KISS – Heaven, Hell or Houston?

Who better than KISS to round out a 40-year catalog with no less than 5 songs with HELL in the title.  Indeed with KISS, even “Heaven’s On Fire”.  Like a lotta rock, KISS bleeds biblical references, consider offerings like “‘Thou Shalt Not”,  “On The 8th Day”, “Unholy” and “God Gave Rock & Roll To You”.  KISStorian ranks KISS’s journey ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’.

HOTTER THAN HELL — Street-wise Stanley burns ya like the mid-day sun … KISS’s industrially murky “Cross Town Traffic” has one of the best outros in rock history with the duel-panned Frehley solos wailing out on the fade … Yes, HTH is as close to KISS HEAVEN as HELL gets, rivaling ACDC’s “Highway To Hell” as the best rock cut with HELL in the title, all-time. The groove on the live version on Alive is KISS at it’s very best …rip rip, rip & destroy!!!

ROCK & ROLL HELL — Gene seems to think it’s his destiny, whether he wrote it or not, and sings RR HELL like he owns it,  perhaps because he really did want out of the KISS biz circa ’82. Certainly Ace left to save his soul, leaving Dr. Love to contemplate who was Saint and who the Sinner. One could argue that Creatures of The Night marks the Demon’s final serious salvo …soon he would wander the wastelands, no longer Lord.

I’LL FIGHT HELL TO HOLD YOU — Pure 80’s super-Paul travels to the brink to be bye your side in this diabolically good Crazy Nights cut…There was never a video made for HELL TO HOLD YOU, but one can easily visualize it’s cinematic MTV potential appeal …I see Paul braving heavy terrain, high winds, torrential rains, eventually reaching the mountain top, searching for the lost Xanadu. The Starchild has our backs.

HELL OR HIGH WATER — Gene’s best cut off Crazy Nights and my favorite Bruce Kulick rock hunt, HELL OR HIGH WATER may be the only Simmons song in which he admits having his feelings hurt. But nobody puts Gene in the corner, he let’s you know in the festive, feel good doo-wop bridge ….”Baby don’t doubt it, ain’t no doubt about it” …considering he’s willing to brave HIGH WATER potentially, I find it down right heart-warming that the ‘Man of 1,000 Faces’ considers facing HELL to boot if need be.

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL — Gene’s put you in purgatory, and he’s so hungry… ‘SOMEWHERE’ somehow worked on Hot In The Shade but the lyrics are so cheap novel cliche Simmons, and the hook so KISS sleepy, that it made us all long for days of yore when Gene was a Demon, not the ‘Albatross’.

 

Eric Carr saved KISS

cropped-scan0027-3.jpgMany KISStorians argue that Vinnie Vincent saved KISS but, any you way you slice it, it was ERIC CARR who saved KISS. The ride he took manning the drum fort on behalf of The KISS ARMY proves Carr was a true ‘Rock Soldier’ and, as The Elder would no doubt agree,  indeed ‘worthy of the fellowship’.

And as much as he gave it his all for KISS and their fans when playing live, Carr’s studio work is what makes him “King Of The Mountain” as savior of the band. Shit, take any track off Creatures Of The Night —  It’s Bonham meets the Demon & The Starchild and it sounds invincible! Even when KISS went soft rock on Crazy Nights, Carr remained heavy. He also wrote, sang, played bass, and made arrangement contributions on KISS material throughout his tenure with the band.

Even when the KISS experience soured for Carr personally, he never let it affect his level of devotion to the fans. He never, ever sucked. He was a pros pro and, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys on the planet.  His only fault may have been that his heart was a big as his bass drum and he wore it on his sleeve. So be it, amen Eric.

Anyway, I moved recently and found this:  my angry letter to Rolling Stone for ignoring his career.  I  share it with you on the Anniversary of his passing to give thanks to Eric for hanging tough when everyone else was jumping ship, Vincent included.

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KISStoric time travel now possible!

KISS Time Machine4Sources close to KISStorian.com are reporting that Abner Devereaux is back to his old tricks and has been working feverishly on a machine in which he will be able to travel back in KISStory!! Long exiled for his transgressions at Magic Mountain, it is now feared that he may make good on his promise to “derail this Psycho Circus whatever it takes”. I hereby implore the KISStoric Galactic Council as well as our friends at KISS Army Alpha Minor (and all their affiliates) to hear ‘n take heed of this very real ‘Abner Alert’. I have a few coordinates of my own I wouldn’t mind punching into Abner’s fantastic machine:

kiss-portrait-1977-photo-GCJanuary ??, 1973 > Oh to time traveler back to the first time all four original KISS founders jammed together when Ace Frehley auditioned for the band.  Imagine hearing “Deuce” with Bob Kulick on lead and watching a spaced Frehley, in two different colored sneakers, walk over nonchalantly and plug-in mid-song to the dismay of Gene & Paul. “Sorry curly” Ace was reported to have said when rebuffed by the even-then domineering Simmons. In No Regrets Ace admits he chugged a couple tall boys before venturing in to try out for the role of “guitarist with flash and balls”.  Good thing Abner has been unable thus far to intervene via his time machine and introduce a Bob Kulick clone with long hair for it may alter KISStory forever …AWK!!

o_kiss-live-1983-san-francisco-creatures-tour-cd-r-7774April 3rd, 1983 > Ah, the last date of KISS’s ’10th Anniversary Tour’ in support of Creatures Of The Night with the new line-up and, most notably, no Ace Frehley on lead (despite his being on the album cover). Given the poor attendance of the tour and tepid sales of the record, it would be interesting to check-in on the vibe backstage after the show in San Francisco that night. Sure, KISStory tells us that they would still play a few South American dates in their face paint before their true unmasking on Lick It Up but this Creatures US jaunt was almost curtains for the band. Simply have Abner flip a switch and this might have been the last KISS concert ever, in the US or anywhere. San Fran was no treat for the Sex Pistols either who played their final show there in January of ’78. Pretty vacant.

thNovember 27, 1984 > What a long strange trip it’s been …. especially in the Animalize portion of KISStory with when KISS briefly had two lead guitarists in the late great Mark St. John & now long-time KISS’r, Bruce Kulick.  This evening in Baltimore seems a little like an alternate KISS universe. It was the night that both Kulick & St. John played with the band, ultimately joining each other together on stage to take the encore bows with Gene, Paul & Eric ….as a 5-piece!!!! Whether there were actually 5 KISS members playing on stage together at the same time at any point seems highly unlikely but, if you were there, please set us straight dude!. It’s reported that St. John only played three nights stateside before being ultimately let go. This would have been the last of those three and apparently enough pudding for Gene & Paul to make a decision. Foiled again, Abner.

2d37aeddcabbcda78b86599bd82e2ab7March 8th, 1985 > Ace’s first show after KISS with Frehley’s Comet at the L’Amour Club in Brooklyn. The bootleg was a childhood prized possession I got on cassette by mail from the New England Kiss Collectors Network back in the day. I love when Ace says “like dig it man ….it’s like such a ….great pleasure …to play for you people … I haven’t been on stage in years … it’s the fucking worst!! … but the reception I’m getting from you people just makes it all that much better” .. early Comet, before the album, with Richie and Arthur and Anton and John. A hot night for rock & roll. The energy in the room may have been enough for Abner to defect and become a ‘Rock Soldier’ …or did he spike Ace’s drink?

March 30th, 1986 > I was actually at this show, but wouldn’t mind going back! No sign of Abner, but we felt his presence as there was a snake there that night (but it was opener King Kobra). This was the night on the Asylum Tour that KISS played Hammond, Indiana. Only problem was it was Easter Sunday and local Church officials rallied to protest the show and all things KISS. Me and my bro tried to talk to a few of the ‘church elders’ about our ‘KISS Elders’ but they weren’t having it. KISS was, as they put, “what’s wrong with America”. Abner’s sentiments exactly.  The universe handed me a free photo pass that night so, had I seen Abner backstage, he would have been a goner or at least questioned severely … “okay, Abner, what are you doing in Hammond man?”

It’s no wonder Abner wants to go back in KISStory: he may be the only one among us who could accurately see the future; a KISS with no original members.

VINNIE VINCENT, KISS Army defector?

vinnie_83_01_lgIn fact, he was never even in the band (save performances, recordings and songs), let alone a ‘fan’ if you get my drift. Through years of futile legal wrangling with his masters (KISS) for alleged royalties due, we had long known that Vinnie Vincent never signed his contract with KISS. But, in a recent episode of the perennial KISS-podcast ‘Three Sides of The Coin’, former New England drummer Hirsh Garner added some long-needed color to the murky period in KISStory by dropping a bomb shell: Gene Simmons & Vincent were still talking after the Lick It Up Tour and that, if his memory serves him, Simmons was negotiating to keep Vinnie in the line-up?! OMG!!

I am not alone in KISS country when I say that we had always been led to believe that Vincent was fired (or since he wasn’t actually on the books, “let go”) immediately after the Lick It Up tour. It had been, to hear KISS co-founders Gene & Paul Stanley tell it, a unanimous decision, he had to go …but apparently that was not the case, not initially anyway. In KISStoric terms, this is nothing short of revelation for, on the 8th day, it appears Vinnie still had at least one of the two KISS leaders ears in the Demon; Gene Simmons.

Who knows if Stanley was even in on this conversation? Knowing what we do about the cunning head-strong Simmons, it’s entirely possible he sought to right the ship mono-e-mono, get Vinnie on board, and then reach out to Sir Paul with the (tempered) good news that the shrew had in fact been tamed. But, of course, it’s entirely possible also that Paul was in on the convo and told Gene something along the lines of “if you can get him in line, have him sign the deal, and I don’t have to deal with him moving forward ….I’ll give him a final chance with the new record and see how that goes, otherwise I am done with Vinnie”.

GeneVVEither way, it’s now clear Vincent must have put quite a strain on the already flagging relationship sans make-up between the Starchild and Demon. Chances are Gene & Paul were not on the same page because, after Vincent left, Gene went semi-MIA for Animilizeleaving Paul to teach guitarist Mark St. John how to hit a mark and then cobble together the album on his own while Gene chased dragons in LA and beyond.

And who knows where Gene’s head was as he sat on the phone with a now AWOL Vincent who was cutting new songs with members of New England? It’s possible Gene was considering cashing in his chips on KISS entirely if he couldn’t get Vinnie to stay. It would of course have been a betrayal of KISStoric proportions that would have weighed heavy on his mind at the time. Sure, LIU had been a success on several levels, but another change at lead guitar? when they had just re-invented the band and brand and saved their (the) Elder worn hides by finally unmasking?  The fact is half the KISS Army had already defected long ago, and new, more fickle MTV generation fans wouldn’t actually care who was on lead in KISS on Animailize. Still, must have been a serious concern ….. jeez, how we gonna spin this one?

VinnieVincent065It’s also possible that Gene just wanted a few of Vinnie’s tunes for the next record, as a compromise deal if Vincent was in fact leaving. Vinnie had significantly updated their sound and Gene may have come to believe they really needed him. For all we know Gene threatened him with his royalties as the ante? In any event, both he and Stanley had leaned on Vinnie hard for tunes on Creatures of The Night as well as Lick It Up. Heck, they would even bring him back in to the fold again to co-write on the bounce back Revenge in ’92. See, Vinnie wasn’t in KISS but, for all intents and purposes, strangely was KISS in 1983. It must have been a scary time. I believe Gene feared the worst; that losing VV would be their death knell.

Almost unbelievable to learn now that Vincent wasn’t so much involuntarily discharged from the KISS Army as he was a defector. He had had a choice and what fascinates me most is where his head was at the time, or all along. Thanks to Gardners’ inadvertent revelation, it now seems to me that from the very start Vincent simply saw KISS as his ticket. When he got involved with the band circa-Creatures he saw a sinking ship. He would use what wind was left in their sales to gain personal notoriety and, once he had destroyed the Simmons / Stanley alliance from within, leave KISS in smouldering ruins as the sole survivor to launch the insane vision that would become the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, a telling moniker in hindsight. He probably felt he had saved the band and, my best guess is, may have pushed for equal partnership and it backfired? In any event, he thought he could play Gene & Paul off against each other and ultimately hold them for ransom, and it almost worked. Were it not for cooler heads, KISS might literally have been KISStory because, with Vincent, it seems Armageddon was just a matter of time …plus, everyone knows, three’s a crowd. But don’t listen to me, Vinnie gives us the finer points in this interview from ’86 …”the common denominator” > 

 

KISStorian’s ten top PAUL STANLEY deep cuts

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.

KissPaul_StanleyFrontalIT’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 LOL. 

Kiss-Kiss_Killers-FrontalDOWN 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-centerThe Elder albums. 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”  )))) 

urlBULLETPROOF – 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). 

cover_lickitupGIMME 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, and punk that is “Gimme More”.  It showcases Paul’s old-school Robert Plant vibe 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 and vastly superior to any of the other non-makeup releases. 

Kiss-Rock_And_Roll_Over-FrontalMR. SPEED – An oft forgotten southern-fried golden oldie off Rock & Roll Over  I am happy 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 it 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”  

urlDANGER 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. 

Kiss - AnimalizeGET 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”  

64054RADAR 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” 

KISS-Monster-album-coverLAST 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” 

album-Kiss-Creatures-of-the-NightKEEP 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