KISStorian’s ‘SONIC MONSTER’ a rock & roll party!

kissWhat a life it is KISStorians to have time free on a Saturday afternoon to contemplate the finer things in life, like combining KISS’s Sonic Boom & Monster discs into arguable one of the best KISS albums of all time, a playlist I refer to as ‘Sonic Monster’. Try this at home and get it the car stereo pronto hombre because listen up, and listen good … Sonic Boom and Monster are pretty damn good rock & roll records so, yeah, old school gripes aside people, a tip of the proverbial ‘Firehouse’ helmets to Tommy Thayer & Eric Singer for manning the barricades …all for the glory of the KISS Army. This would be a cool KISS delux release remixed by a special guest like Phil Spector (via web)  or Bob ‘The Elder’ Ezrin himself? Maybe the boys would have fun turning it in to a live album with Eddie Kramer? ūüôā Don’t be afraid to dream.

SONIC MONSTER(2016) Modern Day Delilah – Wall Of Sound  – Outta This World – I’m An Animal – Say Yeah – Hell Or Hallelujah – Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect) – Shout Mercy – When Lightning Strikes – Long Way Down – Danger Us – Stand – All For The Love Of Rock & Roll – Back To The Stone Age  – Last Chance 

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!

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-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”¬† ¬† ))))¬†

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, ‘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.¬†

Kiss-Rock_And_Roll_Over-FrontalMR. 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”¬†¬†

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

KISStorian’s top ten GENE SIMMONS deep cuts

KISS Nation should demand the boyz seal these ten Gene master strokes up immediately in a time-capsule. I cannot put them in any order of import; no mere mortal could possibly extrapolate such calculations (not safely anyway).

WAR MACHINE – Creatures of The Night¬†This may have in fact have been recorded “On The 8th Day” because it is freakin’ god-like rock. The intro guitar riff is a couple of light years ahead of its time; hard to believe songsmith Bryan Adams could have had anything to do with the song, but he did. Gene’s growl says get the bleep out of my way or get run over by the biggest drums on earth, ever (thanks Eric Carr) and stands as a testament to Gene’s mastering of the ‘monster plod’. When he sings “draw the battle lines” it’s so evil, so infectious, that I literally wish to rule the world briefly. Terrifying. The gut-check guitars in the verse and the sheer space allowed for the drums to resonate ’till the next A-chord bruises another rib is downright primal. If “War Machine” doesn’t get your blood boiling you probably have never ‘rocked’ anyway. While we’re at it, it bears mentioning that there isn’t a bad track on Creatures; get it.

ALMOST HUMAN – Love Gun – Let me count the ways it’s special: the grabber bass tone, the poppin’ bass breaks, Peter Criss’s jungle groove, Ace Frehley’s Hendrix-inspired guitar solo, Gene’s all-holds-barred vocal musings, lyrics like “the moon is out I think I’m gonna change”. It ¬†screams ‘The Demon’ and yet has an avant-garde thing about it that few Kiss songs do. “Almost Human” added to the mystery of KISS in ’77, showcasing Gene’s knack for expanding the KISS superhero brand vision. ¬†Gene meets Zappa compliments of legendary producer Eddie Kramer.

GOIN’ BLIND – Hotter Than Hell Of the early Gene songs this is by far the darkest offering, in both lyrical content and musical tone, though “Watchin’ You” (off the same record) comes as a close second. When I was a kid, I couldn’t listen to “Goin’ Blind” because it troubled me, as it should have: it’s about a 93-year-old man in love with a 16-year-old. No question, it has a palpable desperation about it. The stark imagery, slowly developing minor chord melody, grungy mix and Gene’s straining lead vocal (“BEEE_EEEEEEE”) make for a heady, gut wrenching brew that exposes Gene’s British Invasion bug. ¬†To me, this is the song that qualifies Gene as an artist to be reckoned with. It’s all too wonderful; maybe the darkest ballad of all time!! ¬†Ace’s solo work throughout the track alone make “Goin Blind” a top ten Kiss song in this rock soldiers book. Yes, it’s Gene the bohemian artist.

ANIMAL – Sonic Boom ¬†Okay, I know, it’s not ‘Klassic KISS’ ¬†but you coulda fooled me, or anyone who cares. It’s a ruthless mother of tune that recalls Gene at his very finest, declaring independence and little remorse for his prey – probably the best tune he’s written in 20 years. It just sounds so damn urgent one has to wonder what buttons Paul Stanley must have pushed to awaken the Demon’s ire. Too bad he couldn’t have mustered something like this up for Animalize;¬†the album might have been even a bigger success for the boyz. How does a 60-year-old man write a rock riff this cool and have it not sound like anything else? The “Almost Human” refrain in the break is a real nice touch and Tommy Thayer lays down the law on arguably his best lead on the bands most recent opus. Conviction? Guilty as charged.

MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES – Gene Simmons When KISS ruled the world the gods decreed there be four solo Kiss albums, and so it was. Gene’s ego was approaching supernova at the time so it was probably for the best, and maybe why “Man Of 1.000 Faces” was so perfect then and is so perfect now. It’s like a personal Gene Simmons brand statement / warning of things to come, and it’s a great song that took some guts. The first-person revelations and ¬†horn arrangements in the verses roar into an anthemic Beatles-inspired chorus that sounds more like a Broadway encore than a KISS song. It really shows Gene’s ability to tell a story and, in this case, an apparently spot on autobiographical one that paints Gene as a new hero to root for.

NAKED CITY – Unmasked – Okay, the record leaves a lot of folks with a poppy “what happened to KISS” taste in their mouths but it is, in hindsight, a pretty good record, largely due to the three Ace tunes on it. For some reason though, “Naked City” always felt strangely ultra-sincere to me in relation to the rest of it. So many departures on it including Gene’s falsetto and a quasi-reggae groove guitar line that came off like an entirely new KISS branching out. And, for all its cliche imagery, somehow Gene is able to sell us on the bleak reality of the ‘naked city’. With Kiss waning in popularity in America at the time, perhaps in some detached mercenary sort of way the song was about the fact Gene knew the band may be left for dead stateside. Was it all over? ¬†Gene even asks the question in the veiled lyric “Is there no tomorrow?”

LARGER THAN LIFE – Alive II– LTL is just that, KISS at their 70’s zenith, in a position to audaciously release their second double-live record in just three years! But it gets better; side four included some new material that made it a ‘must have’ (like all KISS). The best Gene cut on it is “Larger Than Life”. Gene’s voice is flat-out menacing and the Bonham-esque groove Peter Criss lays down makes for one of the very best rock moments in KISSstory. I would say it’s easily in any true believers’ top ten as far as studio recordings go ‘cuz there are so many cool things exploding in your face. So dry. So crisp. So tight. So raw. So Gene. I hear a cool reworking of The Who’s “The Seeker” riff with heavier guitars, a Beatles shock end-of-chorus turn-around and one of the best snare-flamm, bass-drum breaks on any rock song, ever. “Da-Boom, Da-Boom, Da-Boom, Da-Boom DA DA!!!” No one sounds or even thinks like Gene, no one ever will and this one proves it. ¬†What you have in LTL is signature, A1 Simmons, basking not so sheepishly in the glow of KISS’s 70’s supremacy. It’s nothing short of a rock & roll masterpiece.

TWO TIMER – Dressed To Kill – Dressed To Kill is always overlooked when folks talk about the early stuff but it is, if a little short in length, a good rockin’ time. Funny though that Gene should be the one calling the kettle black but that’s exactly what we get on this rrotsy rocker. Juxtapose this with the sentiments on “Ladies In Waiting” on the same record and you have Gene’s split personality. His walking bass line shows he listened closely as young player and learned his lessons well. “Two Timer” is steeped in old school song craftiness and is the kind of thing that you could hear coming from other bands which, lets face it, you can’t say for many Gene songs. Plus, vocally he pulls off a Louis Armstrong-like richness with so much personality and believability that one has to say aloud “Geno!” The lyrics are fun too because, for the first time, Gene’s on the losing end complaining “she tells me she’s high fashion, she thinks she looks divine, and ¬†that’s what I keep telling her, I tell her all the time” lol.. ¬†As the song fades, Gene raps “that’s the truth baby you’re a….”, in what sounds to me like a nod to the hip vocal stylings of Hendrix in songs like “Cross Town Traffic” and “Foxy Lady”.

WAITING FOR THE MORNING LIGHT – A**hole –¬†¬†Everyone tends to slag Gene’s solo efforts, inside the band and even in the KISS Army ranks; I don’t get why. Gene seems to have fun with them, taking chances more often than not and touching on genres no one would think Gene would have any interest in. Who knows, this song may be closer to the real Gene Simmons than anything else, especially if you are an aficionado of his early demos. In any event, it’s one of the very few sweet sentiments expressed anywhere by him and offers a glimpse of the lighter side of his ‘singer/songwriter’ upbringing.

******* Pick one –¬†Lick It Up –¬†LIU is a guilty pleasure on a lot of levels but, album title aside, it’s a balls to the wall rock record that declared KISS alive and well in 1983 and may have been the best hard rock record of the year. Still sounds fresh to me, although Paul sometime poo-poos the album for some reason. Simply put, it represents Gene’s best 80’s/ sans make-up outing, bar none. Young & Wasted”, “On The 8th Dy”, “Fits Like A Glove”, “Not For The Innocent”, “Dance All Over Your Face” – sweet Jesus, it’s a Gene-a-thon that finds the freshly scrubbed Simmons lashing out in anger, fit to be tied and chomping at the bit. Makes one wonder what happened between LIU and¬†Animalize¬†to sour his enthusiasm because if you don’t have LIU (and Creatures of The Night for that matter), you are quite truly in the dark on the sheer magnitude of KISS’s scope. For example,¬†“Young & Wasted” is KISS doing metal better than the real metal bands they had been forced to compete with to stay afloat. With the unmasking as a backdrop to the release, Gene’s tracks on LIU are an essential heaping helping of KISStory. “Not For Innocent”,”Fits Like A Glove”, and “Dance All Over Your Face” sound the charge for a new ‘unholy’ KISS looking for your daughter, reminding the listeners that Gene was back on the hunt while “On The 8th Day” defined KISS’ mission for the first time in biblical terms as the band soldiered on “through the heart of a brave new world”. Although the¬†Dynasty¬†tour was dubbed “The Return of KISS”, it was Lick It Up that saved the band’s ass and shows Simmons to be one of the heaviest musicians of all-time.

KISStorian — live phantoms Boston 2010

New line-up or not, I admit it: KISS brought the goods last night at Comcast Center just outside Boston, not just enough pyro to blow your head off. I may have to re-enlist in The Kiss Army after all. I could have been a general by now.

They sounded great, played well together, and delivered classic KISS faithfully, with incredible exuberance. By the time the last chords of anthem ‚ÄúRock & Roll All Nite‚ÄĚ rang out in the Mansfield night, I had to admit it – I couldn‚Äôt help but root for Kiss, yet again. Armed with a monster repertoire from which to choose and old-fashion determination, remaining Kiss’ Co-founders Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley still have enough fire in the belly to melt an adjacent iceberg. Greasepaint aside, these guys know how to win a crowd over and leave indelible impressions.

“You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy!” – Kiss, 1975

Seeing Kiss in 2010 is like a going through a time warp. I personally felt like I had time-traveled on Star Trek‚Äôs ‚ÄėHolodeck‚Äô to 1978 to see Kiss at Space Mountain to re-live their TV-movie, ‚ÄúKiss Meets The Phantom of The Park.”

I can explain….See, the ‘Phantom’ was my very first Kiss experience (sorry Michelle H.). I guess I was deemed too young to go to concerts then and there was no MTV yet. This was also before the advent of VCR’s, YouTubers, so my Mom & Dad did the only thing they could think of to appease my brother and I – they set up a tri-pod to snap a few photographs of the screen. It was a success and, strange to most, a slide of original drummer Peter Criss taken that night still ranks as one of my most treasured possessions.

Paul4Anyway….flash forward 32 years and I‚Äôm standing in the vending area pre-show, starting to get that queasy feeling I always seem to get before I see my childhood heroes. This time, however, it‚Äôs a little different. I am feeling really guilty about the fact that Ace Frehley & Peter Criss are gone. Feeling like hell about the fact that Gene & Paul have anointed a new ‘Spaceman’, and a new ‘Catman’. For some of us, it’s all too much. Will I be able to embrace these masked imposters?

As it turns out, it’s not the end of the world….at least as far as enjoying a Kiss show goes. Tommy Thayer delivers Ace better than probably anyone else on the planet, including Space Ace himself perhaps. And, at least Eric Singer has made some effort to alter his overly-linear drumming to better suit the classic Kiss groove that old Pete mined.

I was surprised to find a really wide demographic at the show; babies, kids, teenagers, mid-twenties hipsters, drop-outs, hicks, loner 30-somethings, Moms & Dads, 40-somethings like me, the elderly, even the handicapped were out in  force.

It was like being at a fairgrounds, or a  racetrack,  or an amusement park‚Ķor‚Ķ  wait….NO,DAMN  IT, IT WAS LIKE THE OPENING SCENES OF “KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM”! Were we time traveling? String Theory says we can?! I told my wife what was going on in the Kiss area of my brain and she just grimaced in dismay. Then it hit me, OMG!!!…..This evenings’ Kiss plot-line was not so dissimilar from the ‚Äô78 ‘Phantom’ movie either!! You see‚Ķin the movie, Kiss are replaced by diabolical robotic clones. Today, two of the original KISS members have been replace by musical robots in the sense that they have at least been programmed; programmed & paid to play like Ace & Peter.

DSCN0255I was now going to have to come to terms with all of this unpleasantness. To be honest, my Kiss world had been a cosmic mess ever since Peter and then Ace left the band again and KISStory repeated itself. Gene’s reality show wasn’t helping. The ‘new’ Kiss had brought me shame. What if Eric & Tommy actually were actually robots of some sort? Like in the movie. Plus, Gene & Paul could afford the best robots money could buy; surely they are working on it anyway. I wouldn’t put it past’em – mind control, whatever it takes. KISS is relentless.

Anyway, for some reason, all night I was unable to shake this ridiculous robot concern. BOY was I shaken then when they threw a new wrinkle into their the show that caught me totally off guard. So off guard in fact that for one harrowing nano-second I wondered if I really was stuck in a Kiss nightmare or if I had lost my mind entirely. They all stopped in unison for 15 seconds or more, like KISS action figures out of battery power. Or, holy shit, like ROBOTS!  As if frozen in time, they didn‚Äôt make a sound, the silence grew deafening and the place went ape. KISS are again mainstream superstars and are even threatening to record another record to follow-up last year’s “Sonic Boom.” Brainwashed or not, I can’t help but suspect foul play. Two down and two to go, Devereaux.