The Year Of KISS: Gene Simmons (1978)

“I’m burning up with fever….”

Of the four solo albums released in 1978 by the members of KISS, Gene Simmons is arguably the most anomalous of the bunch. Sure, Peter Criss’ solo effort strayed the farthest from KISS’ traditional sound, but it was also consistent. Gene’s album was a mishmash of different styles of music. A few tracks sounded similar to KISS, but others mixed in gospel harmonies, funk, and R&B. One track in particular, See You Tonite, could have easily been recorded by The Beatles.

The fact that the album is all over the place with its sound actually proves to be a strong point. Simmons fully embraced the opportunity to play with different genres. He also brought in a number of big names to bolster his album. Cher, Donna Summer, Joe Perry, and Bob Seger are just a few of the artists that contributed to this album, and if taken as individual songs, you can definitely tell that the album’s production was a step above the rest of the solo albums.

Simmons primarily tackled lead, acoustic, and rhythm guitars on this album. Session player Neil Jason handled bass. Jason had only been active as a session player for a couple of years at the time but his career has included collaborations with artists such as Gladys Knight, John Lennon, Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and many, many more legendary artists. Elliot Randall handled many of the other guitars and Allan Schwartzberg tackled drums (and also played on Criss’ album). Both of these artists have recorded and/or toured for numerous popular acts such as Steely Dan, Peter Frampton, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Simmons wrote all of the songs on the album with the exception of When You Wish Upon A Star (Ned Washington, Leigh Harline) and Living In Sin (Simmons, Sean Delaney, Howard Marks). He also covered See You In Your Dreams (which he wrote) from KISS’ Rock And Roll Over Album. At least four other tracks on the album were written for Destroyer but ultimately not used on the album. This made many believe that Simmons put in very little effort to come up with new and original material for the album. Tacking on When You Wish Upon A Star at the end of the album also came across as a joke for many fans of the band, but Simmons has insisted over the years that the song has a deep meaning to him and I personally believe him.

The album featured eleven tracks, the most of any of the solo albums. The lone single was Radioactive. It topped out at #47 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The album peaked at #22 on the US Billboard 200 which makes it the highest charting of the four solo albums at the time. Over the decades it has been overtaken by Ace Frehley’s solo album as far as sales are concerned.

Track Listing:

  1. Radioactive (Single)
  2. Burning Up With Fever
  3. See You Tonite
  4. Tunnel Of Love
  5. True Confessions
  6. Living In Sin
  7. Always Near You/Nowhere To Hide
  8. Man Of 1,000 Faces
  9. Mr. Make Believe
  10. See You In Your Dreams (cover)
  11. When You Wish Upon A Star (cover)

Personnel: Gene Simmons (lead vocals, lead, acoustic, and rhythm guitars), Neil Jason (bass), Elliot Randall (guitars), Allan Schwartzberg (drums), Sean Delaney (percussion, backing vocals). Numerous other artists were used on the album. Refer to the album’s liner notes for a complete list.

Simmons utilized twenty-seven different artists on the album. Of special note are those mentioned earlier in this post along with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Janis Ian, Eric Troyer of ELO Part II, Helen Reddy, and Kate Sagal (of Married….With Children and Sons of Anarchy).

As already mentioned, Simmons was a bit all over the place with the sound on this album. That being said, you can clearly hear the influence of bands such as The Beatles. You also get a glimpse into Simmons’ world with songs like Man of 1,000 Faces (a blatant Lon Chaney reference) and When You Wish Upon A Star (referencing both Disney and being a dreamer/immigrant kid). As always, Simmons also talks about the subject he seems to love the most: sex. Tunnel Of Love, Burning Up With Fever, and Radioactive make no attempts at hiding their subject matter.

Although I do like this album overall, it’s my least favorite of the four solo releases. I really like Man Of 1,000 Faces, Radioactive, and See You Tonite. I also enjoy listening to When You Wish Upon A Star. Other than those tracks, however, there’s not much on this album that I find myself listening to with any regularity. I like the fact that the album is all over the place but I also find myself expecting more from it as well. It would have been great to hear at least one snarling, evil Demon-themed track, but that’s nowhere to be found on this album.

The Demon will always be the most recognizable face in KISS. He’ll always draw the most attention on the stage as well. He won’t, however, find a spot at the top of my list for the solo albums. While it’s a pretty good effort, it ultimately does nothing to make itself rise to the top of the list.

Thanks for checking out my review. I have one solo album left to cover before diving into the “No Makeup” era of KISS!

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