Top 10 Kiss ‘Without Makeup’ Songs
It might surprise some to find out how many great Kiss ‘without makeup’ songs are out there. Of course the band is more famous in their face-painted incarnation, but for thirteen years and seven albums, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and company dropped the masks (they still dressed ridiculously) and relied almost solely on their wrongly maligned musical talent. It worked, too; many of these songs are still played in concert by the re-costumed rock crusaders to this day. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Kiss ‘without makeup’ songs:
‘Tears Are Falling’
First rule: Don’t judge without makeup Kiss songs like this one by the videos. In that respect, they were more than a little lost in the 80s. The spangly day-glo blouses, Gene’s perm, and a ‘Gilligan’s Island’-inspired set all work against what’s actually a very catchy, chunky mid-tempo rocker from 1985’s ‘Asylum.’ Bonus question: is Paul peeing his own house as the song starts?
1992’s ‘Revenge’ reunited the band with legendary producer Bob Ezrin, who collaborated with Kiss on their classic 1976 album ‘Destroyer.’ Throughout the record he helps Gene Simmons get his demonic groove fully back for the first time in nearly two decades (we’ll give him ‘Fits Like a Glove’) with songs like this slinky, menacing, ZZ Top-reminiscent tale of what else, sexual conquest.
Yeah, it’s a ballad. Yes, Michael Bolton helped write it. It was also a huge hit, from 1989’s otherwise half-baked ‘Hot in the Shade.’ If you can get over your snickering, maybe you can admit to yourself that it’s actually quite catchy, the best of many surprisingly melodic and lyrically direct love songs Paul Stanley wrote during Kiss’s non-makeup era.
‘Radar for Love’
We wanted to go with at least one obscure Kiss without makeup song. (I wanted to go with 20, actually.) It came down to this storming bit of call and response riff rock from ‘Asylum’ and the world’s loudest pep talk, 1984’s ‘Get All You Can Take.’ (link) ‘Radar’ gets the nod for the extended guitar madness at its finale, which (hint hint) would sure sound fantastic on stage today.
Besides a marked improvement in songwriting, and a welcome break from Kiss’ nasty habit of chasing popular musical trends, what makes ‘Revenge’ so special is the sense of irreverent fun featured on tracks like ‘Spit.’ Gene and Paul trade lead vocals like the good old days, and Bruce Kulick’s guitar solo pretty much turns ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on its ear.
‘All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose’
Drummer Eric Carr (R.I.P.) was reportedly furious when Paul Stanley took apart his rare songwriting contribution, intended as a straight-up Zeppelin riff rocker, and twisted it into this strutting, pre-prototypical rap-rock hybrid for 1983’s ‘Lick It Up.’ Hate to speak ill of the departed, but we gotta go with “the Starchild” here, cause this song rocks.
Kiss thrilled fans by going back under the greasepaint, reuniting with all four original members in 1996. They left behind one final collection of non makeup Kiss songs, 1997’s ‘Carnival of Souls.’ It leaned a little heavy on the grunge, but featured this classic, thundering anthem which followed the classic “Gene’s gruff voice plus a children’s choir” formula to a T.
‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You II’
Kiss re-writes an under-appreciated song from Argent for the soundtrack to 1991’s ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.’ (It also appears on ‘Revenge.’) The song’s sing-along chorus, soaring guitar passages and most of all, statement about the power of music have made it a concert-closing favorite second only to the mighty ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ in the Kiss canon.
‘Heaven’s on Fire’
After disco singles and concept albums, plenty of people counted Kiss out in the early 80s. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ changed that. The famous “whoo-ooooh-ooooh” opening that sets the tone for this scorching track, which returned the band to the charts for the first time in years, was reportedly captured by accident as Paul Stanley did yodeling exercises to prepare for a vocal take.
‘Lick It Up’
This simple, seemingly unassuming title track from Kiss’s non-makeup 1983 debut somehow keeps picking up steam and energy until it feels like the whole world is singing the chorus along with you in your car. Of course, none of these folks, or probably anybody but Paul, has any idea what the title has to do with the song’s “Carpe Diem” lyrics. Chalk it up to the undefinable magic of Kiss.
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