REVIEW: Paul Stanley’s Soul Station – Now and Then (2021)

PAUL STANLEY’S SOUL STATION – Now and Then (2021 Universal)

Reviewing Paul Stanley’s new album, Now and Then featuring his new band Soul Station, is probably the most challenging task I have ahead of me this morning.  It’s difficult for several reasons, primarily three.  Full disclosure.

 

 

 

  1. Paul Stanley might be my favourite artist of all time.
  2. His voice is in decline and this is always evident.
  3. How can I review Paul’s soul covers without comparing to the originals?

The truth is I like soul just fine, but the bulk of my collection is made of different grades of rock.  I have an Etta James CD.  I’m far from qualified to review this.  But I have to, so I’ll try.

Paul’s band is 10 members (excluding himself) augmented by a horn and a string section.  18 musicians are credited total, with Paul as “lead singer”:  the first time on any of his albums where Paul plays no instruments.  Unexpectedly, Paul’s Kiss bandmate Eric Singer is Soul Station’s drummer.

There are 14 tracks:  nine covers, and five originals.  You can’t accuse Paul Stanley of taking the easy route.

Remember when Kiss were accused of going Disco in 1979?  “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” really sounds Disco, and certainly there’s nothing wrong with the flawless arrangement, from the lush strings to the punchy horns.  In fact, Paul’s diminished voice is the only noticeable weakness.  He covers for it pretty well.  He used to belt it out all time; now he usually holds back in a soft whispery falsetto.  A performer has to adapt to their limits at every age.  Good tune.  But this is a new Paul Stanley and he’s not the best singer in his band.  He’s just the lead singer.

The first original, “I Do”, sounds like the real thing.  It’s a light ballad, arranged with the strings and full band treatment to sound pretty much just like the covers.  But the really surprising original is “I, Oh, I”, a terrific upbeat dance-y number.  Not only does it sound authentic but it’s also catchy as hell.  You could imagine it in a rock arrangement, and Paul points out in the liner notes that he wrote, arranged and orchestrated all his originals.

“Ooo Baby Baby” is a Smokey Robinson cover, and like the original it’s in falsetto.  It’s one of the harder songs to listen to.  “O-O-H Child” is better, though no substitute for the original.  Paul does well on the upbeat tracks with plenty of melodic hooks.  One of his backing singers take the lead on a few lines.  And although Eric Singer does a mighty job on the drums, he is a rock drummer playing soul, and that’s evident in the fills.  The groove of the 70s just isn’t something that can be recreated easily.

You can tell by the title that “Save Me (From You)” is a Paul original.  Sounds like a leftover from the Live To Win album, jazzed up for the Soul Station.  That said, it’s a pretty good track.  It’s a nocturnal rumble that does really well standing up to the classics.  It cannot be denied that Paul Stanley has a knack for writing a melodic song.  All of his writing credits on Now and Then are solo credits.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is not bad.  It’s the falsetto again, but massaged in the studio, and backed by the Soul Station, this one makes the grade.  Nobody doubts Paul’s genuine love of this music.  In the liner notes he takes ample time explaining his roots with Detroit soul.  And it was him that was hanging out in New York Disco clubs, when he decided he could write one of those songs for Kiss.

“Whenever You’re Ready (I’ll Be Here)” is a duet with one of his backing singers; upbeat, well done.  “The Tracks of My Tears” exposes the weaknesses in Paul’s voice but there are plenty of backing singers to cover for him.  That aside, it’s another great Soul Station cover.  “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) underwhelms; I mean how can it not?  The best thing I can say is that it’s better than Michael Bolton’s version.  “La-La — Means I Love You” also kind of just sits there, threatening to send the listener off to sleepytime land.  Fortunately, Paul’s original “Lorelei” revives the album, with upbeat melodic charm.  Cool guitar solo on this one too.

Two more covers to get through — “You Are Everything” (no thanks) and “Baby I Need Your Loving”.  Fortunately the latter song closes the album, on an earnest upbeat note with Paul giving the lungs a little exercise.  Solid ending.

Observation:  I enjoyed Paul Stanley’s Soul Station more the first three or four times I played it — as background music.   When it comes to listening intently, it didn’t capture me.

Observation 2:  Peter Criss got shit all over for trying to make an album somewhat like this back in 1978.

If Paul had released a mini-album (or extra large EP) with only seven or eight tracks, I think we’d be praising his originals and taste in covers.  Unfortunately chinks in the armour appear too frequently on the bulk of the album.  Good background music, but not an outstanding set.

Paul’s originals – 4/5 stars
Covers – 1.5/5 stars
Kiss Fan Fanatic Score – 100/5 stars
Realistic Score – 2/5 stars

64 comments

        1. I mean the only thing they have in common are that they’re side projects by big rock names playing covers. The membership, intent, musical styling, and genre are all completely different, and it’s reductive and myopic to describe them as the same thing.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Well, the only thing I was comparing them on was those things you said they had in common. It was a cursory surface-level comparison

          Liked by 1 person

        3. If we were toddlers I’d see you on the playground Mr. Smartypantz! Although if we had the chance to fight in diapers now I wouldn’t turn it down. But it would have to be a wrestling match. Kontrarian Kabbage Kopp is a good wrestler name. Your mask can be a cabbage with eye holes cut out.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I kind of file this with Phil Collin’s Delta Deep in a mental file called “allowed to ignore” and just pretend it doesn’t exist. Not because its bad but just to allow myself not to have to collect it. Its not Kiss. Its not rock. Its not for me. Paul can do what he wants, he has earned it, but I don’t want to follow this particular tangent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soul music is totally awesome. Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Sam Cooke, The Temptations. I absolutely love that stuff, but I’m not sure I need to hear Paul’s take on it either! I appreciate he’s paying tribute to his roots and music that he loves, but he never struck me as a guy whose vocals screamed “soul” as much as they did “rock.” And I know soul influenced rock, but Paul kinda seemed too hammy and over the top to really come off as all that soulful. Unlike a rock guy like Steve Perry, who in his heyday would have been the world’s most convincing Sam Cooke cover singer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not anymore. I used to try my hand at rap, classical, jazz, pop etc

        Over time I have just gave up on it all. There’s so much rock/metal I want, there’s no time for anything else. (Except Children’s music, that’s a big portion of the day now)

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  2. I got a Sam Cooke album at the wrecka stow Saturday, and I’ve been living with it since then. After listening to that masterpiece with his once in a lifetime voice still in my head, I don’t think I could bring myself to listen to Paul Stanley’s pasty white, hoarse throated take on soul. At least not until it’s been a sufficient amount of time since hearing Sam Cooke again. I am morbidly curious to hear it though, but I don’t think I’ve the stomach for it yet. Thanks for the honest review, and covering all your bases with the scores.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I spend a lot of time in Poo City. The girls there are easy to court since their standards have been lowered.

        Did you get my wrecka stow reference?

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  3. Wow that is a lot of different scores. I like the Kiss fanatic score, because they would rate it that good. I have to say I agree with this 100%. The originals are actually pretty good and the covers just so-so because how do you compete with the original versions, you can’t!. Great job Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You have to wonder why no-one ever says “y’know, this isn’t a great idea”. But still, it’s difficult when a singer’s voice diminishes… more so when they seem to either ignore the limitations or, more likely, rely on a fan base that doesn’t care about that. I often wonder whether they should call it a day or just release music for their fans. For free. As a thanks for all the cash they’ve thrown at them over the years. Or a subscription. I dunno. But it’s pretty brutal when the returns are diminishing and there’s little (if any) enjoyment from listening to new music from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good on him for trying something new. Probably he’s liked this kind of music all along. Cool that Eric Singer is on drums. I doubt I would need to hear this, myself, I am too far gone into the originals and not enough of a KISS fan to care about something this far off the beaten track. Then again maybe this is as close as Paul’s gotten to something in my wheelhouse since we saw him as Phantom Of The opera in Taranna. I appreciated your multiple scores.

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    1. Thanks Drew, I am very conflicted on this album, but I had to put some words down sooner or later. So I chose sooner. I hope I made the right choice…I may write a second review this summer if I’m still conflicted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. well maybe that’s a post. as a writer/reviewer how you came to your conclusion and ultimately what bothered you and if you do review a second time what changed. I dont know what I’m trying to say. lol

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh that’s good! Glad to know there are people that take the virus seriously.

          I’ve seen a few of his tweets on twitter (that was before I knew who he was, but I assumed he was a musician). I got him mixed up with Joe Perry for some reason.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Mike Fraser also takes it seriously and said so on Friday night. We missed you Friday! Was hoping for some Hawaiian sunshine. I mentioned you in a post on Saturday called Plans!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Shoot sorry I wanted to attend, but I had to get my wisdom teeth removed. Last week, I was working on homework. I know your shows turned out awesome either way. Thanks for the mention in your plans post. Congrats on never missing a livestream; I know they are a lot of work, but it’s enjoyable to see you chat with your friends on air.

          I’m glad Mike Fraser takes the virus seriously. I hope he’s doing well. I didn’t watch that one yet; I may need to break that one up into sections since that show is almost four hours long. I’m sure you guys discussed interesting stuff on there.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Wisdom teeth ouch! I have one left. I’m gonna leave it as long as I can.

          Yeah the Fraser show is best split into two or more viewings. All I can say is it’s awesome and the best thing Deke and I have ever done.

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        5. Yeah, the main concern was the right side, but the left wisdom teeth are still there (I think there’s two left).

          Oh ok I can do that. I have trouble breaking things down because I’m the type of person that wants to know what happens next right away, but that show may be an exception to do so.

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  6. Finally listening to this. To my surprise I like this one. But hey I’m Al Green fan too. Reminds me of growing up in the 80’s. Ronettes were a favorite. Sam Cooke ruled.

    Liked by 1 person

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