Kiss – ‘Wicked Lester and Progeny Demo Sessions’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series )

Welcome to the beginning of a new series on 2Loud2OldMusic.com.  We are finally tackling the entire Kiss catalog.  As you know, if you follow this site, Kiss is one of my favorite bands and I am amassing quite a vinyl collection.  I have done posts on Kiss over the years (a lot), but I haven’t tackled their main albums and in detail.  I figured, it was finally time to do so.  And what better way to kick it off then with the band right before Kiss was formed…Wicked Lester.  This review is a double review of sorts as this vinyl is a Bootleg and so it is part of my Bootleg Series with Kiss and it will also be the kickoff to the new series as this is where Kiss really began.

I haven’t done a full count, but I am guessing we will wind up with over 50 albums in this review as I will tackle as many Kiss albums as I can including Studio, Live, Greatest Hits, and anything else in my collection.  I will even venture off in to solo albums by the band members or other side projects they have.  It is going to be everything Kiss related.  I have a feeling this will take more than a year to complete, but I think I am up for the task. I hope you are too.  At the bottom of every post, there will be links to all the Kiss Reviews we have done in the past if you want to venture over and check them out.  I hope you enjoy…

IMG_2021

We all know Kiss was started by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  But did you know about the band prior to Kiss?  It all started with Gene (Chaim Witz) and Paul (Stanley Eisen) in a band called Rainbow with Gene’s friend Stephen Coronel.  Paul was the third member and then they brought in a drummer named Joe Davidson. This band didn’t last long at all and hell, the drummer even a shorter time as he was quickly replaced with Tony Zarella.  They only played one show before they had to drop the name Rainbow because that name was already being used by some other band (and no, not the Richie Blackmore band).

And that is how Wicked Lester was born.  After only a couple shows as Wicked Lester, they were approached by a label and were given the chance to record some demos. After listening to those demos, the label decided that Stephen was not good enough and had to be fired. And since Gene and Paul the upstanding citizens they are, they fired Stephen.  I guess you do whatever it takes to make it in this business.  Ron Leejack was then brought in for guitar duties and it was time to record the album.

Now the album would take about a year to complete and upon receiving the album and hearing it, the label were not quite thrilled with it…okay, they hated it.  Hated it so much, they shelved it and it was never released.  Well, never in a full, pure album form.  It has been leaked out as a bootleg and that is what we have here.

Before we get to the music, I want to talk about the label as I love these little things about bootlegs.  I really love the label on the vinyl as it states that it is from Rockwell & Good purveyors of the finest music extant since the day before yesterday.  I don’t know why, but I love it.  This particular release is from 1987 and on the first side you get 9 demos of Wicked Lester…okay, not really, but we will get to that in a minute…and Side 2 is really interesting as well as it has the 5 demos done by Eddie Kramer before Kiss did their first album.  And also on Side 2 are two Ace Frehley demos he did for Frehley’s Comet which was mid-80’s.  Lots of music to get through, so let’s finally get to it.

IMG_2022

The label says the album kicks off with “Sweet Ophelia”, but that song is not really on here.  It starts with “Keep Me Waiting” which is one of three songs Kiss would release on the Kiss Box Set (you can find the links below).  The other two were “Love Her All I Can” and “She”“Keep Me Waiting” is full of horns and a cool bass groove from Gene. Paul is on vocals and he sounds so young.  There is a whole 60’s vibe to this tune, but I like it.

“Ladies in Waiting” is up next, but it is really “Love Her All I Can”.  Paul admits that the opening guitar work was strongly influenced by The Who song “Can’t Explain” and the guitar & bass parts were taken from “Open My Eyes” by Nazz.  A complete Frankenstein song that works.  Another great track in its original form.  Definitely not Kiss, but you could see a band that had potential. The song ends with some congos and such which is the start of another song then cuts off quickly and goes to what I am guessing is “Simple Type” which isn’t even listed.  Obviously this was pieced together from various sources, but the sound quality of the album is sensational.

“Simple Type” is an interesting track with Gene and Paul sharing vocals.  Paul sounds normal, but Gene sounds like a totally different person.  There is a flamenco type sounding moment which is weird.  The song is a little all over the place and then abruptly ends and the next thing you know is you are listening to “She”. The song is so different than what the band recorded for the album ‘Dressed to Kill’ years later.  It has a jazzy, funky feel to it and includes the most metal instrument, the flute. Jethro Tull did it, so why not Wicked Lester.

Up next is “Too Many Days”, but I believe really is “Too Many Mondays” is such a 60’s hippie song is the only thing I can think of.  Paul sounds like…well more like Peter, Paul & Mary than Kiss.  It is bloody awful.  “In The Darkness” comes straight at you and blows your mind, not in a good way.  There are a ton of backing vocals on the chorus.  This feels so 60’s psychedelic craziness or something.  I don’t know how to describe it.  But it is still kind of fun.  The actual title is “What Happens in the Darkness”.

“When the Bell Rings” is a more straightforward rocker with both Gene and Paul singing. Gene starts to sound closer to Gene rather than that dainty flower we heard earlier.  It is an okay track, nothing write home about though.  Then comes some Beatle style song called “Molly (Some Other Guy)” with Paul on vocals singing too softly.  You can hear Gene’s bass prominently.  Another 60’s vibe song and not that sensational.  And lastly we get a cover of the Hollies “(We Want To) Shout It Out Loud” which would be the inspiration for a song with a similar song later.  Gene sings this one and he is not really recognizable.  It would’ve fit well on The Vault though.  It is decent enough.  Sadly, it suddenly cuts off as they jammed too many songs on one side of the vinyl and they ran out of space.

IMG_2023

After the album was nixed by the label, Wicked Lester still played on but Gene and Pual wanted to go in a new direction so they let everyone else in the band go.  Now they needed to piece a new band together and first up was drummer Peter Criscuola from an ad in Rolling Stone magazine.  Of course we know him as Peter Criss.  The band played on without a contract now.  After a little while they decided, you know…we need a lead guitarist.  So in December 1972, the band placed an ad in the Village Voice for a lead guitarist and they started auditioning numerous guitarists.  One of these strange cast of charcters walked in was this unusual looking dude with two different colored shoes.  He  plugged in and played without saying a word.  Paul Frehley was his name and “Ace” is who he became.

A cool piece of Kisstory is that Bob Kulick is the guitarist that auditioned right before Ace.  And to think, if Ace didn’t show up, he probably would’ve been it…who knows.  Bob came back in to the Kiss world numerous times and did a lot of the guitar work when Ace was in a place that he couldn’t. We will get to know Bob later in the Kisstory.  But first, I want to pay my respects to Bob as he passed away last week on Friday, May 29th.  He was a big part of the Kiss world and it wouldn’t have been the same without him.  Heck, we might have not even got his brother Bruce in the band years later if it wasn’t for him.  Okay, thanks for allowing me that sidetrack…now back to the regularly scheduled program.

The band was now set so they changed their name to Kiss and played their first show on January 30, 1973.  Not soon after, they got the opportunity to do demos with Eddie Kramer and that is the next set of songs.

The demos kick off with “Deuce” which starts off really dull sounding as if someone forgot to turn up the right nobs as it was mostly coming through one speaker.  Towards the end of the song, the sound picks up and quality improves and they all sound really great from that point on, with good quality equal to what the Wicked Lester demos sounded like if not a little better.  I’m not going to go through each track as we will do that in great detail when we start going through the albums.

These tracks, which all end up on the debut album except “Watching You” which finds its way on to ‘Hotter Than Hell’, sound fantastic. The songs are a little more raw and have more punch than the debut album, I feel like that is the case anyway.

Side B also throws on two Ace Frehley demos from his time around Frehley’s Comet which is more than a decade past these songs so they are out of the timeline, but still two cool tracks.  You get “I Got the Touch” and then “Rock or Be Rocked” which neither track made the album, however, these were produced by Eddie Kramer as well so pretty cool to have.  Not much info about them that I could find and I don’t see where either have been released ever.

“I Got the Touch” was written by Ace and Arthur Stead who was the keyboardist for Frehley’s Comet and was written in 1984.  It is a great track and I like it better than some songs on the album even if it is a little repetitive.  It is Ace on vocals which I prefer even if he isn’t the best singer. “Rock or Be Rocked” is a pure Rock anthem in the same style as “Rock Soldiers” and I can’t find anywhere on who wrote the song so I will assume Ace at the very least.  Both fantastic even if the quality isn’t the best and “Rock or Be Rocked” is really rough.  There were a ton of demos from this recording and I wish Ace would release them all.

Okay, I have rambled on for quite a long time. I should bring this to an end.  As far as sound quality, although there are many little hiccups throughout, the quality is actually quite fantastic considering they are demos and the album was from 35 years ago.  For me, this is a big part of Kisstory and something I love having in my collection.  These are mostly pre-Kiss and first Kiss recordings so this is worth every penny.  I would rate this as a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as the quality is way better than I would have thought and the songs are a must have.  This is one of my favorite Bootlegs in my collection.  Now, if you aren’t a fan, the little issues with the recording might bother you, but I take these for what they are…they are bootlegs.  They aren’t perfect sounding, high quality releases and you have to live with that and just enjoy.

Next Up: Kiss – Kiss (1974)

Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!

The Kiss Review Series:

  1. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)

 

The Bootleg Series:

  1. Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
  2. Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
  3. Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
  4. Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
  5. Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
  6. Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
  7. Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
  8. Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
  9. Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
  10. Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
  11. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
  12. Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
  13. Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
  14. Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)

Kiss – The Box Set:

Gene Simmons – The Vault:

 

23 thoughts on “Kiss – ‘Wicked Lester and Progeny Demo Sessions’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series )

  1. I was waiting for this to start. I thought it would naturally start with their 1974 self-titled debut, but nope. You subverted these expectations.

    The first Kiss album is still my favorite. Classic song after classic song on that one. Peter Criss unleashed at his jazzy finest before being transformed into a more standard drummer on Destroyer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m already throwing you for a loop. Good. I would’ve started with the debut, but I found this a about a month or so ago and well, felt this was a better starting point.

      I agree on the first album. One of my favorites as well. That will come next week so not long to wait. Writing up Destroyer this weekend.

      Like

    1. Thanks! I like posting the links to the whole series for all the series I do. It makes it easier for the visitor coming from Google to easily find them all and go visit. It definitely increases traffic on the site. I have gotten well over 1000 hits for the whole series.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said about bootlegs. They are what they are. Wicked Review John!
    It’s always cool to hear songs in there earlier stages become something totally different by the time they are relased. Like the two Leppard live tracks from the Early Years Box set that became something totally different by the time they hit the studio.
    Thats the great stuff that makes demo exciting. Even Halen when they did there last album ADKOT those were all worked up from demos from the 70s

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent idea for a series, John!
    I’m looking forward to this discography as I’ve only got a couple of Kiss albums (only Destroyer made the 1001 list).
    And some of my favourite singers (Rivers Cuomo), journalists (Chuck Klosterman), and music bloggers (2 Loud 2 Old Music / LeBrain) are huge Kiss fans so I’m keen to learn more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cool start John! Got really good quality versions of these (not the Frehley though). The KISS demos are awesome but I could never get into Wicked Lester other than a song or two. But the score is fair cause this stuff is a must hear anyway for the history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I do enjoy the Wicked Lester, but you are right, there are only really a couple songs that are truly any good. I love the history of it and I think if you find them, you have to grab them and since I am a little bit of a Nutjob with Kiss, I buy anything and everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great start to what will be a great series. I first saw this album and its tracklist in the book Kiss On Fire, which covered a few of the other bootlegs in your collection as well such as Barbarize! I got the Touch and Rock or Be Rocked are two tracks I don’t have on anything, so this is a vinyl I would buy as well, even though I think I have the other tracks on other things.

    Awesome, let’s rock!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks man. I am really excited about this one as it is my favorite band. If I can ever figure out how to record these damn vinyls, I will send you those 2 Ace tracks. They are a little rough, but still cool. Also, I have now written 9 posts already for this series (although 3 of those are updated rehashes of post I have written before so I cheated a little but wanted to bring them in to the series).

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s