The Bottom Line: Good rock and roll in this mixed bag. Some stuff should have never seen the light of day.
There was this 14 year old kid who lived in the metropolis of Weidman Michigan. Population about 150. Luckily for him they had this invention called radio. At the time the hot station was out of Saginaw MI and it had the nifty name of 96 Superwind. This station liked to play music that was not mainstream and would have been considered album oriented. I have to thank them for introducing me to the group KISS.
I can actually remember the day that I first heard a KISS song. I was down at the beach across the street from where I lived. The portable radio was my constant companion at the time. It was a day after I had my tender teenage heart ripped out by a girl who had been my "steady" for the last year. Decimated by this turn of events, I was resigned to the fact that I would be swimming alone for that whole summer. At least I thought so.
The radio started playing a song that I had never heard before. A pounding drum breaks into a terrific guitar intro, then this singer with a deep and throaty voice says to me:
"I know a thing or two about her. I know she'll only make you cry.",
I sat up and took notice. This song was an anthem for all of us who were ever tossed aside by someone of the female persuasion. Those guitars were talking to me. The angry riffs were relaying the angst that filled my young devastated mind. Yes, that girl was nothing more than one of those teenage girls who we called a "Strutter."
After hearing that song, I listened to the radio constantly for the next few days and never heard it again. I had to know who this band was. It was as if they were trying to torment me. But it did keep me tuned in to the station. Finally I couldn't take it any more and had to make the call. I dialed up the station and found out that this song was from a new band who were going to be playing in Saginaw. The band was called KISS.
Well, there was no way I was going talk my parents into going to a concert at that time, but there was a place called Boogie Records that always were the first to carry new stuff in the area. This I could talk my mother into. So on the next trip to the big city of Mt. Pleasant we made a stop into the only record store in the area.
I ran in as fast as I could and asked about this song and if it was available. The guy behind the counter pointed me to the new arrival section and there I was flipping through the albums when these four faces stared back at me with this wild make-up. I still remember thinking how scary Gene Simmons looked on the cover and the little logo of the band in the background. I had been saving money for a new fishing pole but this was a must have purchase. So I took the steep $5.99 price in stride and made the buy. The only problem was not giving my mother a heart attack when she saw the cover. Luckily she didn't seem bothered at all by them, that is until the needle hit the vinyl.
That is when this band that consisted of:
Paul Stanley - guitar/vocals Gene Simmons - bass guitar/vocals Ace Frehley - lead guitar Peter Criss - drums/vocals
let loose with their rock and roll onslaught.
When the before mentioned "Strutter" filled the house with its loud and proud guitars my mother decided it was time to go out and tend the garden. Little did she know that she was destined to spend a lot of time out there this summer!
Mom was not a big KISS fan. I doubt that she would have let me keep this album if she had known what the song "Nothin' To Loose" was about. Gene's ode to anal sex would have put her into a tizzy for sure. Luckily she never realized and for that matter neither did I until years later, just what he was singing about. All this teenager could hear was the great rock and roll. This song is a real good time piece from the opening guitars to Peter singing the chorus with Gene and Paul in the background. It also has this terrific piano that reminded me off another band I liked a lot, Mott the Hoople.
There is no doubt that the heavier the music, the more my mom hated it. I would hear the mandatory "Turn that down!" every time I played the song "Firehouse." I don't think it was until I moved out that I ever heard it cranked the way it should be played. This is a grungy, chugging rocker that just got me fired up every time I heard it. The guitar riffs are simple, yet so effective, and Ace's solos are really terrific. With most of KISS music you are not in for a lyrical powerhouse. They are all basically about the same subjects, Girls, rock & roll, partying, oh did I mention girls? Well the firehouse in question is not the one you call to get the cat out of the tree.
Ace does a little songwriting and come up with the next one, that my mother cringed at, "Cold Gin." Another chugging, gutsy rocker with Gene growling the lyrics as if he was auditioning for his up coming roll as the God of Thunder. This one was never one of my favorites by them but it is still a decent rock and roll song. There is some great guitar work by Ace who seems to have a knack for finding these really dynamic hooks. On this song it just seems to take forever to get there.
I caught my mother peeking around the corner occasionally when the band started playing "Let Me Know." This one has a much lighter sound, kind of like something out of the 60's but with an updated metal overlay. Especially in the outro where Ace kind of cranks it up. This is another dose of the simple kind of rock and roll that the band could play so well. Nothing fancy, just straight ahead garage rock.
I could always get away with playing the song "Kissing Time." This one, which I learned years later was the brainchild of Neil Bogart the president of Casablanca Records. It was his idea to make a kind of theme song for the band and this Bobbie Rydell remake was the outcome. His idea was to promote the band with kissing contests all across the USA. It never went further than an idea but if they ever do decide to promote something like that, they already have the theme song. This sounds contrived and I guess it was. It reminds me of something that you might hear by the Monkees or some such group. This kind of reminds me of the one aspect of KISS that drives me nuts. They will do anything for a buck!
The band rebounds from their last song with another that would drive my mother out of the house and sometimes even out of the yard with their classic song "Deuce." This has been a staple in almost every concert, if not all, since their first album. It has a great rhythm guitar line by Stanley and some dynamite solo work by Ace over the top. This is the type of rock and roll that you would buy a KISS album for and it really delivers. One of my favorite songs by the band and a rocker you will never get tired of listening to.
The next song by the band never bothered poor old mom in the least. I even caught her humming the melody as it played. That is not surprising though as they almost go the elevator music route with their instrumental piece "Love Theme From Kiss." This is not a bad song but it sure doesn't fit with what the band was playing at the time. I think that Bogart must have had a hand in this being on here too.
I say good-bye to mom again as the opening of "100,000 Years" graces the record player. The guys crank it up once more with this thudding rocker that sounds very much like a Black Sabbath type song. It is dark and brooding with the first chance to hear Peter take the spotlight showing off his skill on the drum kit. From the opening bass riff this song is dominated by the rhythm section of Gene and Peter. It is the gut turning type of rock and roll that is just what you want to rid the house of parents.
The album ends with my favorite KISS song of all time. With its mellow intro that explodes into one of their most dynamic metal moments, "Black Diamond" captures the essence of rock and roll. The vocals of Peter is gritty and totally on the money. But it is the duel guitar attack that drives this piece. It includes some of the best solo work they ever put to vinyl, making this one of the best songs the band has ever recorded. Every once in awhile you find a gem buried in an album and this is that gem. A great rocking tune that only got better on their live album.
Both my mom and I had a love/hate relationship with KISS through the years, but one thing I can say is, the band graced my player from this album all the way to their latest release. Their endurance as a band, even through the many line-up changes, has made them one of the true rock and roll icons. They brought more to the world of heavy metal than their music, but it is the music that made it all happen.
This album shows what their music was all about and it is a testament to their longevity. Just look at how many songs on here are still in their live set today. It might not be the best record they ever did but it is the beginning of a long and storied career.
The self-titled debut of KISS is definitely one of the best debuts to hit the racks for any band in any genre. Opening with "Strutter," flying through to "Cold Gin" and finishing the listener off with my personal favorite, "Black Diamond," this album is a wonderful way to introduce new ears to the KISS phenomenon since almost every song on this disc is a live KISS staple. This is hard rock n' roll at its best. It's not too deep, not too intelligent, and never too quiet. It's loud, fast-paced and … more
Kiss's self-titled debut manages to simultaneously represent what rock & roll in the 1970s was all about, and stand up as a classic recording without sounding dated. That's a rare trick, even for Kiss (whose efforts after, oh, 1977 didn't do much more than tread water), and one that should be appreciated even as listening to the album brings back misty-eyed visions of high school. (It doesn't matter if you were in high school in the '70s, something about this album just screams late adolescence.)Kissis, of course, crammed full of songs that would become concert favorites (most of this album appears onAlive!) and classics--who hasn't heard "Strutter" or "Deuce"? It's a slab of pure, unadulterated rock & roll. While this isn't especially thought-provoking stuff, it's arguable that rock ever should be. --Genevieve Williams