REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/08/2008
Dynasty, the first album following the commercial failure of the four simultaneous solo albums from Kiss, has often been derided and ridiculed as being “disco Kiss.” One listen to the single (which was a hit, don’t forget) “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” and you could understand where that opinion and vitriol against the hard rock quartet was coming from.
But an objective listen to the nine tracks on Dynasty reveals much about Kiss as they closed out the ‘70s. For starters, this is not a disco record; in fact, aside from “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” there’s not a lot that could even remotely be classified as disco on this album. But the even more damning criticism -- I know, what could be more damning than saying Kiss went disco? -- is that this album features a band not only in turmoil, but in a major identity crisis.
The ground had been laid with Alive II, namely the studio side that featured Ace Frehley on only one of the five songs. This time around, it’s drummer Peter Criss who doesn’t make the cut, as Anton Fig anonymously handles the kit on all but one track, “Dirty Livin’.” (Members taking on other parts, or the use of session musicians on Kiss songs apparently wasn’t that rare, as it’s pretty well documented online.) But with one part of the group missing, some of the chemistry leaves as well.
Add into this that, musically, it had sounded for some time like Kiss was exhausted. The break to do the solo albums should have been a way for them to re-energize the creative process; if anything, it solidified the differences the four band members had musically. Bassist Gene Simmons ends up contributing only two vocals on Dynasty, on “Charisma” and “X-Ray Eyes,” neither of which are terrible, but they’re also not among the band’s best work.
In fact, that is perhaps the biggest weakness that Kiss has on Dynasty. The overall feel of this album is that it was done by rote, just going through the motions to get new product out for the fans. As a result, you have Kiss doing a cover of The Rolling Stones (“2,000 Man,” which did become a signature track for Frehley) -- and there really is no fucking reason that Kiss should have resorted to cover tracks for a third straight album when you have a band filled with songwriters! (At least this track is better than the limp noodle “Then She Kissed Me” off Love Gun, but that’s really not saying much.)
Kiss also shows the danger signs of becoming an AOR band by relying more on softer-rock numbers like “Sure Know Something” -- and what’s sad is that this is perhaps the best track on the disc. Other tracks also lack the bite that Kiss had in their earlier material; songs like “Magic Touch” and “Save Your Love” all just become so much background music far too quickly. It used to be that a Kiss album was something to be experienced; Dynasty, in comparison, was an album just to have playing while you did your homework.
In a way, you can’t help but feel sorry for Kiss, personal problems aside. After all, they were caught in a very difficult time period for music. On one side, you had the raw aggression of punk, which seemed to be alienated from the hard rock/metal world. On the other side, you had disco. Musically, Kiss stuck out like a sore thumb at this time, so they really can’t be blamed for trying to shift their musical focus towards one of the popular genres. (And, yes, I’m aware that I’ve already declared Dynasty to not be “disco Kiss” in the strictest sense of the term.)
If Kiss was supposed to return from their solo break rejuvenated, then Dynasty shows that the lads needed a longer vacation. Regrettably, at least personnel-wise, this album marked the beginning of the end for the classic line-up, and the ride was about to get much bumpier before any smooth pavement would be in view.