Released: March 15, 1976
Label: Casablanca Records[/alert][/one_third]After the success of Alive!, KISS was hoping to finally capture the energy of their live act in the studio. Though considering the overdubs on Alive!, some would say they already had! Har har har! Dorky jokes aside, KISS went to great lengths to produce the biggest album of their career. Bob Ezrin, who had produced Alice Cooper and Lou Reed’s Berlin, handled production and outside songwriters were solicited for the first time (with glam rock imperssario Kim Fowley being most notable). No expense was spared with production flourishes with sound effects, children’s choirs, and orchestras used on the album. Ezrin quickly became frustrated with the band’s rudimentary musicianship and would often stop the sessions to teach the band basic lessons in music theory, greatly aggravating the band (especially Frehley who was replaced on several tracks by Cooper guitarist Dick Wagner).
When Destroyer was released in March of 1976, it was not apparent if the hard work had paid off. Die hard fans used to the band’s usual brand of meat and potatoes rock n roll scoffed at the band’s new evolved sound. While the spiritual sequel to “Rock and Roll All Night”, “Shout It Out Loud” sputtered into the Top 40, the next two singles belly flopped on the charts. By August, the album had almost fallen off the charts when Canadian superstation CKLW began playing the B-side to the third single “Detroit Rock City”, “Beth”. “Beth” was a piano ballad written and sung by drummer Peter Criss that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley lobbied to keep off the album because it was such a departure from the band’s typical sound.
“Beth” shockingly became the band’s biggest hit to date, climbing to #7 on the Billboard singles chart and reigniting sales of the album. In November, Destroyer became KISS’ first album to be certified platinum. There would be more to come but in many ways, this was the beginning of the end. With success, the egos swilled and so did production values until they were out of control. Still, if I had to pick one album to represent what KISS was all about, it would be this one.
That proper drum sound…
KISS chart history is sort of odd. They’ve had nine Top 40 hits but only four of them (“Rock and Roll All Night”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth”, and “Calling Dr. Love”) get any sort of play on classic rock/oldies stations.
Released: November 11, 1976
Label: Casablanca Records[/alert][/one_third]Speaking of Top 40 hits, this next record spawned two of them…
For Rock and Roll Over, KISS brought back Alive! producer Eddie Kramer and recorded in The Star Theater, a run down moviehouse in the Hudson Valley of New York. To achieve the proper drum sound, Peter Criss recorded his parts in an upstairs bathroom and communicated with the band via a primitive video teleconference. According to his recent autobiography, this was pretty much just an excuse for the Catman to snort some monster rails. This was back to the basic, dumb party rock of the first three albums (with improved production albums). And it doesn’t get any dumber and more awesome than the album’s biggest hit and one of Gene’s signature songs, “Calling Dr. Love”, which climbed all the way up to #16. Also cracking the Top 20 was “Hard Luck Woman”, a song Paul Stanley originally wrote to give to Rod Stewart.
I’m in the minority but I think this is one of the lesser albums from the original lineup. It was kind of clear that recording five albums in less than three years was having its effect on the band and the album tracks are kind of rote even by KISS standards. The album still is 1000x better than pretty much anything they’d record from 1980 on, and kicks ass, so minor quibbles here.
Next time on Connor’s KISS Korner: KISS teams up for a second album in a row with Eddie Kramer for the last album to feature the original lineup on every track, Love Gun. PLUS, we take a quick look back at Alive II, the sequel to KISS breakout album and their first compilation, Double Platinum.