‘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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Continue reading “‘Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked’ by Greg Prato – Book Review”

Gene Simmons – ‘The Vault’ – Album Review (Part 3 of 15 – Disk 2)

Welcome back to the Gene Simmons The Vault review.  We are now on Disk 2.  Below are the rules I am trying to follow with each review.

I will try and keep some consistency between each disk.  I will go through each song and mention who wrote, who played on it and what I think about the song. I won’t go through all the stories as you should get the vault to get all the information.  I will grade each song (ranking 1 to 5, 5 being best) and then take an average of the grades for the score of the disk.  I know most of these are demos, so I won’t be taking quality of the sound in to play that much because I know what I am getting and I am more interested in the overall song.

At the end of all the reviews, we will average the score of each review and come up with an overall ‘The Vault’ score which I hope will be a fair representation of the whole package.  I am going to do my best to do one a week, but as I said before, life sometimes gets in the way so I am not going to promise one a week.  Plus, this is 11 disks to digest and that is a lot as I am also doing the David Coverdale Series at the same time.  That is a bunch of music to go through.

The songs aren’t in chronological order.  Gene states they are more of a mood or vibe.  The first three or four discs appear to be pretty much the Rock selections and I am quite happy to start with those.

Well, are you ready?  Then let’s get right to it.

The second disc is housed in a picture of Gene and one of his bass guitars from around the Revenge era…

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On the flip side is the track listing…

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“WEAPONS”

The disk opens with the demo for the song “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that appears on Gene’s solo album ‘Asshole’.  Recorded in 1997 and written by Gene, it has both Tommy and Eric performing.  The song was considered for Psycho Circus, but didn’t make it.  I like how it opens with Gene giving directions on how to start.  This version is a lot slower, darker and less punk than the version on the solo album. (GRADE 3)

“WEAPONS (POWER TO RAISE THE DEAD)”

Then we get the same song…well not really. This one was given to Ace Frehley to record once it didn’t make Psycho Circus.  He changed the lyrics and turned it in to a whole new animal, therefore, both Gene and Ace are credited with writing this one.  It was recorded in 1998 and this is my favorite version of this song as Ace can do no wrong.  Gene’s bass sounds prominent and cool on this one, but it is really Ace’s vocals and lyrics that shine.  (GRADE 5)

“HATE”

“Hate” is the demo for the opening track of the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album and was recorded back in 1993 or 1994.  It was written by Gene, Bruce Kulick and Scott Van Zen who all perform on the demo.  The demo is so much heavier and dirtier than the final track.  The sounds more like a Gene song for the old Demon himself.  (GRADE 3)

#CARNIVAL OF SOULS #2″

This one is the original demo of final song that wound up on ‘Asshole’.  The song was written by Gene and Scott Van Zen and recorded back in 1993 or 1994.  It was passed over for both the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album and ‘Psycho Circus’.  This is a 4 track version and I don’t think the lyrics are even finished.  I like the speed of the song and it is not as upbeat as the album version.  This is equally as good as the first version on Disk 1. (GRADE 4)

“MASTER OF FLASH”

This is one of the few songs Gene didn’t write. It is written by Jon Montgomery of the band Street Punk. I won’t tell you how Gene got the song.  It was recorded by Gene in 1980 and is done acoustically and is mostly spoken vocals.  It has a whole David Bowie vibe and is very different and you can see why it was never considered a Kiss song.  There is something cool about it though even for a very rough sounding demo.  (GRADE 3)

“HEAVY RAIN”

“Heavy Rain” is another version of the song “Rain Keeps Falling” and written by Gene and Bruce. It was recorded in 1993 or 1994 and man it sounds awesome.  A lot of it has to do with the guitar/bass riffs are from “Within” (or used for the song “Within”).  There are some rough patches in the recording, but easily ignored.  It is a pretty heavy track and a great Gene song.  (GRADE 4)

“WITHIN”

This is the original demo for “Within” which is off the ‘Psycho Circus’ album and was recorded in 1993 or 1994.  Gene wrote this one himself and this version is missing a lot of the lyrics as Gene didn’t have them finished yet.  So, when there are no lyrics he kind of scats and yabba dabba doos through it.  It is awesome.  It starts with Gene introducing the song for the studio tape.  Even though it isn’t a complete song, it is what I love about demos to see the beginning of a song. The main riffs are from the previous song “Heavy Rain”.  (GRADE 4)

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“IN YOUR FACE”

This is the original demo of the song and was recorded in 1997.  The song was written by Gene and he is the only one performing on the track along with a drum machine.  One of the shortest demos on the release and it is pretty good. A heavy rocker even a little bright and sunny in the way it feels.  There are some good bones there.  (GRADE 3)

“IN YOUR FACE (WITH ACE)”

Gene gave the song to Ace who changed the lyrics to fit him so both Gene and Ace have credits on this one. Recorded in 1998 this version sounds like an Ace song.  The guitars are definitely Ace and no denying the vocals and lyrics are his.  It is one of the gems on this disk and so far on the album. (GRADE 5)

“RAIN #2”

There are numerous versions of this song from the original “Rain Keeps Falling Down” including “Heavy Rain” above.  This Gene penned song was recorded in 1994 with Eric and Bruce and it is very different than “Heavy Rain”.  Not near as heavy, but a really cool bass feel to it.  (GRADE 3)

“CARNIVAL INTRO”

This is the intro to the song “Carnival of Souls” for which the song was never used for ‘Carnival of Souls’ album or ‘Psycho Circus’.  However, the intro was used as the opening to ‘Psycho Circus’.  It was performed by Scott Van Zen.  It is public domain song and not a Gene song, not sure why it is here.  It isn’t bad…just doesn’t belong.  (GRADE 1)

“I WANNA LIVE”

The first song with Gene and Vincent Cusano who you might know as Vinnie Vincent.  This was written around the time of ‘Revenge’ and recorded in 1991.  It didn’t make the album. It was recorded with the guys from the band Silent Rage.  It definitely would not have fit on ‘Revenge’ so I see why it was left off.  It is a good song, but with only an okay delivery. I like it because it is a Vinnie song even though I don’t think he is on it.  The guitars aren’t overdone.  (GRADE 3)

“IF IT’S TOO HOT, YOU’RE TOO COLD”

Written by Gene, it was recorded in 1990 with the band Silent Rage doing the music.  You might recognize the song from ‘Sonic Boom’ as “Hot and Cold”.  It is a duller version of the studio album song.  But it does have a line that I love, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”…now where I have heard that before (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink). (GRADE 2)

“RAIN KEEPS FALLIN'”

We have the third version of this song on the same disk and again another recorded with Silent Rage members.  This was written by Gene and recorded in 1991.  The most tame of the bunch, but equally as good.  It is more of a 80’s rock song or even classic rock than the more modern, heavier sounds of the other two versions.  (GRADE 3)

“BELLS OF FREDOM”

The final song on the disk is another Gene only song.  Recorded in 1997 and has Tommy Thayer on guitar.  According to Gene, it is a tribute to The Who, but I don’t really hear it.  The chorus is the best part, but overall not really impressed. (GRADE 2)

And that is Disk 2.  You get 15 tracks again and there is not one that was totally awful, just the one that I was sure why it was there.  I found this to be equally as good as the first Disk and the score is similar.  I would listen to this disk again for sure (already listened to it 5-6 times).  The average score for this disk is a 3.2 out of 5.0.  I will let you know that I think anything 3 or better is great and couldn’t be more thrilled with this disk as well.  I know I will eventually run in to some stinkers as it is a matter of time.

Up Next – “Part 4 – Disk 3”

Here are all the posts we did on the Vault:

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).

Continue reading “The Top 20 Songs of Kiss (The Non-Makeup Years)”