KISS - Hot In The Shade (1989) Apr 17, 2010 19:05:01 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Apr 17, 2010 19:05:01 GMT -5
H.I.T.S. - Get it?
With most of the money spent on the attempt to get the big hit album out of Crazy Nights going for naught KISS went the bargain basement route for their next album. Using demos as the building blocks for the album (as opposed to re-recording the songs altogether), Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided to once again produce the new KISS album themselves. The intent was to get raw, to get back to basics.
And on some of thse songs they succeeded. On some of the others? Not so much. The album was a step in the right direction style-wise, but when it came to the songwriting quality it was all over the map.
Then there was the actual audio production. Cleaining up and polishing those demos worked better in theory than in practice. Just how much of the album actually started out as demos is questionable. In the twenty-plus years since it's release stories of varying degrees of demo use on the album have seen publication or posting on the internet. Regardless of how much is true and how much is exaggeration the album only sounds OK. The guitars sound a little too midrangey (not enough warmth and bottom end). The drums would sound good if not for a fairly bad (overprocessed) snare drum sound. And the bass? The bass is lacking in depth (it, too, is midrangey for bass, and lacks warmth, but even with the midrangey sound it also lacks punch) and it isn't high enough in the mix.
So the sound is mediocre at best, but how are the songs? As mentioned previously they're all over the place.
The album starts out promisingly enough with, "Rise To It," which gets back to more of a hard edged Rock and Roll vibe than much of their 80's material that either went Rock/Metal or went Pop/Metal. Co-written and sung by Paul Stanley, "Rise To It," is a really good song, one that clearly fits in well with KISS' 70's material, even if it is also clearly a product of the late 80's. So far, so good.
I've always called, "Betrayed," "Son of Deuce," and when you listen to it it's not hard to hear why. It's got the same beat, a similar feel with a raw, Hard Rock groove, some good vocal melodies, and a great chorus. But like most sequels it's not quite as good as the original. Still, it's another very good song and this Gene Simmons track keeps the album going in the right direction.
Paul's, "Hide Your Heart," was the album's first single, and it's easy to hear why. It's a solid, straightforward Hard Rock song with some Power Pop melodies. Again, it's a good song, and if there weren't many more songs with such a blatant Pop influence on the album everything would have been OK.
Things were still OK as the album gets to, "Prisoner of Love," a Hard Rock shuffle of sorts from Gene that has some good vocal melodies, and a decent chorus. Still, there's something almost uninspired about the song. It's good, but it comes across like a song that could have, and should have, been better.
The first, and arguably biggest, misstep on the album comes in the form of Paul's, "Read My Body," which was co-written by Bob Halligan Jr (who also wrote songs with Judas Priest, Icon, and others). It features a stiff, embarrassing, "Rapped," vocal on the verse, and is a blatant rip-off of Def Leppard's, "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Had an outside producer been hired this song may have been the first casualty on the song cut down list. It should have been. It's a blatant rip-off and it isn't nearly as good as the original.
Gene's material continues to be middling and uninspired as he gets to, "Love's a Slap in the Face." It is clearly an attempt to get back to the band's 70's roots, but is still stuck in the late 80's. That in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but the song is much like it's tempo - middling and lacking in energy. Sure, it's catchy and halfway enjoyable, but it should have been better.
Then we get to the breakout hit that saved KISS' career. When Hot in the Shade came out and failed to become a significant hit concert promoters were cold to the idea of booking the tour to support the album. Then KISS released the 2nd single from the album, "Forever," and everything changed. "Forever," became KISS' first top 10 hit in 10 years, and with good reason. It was an extremely well written Power Ballad (written by Paul Stanley and Michael Bolton), and was played with conviction. It's clear that the band knew just how good the song was as their performances have a little more feeling behind them. Bruce Kulick's acoustic guitar solo is one of the best of his career, and helps elevate the song above standard Power Ballad fare.
To follow that song in the track list the band went with Paul's, "Silver Spoon," a song of almost equal conviction as it's predecessor. It's got great riffs, powerful melodies, and a great chorus. Eric Carr is pounding away on the drums like he's actually having fun, and the female R&B style backing vocals at the end are a very, very nice touch. "Silver Spoon," is a big time winner."
So how you go from a big time winner to a big time loser like, "Cadillac Dreams," is beyond me. Gene Simmons loves money, yeah - we get it. And I suppose a song about his blatant love of money makes sense. But it would have been nice if it had been a better song. This upbeat shuffle just sounds odd on a KISS album. Maybe it would have worked on a Gene Simmons album, but it doesn't work here. It's not a horrible track, just horribly misplaced, and in the context of a KISS album it sounds worse than it does as a stand alone song. No matter the context, though, the song is mediocre at best.
And so is Paul's, "King of Hearts." It's not bad, but it's so damned generic that on this album it becomes a liability. Hot in the Shade needed more inspired songs that had the unmistakable KISS sound, but, while "King," rocks a bit it just sounds like a song that could have been on albums by a dozen or more bands at that time - and it wouldn't have been a standout track on any of them.
Taking some inspiration from Guns 'N' Roses, Gene brought, "The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away," which was co-written by future KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. The main riff is a killer, and the vocals snarl with conviction. The chorus hook is above average, and in the context of this song is pretty darned good. Bruce Kulick's solo is less flash and more feel (unlike most of his solos on the previous two KISS albums), getting back to his roots, and it works well. This song is the type of thing that Gene should have been doing on his previous three songs on the album.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Paul's, "You Love Me to Hate You," which was primarily written by Desmond Child with some input from Paul. Desmond by this point was either lazy or out of songwriting ideas, because he reworked his Alice Cooper hit, "Poison," several times - including with this song. There are points in, "You Love Me to Hate You," where you can even sing the vocal part to, "Poison," over the music. Other than the fact that this is a completely unoriginal, reworked song from one of Child's previous hits the biggest problem with this one is that it is, like Paul's previous track on the album, completely generic and mediocre. Any one of a couple dozen bands in the late 80's could have done this Pop Metal song and had it fit on their albums. And it would have sounded just as generic on their albums as it does here.
Synth bass on a Gene Simmons song? Yeah, "Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell," has that along with some generic, middling riffs (one of which borrows heavily from Bon Jovi's, "Bad Medicine"). It's a good song, but like Paul's last two tracks it's fairly generic and doesn't have that KISS stamp on it. It is better than either of Paul's previous two songs, so there is that going for it. This is one of several songs on the album co-written by previous producer Vini Poncia, who was the man largely responsible for KISS shift to Power Pop in 1979 & 1980 (on Dynasty and Unmasked). He was an odd choice to bring in to write songs with the band, and the results made for an album that sounded less like KISS than it should have.
And then there's Eric Carr's song. Paul and Gene settled on, "Little Caesar," for Eric as the one song he would be allowed to contribute to the album. It's an odd choice in a way as it's not a great song while Eric did bring in a great song, "Eyes of Love," that was rejected by the two KISS main men. Still, "Little Caesar," is appealing. Eric sings with conviction, and the song has a nice R&B influenced style (make no mistake - it's a Hard Rock song, but it's got some R&B elements and is halfway funky). Eric not only played drums and sang, but he played a very nice bass line on the song as well. It's mostly just Eric and Bruce Kulick as the only other contribution is Paul Stanley singing some backing vocals.
The album ends with a bang, with a burst of frantic energy on, "Boomerang." This is a song that is almost out of control with a riff that almost feels like it's about to fly off the fretboards and an uptempo double-bass drum beat that almost feels like falling forward. The song just careens forward with reckless abandon, and that's the fun of the thing. The vocal melodies are OK, and the chorus is fairly decent, but it's the entire package that makes this one fun. It may be one of the least popular songs in KISS' catalog, but for me it works.
Hot in the Shade is an album that would have benefitted from some editing. Addition by subtraction. Had they left, "Read My Body," "Cadillac Dreams," and, "You Love Me to Hate You," off the album and included Eric Carr's monumental, "Eyes of Love," in the track list Hot in the Shade would have been a very good album. Instead, they made the decisions that they made and the album ended up being one of their weakest efforts, overall. Even if they did make an attempt to get back to basics they didn't hit the mark on enough of the songs, and to include so many generic, mediocre, uninspired, lackluster songs on the album was a flaw that even the best songs on the album just couldn't overcome.