Unmasked (Kiss album)

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Unmasked
Kiss Unmasked Album Cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 20, 1980 (1980-05-20)
RecordedJanuary–March 1980
StudioThe Record Plant, New York City
Genre
Length39:46
LabelCasablanca
ProducerVini Poncia
Kiss chronology
Dynasty
(1979)
Unmasked
(1980)
Music from "The Elder"
(1981)
Singles from Unmasked
  1. "Shandi"
    Released: June 1, 1980
  2. "Talk to Me"
    Released: August 24, 1980
  3. "Tomorrow"
    Released: November 1, 1980

Unmasked is the eighth studio album by American hard rock band Kiss, released on May 20, 1980. It was their first not to feature drummer Peter Criss (although largely absent from the preceding Dynasty, Criss performed on that album's "Dirty Livin'"). Despite having no involvement in its production, Criss features in the album's artwork and appears in the video for "Shandi".

Album information[edit]

The album features substantial contributions from producer Vini Poncia, who had been Ringo Starr's post-Beatles songwriting partner. All tracks bar Ace Frehley's "Talk to Me" and "Two Sides of the Coin" were written or cowritten by someone outside the band.

A promotional video for "Shandi" proved Criss's final performance with Kiss until a cameo at a Kiss Convention on June 17, 1995. In the band's authorized biography, the drummer revealed that he was the last one in the band's dressing room after filming and he broke down crying.[1] The album cover and poster insert, designed by artist Victor Stabin, featured a winking Criss. "Unmasked was like the tail end of a comet," reflected Stanley, "and I don't mean Frehley's."[2]

A lip-synched German television performance of "Talk to Me" and "She's So European" featured the debut of Eric Carr, who became the band's permanent drummer until he died in 1991. The band would play a concert at the Palladium Theatre in New York City to officially introduce Carr as Criss's replacement. Kiss then toured Europe and Australia (where their popularity was at an all-time high) and played "Is That You?", "Talk to Me", "Shandi" and for a short time, "You're All That I Want".

Otherwise, the album's songs have been largely ignored in live performances, bar "Shandi", which is sometimes played, particularly in Australia (where the song became a top ten hit in 1980). "Talk to Me" was played in 2001 during Australian and Japanese legs of the Farewell Tour, but has not been performed since Frehley's second exit.

Heavy metal singer Jørn Lande covered "Naked City" on the album Unlocking the Past (2007). In 1999, German label Aor Heaven released Undressed – An Unmasked Tribute To Kiss, with various artists covering the entire album.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic[3]
Vista Records
[4]
Rolling Stone[5]
Pitchfork(0.8/10)[6]

Unmasked went on sale on May 20, 1980, through Casablanca Records and reached number 35 on the Billboard 200, the worst position for the group since Hotter Than Hell (1974).[7] It was certified gold by the RIAA on July 30, 1980[8] but failed to reach platinum status, ending the band's four-album platinum streak. However, Unmasked topped the charts in Norway and New Zealand, and reached the top five in Australia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

"Shandi", published on June 1, 1980, was the first single from the album. Although in the United States it only reached No. 47, in Argentina it reached number one. In Australia, New Zealand and Norway, it reached the top 10. "Talk to Me" was the next single outside the United States. It went on sale on August 24 and its highest position was number ten in Switzerland. "Tomorrow" was the third and last single – the second in the United States – and reached number 70 in Germany.

Unmasked divided critics. According to David Fricke of Rolling Stone, it "lacks the madness and amplified delusions of Love Gun and Alive!" while "Shandi" "suggests the Doobie Brothers with kabuki makeup". Fricke described songs such as "She's So European", "Easy As It Seems" and "You're All That I Want" as "disappointingly boring" and said Vini Poncia's "sterile production" left "in the background the guitars and the harrowing voices of yesteryear."

Jason Josephes of Pitchfork Media wrote that, until he heard it, he could not discern "how bad he was" and that he preferred to remain in ignorance for the rest of his life. Examiner Rustyn Rose concluded that Unmasked "is Kiss's adaptation to the new wave movement [and] far from the classic Kiss sound."

Stepehen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic commented that the songs are unmemorable, the group uninspired and "the music made it clear that it was time for Kiss to make a change."

Matthew Wilkening of Ultimate Classic Rock hailed it as "an underrated gem of power pop" and said, "Frehley manages to eclipse everyone by adding enough distorted guitars to bring together a sound comparable to the Rolling Stones [in] 'Two Sides of the Coin', 'Talk to Me' and the wonderfully insane 'Torpedo Girl'."

An accompanying tour, featuring Carr, included only one show in the US, at the Palladium. With the album proving higher-profile in other countries, Kiss instead toured Australia, England, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, and Italy.

"It's a shitty album," Gene Simmons remarked of Unmasked in 1993. "I'd be ashamed to play it for [my mother] or anybody else!"[9]

Track listing[edit]

Side One
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Is That You?"Gerard McMahonPaul Stanley3:59
2."Shandi"Stanley, Vini PonciaStanley3:36
3."Talk to Me"Ace FrehleyFrehley4:00
4."Naked City"Gene Simmons, Poncia, Bob Kulick, Peppy CastroSimmons3:49
5."What Makes the World Go 'Round"Stanley, PonciaStanley4:14
Side Two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
6."Tomorrow"Stanley, PonciaStanley3:18
7."Two Sides of the Coin"FrehleyFrehley3:16
8."She's So European"Simmons, PonciaSimmons3:30
9."Easy as It Seems"Stanley, PonciaStanley3:24
10."Torpedo Girl"Frehley, PonciaFrehley3:44
11."You're All That I Want"Simmons, PonciaSimmons3:04

Personnel[edit]

Kiss

  • Paul Stanley – vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar on "Shandi", guitar solo on "Is That You?" and "You're All That I Want", first guitar solo on "What Makes the World Go 'Round", all guitars & bass on "Tomorrow" and "Easy as It Seems"
  • Gene Simmons – vocals, bass; rhythm guitar on "You're All That I Want"
  • Ace Frehley – vocals, lead guitar, second guitar solo on "What Makes the World Go 'Round", all guitars & bass on "Talk to Me", "Two Sides of the Coin" and "Torpedo Girl"
  • Peter Criss – credited as a band member but does not play

Additional musicians

Charts[edit]

Album
Chart (1980) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[10] 3
Austrian Albums Chart[11] 3
Canadian Albums Chart[12] 12
Dutch Albums Chart[11] 13
German Albums Chart[11] 4
Japanese Albums Chart[13] 15
New Zealand Albums Chart[11] 1
Norwegian Albums Chart[11] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[14] 11
Swedish Albums Chart[11] 17
Swiss Albums Chart[11] 8
UK Albums Chart[15] 48
US Billboard Pop Albums[16] 35

Singles

Year Nation Single Chart Position
1980 United States "Shandi" Billboard Pop Singles | 47[17]
Australia 10[citation needed]
Austria 5[18]
"Talk to Me" 39[citation needed]
Canada "Shandi" 69[19]
Germany 28[citation needed]
"Talk to Me" 32[citation needed]
"Tomorrow" 70[citation needed]
Holland "Shandi" 24[citation needed]
"Talk to Me" 39[20]
Norway "Shandi" 4[18]
New Zealand 6[18]
Switzerland "Talk to Me" 10[20]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[21] Gold 50,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[22] Platinum 15,000^
United States (RIAA)[8] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leaf, David; Sharp, Ken (2003). Kiss: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-53073-5.
  2. ^ Kitts, Jeff: 'Back in black (and white)', Guitar World, September 1996, p68
  3. ^ Unmasked at AllMusic
  4. ^ "Kiss – Unmasked (1980)". Vista Records. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  5. ^ "Kiss: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "Kiss: Unmasked". Pitchfork Media. June 26, 2003. Archived from the original on June 26, 2003. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  7. ^ "AllMusic Billboard Unmasked". Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  8. ^ a b "American album certifications – Kiss – Unmasked". Recording Industry Association of America.
  9. ^ Gitter, Mike (6 March 1993). "Talkin' 'bout revolutions". Kerrang!. No. 433. p. 39.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Steffen Hung. "Kiss - Unmasked". swisscharts.com. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  12. ^ "Search – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  13. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  14. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  15. ^ "Kiss | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. January 4, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  16. ^ "Kiss Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums" at AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  17. ^ "AllMusic Billboard singles". Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  18. ^ a b c "Kiss – Shandi". Lescharts.com. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  19. ^ "RPM Magazine 100 singles". Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  20. ^ a b "Kiss – Talk to Me". Lescharts.com. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  21. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Kiss – Unmasked". Music Canada.
  22. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Kiss – Unmasked". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved November 16, 2019.

External links[edit]