Thanks to the Kiss Box Set Series I reviewed and most especially, Disc Four (which covers the 80’s), I have been on a Non Make-Up Era Kiss fix of late.. I have been playing all the albums and I am even getting Greg Prato’s book “Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked” for Christmas (Review in January 2020). So, I figured why not do a list of my favorite Kiss songs from that time and here we are. I am going to cover the albums from ‘Lick it Up’ in 1983 to ‘Carnival of Souls’ in 1997 and although I included the cover to “Thrashes, Smashes & Hits’ on the post header picture, there are no songs from it as the two new songs are really, really bad.
So, why wait any longer. Here are what I say are the Top 20 Songs of Kiss (The Non-Makeup Era)…
#20 – “Master & Slave” off ‘Carnival of Souls’ (1997)
I had to have one song from ‘Carnival of Souls’ which is not a good album, but there was one song I did like and that is “Master & Slave”. It was written by Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Curtis Coumo. When you hear it, it is not normal Kiss. This is dark, brooding and completely centered in the Grunge era (which was a couple years too late). I liked the biting guitar work from Bruce and it is something completely different.
#19 – “Thou Shalt Not” off ‘Revenge’ (1992)
I really like a lot of Gene’s songs and there are quite a few on here despite Paul still leading the pack. The ‘Revenge’ album was a return to glory for Gene as he seemed lost for a few years. This is Gene, plain and simple. It is heavy and sounds evil which is just what the doctor ordered. The guitar solo is just as menacing as the rest of the song (good job Bruce).
#18 – “Tears Are Falling” off ‘Asylum’ (1985)
Kiss really pulled out the ballads in the 80’s as that was the thing to do and this was the first successful one. It is one of the few Kiss songs in the 80’s that was soley written by Paul as he started liking having some help during this time. It didn’t make the Top 40 as it stopped at #51, but it was played constantly on MTV.
#17 – “King of the Mountain” off ‘Asylum’ (1985)
The lead track off the album and one of the more rocking tracks. Bruce Kulick was now a full-fledged member and even had a hand with writing this one along with Paul and Desmond Child who will show up a lot on the list. Bruce’s solo was a highlight and this album is filled with those great Bruce moments. I was excited to have Bruce in full-time now.
#16 – “Forever” off ‘Hot in the Shade’ (1987)
‘Hot in the Shade’ is probably one of the bands worst albums along with Carnival of Souls (and Peter Criss solo) so there wasn’t much to choose from to make this list. However, you can’t go wrong with a ballad and this one is especially good even considering it was written with the help of Michael Bolton…yes, that Michael Bolton. He and Paul put together a great ballad and was a pretty big hit for the band reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
#15 – “Turn On the Night” off ‘Crazy Nights’ (1987)
“Turn on the Night” was a fun pop/rock song. Not quite ballad and not quite straight up rocker either. Somewhere in between. The interesting thing about this song is the help Paul had. It was Diane Warren. She hadn’t had many huge hits at this point so she was sort of new and up & coming and man did she blossom after this one. I find it to be a fun song and one I go to a lot on this album.
#14 – “Not For The Innocent” off ‘Lick It Up’ (1983)
Gene brings us another dark, menacing and evil sounding song and that is what I want from him. He is the Demon! He and Vinnie Vincent penned another demon classic. The beast runs wild and Vinnie shreds a mean solo. It is a Gene song through and through.
#13 – “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” off ‘Crazy Nights’ (1987)
Another fun rocker with Paul on vocals and I really dig this song. I can’t put my finger on it, but it is just a solid piece. I think Paul sounds fantastic and you get Bruce on guitar and I believe Adam Mitchell plays guitar as well on this one with Bruce which makes sense since they all wrote it together. Paul really is singing a lot higher on this song and the song works, it just does.
#12 – “Reason to Live” off ‘Crazy Nights’ (1987)
Another Desmond Child penned track with Paul and another ballad, but might be my favorite of the bunch…wait, not quite…there is one more on the list that I would consider a ballad. The song didn’t break the Top 40, but was still a relatively big hit thanks to MTV. It isn’t as cheesy as “Forever” and not as classic as say a Bon Jovi or Def Leppard ballad, but I still love it. This was the 80’s, what do you expect.
#11 – “Unholy” off ‘Revenge’ (1992)
Gene lost his way in the late 80’s, that dark, menacing demon disappeared. In 1992, he found his voice again and “Unholy” was one hell of a comeback. The guitars were evil sounding and Gene growls the vocals line by line. It is what we love about the Demon. I felt like I needed to go to Church and confess after listening to this one. I never did, I kept listening to the song instead and that might explain a lot of what is wrong with me.
#10 – “Exciter” off ‘Lick It Up’ (1983)
The opening track to ‘Lick It Up’ is like a giant slap in the face that says WAKE UP!! Kiss is back!! The opening riff is brutal and although the song was written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent, Vinnie is not the lead guitarist on the song. Nope. It is Rick Derringer and he is brilliant especially on that solo which isn’t a big shred fest and see what I can do, it was melded perfectly to fit the song and made sense. Man, what an opening track.
#9 – “Who Wants to Be Lonely” off ‘Asylum’ (1985)
The final ballad on the list and my favorite. It is written by Paul and of course, Desmond Child, but also Jean Beauvior from the Plasmatics. Jean also played bass on this one and not Gene as he was probably off making a movie. It is a little more power than ballad, but I still think it falls in that category.
#8 – “I’m Alive” off ‘Asylum’ (1985)
I like this one for the speed. The tempo is so freaking quick and I love the urgency the band plays with it. Some killer guitar work and Paul firing on all cylinders with this one. A blistering song that will definitely get you moving.
#7 – “Thrills In The Night” off ‘Animalize’ (1984)
Another Paul Stanley and Jean Beauvior song that comes across so cool sounding. There is a nice groove to it and maybe because Jean was laying that down with the bass and not Gene (again). I also like that it is about a woman who works 9 to 5 and then goes out at night to find that thing that thrills her. The song has this sexy vibe to it for that very reason. It really works.
#6 – “Fits Like A Glove” off Lick It Up (1983)
Vinnie’s opening guitar riff slayed on this one and then Gene comes in as mean and nasty as always and I love every minute of it. Gene Simmons penned and sang and one of my favorites from this album. This song reminded me of 70’s Kiss as it fit Gene perfectly and let’s not lose sight of Vinnie’s solo as he completely destroyed it on this one. Total badass Gene song.
#5 – “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)” off ‘Animalize’ (1984)
The opening track is the way you start off an album. Hard, heavy and fast. Paul sounds amazing and when I heard this song, I knew this album was going to be great and I wasn’t wrong. One of their finer 80’s moments. Plus, Desmond Child helped write this one too with Paul. Mark St. John showed he was a bonafide shredder with this one as well even though Bruce played solo on a couple songs before he was even in the band, but that is another story for another time.
#4 – “Good Girl Gone Bad” off ‘Crazy Nights’ (1987)
From the opening bass note all the way to the end, you get one of Gene’s best songs in the 80’s. This one was written with his friend, Davitt Sigerson, along with Peter Diggins. The song is about a good girl from Gene’s college years who went from good to bad because of Gene, but she actually didn’t go all the way with Gene first. Someone else beat him to the punch in the back of car!. That must of destroyed that fragile ego of his. Thankfully we got great Gene song out of it as great Gene songs in the 80’s were hard to come by. What I like about it is that it isn’t one of Gene’s songs that have over-the-top lyrics. It is really a great written song, not too heavy and not too soft…just right.
#3 – “Heaven’s On Fire” off ‘Animalize’ (1984)
When Paul does his “Woooaah ooooh’s” to open the song, you are in for a treat. The first single off the album and another song written with Desmond Child who became a big collaborator with Paul. It is a song fit perfectly for the mid-80’s rock scene. With Mark St. John on guitar and Eric Carr on drums and Gene actually on bass, the band scored a decent hit, but one of my favorites. It is one the band still plays today and for good reason…just listen.
#2 – “No, No, No” off ‘Crazy Nights’ (1987)
This might not be one of their best songs, but it is the BEST BRUCK KULICK song of the whole bunch. With Gene on vocals, you get a great performance, but it is Bruce that is the highlight of this song. The song opens with what is probably Bruce’s best guitar solo he ever did with the band. Yes, the song opens with a guitar solo..who does that? Well, Bruce does. And he has another solo in the middle of the song. This is a pure Bruce Kulick showcase song if there ever was one. I could listen to this all day long.
#1 – “A Million To One” off ‘Lick It Up” (1983)
No Vinnie Vincent did not save Kiss although he did write this song along with Paul Stanley. This to me is one of Paul’s greatest vocal performances and one of the best songs of Kiss, period. It was never a single, but it should have been. Vinnie’s guitar riff at the opening is great and his solo fits perfectly in the middle, but it let’s be honest, it is Eric Carr’s drums that deliver this song home. They are hard, heavy and sound killer on this song. Michael James Jackson had a way of getting a great drum sound from Eric.