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.
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.
When the band completed ‘Hotter Than Hell’, they quickly went right back on tour. That album only had the one single, “Let Me Go, Rock & Roll”, which quickly fell from the charts. That wasn’t the only thing that fell quickly, so did the album sales. Their label, Casablanca, was hemorrhaging money with Kiss on Tour and the album doing poorly. As a result, the band was yanked off tour to record a new album.
When they get in the studio, the producer for the record was no longer Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise as Casablanca had no money to pay anyone. So the owner of the record label, Neil Bogart, stepped in and recorded the album. Which isn’t really a problem as he has a ton of experience…in the pop and dance music world. Not in Rock & Roll. And it would be evident as the heavier sound of the band on the first two albums, was a little more pop sounding on this one. Don’t fret, it still rocked out, but not as hard.
Imagine you are in a band and you are now starting to write your third album in about a year’s time. You have to be one heck of a writer to come up with that much music in such a short time. Well, Kiss didn’t have the songs. So, what did they do. They pulled a couple songs from their Wicked Lester Days and re-worked them. Now, only 8 more to go. Paul wrote three of them, Gene got two, Ace got one and then Paul & Gene wrote one together and what a song it was. More on that in a minute. Continue reading “Kiss – ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1975) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)”→
In Part 1 we talked about the packaging and all that was included in The Box Set. Now, we are going to talk about the music. There are 5 discs included in this set and they are broken up in to certain eras/timeframes of the band. They cover from the very beginning all the way up to 1999. The set was released in 2001 so nothing from after Psycho Cirus.
First up is Disc One that covers the era from 1966 to 1975. Wait…Kiss didn’t start until 1973, how do we have stuff from 1966? Well, you will have to wait and see. The disc has 21 songs and of those, 12 are previously unreleased. And it is those 12 songs that are the prize on this release. Here is the entire track listing for this disc.
The first two songs up are demos that were done in 1973 at Electric Lady Studios with the great Eddie Kramer on the boards. You know Eddie from his work with Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix…at least you should. The two songs were “Strutter” and “Deuce”, two of the bands most iconic songs. These versions had never been released prior to this set. I think I am going to go out on a limb and mention that these versions might be better than the actual recordings on the debut album of which, Eddie was not a part. These songs had so much more meat to them. They had more edge and captured more of the band’s essence.
“Strutter” is actually from an early Gene Simmons song called “Stanley the Parrot”. They took the chord pattern off that song and turned it in to a song that Paul feels has a “strutting” feel to it and thus the name. “Deuce” was another song that was sort of a Frankenstein pieced together from a couple of other songs except these weren’t old Kiss songs. The band loosely based it off the song “Bitch” by the Rolling Stones and the beginning of the song came from The Raspberries song “Go All the Way”.
On April 1st, 1974, Kiss played at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. It was broadcast live on the radio and we have that show captured right here on another in the Bootleg Series. This is probably one of the most famous of the bootlegs and one the band seems to like as well.
Kiss was signed only 6 months earlier on November 1st, 1973 to Casablanca records and Casablanca was heavily promoting them and this bootleg contains 3 such promotions. The Agora Ballroom show, 3 songs from the ABC In Concert performance from March 29th, 1974 and their appearance on the Mike Douglas Show on April 29th, 1974. It is Kiss at their infancy.
The recording is from a broadcast and it is sounds really great. Now do remember that this is a bootleg and so the sound isn’t perfect, but I think it is a true representation of the band’s live show and how cool to have such an early show. The sound is a little flat as the bass is a little understated (okay, a lot understated) and only one strong guitar sound (Ace). The guys are eager, they are hungry and they are tearing it up. There are no explosions, no one is breathing fire, it is straight up Rock & Roll. Well, there is the siren for “Firehouse”, but that is it.
The next in the Kiss Bootleg Series is a show from March 19th in 1975 on the Dressed to Kill Tour. The show was at the Roxy Theatre in Northampton, Pennsylvania and is actually opening night of the Tour.
As usual, we will start with the packaging and what this bootleg has to offer. First, it is a double LP, however, they skimped and there is no Gatefold to be had. It is actually a pretty flimsy album jacket and I don’t think it will hold up over time. The back cover is another live shot of the band but you can’t see anyone’s face. Not the best choice for a picture.
The album came with a couple surprises. The first being a collection of Kiss photographs from an L.A. photoshoot at the Playboy Club Rooftop on January 16th, 1974. The photos came in a nice little mailer as seen below…
We are up to the fifth album in the Bootleg series and we are still on the albums I found in Paris back in April. And since it is July 4th, I thought what is more American than July 4th…well KISS!!!
This was was from September 14, 1974 on the Hotter Than Hell Tour and it was recorded at The Victory Burlesque in Toronto, ON, Canada. This was actually a warm-up show for the tour, one of two nights (not sure which one). This was also about a month before the Hotter Than Hell album came out.
As usual, before we get into the music we will talk about the packaging and what was offered with this set. First off, this was a single LP and not a double like all the others as this was only a 9 song set as you have to remember this was only 1974 and Kiss hadn’t been around very long with only 2 album to choose from at this point. The packaging was quite simple. The front (as seen above) is a very early shot of the band before all the glitz and glamour. The back is a great shot of the band on stage (what show, I do not know for sure…we will assume this one, but I am sure it is not).
The vinyl sleeve is a nice solid cardboard sleeve that is very sturdy and has more great pictures.
For My Sunday Song #138, I am going to dive in to the song “She” by Kiss off their 1975 album ‘Dressed to Kill’. “She” is one of only a handful of songs that originated with Wicked Lester which was Gene and Paul’s band prior to Kiss. The song was written by Gene Simmons and Stephen Coronel from Wicked Lester.
The song was originally titled “She Walks By Moonlight” which is the first line of the song. It was inspired by a line in the film ‘Hondo’ which was a western from 1953. The song is basically about sex, go figure. That is one of their favorite subjects.
The original version of the song had a flute, a tambourine and even some congas in it, It was really cool with a real nice groove and had these earthy vocals to them. Very Jethro Tull with that flute. You can hear it on the Kiss Box Set.
Kiss removed all those instrumentations and really beefed up the guitars. The groove was still there, but the song was much heavier and Ace takes it up a notch with the guitar. The solo was even taken from The Doors song “Five to One”. The song for me has this great flow and style and might be one of my favorite tracks from ‘Dressed to Kill’ as it is not a full on rocker in the “anthem” sense, but something really cool and different.