November 27, 1978 12:00 PM

Peter Criss

Gene Simmons

Ace Frehley

Paul Stanley

Kiss’s merchandising blizzard now includes school notebooks, transistor radios, comics, trading cards, arm patches, iron-on logos and notices of induction into the Kiss Army fan club. It does not include zit cream, manuals on pacifying parents or distinctive albums. This crop of mostly ill-advised solo efforts proves, in fact, that the artistic whole of the group is far greater than the sum of its parts—which isn’t saying much for the parts. All the Kiss trademarks are abundant throughout the four albums: the atonal, adenoidal whine of the vocals, inane lyrics and hackneyed musicianship. There is even some pop-oriented material on the Stanley and Criss LPs that adds new dimension to the group’s shallowness. And for Gene Simmons, not even guests like Helen Reddy, Bob Seger, Donna Summer, Janis Ian, guitarists Jeff Baxter (Doobie Brothers) and Joe Perry (Aerosmith) and his own Cher can save his entry. The only real talent unmasked is that of guitarist Frehley. He, at least, seems driven to explore new territory, producing a wide range of textures and rhythms with acoustic, electric and synthesized guitars. He seems to work, too, at scrambling his speedy, if clichéd, solos—derived it seems, from such heavy metal masters as Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin—into a fresh-sounding form. On numbers like Snow Blind and Ozone he succeeds where his colleagues fail. He offers some certifiably potent and distinct rock’n’roll entertainment, without resort to silly hype.

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