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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Kiss

Music From The Elder

Review by Gary Hill

When it was recorded in 1981, this album was to have been a masterwork of epic proportions. A concept album with serious prog leanings, early preview copies of the album received poor reviews. In a last ditch effort to save it, tracks were moved around to accentuate certain songs (in the hopes of producing a hit). Ambient sounds between tracks were, in many cases, removed (in others shortened). The end result was an album that, although far better than the average LP, sold poorly.

Now, all these years later, in the effort to remaster the Kiss catalog, the album has been reissued as initially intended. The concept, originally quite muddled due to the shuffling around of songs, is now a well told (although slightly cliched) heroic tale of good versus evil. The competent production gives a CD that sounds great, and the restored ambient bits add character.

The lineup on the album is Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Eric Carr.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fanfare
Exactly what the title says it says it is, this is an opening fanfare. It is quite medieval in tone, dramatic and brief.
Just A Boy
Beautiful picked guitar forms the verses here, which are punctuated by powerful accents at times. The main character has learned that it is his destiny to be the chosen champion, but he says "I`m no hero, though I wish I could be, I`m just a boy".
Odyssey
Odyssey is a wonderful and dramatically progish ballad decorated by strings and piano. The piece seems to represent a growing understanding of a higher destiny in a returning essence. This is a very emotional song, and features an intriguing break that proves that Kiss can convincingly do mellow.
Only You
This is the first track in a metallic direction on the album. The cut is more in the vein of standard Kiss fare, but certainly a very strong outing. The young hero is learning that only he has the answer locked deep inside. The ending has old Rush sort of elements.
Under the Rose
Under the Rose features prog leanings blended with metallic ones. Containing vocals that are operatic at times, the tone on this number is a bit heavy handed. but works well for the material. The lyrics seem to show a coming of age, growing from boy to man/hero. The guitar solo has Rush Caress of Steel tinges.
Dark Light
This cut is trademark Ace Frehley. A straight-ahead rocker, Dark Light includes a guitar solo which is extended and features a Santanaish rhythm section behind it. The lyrics point up the darkness beginning to take hold of our story world.
A World Without Heroes
A World Without Heroes (a pretty and melancholy ballad) points up the darkness of a world without heroes, without dreams. The string section is a bit over the top at times, but the guitar solo runs a solid counterpoint to it.
The Oath
There is a darkness which has descended as the album has gone on. This darkness is represented in the lyrics, but also in the music, fitting the story well. In this piece, another metallic one, "A boy goes in, and suddenly a man returns", our hero takes the oath here to serve. He seems confident. The evil is strong, but he is the one. "There is no turning back from this odyssey cause I feel so alive".
Mr. Blackwell
Very low bass tones appear as we meet the evil one, Mr. Blackwell. This tune is a dark, slightly quirky metal tune that points out all the darkness of the world.
Escape From The Island
An all out, high-energy, instrumental rocker, this number seems to represent the battle between good and evil. As the piece draws to a close, it intensifies and the tone seems to indicate good rising victorious.
I
"You said I didn`t stand a chance, I wouldn`t win, no way, but I`ve got news for you, there`s nothing that I can`t do". I is a triumphant anthem to the belief in oneself. This is a very uplifting track and a wonderful conclusion to a great album.
 
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