By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
KISS – REVENGE (1992)
This week’s article is once again courtesy of me having listened to this album first on CD. I have been slowly acquiring the Kiss catalog on CD and my friend Jeff from Georgia had found me a copy of Revenge on disc on one of his many jaunts to the various record shops where he finds material.
When I played the CD version of the album, I was just kind of listening for fun. I had the cassette edition in the Big Box of Cassettes and planned to listen to that in order to write this article. When I mentioned to Jeff that I was listening to Revenge, he responded by saying that he liked half the album which meant that I would probably like the stuff he didn’t like. (It would seem everyone has discovered my contrarian musical nature by now.)
The album is jam-packed with 12 songs but the song “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You II” (a remake of the song originally done by British band Argent) was actually released in 1991 as part of the soundtrack for the movie Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. However, when Revenge came out about a year later, the song was included on the album’s first side.
I’m pretty sure that I liked the song when it was originally released but over the years I’ve come to find it rather annoying. I don’t know, it just seems to be a little over the top (even for Kiss) and overplayed as well. This is a sad realization for me because apparently Gene Simmons considers the song as a testament to drummer Eric Carr, who died soon after the song was released on the movie soundtrack.
Still, the album does start off pretty strongly. The song “Unholy” opens up things and I loved the heavier feeling to the music and the vocal performance from Simmons. The songs “Spit” and “Domino” are outstanding heavy rockers as well. The latter song is one of my “latter day” favorite tracks from the band.
The other two songs on Side One are “Take It Off” and “Tough Love”. Since I hadn’t heard the album in full before now, most of the material including these tracks are new to me. I loved the guitar work from Bruce Kulick on “Take It Off” in particular. While I thought “Tough Love” certainly captured the energetic feeling you get from pretty much any Kiss rocker, I ended up not being fully crazy about the song as a whole. I’m not quite sure why it didn’t hit home with me though.
The second side of Revenge an almost entirely new listening experience for me. The band kept up their high-wire rocking pace for most of the songs on the album but they did go the ballad route with “Every Time I Look At You”. However, I really wish they hadn’t because I didn’t care for the song at all.
Other than that though, Side Two was chock full of some great songs. Some of the vocals on side opener “Heart of Chrome” seemed to get swallowed up in the mix but the song was good enough that I didn’t really get too upset about that. The closing track was an instrumental by Eric Carr called “Carr Jam 1981”. It was pretty good overall and I wonder how it would’ve progressed had it been intended for a full song.
In between those tracks, the band hit full bore rocking with songs like “Thou Shalt Not”, which was a killer track. However, “Paralyzed” topped that with an even more intensely blazing intensity. And the one song that I had at least a passing familiarity with was “I Just Wanna” which tickled all sorts of buttons for me.
While there were a couple of tracks that I didn’t like all that much, Revenge is definitely an enjoyable album for me. Much to what I’m sure will be my friend Jeff’s chagrin, I liked fully more than half the album and I think this will be one of the Kiss albums that I end up playing a lot more as time goes by.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The album went gold for the band. It is the final album to feature any contributions from drummer Eric Carr. As noted earlier in the article, he had passed away before the album was released. Revenge is dedicated to him. While he was in the video for the “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You II”, he didn’t actually record the drum tracks for the song (he did contribute backing vocals). Instead, it was Eric Singer behind the kit and when Carr died, Kiss hired Singer full-time and he performed the material on Revenge with the exception of the song “Take It Off” and of course, “Carr Jam 1981”. Guitarist Bruce Kulick re-recorded the guitar parts on the “Carr Jam 1981” instrumental which had been originally played by Ace Frehley. Oddly enough, the riff in the song (according to the album’s write up on Wikipedia) ended up being used by Frehley for his 1987 Frehley’s Comet song “Breakout”.
Before Revenge was recorded, guitarist Vinnie Vincent had made up with both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. He wrote songs with both of them. But before the album’s release he’d fallen out with the band again and his only credit on the album turned out to be the co-write on “Unholy”. Paul Stanley co-wrote “Take It Off” with producer Bob Ezrin and Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts. Meanwhile, the solo in the song “Every Time I Look At You” was played by Dick Wagner, who also played guitar with Alice Cooper.