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Kiss - 1977 Love Gun

ALBUM: Love Gun
LABEL: Casablanca
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: Casablanca/PolyGram 8824 151-2 M-1, Mercury 314 532 381-2


LINEUP: Paul Stanley - guitar, vocals * Ace Frehley - guitar, vocals * Gene Simmons - bass, vocals * Peter Criss - drums, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 I Stole Your Love * 02 Christine Sixteen * 03 Got Love For Sale * 04 Shock Me * 05 Tomorrow And Tonight *06 Love Gun * 07 Hooligan * 08 Almost Human *09 Plaster Caster * 10 Then She Kissed Me


Coming close on the heels of the 'Rock And Roll Over' album and the group's first tour of Japan a month before recording commenced, 'Love Gun' found Kiss working with Eddie Kramer again. The reason for this was seemingly as a way to keep Ace Frehley and Peter Criss interested in continuing with the band. By all accounts Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley would have much preferred to work with a producer of the calibre of Bob Ezrin again. Since releasing their debut album in 1974, Kiss had actually maintained a pretty intensive schedule of recording and releasing two albums a year, combined with constant touring. Initially this was, of course, in order to establish themselves and achieve their ambitions of becoming one of the leading hard rock bands in the world. However, from the management and label perspective, it was a plan clearly designed to maintain a constant cash flow and ensure that record stores felt the need to keep the back catalogue in stock so that there were no returns. Up until 'Love Gun' Kiss had been consistently improving in the quality of their material. The previous two studio albums the awesome 'Destroyer' and vibrant 'Rock And Roll Over' had certainly provided proof of this. However, 'Love Gun' was clearly an album too far in terms of the songs the band had in their back pockets at that time.

The Songs
There are some very good songs on 'Love Gun', but there are also some rather poor tracks as well. On the whole, the production rather let the material down. There just wasn't the same consistent approach about the material that there had been on the more sonically impressive 'Rock And Roll Over' that Kramer had also produced.

Opener 'I Stole Your Love' is actually one of the greatest Kiss songs ever written, although the original version here is ruined by the lousy production with really tinny guitars and an even weaker drum sound than Kramer had achieved on Angel's 'On Earth As It Is In Heaven' that he'd recently completed. The live version is far superior and was, in fact, the opening song on the 'Love Gun' tour rather than the album's equally superb title track. By far the stand out track on the album, there appears to have been more effort put into the delivery of 'Love Gun' (possibly due to Stanley's sterling efforts on pre-production demos more than anything) and it is the most memorable opus from the record, becoming a staple of the Kiss live set ever since.

Almost matching the title track for impact is the Frehley penned 'Shock Me', which finds Ace singing lead for the first time on a Kiss record. Inspired by the scary incident in Lakeland, Florida on the 'Rock And Roll Over' tour in which the guitarist had been electrocuted on stage, 'Shock Me' gave Frehley the confidence to pen further material with his singing voice in mind and set him up nicely for his solo album released in September 1978. The decision to continue working with Eddie Kramer certainly did benefit Frehley's development and the pair would continue to work together on Frehley's solo album and beyond.

Peter Criss seemed pretty happy with Kramer too, and particularly his token contribution to the record in 'Hooligan' (co-writer Stan Penridge less so, especially as the other submission, 'Love Bite', was rejected). Although it's not one of the more memorable songs on the record, it did make the live set for the 'Love Gun' tour and was considered for inclusion on 'Alive II' before being dropped at the final hurdle.

While 'Tomorrow And Tonight' is the weakest of Paul Stanley's offerings - fairly throwaway and uninspired, yet with at least a memorable chorus and never played live despite appearing as one of the live tracks on the ensuing 'Alive II' - surprisingly it's the material penned by Gene Simmons that is the poorest on offer, the subject matter never deviating far from the crotch area. The lascivious 'Christine Sixteen' was less questionable in 1977 with its subject matter as it would be now and became a key part of the live set, but the almost continuous use of piano in the mix is rather irritating.

And although 'Got Love For Sale' is pretty forgettable, it does have the kind of bombastic approach to the production that 'I Stole Your Love' should've benefited from with some terrific leads and comes across as more of a leftover from the 'Rock And Roll Over' sessions.

Elsewhere, 'Plaster Caster' was inspired by the Chicago based groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster, a woman legendary in groupie circles for immortalizing rock stars appendages in plaster cast. Cynthia has gone on record to say that she was not impressed at all with the song at first, feeling that Gene was either giving the impression that he had been, uh, cast or else that he needed to be, er, done.

But the worst of the lot was 'Almost Human', which visits musical areas akin to 'Love Theme From Kiss' in its initial rhythmic sway and is very, very throwaway.

The interesting thing about the Simmons material is that the original demos of 'Got Love For Sale' and 'Christine Sixteen' (along with a formative version of 'Tunnel Of Love' that would eventually be cut for Gene's solo album) were recorded with Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Unfortunately, despite Gene's efforts to gain their permission to release them on the Kiss box set in recent years, none was forthcoming from the brothers. Miserable bastards.

Still, the crowning 'What Were Kiss Thinking?' award has to go to the closing cover of 'Then She Kissed Me'. This is a terrible choice and, if you'll pardon the pun, just pays lip service to the original 'Then He Kissed Me'. For some reason Stanley was insistent that the band should record a cover and this won over 'Jailhouse Rock' and The Moody Blues' 'Go Now'. Jeezus..

In Summary
The packaging was certainly beautiful. 'Love Gun' came dressed in a Dennis Woloch designed sleeve with some fantastic artwork from Ken Kelly, the artist responsible for the equally eye-catching 'Destroyer' cover. There was also an amusing cardboard 'Love Gun' toy to play with as well, a gift that Simmons claims was inspired by the premiums given away in cereal boxes before the crazy health and safety laws pretty much put an end to such frivolity in more recent times. Kiss would head straight out on tour in North America and record their second double live package, 'Alive II', supposedly over three nights at the L.A. Forum, although not all of the material that wound up on the three live sides of the package would actually be sourced from those shows. Incidentally, on the same day 'Love Gun' was released (June 30th 1977) Marvel Comics shipped the first official Kiss comic book. Rock band merchandising would never be the same again..

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#1 | george_the_jack on July 20 2009 21:38:48
This is a release way ahead of its time.Enough said...
#2 | sabace on July 21 2009 15:42:04
any lp with the tracks love gun, i stole your love, shock me and christine sixteen has got to be pretty good! the production could be a lot better eddie kramer claims to have provided the production for the alive lp in the studio althought in fairness his story changes everytime he is asked! .
#3 | Eric on July 21 2009 21:11:48
Kissmania was at it's peak with "Love Gun' and there was no getting away from it- like 'em or not. Agree on 'Christine Sixteen' too- Sweet did a similar piano thingy on 'Love Is Like Oxygen'.

You are also correct with your analysis on "Love Gun' overall- a lot of mediocre material here and a far cry from the bubblegum metal of 'Dressed To Kill'....
#4 | dangerzone on September 06 2012 02:57:19
I've been listening to this a lot and it's simply classic. The only letdown is 'Then She Kissed Me' of course, but the rest is potent hard rock, nothing to fault at all.
#5 | jefflynnefan on September 11 2012 02:51:40
Hey Dangerzone, that song is a lot better by Rachel Sweet! And the video is pretty cool too but not as hot as the "Voo Doo" vid! Rachel is a writer/producer of the show "Hot In Cleveland" now. Yes

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