After a two year hiatus (the previous year saw the release of the four KISS solo albums) KISS returned with a brand new studio album, "Dynasty," (1979) their first since "Love Gun" (1977).
The consensus among many music critics is that "Dynasty" is the album which saw KISS "jump the shark." The KISS ARMY is largely split on this one. While some view "Dynasty" as the beginning of the end, others rate it highly alongside such classics as "Love Gun," "Destroyer" (1976) and "Alive" (1975).
I personally love this album. The main criticism is that it sounds too commercial, too poppy, etc. While the album does feel slick and while "I was made for lovin' you" would no doubt make the Be Gees proud, "Dynasty" is still most definitely a rock album. While other KISS fans would beg to differ, I feel "Dynasty" stands as one of the band's best albums. The album is very well-written with killer hooks, so really "selling out" made for an extremely captivating and catchy collection of songs.
It should be noted that with "Dynasty" the band started to collaborate with outside writers. In terms of the band's 70s out-put is concerned, I would rank "Dynasty" above "Hotter than Hell" (1974) "Dressed to Kill," (1975) and "Rock N' Roll Over" (1976) and slightly below "KISS," (1974) "Alive," "Love Gun" and "Alive II" (1977).
KISS has the notorious reputation of jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is the flavor on the month and that really started here with this album. The Stanley/Desmond Child/Vincent Poncia pure disco "I Was Made for Lovin' You" is probably the catchiest, most infectious song of KISS's career. So while most bands would be chastised for such an obvious sell-out, KISS is given a free pass because this song is pure ear-candy. Guitarist Ace Frehley lends his vocal talents to an outstanding cover of The Rolling Stone's "20th Century Man," which outshines the original. The seductive disco-tinged "Sure Know Something" (Stanley/Poncia) is another song that might not be so out-of-place on the "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) soundtrack. The Peter Criss sung "Dirty Livin'" (Criss/Poncia/Penridge) is perhaps the most underrated song on the CD. This hard-rocking disco-tinged ode to excess stands as one of the band's best songs. It should be noted that "Dirty Living" is the only song that Peter Criss plays on "Dynasty." Due to his continuing erratic behavior and substance abuse, Anton Fig stepped in for the Cat Man as a ghost drummer for the rest of the album. The somewhat off-beat Gene Simmons sung "Charisma" (Simmons/Marks) throws the album a curve-ball, but is effective and keeps up the momentum. Stanley's "A Magic Touch" may not have been good enough to be released as a single, but is still a better than average rocker. Ace Frehley's "Hard Times" is basically filler and a bit of a disappointment when you consider how great his '78 solo album was, but it's not bad. Gene Simmon's melodic "X-Ray Eyes" is a continuation of the style that had so worked for him on his '78 solo album, but the Beatle-esque harmonies are eschewed in favor of a more KISS flavored sound. "Dynasty" ends on a very strong note with Frehley's hard-rocking, edgy "Save Your Love," which is easily up-to-par with the best of his work from his '78 solo album.
While "Dynasty" was a huge hit upon release, it ultimately wound-up hurting the band in the long run. While "I Was Made for Lovin' You" no doubt thrilled the masses, the KISS ARMY was left scratching its head. For KISS purists, the idea of KISS doing a pure disco song on a disco-tinged album was very off-putting. And while "Dynasty" struck the right balance between commercial pop and hard-rock, the scale was tipped in the direction of the former for KISS's next album "Unmasked" (1980) which further led the band astray. So while "Dynasty" is a fine album, it was the beginning of what would be a dark period in the band's lengthy career.