The Year Of KISS: Psycho Circus (1998)

“I wanna leave but I can’t get away….”

With the recording of Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions all but forgotten, KISS rode a wave of nostalgia that started in 1995 with the reuniting of the original band on MTV Unplugged. KISS was once again at the top of the world, as the original members went on a reunion tour that ran through 1996 and 1997. Intent on staying at the top, KISS headed into the studio to record their first new studio album with all four of the band’s original members…..sort of. Recording for Psycho Circus began in January of 1998 and would last until April of that year. Although it was promoted as the first album to feature Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, and Gene Simmons together since Dynasty (1979), Criss and Frehley’s images were used much more than their actual musical abilities.

The album was released in September of 1998 to much success. It’s supporting tour, the Psycho Circus World Tour, also proved to be very popular with fans. A massive onslaught of promotions were put into action to pump up the reunited band’s image and tons of gimmicks were used on the tour, with music videos, and with the album itself. It was a lot like KISS’ gimmicks in the 70’s but on a much bigger scale. Some of the more notable things used by KISS included a 3-D music video for the title track, 3-D sequences on the supporting tour, and multiple versions of the album including a Japanese release with pop-up images and a lenticular version (the version that I personally own).

Screen cap from the Psycho Circus video.

The album featured ten tracks with one bonus track on the Japanese release. Three singles were officially released and a fourth one (I Finally Found My Way) was released as a promotional single. The first single, Psycho Circus, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and hit the top ten lists of four different countries. We Are One, the second single, topped out at #18 on the Norwegian charts but failed to chart in the United States. The final single, You Wanted The Best, reached #22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, one of KISS’ best album debuts.

Track Listing:

  1. Psycho Circus (Single)
  2. Within
  3. I Pledge Allegiance To The State Of Rock & Roll
  4. Into The Void
  5. We Are One (Single)
  6. You Wanted The Best (Single)
  7. Raise Your Glasses
  8. I Finally Found My Way
  9. Dreamin’
  10. Journey Of 1,000 Years

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Ace Frehley (lead and backing vocals, lead guitar on Into The Void and You Wanted The Best), Peter Criss (lead and backing vocals, drums on Into The Void), Kevin Valentine (all other drums), Tommy Thayer (all other lead guitars except where noted), Bruce Kulick (lead guitars on Within and additional guitars), Shelly Berg (piano, orchestrations), Bob Ezrin (Fender Rhodes piano)

As you can tell from the personnel list, the contributions of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were limited. Criss only played drums on one track and Frehley only played lead guitar on two tracks. In fact, only Into The Void (written by Frehley and Karl Cochran) features all four members performing together. Paul sang lead on four tracks. Gene sang lead on three tracks. Both Ace and Peter sang lead vocals on one track each. All four members traded off lead vocals for You Wanted The Best. Bruce Fairbairn produced the album. Stanley had five co-writing credits. Simmons had four writing credits. Frehley had one co-writing credit. Bruce Kulick, Holly Knight, Karl Cochran, and Bob Ezrin all had one co-writing credit and Curtis Cuomo had two.

I really enjoyed this album. It was the second album that I purchased from the band on its initial release. A friend of mine actually let me borrow his copy (as my copy of Hot In The Shade was gathering dust) and it re-ignited the spark for my interest in the group. In fact, you could say that Psycho Circus pushed me over the edge into being a full-fledged fan of the group. I love Into The Void. It’s my favorite track on the album. A very close second is Psycho Circus. You Wanted The Best and Within are two other tracks that I really enjoy. Even though most of the tracks aren’t truly the “original” KISS, they are still great tracks with strong lyrics (a weak spot for KISS in my opinion) and a massive sound. The only real clunker for me was I Finally Found My Way. To me it completely derails the pounding sound of the rest of the album.

Naysayers dislike the album because it isn’t “really KISS” and that’s a shame because this album is a really strong rock record. It’s not as good as Revenge or Creatures Of The Night, but it can hold its own against anything else that the band put out in the 1980’s and 90’s. It was great to see the original members back together again and up to their old tricks on the stage. Ace would eventually leave the group for good in early 2002 and was replaced by Tommy Thayer (in full Spaceman costume and face paint). Peter Criss would leave in 2001, return in 2002, and leave again for good in 2004. He was replaced by Eric Singer (in full Catman costume and makeup) on all three occasions. The addition of Thayer and Singer in costume was controversial, but fans old and new continued (and still continue) to support the band. In 2009, eleven years after the release of Psycho Circus, KISS would release their first album of new material featuring the so-called imposters, Sonic Boom. I’ll take a look at that album and its follow-up, Monster, next month to finish off The Year Of KISS!

Thanks for checking out my post! I’ll see you again real soon!

The Year Of KISS: Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997)

“Faded smiles behind dark shades….”

Although 1992’s Revenge was positively received, KISS was starting to fade as a mainstream band. By the time the group returned to the studio to record their next album, Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions, the music that they inspired and ultimately embraced in the 1980’s, glam and pop rock, was all but dead thanks to the newest sensation, grunge. As KISS has been known to do over the years, they attempted to morph into their own version of grunge with Carnival Of Souls. The results were….mixed.

KISS started recording Carnival in November of 1995, just a few months after their appearance on the wildly popular MTV acoustic series, Unplugged. It was also on Unplugged where Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley reunited with founding members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. The reunion proved to be popular with fans and would ultimately culminate in the band’s Reunion Tour. Both of the other members of the band at the time, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer, were unaware of the reunion plans and weren’t told about them until just before the Unplugged performance according to interviews with both Kulick and Singer over the years. KISS finished production of Carnival in February of 1996 but due to the popularity of the return of Ace and Peter, Gene and Paul pursued the Reunion tour with them and shelved the album. The band’s Unplugged performance would be released on compact disc and on DVD in March of 1996 while Carnival collected dust.

Despite the album being shut down so that the Reunion Tour could go ahead, KISS fans managed to get their hands on bootleg copies and began sharing it. This move forced KISS’ hand and they eventually released the album with little fanfare and no supporting tour in October of 1997. Critics attacked the album for being a desperate attempt by KISS to remain relevant. Others said that it was just one more in a long line of KISS albums that tried to emulate popular trends of the time. In this case the trend was grunge and while the band gave their best effort, the album just couldn’t find the right audience.

The album featured twelve tracks. It is the longest album by the band despite having fewer songs than Hot In The Shade. Only one song was under four minutes long and five tracks were over five minutes long. The lone single, Jungle, clocked in at 6:49. It peaked at #7 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart but failed to make an impact elsewhere. The album broke the top twenty in Finland and reached #27 on the US Billboard 200.

Track Listing:

  1. Hate
  2. Rain
  3. Master & Slave
  4. Childhood’s End
  5. I Will Be There
  6. Jungle (Single)
  7. In My Head
  8. It Never Goes Away
  9. Seduction of the Innocent
  10. I Confess
  11. In The Mirror
  12. I Walk Alone

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, 12 string acoustic guitar, ukulele), Bruce Kulick (lead and backing vocals, lead guitars, some acoustic and bass guitar), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Eric Singer (drums, backing vocals)

Additional personnel included Carole Keiser, the Crossroads Boys Choir, and Nick Simmons (Gene’s son) on backing vocals on Childhood’s End. Songwriting credits include six for Paul Stanley, nine for Bruce Kulick, six for Gene Simmons, three for Steve Van Zen, six for Curtis Cuomo, and one each for Jaime St. James, Ken Tamplin, and future KISS lead guitarist, Tommy Thayer. Gene and Paul co-produced the album with Toby Wright.

This is one of my least favorite KISS albums. It’s an especially ill-fitting album for Paul Stanley’s voice. He sounds best on pop and hard rock tracks. His vocals are significantly restrained on this album. Almost all of his songs are slow, plodding dirges that limit his punchy vocal stylings. He only lets it rip for a little while on Master & Slave, but none of his songs are that notable. Gene’s voice is much better suited for grunge music and it definitely shows on this album. Although I am not much of a fan of any of these tracks, Hate and Childhood’s End stand out from the pack. Both songs feature Gene on vocals. This is also the only KISS album with Bruce Kulick on lead vocals. He mans the mic on I Walk Alone. That track features the best guitar solo on the album.

Over the years Bruce Kulick has been the most vocal supporter for the album. That might be due to the fact that he co-wrote so many of the album’s tracks and that he finally got to sing a lead vocal on a KISS album. It could also be because this album was released at such a terrible time for Kulick and Eric Singer. When Peter Criss and Ace Frehley ultimately left the band again (multiple times), only Eric Singer ever returned. Kulick never came back as a regular member of the band and, in my opinion, that’s a shame. Kulick has also been relatively quiet as to why he has never returned to the group. He makes occasional appearances on KISS Kruises and seems to have a good rapport with all of the members of the band past and present. He seems to be especially close with Eric Singer and Ace Frehley. He is currently a member of Grand Funk Railroad, has released his own solo work, and was also in the band Union.

Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions is a black mark for KISS in my opinion. Its bungled release, boring (and very un-KISS like) grunge tone, and lack of a tour made it extremely forgettable. It saw the permanent exit of Bruce Kulick as a member of the group, left Eric Singer in limbo, and made Gene and Paul look quite a bit selfish as they put their focus on the Reunion Tour. KISS would definitely recover, but the band was about to embark on a long run of no new material and a ton of nostalgia circuit tours.

Thanks for checking out my post. Next week I’ll be looking at the “Reunion” album, Psycho Circus. We’ve only got three more Fridays in the Year of KISS!

The Year Of KISS: Revenge (1992)

“I’ve gotta body built for sin and an appetite for passion!”

With the 1980’s behind them, KISS strolled into the new decade with their name still in the press but at a level that was nowhere near their success in the 1970’s. The band both lost and gained fans throughout the “no makeup” era that featured three different lead guitarists and musical style changes that went from hard rock to glam to pop rock and power ballads. Gene Simmons had strayed from the path of the band hoping to be everything from an actor to a record producer. With 1989’s Hot In The Shade, the band exited the decade with more respect, but also with a ton of questions. To top it all off, the hairband killer called grunge was about to rear its ugly head.

Hoping to reignite their brand once again, KISS returned to the recording studio to crank out what many consider to be their heaviest and purest hard rock album, 1992’s Revenge. After a pleasurable experience with Bob Ezrin recording their cover of Argent’s God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You (with altered lyrics and entitled God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II) for the soundtrack to Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey, the band decided to bring him in as the producer for the album that would become Revenge. The group also brought in a number of outside sources to co-write songs and play on the album. Most notably, Vinnie Vincent made his return to the band as a songwriter on three tracks. The relationship was short-lived, however, as Vincent ended up suing the band.

Other problems arose for the band when Eric Carr’s health began to degrade. Suffering from heart cancer, Carr was able to record vocals for God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II, but was unable to play the drums. Eric Singer was brought in to record the drum tracks. Eric Carr appeared in the music video recorded for the song wearing a wig due to the fact that he had lost his hair as a result of chemotherapy. Carr would eventually die of complications from his cancer on November 24, 1991. Sadly, he passed away on the same day as Queen’s Freddie Mercury and as a result, his death was mentioned only in passing on news programs, overshadowed by the extremely popular Freddie Mercury. Carr’s backing vocals, his last recording with KISS, can be heard on Revenge on God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II.

Eric Singer would ultimately become KISS’ permanent drummer. Replacing Carr was tough as he was very popular with the KISS Army, but Singer, who had previously worked with Paul Stanley on a solo tour and was also part of Lita Ford’s band and Black Sabbath as well, slid right into the job and kept the band rolling. His shock of blonde hair also made him stand out amongst his new bandmates, as all of them had black hair and the band had adopted an all black look for the Revenge photoshoot. Singer has the uncanny ability to play multiple music styles at a ridiculously high level. From blues and soul rhythms to skin pounding rock and metal, Singer can play all of it with little effort. He is, in my opinion, KISS’ most technically gifted and multi-faceted drummer.

The album featured a total of twelve tracks. Of those twelve, five were released as singles. The first single, God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II was previously released on the soundtrack for Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey and peaked at #21 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Unholy was the second single released promotionally in the United States but charted well in Europe. In peaked at #2 on the Norwegian Singles chart and made the top thirty in four other European charts. Domino was the third single and reached #26 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart followed by I Just Wanna which crawled to #34. The final single, Every Time I Look At You, only charted in Sweden at #31 on that country’s Sverigetopplistan chart. The album itself debuted and peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 chart making it KISS’ first album to break the Top 10 in the US since Dynasty thirteen years earlier.

Track Listing:

  1. Unholy (Single)
  2. Take It Off
  3. Tough Love
  4. Spit
  5. God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II (Single)
  6. Domino (Single)
  7. Heart Of Chrome
  8. Thou Shalt Not
  9. Every Time I Look At You (Single)
  10. Paralyzed
  11. I Just Wanna (Single)
  12. Carr Jam 1981

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar), Eric Singer (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Bruce Kulick (lead guitar, additional bass, backing vocals), Gene Simmons (bass, lead and backing vocals), Eric Carr (backing vocals on God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II and drums on Carr Jam ’91)

Paul Stanley sang lead on five tracks. Gene Simmons sang lead on four tracks. Stanley and Simmons alternated lead vocals together on two tracks (Spit and God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II). Carr Jam 1981 is an instrumental track. Additional musicians on the album include Vinnie Vincent on the guitar intro of Unholy, Kevin Valentine (drums), Dick Wagner (guitars), and Tommy Thayer, Jaime St. James, and Jesse Damon (backing vocals).

The album featured input from a number of writers. Paul Stanley co-wrote seven tracks. Gene Simmons co-wrote six tracks. Eric Carr received credit for writing Carr Jam 1981. Bruce Kulick co-wrote Tough Love. Vinnie Vincent received three co-writing credits. Producer Bob Ezrin co-wrote six tracks. Russ Ballard, Kane Roberts, Scott Van Zen, and Jesse Damon each received one co-writing credit.

Despite being especially popular amongst members of the KISS Army and loved by members of the band itself, Revenge failed to ignite KISS’ popularity amongst mainstream music listeners. The band faced stiff competition from grunge music, which was gaining popularity in the late 1980’s and would explode throughout the 1990’s, effectively wiping out popular hard rock, glam, and heavy metal bands of the time. Hip Hop and rap also proved to be tough competition, as the two styles became popular not only in urban areas, but in the middle class suburbs as well.

Even though it never really found its footing at the time of its release, Revenge was and still is an important album for KISS. It proved that the band did indeed have some serious heavy metal and hard rock chops with tracks like Unholy and Heart Of Chrome. It also reminded fans that KISS still knew how to have fun with tracks like I Just Wanna, Spit, and Take It Off. Of all of the non-makeup era releases, this album is probably the most consistent, featuring an excellent balance of songs and one token power ballad.

In my opinion, this is one of KISS’ best albums overall. Gene Simmons is at his demonic best on Unholy, which happens to be my favorite track off of this album. Just close your eyes and you can visualize the Demon licking up blood and aping across the stage in evil glee while this track plays. I Just Wanna is also a favorite track of mine. It’s just fun to sing along with and if you’re a student of rock n’ roll history, you’ll probably notice that the verses and overall song sound a lot like Summertime Blues by rock pioneer Eddie Cochran (co-written with his manager, Jerry Capehart). You can literally swap the lyrics out of both songs and they fit perfectly. It should be noted that Paul Stanley has stated that Summertime Blues was definitely the inspiration for I Just Wanna. Other songs that really stood out to me on this album are Heart Of Chrome, Tough Love, God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You II, and the somewhat trashy Take It Off. Spit and Domino are my least favorite tracks on the album. There’s something very forced about both of them to me. Every Time I Look At You is very good, but can’t compete with Beth or Forever in my opinion.

KISS could have ended their no-makeup era with Revenge and all would be just fine with me. However, they had one more album up their sleeve before the original members decided to get back together. I’ll cover that album next month along with the first and only studio album of the reunion era.

Thanks for checking out this post. The Year Of KISS is almost over. I hope that you have enjoyed it so far!

The Year Of KISS: Hot In The Shade (1989)

“Rosa had a lover on the shady side of town.”

Hot In The Shade, KISS’ follow-up project to their highest charting 1980’s release, Crazy Nights, is very personal to me because it was the first KISS album that I ever purchased. It would get me into conversations later in life that would set me on the path to becoming a member of the KISS Army. It contains some amazing KISS tracks and some pretty terrible ones as well. It was released on October 17, 1989, and I bought my copy on CD in late January of 1990 (a few weeks after the release of the single Forever). KISS was still very much relevant at the time of the album’s release, but they were slowly fading from the spotlight once again. They needed another hit to keep them in the news and Hot In The Shade would definitely deliver.

Crazy Nights was a popular album but many longtime fans weren’t impressed by the keyboards and synthesizers used on the album. I personally didn’t have a problem with that but KISS apparently did because they removed the keys and synths for Hot In The Shade. They also added horns and female backing vocalists on some of the tracks. The band also seemed to be firing pretty well on all cylinders, with Gene Simmons seeming to have settled back into his role as the band’s bass player and most recognizable member.

The album featured fifteen tracks, more than any other KISS studio album released over the band’s entire existence. It featured three singles. The first single, Hide Your Heart, peaked at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, the power ballad Forever, became KISS’ biggest charting hit since Beth reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976. Forever topped out at #8 on the same chart, just one position shy of matching Beth. The final single, Rise To It, limped to #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album topped out at #29 on the US Billboard 200.

Track Listing:

  1. Rise To It (Single)
  2. Betrayed
  3. Hide Your Heart (Single)
  4. Prisoner Of Love
  5. Read My Body
  6. Love’s A Slap In The Face
  7. Forever (Single)
  8. Silver Spoon
  9. Cadillac Dreams
  10. King Of Hearts
  11. The Street Giveth And The Street Taketh Away
  12. You Love Me To Hate You
  13. Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell
  14. Little Caesar
  15. Boomerang

Personnel: Eric Carr (drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals and bass on Little Caesar), Bruce Kulick (lead guitars, backing vocals, acoustic guitar solo on Forever), Paul Stanley (lead vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitars, brass arrangement on Cadillac Dreams), Gene Simmons (lead vocals, backing vocals, bass)

Paul Stanley sang lead vocals on seven tracks. Gene Simmons, as he did on most of the band’s 80’s releases, sang lead vocals on the other half of the tracks, seven in all. In addition, Eric Carr took on lead vocals for Little Caesar, the first member of the band to sing lead on a studio album other than Simmons or Stanley since Music From The Elder (1981). Additional musicians included Phil Ashley (keyboards), All Star Cadillac Brass, The Sisters of No Mercy (backing vocals), Kevin Valentine (drums), and Pat Regan (saxophone).

This is also the first album by the band to feature input from future lead guitarist/Space Man, Tommy Thayer. Thayer played the electroacoustic guitar on Betrayed and The Street Giveth And The Street Taketh Away. He also co-wrote those two songs with Gene Simmons. Simmons contributed writing on eight of the album tracks. Paul Stanley co-wrote seven tracks. Kulick co-wrote two tracks and Eric Carr co-wrote Little Caesar with Gene Simmons and Adam Mitchell. Additional songwriters included Vini Poncia, Bob Halligan, Jr., Desmond Child, and Holly Knight. I’ll mention another songwriter in a later paragraph.

The album as a whole is somewhat of a letdown to me. I, like many fans of the band, feel that there are just too many filler tracks. Most KISS albums up to that point featured between eight and ten songs. They were fairly short and to the point. HITS, loaded with fifteen tracks, felt bloated and weighed down by a number of forgettable tracks. For me, those forgettable tracks were Love’s A Slap In The Face, Cadillac Dreams, The Street Giveth And The Street Taketh Away, and You Love Me To Hate You. I’d also throw away Read My Body but I have too much fun laughing at its blatantly cheesy lyrics. If it was tossed in, that would give KISS ten good tracks for the album. My least favorite track on the album is You Love Me To Hate You.

For all of the bad songs on the album, there are also some pretty amazing tracks. First and foremost I have to mention Forever. Yes, a power ballad convinced me to put money down for my first ever KISS album and I don’t regret it one bit. The song, co-written by Paul Stanley and Michael Bolton (yes, THAT Michael Bolton), is simply wonderful. Paul’s voice is powerful on this track and it’s one of his best vocal performances in my opinion. Bruce Kulick’s acoustic solo is one of my favorite not only by him but from the band as a whole.I love this song so much that I championed it to be on the set list at my wedding. My wife refused so I tried to have it played at our reception. To be honest, my reception was a big blur, so I don’t know if it was played there or it fell to the wayside.

Other great songs on this album include Rise To It, Hide Your Heart, Little Caesar, Prisoner Of Love, and Betrayed. Rise To It opens the album with a twinge of twang and goes into a solid pop rocker. In fact, most of the tracks on this album could be defined as heavy pop rock tracks. Many fans claim the song Boomerang, the album’s closer, to be a light speed metal track but I don’t hear it. It’s essentially a sped up pop rocker to me. Betrayed and Prisoner Of Love feature some solid guitar work by Kulick and Gene’s vocals on both tracks are surprisingly strong. If I had to pick a second favorite on this album, it would easily be Hide Your Heart. It’s a great story song and you can visualize it while Paul is pumping out the lyrics.

Ultimately, HITS has more misses. Most KISS albums feature a few outstanding tracks, a few solid songs, and possibly one forgettable track, but HITS has at least four (arguably five) real stinkers, three amazing tracks, and a few other good tracks that can’t make up for the disastrous tracks like Cadillac Dreams. I keep Forever and Hide Your Heart in my regular rotation. I have tried multiple times and failed to match Paul’s voice on Forever. I cannot say the actual word “forever”and have it sound as good as it does when Paul hits that note. KISS was definitely experimenting with their songwriting abilities on this album as Hide Your Heart is pretty unique in the KISS catalog. Overall, I love a few songs on this album, dislike many more, but have fond memories of listening to this album as a kid.

So there you have it. I love this album…..but I hate it. It’s got hits, more misses, and too much filler. It has one of my all time favorite KISS tracks and many more of my least favorites. Next week I’ll be looking at Revenge, the kick in the teeth that KISS and music in general desperately needed. Thanks for checking out my post!

The Year Of KISS: Crazy Nights (1987)

“This is our music, we love it loud!”

Just over two years after the release of Asylum, KISS gave the world their fourteenth studio album, Crazy Nights. Released on September 21, 1987, it was the longest break between albums for the band since the release of Love Gun (1977) and Dynasty (1979) not counting the four solo albums in 1978. The band released one album a year from 1979 to 1985, and went through two drummers and four lead guitarists during that time. Thankfully Bruce Kulick proved to be a keeper and the stability of his and drummer Eric Carr’s abilities gave KISS their strongest lineup in my opinion.

Despite the stability of Carr and Kulick, the band was still dealing with infighting primarily between Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Stanley, ever the frontman, continued to champion the cause of KISS throughout the 80’s and Gene was trying to break into acting and music management. Stanley accused Gene of slacking off with the band and even Simmons has said over the years that he was lost as an artist at the time. It shows on Crazy Nights. Stanley’s songs on the album are much, much better than Simmons’ tunes.

The band stripped back much of their glam look from the previous few years, primarily wearing tight leather, spandex, and darker colors with a lot less makeup. That being said, the videos produced for the album’s singles featured plenty of flamboyancy and glammed up looks, especially from Paul.

The album featured eleven tracks. Of those tracks, three were released as singles. The first single, Crazy Crazy Nights, was very successful. It managed to reach #4 on the UK Singles Chart, #37 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, #65 on the Billboard Hot 100, #7 on the Norwegian Singles Chart, #9 on the Irish Singles Chart, and charted on a total of eight different charts overall. The second single, the power ballad Reason To Live, hit #34 and #64 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Billboard Hot 100 charts, respectively. The final single, Turn On The Night, only managed to reach #41 on the UK Singles Chart. The album itself reached #18 on the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum less than two months after its release. It was KISS’ highest charting album in the 1980’s.

Track Listing:

  1. Crazy Crazy Nights (Single)
  2. I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You
  3. Bang Bang You
  4. No, No, No
  5. Hell Or High Water
  6. My Way
  7. When Your Walls Come Down
  8. Reason To Live (Single)
  9. Good Girl Gone Bad
  10. Turn On The Night (Single)
  11. Thief In The Night

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Bruce Kulick (lead guitars, backing vocals), Eric Carr (drums, backing vocals, percussion), Gene Simmons (lead vocals, bass, backing vocals)

Stanley provided lead vocals on seven of the eleven tracks on the album. Simmons sang lead on the four other tracks. Tom Kelly provided additional backing vocals. The band also added keyboards to the mix for the album, bringing in Phil Ashley to lay down many of the keyboard work on the album along with Paul Stanley. Fans had mixed feelings about the keys on the album.

This album is all over the place for me. It features some of my favorite and least favorite KISS songs. It opens up with Crazy Crazy Nights, my favorite KISS song to hear live. There’s something empowering about singing this song along with thousands of fans and Paul Stanley. I also really love Reason To Live and Turn On The Night. Both of these power ballads sound amazing and Bruce Kulick’s solos are wonderful. Another favorite of mine is Good Girl Gone Bad. It’s the only Gene Simmons lead vocal track that I really like on this album. I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You and My Way round out my favorite tracks on this album.

The album suffers from what I consider to be lazy writing. Songs like No, No, No and Bang Bang You reek of lame lyrics. No, No, No does, however, feature some of Bruce Kulick’s most impressive playing and the obvious influence of Eddie Van Halen. In fact, the album has a number of songs that sound a lot like some of Van Halen’s tracks.

Ultimately Crazy Nights is an uneven album that features tracks that are amazing and just as many that are forgettable. It isn’t as consistent as Asylum but I do have to say that this is some of Bruce Kulick’s best work for the band. I also like how KISS added more ballads and that those songs proved to be some of the best on the album. It was a low key risky album in my opinion and it only partly worked.

I also have to add that I really like the cover of this album. The shattered glass effect reminds me of my favorite Paul Stanley guitar and the contrasting black and blue on the cover looks great. It’s probably my favorite no-makeup era cover overall.

Next month I’ll be taking a look at Hot In The Shade, the first KISS album that I ever owned. I think that my review of that album might be a bit of a shock for most folks considering the fact that it features the song that got me initially hooked on KISS…..and tons of filler.

Thanks for checking out my post. The Year Of KISS has been fun for me and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it as well.

The Year Of KISS: Asylum (1985)

“I’m gonna live my life, oh yeah!”

One year and three days after the release of 1984’s Animalize, KISS released their thirteenth studio album, Asylum. As successful as the band was at the time, they were on their third lead guitarist in three albums. Bruce Kulick, who finished out the Animalize tour after Mark St. John was released, was officially brought in as a member of the band and his influence and style are firmly imprinted on Asylum and the rest of KISS’ catalogue until 1996 when the original four members of the group would reunite. Kulick played with amazing speed and intricacy when necessary, but also held his fast fingers in check on slower tracks. As flashy as his playing was, Kulick seemed to be the most reserved member of the band, seemingly happy to take a step back and let Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Eric Carr have all of the glory. In my opinion, Kulick is the most technically gifted guitar player that the band ever had.

The band seemed to mesh quite well on Asylum. Carr gladly pounded his way through the album which was composed almost entirely of hard rock and glam metal tracks. One could argue that Who Wants To Be Lonely and Tears Are Falling bordered upon being power ballads, but they were uptempo tracks with some surprisingly heavy guitar work in my opinion. Paul’s vocals were amazing on this album and improved upon his work on Animalize. He also shared producer credits on the album with Gene but, as many have said over the years (including Gene), Stanley did most of the production work himself. Simmons did an excellent job on bass and as I’ve already stated, Kulick handled lead guitar duties like a champ.

The band also amped up their glam look for the album and its supporting tour. Bright blues, pinks, greens, and reds were all over the place. The band added eyeliner and mascara to their look as well. Oh, there was also a lot of hairspray….so….much….hairspray. This is probably my least favorite look for the band despite being one of my favorite lineups.

Released on September 16, 1985, the album featured ten tracks. Only one single was released. Tears Are Falling was released on the same day as the album and peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. The album itself managed to climb to #20 on the US Billboard 200. It achieved gold status in 1985 and eventually hit platinum status a few years later.

Track Listing:

  1. King Of The Mountain
  2. Any Way You Slice It
  3. Who Wants To Be Lonely
  4. Trial By Fire
  5. I’m Alive
  6. Love’s A Deadly Weapon
  7. Tears Are Falling (Single)
  8. Secretly Cruel
  9. Radar For Love
  10. Uh! All Night

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass on Tears Are Falling), Bruce Kulick (lead guitar, backing vocals), Eric Carr (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Gene Simmons (bass, lead vocals), Jean Beauvoir (bass, backing vocals on Who Wants To Be Lonely and Uh! All Night), Allan Schwartzberg (drum overdubs)

The album featured a lot fewer artists than Animalize and, at least in my opinion, sounded much better. While Asylum kept KISS in the public eye, it failed to capture audiences as well as its predecessor. Paul Stanley co-wrote six songs on the album and was the sole writer on Tears Are Falling. Gene Simmons co-wrote four tracks. Kulick received three co-writing credits. Additional co-writers included Desmond Child, Jean Beauvoir, Howard Rice, and Wes Beech.

The album opens with the blisteringly strong King Of The Mountain. The song showcases Paul Stanley’s vocals and Bruce Kulick’s guitars. From there, Stanley and Gene Simmons alternate on lead vocals with Gene taking over on Any Way You Slice It, another excellent song and Paul following that up with Who Wants To Be Lonely. The album remains consistently strong on all of the tracks until it hits Secretly Cruel (Simmons on lead vocals) and Radar For Love (Stanley on lead vocals). While Secretly Cruel features some excellent guitars, it just sits wrong with me for some reason. Radar For Love is an awkward track with its hard stops and starts. The album finishes off with one of KISS’ best innuendo-laden 80’s tracks, Uh! All Night.

My favorite songs on the album are Tears Are Falling, Who Wants To Be Lonely, King Of The Mountain, and Trial By Fire. In all honesty, I like all but two of the songs (Secretly Cruel, Radar For Love) to some degree. Trial By Fire sounds like a tune you’d hear playing in the background of an 80’s film where kids are preparing for the state basketball game, a BMX race, or some other sporting event. King Of The Mountain is great, period. I wish that it had been released as a single. All of the songs are heavy on lead guitars and when allowed, Eric Carr unleashes a barrage of drums. The band released videos for Tears Are Falling, Who Wants To Be Lonely, and Uh! All Night.

Although it underperformed when compared to other 80’s KISS albums, Asylum is a surprisingly solid album with eight strong tracks and two fillers. It’s one of KISS’ best albums in my opinion and is severely underrated. The band would continue to have decent success for the rest of the decade but wouldn’t catch on fire again until the early 90’s.

Next week I’ll be tackling KISS’ 1987 release, Crazy Nights. Thankfully the band trimmed back the glam look for the album but cranked up their power ballad efforts. Does it work? Find out in my next entry in The Year Of KISS!

The Year Of KISS: Animalize (1984)

“I wanna put my log in your fireplace….”

Hot on the heels of their Lick It Up Tour, KISS headed back into the studio to record their next album, 1984’s Animalize. The band’s popularity was growing once again and they needed to put out an album that could keep their name in the magazines, their faces on television, and, perhaps most important of all, their music on the radio and the charts. There was a problem, however, because Vinnie Vincent was gone and the group needed a strong lead guitarist to replace him as quickly as possible. Luckily for the group, Mark St. John was ready to take Vinnie’s place and he did so with blisteringly fast playing ability.

Much like Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John apparently didn’t mesh very well with the rest of the group. According to St. John, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons didn’t trust his playing. In numerous articles over the years, St. John mentioned how Stanley and Simmons would insist on being at the studio while he was recording his parts for Animalize. Stanley even accused him of being unable to duplicate or replay solos and other parts of songs.

Another source of aggravation for the band was Gene Simmons. Surprisingly, he had become more focused on his own film career and his work as a band manager at the time. Over the years, Simmons has admitted that he “lost his way” with the band when he removed his makeup. Paul Stanley called out Simmons as well during this time and ultimately Simmons praised Stanley for not only being honest with him, but for keeping the band alive while Simmons found himself. Despite all of the issues with St. John and Simmons, the album was recorded and eventually released on September 13, 1984.

The album featured nine tracks. It was a huge success. It outperformed Lick It Up and became the band’s biggest-selling album since Dynasty. That being said, only one of its two singles, Heaven’s On Fire, managed to chart. That song peaked at #11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and #49 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The other single, Thrills In The Night, failed to chart. Heaven’s On Fire is the only song from the album that has remained in the band’s live show over the years.

Track Listing:

  1. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)
  2. Heaven’s On Fire (Single)
  3. Burn Bitch Burn
  4. Get All You Can Take
  5. Lonely Is The Hunter
  6. Under The Gun
  7. Thrills In The Night (Single)
  8. While The City Sleeps
  9. Murder In High-Heels

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, Mark St. John (lead guitar), Eric Carr (backing vocals, drums, percussion), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Bruce Kulick (guitar solos on Murder In High-Heels and Lonely Is The Hunter), Jean Beauvoir (bass on Get All You Can Take, Under The Gun, and Thrills In The Night) Mitch Weissman (additional guitars), Desmond Child (backing vocals), and Allan Schwartzberg (drum overdubs)

As you can see from the personnel list, producer Paul Stanley brought in a number of outside players to get the album’s sound just right. In standard KISS fashion, no one has ever said just how much of the actual band’s input was kept on the album. Five of the album’s tracks were co-written by Paul Stanley. Eric Carr received one co-writing credit. Gene Simmons wrote Lonely Is The Hunter and Burn Bitch Burn. He also co-wrote two other tracks. Jean Beauvoir, Desmond Child, and Mitch Weissman co-wrote many of the tracks as well.

While the album was a financial success and kept KISS reasonably close to the upper echelon of pop culture, the album is about fifty-fifty for me. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) is one of the best album openers that KISS has ever cranked out in my opinion. It’s followed up by two great songs, Heaven’s On Fire and the surprisingly fun-to-sing-along-with Burn Bitch Burn. Then the quality drops off considerably in my opinion. Of the remaining tracks, Under The Gun is pretty decent and Thrills In The Night deserves more attention than it has received over the years. The rest of the songs are forgettable. In particular, Get All You Can Take is easily one of my least favorite songs by KISS overall. Paul’s voice grates my ears in that song and that’s rare for me as I quite like Paul’s vocals on most tracks.

Mark St. John’s guitar work is ridiculously fast. It’s so fast that it sort of sounds like it’s falling off of the rails at times during songs. His style to me is essentially Vinnie Vincent at 2X speed and with slightly less talent. St. John just never clicked with me. He could obviously play the guitar very well, but of all of KISS’ axe men over the years, he’s my least favorite. I hate saying that considering how tough his life was after exiting the band, but it’s the truth.

Speaking of St. John’s exit, he didn’t even finish the Animalize tour with the group. Roughly two months after the album’s release, St. John was fired from the group and replaced by Bruce Kulick (pictured above with Stanley and Simmons). Suffering from reactive arthritis, St. John’s arms and fingers would swell to the point that he could not play his guitar. According to St. John, his arthritis was used as the public excuse for his firing but in reality, it was the fact that he couldn’t get along with the rest of the group. He only managed to play two full shows on the tour. Kulick was brought along and waited backstage in case he was needed to finish a show. Kulick would remain with the band until the eventual reunion of the original lineup in 1996.

My favorite songs on this album are the two singles, with Heaven’s On Fire being one of my favorite KISS songs overall. I know that that might not make much sense due to the fact that I am not big on St. John’s style, but it was perfect on that track to me. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) is another track that occasionally makes it into my rotation. It’s a brutally powerful track.

Overall, Animalize just doesn’t register with me like a lot of KISS’ other albums have done over the years. It’s one of the albums that I listen to the least and I rarely talk about it. I believe that it would be a lot more memorable if the band had taken a step back for just a few more months, hired a guitarist that they could work with instead of one out of necessity and due to time constraints, and spent more time on the songs. The band’s next album, 1985’s Asylum, is, in my opinion, a much better album. I’ll be reviewing it next month. It’s the first album to feature Bruce Kulick as an official member of the band.

Thanks for reading my post. Did Animalize work for you? Do you wish that Mark St. John would have had more time with the band? Let me know in the comments.

The Year Of KISS: Lick It Up (1983)

“It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself.”

September 18, 1983 will go down in history as one of the most pivotal points in time for KISS. Ace and Peter were gone. Record sales and the band’s popularity were low. Creatures Of The Night failed to give the group a boost despite being an amazing album. The group needed something to bring the old fans back and attract new fans. That something was the removal of the band’s signature makeup and the release of Lick It Up. The band, now featuring Vinnie Vincent on guitar, appeared on MTV without their makeup for the first time and announced the release of their new album.

Watching the video of the band’s revelation was awkward in my opinion. Despite telling fans that appearing without makeup was comfortable, Gene appears to be noticeably uncomfortable to me. Paul initially appears uncomfortable but, being the showman that he is, quickly falls into his “promo” mode for the band. Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent appear to be just fine.

Lick It Up was recorded almost immediately after the band wrapped up their less than stellar Creatures Of The Night tour. Stylistically it is nothing more than a continuation of Creatures to me. It features blitzkrieg fast guitar work by Vinnie Vincent, the same wonderfully powerful drums of Eric Carr, Paul Stanley’s strong vocals and rhythm guitars, and Gene Simmons’ growling bass and vocals. Unlike Creatures it lacks a ballad. That wouldn’t be the case for the band’s next few albums, as the power ballad would prove to be one of KISS’ strong points later in the 1980’s.

The album cover features the band standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a white background. Outside of Gene sticking out his tongue and the classic KISS logo, nothing else about the cover calls back to the band’s first makeup era. It’s the harbinger of a new time for KISS.

The album featured ten tracks. It jumped up to #24 on the US Billboard 200 and peaked in the Top 20 in ten different countries. It went gold by December of 1983 and would eventually hit platinum status in 1990. The album featured two singles, the title track and All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose. Despite amazing album sales, neither single impressed on the charts, with Lick It Up topping out on the US Billboard 100 at #66 and All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose peaking at #71 on the German Singles Chart. Even though it fared poorly on the radio, Lick It Up is a live show staple for the band.

Track Listing:

  1. Exciter
  2. Not For The Innocent
  3. Lick It Up (Single)
  4. Young And Wasted
  5. Gimme More
  6. All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose (Single)
  7. A Million To One
  8. Fits Like A Glove
  9. Dance All Over Your Face
  10. And On The 8th Day

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (lead vocals, bass), Vinnie Vincent (lead guitar, backing vocals), Eric Carr (drums, backing vocals), Rick Derringer (guitar solo on Exciter)

After a number of album releases featuring multiple outside artists, it was refreshing to see KISS go somewhat back to basics with the four members doing almost all of the work on the album themselves. Michael James Jackson produced the album along with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

My favorite track on this album is Not For The Innocent. The 1980’s would slowly see Gene Simmons take a step back on KISS’ albums and Not For The Innocent is, at least in my opinion, his last real “Demon” track until the release of 1992’s Revenge and the single Unholy. Simmons has frequently stated that the Unmasked era for the band was a distant time for him. He said that he was more interested in becoming a movie star at the time than for being in KISS and credits Paul Stanley for keeping the band alive during that era.

The title track, despite its hokey post-apocalyptic music video, is also a favorite track of mine. Other standout tracks include the speedy Young And Wasted, the groovy rocker Fits Like A Glove, and the album’s closer, And On The 8th Day. I’m not much of a fan of the rest of the album. It’s okay, but even though it sold much better than Creatures, I feel as if that album is far superior and actually deserved more attention than it received with its initial release.

Of course, you can’t talk about Lick It Up, the No Makeup Era, or the revival of KISS without mentioning the enigmatic Vinnie Vincent. Despite his brief tenure with the group, Vincent deserves a lot of credit for breathing new life into the KISS machine. Vincent not only played on six tracks and co-wrote three songs (including the massively popular I Love It Loud) for Creatures, he also co-wrote eight of the ten songs for Lick It Up including the title track. He was booted from the band in 1984 but eventually returned as a songwriter for 1992’s Revenge. To this day there is a strained relationship between KISS and Vincent.

With Lick It Up, KISS was back in the news, back on the charts, and making waves once again. Vinnie Vincent injected new life into the group but his personality proved to be too much for the other members of the band. Gene Simmons was about to seek fame on the big screen, leaving Paul Stanley alone to run the show. Eric Carr, ever the professional, was content with pounding the drums for the group and being perhaps its most fan-friendly member at the time. What was next for the group? Find out next Friday when I return with another installment of The Year Of KISS.

Thanks for checking out my post. I’ve got some wonderful updates coming very soon and even more KISS related posts waiting in the wings. See you soon!

The Year Of KISS: Paul Stanley (1978)

“You keep your love in chains….”

Of the four KISS solo albums released in 1978, Paul Stanley is, at least in my opinion, the one that sounds the most like a KISS album. Loaded with power pop and rock, a few Ace-like hooks, and Paul’s voice exploring its range, this album sounds like KISS both past and present. I can hear bits and pieces of KISS, Dressed To Kill, Love Gun, and Rock And Roll Over and the soon-to-come pop sounds of Dynasty and Unmasked. I can even hear hints of KISS’ mid-1980’s sound.

The Starchild relied on more musicians than Ace Frehley but used about half as many as Gene Simmons and Peter Criss. He handled most of the guitars on the album, utilizing Bob Kulick on a few tracks on lead guitar and split the bass duties between two bassists, Steve Buslowe and Eric Nelson. The most recognizable name on the album outside of Stanley and Kulick is most likely drummer Carmine Appice, who added his drums to Take Me Away (Together As One).

The album shows the strength of Stanley as not only a singer and guitarist, but as a songwriter and producer as well. It is the only album of the four solos to feature completely original material. Stanley wrote all of the songs except for Move On, Ain’t Quite Right, and Take Me Away (Together As One). Mikel Japp co-wrote those tracks with Stanley. Jeff Glixman produced four of the album’s tracks with Stanley handling the rest. Stanley and Mike D. Stone mixed the album. This foreshadows Stanley’s producer credits on future KISS releases such as Hot In The Shade, Sonic Boom, and Monster.

Stanley knows how to write excellent power pop and rock tracks, and this can be heard throughout the album, especially on tracks like Love In Chains and Move On. He also shines on power ballads like the slightly sappy Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) and the punchier, rock-tinged Tonight You Belong To Me. There are some very Ace Frehley-like sounds heard on the solos for Move On, Goodbye, and Ain’t Quite Right which makes me wonder just how much of an influence Stanley had on Ace’s style of play and vice versa.

The album featured nine original tracks. Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) was the lone single. It managed to reach the 46th spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 edging out Gene Simmons’ Radioactive as the second most successful single from the four solo albums. The album itself peaked at #40 on the US Billboard 200 chart, making it the third most successful album of the four solo releases.

Track Listing:

  1. Tonight You Belong To Me
  2. Move On
  3. Ain’t Quite Right
  4. Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me
  5. Take Me Away (Together As One)
  6. It’s Alright
  7. Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) (Single)
  8. Love In Chains
  9. Goodbye

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals, EBow), Bob Kulick (lead and acoustic guitar), Steve Buslowe (bass), Eric Nelson (bass), Richie Fontana (drums), Carmine Appice (drums), Craig Krampf (drums), Diana Grasselli, Miriam Naomi Valle, Maria Vidal, and Peppy Castro (backing vocals), Doug Katsaros (piano, strings, backing vocals), and Steve Lacey (guitars).

Stanley spends a lot of the album talking about love, broken hearts, and emotions. The single, Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart), is my least favorite track on the album and, in my opinion, the sappiest. The title is also long and awkward. This one tracks slows the album down considerably and almost derails the whole record. Thankfully it is book-ended by two of my favorite tracks on the album, It’s Alright and Love In Chains. The rest of the tracks are amazing as well and the album is wrapped up nicely by the guitar-driven Goodbye.

While Ace’s album is my favorite, Paul’s album is a very close second. Both albums deserve to be in any KISS fan’s collection. Paul’s solo album proves that he was and still is the heart and soul of KISS and its driving force.

Thanks for reading my post. Next month I’ll be returning to the band’s regular studio albums beginning with the first album of the No Makeup era, Lick It Up. Let me know what you think of the Year Of KISS so far in the comments and tell me what you’d like to have me cover in later installments in this series.

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!