Welcome to the Show or: Many Kisses (Part 4)

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Salutations™!!

The month of September is a huge month for KISS fans, even if they don’t know it. Why you may ask? Because the month of September is the anniversary month for the releases of TEN KISS albums. I’ve talked about Alive!AnimalizeAsylum, PaulGeneAcePeter, Lick It Up and Crazy Nights. Here’s the last one for September. It’s one of great debate, I’m sure. I am conflicted with it myself. And, I’m doing it a day early because Saturdays are scheduled for something else.

Psycho_Circus

©Mercury Records

Heavens Sake, the band that I was in and still the proudest of (we were greatly influenced by KISS), was still happening in 1998. It was in and out but it was happening. I had seen MTV’s “Unplugged” featuring KISS, along with a reunion of the original members while at drummer Bob’s apartment. We saw KISS actually reunited in makeup on the Grammys, introduced by Tupac. They had a reunion tour and we went. So, it was inevitable that there would be an album. This was the “reunion” album, Psycho Circus, in 1998 on September 22.

I say that in quotations because Peter really only played on Ace’s “Into the Void.” And, current KISS “Spaceman” Tommy Thayer played leads on all but four tunes. And, Bruce Kulick, former KISS member, played bass on the title track and “Dreamin'” and played the backward guitar track on “Within” and rhythm guitar on “Dreamin’,” as well. The drums, this time, weren’t played by Anton Fig in Peter’s stead, this time it was Kevin Valentine (who played on Revenge and Hot in the Shade, as well), known from Donnie Iris & the Cruisers and he was a touring drummer with Cinderella for a bit. Valentine also is an Emmy award-winning composer.

Whilst it was supposed to be a “return of KISS,” even in sound and feel it wasn’t old KISS. There were a lot of aspects of Carnival of Souls, the grunge-metal hybrid they were working on before getting the wise idea of “putting the band back together,” still on here. “Within” is the prime example of that, and in fact was demoed for that album. They had stuff that really sounded like most of the 80s-era stuff, especially Crazy Nights and Hot in the Shade. Again, this was a reunion album in concept only.

When you go out and play American football with all the rules, the same team, the same players, and call your team the New York Yankees, it’s still American football. You can call it a return to the “old KISS” but when the same two people are in charge of the songwriting and the same players are in the studio, it’s still the “new KISS.” Now, all that being said, I’m glad.

I loved the new KISS. I loved the old KISS. I still love KISS. As I said, up until Hot in the Shade, they couldn’t do any wrong, and, even with a few hiccups since that album, I still love them. It’s like that uncle that you know does dumb stuff but you still love him. The band evolved. They grew. They regressed. They moved forward. They moved backward. They adapted and that’s probably their biggest sin, here. I don’t think it would have been possible to return to Destroyer or Love Gun. I don’t think they forgot how to play and write like that, I just think it wasn’t them. If you listen to Sonic Boom or Monster (more on those next month), it’s not far from the same sound as this album.

I think they loved the idea of a KISS reunion but didn’t love being reunited. In a Rolling Stone interview in 2009, Paul said, “We tried to do a Kiss album, and it was an ill-fated attempt because there was no real band. For a band to make a great album, it has to share a common purpose…and we didn’t have it.” It was also revealed that Ace and Peter were trying to negotiate more money out of the “partnership.” You don’t negotiate money with Gene and Paul, not anymore. They feel they’ve survived without Ace and Peter, they kept the name going – regardless of the circumstances, and I think they knew that it was only a matter of time before it all came to an end.

In a very tongue-in-cheek attempt to return to some semblance of the old KISS sound, what do they do? They hire Bruce Fairbairn who was known for Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and New Jersey albums, Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get a Grip, and AC/DC’s The Razor’s Edge. Now, all of those are fine and decent albums but do any of them scream what KISS would have sounded like as “old KISS?” All of those are the slickly-produced, sugary popped, the 80s/early 90s hair band mess. Which, I am quite fond of, actually. But, most folks aren’t when it comes to a KISS reunion.

People were disappointed. I wasn’t. Is it my favorite KISS album? Absolutely not. Is it top 10? Absolutely not. Is it top 20? Well, considering there are only 20 studio albums, it kind of has to be, right? It ranks higher than does either Sonic BoomMonsterHot in the Shade, Ace or Peter’s solos, and the gasper for this whole thing, Dressed to Kill. Yeah, I’ve really always been so-so about that one. Live with it. I do. This was the last good KISS record to me.

Contrary to what my blog always sounds like, I’m not anti-Ace or anti-Peter, I just don’t care. They squandered their chance and it’s okay that they milk what they can from what they had: sober, not sober, whining, moaning, happy, in, out… whatever. But, I’m really indifferent about their involvement in the band. I felt a little down when they didn’t all play together on stage for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I’m kind of glad at the same time. Upon the announcement of the “End of the Road” tour that is coming to be the actual retirement tour (we’ll see), people are calling for Ace and Peter to be part of it. Nah. They don’t deserve it in my eyes. Plus, even on the reunion and “farewell” tours, Peter couldn’t keep up and Ace was Ace. Tommy does the same licks, doesn’t mess them up and still has feeling in his playing. Just let it go. If you’re the “F.You without Peter and Ace,” then go back and listen to the old stuff and relish what you had but shut the heck up. Stop living in the past. Paul and Gene aren’t going to change their minds and they don’t care if you don’t give them money. You’re just grandstanding at that point.

My favorite tunes on this album are the title track, “We Are One,” “Dreamin'” (which got Paul and Bruce sued for copyright infringement from Alice Cooper, he won, they settled out of court) and “Journey of 1,000 Years.” I could have done without “You Wanted the Best” because I’m not a fan of “cheerleading” songs and that’s all it was. “Into the Void” was okay. I do actually like “Within,” but then again, I liked COS, too. The rest are okay, too. I like it. Most don’t. I get it, but oh well.

Tomorrow will be 20 years since this came out. To me, it’s still the “new KISS album.” It’s hard to count Monster and ESPECIALLY Sonic Boom. I just listened to Psycho Circus again for good measure.

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“I’ve been waiting here to be your guide. So come, reveal the secrets that you keep inside. Step up! No one leaves until the night is done. The amplifier starts to hum. The carnival has just begun. You’re in the psycho circus. And I say welcome to the show.” – “Psycho Circus” (Stanley/Cuomo)

Upgrading or: Makes the Music Go ‘Round

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Salutations™!!

As we announced last night on The Less Desirables, Underdog Records isn’t our vinyl sponsor any longer. Yeah… that’s because Underdog Records is now THE Official Music Sponsor of The Less Desirables! Heck yeah!15133988_10154390906891997_1801627864_o

I know what you’re thinking. No, Underdog doesn’t sell CDs or promote a lot of streaming music. And, you’re right. But, Underdog is passionate about music. All music. I’ve been talking to Jonathan about expanding what we do about music for some time now and I really want to push the music section more than just “here’s what’s coming out in all aspects of music this week.” I mean, this whole thing got started as a “pop culture podcast,” right? I love what we have become but I don’t want to get away from where we came from.

So, what does this mean? It means that every week, now we’ll talk about the new releases like always, there will be a dedicated Underdog Records recording and we’ll play a song by an artist or act that will be playing locally. That hasn’t changed. We will go back and start talking about other musical things like albums or album reviews, news from the music world and I want to get more musicians on the show like we used to do. We have the place for it, so why not, right? Right.

I’m going to talk with Jonathan about ideas that he may have about what kind of musical topics he’d like to hear on the show. I mean, it’s his section, n’est-ce pas? You never know what may come of it. So, keep listening. Oh! And, it’s not like I don’t say it enough already, but you need to listen to TLD each week to hear that week’s exclusive TLD/Underdog special. Is it a ploy to get you to listen? Heck yeah, it is. But, we think the show is worth listening to, anyway and if it gets you some savings at Underdog Records…? BONUS!

Again, welcome (back) Underdog Records in your new sponsorship level and we hope it elevates the vinyl business in this town to new heights and we help elevate you! Sláinte, my friend!

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“People don’t appreciate music anymore. They don’t adore it. They don’t buy vinyl and just love it. They love their laptops like their best friend, but they don’t love a record for its sound quality and its artwork.” – Laura Marling

Prepare the Probe Ship or: Disney’s Folly

Salutations™!!

My Wednesday crappy film watch continues this week and it’s from one of my favorite companies, Disney.

The_Black_Hole

©Buena Vista 

In 1979, like everyone else, was wanting to capitalize on the success of Star Wars. Space-based sci-fi/fantasy films were “all the rage” at the time. Heck, even James Bond was made into a space movie just because they wanted to cash in on Lucas’ ingenuity. That doesn’t mean they were all any good. I love Disney. Love them. But, this was a real clunker. It’s called The Black Hole (1979) and stars Maximilian Schell, Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Slim Pickens and Roddy McDowall (the last two were just voices).

I don’t know what year it’s supposed to be, but it’s in the future and some space explorers are coming back to Earth but see a massive black hole with a ship dangling out near it but not getting sucked in. They investigate and some mad dude killed his entire crew and is wanting to go into the hole. The other crew buy into some of it and not all of it. Blah blah blah. I really don’t know what the full gist of it all is but it’s really sucky. Somehow they end up in hell or something, It makes little sense.

Other than trying to capitalize on the fad, I don’t know why Disney put their money into this. The storyline is decent, but not very plausible. For 1979 the special effects were pretty good, but then again, it was Disney Dollars going into it. The storyline really does make sense I just don’t know what to say about it. It’s an okay flick, I guess. You’d think that with a cast like this it would have been better, but I believe it was thrown together in haste.

I remember seeing it in my Junior High gymnasium in 7th or 8th grade. I was probably more interested in hanging out with some girl or my friends than watching this film. I’m not even going to look up the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb scores. Just watch it, or don’t. That would probably be the better advice on it. Okay, I’m out. Sorry if this was disjointed, I was busy today!

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“The word ‘impossible’, Mr. Booth, is only found in the dictionary of fools.” – Dr. Hans Reinhardt

 

Crazy Licks or: Many Kisses (Part 3)

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Salutations™!!

Here’s the second post today! And yes, this is verbose as was the last.

The month of September is a huge month for KISS fans, even if they don’t know it. Why you may ask? Because the month of September is the anniversary month for the releases of TEN KISS albums. I’ve talked about Alive!Animalize and Asylum. But, like I said in the last post, September 18 is a doozie and talked about the four solo albums that were released 40 years ago, today.

Lick_it_up_cover

©Mercury Records

In 1983, Lick It Up was released on this day and also that night Gene, Paul, Eric and Vinnie Vincent showed up on MTV and showed their faces publicly, at least as KISS, without the makeup. It was a weird transition for them, even if they say it wasn’t. Look at that interview and tell me that Gene doesn’t look uncomfortable as he says through his big white grill that it feels good… Uh huh. I think Vinnie looks uncomfortable all the time. Paul seemed the most natural. Eric was just there. Then look at the video for “Lick It Up” and tell me they look comfortable. Gene can’t figure out how to act. His professional career had always been under some kind of disguise. He’s not the most handsome man, truthfully, but really, were any of them? Nah.

Lick It Up, though, was a big breakthrough for the band. It was their chance to bring the people back into the KISS Army coming off the heels of Creatures of the Night, which saw the departure of Ace, even though he was on the cover, he played nary a note on the album. Several guitarists played in his stead on that album and one of those was Vinnie Vincent. Creatures was the rebirth KISS was looking for. It wasn’t quite KISS, but a harder rock version of KISS. I think Creatures is one of their heaviest albums in the entire KISS Katalog. But, they did that under the hidden comfort of their makeup-laden personas.

Truly, the band incognito had run its course. It was time for a new approach. Gene said in his book Kiss and Make-Up that Paul had talked him into unmasking. He was still apprehensive but Paul explained that the makeup had become a stigma and more people knew the characters than they did the musicians and the music, whether people want to admit it or not, was judged more on the makeup than on the merits of the music and songs. I was only 12 when this came out and I was aware of that fact. And, I’m ALL about the show. So, what to do? New direction with the music on the album before, let’s try a new direction in image, as well. I think it worked.

This album was pretty heavy and at times, mean. From the harmonics-driven intro of “Exciter” on to the fade of “And on the Eighth Day,” the album was a non-stop auditory assault. Paul also showed a whole new vocal style starting with this album. He started singing a little different on Creatures but from Lick It Up on, he sang higher, as did Gene, with more power and with more confidence. In fact, I think this album has Paul’s most powerful tone and timbre.

Gene really changed up his singing from just gruff to high and gruff. I can’t sing most of his non-makeup songs and I sing pretty high. The band also started aiming for the “metal” crowd instead of the “kids and rock-n-rollers.” Eric’s drumming was more volatile as well. He pounded the crap out of the drums. I found I was at the same time longing for and also glad they dismissed the drum sound employed on Creatures. It was an awesome sound but it was also overpowering.

Much of what made this album heavier was Vinnie’s playing. He was all about flash and speed and less about feel. But, I think that bled over onto Paul’s style, as well. Paul’s parts were heavier than the KISS we knew. There were no ballads or slower songs on this album. Speaking of songwriting, this marked the first time that there were no outside writers on a KISS album.  People have a hard time believing that, but from the first album (which had a cover – and yes I know the original didn’t have that cover), the second and third rehashed Wicked Lester songs, and so on. Plus, people forget that Vinnie was “in the band” at one time.

This is one of my favorite KISS albums, although it didn’t start that way. I never really noticed it being a “different KISS” until much later. KISS was KISS was KISS to me. I get it now, but I was blinded at the time. As tired of the title track I am, I still love it. We used to do it in Busted Uncle. It was fun. The only song I really don’t care for is “Gimme More” and even that is a pretty good song. The one that all my friends hate is one of my favorites on this album, “Dance All Over Your Face.” I don’t know why but I just dig the heck out of it.

This was the first album that I got on cassette and not on vinyl. So, the copy I have now (180g brand new) is the first time I’ve ever had it on vinyl.

Crazy_nights_album_cover

©Mercury Records

Now, 31 years ago today KISS released Crazy Nights. It is perhaps the most polarizing of the 80s-era KISS albums. I know a lot of critics, fans and even my friends have labeled it as poppy sugary drivel but I am not one of those. Yes, it is poppier. It’s not quite “hair band” material, but not far from it. Their heavy sound had softened a bit, even though they were on their second album with one of their best guitarists, Bruce Kulick who showed up on the tour for Animalize and played on Asylum. I don’t mind sugary pop, though, as you have read me talking about often, Dear Reader.

I believe part of the deal with the overall tone was that Paul and Gene gave up production duties and just recorded music. But, they were also using outside writers and not the likes of ex-Plasmatics members but with genuine pop music writing heavyweights, Adam Mitchell, Desmond Child, Bruce Turgon, Davitt Sigerson and legend Dianne Warren. On top of that it was produced by Ron Nevison who took over duties from David Foster on Chicago albums, Heart’s Heart and Bad Animals, Europe, Damn Yankees, Survivor and my favorite Ozzy Osbourne album, The Ultimate Sin. What absolutely didn’t help was the incorporation of keyboards (played by Phil Ashley).

I remember buying this album on cassette at Peaches. I knew it was coming out but hadn’t heard anything from it. I put it in the car stereo (in my ’74 Chevelle Malibu Classic’s Craig audio system) and waited. It seemed the leader tape was a bit long, so I turned it up thinking it was low. The opening notes of “whew!” for “Crazy Crazy Nights” scared the bejeezus out of me and I nearly wrecked my car. I loved it, though. That followed by “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” and “Bang Bang You,” gave Paul a good three-song start. Nice and poppy.

Then Bruce got to do his thing. He schools us on tapping techniques flawlessly and  Eric joins in with a little double-bass flash. This is “No No No” from Gene. The whole thing is a little hard to follow on the beat because it’s about being fast, I think. The only song that I don’t care for is “My Way” which I think single-handedly shows off the overly-poppy nature that many people see the entire album for. Also, as with Lick It Up, one of my faves on there is the one my friends say they dislike the most on the album, which is “Thief in the Night.” It was covered by Wendy O. Williams (also of Plasmatics fame) on an album that Gene produced which could have actually have been a KISS album.

Is this their best album 80s-era or otherwise? No. It is, however, the 80s-era KISS album that I listened to the most. It was the last original studio album that I actually had a love for and enjoyed without bias. The next album, Hot in the Shade, had plenty of letdowns for me. I don’t mean that I don’t love post-Crazy Nights albums, but up to this point, they could do no wrong. I realized on HITS that they could. Between the two came Smashes, Thrashes & Hits, a greatest hits album. I liked it.

This album also had a lot of unreleased things make it to other artists and box sets and such. The original title of the album was Who Dares Wins. I’m glad they changed that.

What are your thoughts on these two albums, Dear Reader? Are they up your alley or not? If you’re not familiar, why not give them a shot? Let me know what you think.

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“Baby, now that you’ve made up your mind, I’m gonna let you go, if that’s what it takes to show love is blind. I gave you the best love you ever had, but it wasn’t enough. So, if you think you’re so smart, go and play with your heart. When you walk out the door, you’ll realize what you never did before. A million to one – that’s what it will be. A million to one – there’s someone better than me. A million to one – no, you never will find. A million to one – another love like mine.” – “A Million to One” (Stanley/Vincent)

 

Gone Solo or: Many Kisses (Part 2)

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Salutations™!!

The month of September is a huge month for KISS fans, even if they don’t know it. Why you may ask? Because the month of September is the anniversary month for the releases of TEN KISS albums. I’ve talked about Alive!, Animalize and Asylum.

20090517004510!Solo_inner_sleeve

©Casablanca Records

Now, today, September 18th is a doozie. In 1978, all four solo albums were released on this day. Three other KISS albums were released on this day as well, we’ll get to those.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of all four KISS solo albums. When I got into KISS, I was 7 going on 8 and that’s about when the whole Love Gun, Alive IIDouble Platinum era was going on and then these were just coming out. Because of my newness to the band, I didn’t understand what was going on. I thought it was just 4 albums, one featuring songs by each member. I thought that was cool. And, in a way, it was. In other ways, it wasn’t. In many ways, actually.

While I pride myself on knowing my KISStory, at that time I had no such knowledge. I didn’t realize that Peter and Ace were both becoming victims of their own demons and weren’t pulling their own weight. They were constantly being pitted against Gene and Paul and were coming out on the losing side. As would be the case in any partnership/band/biz, that led to dissension. Ace and Peter were becoming more and more disillusioned with the “other side.” Gene and Paul were becoming less and less patient with Ace and Peter. Ace and Peter, whether right or wrong, felt that Gene and Paul were abusing their power and not allowing the others their creative freedom. Peter was threatening to quit as was Ace.  This is not just Gene’s and Paul’s long-heard version of the story, Sean Delaney backed this up when I talked with him several years ago. More on Sean later.

To keep the semblance of the band together, Gene and Paul, along with manager Bill Aucoin proposed that the individual members release their own album under the KISS moniker and let each showcase their influences, skills, desires, etc. Eraldo Carugati did the cover art of each and they looked cohesive, as they were supposed to. To the fans, including the newbies like me, it was to look like a cool thing they did in the name of creativity. I guess it was in some strange instances. They each dedicated their individual albums to each other, except Peter who added a dedication to Michael Benvenga who was in Chelsea and Lips with him, pre-KISS.

Ace’s album was all about the rock. Not, any pop or fluff really, even in the Russ Ballard tune, “New York Groove.” His guest list was not really extensive when you look at the other members’ tracks. He did recruit Anton Fig and Will Lee to play on his album, both of which would go on to be part of The World’s Most Dangerous Band from David Letterman. Fig would go on to be the drummer on the next two KISS studio albums (Dynasty and Unmasked) and when Ace finally blew the joint, he was part of Frehley’s Comet. Ace, being Ace decided he would do most of the other instruments himself, including most of the bass duties (Lee played on “Ozone,” “I’m in Need of Love” and “Wiped-Out”). There’s nothing wrong with that, he did it for the next few KISS albums, at least on his songs. Ace had Eddie Kramer produce his album (Ace co-produced it). Kramer was associated with Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Beatles, and the list goes on. He also produced Alive! and Alive II. “New York Groove” was the only tune from this album that charted (#13). Ace’s was the only album to chart (#26) and was the highest selling.

Peter’s album was about soul, R&B, jazz, and rock and roll. kind of stuff. Peter’s background was in jazz drumming, not necessarily the hard rock that he was known for. His influences were older. Diverse. Most of the tracks on this record were written by Stan Penridge. The credits go to Penridge and Peter, but I’m suspicious of how much Peter actually wrote. He may have done some lyrics, I guess. Peter’s cover of Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin'” was pretty good. KISS did it on the Dynasty tour, at least for a few shows. It was pretty awful from what I’ve heard of it. But, Sean Delaney wrote two songs on the album (“Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”). What is remarkable about this is Sean actually produced Gene’s solo album but was asked to write for Peter. He did both. Peter had many guest musicians including Steve Lukather of Toto fame, Neil Jason (who also played all the bass on Gene’s album), Penridge, Allan Schwartzberg (who also played on Gene’s album and was credited as “additional drum overdubs” on several of the 80s-era KISS albums) and more. The album was produced by Vini Poncia who produced Dynasty and Unmasked. Incidentally, it’s the only one of the four that had a “credits insert” and the only one that released two singles, even though neither song charted.

Paul’s album has been touted as the “most KISS-like” and I disagree. I think that would be Ace’s (which could be one reason why I like it less). Now, Paul’s has KISS qualities but it sounds like Paul’s KISS songs. The addition of outside musicians changes the feel than that of a KISS album. I think Paul’s has the best-written tunes. A little bit of “Starchild” and a little bit of the “lover” is how I’d describe the album. Ballads, power-ballads, hard rocking tunes and some pop aspects. There’s not a song on this album that I don’t dig. While there are three songs (“Move On,” “Ain’t Quite Right” and “Take Me Away (Together as One)”) that were co-written by Mikel Japp, this is the only one of the four solo albums not to feature a cover tune. Paul had some notable guests on this album. Carmine Appice and Craig Krampf (co-writer of “Oh Sherrie” and session drummer for many big-named artists) on drums, and of course, Bob Kulick on guitar. Steve Buslowe played bass on side one and Eric Nelson on side two. I wonder if that was by design? I find it odd. The album was produced by Jeff Glixman who has worked with Kansas, Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Sabbath and more.

Gene’s album seems, to me, like a huge party. It’s like he gathered all of his friends, girlfriends, a previously-released KISS tune, bits of horror, hard rock, The Beatles and his favorite Disney films and threw himself a shindig. If I knew he wasn’t so straight-edged, that could be the case, but other than a few impromptu orgies, I don’t see the party happening. The album opens with something that reminds one of The Omen and is hellish before hitting the hard rock “Radioactive” which has a very cool (complete with choreographed dissonant passing notes) classical guitar interlude into “Burning Up With Fever” which on the original CD versions put both of those songs together and you had to either just listen through or fast forward to get to the latter. This is the only one of the four that re-recorded a KISS song (“See You In Your Dreams”) because he wasn’t happy with the original that was on Rock and Roll Over. Gene has always maintained that he learned English from watching Disney films. So, while it sticks out like a sore thumb on the album, it makes perfect sense that he’d cover “When You Wish Upon a Star” because hey, it gives him an extra tune and you love what you love, especially when it fits your story. Now, his guest list is incredible. He plays no bass on this album, just acoustic and electric guitar. He leaves the bass work to Neil Jason, who along with Allan Schwartzberg on drums, also played on Peter’s album. Elliot Randall, who is probably best known for his guitar solo on “Reelin’ in the Years” from Steely Dan handles most of the main guitar work but also, Rick Neilsen, Joe Perry, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Richie Ranno of Starz do guest spots. And back up singers? Bob Seger, Helen Reddy, Donna Summer, Cher, Janis Ian, Michael Des Barres and a then-unknown young lady by the name of Kate Sagal (yes, Peggy Bundy) all lent their voices. Sean Delaney, as I said, produced the album. Sean claimed, to me, that he never got paid for that job and that Gene cheated him. Again, that’s an allegation and not necessarily a fact. But, the fact that he and Gene had a falling out about this time and as far as I know never really reconciled, I can see it. It wasn’t my business and I hope they talked before Sean passed away in 2003.

You’ll notice the order in which I talked about the albums. This order is important because it is in reverse order my favorite/preferred list. Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace. I get looks and furrowed brows when I say Ace’s is my least favorite. There are several reasons for this. One, I just am not a huge fan of Ace’s. I feel he squandered an opportunity and let KISS fans down in general. Yes, Peter flaked first and was a little byotch about it. But, I felt we got the better deal because Eric Carr was a much better drummer and a rock drummer at that. Ace’s also is just boring to me. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, it’s just my least favorite. I felt the reason for the solo projects was to show a bit of freedom and influence and step out of the KISS box. If you’re going to sound like KISS, record a KISS album and don’t be a byotch. Peter, Paul and Gene all got experimental and showed range, for better or for worse. Don’t argue, you have your favorites and I have mine!

All four had cool posters that you pieced together and the ones I have on 180g vinyl (from Underdog Records, of course) are pretty good. I had to buy my Paul Stanley used and it is missing the poster. I never had all the posters as a kid, either, so I’m looking for a replacement. I talked earlier about the good and bad of the solo albums. I love them for what they are, in varying degrees. The bad, however, was that no matter how crappy Peter’s performed, he still thought he was better and needed more from KISS. They showed him the door. Ace, on the other hand, got bolder as his album did the best and it proved, at least in his head, that he was more important. I feel he was, but disagree with how he dealt with it. Plus, he and Peter’s demons really got in their way beyond “just ego.” What are your thoughts on the solo albums, Dear Reader? I know you’ll disagree on the Ace placement but it is how I see it.

This got a lot more overly verbose than I expected, so I’ll continue the others either in a separate post for today or just do it tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Until tomorrow (or later today), stay in the Useless Things Groove!
Scorp out!


“You were standin’ and I was thinkin’ ff all the time that I spend hangin’ around. Situation could only get better. I got closer to see what I found. In the mornin’, movin’ easy. Everything seems so right. But when the night comes, I’ve been dreamin’… Dreamin’ ’bout leavin’ you one more time. Girl, you gave me good love but it ain’t quite right.” – “Ain’t Quite Right” (Stanley/Japp)

Asylum Et Al or: Many Kisses (Part 1)

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Salutations™!!

The month of September is a huge month for KISS fans, even if they don’t know it. Why you may ask? Because the month of September is the anniversary month for the releases of TEN KISS albums.

Asylum_album_cover

©Mercury Records

Alive! (click the link to see what I said about it) was released on September 10, 1975. That’s the album that broke them free of obscurity. The live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” was finally the light in the clouds and radio stations ate that up. Now, it may be sacrilege to some KISS fans and may be concurred by others but I don’t care to ever hear it again. It is one of my top 10 least favorite KISS songs. Now, I say that but if I didn’t hear it at KISS concerts, I’d be totally ticked. It led the way for more KISS albums, as I feel it was the make-it-or-break-it time for the band and for Casablanca Records. And, it was #159 on the RS List.

Last week I talked about Animalize which came out on September 13. You can click that link to see what I said.

I didn’t post this yesterday because I knew I was going to write a big post today. But, September 16, 1985, was the release of Asylum. As with most 80s-era KISS albums, fans either love it or hate it. Non-fans know the big hit, “Tears Are Falling” and nothing else. They generally don’t even know it exists. Once again, Gene is mostly absent, although he somehow convinces Paul to include his name on the “produced by” line. We all know that’s BS. He was still acting. He was still producing and managing. He was still…

For my buck, once again, Paul was “the Man” on this album. While I wouldn’t classify the Gene tunes as “clunkers,” I can’t say they’re great.  Gene’s songs had no “umph” and mostly without testicular fortitude. Now, if you know me, or have read much on this blog in the last several years, you know I’m a huge Gene fan (literally and figuratively) and he is the reason I’m a musician, how I am a musician and how I am on stage. But, even I know you can only pull off so many things before you totally start losing control. Now that KISS tours here-and-there, he can focus on 10,000 business ventures, but that that time Paul operated like KISS was still his full-time gig. As was the case on Animalize, Jean Beauvoir came in to fulfill some bass duties on two of the songs he co-wrote with Paul.

Let’s dig in a little. “Any Way You Slice It” was co-written by someone named Howard Rice. I can’t find anything on him. It’s not a bad start for Gene, really. “Trial By Fire” has some cool moments and the chorus is catchy, but I hate the verses. It’s also the first collaboration of Gene and Bruce Kulick, now the full-time guitarist of the band. “Love’s a Deadly Weapon” was co-written by Paul and two other members of the Plasmatics, Ron Swenson and Wes Beech. So, add in the stuff Paul did with Jean Beauvoir, there’s a shload of Plasmatics on this album. “Love’s a Deadly Weapon” has some cool, but cheesy lyrics, but it’s definitely not my favorite tune, I’d say it’s my least favorite on this album. “Secretly Cruel” is okay. Nothing of Gene’s really catches me, though.

Not that all of Paul’s songs were wonderful, either. Don’t hear that. While I do like the songs, they could have been from some band named K-R-A-F-T instead of K-I-S-S. The last two, especially. “Radar For Love” and “Uh! All Night” are silly but call me crazy, I love them. My least favorite Paul song is “I’m Alive.” It’s unnecessary and mundane. It was a co-write with both Bruce Kulick and Desmond Child, as was “King of the Mountain” which is one of my highlights of the album. Eric Carr’s drums are amazing on it. Paul’s voice is really strong, too.

So, my faves are definitely “Tears Are Falling” along with “Who Wants to Be Lonely” and “King of the Mountain.” There are some really good tunes across this album, it’s just not their best. Even Gene and Paul kind of pan it today, except of course, for “Tears…”

The cover features the faces of the four then-current members drawn with their lips colored in the classic solo album color schemes. Gene’s lips are red, Paul’s purple, Bruce’s are blue (to represent Ace) and Eric’s are green (to represent Peter). The back cover showed the band looking like Billy Squier’s band or early SNL intros.

I think Paul (and whatever Gene did) could have made the album a little meatier and heavier but that’s not the case. Bruce’s guitar work on this album is really good and it fit the time. It wasn’t KISS to most, but to me, it still was KISS. Eric’s drumming was solid but again, could have used a little more treatment on the sound, in my opinion. The videos for “Tears are Falling,” “Who Wants to be Lonely” and even “Uh! All Night” are pretty cool for that era.

It had come out and “Tears Are Falling” was being played (where there was real rock radio) and on MTV, but it was 1985 and prior to my move to WSNC. I read about the song in Hit Parader and Circus but it wasn’t until I could convince Ma Mère to let me have it could I actually listen to the song. I thought it was someone other than Paul singing at first. He was extra breathy and un-Paul-like. I still love the song, though. One of my favorite KISS songs, not just non-makeup era KISS but overall.

I know this sounds like I’m panning the album and that certainly isn’t the case. It was amazing for its time but as I got older, I realized it wasn’t quite the best, certainly not as good as the 70s stuff and really wasn’t near the top on the 80s stuff, which you’ll find out more about later, like tomorrow or Wednesday. It’s not in the bottom 5 of KISSdom for me nor is it in the top 5. It’s middle-of-the-road, to me. Give it a listen, with an open mind, and tell me what you think.

Tune in tomorrow to find out more about this WEEK in KISStory.

Until tomorrow, KISS it!
Scorp out!


“Open yourself to me, let me show you what it can be like. Baby, giving it all that you’ve got. Nothing can hold you back. Some things can stand alone. A mountain can feel no desire, but a heart isn’t made out of stone. Wake up in the middle of the night. Nobody’s gonna make it alright. Who wants to be lonely, who wants to be with you tonight? Who wants to be lonely, who wants to be holding you tight?” – “Who Wants to be Lonely?” (Stanley/Child/Beauvoir)

Spinning Sunday or: The Haul 9/15/18

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Salutations™!!

Points_on_the_Curve_CD_cover

©Geffen Records

It was a rather dreary day in WSNC yesterday and will continue to be for a few days. There were minimal folks out because no one knows what Florence is going to do. So, The BCPF and I made sure to get some good listening material at Underdog Records. And, we did! Here’s what:

  • Sly & The Family Stone – Fresh — #186 on the RS List and I love good funky rock and that’s what this is. Great stuff. Yellow label UK pressing, I believe. It’s in VG++ condition.
  • The Blue Öyster Cult – Tyranny And Mutation — This was the 23rd entry on the Eugeology list from last year. I stated at the time that I didn’t care to hear it again. I do want my list stuffs on vinyl, so here it is in my listening realm again. VG+.
  • Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain — I had heard of Aztec Camera but knew nothing of them. I had seen a few AC albums and thought nothing of it. I didn’t know it was The BCPF’s kind of thing. She said it was and we got this one. I could tell right away that it was definitely her kind of thing. It’s VG++.
  • Simple Minds – Once Upon A Time — There are a lot of great songs on this album and I was very happy to have it. It was a VG++ rated album and we really enjoyed listening to it. Simple Minds are a great band and I’ll buy pretty much anything from them I find.
  • New Order – Low-life — This wasn’t purchased from Underdog Records but was given to us there by our pal Clay Howard. Clay’s the only person we know that will give you gifts for his birthday! It was a great listen and The BCPF was singing along with the whole thing. At least mouthing the words, she won’t sing in front of me for whatever reason. VG++!
  • Wang Chung – Points On The Curve — I will never understand what in the wide-world-of-sports they’re talking about on “Dance Hall Days” but I really like the song. There were several great tunes on this album, and I’ll venture to say it was one of my favorite listens yesterday. Good early 80s pop and the best part is we found it in the $1 bin. I will go as far as saying it was VG++.
  • Henry Mancini – The Best Of Mancini — I love Henry Mancini and his smooth and groovy jazz stylings. He does it really well not only as musical releases but in television and movies, as well. It was a $1 bin find and is VG+.
  • Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment — It was funny to watch both The BCPF and me trying to figure out how to get the vinyl out of the sleeve. It was some weird double-flapped gatefold type thing. It turns out you get the vinyl from the back of that. It’s difficult to explain. We just had never seen one like that. Anywhat! It was a $1 bin find and I was surprised how much I liked the album. Some of Stewart’s older albums are a bit bluesy for me. VG.
  • Rick Springfield – Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet — Another great pop album from the early 1980s. Speaking of Clay Howard, the first time we talked about playing music together was him asking about doing a Springfield tribute band. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is on this one. Great stuff. VG+.
  • Various – Hit Machine — My friend Taylor Chamberlin contacted me on my Instagram post about this. He asked if I had it and I said I didn’t, which was odd because I have such a vast collection of K-Tel albums. He left it at Underdog Records for me. That was a swell gesture of him, I think. Thanks, TC. It’s G+.

So, not a huge haul but a very satisfying one. We got to all but the BOC and K-Tel album yesterday. It was a great listen day. I’ll have some news about The Less Desirables and Underdog Records this week. But, let me say that you can find a lot of cool records both used and new at Underdog. A lot of the stuff from the late 80s and into the 00s that were not even really released on LP is not being re-released in that format and Underdog Records gets them. Be sure to listen to The Less Desirables to hear what the TLD/UDR exclusive deal of the week is.

Discogs is my go-to for cataloging my albums and listing them here. It’s the easiest way to keep up with your collection, too. And, they have a great marketplace for selling or buying your records, cassettes or CDs.

Until tomorrow, keep spinning…
Scorp out!


“What you gonna do when things go wrong? What you gonna do when it all cracks up? What you gonna do when the love burns down? What you gonna do when the flames go up? Who is gonna come and turn the tide? What’s it gonna take to make a dream survive? Who’s got the touch to calm the storm inside? Who’s gonna save you? Alive and kicking.” – “Alive and Kicking” (Kerr/Burchill/MacNeil)

Sounds Like Saturday or: Sonorbakken

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Salutations™!!

Tomorrow is the 33rd anniversary of the KISS album, Asylum. So, for today I chose a cover of the album’s biggest hit, “Tears Are Falling.” This is done by a YouTuber named MrSonorbakken and I don’t have a clue what that means. I looked at other cover versions of this song to play here but this is by far the best. The only thing I have a problem with is that the song drags a bit. I know the original wasn’t any thrash song but this seems a bit slow. His voice and instrumentation are great. I could use a little more emotion, though. Anyway, it’s a pretty good cover. Enjoy!

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“I read your mind like an open book. You lost the fire in your eyes. You turn to me with a different look. And then it’s raining. Looks like it’s raining. Oh no, tears are falling.” – “Tears Are Falling” (Stanley)

Stay Safe or: Go with the Flo

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Salutations™!!

So, The BCPF have gotten sucked into watching “continuing coverage” of the progress and destruction of Hurricane Florence. The BCPF gets weirded out by potential problems that nature can bring. So, hearing that two women and an infant have died because of, or at least relative to, the storm is hard to hear.

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©ABC News

At first, I thought, well, dummies, they told you to leave! But, the more I thought about it, I realized that I have no clue what their circumstances were, I don’t know if they couldn’t leave, had mobility problems, etc. And, it’s really not my business to tell or ask why people decide to stay put. I had to catch myself from just being a judgemental arse. I am like that sometimes and I know plenty of others who are, too.

I know we stocked up on some food but we didn’t get stupid about it. We just got what we thought we may need. I don’t know how hard we’ll be hit but it could just be a lot of rain, could be heavy winds that knock over trees and knock out power lines, it could be nothing. Never hurts to be prepared, but no need to panic. So, here I am, Dear Reader, telling you all to be safe and just be prepared.

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable.” – Diane Ackerman

Heavens on Fire or: Animal Eyes?

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Salutations™!!

34 years ago today, one of KISS’ best-selling 80s albums was released. That would be Animalize. It’s not my favorite of that era, but it isn’t my least favorite, either. It has some good songs that carried over to the live concert video they put out on this tour.

By the time KISS was putting this out, Gene was pretty much a ghost in the band. He was still very much a member because, hey, it’s Gene Simmons. But, he had gotten really into other projects that he was afforded both because he now had money and he wasn’t restricted by keeping his identity cloaked. During the recording of this album, he was starring in Runaway (1984) and producing or managing bands like House of Lords and Black N Blue (which, incidentally had future KISS member, Tommy Thayer). So, being the loyalist, perhaps sometimes to a fault, that he is to the KISS brand, Paul Stanley took over the whole deal and produced this album. I think he did a pretty good job.

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©Mercury Records

It had been two years since an album was released as a “makeup” album and only a year (almost to the day) of the unmasking of the band on MTV, which also was the release date for Lick It Up. KISS fans were still riding the high that was the return of the hard rock KISS that they had loved as a kid before the disco-ing down and artification of the band. Don’t hear me wrong, I loved that stuff, too. But, they lost a big part of their “Army” with those things. I recognize that. This album came out and it was still punchy, still heavy and still cool.

The song “Heavens on Fire” was a huge hit for the band and was on heavy rotation on MTV. For anyone under the age of 30, MTV was a channel that played music videos 24/7. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not. There’s some other channel now that calls itself MTV but it’s nothing like that MTV. Anywhat! They debuted new videos at 5-minutes past each hour. The “world-wide” debut of “Heavens on Fire” was at 1:05am on a Saturday night. In 1984, I lived in WV and we had 7 channels, MTV wasn’t one of them. However, for whatever reason, I was staying at my grandmother’s house in a larger town that did have REAL cable television and had MTV. I fought dozing off and once the video came on, I was jarred up and ready to fight someone. I loved it. One of the funniest parts is when Eric Carr runs up behind Paul and sings a line with him. That wasn’t planned and Paul’s reaction was genuine. It’s cool.

This was the only album that “featured” Mark St. John on guitar. He replaced Vinnie Vincent who had replaced Ace Frehley. Mark was a talented player but really unreMARKable (see what I did there?). I remember looking at the album cover (on LP) and thinking who the heck is that guy? Of course, because I read all the rags and stuff, I knew his name but he looked like a big block of a guy, broad-shouldered and stiff. Looking at it now, it looks like he took Peter Criss’ Dynasty costume, painted it all black from the green it was and was wearing that. He wasn’t really, but he seemed like a piece of stone. And, in the video, he looked uncomfortable. He also used Rockman gear to record the album, which we know is the invention of Boston guitarist, Tom Sholtz. Paul had to do a lot of EQing to get that Boston out of it. St. John left the band just after the tour started because of Reiter’s syndrome, now called reactive arthritis. He was replaced by Bruce Kulick. Who you’ll hear about in a few days and next week.

Eric Carr’s drumming on this album was great! I loved it. Solid and heavy.

Paul’s songs were the best on the album, bar none. Three of the songs, “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire),” “Under the Gun” (co-written with Eric Carr), and “Heavens on Fire” were co-written with recurring collaborator, Desmond Child. “Thrills in the Night” was co-written by ex-Plasmatics bassist, Jean Beauvoir who also played bass on this album for “Get All You Can Take”, “Thrills In The Night” and “Under the Gun.”

Gene, while mostly absent, was there for some of it. He wrote “Burn Bitch Burn” and “Lonely is the Hunter” solo and co-wrote “While the City Sleeps” and “Murder in High Heels” with Paul McCartney look-alike Mitch Weissman, who co-wrote “Get All You Can Take” with Paul. Gene’s songs are cool for the fact that he’s a little tongue-in-cheek but Paul wins this album.

The story I always tell about this album is this: In 1984, the PMRC and its ridiculousness were in full-force (and no, I don’t mean Lisa-Lisa & Cult Jam with…) and Ma Mère fell for it hook, line, and sinker. She didn’t want me listening to “that rock and roll devil’s music.” Which, she herself did when she was younger. Anti-authority, satan, drugs, alcohol, etc. That’s what we kids were getting too much of. Anyhow, I wanted this album, really, really badly. I stood in front of the cassette case, you know, the old kind with holes in the plexiglass so you could hold the tapes and look at them but couldn’t get them out and steal them?  I stood there and begged to get both this album and Prince’s Purple Rain. She made me promise that I wouldn’t worship the devil if I got them. It didn’t help that one of the songs was called “Heavens on Fire” and another one “Burn Bitch Burn.” I promised. I did her one better. Not only do I not believe in or worship the devil, I don’t go the other way either. I’m non-Prophet when it comes to my religion. But, I got them and wore them both out!

I still love the album to this day. Both, of them, as I’ve mentioned before.

I do want to also wish my two great pals, Clay Howard and Jon Lowder a very happy birthday. I love you guys! You mean a lot to me and my family.

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!


“My eggs in one basket, but she threw me a bone. She was dealt a full deck, but she likes to live alone. Ain’t just talkin’ to myself, need a reason to stop (oh yeah). With a flower in her teeth, she drained the last drop. I said girls love money like bees the honey. But lonely is the hunter, you’re my one and only, and lonely is the hunter.” – “Lonely is the Hunter” (Simmons)