STEVE WALKER | Go Venue Magazine
Released on Casablanca Records with Neil Bogart pushing the production, the 19th March 1975 release moved each member of the band into their long lasting positions. Paul Stanley takes the majority but not all of the vocals leaving space for Gene Simmons darker moments on the album. A later and perfect example of this flip between vocalists that worked well was the drop into ‘Domino‘ from their album ‘Revenge‘ in 1992 that only Simmons could pull off. The light and dark shades of KISS were formed in Dressed To Kill and the format was crafted. It is essential that artists take time to work out the detail of roles and capacities. The range achieved through using the playful characters that KISS created gives way to delivering a track with a particular juxtaposition against the other tracks around it, versatility and breadth is achieved as upon first listen, we are waiting to find out who is leading and we become familiar with the mood and texture of the tracks based upon The Demon (Gene Simmons), The Starchild (Paul Stanley), The Fox (Ace Frehley) and The Catman (Peter Criss). Over the years, KISS have had some very commercially successful releases and this is due to a synergy, a connection, a partnership that when each characters role is harnessed and talents secured, the results are and have been phenomenal.
This album feel has a 1950’s through to 1970’s style with a stunning petticoated undertone, probably in pink, due to the glam rock flavors and in places the stylish of the origins of metal scoring with accented guitar work. As this now, rudimental staple was still experimental at the time, this is managed well and it does not overpower the threads of a three decades worth of styles that set up the eighties for the explosion of hard rock. The album cover showing the band in New York in suits is kind of awkward and again indicates the developing confidence to try new things and enjoy the process. Stepping beyond the obvious whilst retaining self is a trick that KISS have pushed and pulled through the years with increasing success and it was on Dressed To Kill that this model was implemented.
Stand Out Tracks
Room Service opens the album and prominently gives space for Ace Frehley to powerfully solo in the mid-section to upscale the 1950’s feel that the album feel reminiscently nods at throughout.
Anything For My Baby, clearly carries the early influences of the band with a 50’s rhythm and calm 60’s lyrics and offering a softer relational appreciation; the theme of commitment is instilled using phrasing in the verses such as “I’m in love and it feels so good ‘Cause I need her, don’t mistreat her And I tell her so”.
Getaway has an almost Status Quo and T-Rex feel with hints of the 60’s smoother vocal, use of harmonies and specific backing vocals to emphasize key lyrics. The chord play and hold to allow the lyric to carry the track is dynamic and the short guitar solo sequence is chased by Peter Criss on drums and closes with a classic and punchy outro.
SHE takes a leaf out of the Led Zeppelin notebook with a pounding repeated phrasing that motors through the tracks and yet lyrically. There is a Black Sabbath ‘War Pigs‘ deepness and chord tremor that was both determined and progressive. Lyrically and musically, SHE most certainly ‘Walks by moonlight‘, and yet is beautiful in the sunlight. The most effectively delivered track on the album, “She doesn’t really know, the powers are within her“. The track demonstrates that the power is within the detail in constructing the elements that that can ebb and flow whilst retaining a strength in vulnerability and experimenting beyond the given norms.
The legendary and iconic Rock And Roll All Nite, that can draw any wallflower to the floor in the opening sequence. This original version does not have the power that has been added over the years, yet the clarity of intention in the means of delivery has provided the early roots to be progressively improved with age as with any good classic. The break beat from Peter Criss prior to the chorus is an amazing technique that leaves any listener prepped and ready to join in with the simple yet effective streamline of the track. The percussion/vocal chorus line is open for anthem handover to a live audience. This track was made to be experienced and not just listened to, you have to immerse into it and feel the texture of it as it has matured. I remember my first live experience of the track in 1987 in the UK. The roof was raised by a capacity audience at the NEC and as a closer to a gig, makes the journey home a memorable one with ears still ringing from the energy that cannot be captured in the vinyl production.
The album is by no means perfect, studio time to release was around a month, but an important testing ground and place in which KISS stabilized their purpose as an all time iconic band. The album rocks open and closes brilliantly with two classics that weaves into track upon track of innovative styling and method developing and genre enhancing nudge in the mid 70’s with SHE as a clear highlight. It is this trust, respected status and a genuine place in the creation of how to remain consistent and relevant through the placement of artist skills, character and experimental musicianship added to the early influences that draw musicians together; forever.
- Paul Stanley: Vocals and Rhythm Guitar
- Gene Simmons: Bass and Vocals
- Ace Frehley: Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Backing Vocals
- Peter Criss: Drums, Percussion, Vocals