Alright…You Picked It! This one started out close, but one ended up blowing away the rest. Another one had a late batch of votes, but wasn’t enough to get close to the winner. The winner for this month’s picks ended up being Alice Cooper’s ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ and I am real excited about this one. Here are the results.
Alice Cooper – ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ – 10 votes
Rolling Stones – ‘Sticky Fingers – 6 votes
Elton John – ‘Captain Fantastic’ – 2 votes
David Bowie – ‘Diamond Dogs’ – 2 votes
Led Zeppelin – ‘II’ – 2 Votes
Thanks to all for participating. The January choices will be up on Saturday! And the choices are all now from my collection and the next one will be some of the biggest albums of the 80’s. Hopefully you can help me decide which one I should review.
ALICE COOPER – ‘BILLION DOLLAR BABIES’ (1973):
I’ve been wanting to tackle an Alice Cooper album so I am glad this one won the vote. It is Alice’s 6th studio album and Bob Ezrin was still at the helm. Being a Kiss fan, having Bob as producer is a pretty big deal and I could hear a lot of Bob’s influence in the music as there is a lot on here that Kiss tried with Destroyer such as orchestration, sound effects and other magical Bob Ezrin inputs. I’m not Bob is the reason this album is so good, but it did go to #1 in both the UK and the US and sold over 1,000,000 copies giving it platinum status. Who am I kidding, it isn’t Bob that made this album #1 it is strictly Alice Cooper and this amazing band which includes Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith.
The album was recorded in both Connecticut and in London. Band member, Glen Buxton, was sick throughout the sessions as he was suffering from pancreatitis brought on by abusive alcohol consumption. Guitarists Mick Mashbir, Dick Wagner (Kiss ghost guitarist) and the great Steve “the Deacon” Hunter who handled the guitar solos on 5 songs and pedal steel guitar on the opening track. The album was finished and released on February 25, 1973 and helped take Alice Cooper to a whole different level of success. The song is so good, that 4 of the songs are still played regularly in his live sets even today.
I’m always out searching for Kiss music that I don’t have on vinyl and right now that is mostly singles. The latest time I was out digging, I came across a 7″ Single for the song “Beth” off their 1976 classic ‘Destroyer’. The original single for this album was “Detroit Rock City” as the A-Side and “Beth” as the B-Side. When that went out to the radio stations, the DJ’s ended playing “Beth” which quickly became the most requested songs on a lot of stations.
After that, the decision was made to reissue the single with “Beth” as the A-Side and “Detroit Rock City” as the B-Side. That is the copy I have. It was released in August 1976. Now, my version I found doesn’t have a picture sleeve as shown as the header. I used that to make the post more enticing. My version actually just came in a plain white sleeve but the original at least would’ve had the Casablanca Sleeve that would’ve looked something like the above picture…If I find any singles out there with that sleeve I will buy it (regardless if it is Kiss or not just so I have the correct one).
After the debut album being a dud and all the touring, the band wasted no time going in to the studio for their second album, ‘Get Your Wing’. This time around at the boards was famed producer Jack Douglas who was introduced to the band by the one and only Bob Ezrin, who the label wanted to produce the album. Jack worked out well and would go on to have a long relationship with the band and deliver some of their best albums.
The band had extensive preproduction work and extensive rehearsals, the band entered the studio The Record Plant in New York City on December 17, 1973 and by January 14, 1974, they were done. The album would come out on March 15, 1974 and would go only to #74 on the Billboard Charts. All 3 singles flopped and not one of them charted. If they thought the first album was a dud, this one didn’t fare any better. But don’t feel bad, once the band broke, this album has since sold over 3 million copies and is certified Triple Platinum. It all worked out in the end.
But what makes this album successful on its own is that the band found their voice. They found their sound and they would find rock stardom. Bandmates Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer found themselves and were set to take over the world…okay, that is a little dramatic, but you know what I mean.
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!
Prior to the release of their next studio album, Kiss was asked to due a song for a movie. That movie was Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Yes, one of cinema’s finest movies, I know. The song was a cover of “God Gave Rock And Roll To You” by the band Argent, but the lyrics were changed up so much, they added the “II” at the end to signify it was a little different than the original. So that meant, not only was Russ Ballard’s name on the credits, it now had Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and producer Bob Ezrin who the band was working with at the time for the new album. The single was released on August 22, 1991.
What was special about this song and release is that is the last Kiss single to feature Eric Carr. Eric wasn’t healthy enough to do the drums at the time, but he is featured in the background vocals. And luckily he was healthy enough to be in the video. Eric was extremely ill as he had been diagnosed with heart cancer. He had become so ill, he was no longer able to play, so the drum work on the song was handled by Eric Singer, who also did the drum work on the band’s next album, ‘Revenge’. Eric Carr made his last public appearance with the band shortly after the video at the MTV Musis Awards in September 1991. Shortly thereafter, Carr suffered an aneurysm then a brain hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. He later died on November 24, 1991 which was sadly, the same day Freddie Mercury of Queen had died and that overshadowed his death.
Kiss came off a very successful Australian Tour thanks to Unmasked and the song “Shandi” being huge hits in that country, but in the States, Kiss had floundered significantly. They were now basically a joke. Peter Criss was no longer in the band, their music was no longer rock and things looked pretty dire for them. Kiss started recording for a new album and this album was going to get back to the hard rock roots of the band, however, things started to change. The thought of hard rock album wasn’t enough. The band had to do something drastic, something big, something artistic. In comes producer Bob Ezrin.
Bob had come off the success of doing a concept album with a band you might know name Pink Floyd. The album was ‘The Wall”. In January 81, the band had started recording at Ace in the Hole studio at Ace’s house and they were doing much harder, rock recordings. But when Bob came on board around March, talk started to change to maybe doing a concept album and Gene was immediately on board, Paul was somewhat, Eric was not thrilled about the direction, but he was thrilled about finally recording his first Kiss album. And Ace, well Ace wasn’t happy at all. Things with Ace would start to deteriorate even more. So much so while the album was being recorded in Toronto and New York, Ace stayed at this house in Connecticut and did his parts in his studio and mailed them out when he was done.
Welcome back to the Kiss Review Series. Today we are doing a little bonus edition. As I am going through the band’s releases, I am going to throw in different items from my collection that aren’t part of the band’s normal album releases. Singles, promos or whatever I can come up with.
Since we just talked ‘Destroyer’ in the last review, these next two posts are specifically related to that album. The first is this 45 Single of the song “Flaming Youth”. Now, I am cheating here as I wrote a review on this years ago, so I am re-doing it here so it is now a part of the Kiss Review Series. I hope you like it.
I had this big box of vinyl that I found in my attic that started my new vinyl obsession about 4 years ago. This is another 45″ Single in that big box of vinyl and it is from the Kiss album ‘Destroyer’. The song was “Flaming Youth” and it was only a promotional single and not intended for resale. How we ended up with it or where we got it, I am not sure.
The B-Side of the single is also “Flaming Youth” which I find interesting because the true B-Side of the Single released for the album was “God of Thunder”. Both sides of the disc say Side A. Maybe I have a nice collectors piece…if so, I wish it was in better shape.
With the success of ‘Alive!’, Kiss was saved and in turn, so was their record label Casablanca. With that new success, the band signed a brand new contract with Casablanca after the band’s manager had threatened to walk. This time though, Kiss was only given a two album deal which really isn’t a very long contract in those times and showed that maybe the label didn’t have much faith the band would have continued success.
While the band was touring the album ‘Alive!’, they started rehearsing for the new album. Their success was able to land them a high-end producer in the likes of Bob Ezrin. His success with Alice Cooper had garnered him some notoriety and was going to take Kiss in a whole new direction. Thankfully, the band was still in tact with Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons.
We are finally on our 5th Producer in the “Producer Extraordinaire” series after a very long break. This time we are focusing on Bob Ezrin as he has produced some very influential albums and albums that have impacted my life like all the producers in this series have. The other producers have been as follows:
Bob Ezrin hails from Toronto, Canada (and I think 2 of the other producers in this series hail from Canada) and has been producing for over 40 years. He has spanned many genres, but it his rock productions that have become the most famous and most notable. He is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has actually never won a Grammy award although he has been nominated once. Let’s discuss his work…
Bob Ezrin has worked with Alice Cooper more times than I can count. He might as well be considered a member of the band. He pretty much did all the big albums in the 70’s and even a couple big ones in the 2000’s. I believe it is a total of at least 13 albums (oh, I guess I can count). Insane. I guess he as much a part of their sound as anyone.
To be a part of such huge albums as “Welcome to My Nightmare”, “School’s Out”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and even Alice’s latest masterpiece, “Paranormal” goes to show the magic that Bob can pull out of an artist. It also makes you wonder would Alice have been Alice without Bob behind the boards…probably, but who knows.
For My Sunday Song #139, “God of Thunder” by Kiss is our menacing topic. The song is off the band’s 1976 classic ‘Destroyer’. Kiss was flying high at this point and unstoppable. “God of Thunder” became Gene’s theme song and is the point in the live show that saw Gene spit his blood and perform his bass solo. It was always awesome.
The song was written by Paul Stanley and he had all intentions of singing it. Producer, Bob Ezrin thought differently. He recommended slowing the song down and letting Gene sing the song. The slow, almost nightmarish beat of the song fit Gene’s personae perfectly.
The song kicks off with a couple children saying…”Okay, ya’ll can start singing”. Those kids were heard throughout the song screaming and making all kinds of noises during the song. Those kids were David and Josh Ezrin, the producer’s kids. There were so many sound effects added to it to give that eerie feeling. Even Ace’s guitar work was done in a way to add more of a darkness feel to the song.