KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

KISS - Crazy Nights

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987, Mercury/Polygram)

  1. Crazy Crazy Nights
  2. I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You
  3. Bang Bang You
  4. No, No, No
  5. Hell Or High Water
  6. My Way
  7. When Your Walls Come Down
  8. Reason To Live
  9. Good Girl Gone Bad
  10. Turn On The Night
  11. Thief In The Night

Band Lineup:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Backing Vocals
Bruce Kulick – Lead Guitar

Total Time – 42:53

KISS official website

It took the full month of March but the Knights of the Rock Table have finally made it to my favorite band…..KISS! I have been a KISS fan since 1977, when I was a whole five years old. Back then, I only knew the faces, the characters, and ROCK’N ROLL OVER, my first KISS album. I had the toys and the lunchbox, the Paul Halloween costume and the posters. As I grew, I followed the band but I hadn’t become the diehard fan of the music that I would become in the makeup-less ’80s.

In the ’80s, KISS was my band. My friends had Motley Crue, Van Halen, Ozzy, and Bon Jovi for heroes but KISS was all mine. They had been larger than life, on top of the world, but now they were going against everything they stood for with the makeup and they were daring to take a new direction. Underdogs they were, but to me they were still “the hottest band in the world”. KISS released a solid string of Hard Rock albums in the ’80s starting with the final greasepainter CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982), moving to the non-makeup debut LICK IT UP (1983), then ANIMALIZE (1984), and ASYLUM (1985). All of these albums are extremely strong, in the traditional KISS vein, but the foundation was being laid with ASYLUM for a more mainstream approach. That foundation became the highly commercial CRAZY NIGHTS.

I can review this album from a sentimental viewpoint or a critical one. I’m going to be honest, CRAZY NIGHTS is one of my favorite KISS albums, I would place it in my KISS Top 5. There are better KISS albums but I reach for CRAZY NIGHTS because something about it really hit me when it was released. Being a KISS diehard, I liked the album anyway but I really got into it when my friends started to listen. At fifteen, your peers have a divine influence. I took a lot of crap from friends about liking KISS because there were new bands to listen to, better bands in their opinion. When the guys who worshipped Ozzy and Crue said they liked the new KISS record, I was vindicated!

This album is also the first time I saw KISS in concert (12/12/87 – Providence, RI). I can still remember being in awe of the band when they came onstage, I swear I cried. I believe they played five songs off the album that night: the title track, ‘Bang Bang You’, ‘No No No’, ‘Reason To Live’, and ‘Turn On The Night’. I bought the tour book, a Paul Stanley shirt that read “Life is like Sex, the more you put in, the more you get out.”, and I shoved a tape recorder down my coat so I could record the show. The whole night is a blur actually but it was the time of my life. Hence, the love affair with Crazy Nights.

Fast forward twenty years…..I still enjoy they album but it’s become a little spoiled by the knowledge of KISStory I possess. The Internet and tell-all insider books have shed light on why certain records were made and the ideas behind them. CRAZY NIGHTS is a tale unto itself but the quick summary is that Gene and Paul wanted to follow the successes that labelmates Bon Jovi and Def Leppard were having. Both bands scaled to heights KISS had been a decade before and they became the leaders, KISS became the followers. Also around this time, the band reportedly was having money trouble, so a big hit album on the charts would help the business side of things. Ego and money…..always a major part of KISS.

Starting right away with the title cut, the band is looking to cash in with an anthem. ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ is a catchy song with a big gang style chorus. It’s the ’87 version of ‘Rock’n Roll All Nite’, a call to arms for the fans to rally around. Two things you notice right away: Paul Stanley has a superb voice and Bruce Kulick is the real deal on guitar.

‘I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You’ is an under-rated KISS tune that really builds on the LICK IT UP/ANIMALIZE sound. Again, an excellent vocal by Paul and Bruce really cooks. That main riff is the hardest one on the album! The lyrics are pretty good (remember it’s ’87) especially compared to the next song…..

‘Love Gun II’ or ‘Bang Bang You’, which is it? It’s a little of both because Paul’s gonna “shoot you down with his love gun baby”. The lyrics here are pure KISS cheese, surprisingly from Paul Stanley and not Gene Simmons. It’s a fun song, nice to sing along to but not enough meat but the Kulick solo is solid. I remember the band having an “audience participation” segment during the song when they played it live.

Any doubt that Bruce Kulick is a good Hard Rock guitarist needs to listen to the intro on ‘No, No, No’. What a smoking intro, absolutely blazing! The rest of the song is OK, as are most of the Gene compositions on this record. This song bores me, it’s not really that bad but I always skip it. This is a trend for the duration of the album, I tend to skip the Gene tunes, although ‘Hell Or High Water’ is the best Simmons special on the record. It has a slight crunch that, if it was on ASYLUM, would be one of the better songs. It’s actually a very simple song with a basic riff with some vocal work that harkens back to the old days.

Paul Stanley can write Pop songs and that is exactly what ‘My Way’ is. The band is really trying too hard to write the next big KISS single. It’s an anthem, a rallying cry but it’s so cliche that it oozes cheese. It’s a positive lyric about standing up for yourself but it comes off really surgary sweet. Keyboards replace the guitar for the most point, although I dig the solo. I could see Jon Bon Jovi and co. doing this tune a lot better, this is right for them. Only bright spot is Paul’s vocal.

‘When Your Walls Come Down’ is a solid uptempo rocker with big gang vocals but the lyrics leave a little to be desired come the chorus. Another song that could fit on ANIMALIZE or ASYLUM with another great vocal and guitar performance.

‘Reason To Live’ tries to carry on in the great tradition of KISS ballads but I think it sounds like Whitesnake’s ‘Is This Love’ in some parts. It’s the year, the keyboards, the production., this is what bands did in ’87. I’m repeating myself but Paul Stanley delivers another vocal gem, the man’s voice is in top form. If KISS was banking on a hit single, this was the song that should have done the trick. I remember when it was released, I thought that it would be a Top 10 hit but it stalled in the bottom of the Top 40. This is one of the most under-rated songs of the KISS Katalog.

‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ has a good Kulick solo but the songs sucks. Honestly, I never say a KISS song sucks because I’m a KISS lifer but this one does. If I have to hear another song where Papa Gene will take care of some girl his way, I’ll be sick. This is a skip everytime. Where is the Gene that wrote ‘Fits Like A Glove’ or ‘Burn Bitch Burn’? At least those Papa Gene tunes rocked hard.

Bon Jovi song #2 or ‘Turn On The Night’? This was the third single from the album and I thought this was going to be a big hit but it stalled. It’s Pop Rock, made for the charts, KISS by the numbers. Paul is trying so hard to get the band a hit (he co-wrote with Diane Warren, Pop Rock guru) that this track just comes off as a copycat of the other bands. I really dig the song though, it has a hook that gets to me, I always find myself cranking it and singing right along.

Gene Simmons wrote ‘Thief In the Night’ for Wendy O. Williams for her 1984 album, W.O.W. The sad thing is that this is Gene’s song and Wendy did it better.Obviously the band is desparate for material from Gene and he had nothing to offer but a rehashed song. This is a skip everytime.

Bottom Line:
CRAZY NIGHTS is a good KISS album but not a great one. It’s slick, crisp, and hooky but has no balls and crunch. The best songs are from Paul Stanley, who turns in an excellent vocal performance and Bruce Kulick shows he can hold his own in the KISS machine with some blazing guitar. The lingering questions are: Where is Eric Carr and what happened to Gene Simmons? The production is so slick and watered down that Eric’s drums have no strength. Listen to the drum sound on CREATURES OF THE NIGHT or LICK IT UP and you will be amazed that this is the same drummer. Obviously it’s not Eric’s fault but his performance is non-existent. Maybe if the drums were heavier this would be a better album? As for Gene, well he doesn’t return until the REVENGE album in 1992.

I spent the whole month playing this album and I had a hard time separating the sentimental from the technical. In my mind, I couldn’t get past the memories to be impartial. I did what I had to, I went for my wife’s opinion. Back in 1987, we were dating and CRAZY NIGHTS was one of those albums we both liked. I knew she had a strong emotional tie to it but I also knew that she is the most critical of KISS and she keeps my fandom grounded. So I asked her for an opinion on the album and she said, “I loved that album back then but if you listen to it now, it sounds cheesy. The lyrics are bad and it sounds too bubblegum. It doesn’t sound like real KISS and it sounds like they are trying too hard to be another band.” She also mentioned that the album sounded weak, that if you play it loud, it has no bottom end. She’s right.

This album is still one of my KISS favorites but I seem to find less enjoyment from it…..the memories seem to out shine the actual recordings. It’s all a part of being a charter member of the KISS Army……

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March Metal Madness has concluded and I’d like to thank my fellow writers for asking me to participate. I’m hoping that the other Knights of the Rock Table decide to do this again soon as it was a blast. To get four separate opinions and memories on each release was very interesting. If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam.