Longtime Kiss fans recognize that Peter Criss has always lived a double life, musically speaking. On the one hand there is the hard rocking Catman, found on songs like “Hooligan,” “Baby Driver,” and “Dirty Livin’.” On the other hand, there is the tender side of Criss, most evident on his 1978 solo album and the classic 1976 ballad “Beth.”
Criss’s first solo effort since 1994, the self-produced One for All, falls squarely in the latter camp. In fact, it’s even more subdued than his ’78 solo effort. Of the 12 songs on the album, only one (“Heart behind These Hands”) gets any warmer than a simmer. In and of itself that’s not a problem, unless listeners were hoping for something harder. What is a problem is Criss, as much as he obviously poured his heart into One for All, lacks the songwriting, singing, and production chops to carry an entire album.
That’s not to say that One for All doesn’t have its good moments. The slow, bluesy “Doesn’t Get Better Than This” is a nice trip down memory lane, and features standout guitar playing by writing partner Mike McLaughlin. “Whisper” crawls along but is very engaging and contains delicate fretwork, while the bluesy “Heart Behind These Hands” is easily the strongest song on the album and is punctuated by a searing McLaughlin solo.
But even the better songs on this album suffer from a lack of hooks and some painfully off-key vocals by Criss (if there were ever an album where the use of Auto-Tune is justified, this is it). These problems, combined with some genuinely sub-par songs – “Hope,” replete with cheesy keyboards, is mercifully short while “Faces in the Crowd” oozes schmaltz with overdubbed crowd noise and lines like “my heart is like a big bass drum” – mean that One for All can’t be considered as anything better than mediocre to all except Criss diehards.