Have been spinning the recent 2-disc Deluxe Edition of Love Gun for the first time. Originally released in June 1977, with Star Wars fever fresh in the air, Love Gun has always been my least favourite of that initial run of six classic KISS studio LPs released between 1974 - 77. But even while I find it the weakest of the six, it's the one that captures KISS at the height of their popularity and power in the US, before things started going pear-shape for them the following year. The production (by KISS and Eddie Kramer) was a bit thin and lacked beef - it was the beginning of the band starting to lean away from hard rock and more towards pop rock.
Love Gun still has its highlights for sure. The title track has been overplayed in the ensuing years, but Paul Stanley’s album opener ‘I Stole Your Love’ is a masterpiece of swaggering seventies cock rock, and Ace Frehley finally gets his chance to sing a lead vocal, on what would become his signature tune, ‘Shock Me’. In fact, while Frehley would become more prominent as a singer songwriter on the next two KISS LPs - 1979's Dynasty and 1980's Unmasked - Love Gun is probably his best overall album performance as a lead guitarist. His guitar certainly helps lift filler tracks like ‘Got Love for Sale’, ‘Tomorrow and Tonight’ and ‘Hooligan’ out of the doldrums. Gene Simmons’ best known contribution to Love Gun was the sleazy pop smut of ‘Christine Sixteen’, which I’ve never been much a fan of. His sleazy side is much better projected in ‘Plaster Caster’, his ode to the notorious Chicago groupie/artist Cynthia Plaster Caster (who found infamy in the rock underworld by making plaster casts of the genitals of visiting musicians). Simmons also contributes a true underrated gem in ‘Almost Human’, projecting his demonic persona in a track full of funky bass and drums, a blazing sawmill lead from Frehley, and those distinct, high female-esque backing vocals during the chorus and fade-out. No wonder it brought the house down when the band finally performed it live for the first time on the KISS Kruise in 2013.
The re-mastering on this deluxe CD keeps the integrity and sound of the original recording intact, yet it also adds a subtle enhancement to the backing rhythm guitar tracks, adding another interesting layer to some of the cuts (particularly ‘Almost Human’). I can't imagine the album ever sounding better or crisper than this. The 2nd CD in this set features a mixture of unused Gene Simmons demos (the best of which is ‘Much Too Soon’), original demos of several songs that ended up on the album, a radio interview with Simmons recorded in Montreal on the Love Gun Can-Am Tour, the almost laughingly unnecessary ‘Love Gun Teaching Demo’, and vintage live recordings of ‘Love Gun’, 'Christine Sixteen’ and ‘Shock Me’, all from a Maryland show in December 1977. Cool stuff for the fan to have, but hardly something to keep on regular rotation.
Completing the package is a nice booklet filled with some rare pics from the era, a sketch of the original proposed album cover (the iconic completed art was contributed by Ken Kelly), and an introduction by Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott (a strange choice to me, as neither Elliott or Lep have ever cited KISS as any kind of real inspiration or influence on them). It seems to be more a convenient commercial tie-in for the recent KISS/Leppard American tour, rather than any genuine tribute.
The only thing this re-issue is really missing is a replica of the original firing cardboard pop-gun which was included in the original 1977 LP pressings (there was in fact supposed to be a small fridge magnet replica of said gun included in this set, but most people - myself included - have found it to be missing).