Released: 1977, Mercury Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
1977 was the year of Kiss. A Gallup poll taken at the time indicated that Kiss was the most popular band in the United States beating Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. Kiss became the first band in history to have 4 albums on Record World's Top 100 chart at the same time: ALIVE!, DESTROYER, ROCK AND ROLL OVER and LOVE GUN. Musically, the band was untouchable but personally, they were a mess. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss fell victim to escalating drug and alcohol abuse which caused tremendous pressure on the band. Things were so bad, it was rumored that a new guitarist and drummer was being shopped around and Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen fit the bill perfectly. Gene discovered Van Halen around this time and helped them get their first recording deal. He produced the Van Halen demo in early 1977. It contained two songs: “House of Pain”, which would later appear on Van Halen's album 1984, and “Runnin' With The Devil” which appeared on their first album, VAN HALEN. Despite all of these internal issues, Kiss put on a brave face and created one of their finest albums: LOVE GUN. While it does not quite measure up to 1976’s DESTROYER and ROCK AND ROLL OVER, LOVE GUN is the last truly great album that the band would release during their peak period.
First the bad: “Hooligan” and “Then She Kissed Me”. “Hooligan” is too awful for words and proves why Kiss didn’t let many of Peter Criss’ musical ideas on to record. “Then She Kissed Me” is a reworked cover of the 1962 hit by the girl-group, The Crystals. Come on, boys! I get the whole “kiss” novelty thing but what the hell are you doing?! I'm still up in the air over the sound of “Tomorrow and Tonight”, too. I think it’s those female back-up Motown-style singers.
That aside, LOVE GUN is one of my top 5 Kiss albums because of “Shock Me”, “I Stole Your Love”, the title track, and “Plaster Caster”. These are some of my favorite Kiss songs ever. The highlight of LOVE GUN is that we finally get to hear the Space Ace belt out a tune—“Shock Me”--and was it ever worth the wait! Rumour has it that Ace was so nervous when recording his lead vocals for the song that he sang them lying down in the studio so he wouldn't have to look at anyone! Great guitar work, great vocals…just an all-around great tune. “I Stole Your Love” and “Love Gun” are in the same vein as “Makin' Love”, “C'mon and Love Me”, et al, but this type of song is what Paul does best. He’s able to create a great rock song with a memorable chorus. As far as Gene’s material on LOVE GUN, what can I say about “Plaster Caster”? It is truly a Gene original and the tongue-in-cheek subject matter makes for an entertaining song. “Christine Sixteen” is a bit of a musical experiment for Gene with the piano track. This is one of the early indications of where Gene was headed with his solo album, as it features this same type of experimentation. “Almost Human” and “Got Love For Sale” are a bit weak, though.
Overall, LOVE GUN is one of Kiss’ finest releases. Several of the songs are still featured in their live set over 25 years later. It was the last album released by the band to include all four members in the recording studio together at the same time. They did a good job of hiding the inner turmoil and crafted an excellent album given the obstacles they faced. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end...