Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Kiss, by Kiss

Before Kiss had well known tunes like Rock and Roll All Nite, Calling Dr. Love, Detroit Rock City, etc. and were rocking packed arenas every single night with flamboyant stage shows they were a small struggling band with a new visual spin in New York. Signed by Casablanca Records, the band released their self-titled debut album Kiss in 1974. Though their beginnings were rough and they had multiple troubles (as their appearance and loud sound were pretty radical at the time) the album despite the lack of any hits was enough to give them the momentum they needed to build up to the speed that got them where they are today.

Kiss showcases a lot of the band's early influences like The New York Dolls and The Beatles but in a heavier way. The songs are rock n' roll in its simplest form, but with the distortion turned up and a bit of shine added on for that sparkly glam nuance. At times there are some very ear pleasing dual guitar harmonies between rhythm guitarist/lead vocalist Paul Stanley and lead guitarist Ace Frehley that add a bit more melody and musical substance to the songs. At other times the guitar tone gets a bit thicker to provide the heavier sound the band was going for at the time. Many of the songs were written by Stanley and bassist and lead vocalist Gene Simmons during their time in their previous band Wicked Lester.

Strutter is the album's opener and is probably the best known song from Kiss. Starting with an iconic drum fill from Peter Criss, it's a pretty uptempo tune and features an abundance of the glam sparkle I mentioned earlier. Stanley takes lead vocals and uses his flamboyant and semi-operatic voice almost to its full extent. Frehley does some fantastic lead guitar work in the solo section. It takes the song to it's orgasmic climax before letting the listener ride out the rest of the song on an extended simplified chorus. Fun fact: Strutter is actually one of the few songs that both Stanley and Simmons share writing credits on.

Let Me Know is a virtually unknown part of the Kiss catalog, but in my opinion it is one of their best. It's the first song that Stanley played for Simmons when they first met one another. Of all the songs on Kiss, it is probably the most Beatles-esque in terms of vocal melody and chord progression. It's a simple song, but it is such an ear worm that it honestly is quite baffling that it is not one of their big hits. Surprisingly Simmons actually sings quite melodically on it unlike the more gruff style he is known for. While it is very reminiscent of a 60's pop rock song, the ending is quite different as it turns into an almost Led Zeppelin style hard rock groove that could almost be an entire song in itself if it went on long enough. I cannot suggest this tune enough.

Even if you don't take Kiss all that seriously, you owe it to yourself to give Kiss a shot. There are so many memorable tracks that you could tell the band put their all into. There isn't a single bad song on it. This was before big money came into the picture and they weren't just doing things to further a brand name. They really cared about the music. The production is a little lacking even for the time, but in a way it works to the advantage of the music; giving it a unique charm. It is without a doubt my favorite Kiss album of all time and probably always will be.

Kiss, by Kiss receives 5 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Strutter
2. Nothin' to Lose
3. Firehouse
4. Cold Gin
5. Let Me Know
6. Kissin' Time
7. Deuce
8. Love Theme From Kiss
9. 100,000 Years
10. Black Diamond

Buy the album on Amazon:

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