Because the writer of two Kiss books (2019’s Take It Off: Kiss Really Unmasked and 2011’s The Eric Carr Story), I really feel I’m correctly certified to function your information via an article that selects 5 of the perfect ignored album tracks of the Kiss catalog – and I’ll even shout it out loud what makes these alternatives hotter than hell.
“Unusual Methods” – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
Though it accommodates the muddiest-sounding manufacturing of all of the Kiss albums, the group’s sophomore effort, Hotter Than Hell, is one among their extra underrated albums. The title observe and “Let Me Go, Rock n’ Roll” are the perfect recognized of the bunch (largely as a result of their inclusion on Alive!), however it’s a surprisingly constant hear from starting to finish, together with fairly just a few standout lesser-known tracks – “Parasite,” “Goin’ Blind,” “Watchin’ You,” and so forth.
However one of many best is tucked away on the very finish – the Ace Frehley-penned (but Peter Criss-sung), “Unusual Methods.” That includes a sluggish tempo and guitar riff (which approaches what we’d take into account “doom steel” territory these days), what actually makes the music such an underrated gem is Frehley’s guitar solo – which is definitely one among his best-ever.
Lastly, somewhat recognized truth – initially, there was a drum solo inserted into the observe, supposedly on the behest of Criss. Within the 2014 guide, Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975), Simmons recalled the “drum solo controversy.” “Throughout Hotter Than Hell, Peter confronted Paul and I and mentioned, ‘If I haven’t got a music to sing on this document I am leaving the band,’ so Paul gave him the music ‘Mainline’ to sing. We initially appreciated that conceited bravado and appreciated a man that stood up for himself, however threatening to go away the band was out of line. And he did it once more whereas we had been recording Ace’s music, ‘Unusual Methods,’ Peter did a seven-minute drum solo on that music and it was horrible. It was the worst factor we ever heard. He threatened to go away the band once more if we lower the solo however we did it anyway.” Correctly for Criss, he opted to stay in Kiss (who would rocket to superstardom only a yr after the discharge of Hotter Than Hell).
And though “Unusual Methods” stays one among Kiss’ heaviest songs, it was most likely by no means carried out reside by the band (there was some discuss in fan circles that it may need been carried out just a few occasions early on, however no audio exists to assist this declare). Nevertheless, lately, Frehley has made it a setlist commonplace at his solo performances.
“Mr. Velocity” – Rock and Roll Over (1976)
Though Kiss is considered by many as both a tough rock or heavy steel band, early on, most of their tunes additionally contained an unmistakable factor of excellent quaint rock n’ roll (“Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” and so forth.) – thanks partly to their admiration of bands such because the Rolling Stones and Humble Pie.
And on this tune from arguably Kiss’ best-ever studio album, Paul Stanley cooks up a killer riff that’s oozing with Stones-y swagger, and with lyrics that glorify his stud-like rock star standing (pattern lyric: “‘Trigger you ain’t sufficient girl, To maintain the grasp glad”).
Within the booklet that accompanied the 2001 field set, Kiss, Stanley defined the music’s lyrical inspiration. “‘Mr. Velocity’ is about having the ability to choose up girls actually shortly. [Laughs] It was about being so quick, having all of the traces, having the know-how to choose any person up with out losing a number of time and seeing these pickups attain their logical conclusion.”
Moreover, the tune serves as proof that Gene Simmons – significantly on Kiss’ first few studio choices – was an underrated bassist, as his basslines all through the tune are surprisingly busy (maybe all of the touring Kiss was doing with Rush/Geddy Lee the earlier yr had rubbed off).
To today, “Mr. Velocity” continues to be a favourite of the Kiss Military – as evidenced by a enjoyable all-star cowl that surfaced on YouTube in 2020, that includes Anthrax’s Charlie Benante and Rob Zombie’s John 5 (all hiding behind respective Kiss masks), which may be seen right here.
“Bigger Than Life” – Alive II (1977)
Peter Criss was often considered a swinging rock n’ roll drummer, a la Charlie Watts – particularly on Kiss’ early materials. However on facet 4 of Alive II (which included 5 newly-recorded studio tracks), his mammoth and booming drum sound is uncannily harking back to John Bonham. And that is particularly evident on the Gene Simmons composition, “Bigger Than Life.”
One of many principal causes for the music’s gonzo sonics is because of the truth that as a substitute of recording in a standard studio, they arrange store on the Capitol Theatre, in Passaic, New Jersey (with producer Eddie Kramer in tow) – to get extra of a “reside sound.” And by golly, it labored!
Nevertheless, when interviewed for the guide Take It Off: Kiss Really Unmasked, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante recalled a dialog he as soon as had with Gene Simmons, by which the bat lizard bassist supposedly spilled the beans that “A few of it was Peter enjoying, and a few of it was not Peter enjoying” on facet 4. Benante additionally added, “He advised me it was Anton Fig, and likewise Carmine Appice. However he couldn’t bear in mind which one was which.” I assume it would stay one among life’s nice mysteries.
One other ingredient that makes the observe such an underrated standout is the distinctive lead guitar work all through. Nevertheless, it was not Ace Frehley who provided the soloing, however moderately, one other “uncredited helper” – who years later, was revealed to be session participant Bob Kulick (who would play with everybody from Meat Loaf to Diana Ross all through his profession, and in 1984, helped land his child brother, Bruce, the lead guitar place in Kiss).
As Bob recalled within the guide, The Eric Carr Story, “As a trusted buddy and confidant of Gene and Paul’s, I wrote songs with Gene, I performed on Paul’s solo document, performed on the songs on facet 4 of Alive II that mainly gave Ace Frehley his status as an excellent guitar participant – ‘All American Man,’ ‘Bigger Than Life.’ These had been me, not Ace Frehley. As with the Beatles, no one volunteered the truth that Bernard Purdie performed drums on some stuff, or that it was Eric Clapton on a few songs. There weren’t commercials within the newspaper – ‘Any person else is guesting on this.’ It wasn’t just like the Beatles and Billy Preston. It could not be Kiss and Bob Kulick.”
Lyrically, the tune focuses on one among Gene Simmons’ favourite topics – himself – and equally to the aforementioned “Mr. Velocity,” is sort of conceited, particularly when he boasts, “I am excess of a person, I am gonna make you perceive, I am bigger than a life measurement man” and “You’ll be able to’t imagine your eyes, What you heard weren’t lies, My love is an excessive amount of to carry.”
Regardless of sounding like a made-for-the-stage quantity, surprisingly, “Bigger Than Life” was by no means correctly performed on stage till 2019 – and solely then as a part of a extra intimate “Kiss Kruise” efficiency.
And one last item in regards to the music’s goliath drum sound – it might clearly function a blueprint that Kiss returned to once more for the heaviest album of their profession, 1982’s Creatures of the Night time. However this time round, it was with Eric Carr on drums (as Criss had exited the band in 1980), and as a substitute of recording the drums in a theater, they arrange mics inside an elevator shaft of a recording studio!
“Magic Contact” – Dynasty (1979)
It is simple to level to Dynasty as the start of the top for the primary go-round of Kiss’ unique line-up – because of its surprisingly pop-y manufacturing courtesy of Vini Poncia, the inclusion of the disco music “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” and the truth that Peter Criss solely performs drums on a single tune, “Soiled Livin'” (regardless of Criss being credited on all of the tracks, it was really Anton Fig who principally stored the beat). However there are definitely just a few hidden gems to be found (even with its moderately neutered manufacturing) – “2,000 Man,” “Charisma,” and particularly, “Magic Contact.”
Penned fully by Paul Stanley, the music exposes what many long-time Kiss followers imagine – that within the ’70s, the Starchild was one of many extra underrated vocalists in rock (particularly heard in a breakdown part in the midst of the tune that comes out of seemingly nowhere, by which he sings in falsetto).
And though Gene and Paul at all times praised the Beatles as a main affect, it was by no means actually crystal clear in Kiss’ sound (not counting just a few tracks on facet two of Simmons’ ’78 solo album, by which he enlisted the help of just a few Beatlemania members to copy the vocal harmonies of Lennon and McCartney). That’s…till this tune, which options backing vocals which can be fairly Beatle-esque on the verses.
Surprisingly, the music’s composer was not happy together with his vocals on the observe, as he as soon as admitted within the 2003 guide, Kiss: Behind the Masks – The Official Approved Biography. “‘Magic Contact’ was an excellent music that sadly acquired mucked up when it was recorded, as did a number of songs on Dynasty and Unmasked. ‘Magic Contact’ was a music that was actually highly effective and actually heavy and acquired sort of wimped out. Simply the fallacious vocal interpretation, fallacious approach of singing it. However I just like the music so much.”
Like “Bigger Than Life,” it might take a few years (heck, a long time), earlier than “Magic Contact” would obtain a correct efficiency in entrance of an viewers, when Stanley broke it out as a part of the tour in assist of his 2006 solo effort, Stay to Win (and later included on the One Stay Kiss DVD).
“Not for the Harmless” – Lick It Up (1983)
As Kiss’ “non-make-up period” wore on, Gene Simmons’ look and songwriting would slip additional and additional away from his demon persona. However on Kiss’ first post-make-up album, 1983’s Lick It Up, Simmons nonetheless sounded centered and impressed (OK, OK, apart from the Spinal Faucet-esque “Dance All Over Your Face”) – significantly on the underrated “Not for the Harmless.”
Maybe what makes this tough rocker such a winner is that if you happen to had been to shut your peepers and film Gene growling it in his Creatures of the Night time period stage garb, it might have been an ideal match. Working example, such lyrics as “I have been damned, I have been cursed, I have been responsible and abused, I spit the hangman in his face and hung him together with his noose” and “Gonna tan your cover, Rip the flesh off your bones,
Look me within the eye, And also you’re gonna flip to stone.”
And though his “Kisstory” with the band was a short-lived (and rocky) one, you need to give guitarist Vinnie Vincent props for not solely co-penning this tune with Simmons, but additionally nearly all of the Lick It Up album – as he co-wrote a powerful eight of the album’s ten tracks.
“‘Not for the Harmless’ began off with a guitar lick that Vinnie introduced me,” Simmons defined within the guide Kiss: Behind the Masks – The Official Approved Biography. “I just like the music so much. There was this group referred to as Hydra and their lead singer had no enamel. Considered one of their data was referred to as No Relaxation for the Depraved. I believed that was a bit cartoonish however there’s one thing in regards to the thought of beginning one thing off damaging. I believed, ‘Let’s write one thing like ‘Do Not Feed the Animals.’ It is a very stern warning with a damaging firstly and ‘Not for the Harmless’ got here out of that.”
Greg Prato is a longtime AllMusic contributor and writer of a number of books together with The Eric Carr Story