Review Summary: Before being a good KISS album, this is a great hard rock album, regardless of who’s penning it. Plus, Gene Simmons isn’t even here to muck things up.
They say KISS, but they aren’t. Not really. The four self-titled albums were, in fact, a bid to prevent
KISS from breaking up, at a time where ego conflicts were as rampant as the group’s popularity. However, other than serving as a peace measure and an extra source of income, the “solo” albums ended up serving a more important purpose: to showcase what each member of KISS was individually capable of.
And while the other members’ offerings sprung a few surprises, singer, guitarist and main man Paul Stanley took a safe, honest route: all he wanted was to make a hard rock record, and make a hard rock record he did – no frills, no bids at innovation, just straight-out rock’n’roll, which most of the time comes across sounding like a more polished and better-played version of his day job.
In fact, one needs go no further than Love In Chains
or It’s Alright
to find similarities to KISS. Stanley’s vocal tone is almost synonimous with the band, and it’s only natural that it should call to mind the four masked man. However, one must also say that it’s a relief to actually hear good bass on Stanley’s compositions, for once. Guitar solos are also very good throughout, with some of them coming to you courtesy of Bruce Kulick, who would play a very important part in KISS’s career during the 80’s. However, the only major player featured on this album is drummer Carmine Appice, whose mammoth performance becomes the salvation beam that carries us through the seemingly endless, sleep-inducing Take Me Away (Together As One)
. The rest of the names were unknowns, basically session musicians recruited by Paul and his producers to ensure things went off without a hitch.
And go smoothly they did, with the final product being, as noted, polished and well-produced. Unlike with early KISS albums, there are no glaring mistakes or shortcomings, and even Stanley’s voice seems to have gained somewhat in overall technicality. The songs go by rather pleasantly as well, being mostly unassuming and unpretentious. The exception, of course, is Take Me Away (Together As One)
, and it’s no wonder it’s one of the weakest in the album.
The nine songs on offer use most of the KISS trappings, but in a more in-context manner. Move On
and Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)
bring gospel vocals on the choruses, but they don’t seem as random or out-of-nowhere as they did on the early KISS efforts. Here and there, keyboards also spruce up certain songs, but nothing as exaggerated as Bob Ezrin had done on Destroyer
. All in all, a simple and quite effective hard rock listen, whose highlights may be few, but where the weak points are equally scarce.
As far as highlights go, Ain’t Quite Right
is an ellegant mid-tempo rife with the kind of countrified licks and ambiances that Aerosmith were making famous, and which would later be appropriated by Cinderella and Great White. It’s curious how much this song sounds like a Great White outtake, especially when we think that at this point, GW were still making fast, raw heavy metal. Further on, Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me
asserts itself, literally from the very first note, as the best song on the album. The chorus is an absolute masterpiece, as is the riff, and overall this will soon become one of the songs you look forward to on every listen. The same could be said of It’s Alright
, a sort of “baby brother” to Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me
, with similar riffing and structure, and another rocking performance from Stanley, who belts out the lyrics with gusto. Together, these three songs set the album’s overall bar pretty high, and fortunately the remaining ones seldom disappoint.
In fact, tracks like Tonight You Belong to Me, Move On
or even Hold Me, Touch Me…
make for quite enjoyable listens, although the tip of album brings a couple of unremarkable songs in Love In Chains
, a poor KISS outtake, and the structurally messy Goodbye
. The only cringe-worthy moment is the aforementioned Take Me Away (Together As One)
, which tortures us with false endings and additional solos for an excruciating five and a half minutes. The only salvation, as also noted, is the absolutely commanding performance of Appice on the drums. Other than that, the album would have been better off without this song.
However, not even these few shortcomings can detract from what is essentially a good album. I’m going to go ahead and recommend Paul Stanley
even to those of you who aren’t huge KISS fans. Because before being a good KISS album, this is a great hard rock album, regardless of who’s penning it. Plus, Gene Simmons isn’t even here to muck things up.
Ain’t Quite Right
Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me