Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ikons - Starchild


So, in discussing Paul Stanley, we'll start with Paul Stanley.

It's a solid album. In some ways, Stanley might have been the one who made the most interesting choices with his solo album. It's not the one the Kiss Army jumps up to celebrate. It doesn't sound like what the band had been doing before, on their original six albums, but he seems to take it seriously. He also very clearly signals the direction he was going musically, even if that wasn't his intention at the time.

The opener, "Tonight You Belong to Me" is solid moderate rocker and sounds a lot like what he'd contribute to the Kiss in the next few years.

For me, I really like "Ain't Quite Right", though.



It's a great not-quite-Kiss song that fits the concept of the solo album perfectly.

"Love in Chains" is the one that sounds like the best example of where Stanley would take his contributions to the band.



Certainly, it's where he would take the best ones.

Stanley has two major contributions to Dynasty, the somewhat controversial seventh album, and they are certainly key points of the controversy.



That shit sure is catchy, though, isn't it?

I actually like "Sure Know Something" better, and it even holds up on Unplugged.



Hell, I think it might be better that way. It shows off just how solid a pop song it is.

I'm not sure whether to give "Is That You?" as a choice from Unmasked, as it is a rare song not written by a Kiss band member, aside from the occasional cover in the early days.



I really like it, though. We're continuing to veer away from the classic Kiss sound, but the sound we've come to is pleasant and entertaining to me. I wonder what a more integrated Kiss might have managed with some of the songs from this period. He seems to largely be continuing with the sound from his solo album here. In a sense, they all do, just bringing it together onto individual songs on each album.

Let me acknowledge here that I actually do like Shandi, although I'm not highlighting it here. It's a good little ballad. It's almost certainly my favorite Kiss ballad of the '80s and beyond.



"Tomorrow" is an unheralded classic, though. If it were given a less slick production and featured on Love Gun, it'd make all of the Kiss collection albums.

I like "Easy As It Seems", too, actually. I think "Unmasked" is a better album than its reputation suggests, although I don't care for Vini Poncia's production on it. Interesting, because I actually rather like his production on "Dynasty" overall. I think if this was given Destroyer - Resurrected treatment with new mixes, in this case, harder, rawer mixes, I think it could get more credit for how good the material on it is.

I sincerely, whole-heartedly and un-ironically love Music From The Elder. If you need proof of my unabashed Kiss fandom, what more could you need? It really does seem more of a Bob Ezrin inspired project and Gene Simmons appears to have had the largest role, as band members go.

Lest you think I'm alone in my madness, though. There's this.



I do not have any Kiss action figures, but I would total get a set of Elder-era figures if they put them out. Original Eric Carr as The Fox and Simmons with his Samurai look. Yep.



Killers, the next Kiss release, has eight previously released hits, and four new songs, all four are Stanley tracks and all four are genuine killer tracks.



At this point, on the other side of a couple of albums that neither pleased their base and did little to further their in-roads to a more general audience, there just wasn't a place to sell this return to form.



Hell, even Creatures of the Night, awesome though it is, by nearly any standard, didn't manage.



This album seems more a showcase of Simmons singing and songwriting. Some blend of Stanley's "Killers" tracks and the tracks on "Creatures of the Night" would have most likely perfectly balanced the aesthetics of their combined enthusiasm for a resurgent band, even with Peter Criss gone during/after "Unmasked" and Ace Frehley on his way out during this period.

By all accounts, the attention drawing makeup removal that came with the album Lick It Up was Stanley's plan to revitalize the band and certainly it did bring attention to them, and they delivered an album to match.



Now, what the fuck that song's supposed to be about, I have no idea.

Yeah, I know you think it's something obvious or something, but take whatever you think it is, and figure it out in the context of the words he says. Then when you go, "Oh, well, maybe it's this then!", if you're like me, that won't make any sense either.

I'm tempted to include A Million to One, which is a very solid little power ballad, but who can resist this crazy Kiss rap & roll nonsense that shouldn't work, but it does... at least for me.



I'm not sure exactly what happened between "Lick It Up" and Animalize, aside from the sacking of Vinnie Vincent. Perhaps that's all it took, because the loss of energy between the two albums is palpable.

This one is hard to argue with, though. It's easy to see why they wanted to revive this number during the reunions.



This is the period that Stanley somewhat owned the hit making of, so it's hard not to pick their hits. The albums are solid, but they really are about the hits, which Stanley is still delivering.



Oh, Asylum. I saw you coming.



This being solidly into the '80s none of these songs quite sound good as records, but this one has a really good, driving energy and some slick Bruce Kulick guitar work on his offical debut.



"Time Traveler" was recorded during this time, and wasn't released until the Kiss Box Set, but is one of the best Stanley songs from the period.



The "destined for the remainder bin" cover ensured Hot in the Shade would never be well regarded in the Kiss catalog, but it really is where this lineup seems ready to gel.



Even the production is starting to suck less as the '80s come to a close.



Revenge feels like an album created to leave the '80s behind. It's not quite there, all the way through, but it has a solid sound all the way through and, most importantly, it does rock.



Stanley seems to have solidly moved out of the neighborhood of "Uh! All Night" and "Let's Put the X in Sex" that made him the most embarrassing member for a while.

Yes, in his defense, he was clearly working very hard to keep the band together during that period and trying to keep them relevant and on the charts. More importantly, he was able to come back with material like this.



I really like Carnival of Souls. I don't know if that makes me a traitor as a 40-something Seattleite or if it's just natural for me as a 40-something Seattleite Kiss fan.

In hindsight, I think it would have been much more interesting for the world of music if this lineup had toured, arranging their setlist around the sound they were developing here. I think they could have found more in their older material than they might have and could have grown in an even more interesting direction.



I have always been a sentimental fuck and now I'm a father. There's no way for me to resist this one.



I guess I like Psycho Circus more than most. I certainly like the concept. I like the notion of the circus theme, previously threatened with the title of "Carnival of Souls". Yeah, it's a little underdone here, too. The tie-in comic book would struggle with turning the concept into something that works as well, although I liked that more than others, as well, and perhaps more than either deserved.

There's a lot of stuff about unity and stuff like that on the album, all of which seems pretty hollow in retrospect.



It worked well enough at the time, although perhaps if they'd developed the "Psycho Circus" concept into something, instead of taking the opportunity to just celebrate a reunion that was only half real... if that. If you close your eyes and pretend it was real, it's pretty invigorating, though.



Which leads us to Paul's solo album, Live To Win. It's back to being a little slicker and more polished than I prefer, although this is a point on which he and I do not agree, we must assume, but it has material I quite like.



I can't imagine there's a better place than this to leave Mr. Stanley. He's not my favorite Kiss member, and, for a guy who is so very responsible for Kiss's success, writing beloved hits, putting in years and years of touring, writing and just balls out rocking, I have to admit, he doesn't get nearly enough respect from guys like me, including me personally.

This song seems to perfectly encapsulate what he stands for, and that seems to me to be a fine thing.



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