RE-REVIEW: KISS – Peter Criss (1978 solo album)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 13:  

 Peter Criss (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Peter Criss’ dreams of superstardom died with his first solo album.

To assuage egos and blow off steam, all four Kiss members agreed to record and release solo albums simultaneously.  This was done under the Kiss banner to unify them, but each member had complete creative freedom on their own.

A project like this had never been attempted before by anybody, and Casablanca records gambled on all four being equally huge.  They gambled wrong.  Peter Criss’ album was the biggest casualty.  It sold the poorest and charted at a lowly #43 (Billboard).  He assumed he was the star of the band due to “Beth” being their biggest single.  He set out to make an album like that, but Kiss fans were not likely to buy an R&B ballad album.

Criss hired Ringo Starr producer Vini Poncia (his first of a few Kiss collaborations), and wrote part of the album with his old Chelsea partner Stan Penridge.  He had a band of studio musicians, but was unable to play drums on the whole album due to injury.  For those tracks he used Allan Schwartzberg who also played on Gene Simmons’ solo LP.

There was a clear R&B direction, the stuff that Peter loved and couldn’t play in Kiss.  There are horns a’plenty and cool non-rock grooves.  Opening track “I’m Gonna Love You” pointed the way:  mid-tempo, loads of soulful backing vocals, easy beats and raspy singing.  His drums fit the sound perfectly.  “You Matter to Me” brought 70s synth into the mixture.  Easy listening light rock ballads go down smooth but don’t leave you feeling satisfied.

“Tossin’ and Turnin’”, the old 1961 R&B hit, was the only tune played live by Kiss on the 1979 tour.  Peter’s version of course does not sound like Kiss, but it’s a lively version suited to his style.  Another ballad, “Don’t You Let Me Down”, is a tender song but lighter than light.  Absolutely too soft for Kiss, but one of the stronger Penridge/Criss compositions that might have worked well covered by an easy listening artist.  Unlike “That’s the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes”, which is not a good song at all.

Criss played all the drums on side one.  Schwartzberg was on most of side two, opening with the quiet yet epic ballad “Easy Thing”.  It has a slow build into something big and orchestrated, and for this album it works.  Sean Delaney’s “Rock Me, Baby” brings things back to rock and roll, but with a mediocre track that wouldn’t be good enough for Kiss.  “Kiss the Girl Goodbye” was another soft and light ballad, pleasant enough but far from outstanding.  Penridge’s guitar is a delight, but the only delight.  “Hooked on Rock and Roll” on the other hand is a standout akin to “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, a little bit of an autobiographical track about the Catman.  “Every morning at the break of dawn, you could see him dragging home his drums.”

The final track, and one of the most polarizing, is Sean Delaney’s “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.  Some love it, some hate it, but one thing for sure:  it’s one of most bombastic ballads Peter’s ever recorded.  Piano, orchestration and stellar guitar by Elliot Randall (Steely Dan) make for a huge ballad.  Love it or hate it, “I Can’t Stop the Rain” is schlocky and bittersweet.

When Peter’s album failed to sell, Casablanca rushed out two singles.  The other Kiss members only got one each.  Neither “Don’t You Let Me Down” nor “You Matter to Me” made any impact.  The fallout from this album was that Peter Criss was perceived as out of touch by his band and his fans.  He was hoping to become a blue-eyed soul star, but his image never recovered.  From this point on, Peter’s dedication to rock was always under scrutiny, and his time in Kiss truly began to tick away.

Today’s rating

1.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/17

 

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28 comments

    1. It also didn’t have enough good R&B songs. R&B is great but Peter Criss is no Charles Bradley, and he didn’t have enough good tunes. That was really Peter’s weakness. He just isn’t a songwriter, but he assumed because “Beth” was a hit, hey, I’m a successful songwriter!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Spot on with this one Mike. I can see from Peter’s view considering the musiic of the time, this working, but it would be like a member of Slipknot today making an r&b slow jams disc.
    Sure it’s a viable genre and he may have some aptitude for it but it’s a tone deaf decision considering his existing fan base.
    That and plenty of established yacht rockers already had the lock down on that sound.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Citizen V!

      Yes as far as “blue eyed soul” goes, I’ll take Rod Stewart. I love that stuff — it’s corny and makes me feel good. But Rod always picked incredible songs (since he rarely wrote any) and Peter just didn’t have the songs on this album. Too bad because listening back, he had a great sound in the studio. The drum sound is fantastic.

      Like

    1. Hah! Yes wouldn’t it be very “Kiss” to have four different album covers?

      Incidentally there is a compilation called Best of Solo Albums that I may or may not re-review. I probably don’t need to go there again, but it’s one way to get a sampling of tracks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah! Right, just like I was told it was all country….

      Guess what, there’s no disco nor country songs on it!

      In fact when we get to the right album, Uncle Meat will argue that Kiss only have one disco song.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer Ace’s solo album, followed by Paul’s, even if Paul’s has the two best songs of amongst the four. Always wondered, aside from comparing their sales figures, what Paul and Gene thought about Ace’s album from a musical stamdpoint when they listened to it for the first time. Even if you give the edge to Paul’s, you have to give credit to Ace for coming up with a good 3-4 songs that could have made it onto any Kiss album and you have to think that Paul and Gene recognized it, even if grudgingly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Forge! I’m curious which two of Paul’s you mean. I won’t lie — I’m a huge fan of that album. But we’ll get there.

      I think Gene and Paul had to know inside they were wrong about Ace, even if they didn’t like to admit it.

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  3. I don’t dislike it as much as you, Mike, but it sure was the weakest effort of the solo albums. I still think Peter sings great and there are some really good songs here – Hooked On Rock ‘n’ Roll, Easy Thing, Don’t Let Me Down and I’m actually fond of That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes (written about his late 60’s dabbling in heroin…).
    But the real winner here is I Can’t Stop The Rain, probably the best ballad any Kiss member have ever recorded. Only I Still Love You is up for competition here.

    Have you heard his Out Of Control and Let Me Rock You albums?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heck yes sir! In fact I will review those two as part of this series. I’ll do them after Unmasked. I’m not sure how they will rank. Possibly better than this one.

      Didn’t know about the heroin but makes sense.

      Like

  4. First and last time I heard this was when I was 12…I couldn’t fathom why at that point some rock n roller would make an album like this…
    But reading your review and thinking like an old man know I can see why to certain point he did what he did…
    No matter though this album was a torpedo straight into the side of the KISS Battleship….more to come….

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Its still amazing how Frehley pulled himself enough out of the stupor to put a album of pure gold whereas the two sober dudes in KISS didn’t come close….and well than there’s Petey….
        On one hand being wasted can produce Gold! Ask Ace and Aerosmith 73-86…

        Liked by 1 person

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