Shafted! #3: Kiss' The Elder
I think every pop artist who ever made it big has tried desperately to attain the love of critics. Norman Rockwell never felt like a "credible" artist because the critics regarded him as a magazine artist hack. Never mind the fact that he had incredible artistic skills and his works were often profound..... critics reserved their praise for guys like Jackson Pollack who sprinkled big canvases with globs of paint. Note: critics also bashed The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World and Lord of the Flies (source); so, exactly why they are people popular artists should want to please is beyond me.
Kiss had experienced an unbelievable level of success in the mid seventies. Arenas were packed, live and double albums selling like hotcakes, a Kiss Army of devoted fans, tons of merchandising, a TV movie, and "Hard Luck Woman" and "Beth" topping the singles charts.... it just couldn't get any better.
But the critics hated them. So none of that mattered.... just ask The Bee Gees.
Truth be told, sales were starting dwindle by 1979, but instead of just riding out the lull, Kiss started to implode. Ace Frehley left in 1981, and Peter Criss had left before that. The band had alienated a lot of fans via a disco song ("I Was Made for Loving You") and a glut of merchandising. Somewhere along the way, Simmons and Stanley decided to completely change course and stop singing about sex and make a concept album.
Yes, the band would put together an album Emerson, Lake and Palmer would be proud of. At first listen, it's sorta cheesy and, well, a tad embarrassing. Not the sort of thing you want blaring from your muscle car whilst cruising for chicks.... a massive departure from their earlier stuff. But this album grows on you - and I think in the final analysis, it's pretty damn good.
Well, fans didn't know what to make of this. It didn't even have a picture of the band on the cover - unheard of! It sold poorly, and to this day nothing from the album is played at concerts. It's as if it never happened. Well, I think it deserves a better reception. Indeed, it should be ranked among the great concept albums of rock history.
I'd love to let you have a listen to the whole album so you can form your own opinion. However, I'm pretty sure Gene Simmons' team of lawyers would have Retrospace shut down within the hour. Hopefully, he won't mind if I just stick a taste of The Elder in this post - one song from a sinfully underplayed Kiss Album: "Only You".