Wendy O Williams - W.O.W. (#2)

DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
edited September 4 in year-1984

Wendy O Williams - W.O.W
ARTIST: Wendy O. Williams
LABEL: Passport
YEAR: 1984
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Wendy O. Williams - vocals * Michael Ray - guitar * Wes Beech - guitar * Reginald Van Helsing (Gene Simmons) - bass * TC Tolliver - drums

Additional Musicians: Paul Stanley (guitar, 06), Ace Frehley (guitar solo, 07), Eric Carr (drums, 08), Micki Free (acoustic guitar, 08), Mitch Weissman (piano, 05)

TRACK LISTING: 01 I Love Sex (And Rock And Roll) * 02 It's My Life * 03 Priestess * 04 Thief In The Night * 05 Opus In Cm7 * 06 Ready To Rock * 07 Bump And Grind * 08 Legends Never Die * 09 Ain't None Of Your Business

RATING: image
WEBLINKS: Plasmatics Website


The recent review of the Plasmatics' more metallic release, 1982's 'Coup D'Etat', encouraged me to revisit Wendy Orlean Williams first solo album. The late punk/metal priestess is well known for her association with Gene Simmons, although her most enduring musical buddy through the years seems to have been Lemmy Kilmister.

Contractual issues with Capitol Records as well as Simmons insistence on releasing a solo record prevented Wendy from releasing the album under the Plasmatics moniker, yet Wes Beech and T.C. Tolliver out of that band are on board, joined by lead guitarist Michael Ray and Gene Simmons himself taking over bass duties as 'Reginald Van Helsing' (more than likely after the Dracula fictional character of the same last name).

According to the Kissasylum website, this is a 'lost KISS album' (click here for further details). And there are some interesting facts that back it up: obviously the producer, the list of guests, songwriting contributions by Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent and Adam Mitchell.

There were songs that were either KISS demos or recorded by the band later, and finally guitarist Michael Ray, who had been discovered by Gene Simmons at Long Island's My Father's Place in 1982, auditioning to replace Ace Frehley during the 'Creatures Of The Night' recording sessions.

The Songs

This is traditional American Heavy Rock, of the enjoyable kind. Production here is kind of dry, and resembles the 'Creatures Of The Night' album, especially the thunderous drum sound. Wendy's vocals are very melodic throughout and Simmons adds a distorted vocal-effect a la Kiss' 'Fits Like A Glove' in several instances.

'I Love Sex (And Rock And Roll)' is a letter of intent that shares a vibe with Joan Jett's biggest hit. The bridge's riff is reminiscent of Simmons' 'Only You', from 'The Elder'.

'It's My Life', one of the few Simmons/Stanley co-writings ever, was the album's single and arguably the best song, from the big drum pattern up to the catchy chorus and through tailor-made lyrics to Wendy's lifestyle.

Special mention goes to Wes Beech's great melodic guitar solo. I wonder why KISS never officially recorded the song other than as a 'Psycho Circus' outtake released in their 2000 box set. The accompanying music video made this song the soundtrack to wreckage.

'Priestess' is the more heavy metal oriented of the tracks, with its chugging riff written by The Plasmatics members. A rawer version than the glossier one released on 'Crazy Nights' of 'Thief In The Night' perfectly suits Wendy's style as well as lyrically.

Piano-driven ballad 'Opus In Cm7' is perhaps Wendy's more subtle, silky vocal display ever. The opening guitar noises of 'Ready To Rock' are Paul Stanley's contribution. The song itself is a powerful, anthemic middle-paced heavy rock with gritty vocals.

'Bump And Grind', another Plasmatics-penned track, honors its title: it's heavy, packed with gang vocals and the icing on the cake is Ace Frehley's guitar solo, just like the good old days.

Acoustic ballad 'Legends Never Die' had originally been written during the 'Creatures Of The Night' sessions but it was never completed with a vocal track back then. Wendy delivers what might be her most beautiful and heartfelt vocal performance ever while Eric Carr guests on drums. The song would subsequently be covered by King Kobra and Doro Pesch.

Simmons, Carr and Vinnie Vincent wrote the last song 'Ain't None Of Your Business', more than likely for the 'Animalize' album. This is closer to the material to be found on Vincent's first solo album, and worked well for Wendy in a live environment.

In Summary

Wendy's first solo release and Gene Simmons's first production experience is an entertaining listen. Even though Wendy/Plasmatics fans complained about the record being too polished, there's a fair amount of heavy rock for them.

Kiss fans might go further and consider it as a cult classic for several reasons. Astonishingly, Wendy O. Williams received a 'Best Female Rock Vocal Performance' Grammy Award nomination in 1985 for this album. Lita Ford was a nominee as well, though the award finally went to Tina Turner.


It's My Life

Wendy O Willams and the Plasmatics on the Tom Snyder show - Part 1

Wendy O Willams and the Plasmatics on the Tom Snyder show - Part 2

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    DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina

    It seems the 'Wendy O. Williams' YouTube channel as well as the Plasmatics website (link in the article) both have recently been revamped in this 2021.

    The 'It's My Life' official video is newly available, now in high quality. The link in the video section of the article has been updated accordingly.

    This is a great album that deserves to be played not only for the Kiss connection, but also for its undeniable quality.

    Wendy was a fantastic frontwoman and a sweetheart according to those who had the pleasure of interviewing her.

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    Criminally overlooked album. Might just give it another spin this evening.

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    Yeah, this is a great album. Just how good Wendy was is often overlooked due to her uncompromising image. Too often the music is an afterthought for those who don't know better.

    She and her band are great on this but with the amount of KISS involvement I can't help but look at it and the songs and wonder if they missed a trick with some of it as it was potentially better than some of their output at the time and I say that as an unmasked era fan.

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    DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina

    I share your thoughts, Steven. To these days I like Animalize for Paul's songs, but what if Gene had contributed with It's My Life, Legends Never Die and Ain't None Of Your Business instead of Lonely Is The Hunter, While The City Sleeps and Murder In High Heels, respectively?

    Anyway, we (at least the few who know it) have this great album by Wendy, and I'm glad she recorded the songs.

    Just last week, podcaster Metal Mike of the '80's Glam Metalcast' podcast recorded a version of 'It's My Life' with Wes Beech on guitar. Here's the video.

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