Monday, May 2, 2011
Kiss - Rock And Roll Over
A little over a month ago, I purchased my first Kiss shirt.
It’s true: at no point in my life have I ever purchased a Kiss t-shirt, but I have admired some of the band’s record covers from afar. I think Dressed To Kill looks badassed, and I even considered buying a pair of Vans with the cover art of Dressed To Kill on them. Alive is cool, but mainly because of those two dudes holding up a handmade Kiss sign on the back cover.
And then there’s Rock And Roll Over, with its comic book depiction and surprisingly clever title. It was a staple in a lot of friend’s record collection and I know I’ve heard it at least a few times in my life. But I blocked out those memories and any hint of partisan bias.
Three decades later, I began considering the Kiss catalog, looking for clues as to why so many of those 70’s youth dutifully followed the band. I was/am genuinely intrigued by this, wondering aloud if image trumped sound because-at least as my ears were concerned-I could find few examples of their prowess within those old vinyl grooves.
The record that many fans told me to listen to was Rock And Roll Over, but I didn’t put much weight into that recommendation because the other record they claimed was the band’s masterpiece, Destroyer, sucked balls IHO.
Destroyer sucked so bad that I have yet to even review it, but it was my cousin-himself a Kiss fanatic at one time-suggested that I take a listen to R.A.R.O., claiming that is was the first studio effort that properly channeled the band’s aggressiveness.
He’s right. After reviewing the band’s first handful of studio albums, Rock And Roll Over is the first effort that provides listeners with the tone and grit that any band who navigates the realms of hard rock should have.
To be blunt, regardless of how good the material was in earlier efforts (and by “good” I mean by Kiss standards) everything seemed to be marred in weak mixes and stifled guitar tones, a negative that placed Kiss on part with other rock and roll characters found on Saturday morning cartoons.
The work of legendary producer Eddie Kramer is the difference here, and you can hear a lot of the same color definitions that he used previously with Hendrix. The real story, however, is with the rhythm guitar textures instead of the blotter acid leanings of some of Ace Frehley’s solos. Without that bite, R.A.R.O. could have been just another tepid Kiss studio album instead of a record that seems to match the band’s over-the-top imagery.
The artwork, the lyrics, the sound, all of it is rightfully up any young boy’s alley and is perfectly suited for anyone who refuses to grow up. More than any other studio album is Kiss’ early catalog, Rock and Roll Over may be the only one that stands the test of time, a project that sonically worthy of becoming the soundtrack to their marketing prowess.