Music from "The Elder" is a 1981 concept album released by the American hard rock band Kiss. It was an attempt on the part of the group to establish Kiss as credible artists, and also to reverse the trend of declining album sales and commercial popularity that had begun in 1979. Instead, the album further served to alienate the group's fan base and represents the commercial nadir of the group.
To date, Music from "The Elder" is one of only two Kiss studio albums to fail to earn any US certification (the other is 1997's Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions). 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.
Music from "The Elder" was the last Kiss album that lead guitarist and co-founder Ace Frehley participated in until the 1996 reunion. Frehley, who was frustrated with the band's creative direction, as well as with the production of Bob Ezrin, stopped actively participating in Kiss by early 1982 and was officially out of the group by November 1982.
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 dropoff of 65% from 1979's Dynasty. It also became the first Kiss album to fail to achieve platinum status since 1975's Dressed to Kill. From a marketing standpoint, the glut of Kiss merchandising that had cropped up in the late 1970s had led to a backlash from fans, who felt that Kiss was now more concerned with making money than with making music.
In an effort to return to their hard rock roots, Kiss began recording music that was more akin to the hard rock style that had 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." But at the same time, founding members Gene Simmons and 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. More recently, he had 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.
Frehley became increasingly frustrated during the sessions, as he disagreed with the band's decision to abandon their original plan to record a straight-ahead rock album. Additionally, a number of guitar solos Frehley recorded were not included on the final product. But, as happened frequently after Criss's departure, Frehley was outvoted 2-to-1 on band decisions of this type. (Carr was not a partner in Kiss as the other three members were, but rather an employee). He also resented what he felt was Simmons' and Stanley's domination of the recording sessions.
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 comedy show "Fridays" (they performed "A World Without Heroes", "I" and "The Oath"), Solid Gold (they performed "A World Without Heroes", and "I"), and a January 28 lip synched performance of "I" from Studio 54 that was broadcast via satellite to the Sanremo Festival in Italy. Frehley was not present for the Studio 54 appearance, so the group performed as a trio.
Most of the participants in the album's recording admit that it was a major misstep for Kiss. Ezrin, despite what was his recent success with the even more ambitious The Wall, 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 always maintained that it was a bad idea to begin with.
Q Magazine ranked Music From "The Elder" 44th in their list of The 50 Worst Albums Ever.
The photo session displayed a change of image: the costumes were more streamlined, especially when compared with the somewhat overblown (even for Kiss) costumes for Unmasked, as were the hairstyles of Stanley and Simmons in particular.
The version of Music from "The Elder" released in the United States and Europe 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 this alteration in song order had was to disrupt the narrative flow of the album's story. The Japanese version 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. This sequence was used (with the inclusion of "Escape from the Island") when Music from "The Elder" was re-released on CD in 1997.
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.
|1982||"A World Without Heroes"||Pop Singles||57|
|1981||"A World Without Heroes"||Pop Singles||55|