Monday, March 14, 2011

Kiss' Destroyer is 35

 KISS - Destroyer
Rating: ****

In 1975, Kiss had finally hit the big time. Their double live album, Alive!, had sold over a million copies and reached Gold status almost instantly. The four members in Kiss (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) were now suddenly superstars. With the success of Alive! someone, as Paul Stanley said years later, would be hiding under a table thinking of how to follow up such a great live album. The band found their answer in recording a new studio album. The band recruited producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin was already known for producing many albums by Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother (and three years later, The Wall). Ezrin got the band to work. Little did that band know that they were making another great album. That album, Destroyer, was released on March 15, 1976. 

The album opens with a very strange intro. It sounds like a person eating their breakfast and watching the morning news before hoping into his car. There, he turns on the radio and nothing but the hit live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite" is being played. The third time he switches the dial, we hear some dual guitar action. The music gets louder and we are welcomed to "Detroit Rock City". The song is one of Kiss' most popular songs ever. Its rocking and the lyrics of "Get up!" and "Get down!" make "Detroit Rock City" an instant Kiss classic. The song has reached the same status of "Rock And Roll All Nite": you can't leave a Kiss concert without hearing it. The crash at the end of the song goes into the next song, "King of the Night Time World". The song is another strong one for Kiss and is one of two songs on the album co-written by Kim Fowley. "God of Thunder" is, again, another live favorite. For over three decades, the song has been Gene Simmons' theme and is usually the song he performs after his bass solo/blood-spitting routine. The song was actually written by Paul Stanley and he was planning on singing on it for the album (there is an outtake of him singing it that appears on the 2001 Kiss box set). However Bob Ezrin suggested to Stanley that Simmons would fit with the song much better, along with playing the song at a slower tempo. The children you hear in the song is actually Ezrin's sons, David and Josh. Meanwhile, "God of Thunder" is great. The song meets up to its epic proportions and it does make sense that Gene sings it. "Great Expectations" is a unique song due to the fact that there's a whole choir and orchestra on the song. On paper, it doesn't seem like a song Kiss would undertake. However with the help of Ezrin, the song was made possible. Kiss didn't perform the song live until 2003 during the band's special performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, which is the show that became Alive IV.

 "Flaming Youth" could be one of Kiss' most overlooked songs. The song was released as a single but it failed to become a hit. Still, a lost gem off the album. The guitar solo on the song isn't Ace Frehley: it's Bob Kulick. Kulick almost got the job as the guitarist of Kiss before the band met Frehley. However when Frehley started not showing up, the band had Kulick play on songs that Frehley hadn't completed.  "Sweet Pain" might be the weakest song off the album but it's still good. Once again, the guitar work is superb. "Shout It Out Loud" is another anthem for the band. The song has great lyrics right from the start: "Well the night's begun/And you want some fun/Do you think you're gonna find it?/You got to treat yourself like number one/Do you need to be reminded?". Lyrically, "Shout It Out Loud" is almost like "Rock And Roll All Nite Part 2" but in the context of the sequel not being a rehash of the original (example: The Godfather Part II or The Dark Knight). "Beth" is the unexpected hit off the album. The song is a short ballad written by Peter Criss about two women: his first wife Lydia and Becky, the wife of one of Peter's former band mates in the group Chelsea (pre-Kiss band). The song was originally titled "Beck" but it was changed to "Beth" since it sounded better (and to avoid any confusion with Jeff Beck!). "Beth" was placed as the B-side of "Detroit Rock City" but quickly, radio DJ's started playing "Beth". "Beth" is a wonderful song and Criss' performance is great. The album's last song, "Do You Love Me?", is another classic. Being the second of two song co-written with Kim Fowley, the song deals with a rock star and his girlfriend. His girlfriend is getting all these wonderful things thanks to her him but it all comes down to one thing: does she love him? Stanley screeches at the end "I just gotta have some love!"...

Destroyer was another best seller for Kiss. The band had officially followed up Alive! thanks to Bob Ezrin, good song writing, and an unexpected hit single with "Beth". Currently, Destroyer sits at #145 on my list of favorite albums. That may sound a bit low/high  but there's no doubt that Destroyer is a highlight in the discography of Kiss. 

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