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Gene Simmons - ***HOLE Print E-mail
Monday, 02 May 2005

Gene Simmons

format: DualDisc
label: Silverline
release year: 2005
performance: 7
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image Gene Simmons’ solo CDs do not just present the KISS man sans the makeup, but with this poorly titled ***HOLE disc in particular (the asterisks stand in for the “A” word used to describe one’s posterior, by the way), we also get a glimpse of the rock star’s rarely revealed soft white underbelly. This uncommon view of Simmons is best exemplified by “Waiting for the Morning Light,” which the performer co-wrote with Bob Dylan, of all people! It finds Simmons singing in a scratchy Don Henley-like voice. Instead of layered, raging guitars, Simmons croons it over piano to the beat of a lazy rhythm. Certainly these are not the kinds of elements you would normally associate with Simmons’ popular rock persona. In fact, this song sounds closer to a George Harrison ballad than to anything in the rest of his KISS army repertoire. Might there truly be a real person underneath all of that showbiz apparel after all?

But this song is just one instance drawn from a significant grouping of out of character tracks. The CD ends with something called “1,000 Dreams,” where Simmons does his best Roy Orbison vocal impression. This track has plenty of strings, retaining a bit of a jazzy feel and even sporting a pedal steel guitar solo (?!?). Another track, titled “If I Had a Gun,” contrasts its revengeful lyrical attitude with a slow and quiet – even warm – melody. On another track, “Beautiful,” Simmons matches the beatific title with an equally lovely melody. Furthermore, the softness of “Now That You’re Gone” is accomplished by piling plenty of vocal oohs and ahhs into the mix.

Of course, we cannot expect Simmons’ dirty old manliness to be contained for an entire CD, and this more familiar part of his nature shows through during the lewd “Sweet & Dirty Love,” as well as on the disc’s title track. There are also a few curiosities, such as a cover of The Prodigys’ “Firestarter,” and “Black Tongue,” which utilizes spoken word sections from the late Frank Zappa, as well as contributions by various Zappa family members.

This two-sided DualDisc also includes the entire CD in 5.1 surround sound and stereo, as well as various photos and other CD-ROM content. It also has the video for “Firestarter,” which badly casts Simmons as a sort of pimp daddy who is surrounded by scantily clad dancing girls.

After hearing so many positive messages coming from this disc, it’s hard to tell if Simmons is trying to turn over a new leaf, or just pulling a fast one on us all. This is why it’s difficult to discern any pure sincerity during this CD’s more sensitive moments. He’s either a smart chameleon, or just now learning how to age gracefully. Or perhaps he’s just trying to kiss and make up for a lot of bad past behavior. Who knows?

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