KISS: ‘Crazy Nights’

KISS
CRAZY NIGHTS
Released on September 18, 1987 (Mercury Records)

Review by John Stoney Cannon (September 2017):
For many KISS fans like myself, the non-makeup years tend to be a highly debatable period filled with some great hard rock tunes, a decent bit of so-so hard rock tunes, and rock tunes that in the ’80s would have sounded awesome by other bands but were a good bit away from the KISS many grew up on in the ’70s. Paul Stanley’s tracks perhaps embodied classic KISS the most while band partner Gene Simmons almost spent the ’80s phoning in a pile of cookie cutter tracks that seemed to more boost his need to remind everyone how active his libido was than boost any urge to be creative.

That being said, from Lick It Up in 1983 until 1989’s Hot In The ShadeKISS spent the majority of the decade scoring platinum success mainly due to catchy singles featuring Stanley while Simmons’ input would be mostly generic. Simmons has long admitted his lack of attention due to other ventures such as movies and working with other bands and sadly, once the bassist would get his groove back on 1992 album Revenge, it would be too late to take the band’s consistent platinum success and turn it into massive multi-platinum success. But then again, the following result was huge for the fans as the original KISS line-up reunited and fans were spared an official release and tour for what was to be the next KISS album in line – their pretty awful attempt to squeeze into the grunge scene with Carnival Of Souls.

Somewhere in the middle of this muddled period, KISS released Crazy Nights — a slick album that for the time steered Stanley back into pop territory with a mix of themes based on love and overcoming with co-writes from hit pop songwriters Diane Warren and Desmond Child. While the album features more contributions from lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Carr, looking back, it’s obvious that their roles in the process were more to take up the slack on Simmons’ tracks. The assistance does though result in a bit of a wider variety of songs for the former (and soon to be once again) Demon creating encouraging but still far from spectacular results. Based on singles released from Crazy Nights, it is obvious that the band (or at least the record label) recognized the wide difference in song quality as Stanley tracks “Crazy Nights”, “Reason to Live” and “Turn On The Night” were released all featuring Simmons tracks as B-sides in “No,No, No”, “Thief In The Night”, and “Hell Or High Water.” Honestly, all three singles could have been better with Stanley compositions on the flips sides as well but one has to figure that the last thing the band would want was a fractured Gene Simmons ego. One would have to be deaf not to hear how much better Stanley’s tracks, despite severe pop slickness, were than Simmons’ offerings on Crazy Nights.

The album, the first since Lick It Up four years earlier, to feature actual photos of the band on the cover, is notable for several other reasons perhaps the biggest being that it is one of the least represented albums by the band live. While the tour in support of Crazy Nights featured several tracks from the album, track “Crazy, Crazy Nights” only survived the following album tour before being shelved for close to 20 years. Also of note is the emergence of keyboards as well as the addition of an outside producer in Ron Nevison after band-produced albums Animalize and Asylum.

KISS kicked off promotion of the album with the August release of single “Crazy, Crazy Nights” including a performance style video featuring a kinda cheesy uplifting talk part by Stanley followed by the former Starchild literally walking all over the audience. Post album release the band would follow up with videos for singles “Reason to Live” and “Turn on the Night.”

Listening back to the album 30 years later I can honestly say that while I was probably more into the tunes back then, my opinion on the individual tracks remain pretty much the same. Despite the awful talk section, ”Crazy Crazy Nights” is about as catchy as a song can get and pretty much the same with “Bang Bang You”, “My Way” and “Turn On The Night.” “Reason To Live” and “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” are solid ballad type tracks and “When The Walls Come Down” stands as Stanley’s rocker. For me personally, if there is even a Simmons track worth listening to it would be “Hell Or High Water.” The rest are pretty much the same kind of retread stuff Simmons had been just crapping out for a couple of years at that point.

After several years of lineup instability, KISS finally hit on a stretch of over five years with the talented unit of Stanley, Simmons, Carr and Kulick contributing to a trio of solid releases with Crazy Nights sitting in between Asylum and Hot In The Shade. Sadly, the three would be Carr’s final recordings before passing away from cancer in 1991. The following year, KISS would release the hard rocking Revenge, the final official release of the unmasked era before putting on the face paint for good again in 1996.

Review by Deke (September 2017):
So in 1985, Heart release their self titled album (sold millions!). You know that one! “What About Love”” and These Dreams” and well, lookey lookey, come two years later (1987), KISS hire Heart‘s producer Ron Nevison and make a closer to sounding  Heart record than like a KISS record!

Who woulda thunk it? Not me but KISS were floundering in 1987  and if anything “we need a hit” sez Mr. Stanley and voila, get Nevison here, let’s water down the sound and write some catchy hits or something like it…..

Ladies And Gents…. You wanted the best… Ummmmm OK?

“Crazy Crazy Nights” — The first time I played Crazy Nights was on my walkman (at the time of its release) as I purchased it on cassette tape and my first few thoughts were “Wow! The sound is like Heart‘s album from two years earlier!” Stanley tells us all that if life is like a radio turn it up to ten! Hahaha, OK pal and there we have it KISS ’87 is writing or trying to write the HIT! You know it’s one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and you will find yourself saying “These are Crazy Crazy Crazy Niiiiiights.” Maybe it’s just me thinking that  and I need to visit a psychiatrist! Bruce Kulick lays down a Heartish guitar solo and Eric Carr is in handcuffs and can’t break loose and plays a simple yet effective drum beat! In reality, this ain’t too shabby of a start! I also remember at the time of this release that KISS were saying that the song “Crazy Crazy Nights” went top 10 in Britain!

“I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You” — Rumble go the drums and this is a good song. It’s a little more of a ooooomph than “Crazy Crazy Nights” and what’s bizarre is that doesn’t Gene get track two on most records or most of the ’80s output? Kinda or track three… Hmmmmm, Gene, you’re making bad movies. Get back to KISS and write another “Burn Bitch Burn” would ya! Ha! But yeah, Paul rocks it up on this track the boys lay it down pretty good on this tune.

“Bang Bang You” — I dunno being 20 at the time and this coming out was just a big dumb rock anthem. Stanley can write some real dumb lyrics and this can be the second song (“Uh All Night” being the first from 1985) of Stanley‘s dumb ass lyric written tracks and culminating two years later (1989) with “You Make Me Rock Hard” and “Let’s Put The X In Sex!” Now as goofy as the lyrics are, the music is good, especially the pre-chorus and now KISS have incorporated the KISS synth to I guess enhance the sound of the times! Kulick and Carr do what they can do and show up being good soldiers and cashing in their paycheque as good employees of Starchild and Demon!

“No No No” — Wow, the leash is off of Kulick and Carr and they get to show off a bit and this is Gene‘s deal song número uno at #4! The KISS guys are clocking in at age 40 and there still giving er! Pretty good tune, fast paced and Gene even though he may have written this song, in about five minutes shows that the band still has some chops! Come to think of it, the bass is mixed low on this whole record…. either that or I’m tone-deaf!

“Hell Or High Water” — Simmons and Kulick totally step up here and this is a win win tune! Good verses, real good chorus and the solo from Kulick is real good. The dude could burn a bit when the bosses would let him! I have always liked this tune. Not an arena rock gem but still a good track never the less!

“My Way” — Ah geez…. The first time I heard this, I thought this was a Heart throw away song left outside the garbage pail and picked up by Paul and reconfigured into a KISS track! Paul‘s reverted back on this track like he was singing on Animalize. Throw down some KISS synth and man oh man …..

“When Your Walls Come Down” — This song is just filler. KISS knew it as it was never heard from them again… Next!

“Reason To Live” — Power ballad… Ya surprised? Nope. I mean Poison, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Def Leppard were selling tons of records in 1987 and they all were dropping the ballad. Some worked (not saying which ones!), some flopped (everything Poison). “Reason To Live” has the KISS synth cranked and this is rock 101 power formula executed to a T! The only problem was it tanked quicker than you can say “Tank!” The chorus Paul sings hiiiiiiiigh… Stop it dude please! Now having said all of this, there’s a live show from this tour called KISS Live At The Ritz from 1988 and this song is on there and guess what? I can tolerate the live version as Eric Carr pushes the pace a little better and KISS doesn’t feature the full meal Heart deal live… Well, a bit… They have some dude slinking on the side of the stage playing keys thru the live version…..

“Good Girl Gone Bad” — Simmons steps up and delivers another good song! I like it when he sang chill, especially on the Creatures album! Good song, good solo. It’s all here… Simmons on this album for the most part is kinda not buying into the Stanley Heart Nevison hype machine!

“Turn On The Night” — This tune should have been called “Turn On The Synth”… I dunno. This song is too obviously a single… Another tank job as no one bought into it! Stanley must have lost a ton of hair over this album! “I make a Heart record and no one is buying it” sez Paulie. Ummm,  Paul you are a good singer but it’s Ann Wilson man!

“Thief In The Night” — Simmons ends the record with a so so track and pretty much his weakest track on here but better than about four Stanley tracks on here! Did I just type that? Ha! “Thief In The Night” plods along to the finish line and Gene closes off the album with his tune, and before he shuts off the studio lights on Crazy Nights, he unplugs the KISS synth!

In conclusion, whoah Nelly! This just passes. I mean out of 11 tracks, I can still listen to about five of these and three of them are Gene‘s tunes! And 2.5 are from Paul with the 0.5 being the music to “Bang Bang You.” KISS were floundering and well what can ya do? I’m sure in their minds they were hot shit but lack of tickets on this tour and sagging record sales sure didn’t help the cause but give ’em credit, they stuck it out…

As crazy as it sounds, I wish KISS would go back and do the non-makeup era of the band one last time! This I could handle more now. I may be in the minority here but why not? KISS in makeup is now over 21 years and I’m kinda bored by their whole makeup deal.

Review by Brian Montgomery (December 2011):
It had been two years since the mediocre Asylum album, and KISS were wanting to make a big splash. The hiring of Ron Nevison (of Survivor, Heart, and Ozzy Osbourne fame) to produce was proof that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were putting all their eggs in the super-producer basket. Long gone was the make-up, and for that matter the mystique of the band, but they would always have the stage show — although even that had started to decline to mid-size venues. With all members on board, it looked like the time was right for a career comeback album from KISS. What we got was Crazy Nights, a good effort, but ultimately too glossy a product. Gone was the grit and the sweat, and the danger wasn’t quite as dangerous — we were left with an ultra-smooth, overly-processed generic ’80s rock effort.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good songs on the album. “Crazy Crazy Nights” is a guilty pleasure that is hard to get out of your head, while “Hell Or High Water” and “Turn On The Night” are also standout cuts. But there are also too many songs that feel like filler cuts, such as “Bang Bang You” and “No, No, No” (really, who comes up these names?), and KISS‘ fascination with the keyboard hit new heights on “My Way” and “Reason To Live” (for some reason I feel the need to blame Aerosmith for that). So who is truly to blame? I blame Ron Nevison for a heavy handed approach, and KISS was in such a fragile state at the time that they effectively let Nevison neuter them.

It should also be noted that of the ten songs on Crazy Nights, eight had outside writing credits — KISS were obviously doing all they could to keep themselves afloat and were constantly reaching for straws. The guitar playing was excellent as usual though with both Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick hitting all the right notes while drummer Eric Carr continued to prove that he was a master of the kit.

All in all, Crazy Nights isn’t a terrible album (like Asylum), but it is just too sanitized and pretty — and that is something that rock should never be. It took some time, but KISS finally realized what they had to do and starting with the next two albums — Hot In The Shade and Revenge — created a miraculous turnaround.

Track List:
01. Crazy Crazy Nights
02. I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You
03. Bang Bang You
04. No, No, No
05. Hell Or High Water
06. My Way
07. When Your Walls Come Down
08. Reason To Live
09. Good Girl Gone Bad
10. Turn On The Night
11. Thief In The Night

Band Members:
Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, vocals, keyboards
Gene Simmons
– bass guitar, vocals
Eric Carr
– drums, percussion, backing vocals
Bruce Kulick
– lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, bass guitar (5)

Additional Musicians:
Phil Ashley – keyboards
Tom Kelly – backing vocals

Production:
Produced and engineered by Ron Nevison

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook

Reviewed by Deke and John Stoney Cannon (September 2017) and Brian Montgomery (December 2011) for Sleaze Roxx

KISS‘ “Crazy Crazy Nights” video:

Kiss-Crazy Crazy Nights

Perdonen por la mala calidad / Sorry for the poor quality. Tema : Crazy,Crazy Nights Disco : Crazy Nights Año : 1987 Compositor : Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick

KISS‘ “Reason To Live” video:

Kiss – Reason To Live

Music video by Kiss performing Reason To Live. (C) 1987 The Island Def Jam Music Group

KISS‘ “Turn On The Night” video:

Kiss – Turn On The Night

Music video by Kiss performing Turn On The Night. (C) 1987 The Island Def Jam Music Group