This is Day 7 of Kiss Kountdown to Rock Hall. Click here to see other stories.
I Love Kiss Unmasked
1980 was a banner year for hard rock/heavy metal records...it was the year that brought us British Steel, Back In Black, Heaven and Hell, Women and Children First, All Shook Up, Blizzard of Ozz, Ace of Spades and yes, KISS Unmasked.
Unmasked was released in May of 1980 and it was the follow-up to 1979's Dynasty....which many consider the KISS "goes disco" album but is a pretty solid record in it's own right. If Dynasty was KISS "goes disco"......Unmasked is KISS "goes pop" and it is loaded with great tracks.
By 1980 KISS-teria was really taking a dive in the US.....and Unmasked was pretty much a flop and one of their weakest-selling records. At this time I was still a card-carrying member of the KISS Army and pretty much defended anything the band was doing at the time....but I really did love Unmasked and still do. Unmasked was a tough sell to my fellow metalhead youth and former KISS Army members....but I fought the good fight for this record.....but I don't think I changed many minds.
Sound-wise Unmasked is a very slick production.....which was handled by producer Vini Poncia....who had previously produced Dynasty and the Peter Criss 1978 solo album. I think if the album had a different production style Unmasked would rank higher in many fans "best of" lists, but to me the production really compliments the poppy side of KISS.
Standout tracks for me are... Is That You?, Tomorrow, Easy As It Seems, You're All That I Want, She's So European.....plus we get three great tracks from Ace on this record....the best of them being Talk To Me. Speaking of Ace.....I feel he was really on a roll....songwriting and playing wise.....starting with 1977's Shock Me through to the songs on this record. Ace was really delivering the goods......and it really speaks volumes when he is getting equal amount of tracks on an album as Gene. My least favorite track on the record is Shandi.....it's a little too wimpy for my taste but it was a big hit for the band in other countries....especially Australia....where KISS-teria was still in full bloom.
A couple interesting notes about Unmasked....even though it was called "Unmasked"....KISS would not officially unmask for another three years. Also of interest....Peter Criss is featured on the cover artwork but he didn't play one drum beat on this album.....that was handled by Anton Fig (now the drummer in the David Letterman Show band)....who also did most of the drumming on Dynasty and was the drummer on Ace's '78 solo album. Anton was the uncredited fifth member of KISS during this time....why is Anton not going into the R&RHOF?.....he deserves it. Eric Carr would be brought in as Peter's permanent replacement just after Unmasked was released.
Bottom line....Unmasked is loaded with some pop gems and great performances by Paul, Ace and Gene.....and even with it's poppy sheen....Unmasked rocks, or at least I think it does. It's not what most fans would expect or want from their fire-breathing, blood-spitting, guitar-smoking comic book heroes but it's an album that has stood the test of time for me and it sets firmly in my all-time "Top Five" KISS albums.
As time has gone on I've given up defending KISS like I did in my preteen years because frankly they haven't done much worth defending .....but I stand by my love for Unmasked as one of the underrated gems in their discography.
Now...excuse me while I go collect my notebooks from the floor of the school bus.........
My KISS Top Five.....(excluding live albums):
Dressed to Kill / Rock and Roll Over / Unmasked / Dynasty / The Elder
Scott Carr is a guest submission and I asked him to write this because he is the only KISS fan I know who loves Unmasked and also has The Elder in his top five favorite records. - Colin G.
How much blow was the publicity department at Casablanca doing to come up with this campaign?