November 7, 2009
Under the Rose
Music from the Elder
I'll try to keep this brief, but understand my love for this record is almost unparalleled. Let's look at the facts:
1. I love KISS. I mean, they are seriously my absolute favorite band ever. No one else is even close.
2. I love Bob Ezrin, particularly his work in the 70s, when he was pushing bands up and up and producing these huge, ambitious projects (some of which were total failures, *cough*maybe like this one*cough*)
3. I love it when bands do weirdo records that are totally out of sync with the rest of their catalog, as this blog is a testament to.
So maybe you can understand why this album is so dear to me. I love it. I mean, it's like a desert island album for me. Not like a "so bad it's good" thing, either. I genuinely love it.
Some background for the uninitiated: Kiss was at an all-time low in the late 70s. Peter Criss had left, and they'd just released the two worst-selling records of their career, the wrongly maligned Dynasty and the rightly maligned Unmasked. Peter hadn't played much on either of those, but they'd finally officially replaced him with the phenomenal Eric Carr (The Fox) and had promised fans a return to the straight-up rock'n'roll of their earlier records. Eric Carr was just the kick in the pants they needed, too. He was a much heavier drummer than his predecessor (and probably the most talented guy to ever play in Kiss), and they were in the perfect position to reclaim their glory. They called in Bob Ezrin, who'd produced the wildly successful Destroyer to helm the board, and Ezrin inexplicably convinced them to do a concept record. He was hot off of doing Pink Floyd's The Wall. That's the only explanation. The record bombed so hard it's a wonder the band persevered. They didn't even tour for it. Given the way future members were treated, it's a wonder Eric Carr wasn't fired on the spot. Ace Frehly had had enough at this point and bolted for a solo career.
At any rate, this album was downright legendary when I was a kid. It was out of print (or, barring that, very, very hard to find) and was widely considered a joke. My brother tracked it down through a mail-order company, and was so disgusted by it that he purposely scratched it and sent it back. They knew the deal, though, and promptly sent it right back, and that very album is sitting in my record bin a foot or so away from me as I type.
So why the beef? It doesn't sound like Kiss. It's not particularly rock'n'roll, really. Gene Simmons once said that it sounded like a bad Genesis record. Paul Stanley, clearly exhibiting the better taste of the two, once said that it was a good record, just not a good Kiss record. But it was the perfect soundtrack to my young-life of being obsessed with The Legend of Zelda and The Hobbit and crap like that. That's definitely the vibe I get. Does it sound like Kiss? Not really. Is it a failure? Probably. But I still love these songs, and I truly wish the band would treat this album with a tad more respect. Some of these songs are just incredible. "The Oath" is one of the heaviest songs in the band's catalog, certainly the heaviest up to that point. "Just A Boy" is good for reasons I can't quite explain. And "Escape from the Island" is the first Kiss instrumental since their debut record 8 years (and 8 albums, not including live and solo records [which brings up a crazy point about how prolific this band was in the 70s. From 1972 to 1980 they released 8 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 4 solo albums for a total of 14 records in 8 years]) earlier.
Oh, by the way, maybe you're familiar with the 33 1/3 book series (books dedicated to specific albums, written by music journalists, musicians, etc). There are like 70 of them at this point, but back in 2005 they were gearing up to do the second or third run and sent out a call for idea submissions, and I promptly threw my hat in the ring for this record. For the intitial screening (which preceded the official pitch), the editor, David Barker, responded with something along the lines of, "Yeah, huh, not many people like that album." Needless to say, my book isn't on the shelves.
But I demand this record be given a second chance. And I guess I didn't keep this brief after all. But trust me, there's a lot of stuff in my head that I didn't type.
Music from the Elder