Peter Criss/The Keep [demos]
1. Love For Sale
2. Between The Lines
3. Do You Know What I Mean
4. (Been A) Long Time
5. All Night Long
David Donato – Lead Vocals
Mark St. John – Guitar
Michael Norton – Bass
Peter Criss – Drums; Lead Vocals (“Do You Know What I Mean” only)
Producer: Peter Criss
Formed sometime in 1989, the Keep is a very interesting project that never got far off the ground beyond a series of demos and one live performance in May of ’90 at a Guitar Center store in California. The group is notable for including Peter Criss (original KISS drummer), Mark St. John (short-lived KISS guitarist), and David Donato (short-lived Black Sabbath vocalist…. so short-lived he never made it past the demo stage with the band). The bassist was Michael Norton, the brother of Mark St. John. The trio of St. John/Donato/Norton previously played together in the band White Tiger and had released an album in 1986.
The odd thing is that I’ve seen conflicting reports on who sang on these demos and was the band’s singer in general. Some websites list a Michael McDonald as the original vocalist for this group, while other sites say that David Donato used the alias of “Michael McDonald”. There is no doubt that David Donato was in the band, but it’s unclear to me who Michael McDonald was.
In my research for this album, I get the impression that the Keep was more or less a partnership between Peter Criss & Mark St. John, and the demos were initially shopped simply as ‘Peter Criss’. I’m not sure at which point the band decided to rename themselves as The Keep. Reactions to the Peter Criss/Keep demos were not positive and they were not able to score a record deal. This lead to Mark St. John leaving the band in frustration in early 1991 while his brother stayed on with Peter Criss and they formed an early version of the band ‘Criss’ with Phil Naro coming in on vocals.
So now that that little history lesson is out of the way, and taking into account that these are only demos, how does the music of the Keep sound? Well, it was definitely in keeping with the times with St. John’s flashy guitar playing (which drew the ire of Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley when he was briefly in KISS and helped in his exit from the band). “Been A Long Time” is the flashiest track on this album and is unmistakably Mark St. John and gives off that Animalize vibe. “Between The Lines” is my favorite track of the bunch though.
Despite the hair metal tendencies, the old school influences of Peter Criss couldn’t help but slip in with a cover of Lee Michaels’ 1971 hit “Do You Know What I Mean”. Sure, it’s a a slick ’80s metal version of the song, but I think it’s pretty easy to guess who wanted to record this breezy classic rock & pop song.
I’m always down for some glammed up ’80s heavy metal, so it’s a shame this quasi-super group never took off. You’d think someone would have wanted to sign the original KISS drummer along with a KISS guitarist and someone who could lay claim to being the lead singer for Black Sabbath (even if it was only for about six months in 1984/1985 and they never released any material)!
Oh well, The Keep remains an interesting footnote in history for fans of KISS.