I'm no grizzled veteran rock journo, but I like to think I'm streetwise enough to know what to expect when I slam a classic rock icon; even if I didn't know it before, the flood of vitriol directed at my Neil Diamond review last year would have been more than enough to clue me in on this fact of life.
So here I am, beginning a review on the defensive. I like, and even respect, Paul Stanley. Maybe not as a human being (I wouldn't know), and, aside from a few ironic giggles, certainly not as a publicity-constructed individual (his stage banter on last year's KISS Rock the Nation Live DVD was enough to make even the most ardent KISS fan crawl under a rock and die), but as a songwriter and performer, I consider him a truly underrated force in hard rock music. If you don't believe me, just look at his credits: "Love Gun," "Detroit Rock City," "Shout It Out Loud," and "Got to Choose," for Christ's sake. So before the hate mail comes flowing in, people, let me get this off my chest: I'm not about to slam Live to Win because I have it in for Paul Stanley. I'm about to slam Live to Win because it's an absolutely unforgivable, unlistenable load of tripe.
See, none of the songwriting chops or sheer rockosity of the nuggets listed above are in evidence on Paul Stanley's solo "debut" (actually, his second solo album, if you count his fourth of the self-titled KISS orgy of 1978). Instead, we get what sounds like bad Linkin Park, with vocals overdubbed by a 54-year-old, whose top range is disappearing about as rapidly as his famous rug of chest hair is going grey. What's more, the old queen didn't even have the cojones to write these songs himself; the bulk are co-written with soft-rock crossover whore Desmond Child, whose credits include most of Aerosmith's worst songs as well as '80s KISS "classics" like "Heaven's on Fire," "Uh! All Night," and "Let's Put the X in Sex."
As a result, the album is predictably sucked dry, not to mention ProTooled within an inch of its life. Thirty years after Stanley was bold (or arrogant) enough to flub his high notes on "I Want You" without any post-production fuckery, he's apparently more comfortable glossing his vocals until they're as plastic and artificial as his now Botox-expressionless face.
If this doesn't seem like a real review, then you've got me – it sort of isn't. But that's only because Live to Win hardly qualifies as a real album. There are no high or even low points, unless you count its mercifully brief 33-minute running time. Every song just bleeds together into a mush of embarrassing, out-of-touch musical self-flagellation.
Okay, here's something. The monster ballad "Everytime I See You Around" sounds kinda like Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." That, if you can't guess, isn't a compliment either. In fact, the best thing I can say about Stanley's exercize in irrelevancy is actually more of a compliment to his bandmate of 30 years. I never thought there would be a worse rock-dinosaur solo album than Gene Simmons' Asshole, but a mere two years later, here it is. Enjoy!
by Zach Hoskins