Wednesday, April 8, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt.I) - Peter Criss "Out of Control"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. I)
Peter Criss
Out of Control
(Casablanca Records)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
__________________________

The last time I wrote a review of Peter Criss' work (which BTW, was a generally positive review), I received a personal email from one of his ex-wives, informing me that I write "garbage." OUCH! So with that in mind, as they say, here goes nothin'.

At the risk of having my rock and roll "man card" revoked, I will confess openly that Peter Criss has made two of my all-time favorite records. Out of Control is one of them.

Undeniably the stylistic "square peg" of the original KISS line-up, Peter Criss brought valuable "roots rock" credibility and authenticity to the once "Hottest Band in the Land." The infamous 1978 solo albums served as vivid (and accurate) audio snapshots of each KISS member's individual artistry. And Criss' (much-maligned) old school, R&B-flavored solo album delivered exactly what I (and everyone else should have) expected.

A rock solid rock record!
By the summer of 1980, Criss had departed from the KISS ranks. But while his former band focused on plugging the holes in its now sinking ship, the "Catman" was holed up in an NYC recording studio with famed producer, David Wolfert, putting the finishing touches on his second solo album. And in September, Out of Control had arrived in stores. It tanked, in short order.

Simply put, Out of Control should have at least achieved a respectable level of success. Despite the rather disappointing chart performance of the newly-released Unmasked record, KISS still maintained international prominence and Criss' well-publicized split from the band was garnering considerable media attention — a label, publicist and artist's "wet dream," to be sure.

So what went wrong? The songs, performances and production all were solid really solid. In fact, Out of Control was an even stronger, more cohesive and (slightly) harder-edge record than Criss' '78 debut.

So again, what went wrong? Hmm, well for starters, Out of Control boasted one of the cheesiest-looking album covers of all-time. Heck, even Spinal Tap recognized the potential catastrophic affect of having an album cover that's, "none more black." Other theories have suggested that the record received little-to-no label support from Casablanca as a result of insider "pressure" from Criss' former bandmate(s).

Out of Control also faced another significant issue — that of public perception. Criss' first solo album was viewed by a large faction of the KISS Army as, uh, "light." And in 1980, he needed to distance himself stylistically from his previous release, as well as from KISS' ever-developing cartoon-like, kiddie pop image, and reestablish himself as a rock and roll badass. In other words, a little less "Beth" and a lot more "Baby Driver." But, alas, Out of Control kicked off with the saccharine-sweet ballad, "By Myself." Written by Criss, longtime collaborator Stan Penridge and producer David Wolfert, "By Myself" is an incredible piece of work, however, the album would have been likely better served with a stronger, edgier opening track — for instance the straight-up rocker, "In Trouble Again."

I was so honored to have Peter Criss autograph
my original LP copy of Out of Control that I had
it professionally mounted and framed in glass.
Criss co-wrote nine of the ten tracks included on Out of Control and provided all lead vocals and drum work. Given the era, it was an overall solid rock / pop record one that's packed with highlights galore.

On the rock side, the aforementioned "In Trouble Again" and "There's Nothing Better" are both shiny, guitar-driven gems, while the revved-up remake of the 1966 Rascals hit, You Better Run could very well have been a single, had Pat Benatar not beaten Criss to the punch just a few weeks earlier. The infectious title track falls stylistically some where between the high-octane, Camaro 8-Track vibe of "My Life" and the adult contemporary-sounding "I Found Love" and "Where Will They Run."

Although "Words" earns the distinction of winning the record's "Stinker" award, the super-charged, passion-filled ballad, "Feel Like Letting Go" stands as Criss' all-time greatest musical achievement — bar none.

In sum, BRAVO!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

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Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control

Cheap Trick
The Doctor

REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge

Fleetwood Mac
Time

Nazareth
2XS
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