Sunday, October 10, 2010

KISS-Sonic Boom

Post #111
KISS! The make-up clad hard-rockers emerge from an eleven year studio retirement with Sonic Boom, a hard-edged rock n' roll album that finds the band returning to their roots. Although this album has been well received by many fans and critics, there have been many changes within the band in the years since Psycho-Circus. Some fans may hold some reservations because of these circumstances, but in the end they are moot points at best. As should always be the case with rock n' roll, the music speaks for itself on Sonic Boom.

The first single, "Modern Day Delilah", get this come-back album off to a great start. Catchy hard-rock riffs are abundant on Sonic Boom, and it is these riffs around which the album is built. Gone are the days when KISS would emulate current trends in music. Here they stick to their strengths: rock n' roll riffs, catchy hooks, melodic and classic guitar solos. Gene and Paul trade off on lead vocals throughout the album while both Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer take lead vocals on one track each.

For those concerned about how Tommy & Eric fit into this formula, keep in mind both of these guys have been with the band before. Eric as drummer after the tragic death of Eric Carr from '92-'96; and Tommy as a collaborator and guitar tech as early as the late 80's. What surprised me most was how well these two captured the classic KISS vibe on most of this album. Tommy's leads really are written to sound like classic Ace Frehley leads. Half the time he was soloing I was doing double-takes thinking I was listening to albums like Hotter Than Hell or Dressed to Kill. Eric's drumming likewise focuses on the rhythm styles of their early days. You can tell the band really studied their early material when composing Sonic Boom. If you're a KISS purist, then this really is the album you've been waiting for, in spite of the absence of Peter & Ace.

Sonic Boom ends almost as strongly as it started, with the track "Say Yeah". Simple title, but catchy like classic KISS songs should be. It was also a featured song on their last 2 tours. Also, as great as the album itself is, the full experience doesn't end there. With this release, KISS include a bonus CD and a bonus DVD!

The CD is KISS Klassics; a collection of 15 of their hits and fan favorites from the 70's & 80's, re-recorded by the current band line-up. There are some pros & cons to re-recording old songs, but I suspect it was done primarily to cut back on royalties to their previous label, Mercury Records, since they are now using their own label, KISS Records. The songs themselves are sometimes better than the original recordings, sometimes not. Having cranked up the original versions for years on-end, they are the versions I mostly side with. There are a couple where I feel the emotion is missing, that sound like cheap imitations of the originals. Most are generally interchangable with the old versions. The few exceptions where I feel the new take is an improvement can be found below in the 'top-picks' section.

The DVD is a real treat! It features a few live performances from their recent tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Like several other rock & metal bands have found, KISS take advantage of the extreme enthusiasm fans display at live shows in South America. Have you ever seen a South American Futbol (Soccer) match? Well, they treat their rock concerts pretty much the same way! On this DVD you'll hear the fans singing along with every word, and many of the riffs! Of course, KISS put on a great performance with all their theatrics & pyro-technics as well. The six tracks are: "Deuce", "Hotter Than Hell", "C'mon and Love Me", "Watchin' You", "100,000 Years", and "Rock and Roll All Nite".

Here are my top picks from Sonic Boom:
-Modern Day Delilah
-Russian Roulette
-Hot and Cold
-All for the Glory (Here's where you can hear Eric Singer on lead vocals, very similar to Peter's voice.)
-When Lightning Strikes (Tommy's lead vocal track. Sounds eerily like an Ace Frehley song, both in the vocals and music style.)
-Say Yeah

...and top picks from KISS Klassics:
-Hotter Than Hell (This one benefits from the modern re-recording. Sharper & fuller sound than the original!)
-I Was Made for Lovin' You (Although this still has the disco-beat feel as always, the new recording brings a whole lot more out of the guitar tracks. The result is a heavier feeling song. More along the lines of how they play it live!)
-I Love It Loud (Don't get me wrong, the original version is great too. In fact the whole 'Creatures of the Night' album is still one of my favorites. However, the new recording of this song benefits from a stronger & better defined backing vocal track, the 'Yeaaa-aaa-aa-aaah-Yeah!' part sounds so much better here!)
-Black Diamond (I'm really torn between this new recording and the original. What I like about this one is another chance to hear Eric Singer's lead vocals. But I don't dis Peter Criss' vocals on the original, I just mean you should hear them both!)
-Rock & Roll All Nite (Again, not necessarily better than the original, but this is one song they never do a bad job of playing. Either live or in-studio!)

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