From the Stacks

From The Stacks: KISS, ‘Paul Stanley’

KISS is out on the road for their “we really mean it this time” farewell tour, and lead singer Paul Stanley is under fire.

For years both fans and detractors have noted the degradation in Stanley’s voice, which is true. Time is not kind to singers, unless you’re Ann Wilson from Heart, and so the Starman’s sudden vocal improvement on the “End of the Road” tour has led to accusations of lip syncing. Is it true? Who knows? Who cares? If you’re attending a KISS show for the masterful musicianship you’ve really missed the point of attending a KISS show.

Regardless, back in 1978 Paul Stanley’s was one of the most famous voices in rock and roll. Granted, it was Peter who sang “Beth,” the band’s biggest hit, and Gene took the mic for “Rock and Roll All Night,” their biggest anthem, but Stanley was the man at center stage. Unlike other front men, though, that didn’t necessarily make Paul the fan favorite. Instead, the breakdown went something like this: Kids who rocked loved Ace; kids who were just in it for the show loved Gene; girls loved Paul; and Peter’s mom loved Peter. (That’s just a joke. Peter’s mom was an Ace fan.)

When KISS released their four solo albums on September 18, 1978, most fans ranked them accordingly: Ace’s was the best seller and clearly the fan favorite, followed by Gene, Paul, and then Peter. As a young KISS fan I conformed to this hierarchy, but we’re 40 years removed now from my superfan era. These days I’d move Paul’s album to the top of the list.

What I hated about Paul’s solo record in 1978 is what I like about in 2019; well, for the most part. No amount of time can make “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)” listenable, but that dog aside Paul Stanley is less like a KISS album and more a blend of AOR and power pop. Strip away the corny makeup and the elevator boots and “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me” has more in common with Cheap Trick than “God of Thunder”:

Stanley doesn’t get enough credit for his use of the loud/soft dynamic made famous a decade later by bands like the Pixies and Nirvana. Granted, his use is melodramatic where “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is not but it still makes for an interesting ride for the listener.

But the album’s high point also serves as its finale. Stanley claims that “Love Gun” is the best song that he ever wrote, but in my book that honor goes to “Goodbye.” Structurally it’s a simple song (though more complex than “Love Gun”), but it summarizes its writer better than any other song in his catalog.  There’s the Starman romance, the melodrama, the Rasberries influence, and plenty of room for “top of my range” vocal histrionics.

I imagine that Ace’s album will always be my sentimental favorite, but these days when I dip into the KISS section of my stacks it’s Paul’s album that I reach for most often. Want your own copy? You can pick one up with the original poster and KISS Army order form for around twenty bucks. Happy hunting.


2 replies »

  1. Ace’s was and still is my favorite. Peter’s is actually my second favorite. It’s just a good and consistent radio-friendly collection. I think my reasoning for these first two slots is that you never really got to hear Ace or Peter all that much, and these two albums are impressive going up against Gene and Paul. Gene is number three, mainly because of “Radioactive”. I also liked his cover of “When You Wish Upon a Star”, which is almost sweet, but in a slightly weird way. And that leaves poor Paul in last place. I guess with Gene and Paul being the front men I expected much better. Both of their solos still sound like mostly leftovers that didn’t make the cut on previous albums.
    Though Gene and Paul had about I’d say at least 80% control of the band, after listening to all four solos it was plain to see that KISS would not have been KISS without Ace and Peter. I think Gene and Paul knew they had more to offer, but egos being egos, Ace and Peter were treated like John and Paul treated George and Ringo.

    Liked by 1 person

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