RE-REVIEW: KISS – Gene Simmons (1978 solo album)


 Gene Simmons (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Given Gene’s demon persona, certainly some fans would have expected his solo album to be the heaviest and darkest.  Imagine their shock upon finally hearing the finished disc!  Musical flights of fancy and whimsical songs dominate Gene’s record, as the demon was determined to do something very different.  His album has the most guest stars, the most diverse songs, and the most split of personalities.

Even the “evil” sounding choirs that open the album are more whimsical than demonic.  This soon gives way to a guitar riff, and the first song “Radioactive”.  The audio compression gives it a disco-like beat, but “Radioactive” is a rock and roll track.  It is one of the songs featuring guests Joe Perry and Bob Seger, not to mention a slew of backing vocalists.  It’s also the one track that Kiss played live on tour in 1979.

The demon sounds like he’s prowling for ladies on “Burning Up With Fever”.  If you’re wondering about that funky bass line, it was played by Neil Jason.  In a surprise move, Gene didn’t play bass on his solo album, only guitar.  This lends the whole LP a funkier-than-expected sound.  This plus the ample backing vocals almost makes Gene Simmons sound like an R&B/rock hybrid from time to time. “Burning Up With Fever” is a bad tune for a sexed-up demon, but not one of his finest either.

Some of Gene’s solo songs were oldies that predated Kiss.  Others were of more recent vintage.  The folksy ballad “See You Tonite” sounds like one of the older tunes.  It’s a good one; good enough that Kiss recorded it live in 1995 for their MTV Unplugged appearance.  In a strange twist, some of the best tunes on Gene’s solo platter are the ballads.  Jeff “Skunk” Baxter played on this one and “Burning Up With Fever” as the cavalcade of guest stars continues.  Even Katey Sagal (Married With Children) sings on the LP.

“Tunnel of Love” and “True Confessions” are two of Gene’s non-descript exploits, fairly ordinary songs given a huge boost by the larger than life production (by Gene and Sean Delaney).  The backing vocals are immaculately arranged.  “Tunnel” features Joe Perry and Donna Summer.  Helen Reddy sings on “True Confessions”.  Unfortunately these two songs are more notable by who appears on them rather than how good they are.

Gene was dating Cher at that time, so it’s not really a surprise that Cher appears on “Living in Sin” (as the groupie on the phone).  This side two opener has a bit of that rock and roll spirit missing on other songs, though very corny.  The ballads on side two are better.  “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide” has some of Gene’s best singing, showing off that high falsetto.  Gene couldn’t get the Beatles to appear on his album, so he did the next best thing and had Mitch Weissman and Joe Pecorino from Beatlemania sing on “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide”.  This melancholy song is one of Gene’s most ambitious.

“Man of 1000 Faces” is big and bombastic, orchestrated for maximum impact.  It has more in common with Destroyer than anything else Kiss has done, but even more overblown and bombastic.  It also suits Gene’s persona perfectly.  “I can put on any face, you won’t know me but it’s no disgrace.  The king of night, he understands!”  Then “Mr. Make Believe” is laid back and acoustic, and also another fantastic song.   Gene’s ability with ballads should not be understated.  “Mr. Make Believe” is the most Beatles-esque of Gene’s solo tracks.

“See You In Your Dreams” is a remake of the Kiss song from Rock and Roll Over.  Apparently Gene thought it could have been recorded better, but the more basic Kiss version is much more appealing.  Rick Neilson from Cheap Trick plays guitar on it, but Michael Des Barres’ backing vocals are obtrusive and irritating.

And that leaves only the final track.  Some stop playing the album before track 11, others consider it an indispensable part of Gene’s solo statement.  But there it is:  “When You Wish Upon a Star”, the song whose lyrics meant so much to Gene that he recorded it for the last track of his album.  It was not intended as a joke, but many see it as such.

Gene’s solo album can’t be dismissed as garbage, not with the great tunes it has (especially the ballads).  However it’s so scattershot and just plain strange that it’s hard to really just enjoy.  It’s interesting to study and dissect.  Not so much fun to play in the car.

2.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original review:  2012/07/20



  1. Kind of a mixed bag album…the back of the LP cover had like what about 1000 thank u’s to everyone including Simmons first groupie from Edmonton.
    Radioactive is a great track and I love that slopped up drunk version that is from the Dynasty tour as you had mentioned.
    Once again though like Peters and Paul solo albums I have no need to revisit or hear this one ever again ..haha…The cover though is cool!
    Great write up …..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Surprising to learn that this isn’t all that good. Kinda expected this to be more essential than scattershot.

    Also, I can’t imagine a Kiss unplugged set!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a mixed bag for sure but I anyways enjoyed this one. The second side had the best stuff but I do like it all. Prefer See You In Your Dreams on this too. It’s got more life. I’d rate it the equal of Paul’s and Ace’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Gene’s record is very underrated. But what many don’t know is that a lot of the songs were written for the follow-up to Dressed To Kill before they decided to go with Ezrin and record Destroyer. Burning Up With Fever, Tunnel Of Love, True Confessions and Man Of 1000 Faces were demoed for that record. Paul and Ace had also written some songs for that album. Ezrin shelved them all…
    Also, the version of See You In Your Dreams on this album in actually the original version – or at least the way the original sounded before Kiss and Sean Delaney re-arranged it for Rock And Roll Over.


  5. Gene’s album is the one that typifies the problem with the solos. Fans bought them not understanding what they were buying. Kids thought Gene’s record was going to be a bunch of
    Dr. Love, God of Thunder songs. If he had more songs like that, they’d have put them on an album. These were songs you couldn’t’t put on a KISS album, that was the point. I, personally
    always liked Gene’s album. Then again, I’m a big Gene fan. I always liked the humor in his
    songs. It goes over a lot of people’s heads, (so does his humor in general), but I always ‘got’ it.
    I love the comment on the original review, “annoying funky bass”. Brilliant analysis.
    I play bass (because of Gene), have for 36 years. One of the basses I ‘rock’ is a Gene style
    Gibson Ripper. Hence, Ripper Rocker. I also love funk music, and Jazz Fusion.
    I’d be willing to bet the original reviewer was a punkrocker. I’d bet my life on it. That was a total
    punk rock move. I can tell a punker a mile away.
    If you happened to note the date of my first post, you’ll see it was the 25 of August.
    Does that date mean anything to any of you KISS fans?
    Happy Birthday Gene! The first five responders get a free slap in the head!


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