REVIEW: KISS – Gene Simmons (1978)

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!

 

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6 comments

  1. Wow! No comments on this?? Weird. I mean the Kiss members solo efforts are something that usually draws discussions. Normally, everybody and their mom has an opinion on this. Oh well, I’ll go first then…
    In my book, Gene did the right thing. Peter too. Ace and Paul both recorded awesome records, but theirs are Kiss albums. One of the reasons to do a solo album is to get shit out of your system, to record something that is too far out to fit on an album with your day job. Gene did that. I also think that he had lots of great songs on his album.
    Sure, Tunnel Of Love, True Confessions and Man Of 1000 Faces are re-recordings of songs that were on the shelved follow up to Dressed To Kill. And See You In Your Dreams is, of course, a re-recoding of his song that appeared on Rock And Roll Over. This version is, if I’m not mistaken, the version closest to Gene’s original demo. Well, I prefer the R&R Over version.
    Man Of 1000 Faces and the Beatles influenced See You Tonite are my favourites here, but True Confessions, Radioactive, Burning Up With Fever and Living In Sin are all brilliant. Yes, I agree on that Neil Jason’s bass playing is a bit over the funk-edge and I really don’t get it why Gene doesn’t play bass himself. It is possible to play both bass and guitar on an album… The only song that doesn’t cut it here is When You Wish Upon A Star. Gene is so off key on many places that it hurts
    I’d give this 8/10.
    Any questions? ;-)

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    1. Well it looks like I didn’t need any comments, you just unloaded a big can of whoop-ass on this one!

      Here’s the truth Jon, and I’m sure you can understand this as a fellow Kiss fan.

      If I’m in the right state of mind, I could put on Gene’s solo album and think it was absolute genius. Other times, I’m not feeling it. If I had wrote this review on a Tuesday instead of a Monday, would it have been different? Quite possibly.

      I’m actually considering going back, and re-reviewing some of these Kiss albums.

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      1. Oh absolutely. This is why I thought it was really strange taht this review didn’t have any comments on it. I mean, everybody has different views on the solo albums and no matter what you think of them, as a Kiss fan, you’re not left untoucherd by them one way or the other. I can really relate to your review. Both Gene’s and Peter’s solo albums often leaves Kiss fans divided. Which I think is kinda cool.

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        1. Peter’s is another one! If I’m in a mellow mood, that album can be perfect! I got that album for my birthday in about 87. Hot summer nights at the cottage with the Kiss solo albums on the walkman. Peter’s worked great at night time.

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        2. Me too. I just listened to it. I do not agree with people who think it sucks. There’s some really good songs on there. Besides, I love his voice.

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        3. I Can’t Stop the Rain is good. Easy Thing is good. There are lots of good songs when you’re in the mood for it. And yes vintage Peter had an amazing voice!

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