Welcome to the latest album by album challenge! For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around it’s a short and sometimes not so sweet challenge as I dive into the KISS solo albums. In 1978, each member of KISS put out their iconic (and in one case, iconically horrible) solo albums. These are albums that , believe it or not, as a huge KISS fan I never dove into with the exception of Ace Frehley’s. This was a pretty fun challenge full of surprises, horrors, and moments that had me screaming for ear bleach (clears throat… Peter Criss… clears throat again). Here we go!
Release Date: 1978
The Good: Radioactive, See You Tonight, Always Near You, Man of 1,000 Faces, Mr. Make Believe, See You In My Dreams, When You Wish Upon a Star
The Bad: Burning Up with Fever,
The Indifferent: Tunnel of Love, True Confessions, Living in Sin,
I love that the intro to “Radioactive” sounds like this dark ass Satanic conjuring only to go into this fucking pop rock ditty. Don’t get me wrong though because this song fucking rules. It’s a fun tune but things suddenly get horrible with “Burning Up With Fever.” What the fuck is that about? “See You Tonight” is a great song which pretty much sounds like a lost Beatles classic. How can you not love this horribly awesome version of “When You Wish Upon a Star”? Seriously. It’s so bad it’s fucking good.
As a matter of fact, I found the bulk of Gene’s album to be a really pleasant Beatles/ELO inspired gem. I don’t know why I never heard the album like this before but I really found myself enjoying this one a lot. There are a couple of duds that actually sound like KISS throwaways but it’s the songs where Gene is thinking outside of the box that really drew me in. For the most part, this was a really fun and surprising album for me especially having not heard it in years. I would totally listen to the “good” tracks again without a doubt.
Release Date: 1978
The Good: Rip it Out, Speeding Back to My Baby, Snowblind, Ozone, What’s On Your Mind, New York Groove, I’m In Need of Love, Wiped Out, Fractured Mirror
This is the ONLY KISS solo album I ever listened to over and over again and loved every song. Listening to this album just proves how stifled Ace was creatively in KISS. Ace literally explodes on this album unleashing amazing song after song. “Rip It Out” is such a great opener and “Speeding Back to My Baby” just fucking slays. “What’s On Your Mind” is such a fucking great song and I love how Ace show his ability to write a truly great, catchy, rock n’ roll song. This song could have been a fucking KISS hit if given the chance.
Ace Frehley’s solo album is definitely his “George Harrison” moment. What I mean by this is that when he was given control to make his own album, he delivered one of the greatest KISS albums never made. This album is just facemelting from start to finish and seriously… “Fractured Mirror”? I don’t think I need to say anything more. This album fucking rules.
Release Date: 1978
The Bad: You Matter to Me, Tossin’ and Turnin’, Don’t You Let Me Down, That’s the Kind of Sugar Papa Likes, Rock Me Baby, Kiss the Girl Goodbye,
The Indifferent: I’m Gonna Love, Easy Thing, Hooked on Rock n’ Roll, I Can’t Stop the Rain
Is there anyone that rocks less than Peter Criss? For being the drummer in one of the most rocking bands, his solo material sure didn’t do much of anything. In all honesty, listening to this album reminded me that I actually really do love Pete’s voice. He has such a distinct, soulful rasp that I always dug but let’s face it, this guy can barely write a decent song. “I’m Gonna Love You” is actually a fun song that kind of reminds me of a KISS classic and the same goes for “Hooked on Rock N’ Roll.” “Easy Thing” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain” are both surprisingly good songs. While definitely more on the mellow spectrum, these songs are decent.
Even though the songs I’m indifferent about on this album are just no more than okay. They’re good; good but extremely forgettable. This album has zero character to it and is about as memorable as a lunch at McDonalds. I didn’t own this one as a kid and as an adult I can see that even in my youth I made the right choice to pass this thing up.
Release Date: 1978
The Good: Tonight You Belong to Me, Move On, Ain’t Quite Right, Wouldn’t You Like to Know, Take Me Away, It’s Alright, Love in Chains, Goodbye
The Indifferent: Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)
I’ll be honest. Even though I’m a long time KISS fan, Paul’s solo album is one that I never listened to. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was that I just assumed that it would be weak but holy fucking shit. This album kicks so much fucking ass and I have to say that I even like this one more than Ace’s. “Tonight You Belong to Me” is such a great fucking opener and I love “Wouldn’t You Like to Know” but the real show stopper on this one is “Take Me Away (Together as One).” That shit right there is fucking epic and is probably one of the greatest KISS songs never recorded. “It’s Alright” is so fucking fun and honestly this song could have and probably should have been a huge hit for Paul.
The only real weak moment on this album is “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)” which I think doesn’t even fit with the rest of this album. It’s ok because even with this dude, Paul Stanley’s solo album is still more consistent and just as good if not better than any KISS album. Why this album doesn’t get more attention is beyond me. Paul vocally is on top of his game and the man can obviously write some killer fucking songs. In my opinion I feel that this album also shows that Paul was the strongest writer of the Simmons/Stanley team. Paul really brought it on this album and I just love it. This one will be getting many more spins from me without a doubt.