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November 2012
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February 2013

Peter Criss - Makeup to Breakup

Peter criss cover

I'll admit it right here: KISS is a guilty pleasure and KISS books, doubly so.  As it turns out 2012 has been a pretty good year for KISS fans: 2 autobiographies, a tour and a new album, Monster.  This past week, I read the latest of these autobigraphies, Peter Criss' book "Makeup to Breakup - My Life in and out of KISS."  

While I found Ace Freheley's "No Regrets" bio to be a disappointment (it should have been called "No Insights") Criss' book is a more compelling read.  Most KISS fans are familiar with the "official" history of the band as told by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley that positions Ace and Peter as two screwups who couldn't stay clean and sober enough to stay in the band for the long haul.  

To Criss' credit, he doesn't deny any of that.  (Neither does Ace.)  What makes Criss' story compelling is the recognition of his own personal weaknesses that land him in trouble.  Repeatedly.  For years.  And years.  Criss' story is a bit of a trainwreck that keeps you reading page after page.  Criss' addiction to coke cost him two marriages, millions of dollars and several lost years.  And while Criss dishes on his former bandmates in ways that are pretty lurid, he's equally candid about his own failings --maybe a bit too candid at times. 

But when you understand his schooling by strict Catholic nuns and the amount of verbal abuse and manipulation he took from KISS co-founders Simmons and Stanley, you can start to understand how things went wrong.  Ultimately, Criss' takes responsibility for his actions and appears to have adjusted to a clean and sober lifestyle after the KISS reunions.  He's still a bit too angry at Simmons and Stanley for problems that were largely of his own making, but it's still a fascinating story even for a casual KISS fan.

You can read an excerpt over at Rolling Stone or on Amazon.


iReal b for iPad and Mac

Irealb

A buddy of mine Robert introduced me to a very cool application with the somewhat awkward name iReal b.  The name's not too important, but what iReal b provides is a fakebook for tons of Jazz, blues and pop songs.  Unlike other fakebooks out there, iReal b lets you add more and more songs including hundreds from the iReal b forums or even create your own.

You can set up the charts for a song by setting the tempo, the chords for the verse & chorus, the breaks etc.  Then iReal b will play the song for you.  You can also easily transpose the song to different keys, slow it down, speed it up, loop sections etc.  This makes it great for practicing songs or sharing arrangements with others in your band.  You can also view different chord inversions and add on different style packs.

iReal b is a relatively young operation and so the application doesn't include all of the capabilities of older applications like Band-in-a-Box.  On the other hand, iReal b is a lot cheaper and it's available for iPad, iPhone and Android as well as the Mac.  I was also pleased to see the iReal b folks add new songs based on requests from customers, including 50 Blues standards with songs by Albert King, BB King, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters,  Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and others.

While the sound of the songs is not perfect (they sound a bit too canned for my taste), they are a good starting point.  iReal b is a good deal at the Mac app store for $19.99 and it's practically a steal for the iPad and iPhone or Android at only $7.99.