Ol' Star-Eye

By Kurt Loder

Why would Kiss, the number one rock band in the world according to a Gallup poll last year, suddenly split four ways and siphon off their individual energies into solo albums?

"I needed an outlet," says singer/guitarist Paul Stanley, for his part. "Working in the bank is great, but the more you develop an identity as an artist, as a musician, you want to do things more and more your way. And in a group situation, everyone has to compromise, you know? So I guess at this point everybody just wanted to let off some steam and go out and do an album that was totally him. And my album is an album of no compromise."

Stanley and his masked mates have released their self-titled Casablanca solo bows in a single platinum shipping blitz, and the marketing, as usual, is meticulously mapped out. The Lps are all being promoted together, and, according to the star-eyed singer, "What you buy is your choice. Once you get one, I think You'll probably want all of them. It would be a bad idea to have competitive advertising. I mean, we are a band. Despite us doing solo albums, we're all out for each other's good.

I heard some demos for the other guys' stuff," he relates, "and it's quite different from what I'm doing. There's a certain sound that may link all of them, but it's nebulous, in the background. You give everybody the room to be totally themselves and you come out with four different albums. Mine is more varied. Not to say it's more complex, but it's fuller sounding, not orchestrated, but I did as much with guitars and little electronic devices as possible. The melodies are stronger, and I'm singing a lot more. I know people who've heard it and said, 'That's you singing? I thought you could only shout.' "

In a rare unpainted moment, Stanley's large, lashy eyes glint amiably against his smooth olive skin. His lips are pursed in a perpetual moue, but widen into a grin at the thought of anything like artiness creeping into his music. "By no means is it a techno-flash kind of rock," Stanley is quick to point out. "It's not your sci-fi rock or the next Emerson Lake and Palmer album. I stay true to what I do, but there's a lot of ways to color it."

Indeed: From the lovely acoustic guitar montage that opens "Tonight You Belong to Me" to the raw, brutal riff that animates "Love in Chains," Paul Stanley is one of the most vividly colored hard rock albums in many a moon. And Stanley's singing is something of a revelation throughout, especially on "Hold Me, Touch Me,"the lp's first single, and the only ballad out of the album's nine tracks, and "Take Me Away," on which the singer's unleashed voice soars almost operatically.

"Kiss' music didn't appeal to me at all," admits producer Glixman. "But I saw their show and I was very impressed- not necessarily musically, but I thought it was very professional. With Paul's album, it wasn't like 'I'm gonna be the star, and I'm gonna play every lead.' He turned out to be a really nice person, and he had no qualms about using really good musicians. His music has the roots of any good rock band, like Bad Compnay for example. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised."

Stanley is similarly optimistic. "I think this album's gonna turn people's heads around in terms of the people playing on it - and there are also some little surprises. But I wanted to steer away from anything that would put me in a position where people could say the album was great because so and so was on it, you know? This album sinks or swims because of ME. If you like it, well, that's a pat on my back. And if you don't like it, that's on my shoulders also."

It's "the people," after all, who buy the records, right? Stanley's smile is quietly triumphant. "Who needs critics?" he beams.