We all know Kiss was started by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. But did you know about the band prior to Kiss? It all started with Gene (Chaim Witz) and Paul (Stanley Eisen) in a band called Rainbow with Gene’s friend Stephen Coronel. Paul was the third member and then they brought in a drummer named Joe Davidson. This band didn’t last long at all and hell, the drummer even a shorter time as he was quickly replaced with Tony Zarella. They only played one show before they had to drop the name Rainbow because that name was already being used by some other band (and no, not the Richie Blackmore band).
And that is how Wicked Lester was born. After only a couple shows as Wicked Lester, they were approached by a label and were given the chance to record some demos. After listening to those demos, the label decided that Stephen was not good enough and had to be fired. And since Gene and Paul the upstanding citizens they are, they fired Stephen. I guess you do whatever it takes to make it in this business. Ron Leejack was then brought in for guitar duties and it was time to record the album.
Now the album would take about a year to complete and upon receiving the album and hearing it, the label were not quite thrilled with it…okay, they hated it. Hated it so much, they shelved it and it was never released. Well, never in a full, pure album form. It has been leaked out as a bootleg and that is what we have here.
I’ve found a few Kiss singles lately and this is the last in the bunch…for now. This time around I found the single to the song “Calling Dr. Love” off the band’s 1976 album ‘Rock And Roll Over’. The song was the band’s fourth Top 20 hit going all the way to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the second single on the album which following the success of the album, ‘Destroyer’, went on to sell over a million copies and hit platinum status. Kiss was on a roll at this time and their popularity was growing by leaps and bounds.
A fun fact on the song is that it was written by Gene while he was at a Holiday Inn where I am sure he was “living in sin” (let’s see who gets that reference). The song title was inspired by a Three Stooges film called ‘Men in Black’ which contained a hospital intercom announcement, “Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard.” And thanks to wiki for that reference.
My version is again, the standard U.S. version with the boring Casablanca / Filmworks standard sleeve. No picture sleeve. The B-Side is the Paul Stanley sung song “Take Me”. No special remixes, no unreleased tracks, just the same old stuff, but I still had to have it. I’m a little nuts that way.
A couple weeks ago we talked through the Kiss 7″ Single for “Beth”. I know, I know…the Kiss Review Series will never die as I’ll always keep finding stuff to show off. Now, I found another one of their singles and this one is from their 1977 album ‘Love Gun’. It is “Christine Sixteen” and the song features Gene Simmons on the lead vocals. As far as chart success, it went all the way to #25 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not bad!
I say not bad because of the subject matter of the song, a lot of stations wouldn’t play it or would only play it after 7pm as if that made it any better. The basis of the song is about an older man infatuated with a girl of the tender age of 16. That wouldn’t fly at all today, but back then, it wasn’t terrible or unforgivable, merely frowned upon I would say based on the fact it still sold like hotcakes. Imagine the chart position if all the stations played it any time of day.
My version is the standard U.S. version, with no picture sleeve. It has the standard Casablanca/Filmworks sleeve which is pretty basic. The B-Side of the song might actually be better than the A-Side is it is Ace Frehley’s song “Shock Me”. More on that later. First let’s discuss the A-Side.
Kiss has finally realized they can make money on live Bootleg type albums just like everyone else has been doing out in the will. They are finally releasing their own Bootleg Series called “Off the Soundboard”. First up for them was the show from Tokyo 2001 which had Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Eric Singer. This time around they are going with the line-up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. The show is Virginia Beach from July 25, 2004. This tour was the Rock the Nation Tour and one I didn’t see.
When I saw this was being released, I was excited at first as there were a handful of songs that haven’t been on all the tours so it is always great to get live versions when you can. The ones I was excited about were “Unholy”, “King of the Night Time World”, “Got to Choose” and “I Want You”. Their previous release was absolutely perfect. This one turns out, not so much…at least to me. They did maintain the same bootleg feel to the packaging as it is real simple cardboard box feel with stamped looking markings like the bootlegs of old. I do love the simplicity (even if it is a little flimsy).
I’m always out searching for Kiss music that I don’t have on vinyl and right now that is mostly singles. The latest time I was out digging, I came across a 7″ Single for the song “Beth” off their 1976 classic ‘Destroyer’. The original single for this album was “Detroit Rock City” as the A-Side and “Beth” as the B-Side. When that went out to the radio stations, the DJ’s ended playing “Beth” which quickly became the most requested songs on a lot of stations.
After that, the decision was made to reissue the single with “Beth” as the A-Side and “Detroit Rock City” as the B-Side. That is the copy I have. It was released in August 1976. Now, my version I found doesn’t have a picture sleeve as shown as the header. I used that to make the post more enticing. My version actually just came in a plain white sleeve but the original at least would’ve had the Casablanca Sleeve that would’ve looked something like the above picture…If I find any singles out there with that sleeve I will buy it (regardless if it is Kiss or not just so I have the correct one).
By 1978, Kiss had reached the peak of stardom. Kiss was flying high and a couple members were too. Trouble was brewing and most especially with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. From what I have read, they both wanted to do solo albums, but the band needed to keep the train rolling. So Bill Aucoin and others came up with a strategy to help keep the peace. The entire band would each do a solo album and they would all be released at the same time on the same day, however, they would be under the Kiss umbrella. Brilliant or Stupid was still yet to be seen. No band had ever attempted this prior or since and probably for good reason.
Each member had to find their own producer, their own musicians as no one in the band played on the other persons record. All the albums came out on the same day, September 18, 1978. To help promote the Solo albums, the label released the ‘Best of Solo Albums’, but only overseas. To this day, there is no U.S. release of this album. To top that off, there was never a CD release of this album either. If you find one on CD, it is not legit.
‘The Best of Solo Albums’ takes three songs from each of the members with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss on Side One and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on Side Two. It is hard to say if these are the best 3 songs of each member especially if Peter’s and Gene’s weren’t the best of the bunch, but I have to say it is still a great set. It is enough to whet your whistle and determine which ones you need to buy. If you didn’t know, the answer is all of them!! You want the posters. So buy all of them.
My copy is actually a rather current re-issue from 2019 and it is on a beautiful Black & Silver & White Splatter vinyl. It is a limited edition on 180g and if you look at the logo, you can tell it is the German Edition as they have to change the style of their logo to normal SS so it doesn’t look like the Nazi SS army. The album looks beautiful just look at the picture above. I think this is the first German Edition I have on any of their albums. And if you want to look at the attention to detail, look at the back cover and notice they changed all the SS on them as well.
Now, let’s get to the songs…
The album opens with Ace’s songs and a cover song, “New York Groove”, by the band Hello and written by Russ Ballard. This was the single off the album and became a massive hit for Ace and really became his signature song. Ace knew Russ from when Kiss opened for Argent back in the day and has worked with Russ numerous times since. For Ace, this is a personal Anthem since he is from New York and he helped perpetuate the myth that he wrote the song even though we know he didn’t. Ace’s version has some differences from the original including the hand-clapping sound of the original was more of a foot-stomping sound and the harmonica riff was replaced by guitar…well duh. With surprisingly no guitar solo like you would expect with Ace, the song kept relatively close to the original. It is a wonderful tune and the biggest hit of all the solo albums going to #13 on the Billboard charts. This must have driven Gene crazy!!!
The opening track on the album and the second one here, “Rip It Out”, is bombastic and has a massive sound. Guitar riffs galore and a drum sound by Anton Fig that was so huge and filled the song with the punch it needed. It is my favorite drum sound on any of the Kiss albums until Creatures comes along with Eric Carr. Not to be overshadowed, Ace lays down a classic solo and opens the album like none of the other albums had been done. Ace threw down the gauntlet and showed that He is someone to be noticed!
“Speedin’ Back to My Baby” is more guitar, guitar and then some guitar! Eddie Kramer is bringing out the best of Ace both vocally and that guitar. Not only does the song open with a solo, there is another solo in the middle with a cool break right before it. It is like solo on top of solo. The song’s energy matches the title. The song was co-written by Ace and Jeanette Frehley which I guess he was speedin’ back to her.
“You Matter to Me” is up first for Peter feels more disco than anything with the keyboards. Written by Vini Poncia, John Vastano, Michael Morgan, it is one of the few songs Peter doesn’t have a hand in writing. With Vini writing it, I am not surprised by the sound and style as you will see that more and more with the next two Kiss studio albums for which he produces. This was the first single on his album and never charted.
“Tossin’ and Turnin’” is up next and it is the only true cover song on the album originally done by Bobby Lewis back in 1961. It is more of a rocker with some R&B tendencies and it fits Peter’s gritty vocal style. He feels more at home with this one and the drum work is not bad either along with the saxophone break.
For Peter’s final song we get a song that I thought was a cover called “Hooked on Rock & Roll” which was written by Peter and Stan Penridge. With Steve Lukather on guitar and the whole feel of the song, I would swear it would be something Chuck Berry could’ve done or any of those early rockers. The song fits Peter’s vocals so might be a keeper.
Side Two opens with the song “Radioactive” which was written by Gene Simmons, as was all but 2 songs on his album. This song was the only single from the album and it has Joe Perry (Aerosmith) on guitar, Eric Troyer (ELO) on piano, Allan Schwartzberg (Mountain) on drums and Bob Seger on backing vocals. A pretty stellar line-up. The song opens with a prelude that is very evil, sinister and demonesque which was filled with string orchestration and it cuts away to the song. The prelude was removed from the single if you were interested that little fact. The song doesn’t really match the intro as it is fun and upbeat compared to the evil that came before. It is straight-up rock song that probably leans a little more pop friendly. A good song all on its own.
“Mr. Make Believe” is another unexpected song from Gene that works so well. With this album we are seeing a softer side of Gene that I am sure no one expected. This song is pieced together from two demos, one called “One More Chance” and the other “Mr. Make Believe”. They took the best of both and created a simply beautiful ballad. You get the verses from “One More Chance” and the chorus of “Mr. Make Believe”. Both are on ‘The Vault’. If you listen to this one, you can hear the early British pop influence on the song. One of his best.
Now we get a song we’ve heard before on a prior Kiss album called “See You in Your Dreams”. Gene wasn’t happy with the original version on ‘Rock & Roll Over’. The biggest difference on this is the backing vocals are the women from the Group with No Name who are Katy Sagal, Gordon Grody, Diva Gray, Franny Eisenberg and Carolyn Ray . The Kiss version rocks out a lot more and is better in my opinion so not sure a remake was necessary at all. Plus, the song gets a little too repetitive for my liking.
“Tonight You Belong to Me” comes at you with an acoustic guitar and Paul singing so lovely and softly in what you think is a ballad before the song explodes with a killer Kiss sounding riff and heavy drums and a full band with tempo sped up and Paul’s vocals just soaring. If you remember from earlier posts, Bob Kulick was the guitarist that auditioned for Kiss and was right before Ace came in and took the job. Bob is back on this song and actually does all the solos but one song on Stanley’s album. And he does brilliantly.
“Move On” keeps the party rolling with a song about a parent that is advising their child to move on and explore lots of women. With wonderful backing vocals by Diana Grasselli, Miriam Naomi Vale, and Maria Vidal, more slick work from Bob, the song is another rocker with a little soul vibe thrown in with those backing vocals.
“Hold Me, Touch Me” is a pretty sappy and sugary sweet song, almost enough to give you a cavity. A piano intro opens the song, Paul sings sweetly and the song is layered with orchestration. It is a little over the top, but it works just the same. Paul actually does all the guitar work on this one which isn’t a ton, mostly the solo. The heavy lifting comes from Doug Katsaros on the piano and string sounds with Craig Krampf on drums.
If you are a Kiss Collector, this is a must as you need to have at least one of every release they have done. I am getting closer to completing that quest. Only a handful more to go. I like the fact they give each member equal billing with 3 songs each and they are really all great songs, might not have been my choices, but good nonetheless. If you see this grab it, it is worth the dough. I got lucky and KissOnline.com was running a sale and it was only around $22 plus shipping. Can’t beat that. My Overall Score is 4.5 Out of 5.0 Stars as like I said, I might’ve picked some different tracks that better represent each member. Otherwise, it is perfect.
I was out a Record Show and I found a table that had a lot of Kiss memorabilia but nothing much I really wanted as I generally stick to the music. I did find something I didn’t realize existed and that was Kiss Blu-Ray Bootlegs. This guy was selling a lot of them. I came back to the table and looked again and decided, you know, I want to try it out. When he then offered that I could get two for $15, I jumped at the chance. $15 was worth the risk. So I grabbed one from the End of the Road tour and one from the MonsterTour as I saw at least the End of the Road Tour, just not that show.
So, first up we was the End of the Road Tour and it was filmed at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA on February 4th, 2020 just a month before COVID shut the whole touring scene down. Kiss was a full year in to the tour at this point and in fine form. Check out that review. This Bootleg is from the Monster Tour from the show on August 13, 2013 at the Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park in Simpsonville, SC.
I have to say the video quality is much better than I expected and even better than the other bootleg that I had. There wasn’t as much washout from the lights and the angles were even better. The shots from the front of the stage were perfectly clear and killer. The explosions were so freaking loud it was like you were there. The vocals on a couple songs were a little low at times, but overall everything was crystal clear. The problems with the show were not from the video. But for $7.50 a piece, pretty darn acceptable.
I was out a Record Show and I found a table that had a lot of Kiss memorabilia but nothing much I really wanted as I generally stick to the music. I did find something I didn’t realize existed and that was Kiss Blu-Ray Bootlegs. This guy was selling a lot of them. I came back to the table and looked again and decided, you know, I want to try it out. When he then offered that I could get two for $15, I jumped at the chance. $15 was worth the risk. So I grabbed one from the End of the Road tour and one from the 40th Anniversary Tour as I saw both those tours, just not these shows.
So, first up we are going to go the most recent which is the End of the Road Tour and this show was filmed at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA on February 4th, 2020 just a month before COVID shut the whole touring scene down. Kiss was a full year in to the tour at this point and in fine form.
I have to say the video quality is much better than I expected. It is supposed to be a Pro-Shot video and although some of the camera angles sucked at times as they got washed out with the colors in the lights, overall it was pretty cool. The shots from the front of the stage were perfectly clear and killer you still got some shots that were muted by the lights some blurriness as the cameras couldn’t focus fast enough. But for $7.50 a piece, pretty darn acceptable.
In my quest to get as many Kiss Bootleg’s I can, I found this one in a local record store, new and sealed. And cheap. This is actually an easy one to get if you are collecting Kiss Bootlegs. I think I paid $25 for it. There is nothing really special about this one, no inserts, no picture sleeves and no surprised in the package like I have received in a lot of my bootlegs. This one is rather generic. For historical reasons though, it is pretty cool. The recording is an FM Broadcast from April 18, 1974 in Memphis, TN at the Lafayette Music Room and is one of the earliest recordings of the band.
Soundwise…well…let’s just say there is sound. This is a recording off a radio broadcast on to a tape. That tape was then copied, which was then copied, which was then copied, which was then copied and keep going for another dozen copies. There is a massive tape drag at several points during the show which slows the song down and it is quite noticeable. That proves that the source material was from an old tape that had been copied many times. Yes, the sound sucks at times and might be on the low end of some of my bootlegs, but I am still okay with it and because I collect them I will buy regardless.
After just finishing the Kiss Review Series, I have come to realize I have a ton of posts that are about Kiss. I figured (thanks to the help of Mike Ladano) that putting all the links to every Kiss Post in one post might be convenient for the readers of this site. I have everything from Album Reviews, to Book Reviews, to Concert Reviews to almost anything you can think of, I’ve probably written about it. And the good thing is, I will continue to have Kiss Posts as I find more vinyl I don’t have in my collection, more videos, more books, more bootlegs, more tour books and more of well…Kiss. So, I will continually be updating this post with the latest Kiss posts. You might want to bookmark this page for easy reference.
As of right now there are 155 Posts of Kiss…This might take you a while to go through so sit back, grab some coffee and enjoy!!