REVIEW: Paul Stanley – Live To Win (2006)

PAUL STANLEY – Live To Win (2006 Universal)

This album is significant to me for one reason only:  It was the first CD bought for me by my lovely wife, Mrs. LeBrain.  She knew I liked Kiss and she knew I didn’t have this album.  It was a total surprise!  It was also a total disappointment.

Paul’s 1978 solo album is a milestone for me, it’s one of those albums I can put on any time, any where, anyhow, and I always love it. When Paul wrote (quoted in the “Kiss: Behind The Mask” book) “Let’s just say it needs a sequel right about now,” I was so excited. Yet I forgot, the word “sequel” has many different connotations.

LIVE TO WIN_0002Unfortunately, Live To Win is a sequel in the sense that it’s inferior to the original in every way. The production is plastic, modern synthetic, and boring. The songwriting is good in parts, but there are three ballads here. Paul’s first solo album had nine songs and one ballad. Here, there are ten songs and three ballads. You can work out the math on your own. The playing is bland and generic. John5 plays guitar a bit, and he’s always great, and Bruce Kulick plays bass (why bass?) on a few songs. Everybody else is just a studio cat, guys who are paid big bucks to make people like Avril sound good.  Good players, but there’s no personality on this album.  Not like when Bob Kulick ripped Paul’s first solo album to shreds.

There are two good songs.  They are “Wake Up Screaming” and “Where Angels Dare”. “Wake Up Screaming” starts off with some terrible drum machines. (Yes, not a misprint. There is far too much ProTools and programming on Live To Win.) It’s generic sounding, until Paul’s melody and vocal elevates the song to a whole different level. Still, it’s not aggressive enough for a song called “Wake Up Screaming”. Raw production would have turned this into a classic.  The other good song is “Where Angels Dare”.  It’s another great song with Paul’s riff, vocal, and melody taking it where it should be. A highlight.

“Live To Win” is also decent, it has a good chorus, but the riff and verses are boring. “Bulletproof” sounds like a Hot in the Shade outtake.  “Lift” should have been on Carnival Of Souls, it has that grungy sound. The rest of the album is just plain boring, especially the ballads. Among the ballads there’s nothing here that can hold a candle to the dynamics of “Hold Me, Touch Me” even though they are every bit as schlocky.

Paul, I’m disappointed. For a guy who had the idea to go back to basics and record the Kiss album Sonic Boom on analog tape, this just doesn’t even sound like it came from the same person. Maybe if your first solo album wasn’t so good, so classic, then I wouldn’t have expected so much. Yet, Paul, you are a rock god. There’s no denying it even to non-fans. You are an icon, and you are responsible for a dozen or more of the best songs in rock history. There’s no denying it! For you to put this out, I can only conclude you were out of touch with your fans and rock in general. Or, worse, you were trying desperately for a hit.

Disappointing. But still better than Asshole by Gene Simmons.

2/5 stars.  One for each good song.

More KISS at mikeladano.com:

Complete KISS reviews + Complete ACE FREHLEY reviews 

PETER CRISSCriss EP review + GENE SIMMONSAsshole review

Record Store Tales Part 3:  My First KISS + Part 8:  You Wanted the Best +
Part 77:  Psycho-Circus Part 151:  24kt KISS…cheap at twice the price +
Part 152:  Carnival of Lost Souls Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos 
Part 179: Phantom of the Opera Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Also available: iTunes exclusive live soundtrack to Paul’s One Live KISS DVD.

ONE LIVE KISS

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18 comments

  1. Totally with you on this. Blandorama for the X-Factor/American Idol crowd… I’d guess he was going for the hits here. I liked Bulletpoof but then I liked Hot in the Shade. And I wouldn’t even have minded it being ballad-heavy if they weren’t all the same bloody song! And not a very good song at that… the lyrics to Second To None are particularly bad – basically “I’ve shagged loads of women but you’re the best”. I’d maybe stretch to a 3 out of 5 because I pretty much like the first half but the only decent song on “Side 2” is Where Angels Dare. But it’s pretty disappointing all in all.

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  2. I share your enthusiasm for the ’78 solo album and I always wanted this one to match it. Maybe I suspected the truth however as I never actually picked this one up. I liked what you said about being able to put on the ’78 disc anytime and always love it; I agree fully. How’s the One Live Kiss DVD? Never seen that one.

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    1. It’s OK. It sounds like Kiss without Gene Simmons I guess. I don’t like the use of keyboards either. However it is fun to hear obscure old classics, especially from the 78 solo album!

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  3. I totally agree. What a disappointment. But still, everytime I listen to the album (which doesn’t really happen that often…), I go: “Hmmm, this song is pretty good…” after every song, but after I’m done playing the album, I hardly remember squat. This is dull and as you said, it sounds sterile and plastic. Paul can do better than this. Lots better. But then again, it didn’t really sell by the pound either.
    Oh, not to be a Mr Knowitall, but Paul’s 1978 solo album actually contains two ballads, the horrible cheesy Hold Me Touch Me (a song that’s too cheesy even for Live To Win) and Ain’t Quite Right.

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      1. Hehe. Mr Mastermindknowitall speaking… :-)
        Paul Stanley and ballads is a kind of funny thing. Sometimes he writes these ultra cheesy horrible ballads like Hold Me Touch Me, Reason To I Wanna Know What Love Is and the ones on Live To Win, but on the other hand, he writes brilliant stuff like Forever, I Still Love You, Everytime I Look At You and I Will Be There.

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