Released: 1981, Mercury Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Originally written as a soundtrack to a film that would never be made, (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER was Kiss’ answer to a trend that became popular in the 1970’s—the concept album. The band was still recovering from the abysmal sales of its 2 previous albums, 1979’s DYNASTY and 1980’s UNMASKED. Thinking they needed a fresh start to win their disgruntled fans back, producer Bob Ezrin and a string of co-writers including Lou Reed and Bryan Adams were enlisted to get Kiss back in the game. People either hate (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER or they love it; there seems to be no middle ground. I fall closer to the former. Even though it is a REAL departure from the Kiss sound, I think (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER is a great album. There are a lot of good songs here but BEWARE--there a couple of real stinkers, too!
The gothic duo of “Only You” and “Under The Rose”, along with “Dark Light”, “The Oath”, and “A World Without Heroes” are your standard Kiss rockers & ballads. However, one taste of the dreadful “Mr. Blackwell” and it becomes obvious that Kiss has not chosen wisely in entering this new phase of their career. “I” is kind of a foot-stomper in the same vein as “Shout It Loud” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” (though nowhere near as good). “Just A Boy” and “Odyssey” are good songs as well but by no means are they Kiss classics. The songs seem forced with the elaborate string sections and sweeping choruses. “Escape From The Island” and “Fanfare” are bizarre instrumental pieces that set the mood for the movie.
(MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER has a real medieval feel to it; the horns and elaborate story, choruses--one expects to hear a lot of "thou"s and "thine"s spoken by guys on horses and brandishing swords. It's almost operatic in the same style of say Blind Guardian or Rush's 2112 album. What really stands out for me is Gene's vocals. Instead of the usual growling and snarling, Gene actually sings here...and he does a fine job! “A World Without Heroes” is one of Kiss' best ballads and we have Gene to thank for that. It's too bad that he doesn't indulge us more often.
(MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER has received a lot of criticism however I don't believe that it is valid. At the time, the concept album was a popular format with Pink Floyd's THE WALL being the most predominant example. While DYNASTY and UNMASKED sent legions of fans AWOL from the Kiss Army, the band saw the concept album as another outlet to try to lure back the masses. Ironically, Kiss earned their first critically-praised album, but the fans--the very people they were trying to please--simply could not accept what Kiss had become. I really think that (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER has gotten a raw deal over the years as it is constantly referred to as a joke. Many fans however embrace it as one of their favorite Kiss albums. I fall somewhere in the middle; it has quite a few good songs on it but it's no KISS or ROCK AND ROLL OVER.