Rating the KISS Unmasked Draft Albums - by Nick Jezierny

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(editor’s Note: On a 100-degree day in Boise, Nick decided not to ride his mountain bike like he does every Tuesday and chose to sit around in his Kiss boxers and rate these records. “Seems like a productive thing to do,” his wife said sarcastically.)

This is going to be harder than I anticipated – I’ve studied the albums, tried my own crazy formula to rank them (way too complicated and probably too scientific). I thought about ranking all songs from 1-71 and then scoring the records like a cross country meet.

That seemed like a lot of work, and since my love of Kiss sometimes means a song I’m not super-high on one day becomes a favorite the next, I’ve decided I’m just going to go with my gut and that means this: the best rule for unmasked Kiss – the fewer Gene songs, the better.

Let’s be honest. The Demon struggled mightily between the last makeup record “Creatures of the Night” and the last non-makeup record (at least in this draft) “Revenge.” He was making movies and the 80’s fashion trends didn’t suit him well.

So the record that starts with “Domino” and ends with “Lonely is the Hunter” and has a total of eight Gene songs is automatically eliminated. Not only does it have eight Simmons songs, but none of his best five from this era are included.

  • Thou Shalt Not

  • Secretly Cruel

  • Unholy

  • Betrayed

  • Fits Like A Glove

The highlight of this last-place record in “Silver Spoon,” one of my favorites.

Time to eliminate another record. Two others records have at least five Gene songs, but Gene songs are created unequal. The album that contains two of his epic duds – “Murder in High Heels” and “Any Way You Slice It” – among six Simmons offerings is the next on the chopping block.

While the Gene songs didn’t help — “No No No” is another stinker — it was the lack of great Paul songs that led to its demise. While “Exciter” and “Tough Love” are above-average, they aren’t enough to warrant this record as the winner. And it has “My Way,” which is “no way” in my book.

The next cut was difficult. It would be easy to take an album with five Gene songs, but I’m going a different direction. The album that starts with “Take It Off” and ends with “Carr Jam” is the next to go.

While this album featured a legitimate No. 2 pick in “A Million To One,” there wasn’t enough substance to follow it. I found myself wanting to rank this higher, but there are a lot of forgettable or blah songs, including “(You Make Me) Rock Hard,” “While the City Sleeps,” “Get All You Can Take” and “Who Wants To Be Lonely.”

This disc only had two Gene songs – “Not For The Innocent” and “Spit” – but those aren’t album killers, but they also couldn’t help it stave off elimination.

That leads us to the five-Gene song album that starts with “Unholy.” Between that hit and “Fits Like A Glove,” some of Gene’s best non-makeup work shows up. So does his worst: “Love’s A Deadly Weapon.”

There are some other strong picks – “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire),” “Heart of Chrome” and “Thrills in the Night” – but there’s too much filler to warrant a top-two finish. I consider “Reason to Live” like much of the “Crazy Nights” record – average at best. “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” is a forgettable tune and might be the worst second song on any Kiss record. (It’s worse than “Any Way You Slice It”!)

That takes us to the top two records. Both are strong records for different reasons, but I’m going to eliminate the record that opens with “Crazy, Crazy Nights” and ends with “The Street Giveth and The Street Taketh Away.”

This record had a lot going for it. “I’m Alive” and “Tears Are Falling” are very strong, and two of Gene’s best - “Thou Shalt Not” and “Secretly Cruel” - are as good as it gets from him in this era. I even like “Forever” enough to ignore “Let’s Put the X in Sex.”

What really sunk this record is the inclusion of “Hide Your Heart.” Back in 1989, when I was a senior at Ohio University, Kiss released “Hot in the Shade” around the same time as Ace Frehley released “Trouble Walkin’,” which as you may know, also featured a version of “Hide Your Heart.” I thought Ace’s version was vastly superior to the poppier Kiss version to the point where I dislike the Kiss version. So that was my tiebreaker – “Hide Your Heart” made this record worse than our champion.

Congratulations to the record that starts with the ultimate opening song from the non-makeup era, “King of the Mountain” and ends with perhaps my pick for the steal of this draft, the 11th-rounder “You Love Me To Hate You.”

In between, this record includes “Lick It Up,” “Heaven’s On Fire” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” for hits. If you want some under-the-radar magic, you’ve got “Gimme More,” “Under The Gun” and a not-so-bad “Betrayed” as one of only two Gene songs on the mix.

We can overlook “Radar For Love” and “When Your Walls Come Down” and realize each of these albums has a dud – “Bang Bang You.”

So that’s it. I intentionally didn’t look at the names of the albums or who drafted them. I wanted to keep this on the up-and-up. Really, I’m jealous I couldn’t participate and would have liked to have included “Carnival of Souls” because there are five or six songs that would have been fine additions to some of these records.

Nick Jezierny is a former journalist who has seen Kiss 10 times on nine different tours and in eight different venues in six different states. He works as a Communications Specialist at Blue Cross of Idaho where he writes a Song Lyric of the Day each morning on the whiteboard in his cubicle.