Hey Folks this wraps up for the time being my KISS 70’s Review’s for a bit. I was going to go all out and do the four 1978 KISS solo albums but I’m a little fried out so bear with me on that ok? I mean I gotta try to focus and listen to the Peter Criss album and give it a fair shake right??!
Seriously ,thanks for reading along as I know KISS is not everyone’s cup of tea or maybe they are but make no mistake about it every one has an opinion on them that’s for sure whether its good or bad!
First of all I have to give a few shout outs with this review. The first being to Arena Rock reader Muc who was the first guy in Thunder Bay I’m sure to have scooped this album as Muc was in Kansas City back when Unmasked hit the streets! When Muc got home and showed me this record I couldn’t believe it! A new KISS album?? Score…
Also to my Pal Tbone in which I sold him back in 1981 Unmasked for the price of a Hit Parader Magazine for about $2.00. After I was done reading that issue of Hit Parader I wanted my copy of Unmasked back. Tbone obliged and sold it back to me for $3.00! A one dollar mark up! This has to almost be the first ever Pawnshop like transaction ever in Thunder Bay!
I never sold another album to Tbone again!
For myself personally KISS has been in my musical DNA now for 41 years of my 51 years on this earth! Hell, this upcoming October marks the 40th anniversary of when I first seen KISS live!
When I first started this blog I did a week of 3/4’s KISS Filler Week. One of those albums was 1980’s Unmasked release which I kinda dismissed it or trashed it depending on your spin of it..
My thoughts on it have changed greatly in 4 years and here’s why. Well, I try to explain why! ( didn’t help the fact that Paul in his autobiography called Unmasked Wimpy or Crappy or something to that effect so if Starchild says so I guess were drinking the KISS KOOL AIDE but not this time!)
Unmasked to my ears in 2019 is a brilliant piece of Melodic Hard Rock/KISS POP!
There I said it…Lemme Explain!
You see a few weeks back one of the used record shops that I visit (Moon Money Vintage) posted some new/used releases in their Record Bins. One of them was Unmasked!
I was intrigued. Why after 39 years would I be intrigued by an album I have dissed basically for 39 years all of sudden make me want to own it?
Do I have a Concussion? Whats going on here?
So I zipped a message via Facebook to Moon Money Vintage asking if they still had that copy of Unmasked sitting in the bin!
Derrick the owner of the shop said yep it still there and not only that but it was a sealed copy 180 Gram version for $19! SOLD!
Once I secured a copy I was kinda psyched to spin it and hear it again after all these years away from it except for the last time that I reviewed it which was on CD about 4 years ago. A quick review I did back than. I think I was on a KISS trashing spree a that time!
After listening to Unmasked front to back for the first time it becomes real apparent with KISS that this was the direction Paul Stanley wanted KISS to head in. I’m sure the success of 1979’s mega hit (from Dynasty)Y I Was Made For Lovin You must have messed with Stanley’s Noggin somewhat.
So why not continue that kind of formula onto Unmasked. Not a disco album mind you but more of a grown up milder KISS since it was about Merchandising in the late 70’s with Doll’s/Lunchbox/Cards/Magazine’s/T-Shirts/Belt Buckles etc becoming almost as important as the music to a certain extent.
The success of Dynasty produced by Vini Poncia was carried over onto the slabs of vinyl in regards to Unmasked. A bigger role Ponicia with Unmasked. Not only did he produce the album but he was the cowriter on 8 of the albums 11 tracks.
The biggest surprise I suppose looking back at it even though Peter Criss is featured on the cover in cartoon form is the fact that Pete was already out of KISS by Unmasked’s release. Anton Fig did all the drumming on Unmasked just like Anton did all the drumming except for one track on the previous Dynasty album.
As a 13-year-old back in 1980 I had no idea there was trouble in KISS land but there was…
The guitars on Unmasked sound somewhat quiet I suppose. You would think with a bombastic sound like they’re live show’s prove that the KISS studio sound would have a little more oomph but nope. Hell, they were all millionaires at this point so money was not an issue…
But I’m thinking Gene and Paul were driving the KISS Bus at this point. Peter was gone and Ace had found the promised the land musically and creatively after Ace’s 1978 solo album was the best of the bunch which irked Gene and Paul I’m sure to no end!
So when Paul in his book disses Unmasked its no one faults but Pauly so maybe that’s why I’m digging this record again. Kinda a middle finger to Starchild from me!
Back in 1980 I was drinking the KISS Kool Aide that these guys were serving me! 2019 brings a wiser older perhaps more musically sharp 51-year-old Deke that can give records like this a second chance…
Drop the Needle….
Opener Is That You a cover tune written by Gerald McMahon is a great opener! Man its a tune about a crazed Serial Lady Killer. Check out the lyrics and video below..(featuring Criss’ replacement the Late Great Eric Carr)
Cat’s droolin’ on the bar stool, shake your hips and crack your whips
Cheap seventeen and trashed out, you went too far, been a bitch you are
Your reputation’s in the bathroom, it’s on the wall and down the hall
I hear you’re cheatin’ with my teacher after school, tell me what you do
When you know, you always get the boys you like
Play nice, then stick them with your knife, take off your insecure disguise..
What a ripping cool stalker tune that even has Stanley taking the solo in the song as well. Great verses/choruses/everything. Creepy KISS! I posted a live clip of this track so you can all sing along when your eating your egos at the breakfast table. Man you gotta love Ace in this video as he’s stumbling around on stage looking like he’s looking for the next waterhole to visit!
From the knife wielding Crazy Chick opener of a song Paul heads into Popville with Shandi. Guess the success of I Was Made For Lovin You carried the sound of the guitars on this track. Shandi though a huge hit in Australia as was KISS in 1980 whereas in North America the tide was turning on KISS! Cue Gene and Paul having a mid-life crisis at the age of 30 at that time!
Space Ace delivers a decent hardball of a track in Talk To Me. As any fan knows Ace grew a ton of confidence in KISS after his 1978 solo album was the best of the bunch. Ace continued that winning streak into Dynasty which in turn led to Ace delivering a couple of cool tracks on Unmasked. Talk To Me has Ace laying down that cool street rock voice of his along with a real slick chorus as well…..
Well Mean Gene Simmons gets his first tune on Unmasked fourth song into the album which has to be a first time. Hell, Ace squeezed his song on before Simmons on Side 1! How the hell did that happen? Naked City is Mr SImmons deal and instead of me yackin about it let my Good Bloggin Pal John Snow(My third Shout out) tell ya all about Naked City. Click the link and read some fine words from Mr Snow!
What Makes The World Go Round ends Side 1 with a Hard Power Pop Track from Stanley that has a real good driving chorus. How about those 1980 effects attached tot he drums with every snare hit that Fig hits on the drums. Actually a pretty decent tune as Stanley had a knack for writing this kind of stuff.
Side 2 begins with Tomorrow another straight ahead Stanley hard pop track. See a pattern here? Paul I’m sure it got into his head after the success of the Disco tune from 79 wanted to hear hits on the radio. Tomorrow fits that bill to a T but the problem was this kind of tune was that it was delivered a little too late to the masses as the tide was turning on KISS by that point. Still though another solid catchy chorus…
Ace delivers another classic sounding Frehley track in the form of Two Sides of the Coin. Great opening/Great verses/Great Chorus and a not so typical Ace solo which shakes things up as don’t expect the expected.
Gene delivers his typical Gene tune in She’s So European which is a kooky tune that features a syruppy pre chorus Synth that oozes a bit of cool before Gene slobbers all over the chorus in a good way! Two Gene songs in on Unmasked two winners…Heck Ya!
Speaking of Synth/Keys. There’s a ton of that stuff on Unmasked. Filling out the sound I suppose as at certain points the keys are buried but you can still hear em..
Easy as it Seems is yet again another Stanley tune aimed at radio. It’s amazing that all the Paul tunes on this album are geared for the radio but other than Shandi none of them made it. Having said that Paul still delivered on his tracks albeit with one hand on the radio dial!
Ace without a doubt has one of the most funny intros ever. I mean listen to Ace in his trashed out state say ‘Man Torpedo Stations’ haha. Love it as Ace kept KISS fun but make no bones about it delivers some fantastic tunes as well. Torpedo Girl features a wicked Drums/Bass intro followed by the snap crackle and pop Guitar sound of Ace. You always knew by the Ace stuff on KISS records there would be no love mushy goop in the grooves. Just cool song titles like Torpedo Girl! Hell just listen to the tune below…
Gene sends off Unmasked with Your All That I Want. A pretty decent end of the album tune. The verses have a good pace to them along with some cowbell added for good measure! Decent enough tune to end the album that’s for sure!
There ya have it folks…Thanks for sticking around and if you made it this far I Thank You!
KISS was in shambles. Unmasked hit Gold status in Canada and the U.S but these sales were pretty low for KISS Standards! Shame really as Unmasked after reacquiring it is a different listen now to me than it was back in 1980!
I mean look at the Drums. The only mention of Criss is on the album cover and that’s Pete as a drawing! A cartoon no less…Hahaha…
Also of note here’s who played what on Unmasked. Ace does it all on his own tunes(except for the drums)….
- Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, vocals, lead guitar on “Shandi”, bass and guitar solo on “Tomorrow” and “Easy As It Seems”, guitar solo on “Is That You?” and “What Makes The World Go ‘Round”
- Ace Frehley – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, all guitars & bass on “Talk to Me”, “Two Sides of the Coin” and “Torpedo Girl” and guitar solo on “Naked City “
- Gene Simmons – bass guitar, vocals, rhythm guitar on “You’re All That I Want.
- Bob Kulick – aditional guitar on “Naked City”
- Anton Fig – drums
- Vini Poncia – keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
- Tom Harper – bass guitar on “Shandi”
- Holly Knight – keyboards on “Shandi”
Yup looks to me that is a band that is in trouble. Putting songs together at times separatley (Hello Ace !) and making it look like a happy bunch but that’s so far from what went down at KISS HQ’s circa 1980!
deKe’s score of Unmasked in 1980 & 2015- 4/10
deKe’s score of Unmasked in 2019-7.5/10