Kiss -The Originals (Casablanca) 1976
Essentially the first Kiss "box set" in that The Originals was a repackaging of the first three Kiss albums. The cover was designed by Dennis Woloch who came up with the idea for the nuclear explosion. The photo was taken of a 1950s Nevada atomic test explosion. The originals was originally released in North American on July 21, 1976 in vinyl and 8-track formats. (The Japanese version was released on March 25, 1977, some eight months after the release of the North American versions in conjunction with KISS' "Sneak Attack" tour of Japan.) It was a basically a repackaging of the first three studio albums released in high hopes of boosting sales of the band's back catalog at a time when "Destroyer" had become the first studio album to be certified Gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). It is one of the most sought after Kiss collectibles in their catalog, along with the nearly impossible to find Japanese only release "The Orginals II". There were two printings in the US with the "Second Printing" being released in May 1977. The cover of the package would be altered to state "Second Printing" in the top right corner.
The cover of the album is a gatefold, and the three records are housed in paper sleeves featuring the artwork of the respective album that they contain. Included in this set was a 16 page booklet, perforated trading cards and a Kiss Army sticker. I own the initial vinyl printing of this set. The vinyls are all in excellent condition as are the paper sleeves. Unfortunately the vinyl copy I currently own is missing all of these extras, bring the value down. Most copies of "The Originals" I have seen have considerable ring-wear to the cover, probably due to the fact that three records were housed in the cover. My copy has the cover in relatively good shape, although the spine is a bit worn. Copies in good shape without the extras sell for around $20 and up on most auction sites. With all the inserts, expect to pay around $30. The Japanese version, which included an extra booklet written in Japanese, and also had an OBI strip sells upward of $100 or more. White label promos, for some stupid reason, sell for even more. The Japanese "The Originals II" sells for around $200.
Kiss - I Was Made For Lovin' You (Mercury) 1993
1. "I Was Made For
Lovin' You" -live (4:31)
A German import single that I found for a couple of bucks at a used store. Doesn't really contain anything that I don't already have but it's a nice collector's disc. Especially dig the German version of the logo with the backwards zz's. Apparently the German government felt the lightning bolt ss's could be confused for nazi symbols, so the band was forced to change the logo in order to sell their cds there.
Kiss - We Are One (Mercury) 1998
1. "We Are One"
Collector's single with the complete "Psycho Circus" video for PC. Not sure this one was ever released in the U.S. I've never seen it, so I assume it was not.
Kiss - Psycho Circus [promo single] (Mercury) 1998
1. "Psycho Circus"
A promotional single that came as a bonus with the "Psycho Circus" 3-D video that I also own. What makes this single essential is the unreleased track "In Your Face" written by Gene Simmons but featuring Ace Frehley on lead vocals. A heavy track that I think would have fit better on the Psycho Circus album than some of the songs they actually chose. The disc comes with no cover art. The Psycho Circus video playable on any PC is also included.
Kiss - Psycho Circus (Mercury) 1998
Kiss-Box Set (Mercury) 2001
Well, if your going to do a box set, leave it to the kings of excess to do it right. Kiss does everything on a grand scale and their 2001 box set is no exception. Others may sneer at the fact that Kiss has been a merchandise machine that simply lines the pockets of master-o-marketing Gene Simmons and his ever faithful sidekick Paul Stanley. Well, this may be true but in the case of this box set, the band gives the fans something for their money; over six hours of music on five discs. That's 94 tracks of demos, rarities, hits, album tracks, and live material. On top of this we also get a nicely laid out, 120-page, full-color book, including track-by-track commentary, a biography by Jeff Kitts, and tons of excellent photos that are laid out chronologically as is most of the songs. Most of the track comments are by either Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Ace Frehley offers a few comments throughout the book. Peter Criss has even less. I would have liked to have read some more from Peter and Ace. Additional comments by Bruce Kulick, Vinnie Vincent, Eric Singer, etc. would also have been nice. Despite this, I really have to say this is one of the finest box sets I have ever seen. Each disc chronicles a certain time period of the band. Each disc also comes with a full color 6 page insert with photos from the same time period. The entire five disc collection comes wrapped up in a black canvas box with red lining. The silver and black Kiss logo on the front is a metal plate that is glued onto the box. The entire track listing is glued to the back of the box as well. As with any Kiss release, there is also a merchandise order form included. There is also a 'deluxe edition' of this set that comes in a guitar case, but doesn't really contain anything extra.
Kiss - Kiss Alive! 1975 - 2000 (Mercury) 2006
Well, after almost six years Kiss fans are finally given the Alive IV they were promised. I was happy with "Symphony Alive IV", but was a bit disappointed that the "Alive IV" that was promised on the band's web site and in the Kiss box was not released. However, in order to get this disc, we are forced to buy a four CD box set, rather than just a single disc release as we were all hoping for in 2001. Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 is 4 discs containing 69 tracks and lasting over 291 minutes. Disc-1 is "Alive!" (1975 / 77+ minutes); Disc-2 is "Alive II" (1977 / 74+ minutes) Disc-3 is "Alive III" (1993 / 73+ minutes); and Disc-4 is the promised "Alive: The Millennium Concert" (2000 / 66+ minutes). The case is a 5-side cardboard foldout. Included with the discs is an extensive 72-page booklet containing a plethora of band photos, plenty of liner notes including excerpts from band interviews, all original artwork from Alive I, II and III, including the booklets. All discs are digitally remastered as well. So, for the mere $20 I paid for this box set, it is quite worth it, despite the fact that I was forced to buy the first three Alive albums again, and in some cases for the fourth and fifth time. I'd also be willing to bet that within a year, "Kiss Alive: The Millennium Concert" will be released as a separate package and have already read rumors of this happening. I have even read on-line that the next release of "The Millennium Concert" will contain the tracks "God of Thunder", "2000 Man", "Detroit Rock City", "Shock Me", "Cold Gin", and "Forever". With that this box set will become pretty much a collector's disc only. Having said all that, I have also read on-line that it is Universal Music Company, who owns Kiss' back catalog, that is releasing all this stuff again like this, with no input from the band whatsoever.
Complaints aside, there are a lot of positives about this collection. First of all, Alive III had yet to be remastered. The sound quality on all four discs is outstanding. However I hear no noticeable difference between the remasters from a few years ago of "Alive" and "Alive II" and these. Kiss Alive III offers the bonus track "Take It Off", which was originally recorded for the record but left off. It is a nice inclusion here. The radio single edit of "Rock And Roll All Nite" from their "Alive!" is not really all that important. Almost 40 seconds is chopped out of the song for this single version that is tacked onto the end of "Alive II". Still, it was a nice bonus track. Actually, it might have been cool had they dropped the studio tracks off "Alive II" and included some more live tracks. I read on Amazon that "Alive II" will eventually be re-released with live versions of "Take Me", "Do You Love Me", "Hooligan" and "Flaming Youth" replacing the studio tracks.
The best part of this package is "The Millennium Concert" material. I am happy to finally have something from the Farewell Tour with Ace, Paul, Peter and Gene. I was fortunate enough to catch the band twice on this tour, once in Albuquerque, NM and once in Las Cruces, NM. Both shows were fantastic and were my reason for gleefully looking forward to "Alive IV". Of course the original Alive album will forever be the seminal Kiss live album, but separating that album from this one, "Alive IV" is a fantastic listen. I don't know how much of this show has been overdubbed, but regardless, it all sounds thick, meaty and energetic. There are some parts on the disc that are not perfect, which tells me that perhaps there weren't too many edits made. Unfortunately there isn't much in the way of unreleased live material here. All of these songs have seen an official release before. It would have been nice to have had "2000 Man" included, as well as Ace's guitar solo, but that is just the Kiss die-hard in me talking. As it stands, this is really a nice live collection and a very handsome collector's box.
By 2008, Kiss hadn't released a new studio album in the U.S. since '98, however the band's output of various live material and compilations hadn't slowed down. Of all the crazy re-packagings of Kiss' music out there, I find this one to be one of the better assembled. Rather than just another package of hits, this four CD set focuses one each of the individual members of Kiss; Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, and more specifically the characters or 'icons' each represent. Much like the Beatles, Kiss were as famous for each individual member as they were a group. Each disc in this collection compiles together songs that each individual member sang on. The nicely laid out 24-page insert asserts that the disc helps lay out each individual members contribution to the band, and for the most part that is true, though some songs written for the characters weren't written by that character. For instance, one of the Demons character songs is "God of Thunder" a song written by Paul Stanley, the Starchild.
I personally find all four discs to be a great listen. Every Kiss fan has their favorite, and mine has always been Ace. His quirky style and pure rock and roll attitude has always appealed to me. As such, his was the first disc I cranked. Ace didn't start singing in Kiss until 1977, thus there are no tracks from the early years, like there are on the other three discs. His disc also features a lot more obscure tracks and fan favorites, while Simmons and Stanley's discs tend to include more hits and singles. There are a handful such as "New York Groove", the single from Ace's solo album and "Shock Me", Ace's vocal premier on the "Love Gun" album. However, it's the more obscure tracks such as "Into the Void", "What's On Your Mind", "What's On Your Mind", and the Stones cover "2000 Man" that make this disc so interesting. There are also four songs from Ace's solo album. Sadly, "Torpedo Girl" was left off this compilation. Ace's CD also feature a newer song, unlike Gene and Paul's which generally stick to the 70's songs. "Into the Void" was one of the better songs off the 1998 reunion album "Psycho Circus".
Criss' disc is similar to Ace's in that it compiles less hits and more fan favorites and obscure tracks. Of course "Beth" was Criss' biggest hits. However, most Kiss fans tired of this song by the end of the 70's. Two incredibly underrated early Frehley compositions made their way onto Criss' disc, including "Strange Ways" and "Getaway". I always though that Criss' had an incredible voice for rock n' roll. Songs like "Black Diamond", "Baby Driver" and "Hard Luck Woman" drive this point home perfectly. Like Ace's disc, Criss' features a newer cut in "I Finally Found My Way".
Simmons' disc is a bit perplexing to me. It features the obvious songs such as "God of Thunder", "Deuce", "Calling Dr. Love", "Ladies Room" and "Rock and Roll All Night". However, I'm not sure why great songs like "War Machine" and especially "I Love It Loud" were left off in favor of songs like "Plaster Caster" and the creepy "Christine Sixteen". And how about "Domino", "Unholy" and "Going Blind", easily some of Simmons best composition. As it stands, however, I still find the Demon's disc to be quite a good listen. Two Frehley compositions made it onto Gene's disc in the classic "Cold Gin" and "Parasite". One song from Gene's solo album also made it onto this disc, "Radioactive". I'm also quite fond of the underrated "Charisma".
The Starchild could have easily filled two or three discs with his outstanding compositions. As such, putting together this compilation of only fourteen songs must have been quite a chore. Unfortunately Paul's disc, much like Simmons', focuses only on his 70's compositions. The essential tracks are all here including "Detroit Rock City", "Love Gun", "Strutter", "Rock Bottom", "Hotter than Hell" and "100,000 Years". I was pleasantly surprised to hear a few of my personal favorites included; "C'mon And Love Me", "Take Me" and "Mr. Speed". With only a few slots left to fill, it's not surprising that other favorites were left out. I could have done without "I Was Made for Lovin' You", although I do realize it was one of Kiss' hit singles. I also think that "All American Man" could have been left out in favorite of any number of great songs from the 70's including "Makin' Love", "Firehouse" or even 80's songs such as "Shandi", "Creatures of the Night" or "I Still Love You". Nothing is included from Paul's 1978 solo album either. I think that "Tonight You Belong to Me" or "Move On" would have been excellent inclusions. I'm actually surprised that "Lick It Up" and "Forever" were left off, being two of Stanley's biggest hits. I suppose this is because the 1980's, non-make-up years material wouldn't have worked into the theme of "Ikons". However, a newer track such as "Psycho Circus" easily would have fit the bill as well. No matter the amount of material that could have been included on The Starchild's disc, what we are left with is still a great listen. In a nutshell, Stanley's disc is outstanding.
The five panel, fold-out digi packaging includes a ton of photos as well as the photo packed, 24-page booklet. Unfortunately, the discs themselves slide into slits, rather than being on plastic digi-trays. I suppose this is all done in the name of "being green". However, the way they are packed does little to protect the CDs from being scratched.
For all the repackaging of old songs that has occurred with Kiss over the years, I find "Ikons" to be one of the better collections. It's focus on each individual Kiss character is a good idea. I doubt that casual Kiss fans will dish out the money for this release, but Kiss' hordes of fans are sure to grab a copy of this collector's set for themselves.
The compilation was produced by Paul Hall & Jeff Fura and mastered by Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering, Hollywood, CA.