Review Summary: Yawn...Before the first KISS: Third date
In 1970, George Peter John Criscuola (Peter Criss for short) got his major band recording debut, after a couple of stints as a session musician in obscure late-60’s singles. That debut was Chelsea’s first and only album, a competent if less than dazzling collection of soulful southern rock songs. While sales for that album were low, Decca deposited a certain degree of confidence in the band, and gave them means to prepare their contracted sophomore album, which was to be released in 1971.
Things, however, were not to work out that way. When frontman Peter Shepley and axeman Mike Brand were late for a gig later that year, the three remaining members –Criss, bassist Michael Benvenga and replacement guitarist Stan Penridge – took matters into their own hands and formed a new band right there and then. The new outfit, christened Lips, made its triumphant debut that night and went on to record a couple of demos in 1972, their only legacy. With Criss’s rise to popularity as the drummer for KISS, these tapes would become a highly sought-after, ultra-rare item, only available nowadays through the wonderful art of bootlegging.
But are these recordings really worth all the hassle? In a word: no. This is a badly produced, badly played and generally snore-inducing collection of late-60’s pop songs, which sound outdated even a mere couple of years into the new decade. By 1972, we’d had Black Sabbath, we’d had Lynyrd Skynyrd, we’d had Deep Purple. There was no longer space for a syrupy soul-pop outfit, especially one with such pitiful production values and such uninteresting songs.
In fact, nothing here ever raises our interest for more than a few seconds, as long as it takes to appreciate a nice sax solo (And Then I Met You
) or a good chorus (Hooked On Rock’n’Roll
). The rest of the time is spent in absolute and utter boredom, trying our best not to fall asleep and vaguely noticing that some of these songs sound familiar.
The reason why they sound familiar is that about half these tracks appeared on Peter Criss’ 1978 solo album, except here they suffer from awful production and exceedingly raw structure and instrumentation. The remaining tracks are new songs, which – you guessed it – suffer from awful production and exceedingly raw structure and instrumentation. Even standouts like That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes
come along as no more than plodding, dragging bores, unlike the peppy versions they got on Criss’ solo debut.
Standouts are few and far between, with Hooked On Rock’n’Roll
being the only entirely passable track. Then I Met You
also scrapes by on that funky sax solo, which sounds like it should be on the opening theme of a cornball 80’s sitcom. The rest of the songs are best left forgotten, for when they are not being nondescript, boring messes, they are being ridiculously corny slabs of unabashed radio-pop like closer Forever
, a song which gives prominence to keyboards, then adds insult to injury by having an honest-to-God chorus of My love is forever/my love is true/My love is forever/Forever with you”
. This is the kind of stuff that should belong in a pop-band spoof, but unfortunately, here it is, in a very real album by an actual, commercially-driven band.
Instrumentally, things don’t get much better. Benvenga, the highlight of Chelsea’s album, is chopped off in the ridiculously muffled production (did I mention it’s really
bad?); Penridge does nothing but add plaintive licks here and there throughout the songs, his riffs barely audible through the murk; and as for Criss…well, I don’t know the first thing about drumming (I don’t even use my feet when I fool around with the kit), and I bet I could replicate Pete’s performance in this one. All he does is keep a slow, mournful, nearly reggae-worthy beat, causing this album to only have two speeds: slow and slower. I mean, everyone knew Peter Criss was a mediocre drummer, but geez
! Barely a break to be heard in twenty-odd minutes of music is pushing it a little too far, isn’t it?
So in conclusion, stay away. You don’t need this. If you want to listen to these songs, you have Criss’ 1978 solo outing, where they appear with better production values and interpretation. If you want 60’s pop, go get The Beatles, The Animals, The Yardbirds or even The Beach Boys. This is a collector-only affair, because, honestly, collectors will buy anything
with a “rare” tag on it. Avoid.
Hooked On Rock’n’Roll