Dynasty (Mercury 532 388)
Proving my theory that I can get into virtually anything if it is attractively packaged, I recently began exploring the world of Kiss through their remasters series. I remember being a huge Kiss fan as a kid (I was Peter Criss for Halloween one year), but looking back I don't think I really listened to the music very much. Maybe Double Platinum and Love Gun, but I don't think we had any other Kiss 8-tracks.
Kiss, it seems to me, is a group who is misunderstood by almost everyone who listens to them, and even more so by those who don't. The superhero appeal that draws in the kiddies is not too far from, say, Josie and the Pussycats or any of the Hanna-Barbera "rock bands." People who think that Kiss "rocks" are not correct. Kiss is pure bubblegum, a triumph of style over substance. So how does that make the albums?
Not bad, actually. If you stop expecting great songs, you're guaranteed to have a good time with a Kiss album. Dynasty is no exception. Viewed as a "misguided effort" even by the CD's own liner notes, I contend that Dynasty is one of Kiss's most genuinely enjoyable records. The sneering misogyny is kept to a minimum (I'd attribute that to Gene Simmons contributing only two of the nine songs), leaving a whole bunch of straightforward rock tunes. Most of the songs are fairly midtempo, and employ a slick almost-disco approach. Hey, it was 1979! Everyone was doing it.
"I Was Made For Lovin' You" is a classic, might actually be their best song. I'm sure the Kiss army does not agree, given the danceable beat and Bee Gees-style lyrics, but from a pop perspective it's tough to argue that it's a bad song simply because it doesn't rock one's balls.
Ace Frehley brings us track two, a cover of "2,000 Man" by the Rolling Stones. When you're already doing a cover on the second track, you know you're in a less than inspired album. I mean, you're not going to see Dynasty paid tribute to on VH-1's "Classic Albums." Yet the remaining songs are pretty solid. "Sure Know Something" is another bubblegum metal offering, and then Peter Criss's "Dirty Livin'" adds some flair to the proceedings. (Apparently this was the only track Criss even played on, as he was replaced by ghost drummer Anton Fig, now of the World's Most Dangerous Band.)
"Charisma" and "Magic Touch" are what you'd expect. "Hard Times," while unmemorable, is at least concise. "X-Ray Eyes" is pretty good, and the closer "Save Your Love" is also pretty good. I think what draws me into Kiss is pure appreciation of their marketing savvy. I mean, this is a band that enjoyed out-of-control-superstardom with almost no really good songs to their credit. More and more, I see bubblegum as the true essence of rock'n'roll.
Review by Geoff Chinese