Review: Paul Stanley’s Soul Station
Paul Stanley has been and will forever remain my favorite member of KISS. I’ve always been able to relate to Paul on a personal and professional level, and he’s clearly the most talented member of KISS. I’ve consistently enjoyed the music he’s written and performed, including when he made forays into uncharted territory, like “Then She Kissed Me,” “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart),” and “Odyssey.” Thankfully, I had the opportunity to interview Paul about his latest and most compelling work as a solo artist: Soul Station. Paul has assembled a soul group aptly named Paul Stanley’s Soul Station, and the band’s debut album entitled Now And Then is spectacular! Read on for my track-by-track review of this special record that is the embodiment of everything that makes Paul Stanley the unique individual and talent that he is.
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”
Originally released in November 1972 by The Spinners, this joyful song is the perfect opening to Soul Station’s first album because it sets the tone of what’s to come perfectly: impassioned vocals, gorgeous arrangements, and infectious melodies aplenty. It’s also clear from this track that Paul Stanley’s voice sounds great with this kind of material and that he’s completely surrendered himself to the music, turning in a magnificent performance.
The first of five original songs, “I Do” fits in perfectly, slowing things down a bit from the song that preceded it. I’m amazed by how Paul so effortlessly wrote and arranged original material that sounds as if it was plucked from the same era as the timeless classics that make up the foundation of Now And Then. It’s a testament to his limitless ability and musical talent.
“I, Oh I”
This is the best song on the entire record, and it’s an original! “I, Oh I” is one of the most infectious pop songs I’ve ever heard, and Paul’s vocal on this number is magnificent. The harmonies are heavenly, the chorus sublime, and the arrangement sheer perfection. There are hints of the KISS Paul Stanley we all know and love, like when he yells out “I can’t stand it!” And the ending, when he’s singing “I want to live my life, live my life, live my life . . . lovin’ you,” is everything I love about music. The best songs include a variety of vocal riffs, where the singer abandons the established structure of the song and lets loose with an abundance of emotion, as if they’re overcome with the spirit of music and simply have to let it out. Paul does this in the aforementioned ways, and I absolutely love it. If happiness were a song, “I, Oh I” would be it. Not only is this the best track on the album, it’s one of the greatest pieces of music Paul Stanley has written in his 50+ years in the industry.
“Ooo Baby Baby”
Written by Smokey Robinson and Peter Moore, this 1965 hit by The Miracles shows off Paul’s incredible ability to pull off a falsetto vocal. The strength, pitch, and pureness of this vocal is something to behold. I’m astounded by how perfect Paul sounds on this number. Songs like this one are perfect for his voice, which is why he shines at a blinding level while singing it. Another standout on an all-killer-no-filler record.
Paul chose this Top 10 hit from 1970 by the Five Stairsteps as the lead single for this album, and it was a wise choice. The moment Eric Singer’s drums hit and those horns came in, I knew I was in for something special. From the melodic piano to the inspired harmonies, this performance has it all — the perfect way to introduce a new sound for an iconic artist. Using something familiar to create comfort with something new; brilliant!
“Save Me (From You)”
While this is the third of five original songs on Now And Then, it’s the first one that Paul wrote for the album. It came off so well that he decided to write more and stopped at five. As with the others, it blends in with the vintage classics to the point where I originally thought this was a cover song. Moments in the song like “Shame on you, girl” are pure Paul Stanley, and I found myself singing along immediately. Paul’s falsetto at the end, when he’s belting out “Save me from, you, hoo, hoo,” is the definition of soul. Simply wonderful.
“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”
Slipping back into that falsetto voice that goes down as smoothly as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night, Paul’s interpretation of this #1 hit single by The Temptations is gorgeous. And Eric Singer lends a significant contribution during the bridge of the song with his smokey voice. The strings, the harmonies, the lead vocal — everything about this song is expertly done. A masterstroke of musical genius!
“Whenever You’re Ready (I’m Here)”
The fourth of five original tracks on Now And Then, “Whenever You’re Ready (I’m Here)” is a dueling vocal between Paul and one of the female singers in Soul Station. It’s a nice change of pace, and the soulful vocal embellishments at the end of the song brings it home in a big way. While this is probably my least favorite of the five original songs, it’s still great.
“The Tracks Of My Tears”
Once again, Paul shows off his falsetto chops — this time with the 1965 hit song written by Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin. Made famous by The Miracles, Paul’s take on this song is splendid. The harmonies are silky smooth, the arrangement is powerful, and Paul’s lead vocal ties it all together perfectly. One of the best versions of this song I’ve ever heard.
“Let’s Stay Together”
Next up is another iconic song that almost everyone on the planet knows: “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. This #1 Billboard Hot 100 single is still just as potent today as it was in 1971. I’ve always loved Tina Turner’s version the most, and Paul’s rendition channels both Al Green and Tina Turner, while injecting a healthy dose of his own signature style. A joyous feel-good number that I find myself singing along with almost every time it’s playing.
“La-La – Means I Love You”
I’ve never been the biggest fan of this 1967 song by The Delfonics. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it just doesn’t do much for me. Prince covered it in 1996 on his Emancipation album, and I didn’t care for that version either. Paul’s cover is the best I’ve heard. Yet, like “Whenever You’re Ready (I’m Here),” this is a great track that’s at the bottom of my list for favorite songs on Now And Then. It’s great, but I don’t need to listen to it every time I play this album.
This is the last of the five original songs on Now And Then, and it’s incredible! Like any well-crafted pop song, it builds to an epic crescendo, with call-and-response vocals that are overflowing with passion. Hearing Eric Singer and Paul Stanley’s voices overlapping during the spectacular finish to this number, with the harmonies added in, gives me goosebumps because it’s so good. This is one of those songs that I instantly replay when it’s over because it’s that compelling. An absolute masterpiece! Behind “I, Oh I,” this is the second greatest song on the record.
“You Are Everything”
Written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed and released by The Stylistics in 1971, “You Are Everything” is another one of those songs that’s hard not to love. I’ve heard it a million times, yet it’s still infectious. This is, once again, Paul Stanley in all of his falsetto glory. I’ve never heard so much falsetto from Paul on an album before, but it suits him well. The arrangement is lush, with a familiar, yet original, sound. The guitar solo is a nice touch too. A fresh take on a timeless classic.
“Baby I Need Your Loving”
Now And Then comes to a close with “Baby I Need Your Loving” by The Four Tops. Originally released in 1964, this is a great upbeat way to end a truly special album. A phenomenal singalong number, it serves as a reminder of the incredible songs that preceded it. This track also features a lot of the Paul Stanley vocal style that I know and love from KISS, including that signature rasp and attitude. The perfect conclusion to an exceptional collection of music.
Having listened to this entire record countless times, I can firmly say that it is one of the most inspired takes I’ve ever heard for this kind of music. The fact that Paul took it a step further and crafted five wonderful songs, including two stone cold classics, is remarkable. He didn’t phone this one in. Rather, he gave it everything he had and more. As I said to Paul, I hope he continues down this road. At 69 years old, he continues to grow and evolve, breaking boundaries and keeping me on my toes with his creativity. I’m thankful for this and can’t wait to see him perform this material live because it’s seriously that good.