Review Summary: Sometimes, the best surprises come from where you expect nothing at all.
When guitarist Ace Frehley suggested a momentary split for the production of solo albums, the idea was welcomed with different degrees of excitement. For two of the members – the founders and arguably the two most important ones – it was just a cute little diversion, a side project that would simultaneously help relieve the tensions boiling within the group. For the remaining two members, however, it was far more important than that. Frehley himself wanted to finally break out of his shell as a composer, which he did, extensively, on his album; but perhaps the member most overjoyed by this idea was drummer Peter Criss. Criss had always felt like his input wasn’t important to Stanley and Simmons – which it wasn’t – and that the duo kept giving him their weaker material to sing – which they did, with a few exceptions. In a way, Criss was in a situation similar to the one Ringo had experienced in The Beatles, a group which Gene Simmons tried desperately to equate his own to.
That’s why the solo album was so important to Criss: he could finally make himself heard, as well as nab some decent material to present to the public at large. Most importantly, he could finally showcase his own compositions, something which was impossible within the context of KISS. Therefore, it is surprising that the final result comes out sounding so close to his mother band.
In fact, this compilation of reworked tracks from Criss’ former bands, Lips and Chelsea, comes out sounding like a KISS album, if Gene Simmons didn’t tamper with it at all. Meaning, of course, that it captures all the good
parts of the KISS sound. Tracks like Hooked On Rock’n’Roll, I’m Gonna Love You
or Tossin’ and Turnin’
are the kind of irresistible boogies that all makeup-era KISS albums have at least two of. Slower tracks like Can’t Stop The Rain
, on the other hand, call to mind Criss’ initial claim to fame, Beth
The album starts off with three strong, lively tracks, the culmination point of which is reached on Tossin’ and Turnin’
. A huge dip comes with the minimalistically boring Don’t You Let Me Down
, but fortunately the album manages to recover with arguably its finest moment, That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes
. As the title itself indicates, this is a good old-fashioned slab of the blues, enhanced by the possibilities offered by electrified instruments, and featuring a rippin’ solo by Toto’s Steve Lukather. The result is nothing less than stellar, being better than most songs found on actual KISS records and comfortably matching anything Paul Stanley
has to offer.
However, this is where Peter Criss
’s problems start. After That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes
, the album takes on a lively track/slow track motif which severely diminishes its overall interest. That’s because, where Paul Stanley
had two boring slow tracks, Peter Criss
has four. Well, to be honest, closer Can’t Stop The Rain
actually works, if only because it’s one of those glorious cheesefests 80’s rock producers loved to write for their stars – and in this case, it’s no different, with the track being penned by Sean Delaney. However, the other three tracks are quite boring, sometimes seeming almost too
slow – see Kiss The Girl Goodbye
, a weak re-tread of Beth
, for the prime example. Overall, this excess in uninspired slow tempos somewhat detracts from the effect the boogies had managed to create.
However, all things considered, this is still a very strong album. Whatever small flaws it does have are forgiven as you dance around to Hooked On Rock’n’Roll
– a somewhat auto-biographical and absolutely boogierific track – That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes, I’m Gonna Love You
or even the overtly, unabashedly commercial You Matter To Me
, where nary a single electric guitar is heard and great prominence is given to the keyboards, as well as to a strong bassline. These tracks defy you to remain seated, and you will often give in to their will and just let go, if only for a few seconds. Unfortunately, the mood-breaking ballads keep this from having an even higher rating – and, thereby, ranking as the best of the bunch – but Peter Criss
is still the only other solo album that can match the brilliance of Paul Stanley
. And that, itself, is no small feat. Sometimes, the best surprises come from where you expect nothing at all.
That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes
Hooked On Rock’n’Roll
Can’t Stop The Rain