Casablanca Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


In my early adolescence, my musical tastes were just emerging and I was discovering a world of more complex and challenging music outside what I heard on the local AM radio stations.

The Beatles amazed me with their diversity and creativity. I was strongly drawn to The Who for their power and attitude. Those chords! Those huge Townshend power chords sent shivers up my spine. I had seen Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper on TV and was fascinated me with the dark imagery and the power and energy of the music and performance. At the time I was consumed with science fiction and fantasy literature and movies of the same genre; and rock & roll of course.

All these things coalesced into a fertile ground for my future love of heavy metal and progressive rock.

When I first discovered KISS, it was instant obsession. I discovered them through an article in the newspaper. The makeup and costumes fascinated me, like Alice Cooper but taken to a higher level. The descriptions of breathing fire, exploding guitars, spitting blood, etc. captivated me completely, and I had never heard a lick of their music. I cut out the picture of these four guys decked out in leather surrounded by smoke and fire and taped it over my bed next to my Lon Chaney movie posters and baseball cards.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Not long after my 12th birthday, I cajoled my mom to drive me down to the Record factory in Hayward and bought KISS.

I don’t recall what my first impression was at 12, but I played this over and over until I was ordered to give it a rest. The band wasn’t quite as heavy as it would become by the time Destroyer rolled out a few years later, but they had just enough edge to make our parents nervous even without the makeup. Today I still get a kick out of this album’s unique blend of hard rock, glammy-pop and barroom boogie. They were definitely a hard rock band, but with a good sense of melody keeping them in check.

The opening track “Strutter” is a prime example of their great mix of big riffs and catchy melody, and sing-along chorus.  Throughout the album, KISS displays a broad range of styles, from the revved-up Beatle-pop of “Let me Know” to the bluesy grit of “Firehouse.” On the heavier side, both “Deuce” and “Cold Gin” are big, powerful numbers custom made for the arenas they would conquer in a few years.

The production is not slick or overly polished; it has just the right amount of grit for a debut album by a band trying to make its mark. One thing that struck me as I gave it a closer inspection is how it showcases the talent of guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, two outstanding musicians who never got the props they deserved outside the KISS diehards. There’s a reason the band floundered after they left and you can hear why. Frehley tears it up all over this disc, partly thanks to rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley, who always lays down a solid foundation, allowing Frehley the room to shred his heart out. These guys were a tight unit and the replacement musicians never sounded as good.

There are a couple of misses among the hits, mainly a throwaway instrumental and the old 50’s chestnut “Kissin’ Time” which falls flat despite the hard rock polish they try and give it.

Like consummate entertainers, KISS leaves you wanting more by saving the best for last. The rumbling “100,000 Years” is pure hard rock heaven, and the classic closer “Black Diamond” is a template for the next decade of hard rock bands. “Black Diamond” would be mimicked relentlessly by every hard rock band of the 70s.

Almost 35 years later I still listen to this disc often. I haven’t heard every KISS record, but I have heard all the ones that matter, and this is hands down their best studio release and it holds an honored place in my collection.

Rating: A

User Rating: B


And you're the same guy that gave Asia's debut a "D"? Gimme a break.
Your comparing apples and rotten oranges.

This was Kiss'recording debut. These guys were young, and had never been in a studio together and they cranked out a pretty decent album that is loved by millions.

Asia featured seasoned, road-tested multi-platinum musicians who had achieved amazing success with their respective bands. And, they totally eschewed their core competency, progressive rock in favor of arena-ready schlock.

Sorry to disappoint you, like they disappointed me. Kiss in it's infancy was a better band than Asia will ever be.

© 2007 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Casablanca Records, and is used for informational purposes only.