Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Five Facts That No One Wants to Admit About KISS

Being a KISS fan and a person who likes a good heart to heart discussion I must admit that I really enjoy the podcast called Three Sides of the Coin because these guys are not just KISS fans talking about their favorite band but also guys who aren't afraid to tackle the issues that most KISS fans prefer to avoid. They have taken heat over the years for what they have said about every member of KISS but I do appreciate the fact that they do not back off or water down their opinions for the sake of getting along with others who truly don't know what they are talking about.

I have sat there for hours listening to their show with the guys making be laugh and at times saying things to allow me to have an "A-HA" moment when they throw out theories that make perfect sense. Meanwhile, there are other media moguls who claim to be unbiased about their perceptions of KISS who then turn around and make statements that show absolute allegiance to certain former members who are obviously their friends.

In my case, I love KISS and have loved them for so long that they feel like a part of my family. They are the band that I can honestly say have not only had a huge influence on my musical development but have also provided the soundtrack to my life. So with that being said I speak highly of them and also criticize a lot of what they have done. I am not afraid to offer my affection for their music as well as each member of the band or rip them apart for breaking my heart. In other words, this goes deeper than blood.

With being said, this blog is kind of like a fantasy if you will. If I were to have the privilege of being on one episode of Three Sides of the Coin this would be the topic I would want to discuss. Do you hear me guys?! You never know...

So for those who listen to the show imagine that all of the intros, announcements and house cleaning bits have been completed. Then one of the guys states that it's now time to tackle today's topic with our special guest Carlos Solorzano. Then I announce that today's topic is the Five Facts That No One Wants to Admit About KISS. That's also when I immediately say that "they suck" is not allowed to be included in this discussion because this is for KISS fans only. If that doesn't apply to you then take a hike. 

Here we go...


1) Destroyer is Overrated

All of the classic KISS albums are great but for some reason Destroyer is treated like a crown jewel when in fact it's an average album. Yes, it has many classic songs that have been mainstays on the band's live set it also has some trash like "Great Expectations" and "Sweet Pain" that showed how much cocaine Wunderkind producer Bob Ezrin must have been using at the time. 

The album is also very stiff, which of course comes with working with a producer who is also a tyrant. Of course there are all of the criticisms we hear about certain members of the band not being able to perform to Ezrin's expectations but I just don't buy it. If Peter Criss' timing was so bad why did he do such an amazing job on previous albums? Did this now seasoned professional drummer suddenly forget how to play his instrument? If Ace Frehley's solos weren't good enough how did he come up with such great solos on the first three albums along with the other classic tracks that appeared on later albums? It's obvious that Ezrin was just a dictator who was more concerned about having things done his way rather than doing what great producers really do by creating an environment that actually helps an artist perform to the best of their ability. One listen to Peter and Ace on "Calling Dr. Love" or "Shock Me" and you can hear the type of work environment producer Eddie Kramer obviously helped create for the band, which is why everything he ever did with the band came out great. 

Then there is Ezrin's signature horrible drum sound, which of course is something he is consistent with as the drums continued to lack any teeth on the later albums (Music From the Elder and Revenge) that he produced for the band. Imagine hearing "Detroit, Rock City" with the drum sound on Rock and Roll Over. Imagine hearing of "God of Thunder" with the drum sound on Love Gun. Imagine hearing "The Oath" with the drum sound on Creatures of the Night. Or, imagine hearing "Unholy" with the drum sound on Sonic Boom or Monster. If anything, Peter Criss should feel robbed. 

A few years back we got a hold of Destroyer: Resurrected as the album was remixed with additions and levels that we had never heard before. We also got to hear "Sweet Pain" both with Ace Frehley's solo and the solo that was on the original release of the song that was done by session guitarist Dick Wagner. Was there really a difference in what we heard? None! Again, this was just Ezrin being a musical Napoleon.

Of course there are those who will bring up the success of the album who will then credit Ezrin for taking the band in a new direction. Well, when it comes to KISS it doesn't matter why something sold because it just matters that it sold. If Ezrin is going to get the credit for producing a great album then salesmen like Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons will say whatever they have to say to continue to sell the product. I am not saying that it's not a good album because it is but it's not their best album and I don't think it's as great as many claim it to be. But I do have a theory as to why it is so highly regarded: it was released after their blockbuster Alive! That means it was going to sell and sell in great abundance because the buying public wanted more KISS. Period. 

It's called having momentum.


2) Paul Stanley was the Best Solo Album from 1978. 

Many people claim that Ace had the best of the solo albums because his was indeed a rocker. But I would argue that the weakness of that argument is that Ace's album lacks diversity and that he had way more filler songs than Paul ("Ozone," "What's On Your Mind," "I'm in Need of Love," and "Wiped Out"). Gene's album was nice in that he used the opportunity to go into a different direction but none of his songs came close to the standard of some of the KISS classics he has written before or since. Peter's album is not as bad as people claim. He loves R & B and ballads and maybe that's not the same cup of tea that rock fans want to drink from but I personally like those musical genres so I do like the Catman's album.

Paul's album those has no filler songs because each of them actually stand on their own. The weakest song is probably "Move On" and that song went over well live both with KISS on the Dynasty Tour and on Paul's solo outings. Each song was strong enough to be on a KISS album so in  a lot of ways, even though many people claim that it was the solo albums that broke the band apart, I could only imagine the argument that would have occurred when someone would want to toss out any of the songs Paul released on his solo album if they were in fact offered to the band.

Paul's musicianship was spectacular as the songs allowed him to stretch himself vocally and as a guitarist. The best part though was him being able to stretch himself as a songwriter. Thanks to Paul being able to have the room to do a solo album we got to hear songs like "Ain't Quite Right," "Take Me Away," and "Hold Me, Touch Me," which allowed us to see a side of Paul that we couldn't have seen in KISS.

Ace's album is cool but other than "Fractured Mirror" he didn't really do anything that we hadn't heard before and sadly, he has given us more of the same over the years. Peter of course, had the most help from outside musicians so it's more of him singing songs that we know were written mostly by other people. Gene just went for broke and brought in anyone and everyone to play on his album mainly so he could play Bob Ezrin for a project.

The Starchild's solo album proved that he was and still is the musical driving force of KISS because he put out a quality album without the assistance of his band members. What would have made Gene, Peter and Ace's albums better? If their filler songs were replaced with songs written by Paul Stanley.


3) Creatures of the Night is Their Masterpiece

KISS fans love to reflect on the greatness of the albums recorded by the original lineup and they are no doubt beautiful for what they are. The first album has the hunger and drive that a band shows when it's ready to conquer the world. Hotter Than Hell has its great moments but one can easily tell that it is filled with left over songs by a band that was busy touring. Dressed to Kill has a rawness to it that is catchy but one can tell that it was rushed with songs that sound more like jams than carefully crafted pop songs. Destroyer is of course, overrated but it has better hooks than its predecessor. Rock and Roll Over is powerful and is a great record to listen to in terms of recording quality but thanks to Gene there are some throw away songs. Love Gun is a classic but again, Gene brought in some fillers to take the song quality down a bit.

Years later the band now had a focus that it probably didn't have since its first album as they had to reignite their sound in order to win back their fans. That produced the greatest album they ever produced, Creatures of the Night.

First off, they had to produce this time around in order to survive. Even though the album didn't sell as well as it should have everyone could see that KISS was back on track. That has of course been proven over the years by the fact that many of the songs have remained in the live set list much to the delight of the KISS Army. Second, it showcased the brilliant drumming of Eric Carr. His power and tasteful performances really propelled the album and there hasn't been a drummer who has pushed the band the way he did since his passing. Aside from that, his groove on tracks like "Saint and Sinner" was both sexy funky while his tasteful groove and fills on "I Still Love You" helped propel the emotion from what is arguable Paul's greatest recorded vocal performance. Third, even though the album was filled with session musicians Producer Michael James Jackson along with Paul and Gene really picked the right personnel for each song to ensure that they were done right with performances that would have an everlasting impact on the listener.

Unlike other KISS albums there are no fillers on this album as each song stands on its own. From the thunder one hears on the title track to "War Machine" to the anthem "I Love it Loud," to the great dynamics on "Rock and Roll Hell" to the thunderous movements on songs like "Danger" and "Killer." This album is indeed classic KISS!

Finally, it is sonically their greatest album by far. Previous albums like Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun are still amazing to listen to because of the genius of Eddie Kramer but Creatures of the Night easily takes the care. Michael James Jackson deserves great praise for all that he did because he he not only pushed the band to write some great songs with some outside writers being added to the mix but also took these great songs and made them sound great!

What a novel idea!


4) Eric Carr was Never Fully Appreciated

It was a dream come true for Paul Caravello and so many fans lived through him when he was the first person ever to replace an original member of KISS. At first, we would see him everywhere as the band sought to introduce him to the world. Then Ace left the band and suddenly we only saw Paul and Gene even though fans wanted to see more of Eric Carr along with whoever was playing lead guitar for the band that year.

Eric's drumming was second to none as he was nothing short of fabulous on every album or during every live performance. Sadly, it always seemed like Paul and Gene never took him seriously as a songwriter. Meanwhile, as the eighties allowed KISS the chance to show how well they could adapt to the times with many of their hit songs they also gave us (usually through Gene's contributions) some rather forgetful songs. This stands out most on the Hot in the Shade album.

It was during this time when Eric came up with the beautiful ballad called "Somebody's Waiting" that would appear posthumously on his first solo album titled Rockology. How did this beautiful song not make it on Hot in the Shade? It was said that his song didn't make the album because they already had one ballad for the album, which of course was the hit song "Forever." But let's be honest here. It was never unheard of, especially in the eighties to have multiple ballads on an album so why not feature Eric's beautiful song? Did Paul and Gene really think that trash like "Read My Body" and "Love's a Slap in the Face" were better songs? No wonder Bruce Kulick said that Eric was not very happy with the band during this time period because by now he had been in the band for about a decade and he was still just the drummer. I mean, God forbid Eric could have a shining moment on the album, right? God forbid that they could have possibly made a video for Eric's song like they did for "Hard Luck Woman" back in 1976 when Peter was featured as the lead vocalist.

Meanwhile, Paul had the audacity to say in his biography that Eric had stopping talking to him all together at this time and he had no idea why. Really Paul? I'm not in the band and I could totally see why.

To add insult to what I will call emotional injury, Eric passes away with the Revenge era beginning soon after and all of the sudden KISS is a four piece band again! Now we can turn on Headbanger's Ball and there is not just Paul and Gene being interviewed by the network but the whole band! What? Did you think we didn't want to hear from the whole band during Eric's tenure in the band?

Then came the Reunion Tour followed by the Psycho Circus album and what do they do when Peter didn't bring in any songs worth recording? They write "I Finally Found My Way to You" just so the Catman can have a lead vocal on the album. Wow! Then as the current lineup formed and recorded new material we have them doing the same thing for Eric Singer on Sonic Boom and Monster for the same reasons. What, you didn't think the fans wanted to hear Eric Carr sing lead vocals during his time with the band? And if he didn't write songs that were good enough for the album why not write one for him instead of giving us the throw away tunes that Gene gave us during that time period?

Sounds to me like two people owe the Caravello family and KISS fans an apology for the obvious thing that they somehow knew nothing about.


5) Their Current Lineup is The Best Ever

To be honest this is not easy for me to say but we have to state what is in fact true. I saw this version of KISS perform during the Sonic Boom tour and to be perfectly honest they were awesome! You can prefer other drummers and lead guitarists, specific lineups or eras, but Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer are true professionals and do not have to take a back seat to anyone. But let's stop here for a moment in order to make a public service announcement:

NEWS FLASH! To the members of the KISS Army. Please be advised that the 1970's are over and have been over for close to forty years. Get over it!

With that being said, if you are a fan of the classic era and insist that the band must resurrect the classic lineup in order to be the real KISS take a look at a few uncomfortable realities: First off, Peter Criss is seventy years old and retired from the music business years ago. We thank and love him for all that he left behind but many of you needed to realize long ago that he will not return to the band due to the fact that there are too many wounds between the original members and because Peter cannot physically handle the rigors of being in KISS anymore. Second, Ace Frehley also gave us much to love and cherish including much of his early solo material but he is also not what he used to be and it breaks my heart to say that because I have always loved the Spaceman's guitar work. One listen to Space Invader and you can hear he is sadly done! The years of substance abuse have destroyed him and unless you are in total denial you can see that his solo career is as much of a KISS cover band as you accuse the current lineup of being. Finally, even if the four original members could still physically work together it is not going to happen. There is no way Paul and Gene are going to share their well deserved ownership of the band with Peter and Ace. With that being said, we already know that Peter and Ace never liked the idea of being sidemen even when they got paid well for doing it so the business will dictate reality more than what is physically possible. Meanwhile, there are still members of the KISS Army who want to see things differently so I say to them...until you are willing to hand the keys to your kingdom to someone that you don't trust then get off of Paul and Gene's back.

The band KISS is now at a point where it is celebrating their entire history and Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer are doing a great job in helping the band move forward. They play all of the material from every era with great consistency even with the eyes of the haters glaring intently at them. They provide Paul and Gene with a professionalism that they only had a taste of during the Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick era and everyone knows that it's an absolute blessing to work with people that do not create a hostile environment. The current KISS has no substance abuse issues and other forms of destructive behavior that they had to deal with in the seventies. There are also no Vinnie Vincent issues and none of the challenges that plagued the band during the Reunion era. This current lineup can play anything from any era in any setting so why would Paul and Gene want to work again with members who are nothing like their old self when they are currently working with musicians who have the right skill and attitude? 

Sorry folks, but unless you've actually been in a working band you have no idea what I am talking about.  The common fan only knows what they see and hear but they don't know what it's like to be in that inner circle. Yes, the fan has an emotional investment in the band but they seem to forget that the band members are also people who in fact invest more than the fan ever could in the band so they in fact have the right to run their brand the way they see fit. If the fan doesn't like it, move on. Or you can just take out the old material and relive the good old days. 

Okay...now to Michael Brandvold, Tommy Sommers and Mark Cicchini

Carlos Solorzano
@csolorzano18
https://www.reverbnation.com/carlossolorzano 


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