Koch 2004 / Cleopatra 2018
Formerly known as “Spin The Bottle” to reflect its haphazard nature, remodeled and augmented homage to awesome foursome.
Iconic in all aspects, KISS have millions kneeling at their altar, be it regular fans or fellow musicians, and there’s no deficit of their covers on offer, dozens of those bundled into entire tribute albums. This one is a bit special, though, coming from the ensemble’s kindred spirits – from the same walks of life, in stylistic terms – whose handling of the time-tested material might seem somewhat sterile, with individial parts laid down separately, as the artists didn’t actually play together. The results are quite poignant, though, because some of the veterans have passed away since the first release of the CD which receives additional context now thanks to an accompanying DVD comprising the “Making Of” featurette.
Staying firmly in the ’70s and never venturing beyond the comfort zone of the classic period – even leaving the deviation of “Dynasty” off limits – the all-star line-up deliver an array of stellar performances that are too reverential for their own good. Given the proximity to the band of the Kulick brothers, the homage producers Bruce and Bob, and the fact that a few of the performers either shared the stage with or auditioned for the ensemble, such an approach is rather surprising; what’s not so shocking is a tendency to overplay, not only adopt and appropriate, what originally was much simpler. While Dee Snider may be able to perfectly capture the urban mood of “Detroit Rock City” where Doug Aldrich’s neon glow contrasts Marco Mendoza’s velvet gloom, and Lemmy’s bark conveys the feel-good message of “Shout It Out Loud” in no uncertain terms, Tommy Shaw and Steve Lukather go too theatrical about “Love Gun” and even Tim Bogert’s rumble can’t anchor it properly.
Likewise, the glam of “Calling Dr. Love” fades when handled by Page Hamilton and Mike Porcaro but, with a shaper edge, similar effusiveness will work for “Cold Gin” that has Phil Soussan linking Mark Slaughter’s scream to the screech of Ryan Roxie and Robben Ford’s axes, and “Parasite” is rendered as it should thanks to Dug Pinnick’s expertise. Still, if Paul Gilbert rages through “I Want You” to fuel Kip Winger’s fury in a futile attempt of keeping the fire alive, Carmine Appice and Buzz Osbourne embrace “God Of Thunder” with all the raw, insistent fervor they can muster, and were it not for the rhythm section of Tony Franklin and Aynsley Dunbar, Robin McAuley would lose the impetus in “I Stole Your Love” to C.C. DeVille’s show-off shredding.
A mixed bag by nature, this disc is enjoyable anyway, especially once a song opens an unheard layer; yet more often than not, pleasure is derived from a piece per se, not its interpretation.