Music from "The Elder"

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Music from "The Elder"
Studio album by Kiss
Released November 10, 1981
Recorded March – September 1981
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal
Length 42:46 (International version)
42:29 (US/European version)
Label Casablanca
Producer Bob Ezrin
Kiss chronology
Unmasked
(1980)
Music from
"The Elder"

(1981)
Creatures of the Night
(1982)
Singles from Music from "The Elder"
  1. "A World Without Heroes"
    Released: November 17, 1981
  2. "I"
    Released: November 17, 1981
  3. "The Oath"
    Released: January 25, 1982 (Japan only)
Alternate cover
Japan-only album-cover-sized obi

Music from "The Elder" is the ninth studio album released by American rock band Kiss.

A substantial departure from their previous output with its epic concept and orchestral elements, album sales were so poor that Kiss did not embark on a supporting tour for the first time in its eight-year history, opting instead to make a handful of promotional appearances.[1] Music from "The Elder" was Ace Frehley's last partnership with the band until their 1996 Reunion Tour.[2][3]

While "A World Without Heroes" was later performed on the band's 1995 MTV Unplugged appearance, Kiss have largely avoided live performances of songs from the album. "A World Without Heroes", "The Oath", and "I" were all performed live on the ABC program Fridays in 1982, all other performances from the era were performed to playback. During a 2004 Australia show, the band attempted to perform "The Oath" and "I", but Gene Simmons had long forgotten the lyrics.[4] Short performances of "I ",[5] "Mr. Blackwell",[6] and "Just a Boy",[7] were played on the 2011 Kiss Kruise. "The Oath" was performed in its entirety during both electric shows on the 2013 Kiss Kruise.

Album information[edit]

Kiss was in the midst of a transitional phase as the 1980s began. Drummer Peter Criss, who was not involved in the recording of 1980's Unmasked, officially left Kiss in May of the same year. His replacement Eric Carr was officially introduced in July. The group had recently embarked on a hugely successful tour of Australia and New Zealand (where the group's popularity was at its peak) in November, but the band's commercial fortunes at home were drastically reduced from the 1975-79 era. Due to the lackluster sales of Unmasked, Kiss toured exclusively outside the US for the first time in their career, except for one concert at the Palladium Theatre in New York. The overseas tours were well-attended, partly because Kiss had rarely ventured abroad and because the more pop-oriented Dynasty and Unmasked albums did better in the European markets than their earlier hard rock albums.[1][2]

This commercial downturn is attributable to many factors, two of the biggest being the softening of Kiss's image in an effort to appeal to a broader fan base, and the softening of their music. Unmasked was a decidedly more pop-oriented effort than earlier albums, and represented a sales drop-off of 65% from 1979's Dynasty.[1] It also became the first Kiss album to fail to achieve platinum status since 1975's Dressed to Kill. The glut of Kiss merchandising that had cropped up in the late 1970s led to a backlash from many fans, who felt that Kiss was then more concerned with making money than with making good music.[2]

In an effort to return to their hard rock roots, Kiss began recording music more akin to the hard rock style that launched them to popularity in the mid-1970s. The fall 1980 issue of the Kiss Army Newsletter hinted at the style the new album was to take — "It will be hard and heavy from start to finish—straight-on rock and roll that will knock your socks off."[3] But at the same time, Simmons, Paul Stanley and creative manager Bill Aucoin felt that just returning to a harder sound was not enough. They believed that only a bold artistic statement would regenerate public interest in Kiss. To that end, they enlisted producer Bob Ezrin to work with the group, who in turn daringly employed members from the American Symphony Orchestra and St. Robert's Choir to record tracks for the album. Ezrin had worked with the group before, producing the group's hit 1976 album Destroyer. He had also co-produced Pink Floyd's landmark 1979 concept album The Wall. Simmons, Stanley and Aucoin felt that Ezrin could help bring their ambitions to fruition.[2]

The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve. For the first time, a Kiss album featured no image of the group, let alone the customary front-cover appearance. According to one story, the hand reaching for the door-knocker is not that of Stanley: Aucoin has stated that it belongs to a hand-model, hired for the shoot. However, in 2011 a photo surfaced from the album cover shoot showing a partially naked-faced Stanley with his hand on the door knocker.[8] The door itself belongs to the Park Ave United Methodist church on Park Avenue, New York City. The photo session displayed a change of image: the costumes were more streamlined, especially when compared with the costumes for Unmasked, as were the hairstyles of Stanley and Simmons in particular.

Recording sessions for the album commenced in March 1981. Sessions were held in Toronto, New York City, and Frehley's home recording studio in Wilton, Connecticut. During the recording, Ezrin and Kiss worked in complete secrecy. Ezrin in particular had insisted that he would only communicate with Kiss or Aucoin. No one other than Ezrin and Kiss ever heard the album in progress.[2] Frehley became increasingly frustrated during the sessions, as he disagreed with the band's decision to abandon their original plan to record a straight rock album. Additionally, a number of guitar solos Frehley recorded were not included in the final cut.[9] But as had happened frequently after Criss's departure one year earlier, Frehley was often outvoted 2-1 on band decisions. Carr was not a partner in Kiss as the other three members were, but rather an employee. Frehley also resented what he felt was Simmons and Stanley's domination of the recording sessions.[2][9]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[11]
Pitchfork Media (0.0/10)[12]
Vista Records 3/5 stars[13]
Metal Nightfall 3/5 stars[14]
TrueMetal (70/100)[15]

When Kiss premiered Music from "The Elder" for their management and record company in October 1981, the reaction was a mixture of confusion and resentment. Business manager Howard Marks refused to allow his company's name to appear in the liner notes.[2] Fan reaction to the album was equally harsh, while critical reaction was comparably positive. But while reviews like the one printed by Rolling Stone were much kinder than past reviews,[16] the album quickly disappeared from the charts by February, 1982. Q magazine ranked Music From "The Elder" 44th in their list of The 50 Worst Albums Ever.[17] The same magazine ranked the album 6th in their list of 15 Albums Where Great Rock Acts Lost the Plot.[18]

Although budgets were prepared for a tour, none was ever undertaken. The only public appearances the band made in conjunction with the album were a January 15, 1982 appearance on the late-night variety show Fridays (they performed "A World Without Heroes", "I" and "The Oath"), Solid Gold ("A World Without Heroes" and "I"), and a January 28 lip synched performance of "I" from Studio 54, broadcast via satellite to the Sanremo Festival in Italy. Frehley was absent for the Studio 54 appearance, so the group performed as a trio.[1]

Most participants in the album's recording admit that it was a major misstep for Kiss. Ezrin, despite his recent success with the even more ambitious Wall album, admitted that his judgments concerning Music from "The Elder" were clouded due in large part to a cocaine addiction at the time. Stanley and Simmons admit that they were "delusional" concerning the project, while Frehley has stated that he felt that it wasn't a good idea to begin with.[9] There are rumors that The Elder has sold around 500,000 copies, however, this has yet to be substantiated by any official audit, which is probably why it has not been certified gold as of 2014.

Story[edit]

The basic plot of "The Elder" involves the recruitment and training of a young hero (The Boy) by the Council of Elders who belong to the Order of the Rose, a mysterious group dedicated to combating evil. The Boy is guided by an elderly caretaker named Morpheus. The album's lyrics describe the boy's feelings during his journey and training, as he overcomes his early doubts to become confident and self-assured. The only spoken dialogue is at the end of the last track, "I". During the passage, Morpheus proclaims to the Elders that The Boy is ready to undertake his odyssey.

Independent Film Project[edit]

On November 16, 2011 it was announced that pre-production had begun on an independently produced adaptation of Music from "The Elder". British author/musician Seb Hunter said that he was beginning to write a screenplay based upon Simmons' original concept and is producing the film himself alongside friend and colleague Owen Oakeshott. To finance the film, Hunter has asked for donations through The Elder official site.[19] It is approximated that the overall budget for the film will be £30,000.[20] Mentorn Media have also begun work on a documentary titled, Exhuming "The Elder" which follows the independent filmmakers behind the scenes as they attempt to bring The Elder concept to fruition.[21]

Songs[edit]

Dutch single cover to "I" b/w "The Oath" single.
Australian single cover of the "A World Without Heroes" b/w "Dark Light" single.

The version of Music from "The Elder" released in the US, Europe and Brazil contained a different song order than the one originally intended. This order was chosen in order to emphasize "The Oath" and "A World Without Heroes" as potential singles (the two songs started each side of the record). One effect of this alteration in song order was to disrupt the narrative flow of the album's story.

The Japanese pressing of the album contained the intended song sequence, although "Escape from the Island" was omitted from the album and instead included as the B-side of "The Oath" single.[3] This sequence was used (with the inclusion of "Escape from the Island") when Music from "The Elder" was re-released on CD in 1997.[22] A number of narrative passages were cut from the final version of the album. These passages were meant to provide details of the story, and to act as transitional elements between songs.[3]

"The Oath"[edit]

Arguably the heaviest song on the album, many parts of the song also feature Stanley singing in falsetto, a vocal technique he utilized on several of the album's tracks.

"Dark Light"[edit]

"Dark Light," written by Frehley, was based on a guitar riff composed by Anton Fig. When it was originally recorded as a pre-Elder demo, the title was "Don't Run".[3] It is the only song Frehley sings on the album.

"A World Without Heroes"[edit]

The lone American single from the album was originally entitled "Every Little Bit of Your Heart". The name was changed when it was decided to record The Elder as a concept album. Lou Reed wrote the lyric, "A world without heroes is like a world without sun".[23] The video for the song was the first Kiss video played by MTV.[1] "A World Without Heroes" and "I" are the only songs on the album where Frehley does not play. The song was covered by Cher on her album Love Hurts.

Track listing[edit]

International version[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. "Fanfare"   Paul Stanley, Bob Ezrin (Instrumental) 1:22
2. "Just a Boy"   Stanley, Ezrin Stanley 2:25
3. "Odyssey"   Tony Powers Stanley 5:37
4. "Only You"   Gene Simmons Simmons, Stanley 4:17
5. "Under the Rose"   Simmons, Eric Carr Simmons 4:52
6. "Dark Light"   Ace Frehley, Simmons, Anton Fig, Lou Reed Frehley 4:19
7. "A World Without Heroes"   Stanley, Simmons, Ezrin, Reed Simmons 2:41
8. "The Oath"   Stanley, Ezrin, Powers Stanley 4:32
9. "Mr. Blackwell"   Simmons, Reed Simmons 4:53
10. "Escape from the Island"   Frehley, Carr, Ezrin (Instrumental) 2:52
11. "I"   Simmons, Ezrin Stanley, Simmons 5:04

US/European version[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. "The Oath"   Stanley, Ezrin, Powers Stanley 4:33
2. "Fanfare"   Stanley, Ezrin (Instrumental) 1:00
3. "Just a Boy"   Stanley, Ezrin Stanley 2:34
4. "Dark Light"   Frehley, Simmons, Fig, Reed Frehley 4:12
5. "Only You"   Simmons Simmons, Stanley 4:22
6. "Under the Rose"   Simmons, Carr Simmons 4:48
7. "A World Without Heroes"   Stanley, Simmons, Ezrin, Reed Simmons 2:39
8. "Mr. Blackwell"   Simmons, Reed Simmons 4:49
9. "Escape from the Island"   Frehley, Carr, Ezrin (Instrumental) 2:51
10. "Odyssey"   Tony Powers Stanley 5:49
11. "I"   Simmons, Ezrin Stanley, Simmons 3:54
12. "Finale"     (Instrumental) 1:04

Releases[edit]

Personnel[edit]

With

Charts[edit]

Album
Chart (1981) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[24] 11
Austrian Albums Chart[25] 12
Dutch Albums Chart[26] 39
German Albums Chart[27] 10
Italian Albums Chart[28] 23
Norwegian Albums Chart[29] 7
Swedish Albums Chart[30] 19
UK Albums Chart[31] 51
US Billboard Pop Albums[32] 75


Singles - Billboard (United States)[33]

Year Single Charts Position
1982 "A World Without Heroes" Pop Singles 56

Singles - Billboard (United Kingdom)

Year Single Chart Position
1981 "A World Without Heroes" Pop Singles 55

Singles - Billboard (Australia)

Year Single Chart Position
1981 "I" Pop Singles 24

Singles - Billboard (Germany)

Year Single Chart Position
1981 "I" Pop Singles 62

Singles - Billboard (Holland)

Year Single Chart Position
1981 "I" Pop Singles 48

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Gooch, Curt and Jeff Suhs. Kiss Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History. Billboard Books, 2002. ISBN 0-8230-8322-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lendt, C.K. Kiss and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup, Billboard Books, 1997. ISBN 0-8230-7551-6
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gill, Julian. The Kiss Album Focus, Volume 1 (3rd Edition). Xlibris Corporation, 2005. ISBN 1-4134-8547-2
  4. ^ Kiss - "I"[dead link]
  5. ^ "KISS KRUISE-I(Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons as Elvis)-10 13 11". YouTube. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  6. ^ "KISS KRUISE-MR. BLACKWELL-10 13 11". YouTube. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  7. ^ "KISS KRUISE-JUST A BOY(part 2)-10 13 11". YouTube. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  8. ^ "KISS Mask Webzine.". 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  9. ^ a b c d Leaf, David and Ken Sharp. Kiss: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography, Warner Books, 2003. ISBN 0-446-53073-5
  10. ^ Prato, Greg. "Allmusic review". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  11. ^ "Rolling Stone review". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  12. ^ "Pitchfork Media review". PitchforkMedia.com. 2003-06-26. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  13. ^ "Vista Records review". Vistarecords.proboards.com. 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  14. ^ "Metal Nightfall review". Metal.nightfall.fr. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  15. ^ TrueMetal.it. "TrueMetal review". Truemetal.it. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  16. ^ Considine, J.D. February 18, 1982. Music from "The Elder" review. Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2006.
  17. ^ "Q lists - page3". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  18. ^ Q Magazine.15 Albums Where Great Rock Acts Lost the Plot.NOTE:Look for number 48. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  19. ^ http://www.elderthemovie.com/
  20. ^ http://www.elderthemovie.com/index.php/2011-11-14-10-39-17/funding
  21. ^ http://www.elderthemovie.com/index.php/j17/the-documentary
  22. ^ Music From "The Elder". The KISSFAQ. Retrieved April 27, 2006.
  23. ^ Sharp, Ken. (July 19, 1996). "The Return of Kiss - 'It's Time for Spectacle'". Goldmine #147.
  24. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  25. ^ http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=KISS&titel=Music+From+The+Elder&cat=a
  26. ^ http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=KISS&titel=Music+From+The+Elder&cat=a
  27. ^ http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=KISS&titel=Music+From+The+Elder&cat=a
  28. ^ http://www.hitparadeitalia.it/hp_yenda/lpe1981.htm
  29. ^ http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=KISS&titel=Music+From+The+Elder&cat=a
  30. ^ http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=KISS&titel=Music+From+The+Elder&cat=a
  31. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/kiss/
  32. ^ "Kiss Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums" at AllMusic. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
  33. ^ "AllMusic Billboard singles". Retrieved 2009-01-27.