KISS – Rock And Roll Over (1976)
Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re taking a look at a band that has split rock and rolls fans for decades, KISS. Originally comprised of Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, and Gene Simmons, the band is well-known for their elaborate stage shows involving pyrotechnics, complex lighting schemes, blood-spitting, fire breathing, smoking guitars, and rockets, just to name a few. Rock and roll fans are often torn between loving and hating KISS. Detractors criticize their lyrics as uninspired by anything other than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” their shows as tacky and unnecessary, and call them commercial sellouts for the wide range of products that the band has licensed; to include everything from comic book and action figures to KISS caskets (stylized KISS Kasket). Fans praise the unabashed, unapologetic take on rock and roll, dedication to showmanship and the fanbase. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, KISS has been around for over 40 years and they have made an indelible mark on rock and roll with hits like “Detroit Rock City,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” and “Lick It Up.”
Rock and Roll Over is the band’s fifth studio album, released only eight months after their commercial breakthrough Destroyer. The production quality on Destroyer was high, and for Rock and Roll Over, the band decided to strip back the production. The result was an album that sounds starkly different from their previous release. I encourage you to listen to snippets of songs from the original release of Destroyer and compare them to the tracks on this album. You’ll be able to hear the change in production. Personally, I like the stripped back sound that the band got on this album. Rock and Roll Over had two singles that really shone through, “Calling Dr. Love” and “Hard Luck Woman,” and this album continued the band’s commercial success in the 1970s through to their next two albums, Love Gun and Dynasty. You wanted the best? You GOT the best! Enjoy Rock And Roll Over!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
I Want You: Holy crap! This is how you start an album! I’d like to say that I’m fairly familiar with KISS’ recording history, but I had never listened to “I Want You” before this album review, and I should have. This might be my new favorite KISS song because it summarizes everything the band was built on. It’s explosively loud, technically interesting (which many power rock songs aren’t, so that’s an accomplishment on its own), musically complex (check out that transition from the acoustic guitar to the electric), and is some of the best that the 1970s offered in rock music, all on the first song on the album. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Take Me: So any song that had to follow up “I Want You” was going to look weaker in comparison, and “Take Me” definitely suffers from that. This isn’t a bad track, but it was never going to be a big hit for the group and is ‘album filler’ if you will. It’s a cookie cutter rock KISS track where nothing stands out in particular. I won’t remember this one in a week. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Calling Dr. Love: Is there a doctor in the house? “Calling Dr. Love” went on to be one of the band’s biggest hits and was the only song that received consistent radio airplay from this album besides “Hard Luck Woman.” Musically, this is a fantastic song and one of my favorite KISS songs to boot. I love how heavy and forward the lead guitar is with those big riffs, and the song feels so gritty with Simmons’ vocals. There’s an awesome guitar solo that bridges the song between the relatively softer start before moving into a bombastic final chorus. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Ladies Room: “Ladies Room” isn’t a particularly fantastic song. It’s both underwhelming as a rock track and musically un-interesting. If I’m looking for something good to say about it, Simmons’ bass work that twangs through to the front is different from the rest of the album up to this point and gives you something different to listen to than freewheeling guitars. Dad’s Rating 3/10
Baby Driver: There seems to be a pattern on this album where we’re alternating between better songs and weaker songs. “Baby Driver” is nowhere near the quality of “Calling Dr. Love” or “I Want You,” but it’s 100% better than “Ladies Room.” There’s more sense of musicality on this track, particularly from Frehley on guitar with the wailing call and response during the chorus. The guitar almost acts like another vocalist in the way that it adds depth to the singers, and that’s something you don’t hear a lot of. This is a solid track. It’s not my favorite KISS track, but it’s good! Dad’s Rating 6/10
Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em: It’s a return to cookie cutter rock tracks with “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em.” This song drones through the verses, and not in a pleasant way. Simmons’ rough vocals with that steady drum beat just didn’t work well here. The guitar solo on this song saves it from being rated the same as “Ladies Room” because it shows that there was an attempt at musicality on this track and not a need for album filler. Dad’s Rating 4/10
Mr. Speed: Thank goodness we got Stanley back on lead vocals on this track. He’s my favorite vocalist for the band, and I think they worked best when the other members had a supporting role. Stanley had a better range than the others, and his higher voice sounds better when you have deeper backing vocals. Lyrically, “Mr. Speed” is about as deep as any other KISS track, but it’s performed well! The riff is fun to listen to and there’s really good band cohesion here. Dad’s Rating 7/10
See You In Your Dreams: “See You In Your Dreams” was one of the songs that got more attention on this album. The big two were “Calling Dr. Love” and “Hard Luck Woman,” but if there were a third it would have been this. This is some of Simmons’ better vocal work. I tend to dislike many of the songs where he had lead vocals (“Calling Dr. Love” excluded), but this is a fun song. It’s not complex, but it’s a good rocker! I love the shredding solo and everything feels very balanced throughout. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Hard Luck Woman: “Hard Luck Woman” was supposed to be a repeat on the success of “Beth,” and while it never reached that level of success, it’s still a great ballad. This was still a Top 20 hit for the band and was a contributing factor in heir continued success after Destroyer. What’s interesting is that, for a ballad, it’s a fairly fast tempo. Most power ballads are going to be much slower (think “Beth”), and I’m glad they didn’t slow this one down like that. Slowing “Hard Luck Woman” down would have created a painfully droning song. This is a great track. Criss did an amazing job on the vocals, and he was arguably as a good as he was on “Beth.” The softer acoustic sound is a nice reprieve from the explosive sound found on much of the album. The softer sound gives listeners a chance to really explore the talent of the band and see it in the forefront too. This is a good one. Definitely don’t skip it! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Makin’ Love: We had a soft, touching moment on “Hard Luck Woman,” but if you thought that would last for long, your luck has run out. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll right? KISS was good at making songs about two of those things, and it’s on full display here. To be fair, there is a level of musicality on this song that keeps it interesting. Frehley’s guitar work was top-notch on this track, and Criss’ drum work is really different here. I’ve never heard anything like the little rolls he does on each hit before and that’s pretty neat. It’s not the strongest finish to an album I’ve ever seen, but the little things each musician did were enough to push it above average. Dad’s Rating 6/10
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