Gene Simmons - A**hole (Simmons/Sanctuary)
"Asshole" (a ridiculous title indeed) is a self-indulgent, mishmash of styles and guest artists, but what else would you expect from the biggest ego in the business. Being the Kiss die-hard that I am I had to get this disc, however unlike most Kiss albums I waited to find a used copy. Honestly after reading about 1,000 bad reviews I wasn't expecting much. The problem seems to lie in the fact that most people seem to associate Gene with dark, heavy metal, but the fact is Gene has always stated how much he loves classic pop rock like the Beatles. One look back to his 1978 solo album should have cleared up that misconception. He also stated that the songs on this album would not be Kiss-like, as much of this material was stuff he wrote over the years but didn't fit the Kiss sound. So this is a solo album in the truest sense. Gene does indulge in a few hard rocking songs like "Carnival of Souls" and "Weapons". However, for the most part Gene explores other styles of music, especially his love for Beatles-style pop. He co-wrote "Black Tongue" with late guitar-master Frank Zappa. Personally I feel this is a really good song. The opener "Sweet & Dirty Love" is also an excellent song, having an almost Molly Hatchet Southern rock vibe complete with lots of slide guitar. "Sweet & Dirty Love" is basically a Kiss song since Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer play on it and Paul Stanley does background vocals. Though Paul isn't mentioned in the credits as doing so, you can easily hear him. The lyrics are typical of Gene's lavish lifestyle. "Firestarter" is a cover song and a techno-ish pop number. Dave Navarro plays the guitar on this song. I sort of like this song as well. "Waiting for the Morning Light" is a very light, radio pop song. In this song you can hear the Beatles influence and while I can respect Gene's love for all things Beatles, this song isn't really my style. Bob Dylan has co-writing credits with Gene on this song. Likewise the title track, aside from being a horrible name for an album, is also a completey horrendous song. The song ends with Gene singing, "maybe I'm an asshole too." Hmmm, ya think? "Carnival of Souls" is a cool up beat hard rocker with that Beatles influence again. Guitars by Ritchie Kotzen. This song sounds like this could have been on "Revenge", if you ask me. "If I Had a Gun" is sort of an acoustic based song with silly (on purpose) lyrics. "1,000 Dreams" finishes things off with what sounds like the follow up to "When You Wish Upon a Star". This song sounds like a leftover from Gene's 1978 solo disc in my opinion. It also has a slight tropical twang to it, if that makes sense. Imagine Jimmy Buffet meets the Beatles meets Air Supply with some girl dancing in a grass skit and flowered lay behind them. I kid you not! Overall, I think this is actually quite a bit more enjoyable than most reviewers are letting on. "Asshole" is certainly not an awesome album by any stretch of the imagination, but it also isn't the atrocity most reviewers claim it is. Either that or maybe I am just that much of a Kiss diehard.