Rainy Day Pile: The KISS Solo Albums
KISS Solo Albums
When finding things to write about while we’re all cooped up in our houses, I realized I haven’t done anything music related yet. I love all types of music, from Jazz and Classical to Rock and Mettle, and I’ve been thinking about a certain four Rock albums lately. These would be the 1978 KISS solo albums, where each member of the band took sessions players and made in-character albums to showcase what they brought to the band. This was in the heyday of KISS-mania, so of course all four albums charted, and charted pretty high too. I have only heard bits and pieces of these solo efforts, so I thought since Spotify is free (an ad every thirty minutes is a small inconvenience to pay for access to almost everything music), I would sit down, listen to each one, and give my thoughts. I was expecting certain things for this album:
- That each album would advance the mythology behind the four characters the band members put forth (“The Demon” for Gene Simmons, “The Starchild” for Paul Stanley, “The Space-man” for Ace Frehley, and … “The Cat”? for Peter Criss)
- That each band member would write songs that were driven by their particular instrument (bass for Simmons, rhythm guitar for Stanley, lead guitar for Frehley and drums for Peter Criss).
- That each album would at least be a solid entry in Rock history.
Did the albums meet these criteria? Not the first two, but they sure were good Rock Albums.
The highest charting of the albums at #22, it’s one of the best of the four. I have to knock it down to the second spot though; while everyone else got sessions players for there albums, Gene called in every favor he was owed in the music business, which seems like cheating.
Radioactive: the only song that seems written in character, it’s also mostly bass driven, and it’s one of the best on the four albums. Janis “At Seventeen” Ian is the one singing Hosanna in the prelude and Bob Seger is the background vocals. That cool guitar track? That’s Aerosmith’s Joe Perry playing on the song.
Burning Up With Fever: one of the many songs where Steely Dan’s Jeff Baxter playing guitar, if you get past the song’s weird first thirty seconds, it’s a pretty good late seventies Rock jam, it’s like a lost Skynard track.
See you Tonite: Another Jeff Baxter track, this mellow track sounds more like a 60’s British Invasion song than anything else
Tunnel Of Love: Joe Perry and Jeff Baxter team up in another bass lead track, which brings me to an interesting point: Gene Simmons doesn’t play base on this album, it’s Neil Jason. I thought these were supposed to highlight the individual members strengths. Anyway, another good 70’s car ride song rife with double entendre.
True Confessions: Where did Gene Simmons meet Helen Reddy that he could ask her to be the backing vocals for this song. It’s this track adds a cool piano track and an appearance by the Citrus College Singers.
Living In Sin: Bob Seger returns and Cher has a special guest appearance.
Always Near You/Nowhere To Hide: a typical 70’s song that starts off as a ballad and turns more into a rock song further in. It’s not bad but it’s the weakest of the album.
Man Of 1,000 Faces: I have heard this song on oldies radio so many times (1978 is 9 years before I was born and yet it’s oldies, boy time flies). A classic seventies track with excellent string work. It makes sense that this song came out right after the album that had Beth and before the album that had I Was Made For Loving You. For the record, I’m the KISS fan that actually likes those two songs, and in the case of “Lovin You”, I was never brainwashed into thinking Disco was lame.
When You Wish Upon A Star: Yes the Disney song is sung by “The Demon” Gene Simmons, and it’s actually pretty solid. Apparently Gene loves this song (who doesn’t), and it’s very earnest and heartfelt. It’s a weird little piece of 70’s kitsch and I love it.
Ace Frehley’s album is the best of the four, in my opinion; it’s the most consistent, it doesn’t rely on guest stars loke Simmon’s album, and it’s an entire album of Ace’s guitar work. One of the things I learned doing this? All the bandmembers had decent voices.
Rip It Out: The opening track sets a good pace for the album. It’s got a good rhythm, the drums by future Frehley’s Comet drummer Anton Fig are great, and the guitar solo is great.
Speeding Back To My Baby: Co-written by Ace’s first wife, Jeanette. It’s a track that marries 70’s rock with it’s 50’s car song roots. It does a good job of balancing the nostalgic feel with the updated rock sensibilities.
Snow Blind: Another good seventies rock song, the guitar solo is a shred above and the rhythm of the base reminds me of Hendrix Foxy lady.
Ozone: While the lyrics are simplistic, the instrumental is the draw to this song, with a ear worm body, a head bobbing bridge, and of course great guitar.
What’s On Your Mind?: A song that sounds like a B-side from Sweet, and I mean that in a good way. It’s short, sweet, and well put together.
New York Groove: A cover of Hello’s big track, Ace’s version is just as good. It’s a Sunday slow-drive song, whether you’ve been to New York or not.
I’m In Need Of Love: One thing about Ace that I appreciate is that he can write a big sexy hook, to go with his shredding guitar work, the guitar work and the melody of the verses work wonderfully as one of those hooks.
Wiped-Out: Based on The Surfari’s 1963 classic instrumental, written by Ace and Fig (and what drummer wouldn’t want to riff on the “Wipe-Out” drum work), the song does a good job of taking bits and pieces from the original work and reworking it to fit into their song.
Fractured Mirror: a smooth Instrumental from a great musician. It has a acoustic start that builds on it’s melody with more and more instruments and then cools back down to it’s original hook. A great song by a master musician.
I always felt bad for Paul Stanley when it came to the solo albums. He was always going to knock the singing out of the park, but he didn’t have the kind of instrument for a solo career. Part of the idea behind the solos was to bring each of there particular Instruments to the forefront; and while bass, guitar, and drums can all drive a song, rhythm guitar is designed to stay in the background. Granted, none of the other bandmembers beside Ace took advantage of that, but still.
Tonight You Belong To Me: The album begins with this KISS flavored power ballad, and good on Paul for finding W.A.S.P.’s Bob Kulick as lead guitarist. He really shreds on this track and is the most consistent part of the album.
Move On: You can really tell that the members of KISS grew up with the late 50’s, early 60’s version of rock. and they’ve all done a good job of incorporating that into their individual sounds. Once again Kulick shreds on guitar.
Ain’t Quite Right: Steve Buslowe’s bass on this track was tasty, Kulick’s guitar is once again perfect for the rock ballad. Lyrically it’s clear who the best songwriter in KISS was.
Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me: Paul Stanley does like his love songs, but he’s so good at making rockin’ love songs that I would dig an entire album of just KISS love ballads. Richie Fontana’s drums are a highlight.
Take Me Away (Together As One): Another classy ballad, the last with Buslowe and the only one with Carmine Appice before Eric Nelson takes over bass and Craig Krampf takes over drum duty.
It’s Alright: The hardest song on the album so far, I can see this going over big in 1978, if this album had more than one single released.
Hold Me, Touch Me ( Think Of Me When We’re Apart): Another 70’s love ballad, and I can see why this was chosen as the single, as it has the most crossover appeal, though I think Move On or Wouldn’t You Know Me be given a chance as a B-Side.
Love In Chains: The second hardest song on the album, and the most KISS sounding so far.
Goodbye: Love the guitar riff on this one, if they ever bring back Rock Band as a video game, this album would make a good bit of DLC, heck any of the solos would.
Now the article is getting a bit long so I’m going to rapid fire the songs I had something to say about.
I’m Gonna Love You: Hey, the drummer has a song that’s driven by drums, someone does the assignment.
Tossin’ And Turnin’: Liked the original by Bobby Lewis, I don’t think pushing the horns to the background and slowing the beat down works for this song.
And that’s it, that’s what distinguished itself for me. It’s not bad, it’s just not as memorable or fun as the others. I recommend finding them all on Spotify if you love KISS or 70’s rock in general.