Instigators and the Hard Ons do well with selections from Kiss’ hard '80’s period, but we could have done without the “Beth” parody which the latter group tacked on to “Lick It Up”. Among the album's low points are Skin Yard’s shrill butchering of “Snowblind”; Hullabaloo’s too-silly take on “Calling Dr. Love”; and King Snake Roost’s amateurish recording of “I Want You”, which sounds like it was taken from a garage band’s practice tape. So, how is Nirvana’s track, you ask? Their version of “Do You Love Me?” sounds like an intentionally awful parody. That would be okay if it was funny, but it isn’t. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are comically whiny, and the lyrics turn into a lame joke that goes on too long. This track will be of interest to Nirvana completists, because it is one of only two recordings that they made with guitarist Jason Everman. If you like both Kiss and ‘90’s indie rock, you’ll probably enjoy Hard To Believe; if you dislike either one of those things, you’ll probably hate this CD.
Note: At least three different versions of Hard To Believe existed. The track listing below pertains to the 1993 American release on C/Z Records. Later pressings of the CD omitted the last three tracks (which is a loss), substituted a Treepeople recording of “Deuce” in place of Hellmenn’s, and removed all Kiss-related images from the cover and gatefold art.
1. DETROIT ROCK CITY – Bullet LaVolta
2. PARASITE – Smelly Tongues
3. SNOWBLIND – Skin Yard
4. DEUCE – Hellmenn*
5. CHRISTINE 16 – All
6. DR. LOVE – Hullabaloo
7. GOD OF THUNDER – Melvins
8. BETH – Coffin Break
9. RIP IT OUT – Chemical People
10. I WANT YOU – King Snake Roost
11. DO YOU LOVE ME? – Nirvana
12. LICK IT UP – Hard Ons
13. WAR MACHINE – Instigators**
14. MAKIN’ LOVE – Thrust**
15. LOVE GUN – Surfin’ Caesars**
* -- Later CD pressings substituted the Treepeople version
** -- Later CD pressings omitted this track
For a few years leading up to the reunion of the original Kiss lineup, Peter Criss led a band called Criss. This quartet (rounded out by bassist Mark Montague and guitarists Mike Stone and Mike McLaughlin) released one full-length CD in 1994 titled Cat #1. Ace Frehley played guitar on three tracks: “Bad Attitude”, “Walk The Line” and “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn”. It was fitting that Criss rhymed with Kiss, because this band’s music bore more resemblance to the early Kiss sound and spirit than most of the things Peter’s former band mates had done since 1980. And this was quite surprising, considering how un-Kiss-like Peter’s solo efforts had been. The Catman and his crew rock out loud and hard on this disc, but they do it with plenty of control. Though it’s a pleasure to hear Frehley play on his tracks, the guitar licks are no less impressive on the other songs. Guitarist Mike Stone (who was later a member of Queensrÿche) also takes on lead vocal duties on two tracks: “We Want You” and “Show Me”, which both recall the hair-band sounds of the ‘80’s. Without trying too hard, Criss and company also offer decent helpings of ‘70’s-style arena metal (“Strike”), mid-tempo melancholia (“Good Times”, “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn”), and just a touch of ‘90’s-style alt-rock (“Down With The Sun”). One complaint: the acoustic version of the hit Kiss ballad “Beth” is unnecessary, and adds nothing new to the song.
The release of Cat #1 was heralded by a self-titled 5-song EP in late 1993. Criss contained three songs from the full-length disc, and two which did not appear on it. “The Cat” is a slinky self-referential song in which Peter sings about having “nine lives”, and briefly pokes fun at Stanley and Simmons. “What You’re Doin’” is another ‘80’s-style arena rock number sung by Stone.
1. The Cat
2. Show Me
3. Good Times
4. What You're Doin'
1. Bad Attitude
2. Walk The Line
3. The Truth
4. Bad People Burn In Hell
5. Show Me
6. Good Times
8. Blue Moon Over Brooklyn
9. Down With The Sun
10. We Want You
Unlike Hard To Believe, the star-studded tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved was fully authorized by Kiss, who even participated in (and controlled) many aspects of it. Kiss actually served as the backing band for country megastar Garth Brooks on his faithful rendition of “Hard Luck Woman”. Some of the participating artists contributed slavishly faithful covers of their selections, while others boldly reinvented the songs. The Gin Blossoms and the Lemonheads turned in exact copies of “Christine Sixteen” and “Plaster Caster”, respectively, while Anthrax enthusiastically duplicated the live version of “She”. The rest of the participants put more personal spins on their selections. Lenny Kravitz turned “Deuce” into a vibrant funk jam (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica, no less). Toad The Wet Sprocket completely rethought “Rock and Roll All Nite” as a gentle country ballad, and the gamble paid off; you'll either love their version or hate it, but it's undeniably creative. Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis serves “Goin’ Blind” well with his weary vocals, although the instrumentation on that track is sometimes heavy-handed. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones served “Detroit Rock City” brilliantly with their unique ska-metal sound, but Dicky Barrett’s vomitus vocals are a major drawback. Extreme over-intellectualized “Strutter”, littering it with self-amused inside jokes. Shandi’s Addiction (a supergroup featuring members of Rage Against The Machine, Tool, and Faith No More) made a colossal alt-metal mess out of “Calling Dr. Love”. Perhaps the most unexpected track of all is the seven-minute classical instrumental version of “Black Diamond”, performed by Yoshiki with the American Symphony Orchestra. Kiss My Ass is certainly a mixed bag, but it’s ultimately rewarding for the patient and open-minded listener.
1. DEUCE – Lenny Kravitz
2. HARD LUCK WOMAN – Garth Brooks
3. SHE – Anthrax
4. CHRISTINE SIXTEEN – Gin Blossoms
5. ROCK AND ROLL ALL NITE – Toad the Wet Sprocket
6. CALLING DR. LOVE – Shandi’s Addiction (Billy Gould, Maynard Keenan, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk)
7. GOIN’ BLIND – Dinosaur Jr.
8. STRUTTER – Extreme
9. PLASTER CASTER – The Lemonheads
10. DETROIT ROCK CITY – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
11. BLACK DIAMOND – Yoshiki
In 1996, the original Kiss lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Frehley, and Criss reunited for a nostalgia tour that made Kiss a huge pop-cultural phenomenon all over again. In a blatant attempt to further capitalize on the craze, the band and their label banged out You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!!, a needless compilation of live tracks from the first two Alive albums. The CD also contained four previously unreleased live tracks which also supposedly originate from 1975 and 1977. Those tracks are of decent quality, but they are hardly essential, and fans have questioned their authenticity as '70's recordings -- and as live recordings. The last track, "Kiss Tells All", is a mostly frivolous 17-minute conversation with Jay Leno, in which the band doesn't tell much that fans don't already know. Simmons told Leno that "almost any live show that (they've) done, especially in the '70's, (they) have locked up in vaults". So, why didn't they release an entire CD of previously unreleased live recordings, instead of a compilation with a few new tracks? Fans who really "want the best" are better off owning the complete Alive! and Alive II sets instead.
Note: The double-LP vinyl version and the Japanese CD version include an additional live bonus track: a 1980 performance of "New York Groove" with Eric Carr on drums.
1. Room Service *
2. Two Timer *
3. Let Me Know *
4. Rock Bottom
7. I Stole Your Love
8. Calling Dr. Love
9. Take Me *
10. Shout It Out Loud
12. Rock and Roll All Nite
13. Kiss Tells All
* -- previously unreleased live track
The successful Kiss resurgence made it almost obligatory for the original lineup to record at least one new studio album, and in 1998 they did just that. Unfortunately, Psycho-Circus turned out to be a fairly typical work for an aged band struggling to recapture its old glories. The album gets off to a promising start with the Alice Cooper-like title track, which allows Stanley to have fun with the band's comic book image. Frehley's "Into The Void" is another standout -- and is reportedly the only track that Criss actually drummed on! The rest of the album is merely passable. Stanley offers a pair of song-doctored anthems (the rousing "Raise Your Glasses" and the stale "I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll"), and co-wrote an awkward "Beth"-like ballad with Bob Ezrin ("I Finally Found My Way") for Criss to sing. Simmons' compositions are more mature than expected, but his power ballad "We Are One" borders on sappiness. The only time the entire quartet sounds truly together here is on the self-promotional "You Wanted The Best", in which all four of them take vocal turns pretending to bicker over their reunion. Psycho-Circus is not a disaster, but it surely lacks the old '70's chemistry.
Notes: The Japanese CD contained a bonus track called “In Your Face”, an amusing outtake written by Simmons for Frehley to sing. That track was also included on a CD-single (Mercury/PolyGram MECP 449) packaged with the American VHS release Psycho Circus 3-D Video (PolyGram Video 440 010 100-0). In Japan, Brazil, and parts of Europe, Psycho-Circus was packaged with a bonus disc containing six live tracks recorded during two Indiana shows in December 1998.
1. Psycho Circus
3. I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll
4. Into The Void
5. We Are One
6. You Wanted The Best
7. Raise Your Glasses
8. I Finally Found My Way
10. Journey Of 1,000 Years
11. In Your Face (bonus track on Japan release only)
BONUS DISC (included in Japanese, Brazilian, and European editions):
1. Psycho Circus (Live) - 5:34
2. Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll (Live) - 5:33
3. Into the Void (Live) - 9:10
4. Within (Live) - 7:57
5. 100,000 Years (Live) - 5:17
6. Black Diamond (Live) - 6:12
After Frehley and Criss returned to the Kiss fold, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick (who had played with the band from 1984 until 1995) and drummer Eric Singer (who had replaced Eric Carr in 1991) were dismissed from the band. The two soon formed a new quartet called ESP (an acronym for Eric Singer Project). Another member of this band was John Corabi, who had experienced a similar fate: he had briefly replaced Vince Neil as the singer for Mötley Crüe until he was let go as a result of Neil’s return. Rounding out the quartet was guitarist/bassist Karl Cochran, who had been a member of Frehley’s touring band shortly before Ace rejoined Kiss. ESP’s studio album Lost and Spaced, first released in 1998, consisted entirely of cover songs, mostly of ‘70’s hard-rock nuggets.
Although ESP is a cover band, Lost and Spaced proves that they are a very good one. Besides, many of the song choices on the album are relatively obscure tracks from well-known artists, so most of them are not songs that everyone is tired of hearing. Instrumentally, the album is a scorcher; all four of these guys played their hearts out while paying homage to their beloved influences. The vocal duties were split between Singer, Corabi, and Cochran, but they sound virtually interchangeable. Each of them sings a verse of Humble Pie’s "Four Day Creep", but you may not notice the difference without reading the liner notes. A few high points: Singer does prove to be fairly impressive as the singer of "Teenage Nervous Breakdown", which is based more on Nazareth’s version than on Little Feat’s original; the band rises above themselves with their rendition of Deep Purple’s "Never Before", which features Dream Theater associate Nicky Lemmons on keyboards; and just when you think they couldn’t possibly do anything special with the Hendrix classic "Foxy Lady", Ace Frehley makes a show-stealing guest appearance as the lead guitarist for that track.
Notes: Lost and Spaced was reissued in 1999 under the title ESP by the Eureka label, with different cover art and two bonus tracks: a stompin’ rendition of "Twenty Flight Rock" based more on the metallic Montrose version than on Eddie Cochran’s antique original, and a competent but unnecessary copy of the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again". The Japanese CD added two demos to boot.
1. Set Me Free – originally recorded by Sweet
2. Four Day Creep – originally recorded by Humble Pie
3. Free Ride – originally recorded by Edgar Winter
4. Still Alive and Well -- originally recorded by Johnny Winter
5. Never Before -- originally recorded by Deep Purple
6. Goin’ Blind -- originally recorded by Kiss
7. Teenage Nervous Breakdown -- originally recorded by Little Feat
8. Changes -- originally recorded by Jimi Hendrix
9. S.O.S. (Too Bad) -- originally recorded by Aerosmith
10. Foxy Lady -- originally recorded by Jimi Hendrix
Bonus tracks on 1999 reissue:
11. Twenty Flight Rock -- originally recorded by Eddie Cochran
12. Won’t Get Fooled Again -- originally recorded by the Who
Additional bonus tracks on Japanese version:
13. Snortin’ Whiskey (demo) -- originally recorded by Pat Travers
14. American Band (demo) -- originally recorded by Grand Funk Railroad
Eric Carr replaced Peter Criss as the drummer of Kiss in 1980, and retained that position until his tragic death in 1991 from cancer-related complications. The Rockology CD, released nearly a decade after Carr’s passing, contains 12 recordings from the late-‘80’s featuring Carr singing, drumming, and playing some other instruments as well. The tracks were produced and mixed by Bruce Kulick, who played guitar on most of them. Many of the tracks are demos overdubbed by Kulick; some are without lyrics and are scat-sung by Carr. But the last four tracks are fully realized, and were originally released on the 1999 Rockheads EP. They were intended to be used in a cartoon series which Carr was working on near the time of his death. A heartening curiosity piece for Kiss-philes, Rockology displays facets of Carr’s talent which were largely unheard on his recordings with Kiss, showing his capabilities as a singer, songwriter, and all-around musician. This CD makes a good companion piece for the documentary DVD Eric Carr: Tale of the Fox.
1. Eyes of Love
2. Somebody’s Waiting
3. Heavy Metal Baby
4. Just Can’t Wait
5. Mad Dog
6. You Make Me Crazy
8. Nightmare (live demo)
9. Too Cool For School
11. Can You Feel It
12. Nasty Boys
As of this writing, Simmons has only made one additional solo album after his 1978 entry. That album was the charmingly titled ***hole, released in 2004. Simmons freely indulges in self-produced, self-amused silliness on this disc, which actually works fairly well when Gene chooses to rock hard. "Sweet & Dirty Love" gets the album off the ground nicely with a shot of '70's-style hard-rock energy. A faithful remake of Prodigy's "Firestarter" is propelled by Simmons' tongue-in-cheek singing and Dave Navarro's guitar contribution. "Weapons of Mass Destruction" is a nitro-fueled Alice In Chains soundalike whose lyrics have nothing to do with the war in Iraq. And then there's that title track, which is catchy enough to make you sing along in spite of yourself. Unfortunately, most of the other tracks falter, as Gene messes around with hip-hop beats and attitudes ("Whatever Turns You On", "Dog", "If I Had A Gun"), attempts modernized Beatlesque pop ("Beautiful", "Now That You're Gone", "1,000 Dreams"), and fulfills whims of sharing songwriting credit with Bob Dylan ("Waiting For The Morning Light" is a surprisingly unremarkable ballad) and the late Frank Zappa ("Black Tongue" contains spoken-word samples from Frank, and background singing from various Zappa family members). As a producer, Simmons often has a heavy hand, especially when it comes to mixing background vocals.
Notes: ***hole was also released in a "Clean" version (Sanctuary 06076-84695-2), in which the title word of the title track was bleeped -- or should I say bleated -- out with sheep noises. Also, the album was released as a DualDisc in 2005 (Silverline IMRG 84601), with a DVD side featuring the obnoxious video for "Firestarter". The Japanese edition of ***hole contained two bonus tracks, both of which were demos recorded many years earlier: the '80's-style pop-metal song "Everybody Knows" and the atmospheric ballad "You're My Reason For Living". These two tracks were released in the U.S. on a bonus disc for the limited "Lunchbox" edition of Simmons' 2003 audiobook Sex Money Kiss.
1. Sweet & Dirty Love
3. Weapons of Mass Destruction
4. Waiting For The Morning Light
7. Now That You're Gone
8. Whatever Turns You On
10. Black Tongue
11. Carnival of Souls
12. If I Had A Gun
13. 1,000 Dreams
During the decade after the release of Lost and Spaced, Singer and Kulick kept themselves busy. Singer has worked with Alice Cooper and Gilby Clarke, and eventually rejoined Kiss as their full-time drummer. (During Kiss’ live shows, he has worn the Catman makeup traditionally worn by Peter Criss, which has enraged some fans). Kulick and Corabi formed a band called Union, who recorded two respectable post-grunge metal albums. Kulick also released two indie-label solo albums in the early ‘00’s. Who would have thought they would find time for ESP to tour?
ESP’s Live In Japan was recorded during two February 2006 Tokyo shows by Singer, Kulick, Corabi, and bassist Chuck Garric (another recent member of Alice Cooper’s band). It comes across almost entirely as a work by a spin-off band made up of sometime employees of better-known enterprises. Far be it from me to discourage such an entrepreneurial spirit, but there is little creativity to be found here. The quartet covers six – count ‘em, six -- songs by Kiss, two from Union, one from Cooper, and one Crüe song from Corabi’s time in that band. Oh, and they do a Beatles cover, too. In any case, ESP are certainly not slackers at what they do. Singer and Kulick are both fiercely determined players; Corabi’s and Garric's vocal imitations of Simmons and Cooper are obvious but enjoyable. If the above description sounds like fun to you, then Live In Japan probably won’t disappoint you.
1. Watchin’ You -- originally recorded by Kiss
2. Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore) -- originally recorded by Union
3. Unholy -- originally recorded by Kiss
4. Do Your Own Thing -- originally recorded by Union
5. Domino -- originally recorded by Kiss
6. Black Diamond -- originally recorded by Kiss
7. War Machine -- originally recorded by Kiss
8. Oh Darling -- originally recorded by the Beatles
9. School’s Out -- originally recorded by Alice Cooper
10. I Love It Loud -- originally recorded by Kiss
11. Power to the Music -- originally recorded by Mötley Crüe