Kiss: Music from "The Elder" - Album Of The Week Club review

In which Kiss go Prog and alienate everyone... or not, as our reviewers clearly prove

Kiss - Music From "The Elder"
Kiss - Music From "The Elder"

The Oath
Fanfare
Just A Boy
Dark Light
Only You
Under The Rose
A World Without Heroes
Mr. Blackwell
Escape From The Island
Odyssey
I
Finale

For a band that built its success on simplistic anthems, Kiss's Music From “The Elder” was a huge leap in terms of ambition. Sadly, the vision far out-stripped the reality – the likes of Just A Boy and The Oath sounded like a bunch of brickies trying to be Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

Worse, shortly before the album was released in November 1981, the track sequence was altered, rendering an already garbled storyline incomprehensible. “When the album came out we were embarrassed,” says Simmons.

The bassist claims that a movie deal was close to being made, with actors signed up for key roles. But in the end, the movie got lost in “development hell”. To add insult to injury, it was the first Kiss album that failed to go gold in the US. “It bombed,” Simmons says. “There’s just no other way to look at it.”

Over time, the album has come to be regarded as a cult classic by certain Kiss fans. “Every year we get requests for an Elder tour,” Simmons laughs. More bizarrely, Seb Hunter, author of heavy metal memoir Hell Bent For Leather, is seeking funding to make his own movie of The Elder. For his part, Simmons is still embarrassed by the whole fiasco.

“That was the one time I would say that Kiss succumbed to the critics,” he says. “We wanted a critical success. And we lost our minds.”

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Background

“We were convinced that we were making our Sgt. Pepper,” says Kiss bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons of his band’s greatest folly. Music From “The Elder” was an art-rock concept album based on a fantasy tale written by Simmons and conceived as the soundtrack to a Hollywood blockbuster. But the movie was never made, and the album was an overblown disaster.

By 1981, Kiss were in chaos. Alcohol and drugs were destroying the band from within: drummer Peter Criss had been replaced by Eric Carr, and guitarist Ace Frehley’s behaviour was becoming ever more erratic. Amid this instability, Simmons and guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley were uncertain of what kind of record Kiss should make after two pop-oriented albums – 1979’s Dynasty and 1980’s Unmasked – had alienated many fans.

“We didn’t know which direction to go,” admits Simmons. “So we decided to bring Bob Ezrin back.” Ezrin had produced Kiss’ hit 1976 album Destroyer; more recently, he’d worked on Pink Floyd’s mega-selling The Wall. When he read Simmons’ short story, titled The Elder, Ezrin saw a chance to make another concept album like The Wall – “a big statement”, as he told the bassist.

Other albums released in November 1981

  • Re-ac-tor by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  • Shake It Up by The Cars
  • Diary of a Madman by Ozzy Osbourne
  • Too Fast for Love by Mötley Crüe
  • Till Deaf Do Us Part by Slade
  • Renegade by Thin Lizzy
  • I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  • For Those About to Rock We Salute You by AC/DC
  • Bad Religion by Bad Religion
  • Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants
  • Take No Prisoners by Molly Hatchet

What they said...

"Simmons and Stanley had high hopes for Music from "The Elder" (such as a movie, an elaborate tour, a follow-up record, etc.), but it completely bombed upon release. The reason? The music is totally uncharacteristic of Kiss -- it resembles heavy prog rock for the most part. Some of the songs could have been classics if the pompous and/or hard-to-decipher lyrics were replaced, such as The Oath, Only You, I, and Just a Boy." (AllMusic)

"What could be less promising at this stage of the game than a concept album by Kiss? After having written off Kiss as pure pap for eight-year-olds, who even wants to think about taking them seriously? Yet their new songs are catchy, the performances respectable, and, despite its concept, Music from “The Elder” is better than anything that the group has recorded in years." (Rolling Stone)

"This album wasn’t for everyone, including Kiss. They quickly washed their hands of it, replaced Ace Frehley with Vinnie Vincent, and started on their journey writing reasonably competent 80s metal radio staples. But Music From “The Elder” is a good album. It’s too nerdy and arty for regular KISS fans and probably too KISS for true prog fans, but for those who are willing to open their mind and listen to the album for what it is, the rewards are great." (Metal Insider)

What you said...

David Heaton: A very good album. it just wasn't a "Kiss" album. Kiss were all about (to quote one of Paul Stanley's old stage raps) what was in your jeans rather than your genes. A sci-fi/fantasy concept was as far away from Kiss's comfort zone as it's possible to get. I like the album a lot. I still play my original vinyl copy regularly.

Jamie Laszlo: If a bunch of 12 year old kids got together and tried to make an album that sounds like The Who's Tommy, it would sound like The Elder.

Daniel Jago Edmonds: I love this album. As a teenage Kiss fan in the late 80s it was like gold dust. I heard The Oath on the 12” single of Forever (I think) and was desperate to hear the rest of it. I ended up ordering the cassette through a local record shop. It took weeks to arrive but finally came in around December of 1989. On first listen I knew it was kind of weird, but I still really enjoyed it. Songs like Just A Boy, Odyssey, Only You, Under The Rose and A World Without Heroes still get me to this day. It will always be one of those albums I put on at Christmas time. It has a wintry magical vibe to me. Along with Destroyer and Creatures Of The Night it’s one of my favourite Kiss albums. Ach, shoot me down if you like. I think it’s superb.

Sergio Mendoza Hochmann: It’s a good album, actually. I don’t like the fact that the group have pretty much disowned it when there are songs that are very good on it. Pretentious? Yeah, sure. So?!? It’s art, and as such, it has a tendency to evolve. Songs like Just a Boy, The Oath, Only You, Odyssey, A World Without Heroes, and I are excellent songs. And that’s almost the entire album! A great album. 

Scott Spalding: Album starts off with a conventional Paul Stanley rocker, The Oath. Sounds fine, no problem. And then... that's where your heartaches begin. Fanfare, Just a Boy... (WTF? Are we now doing rock opera, without the songwriting skills, self-awareness, and intellectual firepower of Pete Townshend? We are.) Falsetto is a time-honoured tradition, even in rock, but geez, Paul. 

Ok, whatever. Then we get an Ace rocker. Good job, Ace. Maybe you can keep us grounded in reality. Oh wait, he's the Spaceman. Not much chance of this album staying on the rails.

I'm letting the rest wash over me. Pleasant enough, decent rock. And then, it all comes back to me. That video, they used to call them promos before MTV. The one with the Demon singing a ballad about a world without heroes. It just reinforced my loss of interest and relegation of the band to irrelevance. 

Sorry guys, you did it to yourselves. First, there was the over-exposure, the sheer arrogance of releasing literally millions of the four simultaneous solo albums, which served heavy duty in cut-out bins for years afterwards. Then the disco song. You might have been made for loving me, but the feeling is not mutual. Fuck you, but not IRL. Some of us still say "Death to Disco". We may not mean it literally, as we have been known to spin some Chic or P-Funk on occasion, it's more of a rallying cry for rock fans everywhere.

I suppose this crap-sterpiece of an album deserves better now, in retrospect. It ain't that bad, but ain't that faint praise? Then again, other than Creatures of the Night, and their early stuff, I think that applies to most Kiss albums.

Benny Richards: I am a huge Kiss fan but this album is incredibly bad. Kiss were so lost at this time of their career after the failures of the pop rock they took on for Dynasty and Unmasked and also Peter Criss leaving the band. Obviously they were inspired by Bob Ezrin's recent success with The Wall. But, not only did Kiss lack the musical ability of Pink Floyd, they also didn't work out that 1981 was not the time and place for a confusing, prog rock album about medieval times. If they released the album in 1973, then maybe it would have been better received. Also the image the band had at the time of this album was the worst. Kiss in all their make up but with short hair, Mark Knopfler head bands and the most camp costumes. Ace Frehley leaving the band after this album just proves how awful it was. 

On a positive note, A World Without Heroes is a great song but the rest of the album, besides a few cool riffs, is incredibly stupid and Kiss were trying too hard for a style of music they do not understand or suit

Kev Hutchins: It's a much more coherent album if you listen to the tracks in the order they were intended to be played, rather than the weird running order that was on the original release.

John Davidson: I’ll be upfront and say I’ve never understood the fascination with Kiss. They were (to my ears) a poor man’s Mott the Hoople – All flash and no bang - playing second rate glam and hiding their mediocre talents behind grease paint and glitter.

As for The Elder, I remember when this came out and there was a fair bit of buzz that Kiss were trying to do something new, setting aside the codpiece rock and pyros to create a concept album. 

Were Kiss going prog?

Sort of, but not necessarily in good ways. This is the stuff that Spinal Tap was based on. 

From the opening Fanfare with its cheesy medieval tone we move to what can only be described as a pomp rock song Just a Boy which is admittedly alright. 

Odyssey returns us to the land of cheese with a song that wouldn’t be out of place on Rocky Horror, but sadly this isn’t meant to be a joke.

Only You starts with a riff and then the bass kicks in. it’s not bad but I can understand why Kiss fans were confused, this sounds more like a Blue Oyster Cult album track.

Under the Rose again sounds nothing like Kiss. Some nice guitar work.

Dark Light – Ace Frehley on vocals gives this a slightly Lou Reed sort of vibe.

A World Without Heroes – a Gene Simmons power ballad. Again more like BOC than Kiss.

The Oath starts with a chunky riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Scorpions or Heart album but the vocal melody and Paul Stanley’s falsetto singing in particular doesn’t do anything for me. 

Mr Blackwell has an ominous low register opening but squanders its mood on a sleazy groove number that doesn’t hit the mark.

Escape from the Island is an instrumental track that focuses heavily on Frehley’s guitar work, with some decent tub thumping tribal rhythm from Eric Carr. 

I sounds more like a Kiss song than any other on the album, and yes its pretty poor, ending with a whimper and a cheesy 80s voice over.

Full credit to the band for trying something completely different, its certainly not as bad as I had expected and Ace Frehley in particular lays down some decent music. 

That said, while there are a few half decent tracks there’s nothing I’m tempted to add to my ‘bit of everything’ playlist and it’s not likely I’d listen to the album again by choice.

Roland Bearne: Well, gave it a spin this morning for the first time in a good 20 years and I thought it was terrific! Not a duffer in my book but I can see how it might have caused a bit of head scratching back in the day. Is it a full Kiss album, a soundtrack? If it's a soundtrack where's the film? Is it some sort of attempt at Prog? (Well they tried disco!), but I came to it with no preconceptions and really liked it. I'm pleasantly surprised to find that I still do , not sure about Mr Blackwell though! A good 6 or 7 from me.

Eric Walker: It’s a very un-Kiss-like album with the concept and all, but some good tunes. Ace’s Dark Light is the standout track, with quite possibly the best solo he’s ever pulled off.

Carl Lewington: Love, love love this album!! I think the thing that upset people most is that it's not a 'Kiss' album. They set out do make a 'grown up' album, with no teen anthems and innuendo, which is why a lot of Kiss fans hated it. Take it away from the rest of their back catalogue and I believe that it stands alone and has stood the test of time more than most of their 'classic' albums.

Scott Kevyn Frank: As a new teenager of 13, I didn't quite "get it " when it came out. I snagged the vinyl and added it to all my other Kiss albums. Several listens later via vinyl, cassette tape, and four CD versions (1st run, mid 90s remasters, Japan remaster, and a Russian version), I enjoyed it more with each listen. As mentioned in several of your posts, the press shredded it, the band shoved it in the corner, along with many, many fans. I'm not a die-hard Kiss fan, but I do own their catalog and enjoy each release. Some more than others, but enjoyed none the less

Wade Babineau: Ahh… The Elder. In 1981 I was 12 years old and firmly entrenched as a Kiss fan since the Love Gun album and they were my first band that I picked on my own. Unlike some fans I was not turned off by the Dynasty and Unmasked albums. In those years my pre-teen mind thought they could do no wrong. I discovered during the junior high school years that other music fans did not share my enthusiasm towards the pop direction the group was headed. I shifted loyalties to expanding my interest to other groups and began a life-long music affair with rock music. 

Overall it’s not the worst album out there. There are redeeming moments and perhaps if some of Ezrin’s production was stripped back and more focus on the plot it could have been a decent themed record, but it’s a bit over the map and suffers a bit from Gene’s grandiose plans for a movie to be made.

The other week I started with Dynasty and went though the all the albums up to Hot In The Shade to give that time period another go. Nine albums that could have been condensed to 4-5 really awesome records.

Eric Mehta: It rates a ten for me, however at the time I had the 'what the hell is this?' reaction as most rock fans did. I can't fault a band for trying, and in retrospect I believe that much of the scorn heaped on this album is due to its commercial failure. Of course, the re-ordering of tracks to emphasise the singles when first released messed up the narrative, and I would love to hear the spoken word passages recorded by Christopher Makepeace but not used. It's a bit of a convoluted mess, and could have benefited from more Ace Frehley guitar work, but I'll admit to listening to this on a regular basis. I've certainly heard worse things. A tour for this record would have been interesting.

Iain Macaulay: OK, just to get it out there, I’m not what you would call a big Kiss fan. I do however have a lot of friends who are very big Kiss fans and have played me their albums over the years. That aside, I own Animalize, Lick it up, Dynasty and double platinum. All from when I was getting into rock music in the early 80s and listening to everything that was recommended to me. Yes, the face paint and image were an over riding factor to my early teen ideals in appreciating the band but lets say that in the end, the music never quite managed to match up to how I interpreted the darkness of the image. 

Although I’d heard of this album I’d never listened to It because I was always told, by Kiss fans, it was rubbish. So I knew this was going to be an interesting listen. So, bring it on I said, sitting down with a big JD. 

Long story short, the three main take aways for me from the experience were - firstly, this is not the Kiss I know or recognise, which in itself is not a bad thing, what band wants to retread the same album throughout their career? It’s a lot darker than their usual upbeat party veneer and closer to how dark I always though they looked. Secondly, and this was quite a glaring hole to me, most of the songs sound half finished and quite.. limited in composition, with some awful lyrics. Odyssey, especially grates on me lyrically. 

And third, a plus point, side two is actually not that bad, in places. The Oath, Mr Blackwell and I, have some semblance of the band I recognise, along with Dark Light. But, unfortunately none of that is enough to redeem what to me is essentially not a very good album. Regardless of it being Kiss. Still, and another plus point, depending on your point of view, it did make me go through Spotify and listen to selected cuts from their back catalogue which I can’t deny brought a wry smile to my face, a few old memories and a wee toast to their undeniable business acumen and charm.

Mark Burd: Wow. Talk about an album with a bad reputation! I’ve always heard Music from “The Elder” is bad, so I’ve never given it a listen until now. I’m not a huge fan of Kiss, so I’ve never really even considered it. But now that I have, I can say it is not as bad as its reputation. It sure ain’t fantastic, but it has its moments. To me, Music from “The Elder” sounds like any other Kiss album, but with less (or no) party in the songs, which may be its biggest pitfall. Here are what seem to be the three major problems with this album:

1 - It’s not what Kiss fans expected. Hell hath no fury like a music fan scorned. This isn’t the first or last time that a band shifted gears and the fans didn’t climb aboard. Change can be good and bands need to evolve, but it’s a hard ask for fans of a party-pop rock band to suddenly accept a fantasy-themed progressive concept album. It’s not the Kiss fans wanted and they rejected it. And here we are today.

2 - It’s kind of nerdy. It’s not to say that rock doesn’t have its place for nerdy music - Rush and Weezer are prime examples. But Kiss wasn’t exactly that band. Now 1981 was the time when Dungeons & Dragons was becoming a craze, so there were certainly fantasy fans in the rock world. But even for that subculture, is this the soundtrack they needed? 

3 - The songs are a bit lacklustre. I wouldn’t say they’re unlistenable, but they lack the oomph that makes you want to crank up your system and blast them. They sound like Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons songs, but they don’t make you want to get up and dance or rock out. This is likely the intention based on the subject matter, but once again, this doesn’t really seem to satisfy what should make a Kiss album. 

I don’t want to sound like this album has no redeeming qualities. Despite their geekiness, some tracks like I and Under the Rose have some really great licks in them. The best moments of the album are Ace Frehley’s contributions with the slamming Dark Light and rock-out instrumental Escape From The Island, which is especially discerning when you hear the stories about how Stanley and Simmons out-voted Frehley on most album-based decisions. Imagine what The Elder could have been if Ace’s vision had been a bit more accepted!

Music from “The Elder” isn't as much a musical flop as it was a poor business decision. For a band like Kiss, image matters a lot. Expecting a sudden shift in fans’ tastes was perhaps a bit too ambitious. Quite frankly, this entire album was too ambitious. But listening to it out of context and not as a part of the Kiss canon, it isn’t terrible. 

You get a shoddy story, dramatic elements, decent guitar and drum work, and a unique experience found in few other albums. In some cases (i.e. Mr. Blackwell) there are moments where Kiss are way ahead of their time with sounds and styles that didn’t get embraced until years later with the emergence of grunge and 90’s alt-rock. Long story short - the album is not a total disaster! It just sounds like more Kiss music, which like usual, is okay at best with moments of excellence sprinkled in sparingly. 

Mike Knoop: I like Kiss a lot. I think, with the original lineup, Gene Simmons generally accomplished his goal of creating the Beatles of hard rock. If Destroyer was their Revolver, maybe Music From "The Elder" could’ve been their Sgt. Pepper’s… Instead, it was their Mr. Roboto and nearly destroyed the band - and the brand.

As a whole, it’s not good, but it’s got some good – even great – songs on it, if you can make it past the flutes and strings and Paul Stanley’s choirboy vocals. I listened to the 1997 remastered version so, in theory, the story makes more sense... in theory. 

Who is Mr. Blackwell? Why should he go to hell? I wish I knew, because the massively downtuned bass and creepy vocal delivery by Simmons make it my favourite song. Dark Light by Ace Frehley is another bright spot and again shows that one of the charms of classic Kiss was four vocalists with distinct voices – kinda like the Beatles. Escape From The Island is a rip-snorting instrumental and I coulda shoulda woulda been a classic Kiss anthem – if it were on a different album.

You can’t blame a band for trying something different, especially when the current thing ain’t working. Even when Kiss “returned to form” with later albums, they never fully recaptured the magic of ’76 and earlier.

Shane Hall: A few of my high school friends were among that "small minority of diehard Kiss fanatics" who absolutely loved this album -- for reasons I did not fathom then and still don't.

Apparently, Music From "The Elder" was supposed to be Kiss's attempt at a concept album. The result was a dull mix of mediocre prog-rock that bears little resemblance to the quartet that gave us such iconic albums as Destroyer and Love Gun. Sorry, guys - if I want prog, I'll go for the real thing, like Nektar.

That's not to say that Elder doesn't have its moments. The closing track, I, sounds right at home beside Kiss at its anthemic best. I even kind of liked Just A Boy. But these do not come close to offsetting tracks like Mr. Blackwell and World Without Heroes, which I just found unbearable.

Kiss has done some fantastic albums over the years. Elder, however, is not one of them.

Scott Wiemann: Staying away due to the negative press, I have never listened to this album. After giving it a few listens this week, I know now that this was a mistake. The bad reception this album received was unfortunate. The typical Kiss "edge" is hard to find in The Elder, but it's there, just a little softer at times. There is a lot to like here and I will come back often. Under The Rose was my favourite track on the album, which was greatly done by Gene - as was A World WIthout Heroes. I also really liked I and The Oath, both providing that classic Kiss sound! Thanks for stepping out of the box Kiss. More bands should do the same.

Jim Kanavy: I became a Kiss fan in the 80s and even by mid 80s like 86/87 this was fairly hard to find. I heard nothing good about it which piqued my interest even more. When I finally found it I liked it. It wasn't great but I didn't see why there was so much hate for it. Dynasty and Unmasked were pop rock schlock and no one seemed to have an irrational hatred of those two. 

Ace's presence is missed on Music From The Elder, and the concept is a bit hokey and ham-fisted but so are many concept albums. They should have let Ace rock it out a bit and encouraged his participation. Overall I'd give it a C-. They get points for stepping out of their comfort zone and some of the songs are pretty good. I recall wondering if there was a movie called The Elder since this was Music From "The Elder". I think I liked it more when I thought it was a movie soundtrack. Then I realised it was just another album and I was like awwww, dammit. Lol. At least it's not Crazy Nights or Hot In The Shade.

Hugh Lynch: I am reminded of the concept albums of Alan Parsons and Mike Batt (no, really!) that were coming out around this time. Vocally much superior to my expectations. Ezrin was the right man to produce. I recently bought Styx's Paradise Theatre which, I understand, sold shedloads: this album is easily on a par with it. However, Styx were delivering what fans expected: I gather Kiss were not...

James Praesto: If you just listen to this album without context, as I am sure most people not familiar with Kiss will do (and understandably so), you will probably scratch your head and wonder what the fuck they were snorting when they recorded this. It has choirs, symphony orchestras, falsettos and odd arrangements, paired with nonsense lyrics about boys, councils, the "Order of the Rose” and all sorts of ominous imagery. Even the cover mysteriously references Music From…, as if you missed some “straight to VHS”-movie in the vein of Dark Crystal or Krull that this was the faithful soundtrack companion to. 

Well, The Elder was the band’s ambitious foray into art rock, wishing to create something that would finally give them their Sgt Pepper moment with the critics (because the critics were… mean). They enlisted Bob Ezrin, who had masterminded the sound of Destroyer, and who had just finished recording Pink Floyd’s The Wall to sprinkle his magic on the songs. Kiss wanted to create a big heavy dark counterpoint to the soft-glow commercial failures of Dynasty and Unmasked. If Andrew Lloyd Webber could make millions, on cats singing show tunes, and The Who could puzzle together two rock operas… why not Kiss? Why not indeed?

Fanfare opens up the album with a melodic little welcome intro, setting the stage for what is to come. Unfortunately, I always wait for King Arthur and his Monty Python coconut-brigade, questing for the Holy Grail, when I hear this. Gregorian chanting monks (why not?) drone on until the first real song, Just a Boy, kicks in. Paul Stanley gets to be the diva on centre stage as he hits the falsettos in the chorus. You know how people sometimes ask, “What point in history would you go back to, if you could visit any event?” I would travel back to the exact moment Kiss played this song to the label guys at Casablanca. A Kodak moment, kids, if there ever was one.

Anyway, The Odyssey bravely follows unto the breach of the unbelievers, with dramatic hammered pianos, sweeping strings and a very important Paul Stanley once again as the Chief of Theatrical Operations. He delivers the lyrics with such conviction and poise, that you for a moment forget you are beyond confused about the story itself. 

On a mountain high, somewhere / Where only heroes dare / Stand the stallion and the mare

Ok then…

The opening riff in the Gene Simmons number Only You is mildly hypnotic and supports the spacey vocals really well. You have to give credit to Eric Carr here for playing the drums very close to how Peter Criss would have played the song, if Criss could play drums properly to begin with. Same style and fills, but obviously with the correct swagger and drive. Musical themes from Just a Boy are revisited to lend some credence to the idea of this album being a cohesive piece of rock operatics. 

Only You seamlessly bleeds into Under the Rose with such ease that they could almost be the same song. Almost. There is a huge chorus here, with mighty men belting out assertive statements about oaths and sacrifice. It seems vital to the story-line, but I forgot my 80’s Rock Opera Decoder Ring in my other Kiss lunch box, so we will unfortunately be none the wiser. Dark Light is Ace Frehley at his very best – perfect vocals for this song, with a great riff, that could have been the best track on his solo album a couple of years earlier. I am willing to bet it was left out of those sessions and just re-purposed with Dungeons and Dragons lyrics for this record. It is a crime that they never played this song live.

The journey we are undertaking here now takes on a more serious note, with the somber A World Without a Heroes. After all, what is a bell that never rings? A sad and useless thing… Gene dons the big number regalia-dress and stands alone on centre stage; a single spotlight creating a haunting visual. As a matter of fact, this song is so special we also get to hear one of Paul Stanley’s few guitar solos. Gene sings the last line of the song, and the music fades with the light. Exit to the left. (Trips on hem of dress - mumbles a curse.) Fortunately, The Oath comes to the rescue, with Paul on one of those horses from Odyssey, galloping fearlessly into battle, wooden sword in hand... or laser rifle... Where are we again? 

It wouldn’t be a Kiss album (or whatever this is), if we didn’t get one of Gene’s Hey-Hey-Fat-Albert songs. It’s tradition. Mr. Blackwell is right as rain in that regard. Some albums are “lucky” and get two of them (not looking at you, Love Gun... much). Either way, apparently something happens (maybe due to the acts of Mr. Blackwell, but who knows?) and we get to Escape From The Island. A powerful-ish instrumental with an intense and purposeful beat.

Last song, I, starts as if Abba wrote a rock song. I keep expecting the opening “My, my…” from Waterloo to come at me. As it turns out, the swan song of this record is a pretty decent collaboration between Gene and Paul trading vocals, and the inevitable Broadway chorus will send the dancers in, all decked out in Kiss make up, and with mini-Space Aces flying on strings across the back drop of an… island? I don’t even know where this fucking story takes place. Anyway, the spectacle is over.

Having said all that, I could just have written:

“Dear, The Elder… You crazy bastard... I fucking love you”

Because I do. 

Sue me.

Brian Carr: Music from The Elder might be the hardest CRAotW yet for me to review (except for Radiohead, of course). Kiss was almost certainly the first band I ever loved. The first eight albums are part of my musical DNA. And when they started drifting musically, my good old uncle gave me all of his Kiss albums. I still have them. I bought Unmasked myself, but missed most of that 3-4 year post Alive II window until I bought Lick It Up on cassette. I never went back and checked this one out, other than hearing/seeing the videos for A World Without Heroes and possibly I

Man, this is definitely not my uncle’s Kiss. Or mine, I suppose. Ace sounds like Ace on Dark Light. I is an anthem on par with many anthems written by them, but I would have preferred a guitar solo to the breakdown - are those handclaps, or what? The Oath sounds like one of those killer heavy tunes they’d churn out on Creatures, but then the chorus (is that a chorus?) hits with that damned Paul Stanley falsetto. Honestly, Paul is one of my favourite rock and roll voices, but that falsetto on this and Just a Boy is awful. 

As others have said, it doesn’t sound like a Kiss album. Well, much of it doesn’t. So can I step outside my perception of a Kiss album and listen to it like a new band? I tried to do that. It may have helped slightly. The bottom line is I can’t see how Paul and Gene ever thought this was a good idea. Then I remember them meeting the Phantom Of The Park and I guess it isn’t much of a surprise (though my six year old self thought that movie was the greatest thing ever).

Final Score: 5.31 ⁄10 (235 votes cast, with a total score of 1250)

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