Bruce Kulick is best known for his 12-year, non-makeup stint in KISS – he played on five studio albums, including Asylum, Crazy Nights, Hot in the Shade, Revenge and Carnival of Souls. He was also featured on the MTV Unplugged video. Kulick has had a colorful career which included touring with Meat Loaf, recording with Michael Bolton and Billy Squier, and his most recent stint, as guitarist in the legendary Grand Funk Railroad.
But, his latest project goes back – way back to 1974 and his first band – KKB, featuring bassist/vocalist Mike Katz and drummer Guy Bois. “Got to Get Back” features six classic tracks, plus a brand new, powerful recording of the reunited band – 40 years later.
It was the night before Halloween, 1978. A Saturday night, hanging out with best friend Jimmy McCann (who now reviews CDs for Icon Fetch). We’re plopped on the floor in front of the tube, while cuss words, and the smell of cigarettes and alcohol flow in from the next room, where both sets of parents are playing cards. We were waiting for Kiss to come on television.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t much of a Kiss fan at that time. But, NBC had hyped the hell out of the movie, so, even as kids, we were well aware that tonight was the night…Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. I had seen pictures of Kiss, but nothing compared to watching them on screen. The fact that they had super powers just added to it. We were so hyped, dancing around the living room. Watching the movie today, I can’t tell you what the hell I saw in it then…Kiss isn’t even in the first 30 minutes and their acting is laughably bad (Paul Stanley: “You’re lookin’ for someone, but it’s not Kiss”). Doesn’t matter…we thought it was cool. In fact, we were so jazzed up after that, that our folks let us stay up and watch Saturday Night Live, which they NEVER did. I distinctly remember watching the Rolling Stones perform songs from the Some Girls album. But, what I really remember is Mick Jagger trying to French Kiss members of the band. Don’t believe me? Click here to watch them do “Respectable” on SNL. Kiss and the Stones in one night…doesn’t get any better than that.
Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (Casablanca, 1974) – CD review –
Hotter Than Hell? Flaming turd is more like it. This is, quite possibly, the worst-sounding album in the history of recorded music. Okay, that’s excessive, but you get the idea.
Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise had done a not-so-good job producing the first Kiss LP; that record is muddy and tinny — it’s obvious the producers had no clue how to harness a loud band like Kiss. But inexplicably, they were asked back for the followup. Instead of trying to improve on their debut, Hotter Than Hell sounds worse. The opening guitar riff of “Got To Choose” is tinny; it sounds like it was recorded over the telephone. Peter Criss sounds like he’s drumming on cardboard boxes throughout the record, even his cymbals have no shine to them. The guitars are muddy; there’s no punch to them and no meat either. Ever have a cassette player where you accidentally left the Dolby button on and everything sounded muffled? That’s Hotter Than Hell.
It’s a damn shame too; this is some of Kiss’ finest moments. “Coming Home,” if it had been recorded properly, could’ve been a breakout hit for the band, while “Parasite” has one of the best riffs Ace Frehley ever created. Listen to the guitar at the beginning of “Watching You”; it’s downright laughable how awful it sounds. It’s no wonder that many of the songs here would benefit greatly from a live setting in Alive! where they could actually breathe, and be the songs they were meant to be. No knock on the actual songwriting or performances here; it’s the god-awful production sound that ruins it. If ever Kiss considered re-mixing their back catalog, this should be the first in line. –Tony Peters
Kiss hasn’t done a great deal of touring over the last decade. Instead, they’ve spent more time on other ventures, like the Kiss Kasket, Kiss Coffeehouse and Gene Simmons’ reality show Family Jewels. They still bill themselves as the “Hottest Band in the World,” but with the founding members getting up there in age (Gene Simmons is nearing 61 and Paul Stanley is 58), there was some doubt that they could still deliver the goods. The show opened with an ear-splitting explosion, followed by “Modern Day Delilah,” one of three new songs they played that night. Right away, you could feel the energy coming off the stage
, and any doubt was soon gone. Through an amazing 22-song set, lasting almost 2 ½ hours, Kiss showed that they could still put on a balls out spectacle. All the elements of a classic Kiss show were present: they arrived on an elevated pedestal that lowered the band to the stage, Simmons breathed fire and spit blood, Stanley smashed his guitar, and at one point rode a guywire to the middle of the audience and played on a small stage. Kiss also seemed more like a band than they have in a long time. Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, the permanent replacements for Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, respectively, seemed no more than hired guns on previous tours. Here, they were not only recognized, but were also given their own spotlights; Thayer sang Ace’s “Shock Me,” while Singer did Peter’s ballad “Beth.” The band touched on every album from their debut to 1979’s Dynasty, with the discofied “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” Not surprisingly, their first record got the most notice, with five songs played. One difference in this tour is the acknowledgement of the non-makeup years, with songs like “Lick it Up,” “God Gave Rock n’ Roll to You” and, most surprisingly, “Crazy Crazy Nights.” Yes, they played standards like “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout it Out Loud,” and “Rock n’ Roll All Nite.” The fact is, most bands of their age are getting by with playing slightly over an hour each night, while Kiss played for double that. Stanley’s voice did sound a little hoarse, yet the band never had to do a song in another key just to fit his vocal range (something most older bands are doing). Kiss has certainly merchandised themselves to death, and they’ve gone on without two of their original members, yet they proved that theirs is still the benchmark for all other bands wanting to put on a rock n’ roll spectacle.
Ace Frehley – (1978) – CD review –
It sounded like a good idea in 1978: each member of Kiss release a solo album at the same time. Problem is, the band’s fan base didn’t have the disposable cash to purchase all four records at once, so the gimmick backfired. Gene Simmons’ LP, although wildly erratic, charted the highest; while Paul Stanley’s lacked the punch of Kiss, and Peter Criss’ outing showed that, left to his own devises, he had no freakin’ clue. Then, there was lead guitarist Ace, probably voted the least likely to succeed.
Yet, he not only turns in the finest of the four records, he managed to put together a pretty damn good album in it’s own right. The tracks on Ace Frehley are closer to straight-ahead rock than the heavy-metal posturing of his parent group. And, missing from this album are the typical groupie and road songs that Kiss loved to write. Instead, Frehley gets pretty honest on his personal problems in “Wiped Out,” “Snowblind,” and “Ozone.” His soloing is spirited; some of the best he’s ever put on record.
Also of note is drummer Anton Fig, who flat-out blows away Peter Criss (for proof, just check out “Rip It Out”). Although all four members of Kiss sang, Frehley’s voice had never graced a hit of theirs. That’s why his “New York Groove” was such a triumph, climbing all the way to #13 in early 1979. Frehley would eventually succumb to the vices mentioned on this record. But, for one shining moment, Ace is king. –Tony Peters