With the success of ‘Alive!’, Kiss was saved and in turn, so was their record label Casablanca. With that new success, the band signed a brand new contract with Casablanca after the band’s manager had threatened to walk. This time though, Kiss was only given a two album deal which really isn’t a very long contract in those times and showed that maybe the label didn’t have much faith the band would have continued success.
While the band was touring the album ‘Alive!’, they started rehearsing for the new album. Their success was able to land them a high-end producer in the likes of Bob Ezrin. His success with Alice Cooper had garnered him some notoriety and was going to take Kiss in a whole new direction. Thankfully, the band was still in tact with Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons.
Having Bob Ezrin at the boards introduced the bands to entirely new sounds as they played around with many different elements of their music to create something bigger and grander than before. The raw sound of those first three albums would be gone and in return would be a highly produced album that changed their sound and some might say for the better and others don’t. The band also worked with more songwriters as well as we now have an album where there were other musicians on it than just the main band members. A trend that would grow over future albums.
The production started sometime in September 1975 and the bulk of the heavy lifting was complete in January 1976. The album would be released a little while later on March 15, 1976. The album would go and take the band to new heights and was the very first Kiss album to be certified platinum. It has now gone platinum several times over. Kiss was riding high and at the top of their game. And that ride was going to take them to the Top and eventually crashing down, but that is still a little ways away.
Let’s talk a little about the cover of the album. The picture was painted by artist Ken Kelly who was famous for doing drawings of Conan the Barbarian and even the jungle man himself, Tarzan. The cover decided for this album was actually not the first drawing. That was deemed to be way too violent so they toned it down and ended up with what you have at the top of the article. The original picture wold be released in 2012 on Destroyer: Resurrected which we will discuss in great detail many months down the road.
The album I have in my collection is actually an original pressing of the album. How do I know, the album is only credited with 9 songs as there is a hidden track at the end of “Do You Love Me” called “Rock & Roll Party” that is not listed. It was later added as a track with future pressings. The album sleeve is also in pristine condition with the Kiss logo and the lyrics to “Detroit Rock City” on one side and then the Kiss Army logo on the other with “Shout it Out Loud” in large font across the top. This is one of the pride and joy’s in my collection.
Time for the music…
The album opens with a radio broadcast (the broadcaster is played by Gene Simmons) of the death of a driver killed in a car crash then segues in to the young man getting into his car and heading to the concert playing Kiss’s “Rock & Roll All Nite” on the radio. “Detroit Rock City” was so different than anything they had done prior, musically and lyrically. They took a chance shaking things up a bit and it worked. The song does mention Detroit, but is really about a young fan that is killed why he was on his way to a Kiss concert. The story is based off an actual event that occurred outside a Kiss concert in Charlotte where a fan was hit by a car and killed outside the arena. Knowing it is based a real life event adds a little extra to the impact of the song.
The song has a great guitar riff, a great solo, some cool drum parts and even a sweet little bass line. During the song, you go back and forth between the song and hearing the car drive down the road getting closer to the show. The song ends with the car crashing and immediately goes into the next song on the album “King of the Night Time World”. It had the sound of “Detroit Rock City” as the two melded together perfectly. A pure rock explosion and when I was younger, I couldn’t play one without the other.
Did you know this song was a cover? I didn’t. It was actually written by Kim Fowley and performed by his band the Hollywood Stars in 1974, just under 2 years earlier. The Kiss version had some major changes done to it so Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin have been added as songwriters.
“God of Thunder” is up next and it was written by Paul Stanley and he had all intentions of singing it. Producer, Bob Ezrin thought differently. He recommended slowing the song down and letting Gene sing the song. The slow, almost nightmarish beat of the song fit Gene’s Demon personae perfectly. It kicks off with a couple children saying…”Okay, ya’ll can start singing”. Those kids were heard throughout the song screaming and making all kinds of noises during the song. Those kids were actually David and Josh Ezrin, the producer’s kids. There were so many sound effects added to it to give that eerie feeling. Even Ace’s guitar work was done in a way to add more of a darkness feel to the song.
Gene steps back up to the mic with one of the most sexually overcharged songs ever done by Kiss (or at least to this point). “Great Expectations” is so over the top crazy that it is kind of cool at the same time. You have the Brooklyn Boys Choir helping with the chorus and I wonder if their parents knew what the song was about they would have let them sing it. There is an acoustic guitar on this one and it isn’t played by Ace. It is played by Dick Wagner who also worked with Alice Cooper (Bob connection for sure). The song is basically about the women in the audience watching the band play and seeing what their hands and mouths can do that they want to have sex with the band so badly it is driving the wild. I don’t know what else to say about that.
“Flaming Youth” kicks off side two. This song is cool in that it is pieced together from other songs by Bob into one cool rock anthem. And if you have Gene Simmons “The Vault”, the song “Mad Dog” on it was the inspiration for the main guitar riff. Dick Wagner is back on this song as well as he does the guitar solo and not Ace. The song is about teen angst and is a really cool rock anthem and one I would love to hear them play live again, but I won’t hold my breath.
Next up is “Sweet Pain”. Another Gene song with some great guitar work on it which was not done by Ace because according to interviews, he was too drunk to show up. Bob Ezrin got impatient and brought Dick Wagner back in who laid down an Ace sounding guitar solo. There are some women on backing vocals, but no one credited. Now the song is about…well, you guessed it…sex. It feels like it might be a little about sadomasochism. It is classic Gene.
“Shout It Out Loud” comes exploding on to the scene with one of the bands biggest rock anthems and one that gets the crowd going at any show it is played. It was the first single off the album trying to capitalize off the success of the live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” that was released previously. The title of the song comes from the Hollies song “We Want to Shout It Out Loud” which Wicked Lester demoed years earlier. The song is sung by both Paul and Gene and that chorus of “Shout it, Shout it, Shout It Out Loud” is pure rock gold. You hear it, you do shout it out loud.
Then we get “Beth” which became one of the band’s biggest hits to date. It went all the way to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was sung by Peter Criss. The song was one Peter had written prior to Kiss and written with guitarist Stan Penridge. The song is a ballad and played on piano with full backing orchestration by the New York Philharmonic. The song originally had the line “Beck what can I do” after the girlfriend of one of Peter’s bandmates in the band Chelsea. Of course, they changed to Beth which seem to work. The song was softly played and softly sung and was simply a beautiful song that was totally out of left field for the band up to this point.
Then we get to another of one of my favorite Kiss songs and favorite Paul songs, “Do You Love Me”. A mid-tempo rock song that is less about sex and more about if the girl really loves him for who he is and not for the rock star and all those fancy rock star trappings. An honest question when every musician has to ask when they start hitting it big. I love the simple drum beat opening and Paul singing those opening lines as he asks his girl the all important question of Do You Love Me? It is really a simple song that is so effective and Paul just delivers it vocally.
In my copy of ‘Destroyer’, the next song is a hidden track not listed as a song. It is a short instrumental called “Rock & Roll Party”. The song is a bunch of effects with sounds from “Great Expectations” and Paul saying “Rock & Roll Party” from his live show banter off ‘Alive!’. It is strange and bizarre. At under a 1 1/2 minutes, it doesn’t last long and isn’t really a track so not scored.
- Detroit Rock City – Keeper
- King of the Night Time World – Keeper
- God of Thunder – Keeper
- Great Expectations – Keeper
- Flaming Youth – Keeper
- Sweet Pain – Keeper
- Shout it Out Loud – Keeper
- Beth – Keeper
- Do You Love Me – Keeper
The Track Score on this for me is a perfect 9 out of 9 Tracks for 100%. I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think this is one of their best albums. I love how they took so many chances with this record. They tried new sounds and really were forced to dig deep to come up with something bigger than before and better. I think they achieved that goal. With two of my all-time favorite songs in “Detroit Rock City” and “Do You Love Me” as well as being the first real Kiss album I dove deep in to back in 1976 as I was about 7 when it came out and my brothers played it all the time. I would sit and look at that cover and listen and fell in love with it. I have been hooked ever since. I give this a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars. Will it be the #1 when all is said done with the reviews? We will wait and see.
Next Up: Kiss – ‘Flaming Youth Promo Single’ (1976) – Bonus Edition
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
The Kiss Review Series:
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
- Kiss – Kiss (1974)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
- Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
- Kiss – Alive! (1975)
- Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
The Bootleg Series:
- Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
- Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
- Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
- Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
- Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
- Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
- Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
- Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
- Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
- Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
- Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
- Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
- Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
Kiss – The Box Set:
- The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)
Gene Simmons – The Vault:
- Part 1 – The Grand Opening
- Part 2 – Disk 1
- Part 3 – Disk 2
- Part 4 – Disk 3
- Part 5 – Disk 4
- Part 6 – Disk 5
- Part 7 – Disk 6
- Part 8 – Disk 7
- Part 9 – Disk 8
- Part 10 – Disk 9
- Part 11 – Disk 10
- Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
- Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
- Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
- Part 15 – The Final Verdict