KISS: ‘Lick It Up’

KISS
LICK IT UP
Released on September 18, 1983 (Mercury / Casablanca Records)’

Reviewed by Lance Lumley:
KISS were coming off of the Creatures Of The Night album, and decided to take off their makeup during the publicity of the next album, Lick It Up.” It was also the first album with guitarist Vinnie Vincent on the cover. “Lick It Up” is still considered one of the best albums, not only in the KISS catalog, but from the year 1983, and one of the all greats in the hard rock/metal genre.

The first track “Exciter” (not to be confused with the Judas Priest song with the same name) starts the album off with a rocking, up tempo attack that would set the tone for the rest of the album. If a KISS fan had any doubts where the album was heading, this lead off song kept them happy if they wanted fast, solid, hard rock music. There is wonderful guitar work by guest Rick Derringer on the song. This features  Paul Stanley‘s higher range vocals, along with the sound that would define ’80s era KISS.

Gene Simmons takes over lead vocals on “Not For The Innocent,” a mid tempo song that is a perfect rhythm for the lyrics. There is a creeping tone where Gene mentions “Better lock up your daughters/we’re coming to town,” that reminds the listener that KISS are invading your area. The drumming is big throughout the songs on the album by Eric Carr, which carries over from the Creatures sound. Track three is the title cut from the album. “Lick It Up” is still being played by the band on tours years after it’s release. It is a great song, but gets overplayed, but one can’t deny it’s impact on the Kiss collection. This song has stood the test of time.

Another song with Simmons on vocals is “Young And Wasted.” I first discovered this song when drummer Eric Carr sang lead on it on the band’s VHS release Animalize Live Uncensored (I didn’t own Lick It Up when it came out). The lyrics of the song is different than the stereotypical KISS songs about girls and partying. This song features lyrics about fallen angels and the fates. The song has driving guitar solos and keeps the rocking, driving tone of the album. “Gimme More” seems like KISS trying their version of speed metal, channeling Mötorhead. Paul Stanley sings lead, and has the typical 1980s sexual lyrics in it.

Track six “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”  is a song I remember being shown on MTV, with the apocalyptic video, which fit the lyrics well. Although many like the song, I’m not a fan of Paul‘s rapping the lyrics. The song was also one that gave all members songwriting credit, along with me hearing it as theme in the independent wrestling league run by the Fullers, where his “Stud Stable” used the song as their ring entrance. I mostly remember the video of this song, along with being proud that drummer Eric Carr helped with the songwriting; which is an achievement for drummers not playing in a band like Rush, The Police, or named Phil Collins at the time.

 Track seven is a song I really like. “A Million To One” could have been released as a single, and not sure why it wasn’t. This mid tempo song sounded like any other song that was being played on MTV and radio at the time. Maybe it came out too early, because it has similarities to “Tears Are Falling,” which would be released two years later. This song is a song that deserves more attention in the Kiss history.

One of my favorite songs off the album is track eight — “Fits Like A Glove.” I just love the rhythm of the song. This is another song I was introduced to by the VHS concert video mentioned earlier. This has screaming type vocals by Gene and is filled with the KISS sexual lyrics, but the groove of the song is what gets me going. This is a great in your face hard rock song.  Track nine, called “Dance All Over Your Face,” is another song with Simmons on vocals. The chorus is pretty simple. As a track by itself, I may not go out of my way to listen to, but listening to it as part of the whole album, it is not a filler that the listener would skip over. It flows well with the overall product, and is placed right where it needs to be on the release.

The second underrated song is the last one. “And On The 8th Day” is a great ender to the album. It is a song, much like what was heard on the previous Creatures Of The Night album, with Carr opening the song with exploding drum fills, and keeping it up throughout the song. Towards the end of the song, Carr goes into a marching cadence that fits well with the theme of the song. It seemed to have been an attempt at creating another anthem song, stating that “On the 8th day God created Rock N Roll.” This is a great ending to the flow of the album.

There  are a few mid tempo songs on this album, but even with those songs, Lick It Up is a great hard rock album. There are no ballads on here, and with the exception of the overplayed “Lick It Up” single, the album is still full of excitement, power, and classic 1980s metal music.

Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon:
Despite living in the second largest city in a pretty well populated state, I wasn’t one of those kids privileged to have MTV early on. Heck, I wasn’t even lucky enough to have MTV a couple years into its history. Even so, I had already experienced MTV in its first year at of all places, my grandmother’s house in rural Mississippi. That’s right, my grandmother, who lived in a medium sized town with at best, a micro-mall, had MTV while her grandson, who lived in a middle to upper class area (with two large malls including at the time the largest one in the southeast) just on the outskirts of the only city in the state smaller than Atlanta, couldn’t even offer up his future firstborn for even a glimpse of MTV. So needless to say I was mighty embarrassed when I, the biggest KISS fan in my new high school, was told all about KISS unmasking on MTV. To make matters even worse, I didn’t even have YouTube or the pretty much unavailable internet yet so I couldn’t even pull it up and watch it after the fact. Oh woe was poor ol’ KISS fan me! To be honest, so few people in my area saw the unveiling of KISS without makeup that until we walked into School Kids Records a few days later while skipping school, I actually believed it to be as fake as men walking on the moon over a decade plus earlier.  What changed my mind?  The feature album on display was KISS’ brand new record, Lick It Up.

Earlier in the day, my skip partner and I happened on not just teen treasure in a pack of smokes but this sacred pack of Marlboro Reds also hid two very valuable extras — a tightly rolled up joint and about fifty bucks in cash. Immediately, our teen brains were awash with thoughts of a weekend filled with enough coolness to impress a couple of girls and maybe… just maybe…KISS…. Yeah, my buddy could see how mesmerized by the sight of the four guys in KISS sans makeup that a deal was offered. In lieu of a Saturday night getting happy and maybe even lucky, I could use a portion of our found cash to buy the record in my sweaty mits (Lick It Up) and in exchange, my pal would get to share the joint, half the smokes, and use the rest of the cash to buy his own mind-blowing masterpiece of a hard rock album… Billy Joel’s Piano Man.  Actually, the dude was so excited about getting the Billy Joel record he shucked and jived until not only did he get it and I got KISS’ latest release, somehow I ended up with a new copy of Quiet Riot’s Metal Health. Oh, the sacrifices a guy’s gotta make just to get a new KISS record!

As a kid already in possession of a hefty collection of albums (along with a habit of trading and sharing them), it was a breeze to get them into the house. Matter of fact, explaining walking in with a couple of records in hand was way easier than explaining why the principal couldn’t locate me at school, but that’s another story for a future day of say, coffee and tall tales. At the end of the day, I was restricted to my room with nothing but my stereo and records, including my two new secret bits of KISS and Quiet Riot contraband. Oh double woe was me.

Now since the seventies, I have been a KISS fan and have been lucky to be someplace where KISS were happening at the moment. In the seventies, I rocked my first KISS in the military town of Fort Riley, Kansas during an American time and space pretty portrayed in the movie Dazed And Confused. I lived in Germany when Europeans were totally gobbling down Dynasty and Unmasked and in the ’80s, surrounded by denim covered mullet topped hair metal fanatics trying to make life miserable for new wave digging preppies. Heck, even when some KISS fans were too embarrassed to claim their love for the band, I had copies of Killers and Creatures Of The Night in my school locker. I even blasted my cassette copy of Music From The Elder well after everyone shouted out loud how bad it sucked! But Killers came with a new edge, and Creatures was even edgier, and Lick It Up? Somehow that was this crazy mix of the heaviness and shred of Creatures with a touch of Dynasty melody topped off with anthem-like precision. It was brash, bold, and cool, even if the band all of a sudden looked like Bon Jovi.

Starting off with “Exciter”, KISS immediately proclaimed a new resurgence by shoving new guitarist Vinnie Vincent up front and center and blasting out of the gate with what essentially came off as a harder updated shred version of Elder track “The Oath.” Every bit as rocking as Creatures, KISS’ post makeup era hit second gear nearly refusing to slow down and along the way perhaps the only casualty was bassist Gene Simmons. As the Demon worked out his sound over the two albums that took the band from white face to rouge, he created a style that for a couple of albums smoked but eventually became old hate. Luckily for fans, tunes like “Not For The Innocent”,” Young And Wasted” and to a lesser extent “Fits Like A Glove” found Gene hitting his ’80s hard rock stride but even with half the album’s tracks (including the final three), Lick It Up is pretty where partner Paul Stanley started to get the edge as far as killer songs slowly leaving Simmons in the musical dust. Aside from a few tracks between albums Hot In The Shade and Revenge, the Demon pretty much laid dormant within his own musical casket while Stanley took control of the castle. If you don’t believe me, check out 1987 KISS home video Exposed)

Starting off with first single and video “Lick It Up”, Stanley’s tracks (along with taking off the makeup) pushed the band to a second wave of popularity and success not seen since the group’s initial rise in the ’70s. The trend of tabbing Stanley’s more commercial material (a perfect fit during the hair band era) continued not just with Lick It Up track “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” but on following albums Asylum, Animalize, Crazy Nights, and Hot In The Shade. Maybe the biggest crime in the Lick It Up saga though is that the label didn’t push the magnificent “A Million To One” making perhaps this great album’s greatest track nothing more than an afterthought. Even Stanley rocker “Gimme More” stood worthy of much more fanfare especially in comparison to the pair of Simmons tunes that closed out the record. This is not meant to bash the Demon’s input on KISS’ first non-makeup release as at this point, it’s still miles above his output over the next few years but meant to underscore Stanley’s take over as chief creator in KISS at the time.

Admittedly, Gene continued his slide into the bowels of Hollywood while Paul tightened up his boot laces, smashed a few extra guitars, and pretty much took to driving the KISS-mobile for a few years. Luckily for KISS fans though, on Lick It Up, KISS gathered up a collective smooch and delivered one helluva wet turn on. For a while, thanks to Stanley and Simmons, along with the updated guitars and writing of Vinnie Vincent and crushing drums by the late Eric Carr, it was the last true group effort by KISS. Thankfully, Stanley held it together until albums like Hot In The Shade and Revenge allowing Simmons to get Hollywood out of his system for a minute and create great music again.

I was blessed to catch the band several times on the Lick It Up tour and only remember the shows as being great fun. At the show in my hometown, I stumbled into a chance meeting with Carr and Vincent and while meeting Vinnie was cool, chatting with Eric turned out to be a more personal and gratifying experience than my encounters with any other members of the band including Gene and Paul. His few insights on the band’s then latest release continues to make for a special listen each and every time I play Lick It Up especially on vinyl. So while I may have missed the band showing their real faces on MTV and some of my schoolmates got to flash cool cards bragging to me about it, I can slap this killer KISS record on any day of the year knowing that not only did I get to actually see the guys face to face, I also ended up with a copy of Lick It Up, some smokes, a buzz, and some great memories…all  for the price of a Billy Joel album.

And THAT my friends, is a million to one deal.    

Track List:
01. Exciter
02. Not For The Innocent
03. Lick It Up
04. Young And Wasted
05. Gimme More
06. All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose
07. A Million To One
08. Fits Like A Glove
09. Dance All Over Your Face
10. And On The 8th Day

Musicians:
Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Gene Simmons – bass guitar, lead vocals
Vinnie Vincent – lead guitar, backing vocals
Eric Carr – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Additional Musician:
Rick Derringer – lead guitar (1)

Production:
Produced by Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook

Reviewed by Lance Lumley and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, September 2018

KISS‘ “Lick It Up” video:

Kiss – Lick It Up

Music video by Kiss performing Lick It Up. (C) 1983 The Island Def Jam Music Group

KISS‘ “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” video:

Kiss – All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose

Music video by Kiss performing All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose. (C) 1983 The Island Def Jam Music Group