Book Review: Take It Off: KISS Truly Unmasked By Greg Prato (Jawbone Press)

Kiss Book Cover - Edited

By: Jesse Striewski

One of the most intriguing eras in the nearly five-decade history of KISS for many has always been that moment in time the band went without their trademark makeup from 1983 to 1996. Though a slightly awkward, yet indeed underrated period for the band, it’s finally brought back to the forefront thanks to the meticulous detail author Greg Prato has put into researching said time frame.

Starting things off with a forward by Fozzy front man Chris Jerhico, Prato covers everything from the early stages of the band’s non-makeup period with guitarist Vinnie Vincent, to the band’s eventual reunion of the original lineup in the mid-’90s. Various musicians, songwriters, producers, and others close to the band during this era, help tell the tale of one of the most storied periods of the band’s career. Even Mark St. John’s (extremely) brief stint with the band in 1984, is covered here like never before, and Prato also enlists the help of such KISS alumni as former guitarist Bruce Kulick (who replaced St. John) to help complete the story.

As an avid KISS fan, this one’s a no brain-er; most die hard fans of the band should find it easy enough to agree, while newcomers should find it enlightening.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 

Book Review: Playing Back the 80s – A Decade of Unstoppable Hits By Jim Beviglia (Rowan & Littlefield)

80s Book

By Jesse Striewski

If ever there was an appropriate book for Rewind It Magazine, Jim Beviglia’s Playing Back the 80s has got to be it. Throughout the book, Beviglia chronicles his personal favorite songs of the decade, giving intriguing, often new insight on many classic songs.

Along the way, Beviglia interviews the numerous artists, songwriters, or producers who were behind the making of the music itself, and all lend their versions of just how the songs actually came together. There’s plenty of never-before-heard stories that any fan of 1980’s culture should find a decent amount of interest in.

Iconic numbers you would expect such as Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” are all analyzed appropriately. But there’s even several profiled tracks that aren’t necessarily your average go-to’s, such as “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes, “Talking in Your Sleep” by The Romantics, and even Jan Hammer’s “Original Miami Vice Theme” (just to name a few), all of which contain their own unique stories.

Sure, there are some questionable choices as well; Glen Frey’s “You Belong to the City” would have likely made a far more interesting song to cover than “Smuggler’s Blues.” And several notable artists from the decade are omitted completely, including Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Tears for Fears, and even Oingo Boingo. Still, there’s no doubt Beviglia’s effort here is a labor of love, and worth the trip down memory lane for just about anyone with an appreciation for ’80s music.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Book Review: The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, & My Life of Impossibilities By Wayne Kramer (Da Capo Press)

wayne kramer 2

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s easy to assume that a book with a title like The Hard Stuff will be just another run-of-the-mill, mindless trip down memory lane by some reckless rock star. But surprisingly, MC5 guitarist/leader Wayne Kramer actually tells his tales of hardships – and accomplishments – through a refreshingly enlightened perspective, rather than simply bragging about rock n’ roll decadence.

Granted, there is plenty of it (decadence); from starting the MC5 in Detroit in the mid-60’s, to heavy drug use/dealing that eventually led him to serving time in prison, Kramer’s trip through rock stardom was unquestionably no walk in the park. But the fact he was able to come through it all not defeated and/or jaded and actually help set up a prison outreach program such as Jail Guitar Doors (along with his wife Margaret Kramer, and English folk hero Billy Bragg), speaks volumes.

I’ve never claimed to be the biggest MC5 fan in the world, but I’ve always held a certain level of respect for them; now after reading Kramer’s book, I have even more for not only the band, but Kramer himself.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Review: Bruce Dickinson: What Does This Button Do? An Autobiography (Dey St. Books/Harper Collins)

Bruce Book

Legendary Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson finally puts his life story in book format, and unlike those of many of his contemporaries, doesn’t feel the need to dumb it down with sleazy tales of sex and drugs (you’re better off reading the life story of Stephen Pearcy if that’s what you’re looking for). Instead, he focuses more on what he knows Maiden fans really want in the most intellectual way possible, even avoiding overusing unnecessary obscenities along the way.

Everything from his early days in Samson, to the very moment he joined Iron Maiden, are all touched upon (and yes, you can hear Dickinson’s heavy English accident shine through in his writing). Every endeavor pursued both with the band (including each album and tour he ever did with them) and outside of Maiden (such as his solo efforts and piloting career, and of course his recent bout with cancer) are covered in full detail that fans are sure to appreciate.

Dickinson has always been one of the most talented and charismatic singers in heavy metal history, and his autobiography is a breath of fresh air in a market lacking the class and dignity that he exudes; he remains one of the rare exceptions as a true influential member of the metal community, and up-and-comers should take notes here.

Rating: 4 Stars