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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Kiss - 1980 Unmasked
Kiss - 1980 Unmasked

ALBUM: Unmasked
LABEL: Casablanca
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1987, Casablanca, 800 041-2 M-1


LINEUP: Paul Stanley - guitars, bass, vocals * Ace Frehley - guitars, bass, vocals * Anton Fig - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Is That You * 02 Shandi * 03 Talk To Me * 04 Naked City * 05 What Makes The World Go Round * 06 Tomorrow * 07 Two Sides Of The Coin * 08 She's So European * 09 Easy As It Seems * 10 Torpedo Girl * 11 You're All That I Want


'Unmasked', along with 'Asylum', is perhaps Kiss' most forgotten album. It came at a time when the band's popularity was waning in the US, not helped by the departure of drug addled Peter Criss who although featured on the albums artwork, did not play a note on the album, replaced by session man Anton Fig, who was a member of Spider at that time. 1979's 'Dynasty' had showed a more mainstream melodic side of Kiss, and they took it a step further with 'Unmasked', which along with 'Crazy Nights' is easily the AOR highpoint of the bands career. With Vini Poncia producing and contributing to all tracks minus two, he took Kiss in a direction that might have irked fans of the earlier, heavier albums, but 'Unmasked's worth as a credible venture into classic AOR cannot be undermined. That it failed was a result of changing times, not due to musical failure, a bit like 'The Elder' and 'Creatures Of The Night'.

The Songs
The reliable pen of Gerald McMahon provides 'Is that You' with ambiguous lyrics and music ('you went too far, being the bitch you are.....your reputations in the bathroom'), a heavy handed yet worthy slice of melodic rock which Stanley was born to sing. 'Shandi' was a hit in Australasia, an area which was still enthoned in Kiss mania in 1980, to this day a ballad which was advanced for its time, sounding more like 1985! Frehley has three tracks featured, 'Talk To Me' being the first, with his simplistic lyrics and knack for a bouncy chorus which endeared him to the fans as the peoples choice of the band. Of his other two efforts 'Two Sides Of The Coin' shades 'Torpedo Girl', a typical piece of Frehley naughtiness, the former containing the unforgettable lyric 'Ive met some ladies, then some girls, but they don't tell you, they just want a whirl'. Peppy Castro and Bob Kulick get in the act, co-writing 'Naked City' with Simmons and Poncia, an automatic AOR classic that would have easily fit on a Balance album, especially those marvelous backing vocals. 'Tomorrow''s keyboard work veers off into new wave, which explains Stanley's bogus haircut of the period, the song itself a key piece of pop/AOR which in another time might have been a hit. A true AOR classic arrives in the shape of 'Easy As It Seems', defining the genre in 1980 better than a Styx, Journey or Foreigner, the guitar solo a stand out, although surely it isn't Frehley, perhaps it is some faceless session man behind the curtain as Kiss so often did. Simmons chips in a pearler, 'You're All That I Want', with the heaviest riffs of the album, but perhaps the most accessible chorus with guitar harmonies that read 'Bob Kulick' like a front page headline.

In Summary
Depending on what version of Kiss tickles your fancy, this may not be for everyone, now and then. But for true fans it's every bit as accomplished as a 'Destroyer' or 'Lick It Up'. AOR fans who may have overlooked this or disregarded it simple because of the name 'Kiss' may want to give this a chance. The band steered away from AOR in the ensuing years, but gradually worked their way back during the mid 80's, with some of their heaviest and melodic work in the process. 'Unmasked' might have seen Kiss at a turning point in their career, but twenty five years later has stood the test of time, sounding fresher than many an album from the same year.

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#1 | sabace on March 22 2006 13:45:09
ace did all the lead work except for stanley on shandi
#2 | Jokerdean on March 22 2006 18:09:55
Actually Bob Kulick and Paul Stanley do all the guitar work on every song except for Ace's Songs... Gene does NOT Play on this as Peter doesn't either. Ace only plays on his songs.
#3 | shelf stacker on October 03 2008 12:45:33
Spot on: 'Naked City' is an absolute monster of a song - the first Kiss track I heard as a kid that made me realise they were more than just a pantomime act. A very good album over all.
#4 | DIGITAL on October 18 2008 03:18:14
another shout for naked city best song on the album
#5 | sabace on October 09 2010 15:49:58
just to set the record straight, kulick did'nt play a lick on this lp . It was all frehley and stanley ( played lead on a few of his songs ) . they both played bass as well . tom harper a guitar tech at the time played bass on shandi - the above info courtesy of ' behind the make up ' a biography of the band .
#6 | gdazegod on October 09 2010 16:16:38
Well then, we had better straighten out the personnel credits hadn't we? Thanks for that John.
#7 | dangerzone on October 23 2011 14:41:06
I find it hard to believe Gene Simmons sings on three songs yet didn't play bass at all.
#8 | gdazegod on October 23 2011 14:42:20
I believe there was unrest going on at the time. Reyno would probably know more..
#9 | reyno-roxx on October 23 2011 19:45:39
Over the years Simmons and Stanley have been pretty open about who played what on each album. Gene did play bass on this album, with the exception of 'Shandi' that Tom Harper played on. Bob Kulick and Peppy Castro played on the demo to 'Naked City'. Kulick was most unhappy that Ace seemingly ruined the track when they recorded it properly. The only member of Kiss who didn't play a note on this album was Peter Criss.
#10 | dangerzone on October 28 2011 04:05:35
'She's So European' is a great song regardless of what Simmons says about it.
#11 | Explorer on July 17 2013 20:29:56
This is a Kiss album I find myself playing on a fairly regular basis,regardless who playing on`s a superb AOR album.
#12 | reyno-roxx on July 17 2013 21:08:21
Holly Knight made her (uncredited) recording debut playing keyboards on this album. Spider had yet to release their debut album.
#13 | kim_hp on September 04 2013 07:18:03
Wow, 'Shandi' and 'Naked City' are killer AOR!
#14 | AOR Lee on September 05 2013 05:39:30
Agreed Kim, same goes for most of the album
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