Peter Criss' "One For All" (7/07)
Stopped by Best Buy and picked up the two copies of the album they had, the "Gold Stickered" ones. It was filed in the "C" section behind a blank divider... I don't want to be seemingly brutal, but there's just no way around it. What were my expectations for this album? None. Peter made it clear what his approach was towards the album. That's cool, I'm glad he's doing what he wants his way, without having to be approved by others.
Right off the bat, and as anyone knew when they heard the leaked samples, this album is not for Peter's KISS fans. This isn't "Beth," nor "Baby Driver," "Love Bite," "Hooligan," or "Dirty Livin'." Nor is it "By Myself," "Could It Be Love," or "Baby Hold On." It certainly ain't "Wait For The Minute To Rock And Roll" or "Do Ya Know What I Mean!" And perhaps that's another positive, it's not exactly straight out of left-field, but it's out there. Who it's for is not clear. Most likely this is Peter making an album for himself and those around him.
Since "One For All" is supposedly inspired by 9/11 I find the Twin Tower styled "LL" on the cover pretty tacky, especially with an airplane towing the banner... But that's just me. I also find the lyrics somewhat juvenille, but that's just me as well. 9/11 is a difficult topic, and I guess it's just difficult to adequately express on any level... Musically the track is pretty cool, and the choir is a decent touch. It's understandable that Peter would want to express something as a New Yorker, and while the song comes across as totally sincere, it just doesn't work for me. I have a major problem with Peter harmonizing with himself on the track. The organ is very cool as is the guitar work.
"Doesn't Get Better Than This." Nice guitar work again, and Jennifer Johnson has a set of pipes, when she sings it compliments the song nicely. While this is another of the tracks many got a hold of early, it sounds better on CD. I like the tempo of this piece and the emotion Peter puts across. I rate this as one of the stand outs on the album. Nice mellow couch music. "Last Night" with orchestration just doesn't work well. Maybe I just don't like the style, it'd kinda be at home on Laurence Welk or something. It feels that it needs a lot more work on the arrangement and lyrics, and Peter's vocal really doesn't work. As it stands it seems more like waffle. It has absolutely no character, no message. As a story it's lacking. And Peter really seems to go off key at times. In all of my criticism of Peter's vocals on this album, I think it should be clear that he *is* delivering emotion. That's obvious, as is the heart-felt feeling for material.
The packaging. Well the gold sticker is on the CD jewel case, rather than the cellophane, so yippie, but it is a nice touch. The booklet is basic, with the song lyrics, a Chelsea like picture of Peter in the woods on the penultimate page where he's signed it. There are no individual player credits, just what was already known (though more is known than is printed). The booklet makes it clear that Peter was responsible for the art direction and design. Be that as it may, no photo is as dreadful as any on Gene's album...
"What A Difference A Day Makes" stands out as a jazzy lounge song. Good drum work and overall feel. I'll put this as another of the stand-outs on the album. It's a good cover, and knowing its importance to Peter makes it the more interesting. I was looking forward to "Hope," since it was a "Psycho Circus" reject. But it's clear why it was rejected if Peter's demo sounded as convoluted and out of key gasping as this. Perhaps Bob Ezrin could have helped on this one, parts of the song certainly had "Hope." Yet, again the emotion of what Peter is saying is clear.
I'm still staggered by "Faces In The Crowd." It's certainly no "Journey Of 1,000 Years," but as a song it starts out promising and works well in parts with Peter's voice. Sadly, the audience track is just bludgeoning and ruins what otherwise would be one of the better songs on the album. The concept of what Peter was trying to put across was decent, but the execution poor. I was also looking forward to Peter's take on "Send In The Clowns," until the vocals started. It's as depressing as "Spotlights (And Lonely Nights)," which I guess is exactly what it's supposed to be. Ironic at the least, perhaps moreso than it was supposed to be.
"Falling All Over Again" is pretty decent with nice acoustic guitar work and lyrical imagery. "Whisper" seems more like a Chelsea out-take and kinda meanders nowhere in a CSN&Y sort of way. "Heart Behind The Hands" starts with an atrocious "yeah," and it's over-sung. However, Peter's voice at least sounds strong during this gritty track, rather than like he's gasping for air or singing without full lungs! I liked the original version, and this is OK too. The allegory makes it obvious what Peter's perspective is with the track.
"Memories" is mediocre, and has atrocious production similar to "Faces In The Crowd." But the sentiment is clear, making it more bearable than the latter. The album's closing track "Space Ace" just defies explanation. Lyrically it reaks of too much cat-nip. It tries to be Beatlesque in style, and perhaps a more George Martin could have made the psychedelia work, but it just leaves me scratching my head...
It seems easy for this review to be seen as a negative bash on Peter, but it is not. Critical perhaps, but not based in hate. Peter clearly needed outside input/perspective, ouside song-writing help, and arrangement refining... And a producer. The overall production is terrible, levels sound wrong all over the place. Sadly, the criticisms of Peter's singing are IMO accurate. They're out of key in many places and stylisitcally inappropriate in others (IMO). If this is Peter making a statement, then the message is nearly totally lost in translation. It'll be like hearing his '78 solo album for the first time again.
I love both "Out Of Control" and "Let Me Rock You." The "Criss" material had more high-points than low, and I love the majority of the unreleased demos. But this... It seems to lack critical appraisal to detail prior to release, and while I can deal with some of the music not being to my taste the product seems sloppy. I don't understand why no one said "that's out of key, cut it again." Or "try this." What I am pleased about is that Peter is willing to put his music out there, that he's still being creative. He's also got a pretty decent publicity push behind this album. There's also some excellent guitar work on the album, but the positives are weighed down by the technical faults.