Friday, October 31, 2014

Review- Kiss/ Love Gun Deluxe Edition

Kiss/ Love Gun Deluxe Edition (Casablanca/ Mercury/ Universal, 2014; original album released 1977)

Kiss...oh how this band has bled me dry over the course of my life. This marks the eighth time that I have owned this album. My first copy on LP was a gift on my fourth birthday in 1977 (Mom, what were you thinking, putting me on this path which has led to my eternal damnation?), then a Columbia House cassette copy with a sticker label, late '70s (my Mom may have forgot to return the card on time?), eight track cartridge purchased in the '90s, a cassette copy purchased in 1987, original CD purchased in early '90s, Japanese remastered CD in LP-style card sleeve circa 1996/97, US remastered CD in 1997, and now this 2 disc Deluxe Edition. Yes, I love Kiss. Yes, I obviously hate my money, which is a prerequisite of being a member of the Kiss Army, you know. All children in the late '70s were indoctrinated by Kiss and Star Wars. So severe was the cultural penetration that it swallowed us all whole, and to this day Star Wars and Kiss remain beloved symbols of our childhood.

The main album is, of course, absolutely brilliant. While many of the OG members of the Kiss Army went AWOL during this era there were so many new fans that it would be several years before the fallout would become apparent. I know someone who saw them at Cobo Arena on the Alive! Tour in January of 1976 and he said that this was the album where he bailed. Fuck that Christine Sixteen shit. Girly music, he says. Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush, man. So spoke someone who was there at the time. I Stole Your Love, Tomorrow And Tonight, and Plaster Caster are among the greatest songs ever written. I just wish that the CD label was a replica of the original vinyl label. The reremastering doesn't sound too different from the 1997 remastering, maybe a little flatter on the EQs but nothing too noticeable. If you were not happy with the remastering before you won't be now.

Disc Two is the real draw, as we get three unreleased songs from the Love Gun sessions. Much Too Soon, a sort of Stonesy throwaway; Reputation, which would go on to become Radioactive on Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album; I Know Who You Are, which would become Living In Sin, also later found on Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album. The other demos are interesting but not essential. The Gene Simmons Radio Interview from Montreal 1977 shows that Gene Simmons has been laying his line of bull on folks for a long, long time. Love Gun (Teaching Demo) shows the inner workings of Paul's mind as he wrote the song. It is obviously sourced from a cassette but that is part of the charm, like he is sitting in a hotel room calling out chords and notes as he maps out the song in his head. Fascinating.

The three live tracks show just how “sweetened” Alive II is. We all know that Kiss did a lot of rerecording of that “live” album in the studio and that it is not at all indicative of the summer 1977 setlist. I wonder if they did any further tinkering with these here? My guess is probably. I would love to see a series of true live album from every tour released.

The packaging is one of those cardboard tri-fold digi-paks with two plastic hubs. There is a booklet with all kinds of cool pictures and notes, including the original cover pitch which was rejected. There is a magnet replica of the original popgun, which is cool. My only complaint is that the BANG is absent, whereas it is included in the booklet of the 1997 remaster.

So yeah Kiss, you got my money again. I can't wait to buy the entire catalog yet again in this deluxe format. Kill me now.

Junk Food For Thought rating- Main album: 6 out of 5. Disc Two- 4 out of 5. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review- Madhouse #95-97

Madhouse #95-97 (Red Circle Productions/ Fawcett/ Archie Comics, cover dates September, 1974- January, 1975)

Writers: Don Glut, Marv Channing, John Jacobson, Bruce Jones, Frank X Doyle, Stan Goldberg, and Ralph Alphonso
Artists: Vicente Alcazar, Doug Wildey, Carlos Pino, Jesse Santos, Sal Amendola, Bruce Jones, Frank Thorne, Gray Morrow, and Al McWilliams

A pox upon you, Facebook comic book groups! Folks post covers to issues, and last Hallowe'en a friend of mine posted the cover to #97 (the one on the bottom). I took to ComicBookDB and then to eBay, patiently bidding on copies within a predetermined price range. It took me 9 months but I obtained all three for under $20.00. I have also quit all of those groups to avoid further temptation. I saved these comics for my Hallowe'en sabbatical (I took the whole week off) and tore through them. I love the Bronze Age of comics, and these are about as good as what DC was doing at the time in House Of Mystery and their other assorted titles. The series starts out strong with #95 but each issues gets a little weaker, with the series morphing back into a humor title with #98.

This would make a pretty cool collected edition. All three issues total 74 pages of content including covers and text story pages, a bit thin for a trade paperback. Red Circle, which was Archie's Horror/ Sci-Fi/ superhero imprint, also published other Horror comics during this time period: Chilling Adventures In Sorcery #3-5, and Red Circle Sorcery #6-11. Given Archie's runaway success with Afterlife With Archie and now Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, maybe it is time for Archie to revisit this material with two trade paperbacks or one deluxe hardcover. You could compile these issues with Chilling Adventures In Sorcery #3-5 in one and then do Red Circle Sorcery #6-11 in the other for softcovers or all of them in one deluxe Archive-style hardcover. There are many notable creators who worked on these issues and it would go over pretty well, methinks.

Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


WEIRD FANTASY: THE EC ARCHIVES VOL. 1 (Dark Horse, 2014; Hardcover)

Collects Weird Science #13-17, 6 (cover dates May/June, 1950- March/ April, 1951)
Writers: Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Gardner Fox, and Harvey Kurtzman
Artists: Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Wally Wood, Jack Kamen, and Harvey Kurtzman

Science Fiction meets Cold War paranoia. Predating The Twilight Zone while feasting on the remains of the pulps, Weird Fantasy was one of the early 'New Trend' titles. The early New Trend titles were heavy on the Feldstein, with plenty of his artwork. Later on he did more writing and editing and less artwork. He writes complete stories which happen to have pictures, meaning that they are text heavy. So many modern writers could not write this way. They prefer to “let the pictures do the heavy lifting”, which is a nice way of saying that they are lazy and can't write a coherent story.

Al Feldstein passed away this year. I met him at the Motor City Comic Con several years ago. He had no line and so I strolled on up and started chatting with him, professing my love for his work and for EC Comics as a whole. I told him how much I enjoyed The EC Archives and he interrupted me, barking I don't make any money off of those. Buy a print!, motioning to his recreations of classic EC covers.

Harvey Kurtzman's stories deviated from standard EC fare in two regards: First, it was dialogue driven and largely third party narrative free. Second, they were hand lettered, rather than done using a Leroy lettering stencil set found in all other EC stories. The Leroy set gave EC Comics a distinctive, clean look to them which has helped them age well.

While I am not a fan of using modern computer coloring on these classics there are spots where it is tastefully done. By the time that you read this I will have already dumped this and the rest of my EC Archives on eBay. The EC Annuals are the way to go as far as I am concerned, as they boast the original four color palette which makes my purist OCD happy. Most folks love these Archives. Others hunt down the old black and white slipcase EC Library sets, while others love the artist-centric Fantagraphics collections being pumped out at an alarming rate. There is no right or wrong in the world of EC. It all boils down to your preference, comfort zone, and how much discretionary income you have to devote to the various format or formats of your choice.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I can't wait for the day when someone, anyone, produces EC Comics Archives in full color with the original color palette, including the original cover color palette.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction. (2 pages)
Foreword by Walt Simonson. (1 page)
Linework and Color: The linework is superb, taken from photostats and original artwork. The color is the killer for me. While based on Marie Severin's original colors, there are too many liberties taken with it in terms of gradient shades and other Photoshop effects for my taste. Your mileage may vary.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with minimal sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding with eight stitches per signature.
Hardback cover notes: This is the best of both worlds- a dustjacket with the same image on the paper of the casewrap. Top it off with a super thick lamination on the casewrap and you have the cherry on the top of this sundae.