KISS – Revenge
1992, Mercury Records
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2. “Take It Off”
3. “Tough Love”
5. “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”
7. “Heart of Chrome”
8. “Thou Shalt Not”
9. “Every Time I Look at You”
11. “I Just Wanna”
12. “Carr Jam 1981”
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Backing Vocals (“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”), Drums & Guitar (“Carr Jam 1981”)
Eric Singer – Drums, Backing Vocals
Dick Wagner – Guitar (“Every Time I Look at You”)
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“Take It Off”)
Tommy Thayer – Backing Vocals
Jesse Damon – Backing Vocals
Producer: Bob Ezrin
By the mid-1980s, KISS was becoming a hair metal band. Not that I have a problem with that, because I consider KISS to be among the godfathers of hair metal (along with Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Van Halen). But by the early ’90s, the world was changing and music was definitely changing. Bubblegum metal was no longer the flavor of choice. Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth and the like were starting to experience great commercial success with a harder sound. While the band didn’t make a drastic change in sound like they would do for 1997’s Carnival of Souls, their was a conscious effort on their part to retool their image a bit and get a bit tougher. Most of the promo shots from this era feature the band in black denim and black leather.
The album was also a shot at “redemption” for Bob Ezrin as he helped take the band to new heights with Destroyer but his collaboration with the band on Music From “The Elder” took the band to new lows in popularity. What’s funny now is, in hindsight, it seems most KISS fans now enjoy Music from “The Elder”. Of course, the band reunited with someone else from their past in Vinnie Vincent, but in a songwriting capacity only. He receives writing credits on “Unholy”, “Heart of Chrome” and “I Just Wanna”. With Ezrin and Vincent having been called in, the band was making a serious effort to deliver the best KISS album yet. According to Bruce Kulick, Gene, Paul & Bob Ezrin were extremely picky when it came to song writing on the album.
In fact, Revenge is the album where KISS’ past, present & future unite. Gene, Paul, Vinnie, Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr, Eric Singer and future guitarist Tommy Thayer all participate on the album in some form or another. I guess Ace, Peter and Mark St. John were too busy to stop by!
For the music itself, Revenge generally receives good praise. Among fans, it competes most often with Lick It Up as the best non-makeup album. Given that this was one of the last KISS albums I needed to fill the hole in my own collection, I tend to look at many of KISS’ other outputs more fondly just because I’ve spent more time with them. In fact, I heard Alive III and MTV Unplugged before I ever heard Revenge, so even now the studio versions sound “off” to me because I’m used to the live/acoustic versions .
There’s definitely some great cuts on this album though. “Unholy” kicks off the album with a darker sound than KISS had previously employed. Gene completely owns this song, it’s one of his best and it works even better when performed live in the Demon make-up. “Take It Off” is a strip club song (and a great one at that), “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” is a re-imagining of the Argent song that will forever be tied to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and “Domino” is yet again another amazing Gene track. Meanwhile, Paul shines on the ballad “Every Time I Look at You” and the fun and nearly-naughty “I Just Wanna” (“fuh-fuh-fuh-forget you!”).
The album closes with “Carr Jam 1981”, which was a demo recorded by Eric Carr early in his tenure in the band and was included as a tribute due to his passing away from complications of heart cancer on November 24, 1991. I believe Bruce Kulick did some work on the track after Eric’s passing in preparation for its inclusion on the album.
Though it’s not without some filler (“Spit”, “Paralyzed”), Revenge is not only one of the band’s best non-makeup albums, it’s also one of their best albums in their whole catalog.
Highlights: “Unholy”, “Take It Off”, “Tough Love”, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”, “Domino”, “Heart of Chrome”, “Every Time I Look at You”, “I Just Wanna”