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.