Monday, April 21, 2008

A review of 1977's "Rock 'N Roll"

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of 1977’s album “Rock ‘N Roll” since it was announced in a viral MySpace marketing campaign months ago.

Now, after first listen, I can say that I have not been disappointed at all.

WIth 1977’s approach – a 70’s-era KISS soundalike whose appearance is shrouded in mystery for the time being – a good first impression is difficult to make. After all, a huge part of the ‘70’s KISS fan’s listening experience was visual: examining the supernaturally powerful cover artwork and poring over the merchandise insert. Here, we having nothing but silhouette. With no visuals to steal a fan’s soul and capture his or her imagination, there is only the music to examine.

Fortunately, the music wonderfully captures KISS’ dynamo from the late 1970’s. The record gives listeners the impression that they’re hearing previously unreleased material, songs seemingly locked in the KISS vault these past thirty years.

From beginning to end, one hears KISS-style guitar riffs, chord progressions, and guitar licks. Many of which are note for note from KISS songs, but somehow the band manages to avoid any direct rip-offs. Obvious momentary borrowings from one KISS song seamlessly mesh into other musical parts, making the songs stand well on their own. As the saying goes, “To steal from one is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.”

And this band has clearly done their research. The 1970’s KISS style has been examined thoroughly, making the strongest aspects of the album by far the songwriting and lyrics.

Lyrically, this is very much a KISS record: simple messages given with clever turns of phrase and innuendo, followed by anthemic choruses of the need for rock and roll to be shared by all. Easily-remembered words shaped by simple and catchy vocal melodies mean that – lIke all the great songs from this era – they grow on you over time. “Gladiator” and “Blast Off” are already classics in my mind after having heard the clips dozens of times over the last few months.

The album is mastered nice and loud, as it should be, and mixed like a KISS record: every instrument can be heard and sits in its own sonic space. A really high note is that the lead guitar player wonderfully captures Ace Frehley’s style, copping licks across the entire album, yet composing original solos, just as Ace did himself throughout those first seven years or so.

As for weaknesses, there aren’t many. Each of songs are clearly written with the styles of Gene, Paul, Peter, and Ace. And as I’ve said, they’ve been masterfully crafted. But while the Gene vocal style is spot-on, and the Ace isn’t bad, Peter’s thick throaty raspiness is absent, as is the operatic power of the signature Stanley tone.

And the sound of record clicks and pops at the beginning and end of each song are a nice remembrance of the KISS record experience, but they become predictable as the same sample is played again and again.

The most glaring chink of this album’s armor are the drums. Nowhere is the frantic R&B- and jazz-influenced drumming of Peter Criss, overflowing with fills and spontaneous creativity.

In spite of these few imperfections, the record accomplishes most of what it sets out to do: Begin to carve out a niche for a KISS tribute band that is like no other – not merely a re-creation, but a value-added addition to KISStory. All in all, it is well worth the download price of $7.70 (A nice touch, since $19.77 would have been excessive, even if they’d released a double album with fiery gatefold!).

And this first foray now begs the question: “Will the band’s visuals live up to the high standards set by “Rock ‘N Roll”, the album?”

I happen to know for a fact that they will.

But that is an unmasking yet future. For now there is only “Rock ‘N Roll”. So I’m gonna go listen to my new record again.

1977's "Rock 'N Roll" is available for purchase via Snocap download at the band's web site and their MySpace page. On a Macintosh, I had some difficulty downloading directly from the purchase window, but the issue was quickly resolved by going to Snocap's web site and downloading it from my account window.


At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offence, but I don’t see how this is very edifying. Maybe it's not supposed to be. I was wondering what you would know about some good Christian Rock & Roll?

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember so many KISS songs from back in the day. How cool that a tribute band can manage to be KISS-like without just rehashing the hits! Thanks for the thoughtful review.

- AD(S)

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Ron Daniel said...

Sigh. The "edifying" comment is yet another reminder of how myopic and inbred Christian culture is.

My Christian mechanic reports how I have a torn radiator hose. "Is that really edifying?" I ask him.

My Christian coworker tells me he beat my high score at a video game. "And how does that build me up, brother?" I inquire.

You know what? Some things we do for work's sake. Others we do because they're fun. When Christians constantly analyze each other, trying to sniff out anything that sounds less than spiritual, I think, "It's no wonder that the world doesn't want to hear the gospel from us. We look like judgmental nutcases, superstitious weirdos so off-balance and so far removed from reality in everyday life that they don't want to hear about Christ or eternal life from us."

Always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that lies within you. Maybe we should stop and think: if nobody's asking you, could it be because I appear to be an unapproachable, unrelatable freak?

Jesus got invited to parties, people. Sinners liked to hang out with him. WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG? Think about it.

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron nice rebuke. Actually after reading my comment again I realized that it looked like an ugly jab. It was not intended. If I have offended you brother, I ask for your forgiveness. What brought my comments about was remembering you teaching at Calvary Chapel. You used to talk about how your involvement with secular music grieved you then. You would tell us that every idle word would be held captive, that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. You would ask us if those really were the good old days and why would we want to reminisce after coming to a saving faith in Christ Jesus.

The fact is I love secular music. It became my God & ruined my life. Like alcohol for you, I have seen music destroy.

I would agree with you regarding the judgmental nutcase comment. I have a coworker that comes to the break room every day stating the sky is falling the sky is falling regarding end times prophesy. Even though his heart is pure, people scatter like mice because they think he is a fruit loop. Maybe it's really fear, I don’t know, and who am I to judge.

So thanks again for being "Real" Your right, Christians can have fun.

So maybe you can throw a guy a bone and suggest some good Christian Rock & Roll.

God bless you Ron and thanks for wonderful gift of Jesus you shared throughout the years.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Ron Daniel said...

Thanks for clarifying.

It weighs heavy on me that some people want to imagine "Pastor Ron" being an angelic light wherever he roams. But the fact is that, like nearly everyone in the church I pastored, I am immersed in a secular environment at work.

And a big part of my job is knowing how to re-create the sounds of all kinds of music, from classical to rap to hardcore metal. When a client of mine asks how to get the guitar sound from a "Godsmack" album in his own studio, I've gotta know. Bubble-bursting for some, certainly.

Also some customers realize that the large and diverse audience I have on Blogspot, MySpace, and reaches into markets they haven't tapped, and appreciate mention when applicable.

That being said, I still have my personal standards - don't worry, there's no chance of me being buried in a KISS Casket.

And anyone who wants to offer philosophical insight into being salt and light while being as approachable as Jesus is certainly welcome to in this forum. It has been the most pressing topic on my spirit for months.


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