Thursday, August 30, 2012

Destroyer {Resurrected} - KISS - 2012

I love to hate KISS. As someone who enjoyed a childhood in the '70s - and whose parents denied them access to all things KISS early on - I have been infatuated with the band as long as I can remember, have truly enjoyed much of their music and the overall spectacle and never fail to be revolted at - or sucked in by - the music-second cash-grabs they seem to concoct at every turn. Destroyer {Resurrected} is a worthless exercise designed to appeal to fans of classic KISS, long hungry for a return to the band's heyday and, admittedly, one now on my shelf in both CD and vinyl formats. I owned a secondhand copy of Destroyer on vinyl years ago and, frankly, KISS vinyl never sounded that good. When Mercury remastered the catalogue in 1997, I went CD-only with the band and have been satisfied with those releases since. I could not resist the experience, however, of buying a "new" KISS album on wax at an actual record store and dropped a twenty-dollar bill on Destroyer {Resurrected}. It's heavy 180g vinyl and, aside from that, has little else to recommend it. It sounds pretty good, not great so, of course, I dropped another ten bucks to compare CD to CD.

{Resurrected} is louder than its counterpart, of course. Additionally, there's more clarity and brightness to guitars and boom to the bass. Drums are livelier and the cymbals have an increased presence as well ("Do You Love Me?" is notable here). Vocals seemed to have an echo effect that wasn't present (or noticeable) on the original. So, basically, it's probably technically better but, at the same time, did it really need changed? The original's muddy Detroit-by-way-of-New York sound still retains some authentic, vintage charm by comparison.

It's obvious from the liner notes that KISS, aside from cashing checks, weren't involved here at all. This is a Bob Ezrin project through-and-through and this combined with the revisitation wreck that was Alice Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare, have me a little worried he's turning into classic rock's George Lucas. Ezrin's own notes bear mention here: we found most of the original sounds already committed to tape including stereo pre-mixes of the drums ... guitars were mixed into one stereo pair ... solos were separate as were lead vocals. I realized that the best thing I could do would be to preserve the original recording intact and simply augment it sonically without changing, subtracting or adding any parts.

But then Ezrin goes on to outline that some sound effects masters for "Detroit Rock City" were missing, requiring them to use the original stereo master, stating it will be obvious to you where we cut into the new mix. He then adds We also recreated some of the car and crash sound. There's a bit of that on the front of "King of the Night Time World" as well ... And there's a little vocal moment in "Beth" that I had taken out of the original but find really endearing so I added that back in ... I worked mostly on making the album more immediate and modern sounding.

"More immediate and modern sounding" is a good assessment. He should have also added "unnecessary" and "frivolous." Remember when ZZ Top remixed their early discography in the mid-80s to give it all an Eliminator/Afterburner-type sound? This is nowhere near as offensive and, really, adds so little as to leave you asking "why the bother?" Ezrin teases the listener, claiming there is one very small thing on the whole album that was altered [you mean aside from all those other little things you just mentioned?]. I had the opportunity to correct something that's been vexing all of us for decades. Let's see if you can find it. I'll give you a clue: it's lyrical and geographical.

So what did I want from Destroyer {Resurrected}? All or nothing, baby. I would have no complaints with a pure, effective remaster versus remix and none of this bits-and-pieces half-assed tinkering. I also would have been very pleased with a double-disc reissue pairing the unaltered original with alternate takes, unreleased tracks, et cetera, much like the recent Deluxe Edition Black Sabbath reissues. Instead we get the original cover artwork with burning buildings and Alive costumes and "Sweet Pain" with a new "original" solo which apparently is still by Dick Wagner - did Ace ever actually make it through an entire album?

So, yeah, I bought it twice. Sorry, guys. I know it'll only encourage them to keep it up. You can all blame me in five years or so when I'm bitching about an underwhelming anniversary edition of Music from "The Elder" presented as Bob Ezrin claims he and the band always really wanted it to sound.

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