By 1978, Kiss had reached the peak of stardom. Kiss was flying high and a couple members were too. Trouble was brewing and most especially with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. From what I have read, they both wanted to do solo albums, but the band needed to keep the train rolling. So Bill Aucoin and others came up with a strategy to help keep the peace. The entire band would each do a solo album and they would all be released at the same time on the same day, however, they would be under the Kiss umbrella. Brilliant or Stupid was still yet to be seen. No band had ever attempted this prior or since and probably for good reason.
Each member had to find their own producer, their own musicians as no one in the band played on the other persons record. All the albums came out on the same day, September 18, 1978. To help promote the Solo albums, the label released the ‘Best of Solo Albums’, but only overseas. To this day, there is no U.S. release of this album. To top that off, there was never a CD release of this album either. If you find one on CD, it is not legit.
‘The Best of Solo Albums’ takes three songs from each of the members with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss on Side One and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on Side Two. It is hard to say if these are the best 3 songs of each member especially if Peter’s and Gene’s weren’t the best of the bunch, but I have to say it is still a great set. It is enough to whet your whistle and determine which ones you need to buy. If you didn’t know, the answer is all of them!! You want the posters. So buy all of them.
My copy is actually a rather current re-issue from 2019 and it is on a beautiful Black & Silver & White Splatter vinyl. It is a limited edition on 180g and if you look at the logo, you can tell it is the German Edition as they have to change the style of their logo to normal SS so it doesn’t look like the Nazi SS army. The album looks beautiful just look at the picture above. I think this is the first German Edition I have on any of their albums. And if you want to look at the attention to detail, look at the back cover and notice they changed all the SS on them as well.
Now, let’s get to the songs…
The album opens with Ace’s songs and a cover song, “New York Groove”, by the band Hello and written by Russ Ballard. This was the single off the album and became a massive hit for Ace and really became his signature song. Ace knew Russ from when Kiss opened for Argent back in the day and has worked with Russ numerous times since. For Ace, this is a personal Anthem since he is from New York and he helped perpetuate the myth that he wrote the song even though we know he didn’t. Ace’s version has some differences from the original including the hand-clapping sound of the original was more of a foot-stomping sound and the harmonica riff was replaced by guitar…well duh. With surprisingly no guitar solo like you would expect with Ace, the song kept relatively close to the original. It is a wonderful tune and the biggest hit of all the solo albums going to #13 on the Billboard charts. This must have driven Gene crazy!!!
The opening track on the album and the second one here, “Rip It Out”, is bombastic and has a massive sound. Guitar riffs galore and a drum sound by Anton Fig that was so huge and filled the song with the punch it needed. It is my favorite drum sound on any of the Kiss albums until Creatures comes along with Eric Carr. Not to be overshadowed, Ace lays down a classic solo and opens the album like none of the other albums had been done. Ace threw down the gauntlet and showed that He is someone to be noticed!
“Speedin’ Back to My Baby” is more guitar, guitar and then some guitar! Eddie Kramer is bringing out the best of Ace both vocally and that guitar. Not only does the song open with a solo, there is another solo in the middle with a cool break right before it. It is like solo on top of solo. The song’s energy matches the title. The song was co-written by Ace and Jeanette Frehley which I guess he was speedin’ back to her.
“You Matter to Me” is up first for Peter feels more disco than anything with the keyboards. Written by Vini Poncia, John Vastano, Michael Morgan, it is one of the few songs Peter doesn’t have a hand in writing. With Vini writing it, I am not surprised by the sound and style as you will see that more and more with the next two Kiss studio albums for which he produces. This was the first single on his album and never charted.
“Tossin’ and Turnin’” is up next and it is the only true cover song on the album originally done by Bobby Lewis back in 1961. It is more of a rocker with some R&B tendencies and it fits Peter’s gritty vocal style. He feels more at home with this one and the drum work is not bad either along with the saxophone break.
For Peter’s final song we get a song that I thought was a cover called “Hooked on Rock & Roll” which was written by Peter and Stan Penridge. With Steve Lukather on guitar and the whole feel of the song, I would swear it would be something Chuck Berry could’ve done or any of those early rockers. The song fits Peter’s vocals so might be a keeper.
Side Two opens with the song “Radioactive” which was written by Gene Simmons, as was all but 2 songs on his album. This song was the only single from the album and it has Joe Perry (Aerosmith) on guitar, Eric Troyer (ELO) on piano, Allan Schwartzberg (Mountain) on drums and Bob Seger on backing vocals. A pretty stellar line-up. The song opens with a prelude that is very evil, sinister and demonesque which was filled with string orchestration and it cuts away to the song. The prelude was removed from the single if you were interested that little fact. The song doesn’t really match the intro as it is fun and upbeat compared to the evil that came before. It is straight-up rock song that probably leans a little more pop friendly. A good song all on its own.
“Mr. Make Believe” is another unexpected song from Gene that works so well. With this album we are seeing a softer side of Gene that I am sure no one expected. This song is pieced together from two demos, one called “One More Chance” and the other “Mr. Make Believe”. They took the best of both and created a simply beautiful ballad. You get the verses from “One More Chance” and the chorus of “Mr. Make Believe”. Both are on ‘The Vault’. If you listen to this one, you can hear the early British pop influence on the song. One of his best.
Now we get a song we’ve heard before on a prior Kiss album called “See You in Your Dreams”. Gene wasn’t happy with the original version on ‘Rock & Roll Over’. The biggest difference on this is the backing vocals are the women from the Group with No Name who are Katy Sagal, Gordon Grody, Diva Gray, Franny Eisenberg and Carolyn Ray . The Kiss version rocks out a lot more and is better in my opinion so not sure a remake was necessary at all. Plus, the song gets a little too repetitive for my liking.
“Tonight You Belong to Me” comes at you with an acoustic guitar and Paul singing so lovely and softly in what you think is a ballad before the song explodes with a killer Kiss sounding riff and heavy drums and a full band with tempo sped up and Paul’s vocals just soaring. If you remember from earlier posts, Bob Kulick was the guitarist that auditioned for Kiss and was right before Ace came in and took the job. Bob is back on this song and actually does all the solos but one song on Stanley’s album. And he does brilliantly.
“Move On” keeps the party rolling with a song about a parent that is advising their child to move on and explore lots of women. With wonderful backing vocals by Diana Grasselli, Miriam Naomi Vale, and Maria Vidal, more slick work from Bob, the song is another rocker with a little soul vibe thrown in with those backing vocals.
“Hold Me, Touch Me” is a pretty sappy and sugary sweet song, almost enough to give you a cavity. A piano intro opens the song, Paul sings sweetly and the song is layered with orchestration. It is a little over the top, but it works just the same. Paul actually does all the guitar work on this one which isn’t a ton, mostly the solo. The heavy lifting comes from Doug Katsaros on the piano and string sounds with Craig Krampf on drums.
If you are a Kiss Collector, this is a must as you need to have at least one of every release they have done. I am getting closer to completing that quest. Only a handful more to go. I like the fact they give each member equal billing with 3 songs each and they are really all great songs, might not have been my choices, but good nonetheless. If you see this grab it, it is worth the dough. I got lucky and KissOnline.com was running a sale and it was only around $22 plus shipping. Can’t beat that. My Overall Score is 4.5 Out of 5.0 Stars as like I said, I might’ve picked some different tracks that better represent each member. Otherwise, it is perfect.
The Kiss Review Series:
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
- Kiss – Kiss (1974)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
- Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
- Kiss – Alive! (1975)
- Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
- Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
- Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
- Kiss – The Originals (1976)
- Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
- Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
- Kiss – Alive II (1977)
- Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
- Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
- Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
- Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
- Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
- Kiss – Best of Solo Albums (1978)
- Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
- Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
- Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
- Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
- Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
- Kiss – Killers (1982)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
- Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
- Kiss – Animalize (1984)
- Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
- Kiss – Asylum (1985)
- Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
- Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
- Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
- Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
- Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
- Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
- Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Chikara (1988)
- Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
- Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)
- Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc
- Kiss – Revenge (1992)
- Kiss – Alive III (1993)
- Kiss – Konfidential VHS (1993)
- Kiss – Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994)
- Kiss – MTV Unplugged (1996)
- Kiss – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996)
- Kiss – Greatest Kiss (1997)
- Kiss – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997)
- Kiss – Psycho Circus (1998)
- Kiss – The Second Coming Documentary (1998)
- Eric Carr – Rockology (1999)
- Mark St. John – Mark St. John Project (1999)
- Eric Singer Project – ESP (1999)
- Bruce Kulick – Audiodog (2001)
- Kiss – Kiss Symphony: Alive IV (2003)
- Gene Simmons – Asshole (2004)
- Kiss – Rock the Nation Live! DVD (2005)
- Kiss – Alive! The Millennium Concert (2006)
- Paul Stanley – Live to Win (2006)
- Kiss – Kissology: Volumes 1 to 3 (2006-2007)
- Kiss – Jigoku-Retsuden (2008)
- Kiss – Sonic Boom (2009)
- Kiss – Monster (2012)
- Kiss – The Casablanca Singles 1973-1982 (2012)
- Kiss – Kiss 40 (2014)
- Kiss – Kiss Rocks Vegas (2016)
- Kiss – Kissworld: The Best of Kiss (2017)
- Kiss – Off the Soundboard: Tokyo 2001 (2021)
- Kiss – The Albums Ranked From Worst to First (2021)