Lucky part 13 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster! This time, we’ll look at one of the four solo albums released under the Kiss banner in 1978: Gene Simmons.
KISS – Gene Simmons (1978)
I’ll admit it: I love much of Gene’s solo album. I didn’t always! I used to think it was too weird, too flaky, not rock enough. Too much annoying funky bass. Now with a few years behind me, I like it a lot more, due to some of the mellow, acoustic songs. When I was a kid I would have given it 1 star just because it’s not rock. There’s very little here that rocks.
The bass (by Neil Jason) is way too funky for my tastes and I never liked it, and I still don’t. But it was the late 70’s, and disco was happening, and we all know how Kiss responded to disco. There’s not enough guitar and too many backing vocals by assorted guests.
But this is kind of the point of Gene Simmons’ solo album. He crammed in as many people as possible to make a cast-of-thousands record suitable to his ego. Cher, Joe Perry, Rick Neilson, Katy Sagal…you can google the credits yourself (or just click the album cover pic above). Interestingly, Gene also wanted Lassie the dog, and the Beatles. He couldn’t get the Beatles, so he got Beatlemania instead. No kidding.
There’s some truly excellent material on this album. Those songs are:
3. See You Tonite
7. Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide
8. Man of 1, 000 Faces
9. Mr. Make Believe
None are rock songs. “See You Tonite” and “Mr. Make Believe” are Beatles-like acoustic tracks, gorgeous in arrangement and performance. “Man of 1,000 Faces” is epic, with big orchestra and a point of view more suitable to the Demon’s. (“I can put on any face/You won’t see me but it’s no disgrace/The king of night, he understands.”) It was inspired by Lon Chaney so obviously there’s a little bit of the Demon in it. “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide” starts off very quietly and then goes into the big “Nowhere to Hide” section, with orchestra and Gene’s falsetto, which I actually like a lot. A lot of this stuff was written pre-Kiss, pre-Wicked Lester.
“See You In Your Dreams” is a remake of the Kiss song. I don’t like it as much as Kiss’ version, and I find the backing vocals distracting and obtrusive. Most of side 1, I find to be too funky and not nearly as interesting as the acoustic stuff. “Radioactive” has some spark, but sounded better performed live by Kiss, with a little more reckless groove.
The final track, “When You Wish Upon A Star”, is exactly what you think it is – Walt Disney and Gene Simmons, together (at last?). Regardless of Gene’s intentions, it’s only there as a novelty. Something to play for your friends if you want to say, “Wanna hear something really funny? You gotta hear Gene Simmons meets Pinochio.” Maybe something to throw on the end of a mix CD, when you only have 2 minutes left to fill on the disc and you want to end it with a laugh.
3/5 stars for the great material. Beware the rest!