Review Summary: Frehley shines in an unpretentious, but also unremarkable album.
Why exactly have you never heard of Rock’n’Roll Over
? And why aren’t you overtly familiar with any of its ten songs?. Reasons are plentiful: it followed two of KISS’s most revered – and best – albums, it was recorded and released in a hurry to keep the group’s momentum going, and, in most aspects, it’s a step back from Dressed To Kill
Which is not to say that this album – recorded live inside a theater, in places like hallways and toilets – is at all bad. It’s certainly a step up from Hotter Than Hell
, ranking at about the same level as the debut album. Production-wise, it’s a return to the basic, raw sound of KISS’s early days, while the songwriting follows the template of the last two albums, while attempting to diversify and reach new audiences. The result is an album which, while unremarkable, nevertheless has its merits.
The beginning of the album is anything but promising: I Want You
is a drab attempt at blues-rock, and Take Me
has an absolutely ridiculous chorus (incidentally, the same exact vocal melody would be re-used on the following album, for the chorus of Shock Me
, with much superior results). The heat starts to pick up with the humongous riff for Calling Dr. Love
, a song in which the real star of this album starts to surface. For the remaining seven songs, this is going to be the Ace Frehley show.
The reportedly disgruntled guitarist rises miles above his comrades to provide most of the reasons that make this album worth a listen. His heavy riffs and shredding solos punctuate the songs, and provide at least a couple of jaw-slacking moments. The solos on Calling Dr. Love
and Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em
negate everyone who ever said KISS couldn’t play (although the statement still holds true for Gene Simmons). In the latter song, the solo is even the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable composition.
While Frehley shines, his companions are not laid to waste, either. Simmons is his usual disgrace, but even he seems more in tune with what a bassist is really supposed to do (the fingers are supposed to be petting the strings, Gene, not the women…); Criss provides simple beats, but shows he can play whenever the situation calls for it; and Simmons, Stanley and Criss are all competent singers, with the latter displaying the most chops in his sole lead track.
But what an album inevitably comes down to is the quality of its songs. On Rock’n’Roll Over
, it’s quite wavery. On the one side are undeniably great tracks like Calling Dr. Love
, the boogied Mr. Speed
, which sounds like an outtake from the debut, or the full-on, visceral, no-frills rock’n’roll of Makin’ Love
. On the other are throwaway tracks like I Want You, Take Me, Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em
and See You In Your Dreams
, which definitely don’t make the grade next to those from Dressed
. Also evident is KISS’s attempt to explore new avenues for their sound, with Baby Driver
sounding like one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s livelier boogies and Hard Luck Woman
sounding as much like a radio track of the period as a mid-90’s alt-pop-rock conconction, a la Soul Asylum. It’s also hard to decide if the track – composed for and rejected by Rod Stewart – is really good or really poor. The catchiness of its chorus eventually wins out, but despite a good performance from Criss, the song never reaches standout status. Rounding out the pack is Ladies Room
, a typically KISSian track which makes for a nice backbone for the record, but eventually loses its initially acquired standout status.
In short, this is a typical transition album: unpretentious, written “on the knee”, and which eventually fails to reach its stellar predecessors. However, by no means is Rock’n’Roll Over
a failure. It’s just not a very memorable album, that’s all.
Calling Dr. Love