Klassik ’78: ‘Phantoms’

Released in January 2022 (Klassik ’78)

Imagine if KISS frontman Paul Stanley found a beat up cassette tape with Klassik ’78‘s new Phantoms album on it and with nothing identifying which band is actually on the cassette tape. I can just imagine Stanley listening to the cassette and immediately calling his long-standing music and business partner Gene Simmons and saying: “Gene, you’ll never believe this. I found some old KISS demos that we must have forgot about. I can’t believe that we didn’t release these songs. They sound so good! My voice on those demos has so much New York swagger to it and sounds like it did when we did Alive!. You sound pretty good too [laughs]. And I forgot just how great of a guitarist that Ace [Frehley] was before drugs and alcohol really started to impact his behaviour. Those guitar solos of his are simply amazing and really represent that KISS sound so well. We’ve got to release these tracks! Perhaps once the End of The Road World Tour is finally over?”

I don’t know if Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have yet to hear Klassik ’78‘s new album Phantoms but I do know that any KISS fan who liked the band’s music from 1974 to 1978 should be getting this album right away. Klassik ’78 sound more like classic ’70s era KISS than the actual KISS could ever sound at this point. In fact, if you gave the Phantoms album to a KISS fan to listen to without letting them know who is the band in question, that KISS fan would be hard pressed not to think this are old but well recorded tracks from KISS back during their classic era of 1975 to 1978.

When I first started listening to Phantoms, what struck me right away were how the first three songs represented KISS so well. You have the slower intro of “Show Me Your Love” which will likely instantly make you think of the intros for KISS tracks “Rock Bottom” or “Black Diamond.” The lead vocals on “Show Me Your Love” sound exactly (to my ears) the way Paul Stanley sounded around the Alive! and Alive II era with that New York city swagger in his voice. The line “I’ll give you my love, anytime, anywhere” is simply classic Paul Stanley wordage. “Fever Dreams” sounds like a typical Gene Simmons song. Funny enough, although I love Gene‘s KISS songs — I consider Gene‘s KISS songs as the ones that he handles the lead vocals on — I’ve always felt for the most part that Paul‘s songs (same analysis for what I consider to be a Paul KISS song) on any KISS album are usually overall superior to Gene‘s tracks and that’s exactly what I felt while listening to the first two Klassic ’78 tunes on Phantoms. The third track “Smoke & Mirrors” on Phantoms is what KISS fans would consider to be an Ace Frehley sung tune with the rather laid back singing and musical swagger reminiscent of Frehley‘s KISS solo album back in 1978. Throw in the absolute killer guitar solos that sound so much like Ace Frehley, those three songs represent classic KISS to me in a nutshell. The great stuff does not stop though with the first three songs. “Queen of Hearts” sees at least two of the Klassic ’78 members singing lead vocals together before the “Paul” vocals kick in.

Speaking of the Klassik ’78 band members, they are not identified on the CD packaging aside from their names appearing for songwriting and publishing purposes. The album title Phantoms fits the Klassik ’78 band members to a T. While the Klassik ’78  apparently prefer not to be identified, there is a rather straightforward nod to the original KISS band members with the back cover of the CD stating “To Ace, Gene, Paul & Peter” just like can be seen on the KISS solo albums from 1978. It’s a nice touch and clearly Klassik ’78 are happy to give props to KISS on everything including their album cover with the recognizable guitars and bass to the roller coaster reminiscent of the — let’s face it — cheesy and terrible movie Phantoms of The Park, which starred the KISS members. If you’re going to borrow from a band, why not be up front about it like Klassik ’78 clearly are. While I am not sure that the Klassik ’78 line-up remains the same, when I did an interview with the band back in April 2018, Tom [Higgins] was handling all of the Gene and Ace vocals, guitar and bass; Joe [McGinness] was singing the Paul vocals; and, a fellow by the name of Rory was on drums. Klassik ’78 did release a performance video for the track “Standing Tall” back in 2018 where you see four band members.

The fifth track on Phantoms is titled “Whatcha Gonna Do” but should be renamed the “Cowbell Song.” I have never heard so much cowbell in a song but it reminds me of the live version of “100,000 Years” off Alive! when Stanley is talking to the audience and Peter Criss is seemingly going nuts with the cowbell. In any case, all the cowbell sounds on “Whatcha Gonna Do” help to enhance the song rather than detract from it, and it’s an easy chorus to sing along to. This is probably the best “Gene” song on Phantoms. “Living Fantasy (Tonight)” would find its way easily onto Paul Stanley‘s KISS solo album with its upbeat feel and faster pace. Possibly my favorite track on Phantoms — aside from the opener “Show Me Your Love” — is “Walk That Walk” where you have both “Gene” and “Paul” lead vocals. It reminds me a bit of “Shout It Out Loud” in that way but “Walk This Walk” mainly and definitely has a real early KISS swagger to it. Phantoms ends off with “Rock N’ Roll Over” which is probably the weakest song on the album. I think that this one could have possibly been left off the album.

Overall, Klassik ’78 continue their self-evident and so far very successful mission to create songs that would fit right in with the KISS classic era from 1974 to 1978. Klassik ’78 spare no details in that regard and have come up with their best material to date on Phantoms. Don’t be surprised if this album sneaks up on many “best of lists” at the end of the year. My only concern with Klassik ’78 is that they seem to be a well kept secret as there are hardly any YouTube videos or audio files showcasing the Phantoms album. This is a killer album that deserves to be heard. You can pick up Phantoms on CD via Newbury Comics‘ website. If you like early classic KISS, you simply cannot go wrong by picking up Klassik ’78‘s new album Phantoms. Trust me on that and you can thank me later!

Track List:
01. Show Me Your Love
02. Fever Dreams
03. Smoke & Mirrors
04. Queen of Hearts
05. Whatcha Gonna Do
06. Living Fantasy (Tonite)
07. Walk That Walk
08. Rock N’ Roll Over

Band Members:
Tom Higgins – lead guitar, bass, lead and backing vocals
Joe McGinness – acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, lead and backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums

Produced by Klassik ’78
Mixed by Klassik ’78 and John Schipp
Drums recorded and engineered by Asim Ali

Band Websites:
Official Website
Newbury Comics

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, April 2022

1978 TV Ad for the Klassik ’78 Phantoms album:

Klassik ’78 Phantoms Album Sampler: