...... Kiss are
the band everybody either loves or hates. I love them! I have been a fan since
I was in grade school. I was introduced to heavy metal through Kiss. My room
as a kid was plastered with Kiss posters, and I have never outgrown them. I
even got into fights with kids in school because they said Kiss sucked! But
enough of my ranting, on to the discs.
Kiss' 1974 self-titled debut is one of hard rock's all-time classic studio albums. Their debut is full of some of their best work that contained elements of the glam rock of the time (ie. New York Dolls) as well as the heavy metal of Sabbath/Zeppelin and the rock & roll vibe of the Beatles. The whole recording is rather raw and almost primitive sounding, both of which give the album a charm that on later albums would be removed by over slick production. Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley wrote a majority of the material here including such timeless classics as "Deuce" (by Simmons), "Firehouse" and "Black Diamond" (by Stanley). Of course who could forget the Ace Frehley anthem "Cold Gin"? Really the only weak track is a cover of the 1959 Bobby Rydell hit "Kissin' Time," which was added to later pressings of the album to tie in with a Kissing Contest promotion the band was involved in at the time. I use to own an original pressing of this album without "Kissin' Time" on it but sold it because the price was right. "Kiss," the album, is in my opinion one of the greatest 70's heavy metal albums of all time.
1. "Got to Choose"
Kiss' self-titled debut didn't perform as well as Neil Bogart had hoped so with the album fading on the charts in the summer of 1974, Kiss was rushed back into the studio to work on a new release. What resulted was "Hotter Than Hell," another quintessential Kiss release. "Goin' Blind" is one of the greatest Gene Simmons penned songs he has ever written. Of course "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll" and the title track continued to be played in concert for years to come and both were featured during their 2000 Farwell tour. "Strange Ways" is a song that has been forgotten but is an excellent Ace Frehley song featuring one shredding guitar solo. "Comin' Home," another Ace song, was also all but forgotten until 1996's "MTV Unplugged" album, where it was the concert opener. "Parasite" is one of my favorite all time Kiss songs. The artwork was also a big deal at the time, especially since it wasn't released in Japan until many years later.
Anthrax has covered "Watchin' You" and "Parasite."
Kiss was fast becoming America's top rock concert attraction, yet their record sales up to this point did not reflect their ticket sales so Neil Bogart (President of Casablanca) decided to produce the next KISS album himself. What resulted is one of the all time classic "heavy metal" discs. This disc, along with Black Sabbath's debut, Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny," Aerosmith's "Rocks" and Deep Purple's "Machine Head" have probably inspired more metal bands than any other discs put together. This is the quintessential 70's KISS studio platter in my opinion. Of course "Rock and Roll All Night" was a big hit, but a pair of songs that were reworked from Gene & Paul's former band, Wicked Lester ("Love Her All I Can" and "She") are two of the strongest tracks. Two other favorites are the Ace Frehley track "Getaway" and the Frehley/Stanley penned "Rock Bottom."
Anthrax has covered "Love Her All I Can" and "She"
Kiss Alive! Is one of the greatest LIVE albums of all time, if not the greatest. Alive! captured Kiss' raw and heavy live sound that made them concert favorites. The album also rocketed Kiss into mega-stardom. Alive was their first top ten album and it remained on the charts for 110 weeks and went quadruple platinum. (Platinum was a new term for albums that had sold over 1 million copies, something that was more rare in the 70's than it is today.) Kiss' favorite producer, the guy they had wanted since their first demo, Eddie Kramer was brought in to turn the knobs and tweak the sound. He did a great job as he managed to capture Kiss' energy and their early youthful hunger. "Rock and Roll All Night" became the Top 20 hit and was the main reason for the album's success, but there are so many other classic tracks that are just as strong, if not stronger: "Deuce," "Strutter," "Firehouse," "Parasite," "She," "100,000 Years," "Black Diamond," and "Cold Gin" all sound even better in the heavier live setting. Throughout the years there has been complaints, rumors, and speculation over the extensive overdubbing to correct mistakes. All I have to say to that is, "so freaking what!" Who wants to hear mistakes? Alive! remains as one of Kiss' greatest achievements ever and left an indelible mark on heavy metal.
Instead of trying to copy the success of their live recording, Kiss decided to go the opposite direction and record an experimental studio album. Alice Cooper/Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin was brought in for this album. The band experimented with orchestration for the first time ("Beth") as well as the use of a boy's choir ("Great Expectations"). There was still loads of killer heavy metal to absorb in tracks like the demonic/comic based "God of Thunder" and the sing-along anthems "Flaming Youth," "Shout It Out Loud," "King of the Night Time World," and, of course, the song that would be the band's concert opener for years to come "Detroit Rock City." This was the song that was released as the album's first single with "Beth" as the B-side. To the surprise of everyone, including Kiss and Bob Ezrin, "Beth" became the albums top ten single rather than the strong "Detroit Rock City." I must confess, that while I like this CD, it doesn't get anywhere near the spin time of "Kiss", "Hotter than Hell" or even "Rock n Roll Over" as these sound more like Kiss to me. They were raw and raunchy heavy metal, as oppossed to the direction of "Destroyer." The cover painting featured Kiss' new stage costumes that they would use for the next two tours as well as on their 2000 Farwell Tour.
Nirvana would later cover "Do You Love Me?" The Mighty Mighty Bosstones did a killer version of "Detroit Rock City" on the Kiss My Ass tribute. Hammerfall, as well, recorded a cover of "Detroit Rock City" as a bonus track on their "Crimson Thunder" CD. Razamanaz pulls off a cool cover of "King of the Nighttime World". Stryper covered "Shout it Out Loud".
Once again, just like the previous album, Kiss decided not to take the safe route. With the massive success of their previous album, the experimental Bob Ezrin-produced /co-written "Destroyer," Kiss could have strived to make their next outing sound very similar and re-hired Ezrin again. Instead they decided to return to the heavy metal/hard rock of their first four albums and hire producer Eddie Kramer. "Rock and Roll Over" is one of Kiss' most consistent records and one of my favorites. “Rock and Roll Over” tends to be the first record I pull when looking for some Kiss to play.
The Galactic Cowboys recorded a stellar version of "I Want You."
Love Gun was Kiss' fifth studio album in three years and would be the last studio album for a long time that all the original members would actually play on. By this time KISS mania had overtaken the world. The merchandising was flooding the marketplace with everything from trash cans to lunchboxes to makeup kits to comic books to dolls. However this album was still somewhat focused, although no where near the greatness of their last albums. The album included a few highlights, including the first appearance of Ace singing lead vocals ("Shock Me"). Another Criss/Penridge penned song "Hooligan" comes off as rather immature, especially when compared to "Baby Driver" or even "Beth." This aside however, the title track is one of Kiss' best straight forward hard rockers and "I Stole Your Love" is one of Kiss' most underrated heavy metal numbers. "Almost Human" is another underrated Kiss song that contains another killer guitar solo by Ace. "Plaster Caster" is, however, one of the most insipid songs ever written. Wish it would have been forgotten but Kiss decided to resurrect it for the 1996 MTV Unplugged set. The other weak spot is the Phil Spector song "Then She Kissed Me." The cover painting once again featured what would become the new stage cloths for the bands massive 1977 tour.
By the time "Kiss Alive II" was released the world was in complete Kiss hysteria, as I was. I was a kid in grade school and Kiss ruled my world, their posters covering every inch of my bedroom walls (alongside Aerosmith, my other grade school obsession). Decades later and "Alive II" still ranks among my favorite live albums.
"Alive II" captures live recordings from the band's past three studio albums, and nothing from their first three albums. As with "Alive" the heaviness of a Kiss show was captured on tape. Like Alive, there's been quite a lot of speculation concerning extensive overdubbing. Once again, I say, so what! I'd rather hear a good recording than a weak bootleg recording. The entire live portion of the album is adrenaline-charged, testosterone-drivne heavy rock and roll.
Side four of the original vinyl release contained five new Kiss studio tracks. Of all the tracks, the only one to ever see the light of day again was Ace Frehley's "Rocket Ride." This is also the only studio track that Ace actually played guitar on, and is the only track not to feature Gene, Peter or Paul. For the most part, Rick Derringer and Meatloaf guitarist Bob Kulick filled in on lead guitar for the other four songs. (A few years down the road Bob's brother Bruce would join Kiss.) "Any Way Yo Want It" is a cover of The Dave Clarke Five.
1. "Strutter '78"
Double Platinum was a double-album collection that featured all the original versions of their hits except for "Strutter." In an attempt to entice collector's who would have already owned all these songs, Kiss recorded "Strutter '78." This new version was no where near as good as the original as it was toned down with a more disco beat. The original album came with a paper platinum record inside a silver embossed cover. The cd re-issue lost all the effects of the original packaging, until 1998 when the album was again released in digi-pack format with all the original elements of the cover art in place, including a smaller version of the platinum record.
You Belong to Me" (4:40)
Paul's album is actually one of the better and the most Kiss-like of the four solo albums, which should be no surprise since Stanley has always written a majority of the Kiss material. Bob Kulick, who had worked with Kiss in the past and had even tried out for Kiss in their early stages, helped out on this release as did well known drummer Carmine Appice. Best songs are "Tonight You Belong to Me" and "Take Me Away (Together as One)."
BY FAR the best, and the heaviest, of the four simultaneously released Kiss solo albums. Ace wisely chose Eddie Kramer (Kiss, Jimi Hendrix, Derik & the Dominos) to produce his album. Session drummer and future Late Night With David Letterman drummer Anton Fig helped Ace's disc to became the unexpected best seller and the only one to have a hit single in a remake of Hello's "New York Groove." Who would have thought that Ace would be the only of the four Kiss members to garner a hit single. Ace is not a technical player, but he has more feeling and emotion in his playing than most technical shredders ever could. He has his own style and it comes through on each and every song. "Rip It Out" was the perfect opener for this album. A heavy rock and roll romp that's as good as any Kiss song on any album IMO. Ace's guitar playing is electrifying here. "Speeding Back to My Baby", co-written by Ace's wife Jeanette, keeps the energy level high. This is Ace simply letting his hair down and playing some simple, hard driving, rock and roll. The magnum opus of this album was the brilliant instrumental closing Fractured Mirror. A beautiful song, yet one that is still somewhat dark and heavy. Ace would continue to build upon on future solo albums. On my iPod I have all three Fractured songs put together and they sound great. Soon I'll be adding the fourth installment. There is not a stinker on this disc.
Space Ace was the subject of his own tribute in 1996 with this album being a major focus of the tribute. $7.99 NEW at Hasting's. Haven't seen it used for that price.
Gene's album was the biggest surprise, and the biggest disappointment, of the four solo albums. Most people, myself included, expected Gene's album to be the heaviest of the four in '78. I suppose part of that misconception was due to Gene's rough and tough character. Gene is often the first to brag about his bad boy persona and about the number of girls he claims to have been with. The truth is, Gene was a huge fan of the Beatles and enjoyed pop as much as he did heavy guitar rock. Simmons made sure that the top artists of the day lent a hand: Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, Donna Summer, Cher, Bob Seger, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Helen Reddy, among others. Unfortunately, this didn't help any. Perhaps the most surprising and the most embarrassing is the cover of the Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star," complete with Disney style music. GAK! The rest of the albums jumps from Beatles style pop to '70s funk/disco to AOR. That's not to say it's all bad. Actually there are several great songs on here. "See You Tonight" is an excellent acoustic ballad. "Radioactive" is a decent enough rocker that was originally written by Gene for "Love Gun". The dark intro to "Radioactive" deceives you into thinking that a monster of an album is about to be played. "See You in Your Dreams" is a reworking of Gene's song off "Rock and Roll Over," which he was apparently unhappy with on that record. I personally like the 'Rock and Roll Over' version, but this version is good as well. "Tunnel of Love" is a pretty catchy pop rock song as is "Living In Sin". Gene Simmons solo album was certainly not the worst of the four, that title would go to Peter Criss, but far from the heavy rock and roll we were all expecting and hoping for in '78.
Gonna Love You" (3:19)
Like Simmon's album, Peter Criss' album was a huge surprise. It was far from what most Kiss fans expected. Truth was, Peter had a car accident and had to bust his hump at the last minute to get this album completed. He ended up using several tracks that were written for his former band Lips. Peter, being the eldest member of Kiss, has long been a fan of Motown, R&B, and Frank Sinatra style music. Picture Peter Criss wearing red velvet and playing Las Vegas with his backing band, the Cheeze Muffins. Those influences are exactly what Peter delivered on his solo record. Melodic R&B with horns, pianos, female backing vocals and not a hard rock or heavy metal song to be found. It's hard not to think of these solo albums as Kiss albums, but they are not. However, these albums were being marketed to Kiss fans; fans of hard and heavy rock and roll. So, it's no surprise that Peter's album isn't looked at in such favorable light as Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley's solo albums, both of which catered to that crowd. As with the other three Kiss solo platter, Peter Criss' solo album shipped platinum. Of course, it sold on the KISS name alone and ended up being the worst selling of the four simultaneously released Kiss platters. The worst part of it all is that despite how poorly this record was received by fans, Kiss would choose the producer of Criss' solo album to also produce the next Kiss studio album. Just goes to show you where their heads were at during this period of their careers.
Though most of Kiss’ core fan base wasn’t a big fan of the direction the band took with “Dynasty”, the album was still a big hit fueled by the bands reputation and the hit single “I Was Made For Loving You”. Because of the success of that album Kiss brought back producer Vince Poncia to take the band even further away from the hard rock and heavy metal they were known for. With “Unmasked” there is no doubt that the band, along with Poncia, were purposely moving in a pop direction. Vincent Poncia even has co-writing credits on just about every song on this album. The production is overly slick, the guitar sound is weak, some songs are laced with keyboards, and the album features a lot of studio musicians, including drummer Anton Fig who performs the drums in Criss’ stead. Despite being featured on the cover and listed as a member, Peter Criss had already parted ways with the band and had no part of “Unmasked”. Kiss had completely lost their focus and were beginning to lose their fan base as well. In general, most Kiss fans rate Unmasked as one of the band’s worst albums.
The Kiss prog-rock concept album. Who would have thunk it? New drummer Eric Carr had refueled the band's desire to rock hard so KISS began working on a straight-ahead rock album in early 1981. Since they wanted to return to their "Destroyer" sound, they brought in Bob Ezrin once again. From what I have read, despite Ace and Eric being against going in a different direction, Stanley, Simmons, and Ezrin decided to go with a mythical concept record rather than the metal album that Ace was hoping for. Simmons even visualized a movie and and elaborate rock-opera tour to follow up the record. Instead what happened was the album flopped -- big time! The album quickly went out of print and became a highly sought after collector's item, especially in the mid-80's when Kiss' popularity exploded once again. I actually really liked the album. It didn't resemble the Kiss of the early 70's but it was far better than the disco exploration of the late 70's. Two of the best tracks were written by Ace ("Dark Light" and the instrumental "Escape From the Island"). Frehley officially left the band at this point and only returned to do a small appearance on the late night show Fridays.
"Only You" was covered by Doro on her self titled CD.
"The Elder" bombed so bad worldwide that Kiss' record company outside the U.S., Phonogram, demanded that the band immediately assemble another album to prove to their fans that they were not prog-rockers but still a heavy metal group. The band decided to release another greatest hits package but since "Double Platinum" had just been released four years earlier, the band decided to include four brand new tracks. ("I'm a Legend Tonight," "Down On Your Knees," "Nowhere to Run," "Partners In Crime") The new tracks resemble the KISS of old more than anything they had done recently. Despite Ace being on the cover and listed as a member, Bob Kulick once again subbed for Ace. "Killers" didn't become the chart topper the record company had hoped for but it did proove to fans that Kiss were set to rock once again. Unfortunately this album was never released in the US, so it has always been a highly sought after collector's item. With the addition of the new tracks, it's worth the search. Mine is German and has the German Kiss logo with the backwards ZZs.
KISS comes screaming back with one of their heaviest albums ever. The drum sound on this disc has to be the heaviest, biggest sound ever laid down on tape. We're talking cannons here. The song writing is so much more aggressive than the past few disco dabbling albums and surpasses the new material on "Killers." With a little help from Vinnie Vincent (real name-Vinnie Cusano), KISS begins to make a come back. Every song on this disc is excellent. "Rock & Roll Hell" seems to be a song about what Ace was going through at the time. "I Love It Loud" is a Gene Simmons penned anthem with Eric Carr's drums mixed way out front. "I Still Love You" is a Paul Stanley ballad that is better than any he's written in the past few years. His vocals on this song are excellent. "War Machine" is one of the heaviest songs ever written by KISS. I'm surprised some death metal band hasn't picked up on this one yet. (Wrote that several years ago, and wouldn't ya know it, Six Feet Under covered it.) "Creatures of the Night" sounds as if Kiss had been reborn! Unfortunately the band had lost so many fans that despite the album being the best they had done in a long time, it didn't do very well and Kiss decided it was time to remove their signature make-up. "Creatures" was re-released after the make-up came off with a completely different cover and an altered sound, due to new mastering (and possibly remixing). The original cover and mix was re-released on cd a few year later when Mercury released the complete KISS catalogue calling it "The Remasters" series. Yup, I have 'em both. Turns out the non-makeup cover is a bit hard to find these days. Still find it rather amusing that the guy who actually played guitar and co-wrote much of this album was never featured on either cover. The original cover art and the video featured Ace Frehley but by this time Ace was long gone despite repeated attempts by the band to get him back for the insuing tour. Eventually Vinnie Vincent became Ace's "permanent" replacement. The non-makeup re-release featured Bruce Kulick on the cover.
Kiss, who were once again becoming masters of marketing, knew the time was right to drop the makeup, so in September 1983 the band shocked the world by unmasking on MTV in the wee hours on the night, after a re-run of a Van Halen concert. MTV at the time considered anything that had to do with Kiss as old hat. That night on MTV, despite the fact that "Lick It Up" was the simplest song the band had ever written, the video for "Lick It Up" helped re-established the band among the growing hordes of heavy metal fans. The album became the band's first record to achieve gold status since 1980's "Unmasked." Of particular surprise was the strong Eric Carr penned track "All Hell's Breaking Loose." Vinnie Vincent had become accepted as Ace's replacement but would soon leave the band to form the Vinnie Vincent Invasion with Dana Strum and Rob Rock. Vincent co-wrote most of the album's stellar, yet simple, material.
I saw KISS on this tour in both Rochester, NY and at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. I remember wondering who this new guitar player was, because it wasn't Mark St. John, who had played on the album as Vincent's relpacement. Mark was dealing with some sort of degenerative arthritis in his hands. Newcomer Bruce Kulick was shredding on the stage in his place.
In any case, this was the second strong album in a row from Kiss and once again they were filling up the large stadiums. The album went double platinum. Mark's guitar playing stood in direct contrast to that of Ace, as he was a more technical player, yet in my opinon did not have the same charisma as Ace. Fortunately this worked in the bands favor as shred was what the people wanted. "Heaven's On Fire" became a huge MTV hit. The band seemed as though they were once again at the top of their game. Unfortunately however, Gene Simmons was more concerned with pursuing an acting career, so once again the band would begin to become unfocused, leaving Stanley to pick up the pieces. Simmons contributions to this album already showed his lack of interest, especially in the Spinal Tap-ish "Burn Bitch Burn." (Maybe Gene was hanging out with Biff from Saxon too much.) Overall, however, Animalize was still a strong album.
The year was 1985 and I was in such Kiss hysteria at that point in my life that I loved this album despite it's overly slick pop production. I played the album so much that I wore the grooves off the vinyl. With “Asylum” Kiss began to lose their identity and began sounding like the hordes of pop metal bands that were flooding the market at the time. Despite this, “Asylum” is a strong album and a superior album to “Animalize”. The single from this album, “Tears Are Falling” was the only hit song. Many people have said that this song is “Lick It Up Again”, but frankly I think that “Tears” is a stronger track with it’s infectious melody and hooky chorus. Songs like "King of the Mountain," and "Who Wants to Be Lonely" are still great Kiss songs but would have sounded so much better with a heavier, rawer heavy metal production. All in all, “Asylum” flows well from beginning to end.
|Once again, I was so steeped in Kiss-mania at the time that I loved this disc and played it continually. I still like it today, but don't play it anywhere near as much as some of their other discs. My friend Alex thinks this is one of Kiss' best discs, and he loves the song "Crazy, Crazy Nights" and was quite disappointed that they did not play it on their 2000 Farwell Tour. I saw Kiss several times on the Crazy Nights tour. The tour featured no tank drum risers, fewer pyrotechnics, and a a stripped down performance. With the exception of Eric and Bruce, the band seemed to be on auto pilot. I enjoyed the shows, but it wasn't what it use to be either.
1. "Let's Put the
X in Sex" (3:48)
Another greatest hits compilation that includes songs from their 80's catalogue but strangely leaves out anything from "Crazy Nights." The inclusion of two non-album tracks ("Let's Put the X In Sex" & "(You Make Me) Rock Hard,") made this compilation a must buy. Neither song is as good as the hits from this album and both border on Spinal Tap silliness, but hey, I'm a Kiss fan. I had to own it. Another interest on the album was the inclusion of "Beth" with Eric Carr on vocals. To bad Kiss didn't let Eric sing on more songs as he has a strong voice, as is truly evident on the solo album released after his death.
"Little Caesar," an Eric Carr penned song, that he was able to sing on as well, is one of the highlights of this album. The production is much less glossy than "Crazy Nights" and the keyboards have been deleted, but the fact that Kiss were using so many pop writers proved that they still had their minds set on conquering the dying pop metal world. The album did spawn Kiss' first Top Ten single in many years with the sticky sweet ballad "Forever," but it failed to do much else. Even the obvious attempts at radio singles like "Hide Your Heart" did little to bring Kiss out of the slump that they were in. Fact is, everybody wanted Kiss to rock hard, not to sing pretty ballads, myself included. Unfortunately this would be the last album for Eric Carr who died of cancer in 1991. I missed KISS on this tour as well.
I was sort of scared but at the same time excited when I heard that Kiss would be using Bob Ezrin to produce once again. It was also sad to think of Kiss without Eric Carr who had been with the band even longer than original drummer Peter Criss. Kiss replaced Carr with Eric Singer (Black Sabbath, Badlands) "Revenge" was the heaviest disc they had recorded since "Creatures of the Night,", driven by heavy riffs, relentless rhythms and thundering drums. "Carr Jam 1981" is a memorial to Eric Carr. This unfinished version of "Breakout," which appeared on Ace's first Comet album, has newly added guitar solos over top Eric's demo drum tracks. Vinnie Vincent once again has some co-writing credits on two of Revenge's better songs.
1. "Creatures Of The
"Alive III" is a nice collection of live material highlighting the band's 80's material. I was glad to hear three songs from "Creatures" live as well as favorites like "Heaven's On Fire" and "Lick it Up." I was also surprised by the inclusion of "I Was Made for Loving You." While I like this song, it sure does stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of the rest of these rockers. I wish they would have left off "Rock and Roll All Night" and "Detroit Rock City" and included songs like "Crazy, Crazy Nights", "Tears are Falling", "Thrill in the Night" or some of their other 80's material that they hasn't already been released on an official live disc. Regardless "Alive III" is a good performance by one of my life long favorite bands.
1. "Detroit Rock City"
Yet another KISS compilation! Kiss or Mercury Records, whoever is responsible, are becoming the kings of compilations. This one is non-essential to any true fan as all the material contained has seen the light of day on other albums. Nothing really new, no unreleased tracks, not even a stinking remix, just one new live track. The 1996 live recording of "Shout it Out Loud" was the only reason for me to buy this, but I waited until I found it real cheap. Got it free through BMG!
1. "Comin' Home"
Gene Simmons has always been the king of marketing, so it is no surprise that Kiss would attempt to revive their careers with a reunion and an acoustic set all at the same time. Unplugged is the 90's way to revive a career, just look at Eric Clapton. Kiss chose to do this as a celebration of their 25th anniversary. What is surprising is how good this album is and the array of material the band chose to play. Coming off the heels of their recent Kiss Convention tour in which they were already playing all acoustic sets for fans, the band is tight and on the mark. The exception would be Ace who voice sounds a bit rusty. Regardless, it was good to hear him back where he was meant to be. Paul's vocals are very strong, especially on "I Still Love You." If this was just a marketing stunt, then it worked, because it rekindled my somewhat dwindling interest in Kiss in the mid-90s. Ace rules!
This is the album that was released for the reunion tour. "You Wanted the Best" is a compilation of songs from the first two Alive albums plus the unreleased live recordings of "Room Service," "Take Me," "Let Me Know," and "Two Timer." Not a bad disc, but the original live albums are a better listen. "Kiss Tells All" is a 17-minute interview with the four original band members conducted by Jay Leno. Held out for a used copy but ended up getting it for free from BMG. This one was also release on vinyl.
Kiss - Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (Mercury) 1996
1. "Hate" (4:36)
Before Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley reunited with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, they recorded "Carnival of Souls" with guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer. It was intended to be their next album but things changed once the reunion happened. Kiss never intended to release the album but bootlegs were floating around so Kiss and Mercury decided to release the disc. "Carnival of Souls" is a heavy and dark Kiss album. It is pretty obvious that the band was trying to follow the trends in music at the time. Grunge was the flavor of the month, so Kiss followed suite with this dark, grungy album. This is most likely the reason why Alice in Chains producer Toby Wright was brought in.
1. "Crazy Crazy Nights"
A European "Greatest Hits" collection issued in anticipation of the final date of the Alive/Worldwide 96-97 Tour at Finsbury Park, London, England on July 5, 1997. This collection is odd in that it contains several songs that would never have made a "Best of" collection in the U.S. The lead single, "Crazy Crazy Nights" was considered a commercial flop in the U.S.. The single was released on August 18, 1987 with "No, No, No" as its B-side and peaked at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in America on 31 October 1987. However, the song was more commercially successful in the U.K. as it peaked at #4, proving to be Kiss's first Top 10 single in Europe. "Sure Know Something" is also an odd inclusion, even if I do think it's a great song. "Plaster Caster" is perhaps the oddest of all inclusions here. I'm not sure why this song was chosen over more popular songs like "Parasite", "Firehouse", "I Love It Loud". or even "Tears Are Falling" or "Forever". Otherwise, the rest of this compilation is fairly standard fair for Kiss and includes four songs from the band's incredible 1974 debut. According to one KISS site, this compilation will become a collector's item due to low production and the fact that it was only pressed in the U.K.
It's 1998 and KISS are still kicking. Since the 1996 reunion tour was such a success, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided to keep Peter Criss and Ace Frehley around for a little while longer to record a full-fledged album. This new reunion studio disc was much anticipated. Sort of a black and white album as half the material is killer KISS and the other half is, uh, well, it's filler fluff. "Psycho Circus," "Raise Your Glasses," and "We Are One" are good to decent KISS tracks. "Into the Void" is an Ace Frehley penned song that is one of the best he has written for KISS since "Shock Me." Ace's guitar solos are peppered throughout the album. Since he has such a charisma and style to his playing, that alone made some of the lesser songs better. One the other hand, the Peter Criss sung ballad “I Finally Found My Way” is weak and "You Wanted the Best" has one of the worst choruses ever written .
Kiss - The Very Best of Kiss (Mercury) 2002
New "best of" compilation trying to hit all the hits in one volume. According to the pre-release hype, "The Very Best of Kiss" was suppose to "span the band's entire career." While there are a few tracks from the non-makeup years of the late 80's and early 90's, this compilation focuses mostly on the band's 1970's output with only the last four tracks covering the years from 1980 - 1999. Missing are hits like "Tears Are Falling", "Heaven's on Fire", "King of the Mountain" and "Crazy, Crazy Nights". The is also nothing from "Psycho Circus". For as much radio airplay as the title track received in my hometown, I guess I expected it would be included. Still, for a single disc compilation this isn't a bad listen. Few would deny that the 1970's was the best years of the band. I was a bit surprised to see "New York Groove", from Ace's solo platter included on this release with nothing included from the other three solo discs. I believe it was the only charting single from the four 1978 solo albums. With no new material on this collection and "Greatest Kiss" having been released only a few years before this one, and containing some of the same songs, I think "The Very Best of Kiss" is a bit unnecessary.
It seems like forever ago since Kiss promised to release Alive IV. Instead they released yet another compilation album on Mercury. As big a Kiss fan as I am, I didn't buy that disc. I wanted Alive IV! Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace! Unfortunately it never came. Then, a year or so later I hear word that Kiss will instead be releasing a live album with a symphony orchestra. Well, I have mixed feelings about this disc. First of all, I have not stopped listening to it since I bought it, so I really cannot complain to much. However, releasing Alive IV without Ace irritates me a bit. I mean, what happened to all those recordings they did during the "Farewell Tour"? Kiss even released one song from those tours on the box set claiming that it was a song from "Alive IV."
Kiss Symphony - Alive IV is a double live disc. Disc one is broken down into two acts. Act I is Kiss as I had hoped they would be. Live and loud. These six songs all sound great. Of course Ace is missed but longtime Gene Simmons assistant and ex-Black n Blue guitarist Tommy Thayer pulls off Ace's solos almost to a tee. To be quite honest, I really would not have minded if the entire disc were just like these songs. Live Kiss, just like we all saw them on their tours ever since the reunion in '97. But alas, instead we have Act II. Surprisingly, these tracks are quite enjoyable. This Act has Kiss performing with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble. It's not the full orchestra, but a handful of selected strings and wind instruments. They run through some of the bands most known ballads, like "Beth" and "Forever", as well as two obscure songs off "Dynasty". "Sure Know Something" and "Shandi" actually work quite well in this rock meets orchestra environment. Likewise "Beth" sounded great with an actual orchestra playing behind Criss. Add to this a smokin' version of "Goin' Blind" and we are left with an excellent disc.
Disc 2 is Act 3 and features the entire Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The photos of the orchestra, and the accompanying choir were amusing as they were all painted up in Kiss make-up. Together they go through a set of classic KISS tracks, such as "Detroit Rock City", "Do You Love Me" and "Rock And Roll All Nite". Unlike Metallica's "S&M" Kiss tends to drown out the orchestra, which may or may not be a bad thing. However, songs like "Great Expectations" sound spectacular. Of course, why shouldn't it? It sounds very similar to the original "Destroyer" version, an album that was already full of Bob Ezrin's orchestration. However, these versions add that spark of energy that comes from a live recording. Actually, running down the track listing, it became immediately apparent that Kiss knew this album would work best in the orchestral setting as many of the songs selected are from the "Destroyer" album. Personally, I enjoyed disc one a bit more than disc two, but I must say that despite my disappointment over not getting a full Kiss show like I was expecting, Kiss Symphony is actually rather pleasing. I enjoyed it immensely.
Act 1: KISS Electric
Recorded in Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 28th, 2003, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Campbell; Produced by Mark Opitz. This release cuts the Symphony down to a single CD and includes a studio bonus track; a cover of the Ramones ""Do You Remember Rock 'N Roll Radio" from the Ramones Tribute CD. The bonus track was recorded by Gene, Paul and Eric Singer on drums. Missing from the original 2-CD collection is "Strutter", "Let Me Go, Rock 'N Roll", "Psycho Circus", "Forever", "Sure Know Something", and "I Was Made For Lovin' You". I suppose this single disc version was released to give casual fans a cheaper option than the slightly more expensive 2-disc collection. However, for the $2 - $4 extra, it's worth is to buy the 2-disc set. The only real reason to own this CD is the bonus track, which is why it is in my collection. (Thanks Randy).
Kiss - 20th Century Masters - Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss (Mercury) 2003
Yet another 'best of' Kiss compilation. I mean "The Very Best Of Kiss" was released not even a year before this one and "Greatest Kiss" is not that old either. This is pure record company greed here. 20th Century Masters compilation presents scattered highlights of the first half-decade of Kiss' existence, and completely ignoring the hugely successful 80's maerial. A more career-spanning collection would have included the hits "Lick It Up", "I Love It Loud", "Heaven's On Fire" and the 1990 Top Ten single "Forever." Ahh, but I suppose they are saving that for a second volume. For a cheap and short introduction to the band, this isn't a bad compilation. To the rest, buy cheap or pass. In my case I was given a free copy, so your can't beat that.
Kiss - 20th Century Masters-Millennium Collection: Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 (Mercury) 2004
1. "Creatures of
the Night" (4:05)
Yes, I know, yet another Kiss compilation is a long past overkill. I mean in the last decade there are probably a good ten compilations to surface. However, yhe majority of Kiss hits collections to surface have focused primarily on the group's makeup years. Not that there is anything wrong with than neccessarily, but I always felt that the band 80's, non-make-up material was excellent as well, and was always sorely missed on any greatest hits compilation. I mean, I was there for Creatures, Lick It Up, Animalize, etc. I saw the tours, loved the albums, wore the t-shirts, so these songs have a lot of value to me and am glad they are finally being released as a Vol. 2 to the make-up years Millennium Collection. 20th Century Masters - Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 (quite the title, eh?) is the first Kiss collection ever to almost exclusively focus on their non-makeup era, covering the years 1982 through 1989. The only make-up album represented is "Creatures of the Night" which was the start of a new era of Kiss as they left behind the 70's sound for an 80's heavy metal sound. The two tracks chosen from that album are both Kiss standards and some of their heaviest songs ever. (I wouldn't have minded if they included "War Machine" or "I Still Love You" as well.) "Lick It Up" is an obvious choice being the song that helped to dig Kiss out of the quick sands of obscurity in the early 80's back to the supergroup they became for the rest of the decade. "All Hell's Breaking Loose" is an excellent choice and a forgotten gem of the era. Likewise the next two songs from Animalize, "Heaven's On Fire" is another obvious choice, being another huge hit for the band and "Thrills in the Night" being an excellent, forgotten gem from that record. The rest of the compilation is very much similar, taking two songs from each studio album from that decade, with one being the "hit single" and the other being a good companion choice, although I think I could have found a better choirce than "Hide Your Heart" from Hot in the Shade. 20th Century Masters - Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2, a good overview of the non-makeup era of Kiss and a welcome addition to my collection (especially for the measly $7 I picked it up for at Wal-Mart.) Also released at the time of this CD is the DVD collection.
1. "God Gave Rock
'N' Roll to You II" (5:21)
Volume 3 for Kiss in the Millennium Collection closes out the collection with songs from the 1990's. This collection starts with "God Gave Rock And Roll To You II" from the 1991 soundtrack to "Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey" and finishes with the single from the 1999 "Detroit Rock City" soundtrack. Since Kiss' really only had three studio albums in this decade, "Vol. 3" is slightly more lackluster than the first two. However, is it still a good representation of what was going on in the 90's for the band. I personally felt that "Revenge" and "Carnival of Souls" were two of Kiss' strongest albums and both were easily as strong as anything they had done in the past. Also, the "MTV Unplugged" album was fantastic. As such, this collection is a good listen. As any Kiss fan would, there are many songs I felt were left out. Only two songs from "Revenge" is probably the worst offense. I realize that the label wanted to included at least one song from every release, so the live version of "Domino" from "Alive III" was included instead of the studio version. However, I would rather have not had the live album represented and had the studio version of this cut. Also, from "Revenge" I think "Take It Off" should have been included. From "Carnival of Souls", "Jungle" or "Rain" could have easily been included as well. Complaints aside, the songs that are included are some of the best from this era of Kiss. The inclusion of "Comin' Home" from the MTV Unplugged series was a smart marketing idea. This song was originally only released on the vinyl version of Unplugged, and was later released on the expensive Kiss Box. Being on this collection may entice some fans to purchase it, if only for that one track. "Got to Choose" is also from the "Unplugged" CD. Of the "Psycho Circus" material, the title track and Ace's "Into the Void" are essential. I might have exchanged "I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock and Roll" for "Raise Your Glasses", but that is just a personal preference. The album closes with Kiss' attempt at a hit ballad for their own "Detroit Rock City" movie. This song is very similar to Aerosmith's block buster "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" and was likewise written by Diane Warren. Unfortunately it didn't become the blockbuster the band had hoped. Another nice inclusion might have been the band's re-recorded version of "Detroit Rock City" from that same movie. While it was used in the movie, it has yet to be officially released on CD. This might have enticed more Kiss die-hards to purchase this cash-cow. It was also one of the few Kiss' songs from the reunited original line-up that had that entire line-up actually playing on the studio song.
This three CD set is basically a re-packaging of of the three separate "Millenium Best of" volumes as part of Universal's "Playlist Plus" series. The only difference between this collection and the original "Millenium Best of" collections is that "Domino" is the studio version, rather than Alive III as on the "Millenium Best of Volume III." Unlike most Kiss releases, there is nothing extra with this collection. The three discs are wrapped in a cardboard sleeve with the discs sitting inside diecut sleeves, as opposed to those evil plastic digi-trays, making the "Playlist Plus" series ecologically responsible. (Yes, there is a ton of sarcasm in that sentence.) There is no booklet, though there are some excellent photos of the classic line-up of the band on each of the four outer panels. This would be a great collection for those just looking for a good career retrospective. However, this collection doesn’t offer the fan who already owns everything else anything new.
In 2008 Gene and Paul decided to take Kiss into the studio and re-recorded a bunch of their classics and hits. The results are this CD titled "Jigoku-Retsuden" which roughly translates to "Intense Transmission From Hell". Unfortunately for the hordes of Kiss fans worldwide the release was only made available in Japan. KISS self-produced this set with Greg Collins. Collin would go on to co-produce "Sonic Boom" the following year. Thankfully for the U.S. fans, the CD was released the following year and included in the "Sonic Boom" 2 CD, 1 DVD set under the new title "KISS Klassics", bringing the price down considerably on the original single disc versions of "Jigoku-Retsuden". I am not really sure what the reasons were for re-recording these songs and releasing them once again, especially with any number of these tracks finding their way on a dozen different compilations. However, one thing is for sure, the sonics on these new songs are unmatched by anything the band has recorded in the past. There is an argument to be made about the magic of the original recordings. That nostalgic feel for those tracks is hard to ignore, but I have found myself really enjoying this CD as I crank it in my car stereo. Listen to a song like "Hotter than Hell" side by side with the original recording, and even the remastered CD version of the original recording doesn’t stand up sonically. "Heaven's On Fire" is given a slightly heavier treatment than the original as well, though none of these songs stray far from the original compositions. Tommy Thayer sticks to playing Ace’s solos as close to the originals as possible. While it might have been cool to hear a little improvision, I also understand the need to preserve the spirit of the original songs. Eric Singer is given his first lead vocal spot on a Kiss record, singing "Black Diamond", which he belts out like the professional he is. Overall, this is a disc for Kiss die-hards and probably not something most fans will care too much about, but being the Kiss fanatic I am, I had to own it.
Let me get this out of the way first. No, I don’t like the fact that Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are wearing the trademark make-up of Ace and Peter. Yes, I wish the band would have either made up new characters or just dropped the make-up all together. However, I am a Kiss die-hard. Since the original band said goodbye on the Farwell Tour, I have seen this incarnation of the band several times and they have put on an outstanding show. Whoever is in the band, the music is what matters most and with "Sonic Boom", I think Kiss has a winner. This is the Kiss album fans have been waiting for. Classic, hard, rock and roll. The album actually sounds like a mixture of Kiss from the 70’s and 80’s.
1. Detroit Rock City [2012 Remix] 5:16)
2. King Of The Night Time World [2012 Remix] 3:22)
3. God Of Thunder [2012 Remix] 4:17)
4. Great Expectations [2012 Remix] 4:24)
5. Flaming Youth [2012 Remix] 3:00)
6. Sweet Pain [2012 Remix] 3:21)
7. Shout It Out Loud [2012 Remix] 2:51)
8. Beth [2012 Remix] 2:49)
9. Do You Love Me [2012 Remix] 3:40)
10. Rock And Roll Party [2012 Remix] 1:27)
11. Sweet Pain [Original Guitar Solo] 3:19)
"Destroyer [Resurrected]" was released to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of this rock and roll classic album. The songs were remixed by Bob Ezrin, who apparently came up with the idea to do this project. (I'm surprised it wasn't Mr. Marketing, Gene $immons.) In any case, the newly mixed album brings the music up to modern day sonics, though unlike a lot of remastered albums that have come out over the years, this CD isn't overly loud to the point of sounding distorted. Rather, the remixed songs retain the feel of the original but make the songs a little more defined, present and certainly more sonically powerful. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is a much more powerful drum sound. The snare drum is especially brought out and more powerful. The overall sound is brighter and less muddy.
One of the big surprises on this album is the alternative guitar solo in "Sweet Pain". The Gene Simmons composition has long been a part of Kiss lore. It's always been Ace Frehly's contention that he recorded a solo for the song but his solo was replaced by a Dick Wagner solo. Gene claimed that this was done because Ace never showed up to record a solo. (p226, Kiss Behind the Mask) With this new version of "Destroyer", Ezrin announced that he found a long lost Ace Frehley solo for "Sweet Pain" and included as part of this package. In recent interviews Bob Ezrin has stated, "I found this old Ace solo and I just loved it! I thought it was amazing. So I put that in instead." That being the case, Ace was correct that he had recorded a solo for the song. However, Ezrin also added that he had an idea for the solo himself and called in Wagner. Apparently Ace wasn't around to execute Wanger's idea for a guitar solo, rather than the solo he had already recorded. Regardless, the new solo caught me off guard on the first spin. I'm sure I've played this record hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years. Hearing a completely different solo in the song was surprising. The original guitar solo version is included as a bonus track on "Destroyed [Resurrected]".
Another difference I noticed immediately was in "Beth". For the most part, the song is orchestrated and besides a few acoustic notes in the last couple seconds of the song, there is no guitar in the original. On this new version "Beth" seems to have some additional acoustic guitar work that wasn't present, or at least not audible, in the original mix. There's also a little additional vocal part at about 1:35 into the song that wasn't on the original mix.
There are some other minor changes as well, such as an added vocal part in "Detroit Rock City" (at around 3:20 into the song). Overall, however, the integrity of the original album has been maintained. One small flaw I found on this remix is at around the five second mark of "Flaming Youth" on the CD version I swear there is a skip or digital glitch in the song. It's a minor detail that doesn't really bother me all that much, but it's there. As well, there is a word or lyric that was 'altered' somewhere on the album. Ezrin claims it was a mistake he was able to 'fix' on this 35th Anniversary mix. Frankly, I didn't catch the word change on my first few listens but I am sure there are other Kiss fanatics that did.
The cover has been changed from the beloved cover everyone knows to a new 'collector's edition cover', which features very similar artwork but has Kiss wearing their "Alive" costumes rather than the costumes from 1976 that included Gene's infamous serpent boots. This was the "rejected" cover art; apparently rejected for being too violent. Unfortunately the artwork is a little lost on the smaller CD size. It looks much better on the vinyl version. (Which I also have.) The CD contains a 10-page booklet with liner notes by Bob Ezrin who shares about the original recording and a little of what went into the remix.
Originally the album was announced to be a two CD package with a second disc full of demo versions. For whatever reason, that didn't happen, which is disappointing. Kiss (and/or their record company) is notorious for repackaging their old recordings. However, this is one 'repackaging' that is a worthwhile investment for die-hard fans. I doubt most casual fans will really notice any difference.
Kiss - Monster (Universal Music) 2012
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