The 2000’s have seen Kiss release more live albums, greatest hits packages and box sets than Studio Albums. And this particular release has sat on the shelves for six years because one thing or another got in the way. The album was recorded on December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada and consisted of the original band members of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. The original intention for this album was to be released as Kiss Alive! IV, but there was a problem and it got shelved because the record label, Mercury, was being gobbled up by Universal in a giant merger. Then a few years later, Universal agreed for Mercury to release it, but the band was working on the Symphony show which would become Kiss Alive IV. One thing after another kept pushing this release back. Thoughts were that it wasn’t a good show, but I think it was bad timing.
The album would see a release on November 21, 2006 when it was included on the box set Kiss Alive! 1975-2000. That box set included Alive!, Alive II and Alive III as well and since those have already been reviewed, I went with just reviewing the Millennium show as that did get a separate vinyl release of its own.
One of the cool things about this release is that there are three songs on here that had never been played by all 4 of the original members. You get “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Lick It Up” both from the non-makeup era that Peter and Ace were not on and you get “I Love It Loud” which Peter was not on and Ace was credited on the ‘Creatures of the Night’ album but reality proved he didn’t play on it. However, the opening track on here is “Psycho Circus” and Peter and Ace actually didn’t play on that song either even though it was the “Reunion” album.
After the success of their album ‘News of the World’ and a very successful tour for that album, Queen quickly went back to work for the band’s seventh album, ‘Jazz’. They started recording the album in July 1978 in France and didn’t finish until October 1978. The album saw its release a month later on November 10, 1978 around a year after their last album. Upon its release, it wasn’t a critical darling, but the album did go to #2 in the UK and #6 in the US. The funny thing is that over the years, the critics have warmed up to this album and they usually rank it within the Top 5 Queen albums ever made. I don’t know about that, but we will see when I finally rank them at the end of the series.
The band is still Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon and that won’t change ever during these reviews as they are one of the few bands to not change their line-up during their studio album run. Not many bands can say that. We know after Freddie’s death, that will change, but it is really a touring band at that point, no more studio albums. Okay, we are getting a little sidetracked…by we, I mean me.
While on tour in support of their album ‘Killing Machine’/’Hell Bent For Leather’, Judas Priest decided to record a couple shows for use on a live album. The shows that were recorded were the February 10 & 15, 1979 shows at Kosei Nenkin Hall and Nakono Sun Plaza in Tokyo, Japan. After 5 studio albums, it was time for the world to see what Priest was like live for those that had not seen them in concert. The 70’s were big for Live albums, as seen by UFO, Peter Frampton and Kiss, so why not Judas Priest.
There is a lot of debate on whether the album is actually live. The short answer is yes, it is….sort of. The long answer is much more complicated. The music is definitely live with maybe a few touch-ups in the studio. The vocals, however, are not truly live. Yes, a live person sang them live in to a studio microphone, but these are not the vocals from that show because according to Rob Halford, his vocals on the tape get messed up and they had to be redone. They did record him singing as he would in a live concert setting except he was in a studio. Which explains probably how some of those notes were hit so perfectly. There is a common name people call this album and it is usually, Unleashed in the Studio. Regardless of any of the above, it doesn’t seem to have bothered the buying public because the album quickly went Platinum and is one of the best live albums of all time thanks to the work of producer Tom Allom. You know Tom, he was a recording engineer and producer of the likes of Black Sabbath and he produced Def Leppard’s debut album ‘On Through the Night’.
On our journey through the band Kiss, we have taken detours for one side project from every member of the band. We are almost done with that part of the journey as we only have two members left we haven’t covered. The first of those is Gene Simmons. In 2004, in between all the band’s touring, Gene managed to put together an album for his first “true” solo album. I say it that way because his first solo album was part of the 4 Kiss solo albums each member did that was under the Kiss logo. This is his first proper one. If you remember his first, you will remember it was very diverse and had a ton of guest appearances on the album. Let me tell you, this album is in no way different. It is also all over the place style wise and contains more guest appearances than any album in the history of albums…okay, that is a bit much, but there are a lot of guests.
The album was released on June 8, 2004 and didn’t do that great only going to #86 on the Billboard Charts. There is both an unedited version of the album (and cover) and an edited version of the album (and cover). The cover picture for this post is the edited as I was worried the unedited one might get dinged on Facebook or Twitter for being too offensive. And as you can see by the picture below, you get an idea of what the unedited might be like. Now, before we move on, is anyone else wondering where that finger has been in the picture below or is it just me??? I am also waiting for any minute that Sir Mix A Lot will pop out and sing his signature song…again..is that just me???
I am very familiar with this album, but not for the reason you think. It wasn’t because I ran out and bought this. Nope. I actually just bought this album a few weeks ago, because I need it to complete the collection. My familiarity with it comes from Gene Simmons ‘The Vault” as almost every song is on that collection and is on it in demo form except for maybe one or two tracks. And sometimes they are on there numerous times at different stages of completion. I will be completely honest with you…I prefer ‘The Vault’ versions immensely more than this. Why? Because at least I knew “The Vault’ versions were demos, these are supposed to be finished products, but I’m sorry, they aren’t that good AT ALL!! With minor exceptions.
The album kicks off the album with what is probably the best song on the album. And I will go further and say it is one of my favorite Gene tracks. “Sweet & Dirty Love” is a beast of a track. It rocks out with the help of Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer on guitar and drums, respectively. It is what you want the Demon to do as a song and Gene hits some killer notes and has never sounded better. I like one of ‘The Vault’ versions better only because it is a little more raw and raunchy as this is very polished. But still, the best song on the album.
The second track is a cover which is a little early to have it the #2 song on the CD in my book. And it is a strange one as Gene is covering “Firestarter” by Prodigy. The guitar work on here is fantastic as that is handled by Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame. Gene sticks to the original version for the most part and the song is ver industrial with that metallic sound and I know people think this song is awful, but I think it is so bad it is now good. I actually don’t mind it because I do love the music in it and Gene is being Gene which I have to admit I like at times.
Then we get to the song “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” which is another heavy song, completely balls to the walls bombastic power. There is even a punk edge to it. It has Bruce and Eric back helping out and if you take out the stupid “E Pluribus Unum” quote in the lyrics, this would a 5 star song, but I will ding it down to a 4. Another great track and really the last of the really good ones. There are two demos on ‘The Vault’, one with Eric and Tommy Thayer that is a little slower and darker. The other lyrics were written and it was given to Ace to play after it wasn’t picked for ‘Psycho Circus which was the original intention. The Ace version is killer. After this the album goes to shit.
Next we get the song Gene wrote with Bob Dylan…yes, that Bob Dylan. It is a ballad and it is bloody awful. It is called “Waiting on the Morning Light” and I think Gene is trying to be Dylan and he isn’t the Bob Dylan type of writer and that is okay, we love him for him. It is just a bad attempt at trying too hard.
Then we get a synth song called “Beautiful” with Mark Addison helping on guitars and such and Nina Singh on percussion who wrote the song. It is another ballad that has a nice chorus and is a pretty good effort that just falls short of being a great ballad. That annoying synth sound doesn’t really help. The verses are a little rough vocally, but he makes up for it in the chorus. “The Vault” version is actually cleaner sounding and I like it better than this one.
We are now at the title track “Asshole” which is rocking track where Gene embraces the whole “asshole” personae. It is a rock anthem type song that makes you want to scream “asshole” right at Gene and helps make it a fun singalong. It is still not a great song, but it will pass. Now, the edited version is atrocious as it doesn’t bleep out asshole, it just turns the “ass” part in to what sounds like a goat…it is horrendous.
“Now That You’re Gone” is a song Gene wrote with Bob Kulick. You get his daughter Sophie on background vocals along with Zachary Grant and Jeff Diehl on keyboards. The bass is real strong on this one, it has a children’s choir type sound with Sophie and Zachary. It plods along going nowhere and is totally uninteresting and lifeless and that is putting it nicely. ‘The Vault’ has three versions of this song and none are really that great.
Then we get “Whatever Turns You On” was a demo received from a band Gene was working with and Gene took it from them but it has the co-write of Dave Williams so he didn’t steal it. If you are going to steal a song, steal something better. This sounds like a bunch of drunks hanging around and partying having a good time and thought it would be a good idea to record it, but they’d be wrong. It does have his lovely wife Shannon Tweed and her mom on the background vocals along with Dave. I think with some work, this song could’ve been turned in to something better than what is here. At least they sound like they are having more fun than the listener. This one is on ‘The Vault’ as well with about the same effect, maybe a little better.
“Dog” was written by Gene and Alex Chuaqui (or Bags as Gene had him change his name as Alex Chuaqui wasn’t a good enough rock name and too ethnic) On the song Gene howls like a dog and he speaks a very sexual and dirty Little Red Riding Hood verse that is as dirty as it gets. It is a mid-tempo song and is so close to being something good. It isn’t bad, but could’ve been more.
Then we get an unexpected surprise an unfinished Frank Zappa song called “Black Tongue” that Gene licensed from the estate and finished it up with the help fo the entire Zappa family as Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon and Gail are all on background vocals. Frank even has a speaking part that was left over from the original demo. The guitar work is sensational as you would expect because it is being handled by Richie Kotzen. Zappa’s guitar riffs are their, Richie does the solo and adds some flair. It sounds like a mixture of grunge with still a hint of that Zappa psychedelic vibe. I will admit I like this song.
Next we get “Carnival of Souls” which was written by Gene and Scott Van Zen and recorded back in 1993 or 1994 originally. It was passed over for both the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album and ‘Psycho Circus’. ‘The Vault’ has two versions of it and both are really good. One version is a little slower tempo and much darker which is always a good thing. This version is heavy, speedy and a rocking track. It isn’t half bad. I will keep this one especially since it is another with Richie Kotzen on guitar. Also, Nick Tweed Simmons does the background vocals so now the whole family was involved.
Then we get what might be the worst song on the album “If I Had A Gun” is a horrible topic and just a horrible pile of dung. It sounds like what comes out of an Asshole for sure so if that was the intent, then he struck gold. Not a great song for all the gun violence we have. It slows down and speeds up and goes back and forth but feels so disconnected and utter trash. Skip this one as fast as you can. I skipped ‘The Vault’ version to and wound up on My Worst of the Vault list.
Lastly, we get a similar ending as we got on his 1978 solo album. Almost a carbon copy of that Disney sounding song is this copycat “1,000 Dreams”. This one even has a country music flair to it. Please cue the vomit inducing noise now as that is what you want to do when you hear this. More garbage and the worst way to end this album. Good Riddance.
Sweet & Dirty Love – Keeper
Firestarter – Keeper
Weapons of Mass Destruction – Keeper
Waiting for the Morning Light – Delete
Beautiful – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Asshole – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Now That You’re Gone – Delete
Whatever Turns You On – Delete
Dog – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Black Tongue – Keeper
Carnival of Souls – Keeper
If I Had A Gun – Delete
1,000 Dreams – Delete
The Track Score is 6.5 out of 13 or 50% which is probably way to generous on my part. I have a soft spot for Gene, what can I say. However, I still think this album is horrible and not worth getting unless you are a diehard like me or a glutton for punishment. The songs are all over the place and there seems to be no direction and the album is definitely lacking good flow. Overall, the album only get s a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars and that is probably too high of a score but that is what I am giving it. To me, ‘The Vault’ was worth what I paid for it, but this one, not so much.
Next Up: Kiss – Rock the Nation Live ! – DVD (2005)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
As Queen prepared for their follow-up album to ‘A Day at the Races’, the musical landscape was changing in the UK. The Punk scene was starting to takeover so Queen decided to adapt to the times. No, they didn’t make a punk album, but what they did was drop the grandiose ideas of the previous albums and strip it all back to their rock roots and made it a little more raw. As a result, the band put out their most popular album they ever released.
It was released on October 28, 1977 and the band saw the album go to #4 in the UK and #3 in the US and the album went quickly to platinum status. In fact, the album has sold over 10,000,000 copies around the world marking it as their best selling studio album. With 3 official singles (4 if you count the B-side success of “We Will Rock You”), the band was ready to take over the world
The band was still in tact with Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor. However, Brian and Freddie didn’t write the majority of the songs as usual. John and Roger both contributed 2 songs each this time around instead of their usual 1 song (well not usual for John as he had only one credit prior to this album). The band worked more as a band this time around. As a result, we get an album that completely feels like a full band contribution and we get a beast of an album.
To celebrate the band’s 30th Anniversary, it was decided that another live album was needed. However, not just any live album. Kiss was going to perform a show with a full 60-piece orchestra. Now this was the early 2000’s and apparently playing with an orchestra was the new trending thing to do especially due to the success of Metallica’s own orchestra performance on S&M in 1999. So Kiss followed trends yet again with their own version. Now they could’ve phoned it in and just put the songs together and then tack on the orchestra in the studio like I have seen some bands do (hello Jorn), but they didn’t do that. Instead, they actually performed a full live show in front of an audience with an orchestra. Good on them for not doing it half-ass.
The band at the time really was just going to be Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They really didn’t have a need for Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Instead they were going to use Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, but there was a problem. The contract with the promoter stated they had to have 3 “Original” members. Well, that changed things. Ace was definitely out, he was done. The band had to bring in Peter back to the fold so Eric was out and now Kiss was Gene, Paul, Peter and Tommy. Peter wouldn’t last much longer though.
Judas Priest wasted no time in jumping back in the studio after the Stained Class Tour. That album was released in February 1978 and ‘Killing Machine’ came out 8 months later on October 9, 1978. The band recorded the album between August/September of that year and they were a well-oiled machine at this point. The album would hit #128 on the US Charts and it would go Gold showing that a good metal album didn’t need to go high on the charts to still be successful. However, the album in the U.S. was different than the U.K.. In the U.S., they couldn’t use the name ‘Killing Machine’ as they had seen a rash of school shootings and thought that name was too aggressive for the U.S. market. The name was changed to ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ and they re-arranged the track listing.
Speaking of leather, Priest decided it was time for some changes, not in personnel, but in the style and substance. First is style. Rob had become a little obsessed with the whole leather and stud outfits as Rob and the band took to the change with no hesitation. The classic Priest look was now set. Then the change was substance. The band worked on making the songs more accessible and decided to shy away from the fantasy themes and make things more real, more what the U.S. audience would want to hear And I would say they succeeded as this is more a straight up metal album, all the songs are relatively short and although still have some dark themes, they are more radio-friendly might be a good way to say it. It was the start of some great things to come with the band.
Speaking of band, the line-up is unchanged yet again. It is still Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Les Binks. However, it would Les Binks’ last studio album with the band as by the time the next studio album rolls around, Priest needs a new drummer…AGAIN!! But for now, let’s have the music do the talking.
Bruce Kulick as you know from this series, was the Kiss guitarist from 1984 to 1996…the non-makeup years. He was a perfect fit for the band and one of the most likable guys to ever be in Kiss. Before Kiss he was in a band called Blackjack with some guy named Michael Bolton from 1979-1980 and that would’ve been a good album to review since there is a Kiss connection with Michael has he co-wrote “Forever” off ‘Hot in the Shade’. But the goal for this series was to cover an album after the artist left the band, not before (unless there wasn’t an after as in Tommy’s case). That left the band Union which Bruce was in the John Corabi, even though he has been with Grand Funk Railroad for 20 years now, but they’ve never done an album. So that really got me thinking I should do his solo album since it was all Bruce.
Now technically I did already do a Bruce project when I did the Eric Singer Project, but that one was really Eric’s spotlight since the band was named after Eric which by the way had John Corabi in that band too. So Bruce’s first solo album is where I wound up. It was called ‘Audiodog’ and was released on October 23, 2001. There is a Kiss connection with this album as well, other than Bruce. That connection is Curt Cuomo who co-wrote a bunch of these tracks with Bruce and played keyboards plus some backing vocals. The Kiss connection with Curt is that he co-wrote two songs on ‘Psycho Circus’ with Paul Stanley including the title track.
The album was not a full instrumental album surprisingly. There were only 4 songs on here that were instrumental. The rest had vocals which were actually handled by Bruce. Bruce’s vocals aren’t the strongest and I would put him in the area of maybe Ace’s vocals. Not great, but definitely decent enough to be rather enjoyable as it is a solid rock tone. Bruce played all guitars and bass, but drums were handled mostly by Brent Fitz who played in Bruce’s band Union as well as with Gene Simmons. Two of the songs had legendary John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Arnoff on them which is pretty cool as well.
For Queen’s fifth studio album, ‘A Day at the Races’ is considered a sort of companion piece to the preview album ‘A Night at the Opera’. The only connection I feel really is the fact both are titled after Marx Brother movies. Outside of that, they don’t feel connected to me at all. The album was recorded between July 1976 and November 1976 and get its release on December 10, 1976. The album was self-produced by Queen which is the first time they had done that and I am not so sure it worked as well as they hoped. Now their long time producer might be gone, but the band was still in tact. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon are still going strong.
The album did ship Gold. went to #1 in the UK and #5 in the US and would go on to Platinum status so the band did something right. They released 5 singles and their popularity kept growing with each album release. However, this is not an album I ever really connected to and I gave it enough listens. I actually ended up skipping a couple songs on later listens of the album and that is never a good sign. Now, I am not saying the album is horrible, no as they do make worse ones down the road, I am only saying that I didn’t find this one to be as good as a lot of people say it is. Don’t shoot me, it is only my opinion and plus, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about half the time anyway.
Alright…You Picked It! And this one was probably the closest one yet. Last week was a nail biter of a finish on which album one, this time around, it wasn’t even close. The winner was King Crimson’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ which I had never heard before. The votes were as follows:
King Crimson – ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ – 13 votes
AC/DC – ‘For Those About to Rock’ – 4 votes
The Cult – ‘Electric’ – 2 votes
Rob Zombie – ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’ – 1 vote
David Lanz – ‘Cristofori’s Dream – 1 Vote
Thanks to all for participating. The April choices will be up on Saturday!
King Crimson – ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’ (1969):
King Crimson’s debut album, ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’, is said to be a very influential album and the first ever Prog Rock album, so that made it a little intimidating for me to review like all the classic albums I have reviewed. It is a little scary to tackle as you hope you hear what everyone else hears, but sometimes you don’t. Now, I will be honest and let you now I am not a huge Prog Rock fan. Most albums I have, a 6 minute song is probably the longest song on the album. Here it is the shortest song on the album. Also, the same is said that most of my albums have 10 or more songs, this one only has 5. Yes, welcome to the world of Prog Rock!!
King Crimson consisted of some amazing musicians, I will give them that. Take a look for yourself…
Greg Lake – Bass, Lead vocals (also in Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
Ian McDonald – Alto Saxophone and flute (also Foreigner)
Robert Fripp – Guitar (Brian Eno and David Bowie)
Michael Giles – Drums (Leo Sayer and many, many more)
Peter Sinfield – Lyrics (didn’t know that would make you a band member, but cool)
And I believe Robert Fripp along with Toyah Wilcox are making a name for themselves with their viral videos during the pandemic. You should check them out on the Tube of You.
The album is also known for the album cover of the up close and personal view of a man’s face with full shot of looking up his nostrils and the back of his throat. To me, it is an iconic cover and I’ve wanted it in my collection for years for that very fact. It was beautifully drawn by Barry Godber who sadly passed away only a few months after the albums release. This was the only album artwork he had ever done. What is cool is that Robert Fripp owns the original piece so it is in good hands.