“Creatures of the Night” is an interesting moment in KISStory because the band were far from being “The Hottest Band in the Land” due in part to unsuccessful albums, line up changes, and the fact that KISS had gone from being dangerous and edgy to a family oriented brand.
With the addition of Eric Carr on drums the band gained a new energy but internally Ace was no longer a part of the band and the music started to change directions. KISS started out as a straight up, in your face rock n roll band but by the time “Dynasty” came out the style had shifted to disco. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” proved that the band had lost their edge. In the process they also lost a lot of their fanbase and their shows began to reflect that with smaller audiences attending their US shows.
When the band released the compilation “Killers” it featured four brand new songs alongside older classics. The four new songs on the compilation were the start of what would become the “Creatures of the Night” era. Bringing in Vinnie Cusano (aka Vinnie Vincent) to play lead guitar led to his eventual hiring when it was announced that Ace Frehley was leaving the band.
Ace agreed to appear on the album cover and for early promotional appearances, but Ace had no interest in staying with the band. Ace’s presence was needed solely for sales, the band had already lost one original member (Peter Criss) and they didn’t want fans to freak out over 1/2 of the original band being gone. KISS kept Ace’s name/face strictly for monetary value and once the band were ready to tour they made the announcement that Ace was out and new guitarist Vinnie Vincent was In. Vinnie was a good song writer but stylistically NOT the right fit for KISS. KISS went with what was trendy at the moment and chose a “Shredder” over a player that had “feel” in their playing. Vincent’s ultra fast leads and slick style was drastically different from what KISS started out as and when the “Creatures” tour started it was never more obvious.
During live renditions of classic KISS tracks like, “Cold Gin” and “Rock N Roll All Nite” Vinnie’s presence made the songs play too fast and his shreddy guitar solo’s did not fit with the bands meat and potatoes style. KISS were rooted in traditional hard rock and Vinnie brought an approach that didn’t quite fit their older material. In comparison, his eventual replacement Bruce Kulick understood that the newer material could be played in a modern style while the older classics should be played true to the original versions.
While I feel like Vinnie was the wrong choice for the “Creatures” era I 100% feel like Vinnie was the perfect choice for the “Lick It Up” era because that version of the band was not controlled by the Make-up and cliche’s of the bands past. Wearing Make-Up, Vinnie was always compared to original guitarist Ace Frehley. Without the make-up the band was looser and had no confines. I’m starting to get off the main topic though, this review is about the KISS “Creatures” Box set.
DISC ONE: CREATURES OF THE NIGHT
Original Album Remastered
Track listing: Creatures Of The Night, Saint And Sinner, Keep Me Comin’, Rock And Roll Hell, Danger, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, Killer, War Machine
Disc one is a simple remaster of the original album and if I’m being honest with you, I can’t truly hear a big of a difference between this version and the 1997 remasters. There are 4 variations of this remastered release for sale. There’s the standard 1 disc CD version which features ONLY “Creatures", then you have the 2 disc expanded CD version which features “Creatures” alongside selections of rarities from the Box Set and includes a nice booklet and is in a mini box. On the vinyl side there’s the single disc 1/2 speed master version which most fans have said sounds the best, and the 3 disc expanded blue vinyl version which comes in a nice gatefold cover and includes a large booklet. There’s nothing more to really say about disc one, it’s the same product KISS fans have had/heard for 40 years.
DISC TWO: DEMOS, RARITIES & OUTTAKES
1. I’m A Legend Tonight
2. Down On Your Knees
3. Nowhere To Run
4. Partners In Crime
5. Deadly Weapon (Penny Lane Demo)*
6. Feel Like Heaven (Penny Lane Demo)*
7. Nowhere To Run (Penny Lane Demo)*
8. Deadly Weapon (Original Demo)*
9. Feel Like Heaven (Original Demo)*
10. Nowhere To Run (Take 11 –Instrumental)*
11. Tell It To A Fool (Take 4 –Drums & Bass Instrumental)*
12. Chrome Goes Into Motion (Take 2 –Drums & Bass Instrumental)*
13. I’m A Legend Tonight (Mix 4 –Instrumental & Background Vocals)*
14. Don’t Leave Me Lonely (Take 8 –Drums & Guitar Instrumental)*
15. Something Seems To Happen At Night (Gene Simmons Demo)
16. It’s Gonna Be Alright (Gene Simmons Demo)
Disc #2 is where things start to get fun…and also a little monotonous if I’m being honest with you. The first four songs are from the “Killers” compilation and “Down on Your Knees” is a co-write with Bryan Adams. As KISS fans will know, Adams also co-wrote “War Machine” and interestingly enough, on the Eddie Trunk show Adams stated that he had no clue “War Machine” was a staple to the KISS live shows and that he’s never seen KISS live. His comments indicated that Adams co-wrote with KISS strictly as a business deal and that he was not a particular fan of the band.
With a lot of the demo/early recordings it’s hard to tell who did or didn’t play because KISS has always been known for using “ghost” musicians in the studio and this set is no exception. The “Penny Lane” demos are basically recordings originally done at Ace’s “Ace in the Hole” home studio, then edited in Penny Lane which was in the MGM Building at 1350 Avenue of the Americas. Penny Lane was used to record radio jingles and was a rather small studio.
“Deadly Weapon” is a song that should have appeared on the actual “Creatures” record because it’s a solid track. “Feel Like Heaven” on the other hand is a torturously boring track and they kill you with 2 drawn out versions of the song. Most of the “Gene Simmons” demos were just not good enough to make the final cut for “Creatures” and it proves the old adage that if the song didn’t make the final cut it was probably not that good. For some reason there are no songs labeled “Paul Stanley demo” which forces you to assume that the bulk of the record was 100% Paul. It’s unclear if Ace has any true involvement on these tracks although it was stated that he did play the solo on “Deadly Weapon” on the Penny Lane demo. Disc #2 is for the die hard KISS fans, casual listeners will definitely find this disc to be a little too in-depth and geeky.
DISC THREE: DEMOS, RARITIES & OUTTAKES
Legends Never Die (Gene Simmons Demo)
2. It’s My Life (Gene Simmons Demo)
3. Not For The Innocent (Demo)*
4. I Still Love You (Take 1)*
5. I Still Love You (Take 2)*
6. Saint And Sinner (Take 1)*
7. Saint And Sinner (Take 2 –False Start)*
8. Saint And Sinner (Take 3)*
9. Betrayed (Outtake)*
10. Creatures Of The Night (Alternate Mix 19)*
11. Partners In Crime (Alternate Mix 16B)*
12. I Love It Loud (Alternate Mix 21)*
13. War Machine (Full-Length Version –Mix 11)*
14. Rock And Roll Hell (Take 2–9/10/1982)*
15. Rock And Roll Hell (Take 1 –Incomplete–9/15/1982)*
16. Rock And Roll Hell (Take 2–9/15/1982)*
17. I Love It Loud (Single Edit)
18. Creatures Of The Night (1985 Remix)
This disc is the true gem in the set because it goes into the actual “Creatures” album tracks that made the cut and allows fans to hear how those tracks took shape. “Not For The Innocent” eventually appeared on “Lick It Up” but this version features Gene and Paul sharing vocals. If I’m being honest with you I prefer this version to what was released on “Lick It Up”.
Hearing “work in process” versions of “I Still Love You” is interesting, “Saint and Sinner” truly realizes itself with the 3 demos on this set, and “Rock And Roll Hell” was clearly pieced together from different takes. There’s no work in progress versions of “I Love It Loud” or the title track which makes you wonder if those songs were not totally written in one session whereas other tracks on the record took a while to take shape. While listening to these demos and outtakes you gain a true realization that the band were trying to re-invent their style and update their brand to fit with the current times. This would serve to be a good and bad thing for the band as time went on because KISS would eventually venture into pop, metal, and grunge, experiment with synths, and lose their overall direction. This would also lead to Gene eventually losing interest in KISS and allowing Paul to 100% steer the ship. Gene’s obsession with Hollywood would cause him to lose sight of what made him a star, KISS.
DISC FOUR: CREATURES TOUR LIVE ‘82/’83 –PART ONE
1. Creatures Of The Night (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
2. Strutter (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
3. Calling Dr. Love (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
4. Firehouse (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
5. I Love It Loud (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
6. Cold Gin (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
7. Keep Me Comin’ (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
8. War Machine (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
9. I Want You (Houston, Texas –3/10/1983)*
10. Rock And Roll Hell (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
11. I Still Love You (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
12. Shout It Out Loud (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
13. Gene’s Bass Solo (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
14. God Of Thunder / Eric’s Drum Solo / God Of Thunder (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
DISC FIVE: CREATURES TOUR LIVE ‘82/’83 –PART TWO
1. Paul’s Love Gun Rap (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
2. Love Gun (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
3. Paul’s Guitar Solo (Rockford, Illinois–12/31/1982)*
4. Black Diamond (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
5. Detroit Rock City (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
6. Rock And Roll All Nite (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
BONUS LIVE PERFORMANCES
7. Rock And Roll Hell (Sioux City, Iowa–12/30/1982)*
8. I Want You (Rockford, Illinois –12/31/1982)*
9. King Of The Night Time World (Pine Bluff, Arkansas–2/11/1983)*
10. Cold Gin (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
11. I Still Love You (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
12. Strutter (Houston, Texas–3/10/1983)*
I chose to review disc four & five together simply because they are culled live performances from this era and the addition of Vinnie and Eric are what make them unique. These discs are the reason why this box set has a parental advisory sticker….Paul’s onstage raps are a tab blue at times and you can’t unhear him yelling the word “Cock” or telling KISS haters to “F**k Off!”.
The Creatures tour suffered from low attendance and the tour was eventually cut short in comparison to earlier tours. Despite the smaller crowds, Gene and Paul gave it their all and delivered a high energy show. The addition of Eric Carr on drums was an upgrade from what Peter had become by the end of his tenure with the band. Peter Criss used to have a fire to his playing but over time he became lethargic and his lackluster back beat added nothing to the band. The addition of Eric Carr was a breath of fresh air and he helped KISS pave a new way. Vinnie Vincent, on the other hand, was a questionable choice. Vinnie is a fluid player and his style is unique, but his solos lack heart and feel. Ace was never the best guitarist in the world but his solos had a feel and a style that shaped the KISS sound. Vinnie was clearly a shredder who wanted to show boat and be the star; he seemed to forget that KISS had always been about Gene and Paul, he was simply a sideman who never actually signed the contract to be an “official” member of KISS.
These live performances showcase what KISS circa 82/83 were about and the best part is that these are NOT touched up in the studio performances. The listener is treated to a true, real, live set of recordings where the band messes up, plays the wrong notes, goes out of time, and in a word, are “real”. Alive 1 & 2 are timeless records but not 100% real in terms of how much they are doctored up in the studio. The bonus tracks are the sound effects that the band used during their live show.
The final disc in the set is a Blu-Ray that features an enhanced audio experience for the “Creatures” record. Mixed in 48kHz 24-bit Dolby Atmos / 48kHz 24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround / 96kHz 24-bit High-Resolution PCM Stereo.
Now for the extra stuff:
•80-page Hardcover Book with Extensive Liner Notes by Ken Sharp, a Monstrous Amount of Unreleased Photos and Imagery
•Creatures Of The Night 1982 Press Kit featuring
Creatures Band Press Bio Sheet
Creatures Tour Band New Poster 11”x17”
2 Stage Drawings
The Loudest Band In The World Poster 16”x24”
Japanese Promo Poster 16”x22.5”
Band Black & White Promo 8”x10”
Gene, Paul, Eric & Vinnie Color Photos 8”x10”
Creatures 40th T-shirt Iron-on Transfer Sheet
“I Love It Loud” Bumper Sticker
Australian Creatures Sticker
Marcanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro 6/18/83 Replica Ticket
Creatures Tour “Detroit” VIP Cloth Sticky Backstage Pass
4 Killers-era Trading Cards
•Creatures 1982 Replica Tour Program
•Gene, Paul, Eric & Vinnie –Chris Hoffman Illustrations 9”x12”
•Gotham Rock City News Volume 2 Newspaper –Track-By-Track Interviews with Gene, Paul, Eric, Vinnie, Michael James Jackson, Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance, Adam Mitchell and Mikel Japp
•5 Glow-In-The-Dark Guitar Picks
The extra items are fun, and give fans a look at old press kits, old press photos, alongside reproductions of a concert ticket, backstage pass, pins, tour program, etc. but if I’m being honest with you I’d be okay with just getting the music in a standard jewel case without the extras. The glow in the dark guitar picks are cool and the pins are my personal favorite of the extras, but the oversized box creates a storage issue for most collectors who already have a ton of KISS memorabilia and in most cases ONLY want the music. It’s sad that there is no concert video that accompanies this release because it would have been fun to see the band in a pro shot video onstage.
I’ll close my review with an interesting side note: The Box set sold for $300 on KISS’s official website but for those who waited a few weeks Amazon’s USA site offered it for $179. The price on Amazon’s site eventually went up for $289 but for those who purchased it at $179 they got one heck of a discount. This box set is 100% worth the $179 purchase price, the $300 price had many fans complaining as it was just too expensive. This box set was 100% put out for the fans because the “Creatures” era of KISS was not met with high expectations; the bulk of their fan base had written them off after they released 2 bad records and KISS were on a downward spiral. That spiral would cause them to remove the make-up on the following release (Lick It Up) and go through various changes up until the ’96 reunion with Ace & Pete.