Kiss – ‘Hot in the Shade’ (1989) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

It had been two years since the last studio album, ‘Crazy Nights’ and still the band wasn’t working on a new album. Gene Simmons was out producing bands on his record label and Paul Stanley decided that in early 1989, he was going to go out on a solo tour. People were freaking out as was this the end of Kiss. Paul’s solo band on the tour had two major Kiss connections. On guitar was Bob Kulick and on drums was future Kiss drummer Eric Singer who would take over after the death of Eric Carr. Paul even went so far as to sing and record the title song to the Wes Craven movie ‘Shocker’. Kiss in my eyes, seemed doomed.

But it wasn’t the end. In mid-1989, the band got back together and finally started working on the new album. They had a very small budget for this album so instead of going in and fully recording a new album, they grabbed a bunch of demos and re-worked or even overdubbed them to turn them in to the album we have here. ‘Hot in The Shade’ has a crazy number of songs with 15 and the album was about an hour long. This was the late 80’s when bands felt they needed to fill up the entire CD and as a result, we got a lot of bloated albums at that time. If you knocked a few songs off this album, it would be a lot better but still suck.

One interesting thing on this album is there is not one song that was written by only a Kiss member. Every song had a co-write. We had the usual suspects such as Desmond Child, Vini Poncia and Adam Mitchell, but there were some new names on the co-writes like Holly Knight, Tommy Thayer (we’ve heard that name before), Bob Halligan, Jr and some guy named Michael Bolton. Yes, that Michael Bolton. We also got the very first studio album to not feature Gene or Paul singing a song since 1981’s ‘Music From the Elder’ as Eric Carr gets his first studio track to sing (re-creating “Beth” for a compilation album doesn’t count).

The band was still Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick and this would be the last album with these four members. We learn about what happened on the next review, sorry too soon to discuss that topic since it was what happened after this album.

The album would finally be released on October 17, 1989 and would actually go Gold for the band. It would have 3 singles and one of those singles would go on and actually make the Top 10 to give the band their first major hit since “Beth”. The album itself only went as high as #29 on the Billboard Charts and for me, it was a very disappointing album. So much so that I almost ignored their next album which would’ve been a mistake. More on that next week. For now, let us get in to the songs of ‘Hot In The Shade’

Side One:

The opening track, “Rise to It” was written by Paul Stanley and Bob Halligan, Jr. The song was the final single on the album and only went to #81 on the Hot 100, but did make #40 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks. The song opens with a cool, blues slide guitar played by Paul. Do you know who else was using this sound at the time…Cinderella. Yes, Kiss was chasing the trend still. Now the song itself isn’t half bad. It is a rocking track, upbeat and kind of fun. The song is about a singer that feels they are going to rise to the top. And the music video is cool because it starts off with Gene and Paul in putting on the make-up…the Kiss make-up that is. First time they had done that in years. Too bad the costumes they are wearing at the end are the wrong era for the timeline they were going for of 1975…oh well.

The next track up is Gene’s “Betrayed” written with Tommy Thayer who plays the electroacoustic guitar on the song. Remember, they are using demos so occasionally non-Kiss people play on this album. It is not a bad track and it fits Gene’s personae well. A darker tone and subject matter. The only thing I don’t really like too much is the drum sound on this one. The constant heavy pounding is a little too loud in the mix.

Then we get the first single off the album and one of the very few Kiss song I truly despise and that is “Hide Your Heart” written by Paul, Desmond Child and Holly Knight. After the success Desmond Child had with “Livin’ On a Prayer’ with Bon Jovi, Paul Stanley wanted to write a song in that same vein. Instead of Tommy and Gina, we get a cheap knock-off version of Johnny and Rosa. The problem with their relationship wasn’t the hardships of life, but that Rosa had a boyfriend named Tito who sounds like a gang leader in the shady part of town. Already, we know Rosa has bad taste in men. The story doesn’t end well like Tommy and Gina did. Basically this was a poor man’s version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the storyline sucked and was a total rip-off. It was too formulaic and Kiss too busy trying to chase trends at the time instead of being a leader and this was a perfect example of the trash that came out as a result. 

We are back to Gene on vocals with his song “Prisoner of Love” written by Gene and Bruce Kulick. The song is another rocker with almost swing like vibe to it. Bruce’s guitar work is great as usual and the chorus is a little catchier than “Betrayed”, but I don’t know if I like it any better. It falls a little flat for me.

And now we get to another really bad Paul song with “Read My Body”. This was written by Paul and Bob Halligan, Jr. again. I am not sure how to describe how bad this song is lyrically and musically. Paul adds a little rapping in to the song and it doesn’t work on any level imaginable. Ugh!!!

Now we get to a good Gene song with “Love’s A Slap in the Face” which was written by Gene and Vini Poncia. You know Vini as he produced the ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Unmasked’ albums. It is a little more upbeat song for Gene and it is kinda fun as it is filled with a little humor. Bruce’s playing is great, Gene’s bass line has a nice groove which all makes it a pleasant experience.

The second single off the album became the band’s biggest hit since “Beth” going all the way to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written by Paul Stanley and Michael Bolton. The Micheal Bolton who was giving us all those soulful ballads meant for old people. The song is “Forever” and features Paul and Bruce handling the acoustic guitars to open the track and Phil Ashley on keyboards. It is a power ballad and it is so sugary sweet, but I can live with it. It is also a cool moment for Eric has his playing is great as it is subtle enough yet he has a lot of little fills in it that give the song a little extra something.

The first side finally ends with “Silver Spoon” which is another Paul song and written by him and Vini. It was Paul trying to not to write a sex song…good luck with that. I will admit that song is catchy as hell and has some nice playing on it. It even has a few women on backing vocals by the names of Charlotte Crossley, Valerie Pinkston and Kim Edwards-Brown. Compared to a lot of the songs on the album, this one scores on the plus side as overall it is memorable enough that I catch myself singing it when I’m not listening to the album. Points for that.

Side Two:

The next song is “Cadillac Dreams” which is about making it big and buying a Cadillac. Gene wrote this one with Vini and sees Kiss going back to a more 70’s sound, but not necessarily a Kiss 70’s sound. It has more of a glam vibe to it which I kinda dig. I find the song fun and catchy and a nice twist for Gene. Plus, Gene plays rhythm guitar on it as he would’ve on the demo.

Next up is “King of Hearts” which starts off with a nice guitar riff, but quickly takes a down turn for me. It is another Paul and Vini song and feels they are trying to hard to be Bon Jovi. The drumming isn’t quite as great because it is not Eric, it is Kevin Valentine who did the drumming on the demo. I guess they didn’t feel the need to redo that part of the demo. It is too generic and bland for me. Skippable.

“The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” is a pure Gene song this time written with Tommy Thayer who also plays guitar on it. This is the second “Street” type song like “Hide Your Heart”, but I like this one better as it doesn’t sound as contrived. Gene brings more street cred than Paul can…sorry Paul.

Paul is back on vocals with “You Love Me To Hate You” written by Paul and Desmond Child. I have to say Paul and Desmond’s tracks on this album are some of my least favorite. This one sounds unfinished and pure filler. It builds like something should happen, but doesn’t. Not catchy, not memorable, just weak.

“Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” is another Gene and Vini song. This one has a nasty bass line and Gene’s bass through out is thumping. It sounds eerie and ominous which is what I want in a Gene song. Throw in Bruce’s solo and you have one of the better Gene songs on the album. He seems to be winning on this album for me over Paul’s songs.

Now to the treat of the album, Eric Carr on vocals with “Little Caesar”. Eric wrote this with Bruce Kulick and Adam Mitchell. Let me tell you I was so excited when I heard this the first time when I bought this album back in 1989. I was thrilled Eric was getting his own song this time. If you have the Kiss Box Set, the demo is on that album, but it is called “Aint’ That Peculiar”. “Little Caesar” is what Gene called Eric when he was being all tough. I think this is one of the coolest songs on the album and definitely a highlight for me and a lot of people.

And now we are to the final track on the album…thank goodness. If you’ve stayed around this long, thank you and man, you are a glutton for punishment. We are taken out with Gene on “Boomerang” which was written by Gene and Bruce. It has some of great drumming and guitar work which is its saving grace, but overall Gene’s vocals aren’t that clear to me and not very loud in the mix. The song is a heavy rocker, almost speed metal. However, I never seem to remember this song maybe because I am so tired when I get to this song. I think overall quality of the song feels like a demo too and that is my problem with it.

Track Listing:

  1. Rise To It – Keeper
  2. Betrayed – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  3. Hide Your Heart – Delete
  4. Prisoner of Love – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  5. Read My Body – Delete
  6. Love’s A Slap in the Face – Keeper
  7. Forever – Keeper
  8. Silver Spoon – Keeper
  9. Cadillac Dreams – Keeper
  10. King of Hearts – Delete
  11. The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away – Keeper
  12. You Love Me To Hate You – Delete
  13. Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell – Keeper
  14. Little Caesar – Keeper
  15. Boomerang – Delete

Track Score is 9 out of 15 or 60% which is pretty generous. An album full of demos and the band can’t take time to re-record them says a lot about this album. Some of these songs could’ve been so much better if they would’ve re-recorded. I felt Paul’s songs were mostly garbage as he was trying to be Bon Jovi instead of Kiss. They do get points for finally letting Eric sing his own songs and that is about it. I have to say, I was pretty disappointed in this album from the moment I heard it back in 1989 and it holds up even less today. Overall, I think I can only give this album a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars because this is not an album for them to be proud of at all. I read somewhere that this is the “Music From the Elder” for the Non-makeup era and I think that sums it up.

Next Up: Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc

Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!

The Kiss Review Series:

  1. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
  2. Kiss – Kiss (1974)
  3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
  4. Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
  5. Kiss – Alive! (1975)
  6. Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
  7. Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
  8. Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
  9. Kiss – The Originals (1976)
  10. Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
  11. Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
  12. Kiss – Alive II (1977)
  13. Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
  14. Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
  15. Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
  16. Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
  17. Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
  18. Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
  19. Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
  20. Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
  21. Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
  22. Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
  23. Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
  24. Kiss – Killers (1982)
  25. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
  26. Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
  27. Kiss – Animalize (1984)
  28. Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
  29. Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
  30. Kiss – Asylum (1985)
  31. Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
  32. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
  33. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
  34. Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
  35. Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
  36. Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
  37. Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
  38. Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  39. Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
  40. Kiss – Chikara (1988)
  41. Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
  42. Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)

The Bootleg Series:

  1. Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
  2. Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
  3. Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
  4. Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
  5. Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
  6. Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
  7. Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
  8. Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
  9. Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
  10. Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
  11. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
  12. Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
  13. Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
  14. Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
  15. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)

Kiss – The Box Set:

Gene Simmons – The Vault:

79 thoughts on “Kiss – ‘Hot in the Shade’ (1989) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

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