It’s a blind-spot on my KISStory timeline. It’s embarrassing. I’m not sure where or when I got it. I have no idea even if it’s rare, but it’s a full ’78 size ’45 with 3 tracks, instead of the customary 2 on the smaller vinyl record, almost like a mini-KISS EP. Who’da thunk? Yeah …it’s cool. I wouldn’t sell it.
Lists like these can do more harm than good but I felt it was about time I went on the record. It was a cathartic exercise that had me shuffling the order around like so many KISS cards. No sooner than a minute after hitting ‘publish’ I wanted a mulligan. Please feel free to comment with your top 10 and why?
#1 – ALIVE – this is our ‘live’ rock & roll party and the desert island keeper
# 2 – LOVE GUN – you wanted the best, you got the best studio album
#3 – KISS – the vision, the sound and the live staples in one concise initial salvo, a sacred sphere.
#4- ALIVE II – at their live zenith plus 5 studio cuts larger than life
# 5- ROCK & ROLL OVER – a band in full 70’s stride, don’t put baby in the corner
# 6 – DESTROYER – the pinnacle for some, too soft for others, dear to the daughters of Aphrodite
#7- CREATURES OF THE NIGHT – a sonic boom still reverberating from Eric Carr’s kick
# 8- ACE FREHLEY – I don’t wanna burst your bubble but the original spaceman crashes the party wiped-out with the best of the 78 solo emissions
# 9- DRESSED TO KILL – stark perfection plus the Stanley/Simmons rock & roll national anthem
# 10- LICK IT UP – the bands best sans clown album and the shape of things to come
Editors note: Scott Wheeler’s suggestion below was so right on that I have heard his words and indeed taken heed. I am still wrestling with including MONSTER on this list as it is still taking root frankly and if “Never Enough” wasn’t on SONIC BOOM I may be able to talk about it as a really great record to. It is a process. I am contemplating trying to calculate albums #10 thru #20; a Herculean task.
For me, the best Paul tunes are the mid-to-up-tempo simple rockers. No list like this could ever be complete or right but these are the kind of Stanley steamers I find myself popping on to shut up any friends in doubt of Paul’s sheer rock prowess and singular knack for crafting groovy rockers. This ten make clear Paul’s material has its own cocksure feel with rock solid arrangements, sharp guitar hooks and well-honed, commanding vocals. Re-acquaint yourself with his style.
IT’S ALRIGHT – One of his very best, this blues-based romp is arguably the most KISS-like cut on Pauls ’78 solo debut Paul Stanley and yet at the same time shows Paul tipping a decidedly Stonsey honky-tonk hat. It also recalls Rod Stewart classics like “Hot Legs” and “Every Picture Tells A Story”. Pauly had already proven an ability to cop a Rod vibe on “Hard Luck Woman” and “It’s Alright” is the rocking flip side to my ears. Unlike Maggie Mays’ lover however, Paul will give you “breakfast in bed” and not “kick you in the head” LOL. This ain’t metal and this ain’t no disco. This is fooling around at the very least and definitive Paul Stanley rock & roll; ever cavalier / never desperate. “If you want me to stay for the night, it’s alright”. Comparisons and possible inspirations aside, and this is why KISS is so great, the finished product sounds nothing like Rod or the Stones!
DOWN ON YOUR KNEES – One of four new Paul-penned KISS songs on the Killers compilation, “Down On Your Knees” is still one of my favorites all-time, hits included. It’s a well-timed DON’T FREAK OUT PEOPLE! to core fans dismayed by the poppy Unmasked and decidedly left-of-center The Elder offerings. Killers made it clear KISS had no plans to slow down or, as some feared, pack it in altogether. The track has a tight, almost ACDC-like guitar hook that showcases Paul at his raw vocal best with a post-solo section bridge that has him sounding every bit the “All American Man”. Plus, this is Paul at perhaps his most sexist (yes, ‘ist’) since ‘Makin’ Love” off Rock & Roll Over. ((( I couldn’t help but include PARTNERS IN CRIME to this list – A kinky bed-mate off Killers, this tune has also always had my ear and gets better with time. Sure, it’s slightly 80’s land-locked with the repeating wang-bar dives in the chorus but everything about it just works so well, like it could not be improved even if Gene had showed up. Built around a bluesy Deep Purple-esque riff, it’s a welcome divergence to me and happens to have one of his cooler 80’s lyrics: “You’re coveting abuses, tripping with excuses, I know you got a lover at home” ))))
BULLETPROOF – Off Paul’s long-awaited 2nd solo outing Live To Win, “Bulletproof” is another sturdy well-crafted near hit, the kind that keep KISS fans like me believing everyone else is crazy. Ultra-slick mix aside, it’s got it all and even if the held-back verses may cause a slight cringe among the faithful, the pay-off of the eventual guitar n’ drum break as it launches into the “Bullet Proof” chorus riff proves ample evidence Stanley can deliver a current sounding hit in an era. If only there were still classic rock stations playing new rock instead of the constant retread that dominates the format and has for 20 years (thanks Clear Channel).
GIMME MORE – An uptempo rocker the band toyed with live only on the Lick It Up tour, “Gimme More” may be my favorite 80’s Paul rocker. Sure, he would attempt the land speed record several times in the 80’s but even the frantic “Under The Gun”can’t hold a flash pot to the clever fusion of metal, classic rock, ‘n punk that is “Gimme More”. It showcases Paul’s old-school Robert Plant crooning, and an expanding vocal range as well. New members of the band really shine on this recording with Eric Carr executing bitchin’ rapid-fire Bonham-like double bass fills in the whistle-stop breaks and, when given the nod, co-writer Vinnie Vincent rips balls off with urgent screaming lead fills. “Gimme More” is only one of the reason’s the Lick It Up album is way underrated by KISStory. I am of the stubborn opinion that the record is a close 2nd only to Creatures Of The Night as their 80’s best …vastly superior to any of the other non-makeup releases.
MR. SPEED – An oft forgotten southern-fried golden oldie off Rock & Roll Over I am sohappy KISS had the moxie to attempt and Paul the inclination to write. A lot of folks complain that their chief problem after the 70’s was that KISS followed trends instead of making them but “Mr. Speed” is more proof that Paul has always had an ear to the radio. Sure, they never intended a hit with it, but the Lynyrd Skynyrd inspired intro riff strikes me as a prime example of how Paul’s tunes generally have more cohesion with what else is happening with other artists at a given time. Certainly more so than with any of Gene’s tunes ever tried to. Paul has always been the more mainstream rooted one of the two and, as a result, he makes a perfect complement to Ace Frehley’s Jimmy Page-like lead work. “Mr. Speed” also has a wonderful turn-around complete with KISStastic descending harmonies and another great Peter Criss pocket for the Starchilds’ reply to the Demons’ “Calling Dr. Love” epiphany. It is my assertion that anyone who has not heard “Mr. Speed” could never really understand the band or what Paul Stanley is all about: a riff, a groove and a chorus ….classic rock & roll. This was probably the song that sealed it for me as a youngster, the one that made me like Paul too, before I even knew how great the guitar tones were on it. More than “I Want You” or “Love Gun” or even “I Stole Your Love”, I decided this was Paul’s coolest tune because when I heard it I felt cool somehow too. In my KISS world, “Mr. Speed” is still is a benchmark in the overall repertoire. “Made it clear, but baby you can’t even see me, so stop those tears, ’cause baby you can’t even deceive, ah ah”
DANGER US – This is easily the most fun song on the Sonic Boom album but manages to maintain a ballsy attitude and the Stanley strut without taking itself too seriously (even if it is “Danger You, Danger Me, Danger Us” for the most part). It’s an enormous 70’s riff with an 80’s fused call-and-answer chorus that borrows from everyone, Kiss included, but is somehow able to evade the monster plod found on the albums other offerings Again, a tune where everything just works and no moment of regret like I feel with Paul’s cuts on say Revenge. “Double down tough” …amen.
GET ALL YOU CAN TAKE – Off the first Stanley solo-produced KISS album Animalize , “Get All You Can Take” reveals a primal revitaIized Stanley working hard with (then) guitarist Mar St. John and drummer Eric Carr to deliver a modern, again somewhat Zep-inspired rocker that finds the Starchild brimming over with pearls of rock wisdom and impressive vocal gymnastics. It’s a serious ass kicker, maybe my favorite cut on the album, in which Paul’s penchant for Plant-like singing really shines as seemingly the only voice in rock able to pull it off so lovingly. “If you got half a chance, you take it”
RADAR FOR LOVE – When re-sampling 1985’s Asylum this is the cut I usually drop the needle on first. It’s a high-adrenaline re-working of Zep’s “Black Dog” that comes as close as anyone might imagine possible to the vocal breaks without being taken to court. However, by the time the solo kicks it’s pure KISS making a jump into a Stanley octane mode with a spirited Bruce Kulick guitar workout. Occasionally topical when in the mood, “Radar For Love” finds Paul shunning the advent of Viagra when he sings hilariously “Don’t need no doctor, giving me pills… I got enough to give you chills”
LAST CHANCE – Off the band’s 2013 rebound Monster (also produced by Stanley) “Last Chance” is a hard rocker with a driving beat that is my favorite Paul vocal on the album and perhaps the rowdiest song of his career? The song kicks from the very start and, with a shorter than usual 2-bar full-band intro (yeah, after the bass riff), it goes right into the table-setter verse with Paul teasing “Open the door and let the night come crawling’ in ….take a bite of the original sin”. It’s relentless and only lets up briefly in the build after the solo with what feels like jungle drums by Eric Singer ….but it works! It’s worth noting that as much as the recent albums have pandered to 70’s fans, this song doesn’t sound like anything the band has ever done. “It’s your last chance so just roll the dice because nobody here is getting out alive”
KEEP ME COMIN’ – Off the seminal KISS Creatures Of The Night opus, “Keep Me Comin'” is another straight ahead Stanley rocker only he could attempt. A great guitar line, stagger-beat pre-chorus, and an amped up “Keep Me Comin'” refrain is all Paul needs to roll out the seductive tale that keeps KISS in the sex business on the surprisingly serious Creatures. Unlike his band-mate Mr. Klein,Paul is more apt to change grooves and feels mid-tune while holding that classic strut groove. Even if the tour fell short that year, critics and fans alike have come to the consensus that Creatures is the bands heaviest foray of all time and “Keep Me Comin” fits the album menu like an afternoon delight for dessert. BUY THIS ALBUM TOMORROW