By Nick Arietano Jr The RecordLover
This is my favorite album of KISS, hands down. This is a collection full of great and catchy pop-rock songs. Session drummer Anton Fig took the reins at the drums as Peter Criss had left the band although he is credited in the cover’s liner notes. The group did have some outside collaborators on the songs (two out of the 3 Ace Frehley songs written by he alone), such as Vini Poncia and Bob Kulick. Like the rest of the KISS Army, I thought the poster inside was going to be the group literally unmasked, but during the last 40 years (can you believe it’s been THAT long), I’ve discovered the term “Unmasked” was metaphorical. This album proves that the group could write and sing great songs. They were more than a theatrical stage act. They were musicians and vocalists that could entertain on disc as well as in huge halls and arenas. Underneath all the glitz, glamor, and makeup were three human beings that could rock and roll sans the special effects.
It’s really a pleasure to hear the songs in the original order listed above as I first owned this album on 8-Track in the Summer of 1980 (I won it on the one win choice album wheel at Point Pleasant Boardwalk for a few quarters!)and the songs were in a slightly different order and Ace Frehley’s “Talk To Me” was cut off in the middle of his guitar solo on “Program 1”. Then the tape did the “click” thing and the song continued on “Program 2”. Here’s my take on each song:
1. “Is That You (written by Gerard McMahon)?” is a great rocker with really biting and snarky vocals by Paul Stanley about a young hussie who’s getting in way over her head sexually. Love the lead guitar and Paul’s vocals.
2. “Shandi”-A Lovely ballad written by Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. This song spotlights Paul Stanley’s talents as a lead guitarist (especially during the intro), rhythm guitarist and singer (the ending harmonies bring tears to my eyes every time I hear it).
3. “Talk To Me”-One of three Ace Frehley greats on the album . Great lyrics, great guitars and a killer chorus. Ace the Spaceman handles all of the heavy lifting on this track: the bass, lead guitars and rhythm guitars! Love how Ace and Paul harmonize on the chorus!
4. “Naked City”-Nice rock tune with Gene Simmons on lead vocal co-written with Vini Poncia, Pepe Castro, and Bob Kulick . Features a great Ace Frehley lead guitar solo, with Gene on bass.
5. “What Makes The World Go Round”-Another collaboration between Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. Easy going, and introspective song. Features Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley on lead guitar solos.
6. “Tomorrow”-God, I love this song. Paul and Vini’s best collaboration on the album. Love the chorus, “And Tomorrow…we’re gonna fall in love, fall in love,” and the final chorus when the harmonies blend together on two different sets of lyrics “fall in love with me/we got all the love we need” at the finale. Paul Stanley gives a tribute to Chuck Berry with his solo before the break.
7. “Two Sides of The Coin”-My favorite Ace song on the album. Hands down. Love singing along to this. It’s catchy, it’s Pop, it’s rock and roll, and can only have been written by Ace. Great chorus, great lyrics. One of the best songs written about meeting women and trying to settle down with the right one. Anton Fig shows his drumming chops on this one!
8. “She’s So European”-Gene Simmons second track on the LP, and a co-written with Vini Poncia about a European chick with whom he is infatuated. Gene gives his demonic “Yeah!” after singing the chorus toward the song’s fade. A nice song. Shows Gene’s depth as a songwriter and singer.
9. “Easy As It Seems”-A good pop rock song with a nice chorus. Written by Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. Gentle lead vocals from Paul Stanley and backup singers.
10. “Torpedo Girl”-Ace Frehley’s final composition on the album co-written with Vini Poncia. A song about a guy just wanting to go for a swim and get away from the mundane. He thinks he spots a girl riding on a snake shaped submarine. Is he dreaming? Maybe. But the chorus “Let’s take a dive Torpedo Girl and Feel Alive..” says otherwise. Great guitar and vocals from Ace who also thrums the bass on this one.
10. “You’re All That I Want”-The Album finishes with a cool vibe and a great collaboration between Gene and Vini Poncia. Gene completely wears his heart on his sleeve in this song (the chorus is so beautiful). Showcases Gene’s songwriting and singing ability. This one could have been a great single.
As Ace Frehley says in “Torpedo Girl”, “C’mon, get your feet wet!” and listen (really listen) to this disc.