Do you remember the first full-length LP you ever bought? Mine was Kiss’ Destroyer, which I purchased in 1976 at the ripe old age of 10. I got it at the Post Exchange and then waited for my dad to come home from work so that I could listen to it on his 4 channel system rather than the portable turntable my sister and I normally used (and by portable, I mean it folded up into the size of a Samsonite suitcase weighing roughly 875 pounds). I can remember my dad’s words clearly as he dropped the needle onto the disc, “this is going to be a lot heavier than what you’re used to listening to”. By time the needle lifted off of side 2, I was hooked. From the car crash intro and driving guitars of “Detroit Rock City”, the scary demonic “God of Thunder”, the party anthem “Shout It Loud” through the pounding drums of “Do You Love Me”, I loved it all (maybe not “Beth”, after all I was a 10 year old budding rocker). Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and especially Ace Frehley immediately became my first rock and roll icons. I didn’t know it then, but that was the first step on my long and continuing road of musical obsession.
So when I heard the album’s original producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd) was going to resurrect, remix and remaster it, I couldn’t resist the chance to revisit my first record and happily made my first purchase of new Kiss material since 1980′s Unmasked. Back in ’76, Ezrin had taken the band an entirely different direction from its first three, lo-fi LPs and its 1975 commercial smash, Alive!. In addition to polishing the band’s basic three guitar and drum sound (and, famously, playing), Ezrin added a slew of additional instruments (pianos, horns, a string section), sound effects (including the voices of his two children)and even a bit of Beethoven. The album was a commercial smash, going on to be a multi-platinum seller and spawning Kiss’ highest ever charting single in “Beth” (peaked at #7 on the US pop charts).
Thirty-six years later, Ezrin went back to the original tapes, and, as he writes in the liners notes, found just about every bit of music put to tape during the original recording sessions. He took that material and gave it “a little face lift”. The result is Destroyer [Resurrected], a record that seems clearer, sharper and quite a bit louder, especially the drums, than the original release. Power chords seem to hang bit longer in the air. You can more clearly hear an additional layered guitar tracks on “King of the Night Time World”. The strings and horns on “Great Expectations seem brighter. As much as a facelift, the album sounds like an painting that’s had decades of dirt and grime removed from it.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some additions and changes. There’s a bit of the “get up/get down” from “Detroit Rock City”‘s chorus dropped in near the end of the songs first guitar break and again, more jarringly, in the middle of the double tracked lead guitar solo toward the end of the song. There’s an alternate guitar solo on “Sweet Pain” (a solo already believed to be the first of many, many times when someone other than Gene, Paul, Ace or Peter – and everyone later wouldn’t play on a Kiss record). On “Beth” there’s an acoustic guitar playing throughout the track rather than just the original. Overall the effects of these change is akin to George Lucas adding new digital bits to the remastered Star Wars DVD’s. They don’t necessarily add much, and are at worst more distracting than anything else (and the brief vocal additions on “Detroit Rock City” aren’t as egregious as Lucas digitally inserting Hayden Christensen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker at the end remastered Return of the Jedi).
Finally, of course, the resurrected disc features the album’s originally proposed artwork with the band in its Alive! era costumes dancing away from a burning city. Casablanca, then the band’s label, rejected it for being a bit too destructive, so it was redone and the band’s costumes were altered as in the interim they’d changed them into what was my favorite look for them, particularly Ace’s.
While the new tweaks and twists are generally interesting, the overall freshness to the reissue’s sound is what made Destroyer[Resurrected]for me. If you’re a lifelong member of the Kiss Army, or like me, a former fan who’s feeling nostalgic, it’s worth spending the money, firing up the CD player or turntable, a revisiting an old friend in new clothes. You might even remember what it was like to be a 10 year old kid, sitting cross-legged on the living room floor and beginning to fall in love with music.
How about you? What was the first record you ever bought? Drop it in the comments below.
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