Saturday, December 5, 2009

I got to laugh, 'cuz I know I'm gonna blog! Why?!?

Then again, why not?!?

Seems like it was just yesterday that we were partying like it was 1999 and fretting about Y2K, but Time magazine ran a nice feature this week in which they accurately deemed the ‘00s the “Decade From Hell”, and it suddenly hit me that this current decade is rapidly hurtling to a close—and not a minute too soon.  It amazes me how, the older I get, time seems to pass by so much faster now—to me, the ‘90s came and went in a flash too, while the ‘70s and ‘80s seemed to last forever.  The Time piece (timepiece?) paints a pretty bleak picture of the last ten years for all of us, what with 9/11, Dubya/Cheney, Katrina, the economic meltdown, steroids in sports, fall of the automakers, et al (and I would add to that list “Reality” TV, the decline of the music and radio industries, Lindsay Lohan, the advent of college football's BCS system, Paris Hilton, the rise of Fox News Channel—these and many many more), but the article also gives hope that things like this are cyclical and that better times lie ahead for all.

I hope they’re right, because this decade has been equally wretched for me personally as well, and a huge disappointment considering how the ‘90s ended for me with such promise.  At the end of ’99, I was 35 and in reasonably good physical condition.  Also at the time, I was involved in the best (albeit most unorthodox) relationship with a woman I’ve ever had, I was well on my way to getting out of credit card debt and I still had a social life and was able to hang out with friends on a regular basis.  Flash ahead ten years—I’m now 45 and rapidly turning into a jaded, bitter old fuck.  I haven’t even kissed a woman on the lips since December, ’99, I’m back in debt even worse than before, I'm heavier than ever before, my once-brilliant eyesight has deteriorated considerably and my flatlining social life makes me want to book passage on the next ferry to the Land of Misfit Toys.  Most of my personal crap is self-inflicted, no question, and like in the old Who song, “I’m just tryin’ to fight my way out of this dream.”  Then again, I seem to function better in decades with odd numbers in the tens place—the ‘90s were much happier for me personally, and I’m a child of the ‘70s—so maybe things will start to turn around four weeks from now.  I sure hope so, because 20 years from now, I don’t want to wind up being one of these old farts I always see sitting around at McDonald’s every morning drinking coffee whose daily highlight is bemoaning how his life went wrong over his Egg McMuffin.  Like Edgar Winter's "Free Ride" goes, “We (I) gotta do better, it’s time we (I) begin…”

…and that’s why Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino is now unemployed.  Once a media darling and hero for resurrecting KU’s moribund football program, the Bambino fell and fell hard once all the allegations of player abuse were hurled at him since their seven-game losing streak began in October, culminating with the defeat at the hands of my Mizzou Tigers last Saturday.  Damn shame, too—it’s been fun seeing KU be a perennial winner for a change on the gridiron these last few years instead of just on the basketball court.  And even though Mangino “had a nasty reputation as a cruel dude”, one wonders if he’d still have a job if Kansas won just two or three of those seven games—it’s amazing how winning can keep dirt under the rug.  So long, Bambino…

Didn’t anyone ever explain to Tiger Woods that you’re only supposed to play one hole at a time?  It figures, just when I was starting to like the guy, he reveals himself to be just another zillionaire douche who lets his little head do the thinking.  And what a stupid way for one’s peccadilloes to be uncovered—by wiping out a fire hydrant near one’s own driveway!  I happen to have a fire hydrant right smack dab in my front yard, but even in my most harried states, I’ve always managed to avoid hitting hit the bloody thing with my motor vehicle.  Then again, all this media fuss over Tiger this week is so unwarranted.  I mean, what’s he done wrong, really?  Same thing millions of other men are doing in this country at this very moment—he cheated on his wife.  With great regularity, apparently.  Certainly no worse than dog fighting or Ponzi schemes or just being Ryan Seacrest.  Then again, I cite the old axiom—why go out for hamburger when you have Porterhouse at home?  Cry me a freakin’ river, Tiger…

ERIC WOOLFSON, 1945-2009
Alan Parsons Project lead singer/keyboardist Eric Woolfson died of cancer on Tuesday at age 64.  While far from my favorite band in the world, APP certainly had their moments, and I really liked Woolfson’s vocals on “Eye In The Sky” and especially on “Don’t Answer Me”.  Cool video on that one too.

BOB KEANE, 1922-2009
The man who founded Del-Fi Records and discovered singer Ritchie Valens, Bob Keane, also passed away last weekend.  Keane was portrayed admirably in the biopic 1987 film La Bamba by actor Joe Pantoliano, although the real Bob Keane had a lot more hair than Joe does...

You probably don't know the name, but you probably know of his work.  He famously wrote several big hits for Elvis, including "Good Luck Charm", "It's Now Or Never" and my personal Presley fave, "A Big Hunk O' Love".  And more importantly, Schroeder composed the "Scooby-Doo" theme.  Rest in peace, Aaron, you done good.

Could someone please tell me why all of Oprah Winfrey’s fans are supposedly “in mourning” ever since she announced she’ll be ending her daytime yapfest in 2011?  First off, that’s two years from now, and second off, she’s starting her own cable network—all Oprah, all the time!—and will be even more omnipresent than she ever was.  Even though the biggest problem will be finding home TV screens large enough to fit Oprah’s ever-expanding head into, I don’t see where this is cause to make your mascara run, girls…

I love comedian Robin Williams to death, and I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I dearly wish he’d cease making comedy movies, especially for Disney!  His latest venture—Old Dogs with John Travolta—had already been raped and pillaged by the critics, and if Williams isn’t careful, he’s going to wind up being the next Dean Jones.  It’s a strange paradox that such a gifted and funny comedian consistently makes such lame comedy movies—only World According To Garp and Good Morning, Vietnam were good comedy film vehicles for him—while he’s far better-suited for dramatic roles like in Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and even the creepy One-Hour Photo.

Time to let other people have the floor in a little sampling of letters-to-the-editor that I enjoyed this week:

Regarding the Fort Hood tragedy:
“I found it interesting that your cover photo of Nidal Malik Hasan, who apparently killed in the name of God, labels him a possible terrorist.  In verbatim, Scott Roeder, who also killed in the name of God, is called the 'accused shooter'  What’s the difference between them, again?  I am less concerned about the thousand or so radical Muslims who are highly monitored, than I am about the million or so unguarded radical 'Christians' whose hatred is fanned daily by the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.”—David Berry, Raton, NM (in Time magazine)

“I don’t know what roles Muslims should play in our military, but perhaps counseling veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan should not be one of them.  Fair or not, I would not have wanted to talk to an Army psychiatrist of Vietnamese descent when I came home from Vietnam in 1970.”—Bruce W. Rider, Capt., USAF (ret.), Grapevine, TX (in Time)

“The long list of red flags you listed should have alerted anyone with a modicum of common sense.  Yet instead of being proactive, everybody chose political correctness.”—Raoul Carubelli, Oklahoma City (in Time)

Regarding Sarah Palin:
“The staying power of Sarah Palin mystifies me.  Maybe it’s because I’m an independent voter that I don’t understand the amazing attraction to the Republican Party of a thoughtless, divisive, poorly trained public servant who abandoned her state job for the cash.  Never mind, I just answered my own question…Remember, it’s party first, nation second.”—Jeff Gadt, Overland Park, KS (in the Kansas City Star)

“Thanks to the doe-in-the-headlights public, she is a multimillionaire.  She is cashing in on her celebrity.  She will not have to run for any public office or work a 9-to-5 job another day in her life.  She knows she has no chance to be president of the United States because she isn’t qualified.  Wake up, people.  We are being hookwinked.”—David Howard, Raymore, MO (in the Kansas City Star)

I saw Cindy Sheehan going at it again with some military guy on TV the other day.  At the risk of sounding like Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly and their ilk, is anyone else besides me growing weary of Sheehan’s anti-war protests?  While I totally agree with her sentiments, it’s so obvious she’s become addicted to the limelight and notoriety afforded her by the media, and she’s really damning her own cause by making an ass out of herself.  Hate to sound so cynical, but I just don’t see how going around hollering into a bullhorn is going to stop the war anyway.  It’s certainly not going to bring her dead son back, either.

“War Pigs”—BLACK SABBATH (1970) “Generals gathered in the masses/Just like witches at Black Masses…”

“All The Way”—KISS (1974) “You've got a lot to say, every night and every sunny day/It’s the same thing you’ve been sayin’ to me every day...I'm so finally glad to hear you stop for a day."

Uhhh, when creating a rhyming scheme, it goes totally against protocol to use the SAME word!

Last night, I re-watched the 1992 Freddie Mercury Wembley Stadium AIDS benefit concert DVD for the first time in ages.  I’d almost forgotten what a truly superb show this was, featuring an all-star lineup that included Robert Plant, David Bowie, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Slash and Axl from Guns ‘N’ Roses, Roger Daltrey, Nuno Bettancourt and Gary Cherone from Extreme, Lisa Stansfield, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, George Michael, Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter, Liza Minnelli, Paul Young and even Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, all augmenting the surviving members of Queen, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.  There wasn’t a bad number in the entire set, which is astounding when you consider all the different musical stylists Queen had to adapt to in just three weeks of rehearsal time.  Stansfield was a total hoot doing “I Want To Break Free”, mimicking Mercury dressing in drag with big exaggerated curlers in her hair (although dressed far more stylishly than Fred) and vacuuming as he did in the video of the same song, and I was stunned at how Pat Benatar-like Liza appeared here while singing “We Are The Champions”—I’m talking 1981-82 heyday Pat Benatar here!  Elton also looked quite slim and trim during this time, which coincided with his early ‘90s career resurgence with the excellent The One album.  Curiously, though, Axl Rose sported some white shorts that were way tighter than anything Mercury ever wore.  Hmmmmm, you don’t suppose Axl is...—I’m just sayin’!  Another facet of Queen concerts that’s fun to watch is the audience.  Queen easily had the best sing-along crowds in Rock history, not to mention their uncanny ability to clap in unison during songs like “Radio Ga-Ga”.  Anyway, it was a terrific concert—well worth a look (or re-look) on DVD if you get the chance.  Just tell ‘em Early Cuyler sent you…

I bought a new smoke alarm last weekend to replace the aging one that came with my house when I took possession of it 14 years ago.  While cooking dinner later that night, I discovered it works just fine!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3, 1979

Today is a sad anniversary—it was thirty years ago tonight that the Cincinnati Who concert tragedy happened.  Apart from the 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island involving the band Great White in which 100 people perished, it was probably the darkest day in Rock music history.  For you younger folks who might not remember, 11 concert-goers were trampled to death and hundreds of others were injured during an unfortunate (and totally inexcusable) stampede outside Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum arena.  This was a “festival seating” event—i.e., sit wherever you want—and an estimated 8,000 fans had queued up in the plaza area outside the venue in this photo late in the afternoon waiting for the doors to open, and there were only about 25 policemen on hand to keep order.  Around 6:30, when people heard loud music coming from inside—presumably the sound check—they incorrectly thought the show had already begun and they started to push forward.  Building officials only opened two (or perhaps four) of the sixteen entry doors to the arena, and in the enormous crush of fans trying to get in, many people simply couldn’t breathe.  In the ensuing melee, many fans wound up trampling others who’d fallen and were unable to regain their footing.  To make matters worse, inside the building, the turnstile Gestapo insisted on seeing everyone’s ticket first before allowing entry, which only exacerbated the bottleneck outside.

Per my usual, I was tuned into “Monday Night Football” that night, as the Raiders and Saints battled in the Superdome when Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell first broke the news of the nightmare to the nation during the second half.  Eerily enough, a year and five nights later, ol’ Howie would again inform America of yet another Rock ’N’ Roll tragedy on December 8, 1980.  My first reaction to the Who tragedy was “Why on earth did they even go on with the concert?”, but I later learned that the band themselves weren't informed of what took place until after they came off-stage from their encore.  Shutting down the show actually was contemplated, but Who manager Bill Curbishley wisely cautioned the fire marshals if they pulled the plug, they would chance a riot and further chaos inside the arena, plus the show itself bought them some time to clear the outer plaza of the victims and debris left behind, so they carried on with the concert.  Once the band was notified, they were obviously devastated.  Roger Daltrey was beside himself and talked of ending the tour right then and there, but the tour did resume the next night at The Aud in Buffalo under very heavy security.  From the stage, Roger spoke to the crowd:  “You all heard what happened yesterday…there’s nothing we can do…we feel totally shattered…but life goes on.  We all lost a lot of family yesterday.  This show’s for them.”

In the aftermath, there was a lot of predictable over-reaction by city officials in other municipalities in the form of over-zealous security at arenas and outright bans on Rock concerts in some places.  Here in K.C., we were subjected to the endless “Could it happen here?” queries by our illustrious local TV news hacks.  In Cincinnati itself, festival seating was banned in the wake of the Who tragedy, and it would be several months before Riverfront Coliseum hosted another Rock concert—Z.Z. Top in the spring of ‘80, with all reserved seating—and ALL the doors to the place were open that night.  But interestingly enough, when one Bruce Springsteen played the same venue 23 years later in 2002, The Boss was granted an exemption from the festival seating ban.  Fortunately, that show came off without a hitch.  Curiously, U2 was denied a similar request the year before.  Also in the aftermath, TV’s “WKRP In Cincinnati” built an episode around the Who concert that was alternately funny and poignant.  Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap were giving tickets away on the air to the concert, and later found themselves doing some soul-searching about having possibly sent some of their own listeners to their demise.  As with the aforementioned city officials, the station itself over-reacted by threatening to dump Rock 'N' Roll and switch back to elevator music.  Weird Al Yankovic also rather tastelessly threw in the line "I haven't been in a crowd like this since I went to see The Who" in his 1980 parody, "Another One Rides The Bus".  I'm loathe to admit that I found it wickedly and perversely funny at the time.  Now, not so much.

Cincinnati also had a profound effect on The Who's guilt-ridden Pete Townshend, who descended into drug and alcohol abuse even further than what he was already into before the tragedy, and nearly OD'd not quite a year later on heroin and who knows what else.  Thankfully, Pete didn't join Keith Moon at that Great Who Gig in the sky and got his life back together a couple years later.  Even though they were advised not to, Daltrey, Townshend and the late John Entwistle later wrote letters to the bereaved expressing their sorrow over what had happened, even though they weren’t directly at fault (I blame the boobs who ran the arena for it).  And though I’m sure they’d have been welcomed back anytime, The Who haven’t set foot in Cincinnati since that terrible night—the closest they’ve ventured to the Queen City for a concert appearance since then was nearby Dayton in 1996.

I've attended 107 concerts in the last 30 years (with #108, Kiss, coming up this week), and I've never witnessed anything even remotely close to what happened at Riverfront Coliseum in terms of mass confusion, chaos or violence.  I do remember an Ozzy Osbourne show in '84 at Municipal Auditorium where we were crammed into the foyer area waiting for the main arena doors to open with people chanting "1-2-3-4, open up the fucking door!" until someone else shouted out "Remember The Who!" and everyone kinda chilled out after that.  Ironically, the next concert I attended after the Cincinnati debacle was (who else?) The Who, at Kemper Arena in April, 1980.  Cincinnati was still in the back of everyone's minds that night, but it was a great show that came off without incident, and any time I find myself amidst a large gathering of people, I'm still reminded of Cincinnati.  When I attended a Reds game at adjacent Great American Ballpark in 2005, Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick were playing at the Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena, or whatever it's called this week), and I made it a point to walk past those arena doors they didn't open on December 3, 1979 and think of those 11 people.  Just a sad, sad night for Rock 'N' Roll.  Even sadder, there's no memorial marker anywhere on the site in remembrance of those who died that night.

ADDENDUM:  The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a feature on the tragedy this week and a candlelight vigil was also held tonight on the concourse by the arena to mark the anniversary.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Life In The Kiss Cult, Part C, Section 3

Just 10 more spots to reach the top!-C. Kasem

10) Creatures of The Night (1982)  If a band makes a triumphant comeback in the woods and no one hears it, is it truly a comeback?  Not too many folks noticed at the time that Kiss had returned to their down-and-dirty heavy metal style in late 1982 after spending the better part of five years in the Rock wilderness making solo albums and lightweight Pop/Rock albums and a weird concept album.  Even I had all but written the band off at this point, having turned my attention to other hard Rock acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, et al, so I was quite pleased to hear that Kiss had re-grown its collective scrotum.  The title track charges right out of the gate to open the record with some thunder in Eric Carr’s drums that let everyone know they were done fucking around.  While not a success, sales-wise, COTN was a solid return to form in spite of the inner turmoil caused by Ace Frehley’s departure and the reluctant 11th-hour inclusion of Vinnie Vincent in his place.  Even though Frehley’s mug graces the final make-up era album jacket (one of the cooler ones in Kisstory, by the way, right up there with Destroyer and Love Gun), he didn’t play a note on the record, near as anyone can tell, and the lead guitar parts were performed by any number of people, including Vincent and future Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick.  Even with the lack of an actual solo during its lead break, “I Love It Loud” wound up being the album’s centerpiece and one of the first Kiss videos to break through on the fledgling MTV thing.  Paul’s “Keep Me Comin’” and “Danger” were a welcome return to the old Kiss groove, and while his almost-mournful “I Still Love You” was a bit of a departure, it wound up being a surprisingly durable concert favorite over the years.  The rest of Gene’s cuts were quite sturdy as well.  “Rock ‘N’ Roll Hell” (co-written by Bryan Adams) is the cautionary tale of a veteran Rocker whose star is fading, while “Killer” lives up to its name and the closing track “War Machine” may well have been the best song on the record.  It took about ten years for Creatures to be recognized for the true behemoth it was, and even though the make-up thing had run its course by that time, it certainly saved this band from the Rock ‘N’ Roll scrap heap.

My grade:  B

9) Revenge (1992)  What do comedian Bill Cosby and Kiss have in common?  They both have albums entitled Revenge.  And both were quite good, too.  Work had already begun on the Kiss Revenge when drummer Eric Carr was stricken with a rare form of heart cancer in 1991, so the band decided to bring in Eric Singer on a temporary basis in the hope that Carr would eventually recover, but sadly, he didn’t, rest his soul.  Young master Singer, the first-ever blonde member of Kiss, was every bit as capable on the skins, having previously worked with the likes of Alice Cooper, The Cult, Jake E. Lee’s Badlands and Black Sabbath (check the boy out on Eternal Idol if you get a chance), as well as Paul Stanley on his 1989 solo club tour.  Also returning to the fold fully-motivated was our favorite fire-breathing Demon, Gene Simmons, who had the Riot Act read to him by Paul Stanley about all his extracurricular activities that were affecting the quality of the band’s work more or less ever since they took off the make-up in 1983.  The result was an excellent in-your-face balls-to-the-wall record, and easily the heaviest Kiss album since 1982’s Creatures Of The Night.  And in a “He’s baaaaaack” sort of maneuver, Simmons even sang lead on the opening track (“Unholy”) for the first time ever on a Kiss studio album, which heretofore had been strictly Paul Stanley’s realm.  Gene was certifiably born-again hard on Revenge, contributing his strongest tracks in years, especially “Unholy”, “Spit”, “Domino”, and my personal favorite, “Thou Shalt Not”, a not-so-subtle middle finger up the ass of sanctimonious religious zealots everywhere:  “Kindly reconsider the sins of your past/I said ‘Mister, you can kindly kiss my ass!’”.  Stanley’s songs didn’t suck here, either, including titty-bar tribute “Take It Off” and his nifty piece of verbal sleight-of-hand (sleight-of mouth?), “I Just Wanna (FUH-get you!)”.  A couple tracks fall flat for me like Paul’s “Heart Of Chrome” and Gene’s “Paralyzed”, as well as the remake of Argent’s “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II”, which for some reason, I’ve never much cared for, even though it was a fair-sized hit.  Revenge also contains a final tribute to their fallen comrade on “Carr Jam 1981”, which features a rare studio drum solo in the middle of a track Eric co-wrote that was in the works during the time of Music From The Elder, which eventually morphed into the Frehley’s Comet tune “Breakout” in 1987.  Damn good album, Revenge is, so why in blue blazes didn’t Kiss stick to this winning formula instead of lurching into the the major brain fart that was Carnival Of Souls?

My grade:  B+

8) Asylum (1985)  It pisses me off no end whenever Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley do retrospectives on the band’s history how they sometimes try to act like the ‘80s never happened and tend to dismiss the music they made during the non-make-up era.  Unlike some fans, I generally don’t favor only the original foursome over other Kiss lineups, and I would even counter that a lot of Kiss’ ‘80s output holds up better than some of their ‘70s stuff does.  Asylum, one of my favorite Kiss albums and easily their most underrated, is a good example.  While it only yielded one hit, “Tears Are Falling”, the rest of the album consistently rocked out and even Simmons was a little more attentive this time than he was on Animalize from the previous year.  Gene was full of his usual lascivious macho bravado lyrics throughout on tracks like “Any Way You Slice It” (“You know you ain’t your mother’s little daughter anymore…”), “Secretly Cruel” (“She was all over me like a cheap suit…”) and “Love’s A Deadly Weapon” (“…and murder’s on my mind…”).  Paul Stanley opens the record with the triumphant “King Of The Mountain”, which dove-tailed nicely for me as a celebratory tune when the Royals won the World Serious just weeks after Asylum came out in ’85.  Stanley’s “Who Wants To Be Lonely” seemed tailor-made to be an MTV hit, but never quite made it, for whatever reason.  His other two cuts (“I’m Alive” and “Radar For Love”) were fairly average, but he made up for them with “Tears” and my favorite track on (and video from) the album, the closer “UH! All Night”. I think we all know what “UH!” means!  Asylum was Bruce Kulick’s first credited work with Kiss (having already played on various tracks on Animalize and Creatures Of The Night), and he made the best of what little room Gene and Paul gave him to flex his muscles, especially on “Deadly Weapon” and “Any Way You Slice It”.  Asylum doesn’t even rate that highly with the band members, but I’ve always really liked it, hence its Top 10 finish here, and I’d take it any day over the (somewhat) overrated Animalize, too.

My grade:  B+

7) Kiss (1974)  Oh, what might’ve been!  If the legendary Eddie Kramer had been available at the time to produce the first Kiss album, we might be talking about this record in the same vein as other classic debut records like Van Halen, Boston, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced?.  While the material here is first-rate—seven out of the ten tracks made it to Alive! in '75, and all seven remain Kiss concert staples to this day—the piss-poor recording by producers Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise all but sucked the life right out of the songs here.  Even though they’re a little ragged in places, I don’t see why Kiss didn’t just use the demos for “Strutter”, “Firehouse”, “100,000 Years”, etc., (which you can hear on the Kiss box set) instead—they sounded so much fresher and energetic than the draggy neutered recordings here.  “Cold Gin” sounds particularly slow, compared with how it’s played live, and “Deuce” just doesn’t have that extra kick you hear in concert.  Of those tracks, “Nothin’ To Lose” sounds fairly good in its studio incarnation, complete with piano on the backing track and Peter Criss yowling away during the choruses, and the deliberate slow-down at the end of “Black Diamond” to close out the album is kinda cool, otherwise, those “Magnificent Seven” tracks came across so much better on Alive!.  Meanwhile, the other three songs all have interesting stories behind them. “Kissin’ Time” wasn’t even part of the original album upon its release, but Casablanca Records boss man, the late Neil Bogart, could never pass up a great gimmick when it stared him in the face, so he enlisted the band to cover Bobby Rydell’s 1959 hit (with re-worked lyrics to include cities that were Kiss concert strongholds at the time) to coincide with a kissing contest to draw attention to the band.  If you happen to own a pressing of Kiss without “Kissin’ Time” on it, it’s worth some money—there aren’t very many copies in captivity, evidently.  “Love Theme From Kiss”—the first-ever Kiss instrumental—was originally known as “Acrobat”, which was part of the pre-historic Kiss live act that morphed into another section called “Much Too Young”.  Other than “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” from Lick It Up, “Love Theme” is the only Kiss song credited to all four members who were with the band at the time.  “Let Me Know” was originally called “Sunday Driver”, and it features the nifty jam section romp at the end that was later transplanted to the end of “She” and stretched out in concert to allow Ace Frehley to show off a little.

My grade:  B+ for the material, D+ for the recording thereof

6) Paul Stanley (1978)  As one might have expected, Paul’s solo album sounded the most like a regular Kiss album, since he does the majority of the singing and songwriting.  What one might not have expected was how much the Starchild had matured as a vocalist.  Even though he’s a naturally-gifted singer, it took Paul a few years to truly find his vocal range and really learn how to properly sing, and this album was proof that he’d come a long way since “Strutter” and “100,000 Years”.  The album opens with Stanley’s trademark slow/soft beginning followed by loud/hard finish on “Tonight You Belong To Me” (shades of “Black Diamond” and “I Want You” before it), and keeps the groove going with “Move On”.  If you want to see something funny, watch him try to do this one live on the concert video from the Dynasty tour—Paul gets so wrapped up in dancing and jumping around that he forgets to inhale and loses his breath halfway through the second verse!  “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?” is another fine track, in spite of the asinine line that goes, “You got the key, but babe, I locked the gate.”  Uhhh, dude, the fact remains that your girl STILL HAS THE KEY!  Unless she’s a total airhead and can’t figure out how to work the lock—oh, never mind!  Working with erstwhile Kansas producer Jeff Glixman, Paul deviated from the Kiss playbook in a couple places here, like on “Take Me Away (Together As One)”, “Ain’t Quite Right” and the Barry Manilow-esque “Hold Me, Touch Me”, but not to the album’s detriment.  Other standout tracks include “It’s Alright”, “Love In Chains” and the natural closer, “Goodbye”.  Overall, a sterling effort by Mistah Stanley.

My grade:  B+

5) Lick It Up (1983)  I personally think Kiss waited one album too long to ditch the make-up and the platform boots.  They should’ve left them in the ‘70s where they belonged, but the band certainly benefitted from the bounce they got from exposing themselves (facially, anyway) on Lick It Up.  If you need proof that Kiss was just as good without the war paint, after seeing the “Lick It Up” video on MTV, a guy I worked with at the time said to me, “Man, I really liked the song, but didn’t have a clue who they were until Gene stuck his tongue out!”  Thanks in part to the curiosity factor, LIU outsold Creatures Of The Night by leaps and bounds, even though the quality of the two was comparable and in spite of Vinnie Vincent’s unimaginative guitar work throughout.  Fortunately, Vincenzo wasn’t a total liability, as his songwriting skills were far superior to his one-dimensional guitar playing, and he contributed mightily to the excellent mix of songs here—VV co-wrote the title track and eight out of the ten tunes, overall.  Even though Gene Simmons wound up like a fish out of water and eventually lost his way without his Demon persona make-up, he had some killer tunes and did some of his best singing on this album.  “Fits Like A Glove” and “Young And Wasted” are two of my all-time favorite Kiss tunes ever (regardless of era) and I loved the fuck-you attitude of his “Dance All Over Your Face”.  “Not For The Innocent” and “And On The 8th Day” didn’t suck either.  Paul Stanley scored a slam dunk with the title track, but had a bit of an airball by trying to be Gaspasser Flash by doing a little Rappin’ on “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”—don’t quit yer day job, there, Starchild!  However, if you can get past the Rappin’, the rest of the song ain’t bad.  He makes up for it, though, on “Exciter”, “A Million To One” and especially “Gimme More”.  As for Lick It Up as a whole:  No make-up?  No problem!

My grade:  A-minus

And now I'm going to be a douche like Casey Kasem and make you wait for the rest of the countdownmostly because I haven't written the rest of it, yet!