Peter Criss (1978)
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I am both an unapologetic fan of ’70s KISS and an avid reader of Rolling Stone magazine. Neither side has ever really seen eye-to-eye with the other. While I mostly agree with the reviews the magazine publishes, there are, obviously, times when I disagree. Their reviews for KISS’ material in the ’70s is among those times. We are all aware that the proper KISS albums from this time period are balls to the wall Rock and Roll; each one has something to offer, riffs to roll out, and standout tracks to be celebrated. However, due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction from the magazine to the solo albums, I’ve avoided them for years. Among fans, and even according to the magazine, Ace Frehley’s solo album is considered to be the best. It had a hit (“New York Groove”) and thus sold better than the rest. In Rolling Stone’s album guide (published in 2004), the album received **1/2 stars, which is more than any of the other solo LPs (and even higher than some of KISS proper’s albums of the era). While there are some tracks that I enjoy on Ace’s solo effort (particularly the last three tracks on the first side), I considered it a pretty significant step down from KISS’ other works from the time period. “If this was as good as they got,” I thought to myself, “What’s the point of even trying to listen to the others?”
The first KISS album I was ever exposed to was Destroyer. From the first time I heard “Beth,” I knew that Peter Criss was my favorite member of the band. When I went back and listened to everything else from the ’70s, this only intensified. “Hard Luck Woman,” “Nothin’ to Lose,” and “Dirty Livin'” are three of my absolute favorites from the era, and “Black Diamond” has always been and will always be the pinnacle of KISS, in my opinion. I’ve got a thing for scratchy vocals and, to me, Peter was way ahead of everybody else in the band from that standpoint. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and check out Peter Criss’ solo album (which got a measly * in The Rolling Stone Album Guide ). I couldn’t believe it. Not only did it not suck, it blew Ace’s out of the water and was a great album on its own merit that could proudly stand alongside KISS’ great offerings from the era. Peter brought so much soul to the band and he bared it all on this LP only to get shit on by critics and even many fans. But to me, from smooth rockers like “You Matter to Me” and “Hooked on Rock N’ Roll” to delightful soulful stirrings (“Don’t You Let Me Down”) to two of the best ballads to ever appear under the KISS label (“Easy Thing” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”), Peter Criss’ album is the one that stands the test of time more so than any of the others. Sometimes the best records go unnoticed. I guess that’s what makes them gems.
For Christmas this year, I decided to purchase my first record player. I’ve enjoyed going through old, battered collections and pawn shops and have even bought a few new records in mint conditions. I ordered five albums on Amazon that I just needed to have on vinyl. Three of them were under the KISS label. But the first one I purchased was Peter Criss. I couldn’t be prouder