Live To Win

Paul Stanley

You wanted the best. You got the best. The hottest crooner in KISS — Paul Stanley! The Starchild’s work on Live to Win, his second solo CD in nearly 30 years, is, indeed, stellar. His first solo spin in 1978 confirmed his role as KISS’ creative nerve center, but that was just his apprenticeship. Live to Win is the real deal; the work of a full-fledged master craftsman. Strip away the spectacle and swagger, the paint and platforms, the flash and fire, and underneath is the real magic--solid songwriting. Stanley’s specialty has always been clarity and directness; saying more with less--his tunes ditch the pitch, and cut right to the sale. And on Live to Win, that songwriting is relevant, mature and diverse, matched by equally contemporary production. Yes, Desmond Child co-wrote many of these tunes, but it’s not likely he out muscled Stanley’s songwriting prowess. Stanley’s personality is very much in the fore: there are introspective tunes that represent Paul Stanley, Responsible Family Man, as well as rockers that epitomize Paul Stanley, Eternal Teenager.

And now, that teenager is not only gawking at the centerfold in his daddy’s Playboy, but actually reading the articles. KISS probably holds the world’s record for the most songs rhyming “knees” with “please” — leaving little doubt as to who’s on their knees, and who they’re about to please. Yet on the slam-bang KISS-flavored rocker, “All About You,” it’s role-reversal time. Beneath all the Y-chromosome power chords, Paul is begging to bestow his lover with boudoir bliss. The top-notch “Bulletproof” also hits the melodic hard rock target, firing off round after round of driving, spirited riffs reminiscent of “Let’s Put the X in Sex.” And the CD aptly opens with “Live to Win,” a heavier, darker-toned tune akin to Nickelback or 3 Doors Down, brandishing, with unwavering resolve, Paul’s credo of believing in yourself and never, ever, ever giving up. “Lift” also has a similar grand, moody ambiance matching its theme of redemption from despair through forgiveness.

And then, of course, there are the ballads. After all, Gene Simmon’s persona may be the womanizer, but Paul Stanley’s is the lover, the romantic. And his rich, earnest vocals are the perfect complement to the passionate yearning of “Everytime I See You Around” (which was perhaps written during the angst of his divorce) or the sentimental ode to his second wife, “Second to None” with its soaring chorus “You might not be the first/But for me, you’re always second to none.” Remember this: As time goes by, a KISS is, indeed, not just a KISS. Especially when it’s Paul Stanley.

~ Merryl Lentz

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