RE-REVIEW: KISS – Dynasty (1979)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 17:  

 

  Dynasty (1979 Casablanca, 1997 Polygram Japan remaster)

“The Return of Kiss”.  It sounds quaint today, that after a two year absence they called it “The Return of Kiss”.  Two years today means nothing.  But for Kiss, who were doing two releases a year, it did actually mean something.  Their last project was their series of four solo albums, one for each member, and unified by cover art.  This project only reinforced the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The truth is, the original Kiss were already over.  Peter Criss returned from his solo album and a car accident as a changed man, and not in a good way.  Upon walking in the door he insisted upon seeing sheet music for the new tunes.  That was a first.  It was quickly apparent that Peter was not in a condition to perform.  The band had even hired his solo album producer, Vini Poncia, to helm the new Kiss.  Poncia deemed Criss’ current abilities inadequate and he was replaced for the album by Anton Fig.  Anton was Ace’s solo drummer, and more than capable of filling in.  Previously, when Bob Kulick was hired to replace Ace on side four of Alive II, he was instructed to “play like Ace”.  Anton Fig was given no such instruction and was free to drum as he pleased.  Some Kiss fans were able to pick up on that.  Ultimately Peter Criss played drums on only one song, his own called “Dirty Livin’”.  And that would be Peter’s final appearance on a Kiss studio album until 1998’s Psycho-Circus, on which he also played drums on only one track.  Kiss was indeed broken, but few on the outside knew it.  Peter would never play on a whole Kiss album again.

A lot had changed.  Kiss’ massive marketing campaigns paid off, but was that a good thing?  Little kids were now coming to Kiss concerts.  Paul Stanley was actively seeking hits.  Together with new songwriting friend Desmond Child, Paul wanted to write a dance single.  Inspired by the clubs of New York, the pair produced “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the song that gave Kiss the “disco” tag.  The single sold a million copies.  Needless to say, it was not the last Kiss single written with Desmond Child.

The album went platinum and became the hit it was designed to be.  Inside the sleeve, the music was streamlined and more commercial than before.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” led the way, demolishing the walls between dance and rock.  Frehley had a hot solo in the mix, and the bouncy bass was performed by Paul Stanley.  The song had all the right ingredients and though thin sounding by today’s standards, it’s still a great little dance rock number.

The real revelation about Dynasty wasn’t the turn towards slicker, highly compressed recordings.  It was Ace Frehley coming out of his shell.  Newly confident after his hit solo experience, Frehley had three songs to sing on Dynasty.  Ace covered the Stones on “2000 Man”, a version that may be more beloved than the original.  It certainly sounds at home.  Ace rocks it up significantly.  Ace also had lead vocals on “Hard Times”, a track about growing up as an aimless youth in New York.  “We’d go to school, then we’d cut out, go to the park, and space our heads out.”  “Hard Times” is not an exceptional song, but it’s interesting since it’s so autobiographical.  Ace’s last song was the more aggressive “Save Your Love”.  This track closes Dynasty with the kind of rock that people often forget is on the album.  Ace’s tracks are the only ones that can be classified purely as “rock”.  He has more guitar riffage on “Save Your Love” than the other songs combined.  Without the Space Ace, Dynasty would have been a much weaker album.

The increase in Ace’s participation was balanced by a decrease in that of Gene Simmons.  Gene only had two songs on the album, neither of which were singles.  “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma” inhabit the same kind of compressed audio landscape as the rest.  “Charisma” is the best, due to its unusual echoey vocals, fitting for the demon persona.  Gene’s prime interest was still the opposite sex, and both songs have the demon’s stamp.  The main hooks on both are delivered by the backing vocals during the choruses.

The dominant force on Dynasty — and as it turns out, for the coming decade – was Paul Stanley.  Not only was “I Was Made for Loving You” a massive hit, but the second single “Sure Know Something” was also one of his.  Paul wrote this dancey ballad with producer Vini Poncia.  It’s not all simply dance floor moves though, as the chorus has the power chords and lung power that Kiss fans expected.  Stanley also wrote “Magic Touch”, a lesser known album classic.  “Magic Touch” burns slow, but hot.  Paul’s falsetto was a sign of the times, but the power chords explode on the chorus.

And that leaves poor Peter.  “Dirty Livin’” was written with Stan Penridge and Vini Poncia, and it was written as something more R&B in direction.  It was Kiss-afied and included on the album as Peter’s only appearance.  You can hear that it’s not the same drummer and that it’s a very different vibe.

For all outside appearances, Kiss maintained an image of solidarity.  There was no mention of a session drummer, and Peter was there on tour for all 82 shows.  However there were some cracks visible.  Several shows had to be cancelled for poor ticket sales, in areas such as New York City and Pontiac Michigan.  With the toys, comics and merchandise, Kiss were beginning to be seen as a kids’ band.  Dynasty was the hit it needed to be, but the situation was not sustainable.

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  The first of the two supposed “Disco Era” Kiss records LeBrain referred to in the introduction of this series, Dynasty really just is a pretty solid rock and roll record other than the mega-hit, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.  There really is not another song on the record that could be classified as Disco.  But more on that when I talk about Unmasked.

This album sees the beginning of a couple new eras in Kisstory. The first being the band’s writing collaboration with Desmond Child.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” was the first hit of many for Desmond Child.  He has “songwriter” credits (and yes I am using that term loosely) on such deplorable pap as “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “She Bangs”, and upcoming Kiss dung like “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “Uh! All Night”.  Basically when a band gets shittier, they go to Desmond Child.  When Ratt got shittier, in came Desmond.  When the Scorpions got shittier, he pops up again.  When Aerosmith started becoming a glossy joke, here comes Desmond Child and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”. Yes, as good as this album is, Kiss was starting to get shittier.

As George Costanza would say, worlds collide for me on this album.  For years I had no idea Peter Criss only played drums on his own song on Dynasty.  His phantom replacement turned out to be Mr. Anton Fig, who played drums in one of my favorite bands ever, Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band.  Even Anton’s dry humor on the show was a high point in Late Night with David Letterman for me.  I am a true Letterman head and always will be.  Anton Fig went on to be Ace’s drummer in Frehley’s Comet, so maybe Fig’s presence somehow inspired the Space man, since he is a high point of Dynasty.  The Rolling Stones cover “2000 Man” is a fucking great tune.  “Hard Times” is just as good and a personal favorite of many Kiss fans.

There are a few weaker-ish songs on the album but nothing egregious here.  Very good rock album with ONE disco song.  Thank you Desmond Child for injecting Kiss with your “Bad Medicine”.  (Yes, he wrote that too.  As well as writing songs for such wonderful artists like Hanson, The Jonas Brothers, Lindsay Lohan and Clay Aiken.)  Hey Desmond…in the words of Ricky…you are truly a FuckGoof.

Favorite Tracks:  “Sure Know Something”, “Hard Times”, “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, “Magic Touch”

Forgettable Tracks:  “Dirty Livin'”


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/24

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21 comments

  1. Nice writeup Fella’s! Glad to see MEAT back in action!
    This album means for me that 1979 was the year I had seen KISS for the first time as I had turned 12. So I’m one of those little kids that Mikey refers too!
    Dynasty for me is like what was written is where ACE does indeed come out of his shell and realizes he can do it with a couple of great tracks which is indeed a continuation of his solo album from the year before…
    At the time I had no idea Criss was hardly on this album i mean I was 12 and with Pete’s mug on the cover why would I think other….But KISS man hahahaha…they fooled me which went right into the 80’s…..
    Awesome stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks man! Really glad to have Meat on board for this album and the next. He’s closer to your age and has similar memories.

      I was listening to Unmasked today in the car. Right away you can hear how amazing the drumming is. INCREDIBLE! I should have known it was not the Cat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was to young to even know about ghost musicians but man after all these years its crazy how many ghost solos were on Destroyer…and Kiss man kept a lid on it for years…

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        1. Dick Wagener played the solo on Sweet Pain and put some additional acoustic guitars on Beth, but that’s all. The rest of Destroyer was Ace and Paul.

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        2. James Campion wrote a great book on the recording of Destroyer..I reviewed it a while ago…God Of Thunder/Flaming Youth/Sweet Pain were all tracks Wagner played on and Campion interviewed everyone from Ezrin to the recording engineers….

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        3. Really? I didn’t know. What’s the name of that book? I must read that one.

          Did it say anything on the subject ghost drummers as well? There’s a rumor that Allen Schwartzenberg played on a few tracks.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice write-up. A higher score than I expected, but good reasoning behind it. I am with DeKE as I didn’t have a clue it was’t Peter on the album at the time. I of course learned that as I got older, but then I didn’t care. It was Kiss!! and that was all that mattered.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I consider Anton and Bob Kulick members of the Kiss family. I think you kind of have to. They didn’t wear makeup, but both guys contributed a ton of musicianship to the band. They played on more tracks than official guys like Mark St. John.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally agree, Mike. St John was only on one album and he didn’t even play on all of the songs on it.

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  3. I went back to my archives and re-read what I said about this album. I am still in the camp that if the ‘disco’ track was taken out, it would be a great rock album. However, the production does do it no justice. I didn’t know Desmond Child wrote so many naff songs. He actually sings a song on the soundtrack of “The Warriors” and it’s damn good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Criss was still a member. He left in 1980 after Unmasked was released, however, he didn’t play anything on that album either.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Dynasty is one of Kiss’ weaker albums. I Was Made and Sure Know Something are both throwaways, in my book. Never liked them and I never will.
    Ace ruled the album and it needs to be said that all of Ace’s songs are recorded the same way he recorded his solo album, Ace on vocals, all guitars and bass and Fig on drums. That’s how his songs on Unmasked were recorded as well.
    I really love Magic Touch as well. Gene’s songs were good but not great.
    Dirty Livin’? It’s ok, but the disco beat kinda sinks the song, it was much better as a demo – as a rock song.

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