Friday, September 2, 2016

107. Kiss - Destroyer

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In this work, the original album art image background was deleted and with it went the band's name and album title.
It was still distinctively Kiss to people who know,  but perhaps not Destroyer anymore  even to most people who knew.
Two years  to go before  the 50th  anniversary  of the band's  formation in  1973 and eight years  more of  the album's
release in 1976, I thought it was already time I did a gold.

The story of this album cover art itself is almost like a legend.

In November 1975,  Kiss Alive! reached the top 10-album chart; fast on it's way to becoming the biggest selling live album in history.  After years of struggling to build an audience,
the world was now watching. We knew the next album had to be extraordinary in every way, taking Kiss to astronomic heights and forever placing them in the public's imagination.
The songs had to be stellar,  the production impeccable,  and the cover artwork something that took Kiss from fascinating to mythical.  A few artists' names  were thrown around in 
conversation until we came  to the vibrant powerful  style of a young artist  named Ken Kelly.  His beautiful work in the  comics was creating a buzz and it soon became clear to me
that if I wanted larger than life, Ken Kelly was the man. 

When I contacted Ken about doing the Destroyer artwork, I was impressed with his humble, unassuming manner.  Everything was taken with a grain of salt, including several re-dos
and tight deadlines.  Not many people  know that his original  version was rejected by the record company for being too violent.  In today's world,  it wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but
the burning buildings in the background were just too much to take in the relatively innocent mid-70s.  Ken took this in stride and began again, only to have me stop him just as he
was finishing up. This time we needed Ken to start over and put the boys in their new costumes and I wasn't looking forward to telling him.  But once again, Ken was a consummate
professional and went back to work without a word said. 

Original album art for Destroyer from Strong Sword Media on YouTube.

Needless to say,  Destroyer became a juggernaut,  Kiss became the world's premier rock band,  and Ken Kelly single-handedly raised the bar for what album artwork could aspire to.
Destroyer was and always will be one of the most dynamic pieces of album artwork ever created. It went above and beyond my expectations, which were very high considering the 
importance this  follow-up album held.  I wish I could  better verbalize  just what it is that makes Ken such a masterful artist,  but therein lays the element  that elevates art from 
merely well crafted to magic. He has struck such a chord in the generations of Kiss fans that it still reverberates three decades later.
Bill Aucion, excerpt from Ken Kelly's book, Escape on Ken Kelly

Here's the final album art design.

No. 489, Rolling Stone, The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time; No. 745, The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000

Original album cover art design by Ken Kelly. Album produced by Bob Ezrin. Casablanca 1976.

On the brink of  mainstream success,  glam rock band Kiss  set out to create a serious studio album by  enlisting Alice
Cooper’s  producer  Bob Ezrin.  In producing  the  band’s fourth album,  Destroyer, Ezrin added  richer production and
instrumentation with some outside musicians to the band’s base, party-rock sound. As none of the band members had
any formal musical  training or knew much musical theory,  Ezrin ran the sessions like a classroom,  explaining theory
along the way and scolding any band member who deviated from specific directions, something Kiss would later refer
to as “musical boot camp”.  The result was the  most successful  album to date,  following the  modest success of the
first three studio albums, and the launching of Kiss into super-stardom through the late 1970s and beyond.
Classic Rock Review

In anticipation of the 35th anniversary of the release of Destroyer, producer Bob Ezrin approached Simmons and Stanley about doing a remix and re-release of the original album.
With their approval, Ezrin acquired the original 16-track analog master tapes and had them digitally transferred for remixing. In addition to re-equalizing elements of each song,
Ezrin also added in some parts of tracks that had been omitted from the original mix.  Notable among these are some additional vocals on "Detroit Rock City" and "Beth",  and the
substitution of a guitar  solo by Ace Frehley on  "Sweet Pain"  for the one from the original that had been performed by Dick Wagner  (a version of "Sweet Pain" with Frehley's solo 
was included as track 6,  while the original  version with  Wagner's solo is appended  as a "bonus" track at the end of the new CD).  Ezrin also used digital  manipulation to fix an 
incorrect lyric on "Detroit Rock City".  The resulting album, titled Destroyer: Resurrected, was released on August 21, 2012.  It featured Ken Kelly's original cover artwork prior to 
alteration by Casablanca for the 1976 release. wikipedia

Of their make-up, "We had to go through torture to perfect the process of putting it on", Stanley admitted in 1996. wikipedia

(Characters and members in white did not appear on Destroyer.)

(A) Detroit Rock City - King of the Night Time World - God of Thunder - Great Expectations

(B) Flaming Youth - Sweet Pain - Shout It Out Loud - Beth - Do You Love Me

"Detroit Rock City" live 2006 from NEA ZIXNH on YouTube.


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