dynasty

VHS Archives supplemental: How they put on a KISS concert (1980)

I was going to put this video online myself, but a more complete version already exists. No point in duplicating it, but I still wanted to make a post for it.  I had this in my VHS collection on one of my 1985 tapes.

I didn’t know what show this was from, since it came from the “Balasz Tapes” recorded off my next door neighbour.  I watched and treasured it, because it was the only video I had of Peter Criss as a kid.  My only Catman footage.  Not to mention it was Kiss!  Kiss in makeup too, and there wasn’t much of that in the mid-80s.

This was from a TV show called 3-2-1 Contact, and it’s a pretty cool demonstration of what goes in to putting on a Kiss concert.

George used to complain about one detail.  The sound tech shows how he can use a harmonizer to create the Gene Simmons “God of Thunder” monster voice.  “He does that with his own voice!” protested George.  As for me, I’m more upset that the sound tech thinks it was Darth Vader who says “My the Force be with you”.

From way back on the Dynasty tour, check out this really cool Kiss clip.

 

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

REVIEW: KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)

Part 15 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

DYNASTY FRONT

KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)

Ahh, the disco years! Alice Cooper did it, so did the Rolling Stones. Kiss were bound to follow. Paul Stanley admitted that he used to go to disco clubs. He found the music simple but interesting enough to try to write. The result was the now-classic “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, a song which was a bit despised for a while.   Even though it was one of Kiss’ all time biggest hits, it dropped out of setlists in the glam-metal mid-80’s.

Dynasty was designed to be the biggest Kiss album yes, and indeed it did spawn their second biggest hit. Unfortunately, on the inside, the band were coming apart at the seams. In order to placate Peter Criss, his solo album’s producer Vini Poncia was chosen to helm the next album. Poncia then kicked Criss out of the proceedings, as his chops were judged to be not up to snuff anymore.  He appears on only one song, “Dirty Livin'”, a song he co-wrote.

Anton Fig, of Ace Frehley’s solo album (and David Letterman, and later Frehley’s Comet) was chosen to replace him in the studio. It would not be Fig’s last album with Kiss. This was all kept secret at the time.

On the bright side, Frehley had a bunch of lead vocals: the Stones’ “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, and the story of his childhood, “Hard Times”. All three are great songs, and probably better than Gene’s two on Dynasty. I find Gene’s songs to be dull and plodding: “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma”.

Paul, on the other hand, had nothing but great songs: the previously mentioned “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the majestic “Magic Touch”, and the excellent, underrated single “Sure Know Something”. All three are examples of his increasingly skilled songwriting and singing.

“Dirty Livin'” would be Criss’ last songwriting credit on a Kiss album, and his last appearance on one for a long long time. It is not a great song by any stretch, and it is one of the most disco sounding tracks on the album. Still, it has a street vibe that Criss was known for, and his fans love it.

Despite the flaws, Dynasty holds together remarkably well. Even the filler fits in the groove for a seemlessly enjoyable listening experience. After all, all four Kiss members sing lead on it, which was a rare thing that only happened on only a handful of Kiss studio albums.*Ace had more vocals than ever before, and then had lots more on the next album too. The band was tighter than ever with Fig on ghost-drums, and they actually make the best of the overly compressed production sounds.

Dynasty might not be as great as the first six legendary albums, but although cracks were beginning to show, it was still a continuation of the mighty Kiss legacy. What should have happened next was the band getting back to a solid rocker of an album and restoring the faith of the fans who were secretly and openly questioning the integrity of the band. That didn’t happen, and the original Kiss as we knew it was destroyed forever, never to be the same again. The phoenix that rose from the ashes was a different, albeit still powerful, beast.

A word about the Japanese version pictured here:  When Kiss began remastering their albums in the late 90’s, the Japanese got to hear them first, packaged in mini replica record sleeves.  Unfortunately, it does not include a replica of the LP Dynasty poster.  It was the first Kiss remaster I bought simply because I found it here on import before the others came out.

Don’t pick it up Dynasty as your first, but do pick it up.

4/5 stars.

*(Love Gun, Psycho-Circus, and Sonic Boom.)