Amongst the vast collection of Kiss albums this one is quickly forgotten, especially by the critics and even a few die-hard fans. Released in 1980 the band had started to decline, the make-up act was wearing thin and it quickly fell out of the US charts. Drummer Peter Criss didn’t play on this record and would soon quit the band.
None of that mattered as a young boy sitting in Mum and Dad’s living room cranking this on the record player as I knew every word to every song and played this album to death. I loved it and was fascinated by the cover, a comic book strip about a reporter trying to get a photo of the band without their make up on, which in 1981 would have been worldwide news.
I’d listen to this with the headphones on, so I didn’t disrupt Mum and Dad watching ‘Kingswood Country’, absorbing the songs and staring at that album cover for hours. I was an unabashed Kiss fan. Even on holidays up to the Shoal Bay country club my buddy Mark and I would dress up as Kiss for the fancy dress night, the highlight of the Shoal Bay social scene. I was Ace Frehley with cardboard guitar taped onto a tennis racquet and Mark as Gene Simmons, yes we were adorable.
The huge seller ‘Dynasty’ preceded this record, with hits ‘I was made for loving you’ and ‘Sure know something’, but by this stage Kiss were moving away from heavy metal and more into Pop. The merchandising was ramping up and more kids were becoming fans. The only real hit on ‘Unmasked’ was the ballad ‘Shandi’.
Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley all share vocal duties on ‘Unmasked’ and as usual I thought Ace’s songs were the best, just like his solo album from two years earlier in which ‘Rip it Out’ was a classic, Ace has the knack on tracks ‘Talk to Me’ and ‘Two sides of the coin’ to write a solid rock song with catchy riffs, plain and simple.
Producer Vini Poncia may have took away the rawness and energy of earlier albums ‘Alive’ and ‘Destroyer’ on ‘Unmasked’ and replaced it with a slickness and manufactured production that critics slayed but I didn’t care, I wouldn’t truly discover or appreciate heavy metal until 5 years later as a 16 year old, hello AC/DC.
Kiss were never known for their deep lyrics or social messages, in fact every second song is about a woman. They’re a party band based on image.
I regretted never seeing them live, in their heyday they would have been something to see but as an 11-year-old sitting in Mum and Dad’s living room this album and my imagination was all that I needed.
hallymustang rating : 3/5 ???