It has only been three short years since ‘Sonic Boom’ and Kiss is ready to put out another album. Three years might seem like a long time, but lately in the Kiss World, it is a blip in the radar. The band has actually not had any drama during this time gap and things seem to be going smoothly which is not normal for these guys. The band is unchanged with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley still at the helm and Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer still the hired guns.
The band went back in the studio starting in April 2011 and didn’t finish the album until January 2012. And heck, then it wasn’t even released until October 9, 2012. The guys were in no rush obviously. Kiss wanted to get back to their roots on this one while keeping it sounding like what the band is today. To help accomplish that the band actually recorded the album using analog equipment and a 24 Track Tape and a Trident board. They were going at it old school…no digital. Did it help? Well the album went all the way to #3 on the Billboard Charts, so we will see.
But speaking of old school. There were no outside writers and no outside players (except one on piano, but we will get to that shortly). Tommy gets to sing again and so does Eric. This was a band album, just like ‘Sonic Boom’, and a band album is what the fans want. They started with around 20 songs and ended up with 12 on the vinyl & the CD (13 on iTunes). We are talking the 12 here since my copy is on vinyl. Let’s get started.
It has been 11 years since Kiss has released a studio album, and on October 6, 2009, we finally got what we had been waiting so long to hear. Now, the band gave us a lot of stuff in those 11 years. We did get greatest hits compilations, live albums, DVDs, solo projects, but we had been wanting a Kiss Studio album of all new songs. And the band finally delivered what we had been longing to hear for over a decade. This time in Kisstory, the band was Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and current members of Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. And this album is the first in decades to feature all 4 members of the band playing on the album and writing all the songs. That is right, no outside influences in any way. This was so much of a band album that even Eric and Tommy both had a song to sing. This was just like the old Kiss from the 70’s.
So why did Kiss finally release a new studio album. In part, it was because Paul & Gene didn’t want ‘Psycho Circus’ to be the final Kiss studio album. They were upset that Ace and Peter wouldn’t show up to play on it and what was supposed to be a Kiss album was full of outside writers and players. Now, if you talk to Peter Criss, I believe his story would be more along the line of Gene and Paul didn’t want them playing on it so they paid them not to be on it. That might be partially true, but Ace and Peter were on it, sadly only the songs they sang on. If they didn’t want ‘Psycho Circus’ to be their last studio album, does that mean ‘Sonic Boom’ will be their last? We will have to wait and find out.
When the album was finished it was released exclusively by Wal-mart…yes…Wal-mart. You were not able to get this album from anywhere else if you lived in the U.S. and Canada. Now, they did sweeten the pot with this one as you got a 20-page booklet, the album, a CD of Kiss Klassics and a Bonus DVD of Kiss Live in Buenos Aires. All packaged in a nice cardboard digipack. It is actually quite a bang for the buck. But was it all worth it, let us find out.
We are now 10 years past the last studio album, ‘Psycho Circus’, and Kiss has still yet to do another studio album. Instead, we basically get yet another greatest hits package. This one is different of course because it was actually a re-recording of Kiss Klassics, but this time the players are not just Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, but we now have those old hits recorded by Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar. My first question is…WHY?? Do we really need to have studio versions of these great, amazing Kiss songs done by the new members. (rhetorical question)
I guess the people of Japan did because that is the only place this album was released. The title of the album is Jigoku-Retsuden which means something like “Legends from Hell” or “Hell’s Legends” in Japanese. Okay, that is pretty cool, but that is the only thing cool about this release. Okay, maybe the OBI strip is pretty cool as well. But that is it, I promise…alright, the cover is a little cool too…no more…stop!!
The 2000’s have seen Kiss release more live albums, greatest hits packages and box sets than Studio Albums. And this particular release has sat on the shelves for six years because one thing or another got in the way. The album was recorded on December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada and consisted of the original band members of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. The original intention for this album was to be released as Kiss Alive! IV, but there was a problem and it got shelved because the record label, Mercury, was being gobbled up by Universal in a giant merger. Then a few years later, Universal agreed for Mercury to release it, but the band was working on the Symphony show which would become Kiss Alive IV. One thing after another kept pushing this release back. Thoughts were that it wasn’t a good show, but I think it was bad timing.
The album would see a release on November 21, 2006 when it was included on the box set Kiss Alive! 1975-2000. That box set included Alive!, Alive II and Alive III as well and since those have already been reviewed, I went with just reviewing the Millennium show as that did get a separate vinyl release of its own.
One of the cool things about this release is that there are three songs on here that had never been played by all 4 of the original members. You get “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Lick It Up” both from the non-makeup era that Peter and Ace were not on and you get “I Love It Loud” which Peter was not on and Ace was credited on the ‘Creatures of the Night’ album but reality proved he didn’t play on it. However, the opening track on here is “Psycho Circus” and Peter and Ace actually didn’t play on that song either even though it was the “Reunion” album.
Despite not having any new albums in years, Kiss was touring. In 2000-2001, the band was touring the so called “Farewell Tour” which was supposed to be the end of Touring. Well, in 2003, the band announced The World Domination Tour where the band would be co-headlining with Aerosmith. Ace Frehley believing the Farewell Tour was the final tour, did not want to do this tour if they were the opening act for Aerosmith. Well, Ace was now gone. Because apparently the Farewell Tour was really the Farewell Tour for Kiss playing with Ace. Peter Criss came back in to the fold and did the World Domination Tour.
When that tour ended, Kiss decided to do another tour in 2004 called the Rock The Nation Tour. This time around, Kiss was the main headliner and the opening acts were Poison and Z02. Before the tour started, Peter Criss’ contract with the band had expired. According to Peter, no one contacted him about signing back up with the band for the next tour. Now, Peter was gone, yet again. Kiss was back down to just Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley with the hired guns of Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar. This is the line-up that would stay in existence for the remainder of the Kisstory. The Rock The Nation Tour, was the start of a new era of Kiss. One where people either still loved the band and didn’t care who was in it or a group that hated Tommy for being in the band and wearing Ace’s make-up. Sorry folks, but so what. Tommy was hired to do a job and Tommy does that job very well. No one seemed to care too much that Eric was in the band and wearing Peter’s make-up and maybe that was because Eric had already been a big part of Kisstory before and he had earned his cat whiskers.
In 2020, Covid had the family home a lot. One thing we ended up doing was Jigsaw Puzzles. I believe we did around 6 during the year. What would happen is that the kids would get excited and open the puzzle and sort out all the pieces to find the end pieces because that is where you start the puzzle. They would work diligently and do the border and then they would slowly do less and less of the puzzle leaving me to finish them up…so I guess you could say I finished 6 puzzles and the kids started 6. My wife helped of course because she loves to sort the pieces out by color and get everything organized so we can get through it quicker and more efficiently. Yes, I think she is a little OCD, but I love that about her. Hell, even the apps on her phone are organized…BY COLOR!!!
Now for Christmas in 2020, the kids thought Daddy needs another puzzle so they got me a Kiss puzzle. Yes, why not give me one of my favorite bands. So, now I had another puzzle except this time, I started it, I sorted it and I finished it. No one really helped me because they are all sick of puzzles.
So, it was time to start it one weekend and I did what you always do, unwrap the cellophane from the box, open it and then dump all the pieces on the table…
And then it was time to sort the pieces and build the border which probably took an hour tops…
And I decided the easiest step for me is do the albums that are around the border because I know those albums intimately. I could easily see a piece and quickly know which album it belonged to and I built that up rather quickly. I would say a few hours tops (over a couple days not all in one sitting.
Then it got harder. The middle section had a lot of dark pieces and slowed me down a bunch. That took the longest part of all. It is funny how you can sit down at the puzzle and start piecing things together and the next thing you know, a whole hour has gone by and not much progress has been made, but once I got in to a rhythm and picked up on some clues, I was able to finish it up…
And then it was done…
1000 pieces in probably about a 6 hour stretch over about a week. Not too bad. It helped that I know the images, that was a huge advantage. Normal puzzles take me a lot longer as I am studying the picture a lot more.
I hope you enjoyed this silly distraction and send me pictures of your Rock & Roll Puzzles! Admit it, you know you have them too!!!
On our journey through the band Kiss, we have taken detours for one side project from every member of the band. We are almost done with that part of the journey as we only have two members left we haven’t covered. The first of those is Gene Simmons. In 2004, in between all the band’s touring, Gene managed to put together an album for his first “true” solo album. I say it that way because his first solo album was part of the 4 Kiss solo albums each member did that was under the Kiss logo. This is his first proper one. If you remember his first, you will remember it was very diverse and had a ton of guest appearances on the album. Let me tell you, this album is in no way different. It is also all over the place style wise and contains more guest appearances than any album in the history of albums…okay, that is a bit much, but there are a lot of guests.
The album was released on June 8, 2004 and didn’t do that great only going to #86 on the Billboard Charts. There is both an unedited version of the album (and cover) and an edited version of the album (and cover). The cover picture for this post is the edited as I was worried the unedited one might get dinged on Facebook or Twitter for being too offensive. And as you can see by the picture below, you get an idea of what the unedited might be like. Now, before we move on, is anyone else wondering where that finger has been in the picture below or is it just me??? I am also waiting for any minute that Sir Mix A Lot will pop out and sing his signature song…again..is that just me???
I am very familiar with this album, but not for the reason you think. It wasn’t because I ran out and bought this. Nope. I actually just bought this album a few weeks ago, because I need it to complete the collection. My familiarity with it comes from Gene Simmons ‘The Vault” as almost every song is on that collection and is on it in demo form except for maybe one or two tracks. And sometimes they are on there numerous times at different stages of completion. I will be completely honest with you…I prefer ‘The Vault’ versions immensely more than this. Why? Because at least I knew “The Vault’ versions were demos, these are supposed to be finished products, but I’m sorry, they aren’t that good AT ALL!! With minor exceptions.
The album kicks off the album with what is probably the best song on the album. And I will go further and say it is one of my favorite Gene tracks. “Sweet & Dirty Love” is a beast of a track. It rocks out with the help of Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer on guitar and drums, respectively. It is what you want the Demon to do as a song and Gene hits some killer notes and has never sounded better. I like one of ‘The Vault’ versions better only because it is a little more raw and raunchy as this is very polished. But still, the best song on the album.
The second track is a cover which is a little early to have it the #2 song on the CD in my book. And it is a strange one as Gene is covering “Firestarter” by Prodigy. The guitar work on here is fantastic as that is handled by Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame. Gene sticks to the original version for the most part and the song is ver industrial with that metallic sound and I know people think this song is awful, but I think it is so bad it is now good. I actually don’t mind it because I do love the music in it and Gene is being Gene which I have to admit I like at times.
Then we get to the song “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” which is another heavy song, completely balls to the walls bombastic power. There is even a punk edge to it. It has Bruce and Eric back helping out and if you take out the stupid “E Pluribus Unum” quote in the lyrics, this would a 5 star song, but I will ding it down to a 4. Another great track and really the last of the really good ones. There are two demos on ‘The Vault’, one with Eric and Tommy Thayer that is a little slower and darker. The other lyrics were written and it was given to Ace to play after it wasn’t picked for ‘Psycho Circus which was the original intention. The Ace version is killer. After this the album goes to shit.
Next we get the song Gene wrote with Bob Dylan…yes, that Bob Dylan. It is a ballad and it is bloody awful. It is called “Waiting on the Morning Light” and I think Gene is trying to be Dylan and he isn’t the Bob Dylan type of writer and that is okay, we love him for him. It is just a bad attempt at trying too hard.
Then we get a synth song called “Beautiful” with Mark Addison helping on guitars and such and Nina Singh on percussion who wrote the song. It is another ballad that has a nice chorus and is a pretty good effort that just falls short of being a great ballad. That annoying synth sound doesn’t really help. The verses are a little rough vocally, but he makes up for it in the chorus. “The Vault” version is actually cleaner sounding and I like it better than this one.
We are now at the title track “Asshole” which is rocking track where Gene embraces the whole “asshole” personae. It is a rock anthem type song that makes you want to scream “asshole” right at Gene and helps make it a fun singalong. It is still not a great song, but it will pass. Now, the edited version is atrocious as it doesn’t bleep out asshole, it just turns the “ass” part in to what sounds like a goat…it is horrendous.
“Now That You’re Gone” is a song Gene wrote with Bob Kulick. You get his daughter Sophie on background vocals along with Zachary Grant and Jeff Diehl on keyboards. The bass is real strong on this one, it has a children’s choir type sound with Sophie and Zachary. It plods along going nowhere and is totally uninteresting and lifeless and that is putting it nicely. ‘The Vault’ has three versions of this song and none are really that great.
Then we get “Whatever Turns You On” was a demo received from a band Gene was working with and Gene took it from them but it has the co-write of Dave Williams so he didn’t steal it. If you are going to steal a song, steal something better. This sounds like a bunch of drunks hanging around and partying having a good time and thought it would be a good idea to record it, but they’d be wrong. It does have his lovely wife Shannon Tweed and her mom on the background vocals along with Dave. I think with some work, this song could’ve been turned in to something better than what is here. At least they sound like they are having more fun than the listener. This one is on ‘The Vault’ as well with about the same effect, maybe a little better.
“Dog” was written by Gene and Alex Chuaqui (or Bags as Gene had him change his name as Alex Chuaqui wasn’t a good enough rock name and too ethnic) On the song Gene howls like a dog and he speaks a very sexual and dirty Little Red Riding Hood verse that is as dirty as it gets. It is a mid-tempo song and is so close to being something good. It isn’t bad, but could’ve been more.
Then we get an unexpected surprise an unfinished Frank Zappa song called “Black Tongue” that Gene licensed from the estate and finished it up with the help fo the entire Zappa family as Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon and Gail are all on background vocals. Frank even has a speaking part that was left over from the original demo. The guitar work is sensational as you would expect because it is being handled by Richie Kotzen. Zappa’s guitar riffs are their, Richie does the solo and adds some flair. It sounds like a mixture of grunge with still a hint of that Zappa psychedelic vibe. I will admit I like this song.
Next we get “Carnival of Souls” which was written by Gene and Scott Van Zen and recorded back in 1993 or 1994 originally. It was passed over for both the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album and ‘Psycho Circus’. ‘The Vault’ has two versions of it and both are really good. One version is a little slower tempo and much darker which is always a good thing. This version is heavy, speedy and a rocking track. It isn’t half bad. I will keep this one especially since it is another with Richie Kotzen on guitar. Also, Nick Tweed Simmons does the background vocals so now the whole family was involved.
Then we get what might be the worst song on the album “If I Had A Gun” is a horrible topic and just a horrible pile of dung. It sounds like what comes out of an Asshole for sure so if that was the intent, then he struck gold. Not a great song for all the gun violence we have. It slows down and speeds up and goes back and forth but feels so disconnected and utter trash. Skip this one as fast as you can. I skipped ‘The Vault’ version to and wound up on My Worst of the Vault list.
Lastly, we get a similar ending as we got on his 1978 solo album. Almost a carbon copy of that Disney sounding song is this copycat “1,000 Dreams”. This one even has a country music flair to it. Please cue the vomit inducing noise now as that is what you want to do when you hear this. More garbage and the worst way to end this album. Good Riddance.
Sweet & Dirty Love – Keeper
Firestarter – Keeper
Weapons of Mass Destruction – Keeper
Waiting for the Morning Light – Delete
Beautiful – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Asshole – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Now That You’re Gone – Delete
Whatever Turns You On – Delete
Dog – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Black Tongue – Keeper
Carnival of Souls – Keeper
If I Had A Gun – Delete
1,000 Dreams – Delete
The Track Score is 6.5 out of 13 or 50% which is probably way to generous on my part. I have a soft spot for Gene, what can I say. However, I still think this album is horrible and not worth getting unless you are a diehard like me or a glutton for punishment. The songs are all over the place and there seems to be no direction and the album is definitely lacking good flow. Overall, the album only get s a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars and that is probably too high of a score but that is what I am giving it. To me, ‘The Vault’ was worth what I paid for it, but this one, not so much.
Next Up: Kiss – Rock the Nation Live ! – DVD (2005)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
To celebrate the band’s 30th Anniversary, it was decided that another live album was needed. However, not just any live album. Kiss was going to perform a show with a full 60-piece orchestra. Now this was the early 2000’s and apparently playing with an orchestra was the new trending thing to do especially due to the success of Metallica’s own orchestra performance on S&M in 1999. So Kiss followed trends yet again with their own version. Now they could’ve phoned it in and just put the songs together and then tack on the orchestra in the studio like I have seen some bands do (hello Jorn), but they didn’t do that. Instead, they actually performed a full live show in front of an audience with an orchestra. Good on them for not doing it half-ass.
The band at the time really was just going to be Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They really didn’t have a need for Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Instead they were going to use Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, but there was a problem. The contract with the promoter stated they had to have 3 “Original” members. Well, that changed things. Ace was definitely out, he was done. The band had to bring in Peter back to the fold so Eric was out and now Kiss was Gene, Paul, Peter and Tommy. Peter wouldn’t last much longer though.
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.
Only 2 months after Kiss released their reunion album, ‘Psycho Circus’, the band released another video. This one consisted of 2 VHS Tapes called ‘The Second Coming’. This isn’t a concert video, but instead what we get is a documentary that documents the band’s reunion with Ace and Peter and the subsequent Alive/Worldwide Tour from 96-97. The video was released on November 24, 1998 and the sales were really great as it went Platinum.
It starts off sounding like a VH1 Behind the Music TV show as they quickly go through the band’s make-up history and the first departure of Peter and Ace. This part takes only about 15 minutes and when I say it is high level, that is an understatement. This is an extremely short version of Cliffs Notes Kisstory. The good news is that leaves the remaining 2 hours left to discuss when Peter and Ace start getting back in the good graces of Gene and Paul starting with the Kiss Conventions and going through the end of the Alive/Worldwide Tour a few short years later.
Before we get in to some of the detail of the video, let’s first talk about a future Kiss connection with this video. The Director and Producer of the video is future Kiss’ own Tommy Thayer. That is right, before he became the Spaceman in Kiss, he was brought on board as basically a historian for the band.