The next of the Kiss Ikons up for celebration today is the Catman, Peter Criss.
Criss's Kiss solo album, Peter Criss, basically answers the question of why he has struggled for success outside the group. He was tied to the group and his fame largely among the group's fans. His being a member of the group was probably not even detrimental to getting attention outside the group's fans.
And yet, as someone with rather catholic musical taste, I think under other circumstances, his solo stuff could have found an audience. I really enjoy a lot of it.
The other problem is that, while it certainly seems more than pleasant and entertaining enough to have earned some hits under another set of circumstances, it's hardly so amazing that most of us in the Kiss fan base who do appreciate his work want to run to scream to our non-Kiss fan friends how great it is and how they should give it a chance.
And, it's probably important, it's groovy R&B rather than ballads.
Hard rock fans, it's important to note, love ballads and always think they're important. No amount of musical complexity or tonal interest of any other sort serves to prove the seriousness of their favorite bands to a hard rock fan than a ballad.
On Kiss's next group album, Dynasty, Criss only sings - or apparently performs at all - on one song, which is "Dirty Livin'", and it's a pretty good one.
He's credited as being a part of the group on Unmasked, but does not sing or have any songwriting credits, and apparently did not drum on the album either, for that matter.
He does jump right out of the gate with Out of Control, which features some solid faux-Kiss in songs like "In Trouble Again".
I think it does much better when it gets into a solid groove, such as with "You Better Run", a Young Rascals cover that might be the best cover that Criss would sing in his career.
I think his next solo album, Let Me Rock You might be his strongest solo work.
"Bad Boys" is probably my favorite of his solo songs, certainly of his "true" solo works (as opposed to the ambiguous Kiss solo albums), and a song that certainly couldn't realistically have found a place on a Kiss album, most likely not even the softer groove they got into with "Unmasked".
Obviously, the Catman post needs to include "The Cat", right?
For, Cat #1, Criss brings back former bandmate Ace Frehley for some songs, including the fairly credible "Bad Attitude", which has a nice, well, attitude.
It's an uneven album for me, despite my desire for it to be great, but it does have a number of sincere moments, such as "The Truth" that keep it worthwhile.
Criss's only vocal on Psycho Circus is a vocal for a song he didn't write, an unmemorable ballad called "I Finally Found My Way", written by Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin.
After leaving Kiss again, he'd record One for All, a ballad heavy album with too much lounge and not enough of the grooves that are his strongest point. "Falling All Over Again" has a definite sincerity worth giving credit to.
The highlight is probably vaguely Beatles-esque attack on former bandmate Frehley with "Space Ace", which definitely feels inspired and sincere.
I've gotta say. I went into this one with a good feeling. I like to occasionally post songs like "That's the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes" and "Bad Boys" on my Facebook wall. In the end, it was kind of a drag, I'm sorry to say.
With word of Criss's autobiography, Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss being the most bitter of the bunch - whether that's true or not, or fair on his part, I'm not certain - and all of the brouhaha around performing at the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction, that made them all look bad, whether fairly or not, some of the joy of celebrating the Catman slipped away, and without the joy of feeling his groove and feeling generally positively toward him as a guy, it's hard to see the bulk of his work as not simply the weakest link in the original Kiss chain.
Like I said, though, those highlights really are terrific, I think. This is definitely a case where the "balance" of covering his career from that point misses that "Peter Criss" and "Let Me Rock You" are both solid all the way through and underrepresented on this post. If any of this interested you, go check those out.