On September 18th 1978 Casablanca Records, the record label of KISS, released 4 albums simultaneously, one for each of the supergroup’s members, under the name of KISS of course, even though the compositions of each album were a personal matter of the four musicians, making each release the first personal album for each of them. The (American) crowd’s mania towards the band was hitting zenith, so the label pressed 4 million copies (a million of each album), making this decision sound unreal and risky and at the same time wrong in financial terms, since those numbers weren’t reached (instantly), not that it was an easy task all along. Besides profiting over the crowd’s affection, the release of these 4 albums was to satisfy the huge “ego” of the members of the group but also to try to calm down the tensions between them being at marginal stage. Of these 4 albums, Ace Frehley may have sold more than anything (‘New York Groove’ reached the Top 20 single) and is the most “hard”, that of Peter Criss was the least interesting (ill-written blues of the ‘second’ category, unfortunately) and Gene’s was the strangest (and farther from the sound of KISS after experimenting with the voices of Cher and Donna Summer on second vocals and trying to incorporate into the same mixture kinds from orchestral metal to R & B and covering Disney’s song all unsuccessfully…). But Paul’s was just the best and it was also the only album of the four Kiss solo albums to feature all original songs, as Simmons, Criss and Frehley each recorded one cover song on their albums… With the help of Bob Kulick on guitars and unknown musicians [other than Carmine Appice who participated in ‘Take Me Away (Together As One)’] he made a record full of melody, emotionally charged (and catchy) hard rock compositions, close to the style of KISS and which while moving on commercial trails, they’ re at a very high level of aesthetics and quality. The theme may be quite cheesy for the average metal man, but the songs of the album are objectively of top performances of well-written hard rock (especially the vocal lines, as well as the long choruses) even though they are openly flirting even with pop. Of course, a good song is always a good song no matter how extreme it sounds… Of course, KISS’ fans have it already but have it a step under Space Child’s, I think wrongly… And even though at some point of my life I was mocking a much older than me fan of the band, when he told me ‘you listen to the album differently if you are in love’, actually Stanley is going ‘all in’ and with his cards open trying to win the heart of Carol Kaye (who then worked as a band journalist at the Press Office, a subsidiary of Aucoin Management). Essentially, we are dealing with the soundtrack of love game or a flirt situation, but the uniqueness of his voice, his inexhaustible talent to write catchy songs with intensity that’s verified in all his splendor, makes the result a great musical experience and thankfully, not a sappy one.
Tonight You Belong to Me
The story of Paul trying to win Carol starts with the best track of the album. A classic hard rock song that could easily be included in ‘Dynasty’ or ‘Unmasked’. Slow in the beginning with the 12-chord acoustic guitar before the hard rock explosion and Stanley’s characteristic flap in the emotional chorus. It has been “covered” or better, The Hellacopters borrowed the original riff for their song “Paul Stanley” (and in the album ‘Grande Rock’ of 1999). Epic!
Yet one track that’s close to KISS’ established style, which fitted into the band’s tour setlist in 1979. Kulick had done a great job on solos, while Paul unfolds quite comfortably the story and advices of his mother in the chorus, advice that elaborated on how to take care of his women and always move on, without dwelling.
Ain’t Quite Right
I’m not fond of ballads in general, but here Stanley, in a composition that flirts with ‘Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me’ that’s found later on, flirts with the blues as well, with a more ‘op’ twist, leaving the harness to Kulick while he sings in a soft voice.
Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me
This track as well elaborates on the relationship / love of Paul and Carol. In the style of ‘Unmasked’ with the vocals having a little more razor edge this time in the chorus, which is overflowed by a (pop) melody. A hit, if nothing else.
Take Me Away/Together As One
The first side of the vinyl closes with the excellent ‘Take Me Away (Together As One)’ -We should note that Carmine Appice is on drums-. Perhaps the top ballad of KISS – Beth’s top, personally speaking – the dramatic guitars and the whole magical atmosphere, while the lengthy chorus that only Stanley (and Desmond Child) can scramble is a highlight of itself…
‘Yesterday, is far away, so take me out to sea
Far away, I’ve been what never will be
Check me in, to lose or win, I’m livin’ memories
The drift begins, the dream of it sets me free’.
The second side starts with a commercial hard rock song again in the style of ‘Unmasked’ that seems to have been a one-way musical direction for KISS members. Lyrics that basically refer to the ephemeral love that he enjoyed as well as the Dionysian lifestyle on the road of rock star Paul Stanley, with a little dose of ‘sentiment’ that’s needed when and where…
Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)
This is the only time I skipped the record. Very bittersweet… a bit of a piano, a bit of a voice that is sophisticated sappy… looks like a synthesis of the expert of sucky ballads, Peter Criss…
Love in Chains
“Love In Chains” is one of my favorite pieces of KISS in general. It has a simplicity and an American character that won me on first hearing. It’s also a free song-writing, vocal manipulation lesson, and a justification of the fact that a serious guitarist (even if he plays only power chords) and a unique kind of voice can conquer the world.
The last song ‘Goodbye’ could be called ‘Farewell’… It’s a piece which Paul Stanley used in 2006 to end his concerts in his then tour for the successor of his debut ‘Live To Win’ that tarried for 28 years … Catchy, simple, melodic. Typical but it works neatly as a closing track.