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It's All Conceptual And Almost Works

  • Apr 21, 2011
Rating:
+3
Still struggling with the exit of Peter Criss, Ace Frehley's indifference, and waning interest from a fanbase that was starting to feel cheated by the band, KISS stepped into the studio in March of 1981 and began work on their most ambitious album up to that point:  Music From The Elder

Under the guidance of producer Bob Ezrin, the band, along with new drummer Eric Carr, created an album that is generally hated and despised by the bulk of KISS' core fanbase.  There are a few of us out there, though, who either love or at least appreciate the album and what it stood for at that point in KISStory. 

Before Elder, KISS was looked at as a mostly loud and hairy rock band with an explosive live show.  Then the group produced the four solo projects, Dynasty, and the ill-received Unmasked, and this left many fans wondering exactly where the group was headed. 

If works like Dynasty and Unmasked estranged their fanbase, Music From The Elder put a boot through their foreheads.  It was unlike anything the band created before or since, and it has taken all of the thirty years of its existence to finally gain a bit of acceptance.

The album was a concept album, which was in stride with contemporary bands of the time such as The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, and Styx.  The sound, however, was completely alien to standard KISS fans. 

In September of 1981, when fans hit the record stores to purchase KISS' latest album, what they received was an album that waded through ballads (with orchestral arrangements to boot), Paul Stanley singing in falsetto, and hints of Rush laced throughout the album.

The album opens with orchestral fanfare and then goes into Just A Boy, a tune with music and Paul Stanley vocals very reminiscent of the Christian rock band Petra during the Greg X. Volz years.  The next two tracks, Odyssey and Only You, ar slow tempo ballads, with Only You being just a tad bit heavier.

The album gets even heavier with the very Rush-sounding Under The Rose, which features Gene Simmons on vocals.

It isn't until the Ace Frehley co-written Dark Light where hints of the old KISS sound rise to the surface.  Frehley shines big on both his vocal and string performance on this tune.  It is, in my opinion, the best song on the entire album.

A World Without Heroes, is next, and stands just behind Dark Light in quality in my opinion.  If you've ever listened to Gene Simmons' solo album, you can hear just how much of his solo sound is in this song.

After the somewhat quiet interlude of A World Without Heroes, KISS kicks it up a notch with The Oath.  While I personally like this tune, it doesn't work as well as Dark Light in my opinion.  In fact, I prefer the song that follows it, Mr. Blackwell, and the instrumental Escape From The Island, much more. 

Mr. Blackwell follows Dark Light as the most KISS sounding song on the album to me.  If the lyrics weren't about the villainous Blackwell and were instead about sex or scantily clad women, it would be the perfect sludgy Demon tune for an album like Hotter Than HellEscape From the Island features some fine stringwork by Frehley, and excellent drum work from Eric Carr.

The concept album closes with the anthemic I.  It is the only song on the album that I find myself singing along with out loud.  It has a very Queen feel to it and the excellent chorus keeps me interested throughout the entire song.

So, is Music From The Elder a bad album?  Not at all.  In fact, when compared to other concept albums of that time, it holds up quite well.  When compared to the rest of KISS' catalogue, however, it fails to crack my personal top ten.  I appreciate what the band was attempting to do with this album, and actually quite enjoy Dark Light and A World Without Heroes, but I feel that at this point in the band's career, they were lost and searching for anything to spark interest in their music again.  Thankfully, the KISS ship would be righted somewhat by the band's next album, Creatures of the Night, which allowed Eric Carr to show people what type of drummer he really was and give Gene Simmons meatier tunes to sink his tongue into.

I recommend Music From The Elder to non-KISS fans who enjoy concept albums like The Wall and Kilroy Was Here.  I also believe that any true KISS fans should own this album whether they enjoy it or not for the simple fact that it includes the last musical contributions from Ace Frehley until 1996's KISS Unplugged.
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More Music from The Elder reviews
review by . September 20, 2009
Music From the Elder was going to be a huge album for Kiss.  They wanted to make a Pink Floyd type of album and turn it into a big production complete with a movie and other money making merchandise.  But the album turned out to be their lowest selling disc and their huge plans never materialize.  The album was recorded with the help of Bob Ezrin (he has worked with several bands on their concept albums such as Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and Lou Reed).  But the band was in distention, …
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Wiki

Music from "The Elder" is a 1981 concept album released by the American hard rock band Kiss. It was an attempt on the part of the group to establish Kiss as credible artists, and also to reverse the trend of declining album sales and commercial popularity that had begun in 1979. Instead, the album further served to alienate the group's fan base and represents the lowest point commerciality for the group.[citation needed]

To date, Music from "The Elder" is one of only two Kiss studio albums to fail to earn any US sales certification (the other is 1997's Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions). Album sales were so poor that Kiss did not embark on a supporting tour for the first time in its eight-year history, opting instead to make a handful of promotional appearances.[1]

Music from "The Elder" was the last Kiss album on which lead guitarist Ace Frehley appeared until the 1996 Reunion Tour. Frehley, disgruntled with the band's creative direction as well as with the production of Bob Ezrin, stopped actively participating in the Kiss operation by early 1982, and officially quit the group by November that same year.[2][3]

While "A World Without Heroes" was later performed on the band's 1995 MTV Unplugged appearance, the entire album has been largely ignored in live performances. During a 2004 Australia show, the band attempted to perform "I", but bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons had long forgotten the lyrics.[4]

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Details

Label: Casablanca
Genre: Rock
Release Date: November 16, 1981

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