The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Supplemental: Peter Criss solo #2.
Life after wasn’t easy for the cat known as Peter Criss. His first post-Kiss album was met with indifference, and the superior second LP suffered the same fate. This marked an 11 year gap before the Catman released anything else. Let Me Rock You, Peter’s third solo album in total remains his best to date. It has a number of Kiss konnections, including a song written for Kiss by Gene Simmons. Looking further down the credits and you’ll find Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, Paul Stanley’s co-writer Adam Mitchell, and a young upstart named Vincent Cusano, who features into the main story very soon.
Let Me Rock You is the better of the Criss albums for a number of reasons. One is that is has superior songs, often pulled from outside sources. Another is that returning producer Vini Poncia gave it a harder rocking sound. It’s still nowhere near a Kiss LP, but the adult contemporary leanings are severely curtailed. Opener “Let It Go” has a little bit of the familiar R&B beat that Criss likes, but is otherwise a steady rocker. “Tears” (Cusano/Mitchell) is a pop rocker that missed the mark just enough that John Waite was able to make it a hit a mere two years later. Peter’s version is less overblown, and daresay more likeable.
Most of the songs have a vague pop rock vibe circa 1982: “Move on Over”, “Destiny”, and “Bad Boys” sound like rock hits from the period. Bon Jovi’s early excursions are not too far from this. A Russ Ballard song called “Some Kinda’ Hurricane” fits the same mold, but a second Ballard tune (the better of the two) is completely different. “Let Me Rock You” is doo-wop right out of the 1950s. If “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is OK, then so is “Let Me Rock You”. In fact it’s the most fun track on the album.
The unfortunate cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” adds nothing to the party except a reminder that Peter Criss will never be as good as the artists he so admires. The worst track is Stevens’ ballad “First Day in the Rain”, which might have been a better song performed by…anyone else. Peter sleeps right through this one and some listeners will have a hard time finishing. Keep going though; Stevens plays a sweltering guitar solo. Elsewhere on the album, Steve Lukather contributes six string.
By far the most historically interesting track is the Simmons-penned “Feel Like Heaven”. A snip of the original Simmons demo, for consideration during the Music From the Elder sessions, can be found on the previously reviewed Kiss – Deadly Demos CD. It’s too funky and danceable for Kiss, but Peter sounds more at home. It is a shame that the (very vulgar!) Simmons original has yet to be released. Until then, feast on the Peter Criss version, which is good enough for now.
Although Let Me Rock You was the first album to feature Peter’s unmasked face, it failed to sell and Peter entered a long period of obscurity. A short-lived band called Balls of Fire was followed by a project with another ex-Kiss member called Mark St. John (who joins the main story in 1984). He wrote with Buffalo’s own Phil Naro of Talas, and did a guest shot on Ace Frehley’s 1989 solo album Trouble Walkin’. His biggest humiliation had to be when a homeless imposter claimed to be him with little difficulty since nobody had seen Peter Criss in so long. It didn’t seem too unbelievable…even if there was no resemblance at all.
(l) Criss (r) imposter
At least Peter has one decent solo album, and that album is Let Me Rock You.
To be continued…