Review Summary: not their best, but very close
After the major success which was their previous album, Destroyer, Kiss found themselves at the peak of their career, making themselves noticed around the world. In fact, this was what Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, as ambitious as they are, wanted to happen. So they needed to release an album to follow their successful previous two records (Alive! and the aforementioned Destroyer). And the result was Rock and Roll Over, one of the finest efforts of the band (top three, I believe).
Destroyer was an album in which Kiss had tried a different way from the first three studio records, with a cleaner and better production, and some new musical improvements that were unexpected considering the classic hard rock style of the other discs. The result was the band’s best album ever. And the charts reflected that. So, the audience would expect that the following record would be going the same musical way. Wrong. Kiss decided to return to its roots with this album, which, in terms of style, is similar to the first three (Kiss, Hotter than Hell and Dressed to Kill). Some traces of the previous album can be found, though, throughout the album. The main difference is the songwriting, which was, in my opinion, an improvement from Dressed to Kill, and in similar level with Destroyer.
So here you will find an excellent hard rock album, with some anthems and great hard rocking songs, with a solid performance of the whole band. Heavy and great riffs, excellent solos and catchy choruses. Replacing the pretentious style of Destroyer with a different, less polished and less produced effort, they managed to go on with their success, and in a great way.
The first song, I Want You is a sign of what the whole album will be about, despite the slow and harmonious introduction with some acoustic guitar and Paul singing delicately. The opener is a very good track indeed, and one of the highlights. The guitar work is brilliant, not only on the first track, but throughout the whole album, being the most remarkable instrumental aspect of Rock and Roll Over.
Most of the action with guitars is taken by Ace Frehley, whose great riffs and solos are scattered along the whole record. But Paul Stanley also does it well with his rhythm parts, never clashing and combining magnificently with Ace when the lead guitarist makes his outstanding solos. Of course, he is nothing to compare to Ace but, this is a band, and there’s a lead guitarist and a rhythm one, and both play their roles in an excellent way. The other two members, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss, just do their job this time. I mean, they aren’t giving us standout performances, just solid ones. Gene never made himself noticed for being a genius with his bass guitar, yet he plays decently when he wants to. That’s what he does in Rock and Roll Over, he just goes along with the rest fairly good, and that’s it. Something similar goes for Peter: good, but simple, beats. However, he is really good on some tracks, like Calling Dr. Love, and provides a good sound to the album, never being out of time or doing pretentious drumming that wouldn’t fit with any song here. I would say that he’s not as “important” as in Destroyer, yet his drums fit perfectly with the general sound of the record.
There’s also another good aspect from Rock and Roll Over I want to mention: vocals. Like on most of Kiss works, singers are always important. Paul, Gene and Peter all have the chances to take the mic here, and they do it really, really good. Paul is the best singer of the three, he knows how to use his easily recognizable, and excellent, voice; he is the lead vocalist on four songs (I Want You, Take Me, Mr. Speed and Makin’ Love). Gene does it on other four tracks (Calling Dr. Love, Ladies Room, Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em and See You in Your Dreams) and the other two are sung by Peter. The three of them sing very well, but as I said, I think that Paul is the best of them.
All of the songs are worth a listen, and some of them are truly anthems. The opener I Want You, with its slow intro and its following heavy riff makes the perfect way to start, and the guitars begin to be the clear standout. The next song, Take Me it’s a nice one, not a highlight, but has a good riff and Paul singing. Calling Dr. Love it’s a hell of a song, definitely, with that simple but amazing riff leading it, the chorus and, of course, the brilliant solo Ace plays. It’s always on the live set, it’s one of the fans favorite (believe it or not, every damned show they play this song, and the only one I’ve been to, they didn’t). Then comes Ladies Room, a track which would perfectly suit in Dressed to Kill. It’s a very good one; I really like how Gene sings here. Baby Driver is probably the least enjoyable song of the album, but it’s good anyway, there are no bad songs on this LP, believe me. Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em follows, another good riff and catchy chorus, and Ace showing himself off with his guitar. After that comes, in my opinion, the best song on the album (and a criminally underrated one too), Mr. Speed. The bluesy and catchy riff is awesome, the chorus is great and the solo is short, but it suits perfectly with the song. Somehow, Mr. Speed it’s never played live, something I will never understand. The eighth song is See You in Your Dreams, the shortest one. Great Solo and good chorus, the only thing I don’t like about it is that it clocks at 2:30, when it could have gone on a bit more. The last two tracks are superb. Hard Luck Woman it’s a ballad, a very popular one (it’s one of the singles from this album, along with Calling Dr. Love) with great acoustic guitars and the best vocals Peter ever did. It’s a nice change of atmosphere, which leads to the final song, Makin’ Love. From the very start of the track you’ll realize it will be a classic hard rock song, with that powerful riff leading it. I can’t imagine a better way to finish the album, really.
So, this is Rock and Roll Over, an album full of great hard rock songs, with some classics like Calling Dr. Love and Hard Luck Woman, and one of the best performances of Ace Frehley. Not as produced as Destroyer, and much rawer, I think that it’s a step down from its predecessor, but better than Dressed to Kill. Nevertheless it’s an excellent album, which defines perfectly Kiss’ style. For someone who hasn’t listened to Kiss (difficult to find one) I would recommend this album to get started with.
If you like hard rock, don’t doubt and get this, you will not be disappointed.
Kiss line-up (Rock and Roll Over):
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass
Ace Frehley – Lead Guitar
Peter Criss – Lead Vocals, Drums
Recommended tracks (in fact, I recommend almost every song, but I’ll make a selection):
- I Want You
- Calling Dr. Love
- Mr. Speed
- Hard Luck Woman
- Makin’ Love