BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Long before Paul Stanley found success with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Kiss, he was checking out the heavy hitters like Otis Redding in concert.
The experience was eye-opening, he says via Zoom.
“It really showed me that greatness has no color, has no ethnicity, has no shape, has no size,” Stanley says. “You are aware when you’re in the presence of greatness, and it’s not something that’s easily defined there.
“There have been moments like that in my life where I have been very lucky, and Otis was certainly one of them.”
Stanley took experiences like that and rolled it into the band Soul Station, which just released its first full-length album, “Now and Then,” which covers the Temptations, the Delfonics, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Five original tracks fit snugly with the covers.
Soul Station, Stanley’s 15-piece ensemble group, has toured the United States and Japan, but it wasn’t until recently that it could enter the studio together and record “Now and Then.”
To help Stanley create the sound, he recruited the likes of Rafael “Hoffa” Moreira (guitar and backing vocals), Sean Hurley (bass), Alex Alessandroni (musical director, keyboards), Ely Rise (keyboards), Eric Singer (drums and backing vocals), Ray Yslas (percussion), Gavyn Rhone (backing vocals), Crystal Starr (backing vocals), Laurhan Beato (backing vocals) and Jon Pappenbrook (lead trumpet).
“We have such a ball,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for years now. We’re not a band that got together in the studio and wants to go play live. We’re a live band that’s gone into the studio, which comes across.
“We get along so great. We’re constantly texting each other or calling. It shows how exciting friendships can be when you’re not all bringing the same thing to the table. If you watch the videos, there is a lot of smiling because we have a ball.”
Stanley says the group found it satisfying to take on classic hits like “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” and “The Tracks of My Tears.”
“I’ve loved the songs since they came out,” he says. “I grew up with all this music, and I’ve always sung these songs at home.
“I’m not Eddie Kendricks, and I’m not Al Green. I’m not Levi Stubbs. I’m me. I believe that if you understand a song, if you can get into the intent of the song and the emotion behind it, you should be able to sing it — if you’re a singer.”
Stanley wanted to focus on and respect the melodies, so he didn’t change much when he recorded the songs.
“I also didn’t want to do paint by numbers,” Stanley says. “This wasn’t impersonations. This was me singing those songs, and from the response I’ve gotten from people who I look up to, mission accomplished.”
Songs like “Just My Imagination” proved to be challenging, but the mission was definitely accomplished, based on a conversation had with Otis Williams.
“Subtle songs can be like threading a needle,” he says. “There’s not a lot of leeway on either side. ‘Just My Imagination’ is a beautiful, beautiful song. It’s eloquent. Otis Williams is the keeper of the flame for the Temptations. He says to me, ‘I’ve listened to your version over and over, and it’s as good as ours is.’
“You have to put that into perspective. I certainly do. Our reverence, our respect and our dedication to performing these songs come across. If Otis says that, then I would say that the defense rests.”
He’s hoping Kiss fans will love the music as much as he does.
“I hope they can be shown that there’s only two types of music — that’s good and bad,” he says. “If you only listen to one kind of music, it’s like eating one kind of food over and over and over.
“There’s a lot of great music out there, and it doesn’t necessarily all fall into the same category.”