Part 11 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster! This time, we’ll look at one of the four solo albums released under the Kiss banner in 1978: Peter Criss.
KISS – Peter Criss (1978)
On September 18, 1978, Kiss became the first band in history to simultaneously release four solo albums. Each was vastly different from one another.
Peter Criss is not a jazz album, it’s not a country album, it’s not an R&B album and it’s not a rock album. If it’s a failure in the eyes of Kiss fans, it’s only because it’s not a rock album. It falls under that dreaded catagory of “easy listening”: just enough of each genre to make it classified as (in the parlance of our times) “lite rock”.
In all honesty Peter Criss is not a bad album, there are some older folk out there who would love it. When I was a kid I used to play it to my mom (not sayin’ my mom is “older”, just sayin’), saying “See, you’d like Kiss music too.” That’s what it is: music you can play for your mom.
Peter himself plays drums on most of the album, Allan Schwartzberg plays on the rest. The rest of the instruments are handled by studio musicians with Steve Lukather taking a solo. You can hear quite clearly that Peter loves playing this kind of music, and it suits his voice too. Peter has co-writing credits with his Lips bandmate Stan Pendridge on most songs.
The album kicks off with “I’m Gonna Love You”, a R&B flavoured rock number with a nice horn section and lush backing vocals. This is about as uptempo as it gets. “You Matter To Me” is rendered hard to listen to due to its big fat synthesizer riff. Very outdated and distracting. “Tossin’ and Turnin'” is the old rock and roll standard and similar in tempo and arrangement to “I’m Gonna Love You”. Peter does a great job vocally. “Don’t You Let Me Down” is the first ballad of the album, very 70’s, with more outdated keyboard sounds. Side 1 ends with “That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes”, a nondescript underwhelming uptempo album filler.
Side 2 begins with one of the best tune on the album, the acoustic ballad “Easy Thing” which goes into a strong string-laden chorus. It’s quiet yet epic at the same time. “Rock Me, Baby” is another R&B song, uptempo with lots of female backing vocals but otherwise filler. “Kiss The Girl Goodbye” is another acoustic ballad, a little too quiet and laid back, very folk sounding, and there are no drums on this track at all. “Hooked On Rock N’ Roll” brings the tempo back up before we go to the last and very best song on the album, Sean Delaney’s “I Can’t Stop The Rain”. It’s a piano and strings ballad, similar in scope to “Easy Thing”.
It’s a shame in a way that Peter was so out of touch with Kiss’ core audience, and had such an inflated ego, that he thought making this album was a good idea at the time. The record turned off Kiss fans in droves, although many have rediscovered it in the warm light of nostalgia.
I think the bottom line is this is a nostalgia CD. I can’t imagine new young Kiss fans getting into this at all, but they may want to play it for mom.