My youngest daughter loves her Funko Pop! Figures and was thrilled when I got my own set of the Def Leppard Funko Pop! Set. She also knows I am a huge Kiss fan and so for Christmas this past year, she searched out and found all 4 of the Kiss Funko Pop! Rocks Figures. I was thrilled and happy to get this set and to come from her makes it extra special.
This set is the 2nd Kiss set in the Funko Pop! Rocks series as they are numbered #121-124. The first set in their series was #04 to #07 and they looked a lot different than this set. And it is much more expensive, so maybe some day down the road I will find that, but for now I am going to enjoy this special set.
This set doesn’t go by the band member’s actual names as that would be tough to choose who you are basing the make-up and the costume on and possibly give credit to past members and Kiss doesn’t want to do that. Instead, they are based on the Kiss characters each rock star is playing.
It is time for us to do our shout-out to Eric Singer and one of his projects. Before Kiss, Eric had played with Black Sabbath and he even had his own band Badlands that released a stellar release in 1989. Then he joined Kiss with the Revenge album and stayed with the band up until the reunion tour in 1996. He would later play with numerous artist, but most notably the great Alice Cooper. However, I wanted to highlight one with a big Kiss connection because that is what I like to do. His side project the Eric Singer Project was a supergroup that had Eric on drums and vocals, Chuck Garric on bass and vocals, John Corabi and guitar, bass and vocals and the big Kiss connection is who was also in the band. It was Eric’s former Kiss co-hort, Bruce Kulick on guitar.
The band was a side group that played covers. They played some live shows and put out an album called ‘ESP’…Eric Singer Project. The one I see most Kiss collectors trying to grab up is this album so I figured this is the perfect album to do for Eric. I know, I probably should’ve done Badlands since this is all covers, but this had too big a Kiss connection to pass up. Plus, I love Corabi so it was a chance for me to hear him as well even if he isn’t singing all the time.
The track listing is pretty good with some not so common covers and there are a few that a typical cover songs. Here are the songs and the original band…
Shortly after the MTV Unplugged Show, the current line-up of the band, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer, went back in to the studio to record what would become the band’s 17th studio album. The album was recorded between November 1995 and February 1996, however, the album was scrapped and pushed aside. Why would they do such a thing, was it that bad? No, not exactly. The problem was that after the MTV Unplugged Show, the buzz about the Ace Frehley and Peter Criss playing with the band again was reaching a fever pitch. Would they get back together and do a reunion tour? Would they put the make-up back on? And the answer to both of those questions was a resounding, YES!!
The album was set aside for the time being. Somehow though, bootleg copies of the album got out and were being distributed around in certain circles (I wasn’t in that certain circle). As a result, the band decided to finally release the album and they called it ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’. It actually didn’t have all the same songs as the bootleg, but at least it was out.
The album was a complete departure for the band. It saw them go darker and more grunge because as usual, the band were followers and trying to follow the trend. They didn’t care in the least anymore to be trend setters and set the bar high. Nope, they pandered to what was big in music. There is a problem with that as Grunge was fading by this time. A lot of the sound was actually a result of Bruce Kulick’s doing as he helped co-write 9 of the 12 songs. I am not saying it is his fault, I am only saying that it was because of Bruce they were able to do that sound as he was versatile enough and technically savy enough to play anything.
Welcome back to Kiss Review Series and this time around we will discuss the album ‘Unplugged’ or is it ‘MTV Unplugged’, I wasn’t really sure. I stuck with ‘Unplugged’ as that is what it says on the spine of the vinyl cover. But it was recorded for MTV so didn’t know the right way to label this post. But enough of that garbage, let us get back to the Kisstory.
Kiss seemed in no hurry to do an album. It had been several years since ‘Revenge’. They have been putting out product as we have reviewed it, but yet no studio album. And with this review, still no studio album. In 1995, the band set out and did these Convention Tours as around this time, Kiss Konventions had started popping up. Kiss would go play these and they were all done as acoustic performances. They would even get some special guests to join them and one time Peter Criss showed up and jumped on stage with them. Kiss started to play lesser known songs at the audience requests and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Well, around that time MTV came a calling and asked if they wanted to do an episode of MTV Unplugged and the band agreed.
After Kiss released ‘Alive III’ you figured it would be time to do another album, but that wasn’t the case. The band instead decided to release another video on VHS. On August 16, 1993, the band released the video ‘Kiss Konfidential’. It sold over 50,000 units and in VHS tapes, that is considered Gold…who knew. The video is basically the live concert for ‘Alive III’ as there are 12 live performances that are from that album. So if you wanted a video concert of ‘Alive III’ this was as close as you were going to get.
Now that wasn’t all you were getting. The video also contained 4 live performances from the Kiss Archives which gave us “100,000 Years” from Detroit in 1976; “Nothing to Lose” from San Francisco in 1975; “Hotter Than Hell” again from Detroit in 1976 and lastly, “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll” from Japan in 1977. Now the songs were not played one right after the other because interspersed between the songs were backstage footage from the Revenge Tour as well as Exclusive interviews with the band. You were given about an hour and half of total Kiss.
Finally!! Kiss decided to release another live album and this one is ‘Alive III’ which was 17 years after their last release. Now they did release a live video, but this is the first album since ‘Alive II’ in 1977. The band recorded the album during the Revenge Tour in 1992 and used the recordings from the Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis stops of the tour. This is also the first live album of the Non-Makeup era and the first to not have the original Kiss line-up. The line-up is of course Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, but now it is Eric Singer on Drums and still Bruce Kulick on guitar. Oh yeah, and off to the side of the stage on keyboards is Derek Sherinian who toured with the band at this time since they added keyboards to a lot of the late 80’s songs.
Before we get to the music, let’s talk the packaging. We get a 2 LP set in a beautiful Gatefold cover. One side of the Gatefold has a really cool Kiss Family Tree. Although hard to read at times, it is a cool tracing back of where all the Kiss members, current and past, come from in their musical careers.
On the flip side of the Gatefold, you get the track listing and all the tour credits as well as some band pictures and a little note from the band.
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.
In 2014, Kiss toured their 40th Anniversary World Tour and the opening act was none other than Def Leppard. Yeah! That is right. The 2 bands I have seen in concert the most were playing together in the same show. Wow!! My family and I had just moved to Charlotte, NC that year and my brother, my sister and her husband drove up to Charlotte to see them with me. That meant a lot that would come up and see us and go see a show. I would’ve driven down to Atlanta to see that show, but it was a weekday which meant work. My sow on July 19th, 2014 in Charlotte was a Saturday!!
If I am being honest about the show, Def Leppard was absolutely amazing. Probably the best show I have seen them do. They actually blew the doors off Kiss. Kiss has become a well organized, choreographed Las Vegas show and it felt forced. It did not have the excitement as did Def Leppard’s. There was an electricity type energy in the crowd for Leppard that was not there for Kiss. Don’t get me wrong, Kiss was still great and it was still an awesome time. I am also so glad my family came up to see it with me. I can’t find a stub, but I have a shirt and some pictures!! My pictures are pretty bad as my camera was an old iPhone that took shitty pictures.
We are finally to The End of the Road. No, not the End of the Road Tour, but the end of our journey of Gene Simmons – The Vault! We are on Part 15 of our 15 Part series. We have spent numerous hours listening, reading, researching and writing up these posts and I have to say, it is the most fun I have had on this site maybe ever. I wanted to deliver a very detailed breakdown of The Vault so maybe you would see whether or not it is worth buying. For me, it was a no brainer, even though it took me two years to do it. The price was finally right.
Let’s mention a little on the production of this album. The production and mix were stellar. They all had the same volume level and even the worst quality recording still sounded great. They put a lot of time and effort in that and they hit it out of the park.
And I don’t want to forget to mention the people on this album. I won’t go through all of them as you should read each review, but you get Ace Frehley, Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Bob Kulick and even Paul Stanley. And then there is Bob Dylan, Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen, but that is only a small portion…you get members of Black & Blue, of Silent Rage and even someone from Steel Panther. You get some songwriters, producers that helped write some songs and even Katey Sagal from Married With Children does some background vocals. It is so cool to see all the different people involved. That was one of my favorite parts.