The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 8:
Kiss were at a crossroads. What to do next? Destroyer, produced by maestro Bob Ezrin, introduced a new Kiss to the world: glossy, indulgent, polished and augmented with plenty of highbrow non-rock instruments. Would they explore that road and see where it lead? If they had, an entire alternate KISStory would exist today. Instead they chose to get back to basics.
Producer Eddie Kramer, who made Kiss Alive! so unforgettably thunderous, was called up again. Kramer and Kiss departed for the Star Theater in Nanuet, New York to record. The idea this time, as opposed to Destroyer, was to go for a live Kiss sound, but on a studio album. The theater setting was intended to help capture that. Peter Criss’ drums were recorded in a bathroom for the perfect ambience. Rock and Roll Over followed Destroyer by a mere seven months, maintaining Kiss’ record of two albums per year. As promised, it was a return to the core Kiss sound: loud guitars and hard rock. They had learned a trick or two from the Destroyer experience. Rock and Roll Over was tighter and sharper than the first three Kiss albums.
The acoustic intro to Paul’s “I Want You” lulls you into a false sense of calm. Then it completely explodes with one of Paul’s most passionate tunes. In three minutes, Kiss laid waste once again. A second Paul scorcher, “Take Me” was written with Kiss road manager and coach Sean Delaney. The words are simple and c-c-c-catchy: “Go baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah! Oh, baby, you make me feel ah, ah, ah, ah yeah!” Elsewhere, Paul asks “Put your hand in my pocket, grab on to my rocket,” just so there is no confusion.
Gene Simmons’ “Calling Dr. Love” (based off a demo called “Bad Bad Lovin”) was a single and a perennial concert classic. You either like Gene or you don’t. “Calling Dr. Love” won’t change any minds, but it will satisfy those who can’t enough of the sex-crazed demon. It does boast a fiery Ace Frehley guitar solo, one of his most memorable. Gene’s second track “Ladies Room” is just rock and roll, a lesser-known Kiss classic, but catchy as sin. The LP’s first side was closed with a Peter Criss song, co-written with his Chelsea bandmate Stan Penridge. “Baby Driver” is not listed among Kiss’ best tracks, but there isn’t much wrong with it. It’s basic, it slams, and Peter screams his throat out. Not a standout but worth a spin or two.
Gene’s “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” is the lovely kind of sentiment that many Kiss songs were built on. This ode to groupies and hotel sex was not the first and not the last, but it had a memorable bop and catchy chorus. “Mr. Speed” (Stanley/Delaney) is a standout with the kind of rock and roll guitar riff that Paul specializes in. This killer track could and perhaps should have been a timeless concert classic, probably ahead of other tracks. (It was also used on the soundtrack to Keanu Reeves’ 1994 action movie Speed.) Simmons’ “See You In Your Dreams” was less timeless and memorable, so later on Gene took a shot at re-recording it. The Rock and Roll Over version makes for the kind of song that is good for filling the spaces between better songs.
Speaking of better songs, Paul’s “Hard Luck Woman” is undeniably one of his best. The lush acoustic six and twelve string guitars ring pure and clean. Paul wanted to give the song to Rod Stewart to sing, as it has a light “Maggie May” aura. Wiser minds prevailed and the song was kept for Kiss, and given to Peter Criss to sing as a followup to “Beth”. Peter of course nailed it and “Hard Luck Woman” reigns as one of the best tracks Peter was given to sing, if not the best. It might not have been as big as “Beth” but that means little; it is the far superior song.
Closing the record, Paul Stanley’s “Makin’ Love” ends Rock and Roll Over on the same kind of fast and furious riffing that it began with. “I Want You” and “Makin’ Love” are bookends, starting and finishing Rock and Roll Over with hard guitars and good times. Sean Delaney co-wrote “Makin’ Love” and his contributions to KISStory have too often been swept under the carpet. Delaney had three co-writes on Rock and Roll Over. Peter Criss had one, and Ace Frehley didn’t have any at all.
Rock and Roll Over gave Kiss another platinum album to hang on the wall. Their success, and their sound, had solidified. There was nowhere to go but up.
Today’s rating: 4.5/5 stars
Meat’s slice: This time let’s start with the negative, as small and nitpicky as that is in the case of this album. I’m not a big fan of “See You in Your Dreams”. Not awful, but just kinda bland in comparison to the rest. “Baby Driver” could also be lumped in with that for the same reason.
The other thing I could say about this album is that since Kiss were the “Kings of the Night Time World” at this point, this is where the lyrics started to get their most misogynistic or what have you. Songs like “Ladies Room” and “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” are tunes I really like, however I can see that these were the gateway drug to some of the ridiculous lyrics in Kiss songs in the 80s and 90s.
I love everything else about this album. Rock and Roll Over was my favorite Kiss studio album as a kid, and it’s just a shade under Dressed to Kill now on my Kiss albums list. This seems to make sense now, since both albums were created in similar fashion: Kiss under the gun and needing to write and record an album fast. Good Rock and Roll instincts there.
My favorite ever Kiss ballad is on this record too. “Hard Luck Woman” is an extremely catchy song, and could be my favorite song on the album. I recall that somewhere around 2002, I was very drunk in a bar and ended up singing “Hard Luck Woman” on karaoke, and probably had not heard the song in many many years. I sang the first 2/3rds, however well a pissed me could muster. The end of the song surprised me and I had no idea what to sing and left in the middle of the track. Not long after a girl came up to me and said, “I have never heard anybody sing that Garth Brooks song on karaoke before”. She seemed so taken aback at my insistence that “Hard Luck Woman” was a Kiss song. Maybe it was because I started freaking out on this poor girl. “Hard Luck Woman” indeed.
Reproduction of the karaoke performance
Favorite Tracks: “Hard Luck Woman”, “I Want You”, “Makin Love”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Mr. Speed”
Forgettabe Tracks: I’m done nitpicking on this one.
To be continued…
Original mikeladano.com review: 2012/07/09