Kiss – Rock and Roll Over (1976): On Second Thought

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Coming together in January 1973, Kiss made it clear right from the start their main motive was to be the biggest band in the world. Such a lofty goal was ultimately achieved, triggered by the September 1975 release of Alive! The New York City band’s fourth album wound up selling something like a bazillion copies.

Gene Simmons (bass, vocals), Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ace Frehley (lead guitarist, vocals) and Peter Criss (drums, vocals) may not have been the greatest musicians on the scene, but their passion, energy and imagination certainly compensated for what they lacked in technical proficiency.

Adding a gimmicky flare to the mix, Kiss attired themselves in face paint and radical rags. Suited and booted in stacked heels, Gene took on the role of a demonic comic-book character, while Paul masked himself as a sensual Starman, Ace was a Spaceman, and Peter appropriated a feline look. Accompanying the band’s elaborate visuals was an equally animated stage show that involved Gene breathing fire and spitting blood amid exploding smoke bombs.

I realize I am probably in the minority, but Rock and Roll Over is my very favorite Kiss album. Arriving at the height of the band’s phenomenal success, this record was a refreshing return to the quartet’s rawboned roots. The previous album, Destroyer, was slickly produced and spawned a huge hit in the spring of 1976 with “Beth” – an orchestrated ballad more aligned with a Barry Manilow missive than the thumping hard rock Kiss was known for. Many original fans were turned off by the refined bent of that album, which simultaneously attracted a whole new audience.

The pressure was on for Kiss to keep the momentum going, and Rock and Roll Over (Casablanca Records) appeared only several months after Destroyer was issued. A rushed affair to be sure but, as history has proven, the best rock music has always thrived on spontaneity.

Stripped down to the bare essentials, Rock and Roll Over documents Kiss in their prime, plugging in as a perfect paragon of the band’s brand of heavy-duty glitter garage rock.

From the pulsating zip of “Baby Driver” to the hot-blooded urgency of “Take Me,” to the gnawing grip of “Mr. Speed” to the powered zest of “I Want You,” the album struts with macho bravado. Lyrics, boasting and toasting sexual conquests, are the chief theme, of course – but then again, Kiss was never thought of as profound songwriters. Elementary guitar chords, clunky rhythms, chunky hooks and jumbo-sized choruses rule these loose and filled-with-juice tracks.

Yet, there is a black sheep here: “Hard Luck Woman,” a folk-rock styled ballad bearing an uncanny resemblance to the raspy tenor of Rod Stewart. Tagged as a single, the tune reached No. 15 on the charts early in 1977. Another song from Rock and Roll Over, the chest-beating “Calling Dr. Love,” also fared well on the commercial front, peaking at No. 16 in the spring of 1977.

It’s really needless to say, but Kiss continued cranking out albums while touring seemingly every inch of the earth. The band’s popularity increased to the point where they were as readily recognized as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Personnel changes, patchy albums and personal dramas never prevented Kiss from basking in the limelight and entertaining the masses with their horn-dog rock and roll.


Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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