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.
Unfortunately, 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:
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.