As we discussed back in the 1991 timeline, Eric Carr passed away on November 24, 1991 due to an aneurysm that probably stemmed from the numerous surgeries he had to remove tumors related to his heart cancer. Before his death, Eric was always writing songs as he was a very creative soul. He could write, he could sing and he could play more than just the drums. ‘Rockology’ is a collection of the songs he had been working on prior to his death. These are demos and not necessarily full fledge songs in some cases so keep that in mind. Think of this as his ‘Vault’ because it is very similar in the type of songs you get. You get some fully fleshed out songs, you get some where lyrics are being scatted because their aren’t any yet and you get some straight-up instrumentals.
The album was put together by one of Eric’s great friends and former Kiss bandmate, Bruce Kulick. With the help of Adam Mitchell (co-writer of numerous Kiss songs), they pieced together a collection of songs from old cassettes or where ever they could find them. They would clean them up the best they could, add some backing vocals where appropriate and even Bruce overdubbed some killer solos in a few songs to help complete them. Bruce produced the album and I think this was a wonderful tribute to his old friend and bandmate.
After the MTV Unplugged special that ran on August 9, 1995, the fan reaction was huge. People were itching for the original line-up to get back together in make-up. Now Kiss is not one to generally miss a good opportunity. While they were in the studio with their current line-up of Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer recording their next album (Carnival of Souls), Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were contemplating their next move. Well, the noise was getting too hard to ignore and so was the money.
The Carnival of Soul album was shelved (for the time being) and Bruce and Eric were pushed to the side as Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were back in the band. The Kiss Reunion was going in full force. The band decided to get back together, the make-up was re-applied and the Tour was scheduled. This tour would be called the 1996-1997 Alive / Worldwide Tour. If you want to read about my concert experience a little and see the Tour Book…click TOUR BOOK.
In support of the Tour, Kiss decided to make a massive cash grab and released a Greatest Hits compilation of sorts. This one was released on June 25, 1996 and was called “You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best” and consists of all live tracks from the band with Ace and Peter. The name of the album, of course, stems from the opening line of all the Kiss shows when most famously, roadie JR Smalling would scream out “You Wanted the Best, and you got it. The Hottest Band in the Land…KISS!!!”
Before we get to the music, let’s talk about what was inside the Album. Not much, sorry. When you bought this album, inside was simply order forms for Kiss merchandise because Kiss never missed an opportunity to sell you something…
Alright, back to the music on the album. Did this album offer anything new and different. Well yes, it actually did it. But it mostly consisted of songs taken from the albums ‘Alive!’ and ‘Alive II’. There were, however, 4 previously unreleased tracks as well. You get four songs that were taken from those eras that were outtakes or leftover tracks. Now, if you were in Japan you got a bonus track. Let’s be honest, this is a total and utter cash grab. There is nothing real special. This is pure & simple, Kiss trying to profit off the new found interest in the band. But at least you got some unreleased stuff which is still way more than you get on from the next release. I’m getting ahead of myself, let us talk about what you get on this one.
The first record has the most unreleased stuff. The first three tracks are all unreleased. First up you get “Room Service” recorded in Davenport, IA in 1975. Then you get “Two Timer” which was recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit MI on May 16, 1975. The third track is “Let Me Know” and it was recorded at the same Cobo Hall show as the previous track. These are cool tracks as they aren’t normally played live so that much is awesome about them. But here is the crazy thing. They were overdubbed and remixed in 1996 with not Ace on guitar or probably not even Peter on drums. Bruce Kulick has admitted he worked on the overdubs and those drums sound pretty damn good and clean…and a little modern. I’m just saying. The crowd noise also sounds so fake and it doesn’t really feel that live. Who knows what to believe.
The remaining of Record 1 are three tracks from ‘Alive!’ which are “Rock Bottom”, “Parasite” and “Firehouse” and one track from ‘Alive II’ which is “I Stole Your Love” and “Calling Dr. Love”. If you don’t have those two albums, then these songs are classic and worth having. But if you don’t, you aren’t really a Kiss fan are you…sorry I’m judging and that isn’t nice…but seriously why don’t you own those two albums…better than this crap!!
The second record kicks off with another previously unreleased track and that one is “Take Me” which was Los Angeles, CA and recorded in 1976. Again, this was overdubbed in 1996 as well. It at least has more of a live feel than those first three. Paul is a little rougher around the edges and there is a better energy so I won’t bash this one. Now most of the rest of the album are tracks from the two classic albums again. The tracks are “Shout it Out Loud”, “Beth” and “Rock And Roll All Nite”.
If you have the Japanese edition, your album would end with another unreleased live track. This one was Ace’s song “New York Groove”. This one is cool in that it was recorded from Australia back in 1980 and actually includes Eric Carr on the drums which is always cool. I actually like this track as well and glad I have it. I like it because it has the warts and all as they didn’t clean up the feedback or much of anything which makes it really live. On Side D of this album is a 17 minute interview with the band hosted by Jay Leno. Which basically makes it pure promotion, nothing but softball question and Peter is the only that sounds like he is having any fun (maybe Ace too). Gene and Paul are the same as they always are…stick to the point and sell it. Now the funny thing is Paul states that everyone is “Straight” and “Clear Headed”, but if I’m not mistaken that during rehearsing for the Unplugged, Ace would show up late and in a slight “haze” from possible drinking so not an honest comment completely.
And that is it, thank goodness. What a waste of product this truly is and is only for diehard fans and idiots like myself. However, I don’t own this yet as it is really expensive to get on vinyl. I will have it at one time, but right time, right price! As far as a score, it gets a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars only because it does have 5 unreleased tracks at the time. If it wasn’t for that, this would be a 0!!
Next Up: Kiss – Greatest Kiss (1997)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
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.
It had been two years since the last studio album, ‘Crazy Nights’ and still the band wasn’t working on a new album. Gene Simmons was out producing bands on his record label and Paul Stanley decided that in early 1989, he was going to go out on a solo tour. People were freaking out as was this the end of Kiss. Paul’s solo band on the tour had two major Kiss connections. On guitar was Bob Kulick and on drums was future Kiss drummer Eric Singer who would take over after the death of Eric Carr. Paul even went so far as to sing and record the title song to the Wes Craven movie ‘Shocker’. Kiss in my eyes, seemed doomed.
But it wasn’t the end. In mid-1989, the band got back together and finally started working on the new album. They had a very small budget for this album so instead of going in and fully recording a new album, they grabbed a bunch of demos and re-worked or even overdubbed them to turn them in to the album we have here. ‘Hot in The Shade’ has a crazy number of songs with 15 and the album was about an hour long. This was the late 80’s when bands felt they needed to fill up the entire CD and as a result, we got a lot of bloated albums at that time. If you knocked a few songs off this album, it would be a lot better but still suck.
After Kiss released the greatest hits package ‘Chikara’ to Japanese and European audiences, the U.S. finally got its own greatest hits package. This was now the fourth greatest hits set the other two being Killers and Double Platinum. Of the four, the U.S. only saw two official releases. ‘Smashes, Thrashes & Hits’ was released on November 15, 1988. Kiss wasn’t doing much at this time. They were done touring for ‘Crazy Night’, they wouldn’t start working on their next album for about at least half a year or more, Gene had his side projects of his own record label and the band was in limbo.
The album sold pretty well selling over 2 million copies in the U.S. alone. The album did have two brand new songs to help drive fans to buy it (and it worked, I bought it). And like the compilation, ‘Killers’, the two new songs were solely done by Paul Stanley. Gene was not involved yet again as he was too busy. Paul saves the day yet again. The album did contain 15 tracks, but the European release of this album saw 16 tracks which the extra track was “Crazy, Crazy Nights” from the album ‘Crazy Nights’. Apparently in the U.S., they thought that album was too new to include a song on the compilation I guess.
Now my copy of this album is very special. It was autographed by Lori if you look in the Kiss logo on the front cover. I don’t know who she is, but I bet she owned this record many years ago. All I know her signature actually isn’t worth much because it brought down the price of the album by around $50 and I only paid like $15-20 for it. Thanks Lori. You saved me a lot.
Kiss were plugging along and everything is still right in the world. In 1988, as they were preparing for their Tour of Japan, the label and the band decided to release a greatest hits compilation. The CD was issued on May 25, 1988 and was limited to only 100,000 copies and only released in Japan. The was the 2nd greatest hits package to not be issued in the U.S., the first being 1982’s ‘Killers’. For that fact, this is a hot collector’s item for Kiss collectors and I didn’t even know about it until years after its release and I still don’t have a physical copy of this release (but I will get one someday).
The Japanese character on the back of the case and on the CD might look familiar. It is the same symbol that was on the bottom of the cover art for the band’s 1974 album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’. Eric Carr also used that symbol on his drum kits for quite some time. Chikara is the Japanese word for Power if you are interested in knowing that fact. And when you are looking to buy this CD on ebay or somewhere, the prize to get is the OBI strip with all the Japanese writing. A lot of the ones I’ve seen out there don’t have that strip anymore.
We are going to take a little break and highlight a couple singles I have in my collection. This is a little bonus material for you in the series. First up is the 12″ single for the band’s first single off ‘Crazy Nights’. It is the title track, but called “Crazy, Crazy Night” because one crazy wasn’t enough. The single was released on August 18, 1987 and was the highest charting song for the band in the UK hitting at #4 and selling over 200,000 copies (that would be the 7″ single I am sure). In the US, it only reached #64 on the Top 100 songs, but I do remember seeing the video on MTV a lot.
This 12″ single does come with 4 songs, but I can’t find much about this release at all. It does not appear that any of these songs are anything other than the album release version. I do know this version is the UK release and was not in the US so glad I was able to find a copy. The picture sleeve is nothing new as it is basically the album cover. The cool thing about it are those Vertigo Labels. Strange not seeing Mercury or Casablanca.
We are now in 1987 in the Kiss timeline and something odd has happened. For the first time in Kisstory, Kiss did not release an album in a given year. 1986 did not see a Kiss studio album release. For a band that started out doing 2 a year and then one a year, it is a huge surprise that 1986 saw nothing. Not even a greatest hits package. After the Asylum Tour ended, Kiss took a break as they had been going strong for 12 years non-stop. Gene went off and produced other albums such as Black N’ Blue and Paul, well Paul was left trying to keep Kiss alive (no pun intended).
By this time, Paul was pretty sick of Gene’s lack of commitment and confronted Gene about. He told Gene that it wasn’t fair that he was off doing all these side projects while reaping the benefits of Kiss thanks to Paul doing all the work and heavy lifting and you know, Paul is right. Paul was the one to save Kiss and keep the wheel’s turning. I don’t know how much that worked, because Gene’s input on this album is still pretty minimal with only 4 of the 11 songs on the album. Heck, Bruce had 4 writing credits on this album and Eric had one. Paul brought in some of the same people to help write the album including Adam Mitchell, Desmond Child and even Diane Warren. The band took on a more pop, radio-friendly sound with this one and saw them use synthesizers a great deal more with Paul, Bruce and Phil Ashley helping out on that instrument. The one cool thing about the album is that the line-up is unchanged from ‘Asylum’. Kiss saw no turnover this time around and this band would stay together for at least one more album.
We have come to the part of the Kiss timeline in which I believe Kiss would like to completely forget. The Kiss ‘Exposed’ VHS tape that was released on May 18, 1987. In an MTV world and the 80’s rock screaming of women and excess, Kiss decided to put together a collection of their 80’s music videos that they had so far. But no, that wasn’t enough. Gene and Paul wanted to give you so much more. Some exclusive interviews, some vintage videos and a lot of women (and we will get to that in a minute).
In what can be described simply as a train wreck, we get a semi-scripted, badly acted performance of Kiss doing little sketches and some actually real and great interviews. The set for this fantasmic masterpiece is what is supposed to be Paul’s mansion…guess what…it wasn’t. They rented it for this video shoot and brought a lot of Kiss memorabilia in to make you think it was Paul’s actual bachelor pad. The set up was supposed to be some sort of documentary where this clumsy, nerdy news-type guy and a horny cameraman follow Gene and Paul around and do interviews. The sketches are horribly bad, Paul is not funny…and I mean groaningly not funny and Gene is well…Gene.
On top of that the house and every scene is covered with half-naked, and in some cases, very naked women lying around being horribly objectified and they are being misogynistic towards. In today’s world, it is completely and utterly unacceptable. However, when you are 17-18 years old in 1987, it is totally AWESOME!! I got to see Boobies!!! Because at 17/18, that was not something I was getting to see on a regular basis. I had this on VHS at the time and can’t believe my parents let me watch it. Thankfully they never saw it or I wouldn’t get to see it again. When I watched this a couple weeks ago, it was suddenly very painful to watch.