By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
KISS – HOT IN THE SHADE (1989)
As I wrote in my Cassette Chronicles article about the Kiss album Animalize, I really have never owned that many albums from the band. I’ve started to gather up a few of them here and there but still haven’t fully committed to owning their studio album discography. Well, that is until a recent opportunity came up that will likely allow me to scoop a number of the albums up on CD at a relatively inexpensive cost.
But until that happens, I still have one more cassette album of the band that I can write about for this series and that is their 1989 album Hot In The Shade. The album came out the year I graduated from high school but other than the two best known songs on the album, I never paid any attention to this one.
Those two hit songs would be the rocker “Hide Your Heart” and the big power ballad “Forever”. I still find myself quite entertained on the rare occasion that I hear “Hide Your Heart” on the radio. I can’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy “Forever” when it was released as a single but hearing it now kind of makes my teeth grind against themselves. Still, it was a pretty successful single for the band, hitting #8 on the chart.
Of course, restraint has never been a huge part of the Kiss vocabulary. This comes into play when I realized that Hot In The Shade has a total of 15 songs on the album. And I don’t mean a couple of brief instrumentals padding the album either. These are all full-length songs. Of course, given how pedestrian to outright unappealing some of the songs turned out to be, perhaps a little restraint would’ve been a better choice for the band to make.
The first side of the album starts out with “Rise To It”. The song was the third of three singles released from Hot In The Shade. Though I don’t remember having ever heard the song before, I can see why it was chosen as a single. The intro to the song is a cool little piece of music in its own right, but as the song gets fully underway, you can feel your blood pumping to the rhythm of this rocking anthem.
For me, I loved the pacing of “Betrayed” but I also found that the song kind of grated on my ears after a while. Still, it is better than the three songs that followed in in the track listing. I found “Prisoner of Love”, “Read My Body” and “Love’s A Slap In The Face” to be completely inane and would’ve been better served being left in the band’s archive for all time. All three songs had a more uptempo style but that didn’t save them from making me want to fast forward through them.
I will say that the closing song on side one, “Silver Spoon”, was fantastic. It’s a real rocking number that made me want to play it over and over again a few times.
The second side of the album started off in superb fashion with another rocker in the form of “Cadillac Dreams”. The guitar work on “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” but found the song as a whole merely just “OK”. I’d probably describe my reaction of “King of Hearts” and “Little Caesar” the same way.
But I loved the song “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” a lot. The chorus was especially catchy. As for the closing track “Boomerang”, that was a killer rock track. When I was researching the album for this article, I saw that the song is described as flirting with speed metal. I’m not completely sold on that particular designation but the way it blazed with it’s race to the finish pace, I can’t discount it completely. If I was to pick a song from the album for the band to do on what is being billed as the final concert tour, I’d love to see this one performed just to see how hard it would come across in a live setting.
The album’s initial sales figures got it a gold certification in the US. And I think that overall it is a pretty good album. But if they’d eliminated four songs from the release and cut the track listing down to a more reasonable/manageable eleven songs, it would’ve been that much stronger collective whole. There’s plenty here to keep your fandom for the band burning bright and while I’m not an official member of the Kiss Army, the good outweighs the bad on Hot In The Shade and shows that the band still had some songwriting chops even in the days of their sound being more commercially accessible.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer co-wrote the songs “Betrayed” and “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”.
As I’m sure most Kiss fans know, the song “Forever” was co-written by Paul Stanley and pop crooner Michael Bolton.
Eric Carr sang the lead vocal on the song “Little Caesar”. It was the first time he sang lead on an original track. He had song the lead vocal on a remake of “Beth” that appeared on the Smashes, Thrashes & Hits compilation.