KID KING KISS (aka Jason Roberts)

How do you rank the studio albums by the original four?  I’d give them all 10’s!!

What got you hooked on KISS as a kid?   The first time I saw the cover of KISS Alive II with the blood all over Gene.
What was your favorite live KISS concert experience?  Revenge … my uncle Dennis bought us tickets, it was my first show … it was the UIC Pavillion …it was my favorite … just seeing all the adrenaline and the bombs and the pyrotechnics just made me feel like a kid again!
Who is your favorite member of the original four and why?  Has to be Gene because he just tells it like it is and he holds no punches even though his mouth gets him in trouble sometimes, but he’s got to learn too.
What’s your favorite 80’s KISS record and what are your favorite 5 KISS songs of the 80’s?  Asylum … “Uh All Nite”, “Let’s Put The X In Sex”, “Silver Spoon”, “Who Wants To Be Lonely” and “Heart of Chrome”.
You are a huge Elvis fan, what do you think KISS and Elvis have in common? They were all cool back in their day, he had his worst times with the movies and the Army and he had everything taken away and KISS had their day with non-make-up records and the disco era — they both had their non-cool phase.

What’s your review from the Chicago Open Air show this summer at Toyota Park?  I think they need to really quit — I had to say but they need to quit or do a one year reunion tour with everyone whose alive and just call it a day.

If you met someone who wasn’t (yet) a KISS fan, what 5 songs would you play them to try and enlist them in the KISS Army?   “Dr Love”, “Do You Love Me”, “Kissin’ Time”, “Love Gun” and “Deuce”.

You have a weekly feature on KISStorian in your Jason‘s Kisstoric Flashback — how do you decide each week what video to pick?  It’s not very hard, I just go with how I feel that week, whatever song I feel like throwing up there.

If somebody bought you the Gene Simmons Vault and he was gonna come and hang out for a bit, what would you wanna do and what would you talk with Gene about?  I would talk him about why is he letting KISS continue to play live and ask him to consider just making more studio records because that’s probably what the fans wanna see most at this point … I would just like to spend the day with him and see what he’s like.
You are asked to write Ace Frehley‘s set list for the next tour … what songs are essential for him to play live that he hasn’t been playing?  “Do Ya”, “Trouble Walkin'”, “Talk To Me”, “2,000 Man”, “White Room” and “Foxy & Free”.

What is your favorite moment in KISStory?  Gene’s appearance on the Mike Douglass Show or the Tom Snyder Show interview.

What would you call the next KISS studio album, please give us three working titles Jason? Maniacs, Tear It Up or Worlds Apart.

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KISStorian ranks KISS’s ‘unmasked’ studio albums

KISS_LickItUp-costumes2Helmets tight KISS Army …I sat and looked at the album covers, accessing the part of my brain that governs KISS related decisions to figure out which album I really wanted to listen to most, and 2nd most, and so on and so forth. A short blog piece on a Herculean task. Please forgive me.

LICK IT UP > back on the streets  …hey, hey have you read the news? this album is as good as Creatures of The Night and is the make-over that saved the KISS brand.

ASYLUM > alive n’ kickin’ …guh-guh, guh-guh, guh-guh, guh-guh get the message sugar: Asylum is Kulick/Carr KISS hitting their best 80’s stride.

ANIMALIZE > once bitten, twice shy …Stanley’s triumph in fret-frenzied St. Johns wood; had Simmons given a damn, or Vincent remained on-board, Animalize might have been as good as LIU.

REVENGE > cult of personality …KISS was cool again but I’de give the album higher marks were it not for Stanleys somewhat labored contributions under the rose w/ Ezrin.

HOT IN THE SHADE > these happy days are yours and mine …KISS lighten up to become almost human with “Forever” and a fun album.

CRAZY NIGHTS > desperate, but not serious …KISS buffed to 80’s money-shot oblivion by the grace of Nevison’s hand. 

CARNIVAL OF SOULS > return to sender …unmasked KISS fade to black with a grungy dirge.

 

 

 

 

KISStory incomplete without Blazefest ’94

KISS BlazefestI hope you aren’t too jealous when I tell you this was one of the hottest shows ever performed by the band in any line-up configuration because, if you missed it, your KISStory timeline lacks a key ingredient. Thank god for Youtube — we can go back!!

It was April of ’94, the Revenge Tour was over, MTV Unplugged would be in August, and soon there after KISS would re-unite with Ace & Peter to conquer earth a second time. Of course, we had no clue then.

See, KISS always finds a way to stay in front of their audience. This was just another example of them being creative in coming up with cost effective solutions to do so while biding there time for, as always, what’s coming next.

The band had decided to do a couple of radio-sponsored one-off’s as it were to help promote the new venture / album, KISS MY ASS, in which a host of music legends would be performing & recording their favorite KISS songs at Gene’s behest including Toad The Wet Sprocket, Anthrax, The Gin Blossoms, Lenny Kravitz, Garth Brooks and even (yup) Stevie Wonder! Only KISS sets up their own tribute album. Well, at least then anyway; the duets may be coming soon.

Little did we know, and let me know if I am wrong, but this show may be the very last time Bruce Kulick performed live in concert with the band ‘plugged’ as it were and the very last performance of the Kulick/Singer/Stanley/Simmons roster.

scan0007Maybe that’s why they gave it so much love but it makes me  wonder (yes, it makes me wonder)  if they knew this might be the case. Or, maybe they were just rarin’ to play, having been off the road a bit and now performing without, as Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap once said, “all the mucky-muck” of a full blown tour scenario.

Another cool thing was that the boyz performed a set list picked entirely by fan voting that unearthed GOIN’ BLIND, I STOLE YOUR LOVE, STRUTTER, and, a major highlight, a hot version of GOT TO CHOOSE. As I recall, and listen back now, Bruce played his very best and seemed way more comfortable in this setting, on a small stage with encroaching amps and an audience he could reach out and touch. Eric Singer, who is always solid anyway, played seemingly inspired getting to play some of the cuts that he and Bruce had perhaps never played live with the band.

Want more gravitas? The band performed on a completely stark stage with no effects whatsoever: no KISS sign, no smoke, no blood, Only the banner of the now-defunct Chicago station The Blaze that stood behind them. For us Chicagoans it was refreshingly blue collar and natural, like seeing Cheap Trick @ Cubby Bear or something. This was like a gym with a stage on one wall, no seating, no stands. A mid-western barn-burner of sorts.

At the time, it was the best I had ever heard them. And so was the sound itself. Given the fact that they just flew in with guitars, the less robust PA resulted in a way warmer sound  than the typical KISS concert.  But what really struck me as a KISSTorrian was seeing and hearing the living breathing proof that KISS, with no frills, in an intimate setting, were simply a top flight rock & roll band firing on all cylinders. That night it felt to me like they had finally become as close to classic KISS as possible with the new line-up.  They had seasoned as a group. Even KISStory has it’s irony.

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