We are now on the 13th Kiss studio album called ‘Asylum’ which came out on September 16, 1985. And this is actually the 30th review in the Kiss Review Series…I can’t believe we are already to #30 is pretty much the half way mark of the series. I have thoroughly enjoyed it thus far and I hope you have as well.
Now Kiss is in a good place, for the most part. Yes, Gene isn’t as involved as he should be and Paul is still running the show, but they have a solid line-up now that Bruce Kulick is an official member of the band. The line-up seems to be relatively issue you free (except for the Gene part). The line-up was now Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick. It would stay this way for the next 6 years and there would not be as much drama as before…thank goodness, but at the same time it does make for great story telling.
The first concert video Kiss had ever released was ‘Animalize Live Uncensored’ and I had this on VHS and I remember it vividly although I did watch it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It came out on April 19, 1985 and I was so excited when this came out mainly because I saw this tour. My second Kiss show ever and now I was getting a video from that tour, how cool was that. Here is my ticket stub and you can view the Animalize Tour Book which I bought at the show by clicking the link.
The stage was a simple set up in Kiss terms. A couple ramps on each side of the drum set with an elevated platform behind them. The stage floor was covered in the same animal print as the Animalize album cover…makes sense. The show had a varied setlist with some old and some new. They kick off and end with some classic Kiss songs, but everything else in the middle was all 80’s from ‘Creatures of the Night’ (4 songs) to ‘Lick It Up’ (3 Songs) to ‘Animalize’ (3 Songs). For me, this is where I wanted them to spend their time as I was discovering Kiss on my own with these albums so I wanted these songs and I got my money worth with it.
The video opens with Kiss rising from the stage and then they explode in to “Detroit Rock City” and they are in Detroit! The song is so sped up and Eric’s drums are so heavy. I don’t think I’ve seen it played this fast before. After the song, Paul goes in to his his “Cold Gin” spill and they blast in to “Cold Gin” with Bruce Kulick laying down that nasty riff. Bruce was a full time member of the band at this point (which they announced before this very show) since Mark St. John was let go around the beginning of the tour due to his health issues. The show was also a radio broadcast and being filmed for an MTV concert (and this video).
No, you are not reading things wrong. This is part of the Kiss Review Series. You may ask yourself why because Wendy O. Williams was a part of the Plasmatics, she wasn’t in Kiss? How can this possibly be a part of this series? There are so many reasons why and I will go on record and say that this might be the best Kiss album that is not a Kiss album. WTF??? Am I smoking some weed, have I been drinking? The answer to both of this is None of your business. I guess I need to explain myself a little.
This is part of the Kiss series because nearly every member of Kiss at the time was on this album, most songs were written by members of Kiss and Gene Simmons was the producer of this album. Basically, it is a Kiss album. The bass player on this album was named Reginald Van Helsing who was actually Gene. And a funny point about the bass playing…Gene played Bass on more of these songs than he has on any Kiss album around this time period. What other Kiss members were on this album? Here is the list…
With the success of ‘Lick It Up’, Kiss was back on top…well as close to on top as they were going to get for awhile. They were somewhat relevant again, but things weren’t easy. Vinnie Vincent was officially out of the band by around April 1984 and they needed a guitarist quick as it was time to record a new album. They settled on a guitarists by the name of Mark St. John. He was a proper shredder which was typical of the time thanks in large part to the late, great Eddie Van Halen. Now fully staffed again, they went in to the studio in May and worked through July on the album.
I said “they”, but that was a loose term. This project was really more Paul’s than Gene’s. Gene was out doing movies, trying to produce new rock bands and pretty much anything else that wasn’t Kiss. Paul Stanley ran the shop and actually ended up producing the album. Gene Simmons showed up on occasion to give us a handful of a mediocre songs. But he didn’t play on all the songs.
Right after the Creatures of the Night Tour, the band went back in to the studio to complete the follow-up album. Michael James Jackson would stay on board as the producer as the sound he got on “Creatures” was amazing and the band wanted to continue that harder sound. Vinnie Vincent was now an official member of the band as he was on the cover. However, he actually wasn’t an “official member of the band” as he never signed his contract which became an extreme soar spot with Vinnie and the band which we will discuss a little later on in our story.
The ‘Lick it Up’ album, which came out on September 23, 1983, garnered way more attention than ‘Creatures’ for one main reason. The band finally took off the make-up which is something they had been talking about doing since at least the ‘Music from the Elder’ era. They finally did it and the big reveal was on MTV during primetime. I remember this vividly as this was event TV for me as I was a lifelong Kiss fan at the time (and still am today). I remember seeing each member in make-up and then without and I remember thinking, “PUT IT BACK ON!!! OOOOH THE HORROR!!!” No, it really wasn’t that bad. It was actually pretty cool. And just like that Kiss was back in the public eye and they had some songs that could back it up.
Kiss had to get back to their hard rock roots after the disaster of their last studio album ‘Music from the Elder’. The band had been on a downward spiral since ‘Dynasty’ with their sound going softer, Peter Criss leaving the band and now Ace was pretty much done. Due to his disillusionment the last few years with the band, the fact he had no say in anything, his alcohol problem and his prescription drug problem related to a car crash, Ace was done. He was so done in fact, he does not show up anywhere on this album. Well, that isn’t entirely true. Kiss still credited him as a member of the band, his picture is on the cover and he made some public appearances in support of the band including appearing in the music video for ‘I Love it Loud” which he didn’t even play on. After that video shoot though, Ace was no longer in the band.
Kiss was basically a trio for this whole album. Additional musicians and songwriters were brought in to help them write and record this album. Michael James Jackson was brought in as the producer and Michael had worked on the four new songs used on the ‘Killers’ album early in the year. They went in to the studio with the sole purpose of bringing back the heavy rock. Paul’s writing friend, Adam Mitchell, was back to help as well as Jim Vallance, Bryan Adams and Mikel Japp. All these guys co-wrote on the ‘Killers’ album, so it stands to reason that all these songs for both ‘Killers’ and ‘Creatures’ were part of the same writing sessions.
Kiss had released the ‘Music from the Elder’ back in November 1981 and it flopped. The record company was in a panic and needed to get something out so people could forget about the disaster that was ‘the Elder’ so what do they do? Well, they put out a compilation. Phonogram (the band’s European label) requested Kiss go back in and record some new songs for the compilation which they gladly did…well a couple of them gladly did. Ace was pretty much done with Kiss back in 1981 and wasn’t involved at all with any of the new songs. However, he wouldn’t leave the band until after the next album in late 1982. Gene played on them (I think), but didn’t sing or write as he was pretty busy either with his girlfriend Diana Ross or making movies.
The heavy lifting was left to Paul and Eric. Paul wrote or co-wrote all the songs and sang on all of them. The label and band brought in a bunch of outside writers including Mikel Japp, who co-wrote with Paul on his solo album, Adam Mitchell, who would write a lot on the next album ‘Creatures of the Night’, and lastly some guy named Bryan Adams. All the drum work was done by Eric Carr and the late Bob Kulick handled all the lead guitar work just as he did on Alive II, with rhythm guitar on one song done by Mikel Japp. So, I guess it is still Kiss.
For this version of the The Original Vs The Cover we have yet another threepeat with the song “Hide Your Heart” which was original performed by Bonnie Tyler, then Kiss and then Ace Frehley all within a couple years. The song was written by Paul Stanley of Kiss along with the great Desmond Child and Holly Knight. The song was originally written for the Kiss album ‘Crazy Nights’ but didn’t make the cut so Paul shopped it around and Bonnie Tyler wound up with it. Kiss then put it on their next album and the same month, Ace Frehley, formerly of Kiss, did the song for his album ‘Trouble Walkin’.
After the success Desmond Child had with “Livin’ On a Prayer’ with Bon Jovi, Paul Stanley wanted to write a song in that same vein. Instead of Tommy and Gina, we get a cheap knock-off version of Johnny and Rosa. The problem with their relationship wasn’t the hardships of life, but that Rosa had a boyfriend named Tito who sounds like a gang leader in the shady part of town. Already, we know Rosa has bad taste in men. The story doesn’t end well like Tommy and Gina did. Basically this was a poor man’s version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the storyline sucked and was a total rip-off. It was too formulaic and Kiss was trying to chase trends at the time instead of being a leader and this was a perfect example of the trash that came out as a result. I guess it is pretty obvious I hate this song so why I am writing about it? Because I need to get it off my chest that I hate this song…I really don’t like it.
The song was never a big hit for any of the artist as it never cracked the Top 40. Even more proof of how bad this song really is. Enough about my distaste for the song, let’s get to the performances so I can get this over with and put out of my misery (ha!).
Kiss came off a very successful Australian Tour thanks to Unmasked and the song “Shandi” being huge hits in that country, but in the States, Kiss had floundered significantly. They were now basically a joke. Peter Criss was no longer in the band, their music was no longer rock and things looked pretty dire for them. Kiss started recording for a new album and this album was going to get back to the hard rock roots of the band, however, things started to change. The thought of hard rock album wasn’t enough. The band had to do something drastic, something big, something artistic. In comes producer Bob Ezrin.
Bob had come off the success of doing a concept album with a band you might know name Pink Floyd. The album was ‘The Wall”. In January 81, the band had started recording at Ace in the Hole studio at Ace’s house and they were doing much harder, rock recordings. But when Bob came on board around March, talk started to change to maybe doing a concept album and Gene was immediately on board, Paul was somewhat, Eric was not thrilled about the direction, but he was thrilled about finally recording his first Kiss album. And Ace, well Ace wasn’t happy at all. Things with Ace would start to deteriorate even more. So much so while the album was being recorded in Toronto and New York, Ace stayed at this house in Connecticut and did his parts in his studio and mailed them out when he was done.
I know…you are probably sick of Kiss related posts at the same time I am doing the Kiss Review Series and I am sorry. I am in a Kiss Zone right now and everything is KISS, KISS, KISS!!! And on my continuous Kiss hunt, I found another book that was all about Kiss that I want to discuss.
This is a book right up my alley and education level. It is a picture book with very few words…YEAH ME!!! It is Kiss: 1977-1980 by Lynn Goldsmith. Lynn is a celebrity portrait photographer and was one of the very first female Rock Photographers. Lynn has been asked numerous times to photograph Kiss and this book encompasses all of those meetings and pictures from all of the sessions she had with the band. Those sessions were only from 1977-1980 which was a very interesting and transforming time for the band. It was coming out of Alive II, the solo albums, in to Dynasty and Unmasked where the music changed and Peter left. It goes up to where Eric Carr joins the band and has his first photo shoot with the band.