The lack of success for the band’s last album, ‘Hot in the Shade’, had them at a crossroads again as to what to do. They were asked to record a song for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in February of 1991, so they brought Bob Ezrin back to record it although Gene was a little hesitant about it after the debacle of ‘Music from the Elder’. But they recorded that song, which was “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II”, and then nothing for awhile. Paul was writing songs with various people, Gene was writing with Bob Dylan (sort of – you can read about that in The Vault series), and then the tragedy of Eric Carr happened. As we discussed in the last post, Eric had heart cancer and died on November 24, 1991 and he had been sick for some time. It was a dark day in Kisstory.
Eric Singer was brought in as the drummer full time now and Kiss went back in the studio in December 1991 with Bob Ezrin back at the helm as the producer probably in part that the Bill & Ted song did so well. The band sought help from an old friend at this time to help with the songwriting. That old friend was Vinnie Vincent. Actually, I think Vinnie reached out to them, but it doesn’t matter. Vinnie had turned over a new leaf and wrote some great songs with both Gene and Paul. And then Vinnie turned back in to Vinnie and tried to renegotiate a contract with them, sued the band and then lost. And Vinnie was again on bad terms with the band. Oh well, at least they tried. There was another Kiss connection on this album as the boys from the band Black ‘N Blue were brought in to help with backing vocals. They would be Jaime St. James and Tommy Thayer. Tommy is now the current Kiss guitarist for the band. This brings the count to 7 Kiss members that worked on the album…Gene, Paul, Eric S., Eric C., Bruce, Tommy and Vinnie. Pretty cool!
The album wrapped up around March 1992 and was finally released on May 19, 1992 and actually did very well for the band. It saw the band go much heavier and darker as well as a massive costume shift. The band went to an all black leather kind of look and a much tougher image. I think this look was great because after almost 10 years, Gene finally looked comfortable again. The demon was back and this album proves he was. And the album also brought us something new with Eric Singer. It brought us the first blonde member of the band. Up until then, it was a requirement that all had the same dark hair color. The album debuted at #6 on the Billboard Charts giving the band its first Top 10 album since 1979’s ‘Dynasty’. Kiss were back…or were they.
The album did go Gold as it sold over 500,000 copies and the tour did have three legs to it. However, the average attendance of this tour was only around 5,000 people making it the worst attended tour of any Kiss tour since 1975. Not good news for the band. Like with the album ‘Creatures of the Night’, the band finally does another great album, but no one seems to care. Changes were needed, but what could they do this time. I guess we will wait and see what happens because now we are going to talk about the music on the album which is worth talking about in my opinion.
First up as usual is a Paul Stanley song…wait…its not?? Wow! Gene is BACK!!! Gene actually opens the album which he hasn’t done since I don’t know when…maybe ever!! I know he would have had the opening track on his 1978 solo album, but I don’t think he has ever lead off a Kiss album. Pretty cool. The song is “Unholy” and was written by Gene and Vinnie Vincent. It is heavy, dark and as eerie as they come. The Demon was back in full force. It was the first official single off the album and they were making a statement that this isn’t the 80’s Kiss, that Kiss is long gone. The bass groove is ominous sounding, Eric Singers’ drums are massive and Bruce Kulick lays down a nasty solo. It is all awesome!!
The next track, “Take It Off”, is Paul’s and was written by him, Bob Ezrin and Alice Cooper’s own, Kane Roberts. Lyrically it is still the 80’s for Paul as the lyrics are all sexual and rather corny…BUT…musically the song is awesome. It is high energy, full of life with great drums (which are actually done by Kevin Valentine and not Singer) and some cool riffs and solo. It is melodic and catchy as hell. Paul actually sounds great vocally and I find this song to be fun (just ignore the lyrics).
“Tough Love” is another Paul song and actually Bruce Kulick’s only writing credit on the album. Bob also helped write the song with Paul and Bruce. Bruce also plays bass on this one and lays down a real distorted bass line and a heavily distorted guitar riff. It is really cool and dark and you’d think it was a Gene song, but it is Paul in all his glory. Now this song fits the darker tone of the album and might be one of the better Paul songs we have heard in awhile as it isn’t filled with corny lyrics.
Gene is back with “Spit” written by Gene, Scott Van Zen and Paul Stanley. Wow…when was the last time Gene and Paul wrote a song together??? Too long for me to remember. The song rocks out completely with Gene taking the main lead vocals and Paul has small parts in it as well. Eric destroys on the double bass and Bruce lays down some brilliant guitar work with a little Star Spangled Banner thrown in for good measure. The back and forth with Gene and Paul is something they don’t do enough of and it is good seeing them be a team again.
Then we get to “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” which is a cover of the Argent song written by Russ Ballard with heavy lyric changes by Paul, Gene and Bob. The song is the first good rock anthem Kiss has done in years and the first in 10 years to have a co-lead vocals with both Gene and Paul. This was from the Bill & Ted Bogus Journey movie and soundtrack. You can read all about it in the prior post and check it out at the link at the bottom as I don’t want to repeat myself too much on this one. Great track.
The final track on Side A is “Domino” and another stellar Gene song. It opens with Gene speaking in a whole bluesy tone before the song kicks in. The guitars have the blues sound as well. Gene’s delivery is pretty cool in that spoken singing tone and it works really well before singing out in the bridge and chorus. This was the second single off the album and the second in a row with Gene. A strange concept for the band, but they were wanting to try anything to get a hit record. This song was written solely by Gene and might be the coolest one on the album. I really love the bass work and the blues style of this one.
After the solid performance of Side A, I was excited to flip over to the Side B and see what else was in store. It opens with “Heart of Chrome” written by Paul, Bob and Vinnie Vincent. It isn’t the best song on the album, but it isn’t the worst either. It is another darker Paul song and it is great to not hear that oversexed up lyrics that Paul got use to writing. This is basically a solid rock track with another great Bruce solo as he only knows how to deliver great solos. Eric’s drum work on this, especially those fills near the end of the track are really cool. He is turning out to be a great addition to the band as his playing is amazing.
Gene steps back up and hits another homer with “Thou Shalt Not” and brings another stellar track. Gene is really killing it on this album and his best work in a decade, no doubt. The songs opening is killer as it is uptempo and has a cool groove. Gene’s bass is thumping liking crazy. Gene fills so comfortable in his role and each time I hear a Gene song on the album I think it is best one and that is no different here. A beast of a song.
We are on the back half of the album and we are to our first ballad with “Every Time I Look at You” written by Paul and Bob. The guitar solo on this one is played by Dick Wagner who has played on prior Kiss songs but way back around 1976. Bruce is on bass and acoustic guitar. It is mostly an acoustic track and a pure, soft and sweet ballad. I guess the album need to slow down after one banging track after another. This was the final single from the album and didn’t even chart although I remember MTV playing it a lot. It is not my favorite song on the album and I not one of my favorite ballads by the band. It is too soft. I think they were trying for a new “Beth”, but power ballads were about played out by 1992.
Thankfully the rock is cranked back up with “Paralyzed” by Gene and Bob. Gene’s song have been very diverse in their style and this one is no different. Funny thing this is the weakest of Gene’s song on the album and still better than most stuff he has done in 10 years. It has a nice groove dropped by Singer on those drums. The guitar solo is cool on this one too when you pair it up with Eric’s playing.
Paul is back up with “I Just Wanna” and brings back his corny sexualized lyrics, but again wrapped in a great musical package. Musically, it is another catchy tune with some great melodies and more great playing by Bruce. It sounds fun like a giant party and that is all we want to do is party. There is an acapella break in the middle that is weird but it works. This is another Vinnie co-write and it gives Paul that little extra he needs. This is a rocking good time song.
The last track is a bittersweet track and a tribute to the late, great Eric Carr. It is the song “Car Jam 1981”. It was a demo recorded by Eric Carr back after he joined the band. Originally it had Ace on the guitar, but Bruce overdubbed it with his playing for this release. The main guitar riff of the song was used by Ace for his Frehley’s Comet song “Breakout”. Eric’s playing on it is sensational and shows what a true talent he was. it is the perfect way to end this album and the band was better for having him in the band for the time they did. He was the nicest guy ever to be in Kiss.
- Unholy – Keeper
- Take it Off – Keeper
- Tough Love – Keeper
- Spit – Keeper
- God Gave Rock & Roll To You II – Keeper
- Domino – Keeper
- Heart of Chrome – Keeper
- Thou Shalt Not – Keeper
- Every Time I Look At You – Keeper (1/2 point)
- Paralyzed – Keeper (1/2 point)
- I Just Wanna – Keeper
- Carr Jam 1981 – Keeper
The Track Score is 11 out of 12 Keepers or 92% which is quite outstanding for Kiss records lately. The album was a much heavier, darker Kiss and an incredible step in the right direction after losing their way most of the late 80’s. They brought Bob Ezrin back in to helm the boards, they brought Vinnie back to help and it might be their best album since Vinnie was in the band. Like ‘Creatures of the Night’, it was the best album the band had done at a time no one cared. Which is a shame. Overall the score on this album is a stellar 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. Gene Simmons was back in form with this album and actually topping the production of Paul’s work which was actually some of the best he had done lately as well. All-in-all, this is a must have Kiss album and what a way to rebound after ‘Hot in the Shade’. Kiss were back in my book, but sadly, not for every other person out there.
I know next up should be the video Kiss – X-treme Close Up, but honestly I don’t have that one and it isn’t on Youtube in some full form. As a result, I will have to come back to that one somewhere down the line. Until then…
Next Up: Kiss – Alive III (1993)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
The Kiss Review Series:
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
- Kiss – Kiss (1974)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
- Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
- Kiss – Alive! (1975)
- Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
- Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
- Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
- Kiss – The Originals (1976)
- Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
- Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
- Kiss – Alive II (1977)
- Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
- Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
- Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
- Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
- Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
- Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
- Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
- Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
- Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
- Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
- Kiss – Killers (1982)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
- Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
- Kiss – Animalize (1984)
- Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
- Kiss – Asylum (1985)
- Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
- Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
- Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
- Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
- Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
- Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
- Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Chikara (1988)
- Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
- Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)
- Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc
- Kiss – Revenge (1992)
The Bootleg Series:
- Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
- Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
- Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
- Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
- Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
- Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
- Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
- Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
- Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
- Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
- Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
- Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
- Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
Kiss – The Box Set:
- The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)
Gene Simmons – The Vault:
- Part 1 – The Grand Opening
- Part 2 – Disk 1
- Part 3 – Disk 2
- Part 4 – Disk 3
- Part 5 – Disk 4
- Part 6 – Disk 5
- Part 7 – Disk 6
- Part 8 – Disk 7
- Part 9 – Disk 8
- Part 10 – Disk 9
- Part 11 – Disk 10
- Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
- Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
- Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
- Part 15 – The Final Verdict