1979 was a rocky year for KISS. Drummer Peter Criss was unraveling. He no longer enjoyed his place in the band and due to this his performance began to suffer. Ace Frehley was discouraged by the band's direction but was riding high off of the success of his solo project. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley seemed intent on making an album that fit the current music scene and it appeared as if no one could stop them.
No matter who's side you take in the seemingly unending battle between the Criss/Frehley and Simmons/Stanley camps, you have to admit that Dynasty turned out to be a pretty good album. Often mistakenly referred to as the "disco" album (primarily by people who are only familiar with I Was Made For Lovin' You), Dynasty has proven to age with grace, slowly becoming more accepted by KISS fans and rock fans in general.
Yes, disco does make an appearance on this album via I Was Made For Lovin' You, Sure Know Something, and Dirty Livin', but the bulk of the album consists of strong pop rock and genuine hard rock.
Peter Criss only performs on one song on the album, the aforementioned Dirty Livin'. He co-wrote it with Vincent Poncia and Stan Penridge. He does an excellent job on the tune. The rest of the album's drumming duties are handled by Anton Fig, most notable for being a part of Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra on The Late Show With David Letterman. He does a wonderful job and, to be honest, blends into the band seamlessly.
Gene Simmons penned X-Ray Eyes and co-wrote Charisma with Howard Marks. These are also the only songs that feature his vocals. These two songs contain hints of Simmons' experimental solo sound as well as traditional KISS rock n' roll. Charisma is one of the best tunes on the album in my opinion.
Ace Frehley rises to prominence on this record, writing and performing vocals on Hard Times and Save Your Love, as well as doing a brilliant cover of the Rolling Stones' 2,000 Man. All of his songs are straight-ahead rock n' roll and most closely mirror older KISS material. Perhaps he was feeding off of the popularity of his solo project, but he definitely had something going on this album. It features some of his best vocal and guitar work in the band's catalogue.
Paul Stanley wrote or co-wrote and performs lead vocals on three of the album's tunes including the hit I Was Made For Lovin' You, Sure Know Something, and Magic Touch. In my opinion, Sure Know Something is quite possibly the best song on the album. To me, it best represents the band's state of transition, featuring hints of disco, pop rock, hard rock and even a bit of hair metal blended into one song.
In all, this album is a mixture of where the band had been (Frehley and Simmons' contributions), where it was headed (Stanley's tunes), and who was ready to call it quits (Criss' Dirty Livin'). Somehow Dynasty manages to work with all of these forces pulling at each other and ends up a very, very good album. Kudos to producer Vincent Poncia for figuring out a way to make a very solid album.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys great rock n' roll, pop rock, and even a tad bit of disco.