The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 13:
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.
To be continued…
Original mikeladano.com review: 2012/07/17