'Wicked Lester' (1972) among Rolling Stone's 15 Legendary Unreleased Albums

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, 'Wicked Lester' (1972)

By   / Rolling Stone

Before donning their makeup as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in Kiss, Gene Klein and Stanley Eisen cut their teeth as members of Wicked Lester. Though they had only a few gigs under their belt, Epic Records agreed to fund their debut album. A disorganized recording schedule stretched for over six months, during which time they laid down an eclectic mix of pop covers and self-penned songs.

While historic, the session is an aimless mishmash of musical styles struggling to coexist on a single piece of wax. The 11-track album was promptly rejected by Epic. Even Simmons agrees it was for the best. "Wicked Lester may be an interesting collection of songs, but I don't get a backbone or an identity from it," he reflected.

Simmons and Stanley decided to start anew, joining forces with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and forming the band that made them famous. The Wicked Lester tapes lay dormant until 1976, when the label saw an opportunity to capitalize on Kiss' worldwide popularity. Embarrassed by the lightweight material and fearful of confusing their audience, the band bought the tapes back for $137,500, and locked them away.

Wicked Lester-era songs "She" and "Love Her All I Can" were reworked and released on 1975's Dressed To Kill, and "Keep Me Waiting" was issued on Kiss' 2001 box set. But the rest remain in the vault.

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