‘Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked’ by Greg Prato – Book Review

Welcome to a two-fer Book Review of ‘Take it Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked’ by Greg Prato.  Not only am I doing a review but my friend Deke over at Thunder Bay Arena Rock is doing one as well.  So click on his name and go read his when you are done with this one.  I am sure his will be better!!

A little backstory on Kiss during the Unmasked years.  I was a teenager during most of this time and I discovered Kiss for myself in these years. I say that because I was introduced to Kiss in the 70’s as I had one brother in particular that was huge in to the band.  He had posters and magazine pictures plastered all over his bedroom all…and I mean ALL over it.  I listened to all the 70’s albums, but I was seeing it through his eyes.  In 1982 with Creatures of the Night, I was now buying Kiss and loving Kiss on my own.

After the Lick It Up album came out, I finally got to see them live and I saw them live 3 times during the Unmasked years.  I bought every album during this period and have them today in some form or fashion.  So, needless to say, I am a huge fan of the Unmasked years so when I heard about this fantastic book by Greg Prato, I had to have a copy.  And I got one as a Christmas gift.  So, no more waiting, let’s review the book.

Greg’s book covers the entire era of Kiss without makeup.  All the way from 1983’s ‘Lick It Up until 1997’s album ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’.  And if you didn’t know, that is 12 albums mixed with Studio albums, live albums and compilation albums as well as one tribute album.  And here they are…

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The Top 20 Songs of Kiss (The Non-Makeup Years)

Thanks to the Kiss Box Set Series I reviewed and most especially, Disc Four (which covers the 80’s), I have been on a Non Make-Up Era Kiss fix of late..  I have been playing all the albums and I am even getting Greg Prato’s book “Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked” for Christmas (Review in January 2020).  So, I figured why not do a list of my favorite Kiss songs from that time and here we are.  I am going to cover the albums from ‘Lick it Up’ in 1983 to ‘Carnival of Souls’ in 1997 and although I included the cover to “Thrashes, Smashes & Hits’ on the post header picture, there are no songs from it as the two new songs are really, really bad.

So, why wait any longer.  Here are what I say are the Top 20 Songs of Kiss (The Non-Makeup Era)…

#20 – “Master & Slave” off ‘Carnival of Souls’ (1997)

I had to have one song from ‘Carnival of Souls’ which is not a good album, but there was one song I did like and that is “Master & Slave”.  It was written by Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Curtis Coumo.  When you hear it, it is not normal Kiss.  This is dark, brooding and completely centered in the Grunge era (which was a couple years too late).  I liked the biting guitar work from Bruce and it is something completely different.

#19 – “Thou Shalt Not” off ‘Revenge’ (1992)

I really like a lot of Gene’s songs and there are quite a few on here despite Paul still leading the pack.  The ‘Revenge’ album was a return to glory for Gene as he seemed lost for a few years.  This is Gene, plain and simple.  It is heavy and sounds evil which is just what the doctor ordered.  The guitar solo is just as menacing as the rest of the song (good job Bruce).

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Kiss – The Box Set (Disc Five 1992-1999) – Album Review (Part 6 of 6)

Welcome back to final review in the series which is Part 6 of the 6 Part series. We have already talked about the Box Set and its packaging in Part 1 and we have covered Disc 1 and Disc 2 in the set.  For those, we got about 20 unreleased tracks between those two.  Quite impressive.  For Disc Three, we only get 3 unreleased tracks and Disc Four we only get 2 unreleased tracks and for the final disc, Disc 5, we only get 3 previously unreleased tracks.  As a result, I will also talk about the other songs on here to make it a fair representation.

For Disc 5, we only have 3 studio albums and some live albums to include on this set and not everything was great.  As far as studio it is the fantastic ‘Revenge’, the lack of direction ‘Carnival of Souls’ and the reunion album ‘Pschyo Circus’ which not everyone played on so not really a reunion, but that is another discussion.  You also get tracks from the MTV Unplugged album, The Detroit Rock City Soundtrack and some unreleased tracks.  Here are the songs and I love how Eric Carr in Fox Makeup is the background!!

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First up on the disc are four songs from the album ‘Revenge’ which is an album that saw Gene get comfortable in his skin again and gave us one of their heaviest albums since Creatures.  It was fantastic.  Out of the four songs, we get the demo of “Domino” which was written by Gene in 1991 for the ‘Revenge’ album.  The demo is pretty close to the original song with some minor changes as the solo in the album version is played at a different key than the demo.  It is a cool piece to the collection.

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The next batch of four songs is from the MTV unplugged album. The first three tracks are with Eric Singer and Bruce and the last song, “Nothin’ to Lose” has Ace and Peter on it.   I think all four tracks are great as is that whole album.  With so few albums to pull from on this set, we are getting a lot of songs for each album which is part of the drag on this disc.

Next we get two tracks from the album ‘Carnival of Souls’ and to say this isn’t a good album is almost an understatement.  There are some good songs from the album such as “Master and Slave”, but the songs chosen for this release are not my favorites.  These don’t sound like Kiss songs to me.

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Then we get four songs from ‘Psycho Circus’ and none are demos or anything rare.  The song choices are fine it is just like I said earlier, four songs from one release is a lot and it would have been nice to have more unreleased stuff on this disc.

There is one cool song on here from an album I didn’t have which is the Detroit Rock City Movie Soundtrack.  The song is “Nothing Can Keep Me From You”.  I believe the song played through the end credits and was actually written by Diane Warren and not by Kiss.  I enjoyed the track and this is the perfect set for songs like this to be on.

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Then we get one of the most famous unreleased tracks, a song called “It’s My Life”.  This song is one of the best on the disc and did you know Kiss played this live for the first time on the Kiss Kruise IX which was a month ago.  The song dates back to around the time of ‘The Elder’ and was never fully finished.  I believe it has all the original band members on this track was supposed to be on Psycho Circus, but as you know, didn’t make it.

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The last two tracks are both live.  The first one is “Shout it Out Live” from a show in 1996 and on ‘The Greatest Kiss’ album.  And then a previously unreleased version of “Rock & Roll All Nite” because that was what we needed (yeah, no!).  It was from 1999 and was later released on the ‘Alive! The Millennium Concert’ in 2006. For me, not much a great win as an unreleased track.

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This disc had a few highlights for me with “It’s My Life”, “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” and “Domino”, but outside of that it was underwhelmed.  There were too many songs from each disc and the Carnival of Song choices kind of sucked. I don’t ever need another version of “Rock & Roll All Nite”…I mean who does.  I am going to only give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars as a result.  The 3.0 is generous, but I do love “It’s My Life”.

And now that we have all the scores from all 6 reviews, we need to tally up the whole Box Set and come up with an overall score.  Here were the scores:

  • Overall Packaging – 5.0 out of 5.0
  • Disc One – 5.0 out of 5.0
  • Disc Two – 4.5 out of 5.0
  • Disc Three – 3.5 out of 5.0
  • Disc Four – 4.0 out of 5.0
  • Disc Five – 3.0 out of 5.0
  • Overall Average Score – 4.2 out of 5.0 Stars

Check it out and let me know what you think. If you want to go back and read them all, click on the links below:

And that is the end!!  I hope you enjoyed this 6 Part Series of The Box Set!

Kiss – The Box Set – Album Review (Part 1 of 6)

I didn’t buy this when it originally came out as I was not a in a good music place at the time.  My music buying was limited.  So, now that I wanted it, I had to search for it, find one in good condition and find it at the right price as some of the prices were RIDICULOUS!!!

Lo and behold, I was at a record show here in Charlotte and a guy had one for sale.  Actually, he had two.  One was in the guitar case, CDs still sealed and had the hard back book, but I didn’t want to spend that much dough, when I could get this version for a fraction of the price. Plus, I wasn’t paying a premium for sealed CDs as the seal doesn’t last long on my collection. I listen to my music.  As much as I want the guitar case version, my wallet decided this was the better way to go. Sometimes my wallet is smart and other times, he wants to spend, spend, spend.

The Box Set by Kiss was released on November 20th, 2001 and consists of 5 CDs spanning their entire career (up to that point) and a paperback photo book which we will get to in a minute.  I will review all 5 CDs individually over 5 different posts over the next couple of months.  For now, we will talk about the overall box set and the packaging.

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The CD’s span different eras of the band and there are 5 discs full of music.  The Box Set includes 94 tracks,  which consists of 30 previously unreleased band and solo demos as well as outtakes and live recordings.  The other 64 tracks are songs selected from each of the band’s albums except for Gene’s solo.  From that one you get a demo.

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That is a lot of stuff.  Here are the discs…

Disc One: 1966-1975

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Disc Two: 1975-1977

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Disc Three: 1976-1982

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Disc Four: 1983-1992

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Disc Five: 1992-1999:

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PHOTOBOOK:

You also get a 120-page color booklet that contains track-by-track commentary by the band, detailed track information, photos and essays.  I loved the commentary and getting all the tidbits of information on the songs.  The pictures are stunning and the book is really high quality as it is with everything the band does.

Here are some pictures…

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I had to have my daughter hold it open to take the pictures as the book hadn’t really been viewed and was nice and stiff.  I was able to edit out her fingers.

The package comes in a nice box with a red velvet insert to hold the disc.  It is really a nice little set up.

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And then on the spine of the box, the Kiss logo is in engraved into the fabric for a nice shiny feel.  You can feel the grooves.

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For the packaging and the photobook, I will give the set a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars.  It is what you would expect from a Kiss Box Set. Now for the music, I will review over the next 5 posts and rate each disc separately and then a final Overall Score on the last post.  There will be 6 parts overall (this is part 1) to this series and I hope you enjoy them all as much as I will going through them.  Thanks for stopping by and until next time, have a great day!

 

Kiss – All The Way At The Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review

This piece of Kiss Bootleg I found at my local independent record store called Lunchbox Records.  It is Kiss from February 7th, 1995 and was recorded at the Hilton Hotel Ballroom in Melbourne, Australia while they were down under on tour.  The album is an acoustic show and this is a collection of outtakes from that show.

The line-up is Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of course and since this is pre-reunion, it also includes Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer.  A great non-makeup lineup.  The band sounds great and even Paul is singing his heart out.  The recording I believe is an audience recording only due to the loudness of the crowd, but let me tell you it sounds freaking awesome.

The crowd is really in to and at times it feels like a campfire singalong.  The band is definitely enjoying themselves as they are interacting with the crowd and seem to be having a blast.

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The set is a single LP and includes a full size poster in with the album. The picture is of the front cover so not something different from what you already see…

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My Sunday Song – “No, No, No” by Kiss

For My Sunday Song #136, We are going to talk about the 80’s classic “No, No, No” off the 1987 album ‘Crazy Nights” and the B-Side of their first single “Crazy, Crazy Nights”.  ‘Crazy Nights’ was a platinum selling album and might be considered as one of the bands weaker albums in some circles as they were chasing the trend at this point rather than creating it.

The song was originally titled “Assume the Position” (get your mind out of the gutter…because I am sure that is where their mind was with that title) and later it was called “Down on All Fours” (hmmm…I think their mind is still in the gutter).  The song was originally written off a riff by Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr put his stamp on it as well.  It was later handed over to Gene Simmons for completion.

The song opens with a blistering, solo by Bruce.  It is fast and ferocious and shows why he is so highly regarded as one of the best Kiss Guitarists!!  The drums are heavy thanks to the late, great Eric Carr and Gene finally has a decent song as over the last few albums, his weren’t always so stellar.  Well, really this is great mostly because of Bruce, but we won’t tell Gene that as we don’t want to hurt his fragile little ego.

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Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” (The 45 Single)

 

I was out and about at one of my favorite local record stores and came across this old 45 Single from Kiss. It was for the song “Tears Are Falling” off their 1985 album ‘Asylum.  By 1985, Kiss was  fully ensconced into the 80’s Hair Metal scene.  Starting with their previous album, ‘Animalize’, the band’s sound shifted from the heavier albums like ‘Creatures of the Night’ and ‘Lick It Up’, to more of the Glam Rock sound to keep up with the music of the time.  That meant power ballads.  “Tears Are Falling” fit that mold quite nicely.

“Tears Are Falling” was released as a single in 1985 and made it to #20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, just not technically not a Top 40 hit since it only reached #51 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song did have better success on MTV where it was in frequent rotation on the station.

The song was written by Paul Stanley and one of the few times we ever get a true Stanley Only song.  The next we got was not until his solo album in 2006.  That bit of tidbit surprised me, but the internet can’t be wrong…can it??  The song was recorded at the legendary Electric Lady Studios which is Jimi Hendrix’s old studio and produced by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  Interesting enough, Gene didn’t play bass on the song, it was played by Paul.

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