Part 15 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!
KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)
Ahh, the disco years! Alice Cooper did it, so did the Rolling Stones. Kiss were bound to follow. Paul Stanley admitted that he used to go to disco clubs. He found the music simple but interesting enough to try to write. The result was the now-classic “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, a song which was a bit despised for a while. Even though it was one of Kiss’ all time biggest hits, it dropped out of setlists in the glam-metal mid-80’s.
Dynasty was designed to be the biggest Kiss album yes, and indeed it did spawn their second biggest hit. Unfortunately, on the inside, the band were coming apart at the seams. In order to placate Peter Criss, his solo album’s producer Vini Poncia was chosen to helm the next album. Poncia then kicked Criss out of the proceedings, as his chops were judged to be not up to snuff anymore. He appears on only one song, “Dirty Livin'”, a song he co-wrote.
Anton Fig, of Ace Frehley’s solo album (and David Letterman, and later Frehley’s Comet) was chosen to replace him in the studio. It would not be Fig’s last album with Kiss. This was all kept secret at the time.
On the bright side, Frehley had a bunch of lead vocals: the Stones’ “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, and the story of his childhood, “Hard Times”. All three are great songs, and probably better than Gene’s two on Dynasty. I find Gene’s songs to be dull and plodding: “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma”.
Paul, on the other hand, had nothing but great songs: the previously mentioned “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the majestic “Magic Touch”, and the excellent, underrated single “Sure Know Something”. All three are examples of his increasingly skilled songwriting and singing.
“Dirty Livin'” would be Criss’ last songwriting credit on a Kiss album, and his last appearance on one for a long long time. It is not a great song by any stretch, and it is one of the most disco sounding tracks on the album. Still, it has a street vibe that Criss was known for, and his fans love it.
Despite the flaws, Dynasty holds together remarkably well. Even the filler fits in the groove for a seemlessly enjoyable listening experience. After all, all four Kiss members sing lead on it, which was a rare thing that only happened on only a handful of Kiss studio albums.*Ace had more vocals than ever before, and then had lots more on the next album too. The band was tighter than ever with Fig on ghost-drums, and they actually make the best of the overly compressed production sounds.
Dynasty might not be as great as the first six legendary albums, but although cracks were beginning to show, it was still a continuation of the mighty Kiss legacy. What should have happened next was the band getting back to a solid rocker of an album and restoring the faith of the fans who were secretly and openly questioning the integrity of the band. That didn’t happen, and the original Kiss as we knew it was destroyed forever, never to be the same again. The phoenix that rose from the ashes was a different, albeit still powerful, beast.
A word about the Japanese version pictured here: When Kiss began remastering their albums in the late 90’s, the Japanese got to hear them first, packaged in mini replica record sleeves. Unfortunately, it does not include a replica of the LP Dynasty poster. It was the first Kiss remaster I bought simply because I found it here on import before the others came out.
Don’t pick it up Dynasty as your first, but do pick it up.
*(Love Gun, Psycho-Circus, and Sonic Boom.)