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.
On a record digging trip to Lunchbox Records in Charlotte, I found a beautiful 2021 Japanese bootleg release of the The Original Wicked Lester Sessions. It has 9 tracks and some of these were not on the other Wicked Lester Bootleg I have from a few years ago so naturally, I had to have this one. This also has the prized OBI strip everyone wants from a Japanese Release. If that wasn’t enough, it comes on a red smokey colored vinyl. It is beautiful.
And if that wasn’t enough either, the album sleeve is a very sturdy cardboard type material with the whole Wicked Lester Story on one side and a cool-ass band photo on the other side except the band picture is actually one of the earliest photos of Kiss without the make-up we know and love…Not the right picture to use as Ace and Peter were not involved in the Wicked Lester recordings. And if you notice on the album, it is says the record company is Epic which has to be fake because this is not an official release so it wouldn’t come from an actual legitimate record label…please correct if I’m wrong on that thinking.
And wait, there is more. The sound is AMAZING!! This is a bootleg that has been passed around from person to person and tape to tape over the years, but whatever source they used for this is incredible. It is the best sounding version of these songs I’ve heard. I can’t say the songs are as good as the sound, but you know what…having decent sound on these songs makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Let’s get to the songs.
“What Happens In The Darkness” comes straight at you and blows your mind as it feels like a 60’s psychedelic craziness or something. Paul sings and sounds so groovy and on the chorus there are a ton of backing vocals and I think I can hear Gene. Wicked Lester definitely aren’t Kiss, but it is still pretty cool nonetheless.
Up next is the Kiss fan favorite, “She”, which is so different than what the band recorded for the album ‘Dressed to Kill’ years later. It has a slowed down tempo with a jazzy, funky vibe to it and includes the most metal of all instruments, the flute. Jethro Tull did it, so why not Wicked Lester. The guitar riff they use on the Kiss version is present here, but not as gritty and powerful. The hard rock version is definitely better, but I don’t mind this one too much.
“Sweet Ophelia” is a cover of Barry Mann’s song from his 1971 album “Lay It All Out” and was written by Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin. The song holds true to the original with a big exception in that an entire verse is missing. The song is so dated with that late 60’s, early 70’s vibe. It is psychedelic and has some massive hippie vibes and scary to think this Paul on vocals as he feels right at home. This one was listed as being on my other Wicked Lester Bootleg, but sadly, it was not.
“When the Bell Rings” was written by Austin Roberts and Christopher Welch in 1970, the song was obtained by Ron Johnsen for the band to record. It is a more straightforward rocker with a little shuffle it. It has both Gene and Paul singing with Paul kicking things off and he handles the verses. Gene handles the chorus and sounds more like you’d expect. It has a decent guitar solo, but overall, it is an okay track, nothing to write home about though.
“Simple Type” is an interesting track with Gene and Paul sharing vocals. Paul sounds normal, but Gene sounds like a totally different person. This is not the menacing demon we know and love. He is so soft and gentle. There is a flamenco type sounding moment in the middle which is a little weird. The song is a little all over the place. There is a cut in the song and the chorus starts again and then ends with a band. I do get a little popping but honestly, those are the only defects I’ve heard on the whole album so far.
“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. Paul sounds like he’s a bad ass which is not the same hippie Paul we’ve heard throughout the album. There is some great guitar work and I like the harmonies on the chorus. You can hear the demo of this on the Kiss Box Set.
“Keep Me Waiting” is full of horns, congos and a cool bass groove from Gene. Paul is on vocals and he sounds so young on this one. The guitar on this is really loud especially compared to the vocals which are a little soft. And overall, the musicianship on this one is great all around. The song is pretty cool even with a whole dated 60’s vibe to it. I can dig it man…its groovy!!
Now we get a another cover and this one is from the Hollies with “(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 as he isn’t ferocious at all. The song is a slower tempo than what you’d expect. It has some airy, atmospheric sounding guitars on it and makes you feel like you are floating in space all drugged out and happy.
“Long, Long Road” is the other song on here that I did not have a copy of so was so happy to have this one. Very different then the rest of the album as it is basically a bad country song and not a hippie, psychedelic song like the rest. Paul’s on vocals and I have to say that it is not a good song at all…I mean not in the very least. Thank goodness they didn’t bring this one to Kiss…geez!! But the collector in mean is so excited on having a copy of it
And there you have it. My 19th bootleg and I am sure won’t be my last. This one is really cool for me as I finally got two of the Wicked Lester songs I was missing and the best sounding recordings of the songs I have as well. Plus, it is Kiss related so why would I not get it. I think this one will get pulled out when I am the mood for cool Kiss related material. If I had to rate it as songs, maybe a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars. But as a Kiss collectible with a coolness factor, for me it is a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars and don’t pass this one up if you see it out in the wild.
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 – Black Diamond: Lafayette Music Room, Memphis, TN April 18th, 1974 – FM Broadcast
- Kiss – End of the Road: In Allentown 2020 (PPL Center, Allentown, PA, 4th February 2020) (End of the Road Tour) – Blu-Ray
- Kiss – ‘Monster Tour: Simpsonville 2013’ (Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park, Simpsonville, C – 13th August 2013) – Blu-Ray
- Wicked Lester – The Original Wicked Lester Sessions (Bootleg)