We are finally to the end of the Kiss Review Series. And like I like to do at the end of each series is Rank the Studio Albums from Worst to First and we aren’t going to do it any differently here. There are 24 Studio albums and since there are so many, I am keeping the summaries brief and no videos as I usually like to post a video with each album, but just way too many to do this time around.
Kiss began in 1973 and are still around today, but the last studio album was in 2012. It started with the original four – Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Then came Eric Carr who replaced Peter Criss; then Vinnie Vincent who replaced Ace Frehley; then Mark St. John to replace Vinnie and then Bruce Kulick replaced Mark; and it continues with Eric Singer replacing Eric Carr after his death and then Peter & Ace came back in and out after the reunion and then finally Tommy Thayer replaced Ace for good. Lots of changes, but Gene and Paul are always the consistent formula that has kept Kiss “Alive” all these years. For the diehard fan, remember, this is my opinion and your favorites are probably going to be different, but it is okay as we both love Kiss. For the newbie, this is a good guideline on where to focus.
Now, if the band ever decides to do another Studio album, I will gladly come back and update this, but it doesn’t look like that will ever happen. If you want to check out the review of each album in detail, there are links at the bottom to all the reviews in the series and there were only 72 of them!! It took me almost 14 months to get through them all and it is still the most fun I have had on the site.
Thanks for spending all this time with me going through the Kiss catalog and my Kiss collection. I hope you enjoyed it. Enough chit chat as there is a lot to get through so sit back, grab a coffee or a beer and enjoy!!
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.
Welcome to a two-fer Book Review of ‘Take it Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked’ by Greg Prato. Not only am I doing a review but my friendDeke over at Thunder Bay Arena Rock is doing one as well. So click on his name and go read his when you are done with this one. I am sure his will be better!!
A little backstory on Kiss during the Unmasked years. I was a teenager during most of this time and I discovered Kiss for myself in these years. I say that because I was introduced to Kiss in the 70’s as I had one brother in particular that was huge in to the band. He had posters and magazine pictures plastered all over his bedroom all…and I mean ALL over it. I listened to all the 70’s albums, but I was seeing it through his eyes. In 1982 with Creatures of the Night, I was now buying Kiss and loving Kiss on my own.
After the Lick It Up album came out, I finally got to see them live and I saw them live 3 times during the Unmasked years. I bought every album during this period and have them today in some form or fashion. So, needless to say, I am a huge fan of the Unmasked years so when I heard about this fantastic book by Greg Prato, I had to have a copy. And I got one as a Christmas gift. So, no more waiting, let’s review the book.
Greg’s book covers the entire era of Kiss without makeup. All the way from 1983’s ‘Lick It Up until 1997’s album ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’. And if you didn’t know, that is 12 albums mixed with Studio albums, live albums and compilation albums as well as one tribute album. And here they are…
Thanks to the Kiss Box Set Series I reviewed and most especially, Disc Four (which covers the 80’s), I have been on a Non Make-Up Era Kiss fix of late.. I have been playing all the albums and I am even getting Greg Prato’s book “Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked” for Christmas (Review in January 2020). So, I figured why not do a list of my favorite Kiss songs from that time and here we are. I am going to cover the albums from ‘Lick it Up’ in 1983 to ‘Carnival of Souls’ in 1997 and although I included the cover to “Thrashes, Smashes & Hits’ on the post header picture, there are no songs from it as the two new songs are really, really bad.
So, why wait any longer. Here are what I say are the Top 20 Songs of Kiss (The Non-Makeup Era)…
#20 – “Master & Slave” off ‘Carnival of Souls’ (1997)
I had to have one song from ‘Carnival of Souls’ which is not a good album, but there was one song I did like and that is “Master & Slave”. It was written by Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Curtis Coumo. When you hear it, it is not normal Kiss. This is dark, brooding and completely centered in the Grunge era (which was a couple years too late). I liked the biting guitar work from Bruce and it is something completely different.
#19 – “Thou Shalt Not” off ‘Revenge’ (1992)
I really like a lot of Gene’s songs and there are quite a few on here despite Paul still leading the pack. The ‘Revenge’ album was a return to glory for Gene as he seemed lost for a few years. This is Gene, plain and simple. It is heavy and sounds evil which is just what the doctor ordered. The guitar solo is just as menacing as the rest of the song (good job Bruce).