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Gene, Ace, Peter & Paul: A detailed exploration of the 1978 KISS solo albums Paperback – September 16, 2015
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POSITIVES (in no particular order)
1. It's rare to hear from all the hired guns involved in music production, so this book is a treat. The solo albums are a peculiar part of Kisstory, where they each assembled bands (so to speak) to showcase themselves individually. Lots of people helped make this happen and their views and experiences are not widely known.
2. It's past time to reveal who recorded what on Kiss's albums. I learned plenty about who did what on these and other Kiss albums. Clearly 1978 was a turning point as the band started experimenting not only with the band's sound, but with lineups as well. I understand the band's desire to keep up appearances, but I hate believing band members played parts they didn't play. I had always assumed the members played their own instruments on their solo records, but that's not really the case. Glad to see this get cleared up.
3. Aside from the solo albums, this book includes other Kiss related events of 1978 including: the Double Platinum record, the "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park" movie, the Kiss card set, and other things going on at that time.
4. It's mostly interviews, so it's a very easy read.
NEGATIVES (in no particular order)
1. A book this size should have comments from the band members themselves. Either call them up for a 10 minute chat or include interviews from 1978 or quote other books. Something. Their absence stood out.
2. As much as 100 pages could be trimmed from this book. So many of the interviewees had the same comments about their recording experience. "It was pleasant/low stress." "I did not meet any of the other band members/I have not spoken to them since." "I just played my part in a day and left." "The songs/albums were great." That kind of stuff. I guess Gill was hammering the point that the solo albums were better than people thought at the time.
3. Other trim-worthy content: Too much space given to interview comments that had zero to do with Kiss. Is this book really the best place to hear about a choir director's career? How much do I need to know about a guest musician's other bands? Irrelevant conversation could go on for pages. I ended up skimming to find the Kiss related comments.
4. Little or no discussion of why Kiss decided to do solo records. That's covered elsewhere, but needs discussed here. Was it really just to placate Ace? How did this evolve into a band event? What was the fallout? Are these records really the reason the band split up later? This book includes other kinds of context, but not in terms of band politics.
5. The book is really just a compilation from other sources, mostly from KissFAQ.com. So you'd think they would have at least EDITED the "cut and paste" production. They didn't. It contains egregious typos--the kind where you scan a page on your computer (using OCR) but don't bother to read it to clean up the errors. I'm not talking the "to/too/two" variety; I'm talking the "mis(ake" variety. It is utterly inexcusable. No way anybody read this thing after it was pasted into Quark or Pagemaker or Word.
MY COMMENT ABOUT THE SOLO RECORDS
Despite being a major band event (4 simultaneous records from the hottest band in America), sales were lackluster compared to expectations. Each was "shipped platinum" (meaning over one million) but since shops could return unsold copies that doesn't mean much. Many were bought out of loyalty. When word of mouth got out, sales declined. So who is to blame? I blame Casablanca. This was a very confusing event. Gill's interviews show that the band never intended to release four "Kiss" albums. All but Ace Frehley intended to do a non-Kiss side project. So for the interviewees, the albums deserve more appreciation than they got because they were quality albums for what they were. But the fans had no idea this was NOT a "Kiss" project. The albums were marketed as a "Kiss" event, not four unrelated events. They were scheduled to be recorded and released simultaneously, as one event. They used the "Kiss" logo, making it appear to be official "Kiss" music. They even used the bands make-up faces on the covers in identical (color-coded) designs. How were the fans to NOT expect four "Kiss" albums? Ace fans got everything they wanted. But while Paul fans got some rocking tunes, much of it was too soft for "Kiss." Gene's fans expected more Almost Human but got Disney. And Peter's fans got an entire album of their dad's music. It's no wonder the solo albums struggled to meet expectations. The fans were sold one thing and bought another. They should have been told up front (not just in random interviews that most would never read) that these were intentional departures from Kiss--complete with non-Kiss covers. Maybe then we all wouldn't have felt cheated out of our money.
Personally, I liked the albums at the time. But they still disappointed me. We all expected Gene's to be wall-to-wall God of Thunder. At a time when rock was getting harder, edgier, grittier....Kiss got softer, more sentimental. When you're a teenager, that's darn hard to defend.
So I give this book 3 stars. I took a point away for redundant and irrelevant content, and I took another point away for very sloppy production. It looks like something assembled in Microsoft Word with no effort to fix the images in Photoshop to make them less bland looking. And, of course, the inexcusable lack of even basic editing.
GAP&P is worth reading for both the avid KISS fan, and for people interested in music in general. Especially for those who take an extra interest in how and what are happening in a recording studio. Love it !!!