Paul Stanley

Released: 18 September 1978
Track List: Tonight You Belong to Me; Move On; Ain’t Quite Right; Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me; Take Me Away (Together As One); It’s Alright; Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart); Love in Chains; Goodbye

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Best song: “Tonight You Belong to Me”
Worst song: “Hold Me, Touch Me”

Previous album: Gene Simmons
Next album: Dynasty

Background

For general notes on the Solo Albums, see the review of Ace Frehley.

Paul’s solo album is always cited as the most Kiss-like of the four.  Some assert that this shows that Paul was the principal songwriter of the band.  He may well have been, but Gene got so experimental and wacky with his album that I’m not sure it’s conclusive.  Still, there’s no denying the basic observation: most of these songs could have been dropped onto Rock and Roll Over or even Love Gun and you’d have been none the wiser.

Paul enlists Bob Kulick, whom we know as runner-up to Ace in the original band auditions and the guitarist on three of the Alive II studio tracks, as his lead guitarist.  I really wish we could import some Kiss albums from the alternate universe where they hired Bob at the beginning.  I love Ace, but Bob is an excellent guitarist (and a wiseass in interviews to boot) and this is good stuff.

Breakdown

We start “Tonight You Belong to Me” with a gentle riff and a softly-sung intro: “In a dream a long time ago / we fell in love, but what did we know?” A few lines later, the song goes tacet, and then an amazing riff, simple but effective, shatters the silence, the drums join, and we’re rocking.

This song belongs on Love Gun.  This song is worthy of being the B-side of “Love Gun” itself.  No, on second thought: this song would have been an even better opener for that album than “I Stole Your Love”.  It’s that good.  Midtempo and groovy, and damn that riff is compelling.   (The second half of this riff will resurface on a Kiss album later, and it will be good there too, though not quite as effective without the first half.)

“Move On” jumps in afterwards with a higher dose of rocking energy.  It sounds less like a Kiss song because of the female backup singers (but they’re perfectly good).  The sudden switch to “gentle” in the bridges is a bit surprising, but it works.  And Paul, like Ace but unlike the others, knows when it’s time to wrap up the song before it gets stale, and does so, with some nice guitar work — is it Paul himself or Bob? — to boot.

“Ain’t Quite Right” is a decent midtempo ballad.  It ain’t quite the first two tracks, but it works.  Lyrically, this is one of those “romantic skeptic” Paul songs, where he’s interested in the woman but recognizes there are issues.  (He has lots of them if you think about it: “Strutter”, “Got to Choose”, and “Hotter Than Hell” are obvious examples.)  It’s a bit slower and more … saccharine? … than I like.  But it’s fine.  It’s much more enjoyable than anything Peter served up by far.

“Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me?” brings the energy like “Move On” did (in fact, the openings are pretty similar).  The vocal melody does this kinda interesting up and down bit in the verse (“you been pushin’ and you won’t get me toniiiight”).  Then a prechorus, and then the chorus. “Wouldn’t you like to know me  / and wouldn’t you like to show me you care / Wouldn’t you like to take me  / and wouldn’t you like to make me, oh yeah”.  This song is over almost too quickly! The energy is fun, and the chorus is Paul throwing down a gauntlet at the girl!  Dammit!

I wish I could put my finger on how Paul’s choruses feel like they say so much, while Peter’s (and to a lesser degree Gene’s) say so little.  Maybe it’s because “Wouldn’t you like to know me,” etc. is actually a complete sentence while “maaaaan of a thousand faces” is not.  But on the other hand, “You’re the kind of sugar Papa likes” is also a complete sentence.  So I dunno.  Paul is a better songwriter.  Period.

“Take Me Away (Together as One)”.  Gentle ballad beginning and then the hard rock hits. Paul does love that structure, but it works so well so often for him.  His voice is mixed a little too softly on this intro, though, so his words don’t have as much of a chance to hook you.  When the rock hits, “Yesterday is far away / so take me out to sea” pours out in Operatic Paul Voice.  Yeah!  Unfortunately, we transition back to the gentle quiet stuff.  I’ve got nothing against gentle and quiet, but again, it kinda suffers from production in this case.  So overall this is the weakest song so far.

Also, “Take Me Away” clocks in at 5:37! It sticks around a little too long, although Paul varies the structure far more than his colleagues, and at least the last 1:23 is instrumental instead of chanting the same five words over and over, Gene and Peter.  I’ve noted that some Kiss songs feel like prototypes of others (e.g. “Makin’ Love” to “Love Gun”); I can definitely see the beginnings of “I Still Love You” from Creatures of the Night in this song, and that one will prove to be a grand slam.

“It’s Alright”.  More Mid-To-High Energy Paul musically, but the lyrics are a little less of a hook than some of the others.  “I’ll give you breakfast in bed / you’re goin’ right to my head” is cute.  I’ve been there, Paul, and mentioning breakfast in bed in a song with this much hard rock vibe is kinda cleverly incongruous.  But then “Yeah, you know, that I’m givin’ you the warnin’ / Girl, it’s just a one night stand, yeah”.  I think this is Paul telling us that he’s up for either romance or friends with benefits.  Okay.  It doesn’t cohere well and the riff, while hard, isn’t interesting enough.

“Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)” was the one single from the album.  The piano the and lullaby-like tone of Paul’s voice are a bit too syrupy.  It feels like the love is sincere but he was insecure about how he was coming off and turned the sap up to eleven.  No, Paul, you can just buy the woman a dinner at a nice restaurant, you don’t need to strew the floor with rose petals too.  That’s overboard.  Sugar shock.  Points for effort once again, though.

Oh, thank god. “Love In Chains” starts immediately with riffs and lead licks.  The vocal melody reminds me strongly of another Kiss song (which I’m going to smack my forehead when it comes off the tip of my tongue, and I’ll edit this review to say it).  Here he goes again with the simple chorus that says so much: “You keep your love in chains / love in chains / And only fear remains / and keeps your love in chains.”  Nicely done, sir.

And we end with a song called “Goodbye”! It starts with a nice basic lead-descending-over-chords riff, and then Paul asks us “Ain’t it funny how time slips away?” You wrote this to be the closer, didn’t you? That’s almost concept-album stuff there, Paul! Now here he hits us with lines that seem more profound than they actually are: “Ain’t it funny how we win but we lose / we’re given prizes that we don’t get to use”.  Erm … hmmm.  Well, it’s a cute turn of phrase anyhow.  Again, beating the tar out of several of his colleagues.  This one clocks in over four minutes but doesn’t seem quite so long, because he packs it with a lot of those sort of lyrics.  They infect your brain long enough to distract you for a bit longer.  And the song is upbeat enough, and again, a nice instrumental outro is way less tedious than saying five words over and over.  FIN.

Bottom Line

It’s no secret that Ace is my favorite member of the band, and his solo album is the only one that gets regular rotation in my musical selection.  But I also listen to Paul’s from time to time (especially “Tonight You Belong to Me”).  In terms of pure listenability, this album is (for me) second only to Ace’s, and if you prefer your rock a bit softer and a bit more about love, you might like this even better.

“Tonight You Belong to Me” is almost worth the price of admission alone; in the digital music era, you have no excuse not to get it by itself. But there’s a lot of good stuff here.  If you’re a Kiss fan, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy a good portion of this album.  Try it. “It’s alright!”