Kiss - Topic

Thumbnail Rock and Roll Over Play

With the massive success of their previous album, the experimental Bob Ezrin-produced Destroyer (which contained the surprise ballad hit "Beth"), Kiss could have taken the safe route and continued in that direction -- or return to the raw hard rock of their first four albums. They chose the latter. Hooking back up with Eddie Kramer, the producer of their 1975 breakthrough release Alive! and their very first demo, Kiss rented out the Nanuet Star Theater in upstate New York to record their next album, Rock and Roll Over. With a more direct, in-your-face production, Rock and Roll Over is one of Kiss' most consistent records. Two of the album's best tracks became hit singles -- the sleazy hard rocker "Calling Dr. Love" and an acoustic ballad that was originally intended for Rod Stewart, "Hard Luck Woman" (later covered by country star Garth Brooks). But like all other classic rock albums, the lesser-known material is often just as strong -- "I Want You" and "Makin' Love" became concert staples over the years, while "Mr. Speed" is one of the most underrated songs in Kiss' catalogue. Also included are the fan favorites "Take Me," "Ladies Room," "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em," and the original version of "See You in Your Dreams," which was later re-recorded for Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Destroyer Play

The pressure was on Kiss for their fifth release, and the band knew it. Their breakthrough, Alive!, was going to be hard to top, so instead of trying to recreate a concert setting in the studio, they went the opposite route. Destroyer is one of Kiss' most experimental studio albums, but also one of their strongest and most interesting. Alice Cooper/Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin was on hand, and he strongly encouraged the band to experiment -- there's extensive use of sound effects (the album's untitled closing track), the appearance of a boy's choir ("Great Expectations"), and an orchestra-laden, heartfelt ballad ("Beth"). But there's plenty of Kiss' heavy thunder rock to go around, such as the demonic "God of Thunder" and the sing-along anthems "Flaming Youth," "Shout It Out Loud," "King of the Night Time World," and "Detroit Rock City" (the latter a tale of a doomed concert-goer, complete with violent car-crash sound effects). But it was the aforementioned Peter Criss ballad, "Beth," that made Destroyer such a success; the song was a surprise Top Ten hit (it was originally released as a B-side to "Detroit Rock City"). Also included is a song that Nirvana would later cover ("Do You Love Me?"), as well as an ode to the pleasures of S&M, "Sweet Pain." Destroyer also marked the first time that a comic-book illustration of the band appeared on the cover, confirming that the band was transforming from hard rockers to superheroes. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Dressed to Kill Play

By the release of their third album, 1975's Dressed to Kill, Kiss were fast becoming America's top rock concert attraction, yet their record sales up to this point did not reflect their ticket sales. Casablanca label head Neil Bogart decided to take matters into his own hands, and produced the new record along with the band. The result is more vibrant sounding than its predecessor, 1974's sludgefest Hotter Than Hell, and the songs have more of an obvious pop edge to them. The best-known song on the album by far is the party anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite," but it was the track "C'Mon and Love Me" that became a regional hit in the Detroit area, giving the band their first taste of radio success. Since the band was on the road for a year straight, songs such as "Room Service" and "Ladies in Waiting" dealt with life on the road (i.e., groupies), and a pair of songs were reworked from Kiss' precursor band, Wicked Lester ("Love Her All I Can" and "She"). With Dressed to Kill's Top 40 showing on the Billboard charts, the stage was now set for Kiss' big commercial breakthrough with their next release. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Kiss Play

Kiss' 1974 self-titled debut is one of hard rock's all-time classic studio recordings. Kiss is chock full of their best and most renowned compositions, containing elements of Rolling Stones/New York Dolls party-hearty rock & roll, Beatles tunefulness, and Sabbath/Zep heavy metal, and wisely recorded primal and raw by producers Richie Wise and Kenny Kerner (of Gladys Knight fame). Main songwriters Stanley and Simmons each had a knack for coming up with killer melodies and riffs, as evidenced by "Nothin' to Lose" and "Deuce" (by Simmons), "Firehouse" and "Black Diamond" (by Stanley), as well as "Strutter" and "100,000 Years" (collaborations by the two). Also included is the Ace Frehley alcohol anthem "Cold Gin," "Let Me Know" (a song that Stanley played for Simmons upon their very first meeting, then titled "Sunday Driver"), and one of Kiss' few instrumentals: the groovy "Love Theme from Kiss" (penned by the entire band). The only weak track is a tacky cover of the 1959 Bobby Rydell hit "Kissin' Time," which was added to subsequent pressings of the album to tie in with a "Kissing Contest" promotion the band was involved in at the time. Along with 1976's Destroyer, Kiss' self-titled debut is their finest studio album, and has only improved over the years. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Hotter Than Hell Play

Although Kiss' self-titled debut performed respectably on the charts, it was not the blockbuster they had hoped for. With the album fading on the charts in the summer of 1974, Kiss was summoned back into the studio to work on a follow-up. Producers Richie Wise and Kenny Kerner were onboard again, and even though the sonics are muddier (and more filler is present in the compositions), Hotter Than Hell is another quintessential Kiss release. Many of the songs have been forgotten over the years (few have been featured in concert after the '70s), but there are still more than a few gems to be found. It's unclear if the members of Kiss were having problems with their personal relationships at the time, but it's a common thread that runs through the songs. The plodding "Got to Choose" and the rapid-fire "Parasite" deal with love gone bad; the title track is about unobtainable love, while "Goin' Blind" is a disturbing tale of a 93-year-old having an affair with a 16-year-old. Also included are the early favorites "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll" and "Watchin' You," as well as the original electric version of "Comin' Home" (an acoustic version was the opener of 1996's MTV Unplugged) and "Strange Ways," which contains one of Ace Frehley's best guitar solos. Even though Hotter Than Hell actually fared worse on the charts than the debut, it has become a revered album among Kiss fans over the years -- and rightfully so. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Sonic Boom Play

In the 11 years since their last album, the big and bloated Psycho Circus, the reunited, original, make-up wearing Kiss split once again when Ace Frehley and Peter Criss hit the door. In a shocking move that disgusted Kiss purists, remaining members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided that Ace and Peter's characters were up for grabs, and handed the make-up over to their new guitar-playing spaceman, Tommy Thayer, and their catman 2.0, Eric Singer, for subsequent tours. It was hardly the first time Paul and Gene were painted as an anything-for-a-buck duo -- they've licensed everything from Kiss action figures to Kiss caskets after all -- but maybe, just maybe, it was a sincere move after all, one designed to please fans. Unlike Psycho Circus with Ace and Peter, Sonic Boom with Tommy and Eric captures the spirit of the original group through simple, unashamedly macho songs that could have appeared on any of their pre-Destroyer albums. Lunkheaded lyrics like "The deck is loaded when I like what I see" ("Russian Roulette") or "Danger you, danger me, danger us" ("Danger Us") aren't so much an issue when the hooks are as solid and the songs are as exciting as they are here. "Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect)" is the quintessential Gene song with the usual demon bass fills, plenty of cowbell, and "Baby it's time to take off your clothes" lyrics, while the closing "Say Yeah" is a sure fan pleaser, falling somewhere between "Black Diamond" and "Nothin' to Lose." Besides the underlying feeling that there's a bit more smirking than before, there's little sign the original duo have matured, which is good news, but the old-school idea of one song for the spaceman ("When Lightning Strikes") and one for the cat ("All for the Glory") should've been dropped, as both slow down the proceedings, plus Eric's number sings of "We're all for one and we're all for the glory" with absolutely no sense of irony. No one will be turned on to the band by Sonic Boom, and all the usual criticisms -- dumb, sexist, gaudy, and dumb -- apply, but the Kiss Army have waited over two decades for something this solid and fun. Pretend this is the back-to-basics follow up to Love Gun, and those 20 years of so-so albums fade away. Classic and maybe even a little awesome, Sonic Boom makes that "hottest band in the world" tag much easier to swallow. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

Thumbnail Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions Play

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, intending to release the record either in late 1995 or early 1996. Once the reunion took off, Carnival of Souls was shelved and Kulick and Singer were unceremoniously given their walking papers, the final chapter of their history erased from public record. Unsurprisingly, the unreleased album became a hot bootleg in collector's circles, paving the way for its official release in the fall of 1997. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Thumbnail Revenge Play

Despite coming off a monster ballad with Hot in the Shade's Michael Bolton-penned "Forever," Kiss was plagued by financial instability due to Simmons and Stanley's extravagance; worse, drummer Eric Carr succumbed to cancer in November 1991. But even with the grunge movement in full effect, Kiss was luckily recognized as a major influence on everyone from Trent Reznor to Lenny Kravitz -- their '70s legacy intact despite the band's often dubious choices in the '80s. And even though they, too, were on the brink of commercial extinction, being savvy businessmen first and foremost, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley fully understood the lay of the land. Not only did they need to make a definitive record, they needed to completely re-invent themselves, visually and sonically. The first step was to secure hard rock veteran Eric Singer to fill Carr's shoes; next, the band rekindled its relationship with producer Bob Ezrin. Again, never ones to ignore lucrative business opportunities, Simmons and Stanley swallowed their pride and rejoined forces with former bandmate Vinnie Vincent. Together, they co-wrote Revenge's three centerpieces -- "Unholy," "I Just Wanna," and "Heart of Chrome." Bringing Vincent back to the Kiss fold ultimately proves to be the album's coup de grâce. Some of the cuts are excellent, delivered with conviction and panache, but for all the hype, the album is also tainted with filler. On the up tip, Ezrin's mongo-enormous production galvanizes the Kiss sound, making it fresh again. The band's promotional efforts would help propel the album's first-week sales sky high, culminating with a Top Ten Billboard chart entry, but indifference once again plagued the ensuing arena tour. ~ John Franck, Rovi

Thumbnail Hot in the Shade Play

Realizing that their last albums weren't even close to being in league with their output from the '70s, Kiss made a conscious effort to get back on track with 1989's Hot in the Shade. The group began trying out new material, and was soon forced to issue a record in conjunction with an upcoming tour. Hence, Hot in the Shade is a slight improvement over its flat predecessors (Asylum, Crazy Nights) -- but not by much. The songwriting is still unfocused, but at least the keyboards that plagued Crazy Nights had thankfully been put away, and the production isn't as pop-oriented as most of their other '80s albums. The album did spawn Kiss' first Top Ten single in ten years with the syrupy ballad "Forever," but again, the group missed the mark by padding the album with lots of filler ("You Love Me to Hate You," "Love's a Slap in the Face," "Cadillac Dreams," etc.). Also included were a couple of obvious attempts at hit singles ("Rise to It" and the dreadful "Hide Your Heart"), and a track that sounds like a total ripoff of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," titled "Read My Body." Drummer Eric Carr's only lead vocal on a Kiss record, "Little Caesar," is one of the album's few bright spots, but Hot in the Shade unfortunately proved to be Carr's last album with Kiss; he died from cancer in 1991. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Animalize Play

Animalize was more successful than the previous Lick It Up, but that's only because its predecessor had accomplished the job of restoring the band's reputation among adolescents. While it followed the same pattern as Lick It Up, most of the songs were second-rate, with the noticeable exception of the smoldering "Heaven's on Fire." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Thumbnail Monster Play

As Kiss approach 40 years of ridiculous rock & roll fun, it makes sense that their 20th studio album, Monster, is more self-referential than anything. Following 2009's Sonic Boom, the album marks the second set of tunes by a revamped "original" Kiss lineup, with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons joined by new guitarist Tommy Thayer and re-emerging Eric Singer donning the makeup and personas originated by Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, respectively. Monster is a tremendous throwback to the superhuman partying and heavy metal Ragnarök of Kiss albums like Destroyer and Love Gun, with meaty riffs, hamfisted drumming, and a combination of Simmons' patented demonic growls and Stanley's interstellar party-starting, not to mention amounts of cowbell that would have been above average even in 1977. "All for the Love of Rock & Roll" is a big-hearted boogie rocker that would have fit on Frehley's stoney 1978 solo album, while the campily sinister metal riffage of "The Devil Is Me" and "Freak" fit more into the era of slick radio metal of 1992's Revenge. The muddy analog a cappella intro of "Eat Your Heart Out" sets the tone for tongue-in-cheek double entendres updating "Shout It Out Loud" with slightly different lyrics but the same bell-bottomed irreverence. ~ Fred Thomas, Rovi

Thumbnail Crazy Nights Play

Since Kiss' 1987 album, Crazy Nights, was their most pop-accessible album to date, a total of 3 video clips were issued, which are all featured on the home video of the same name from one year later. While the videos aren't exactly the best the band has ever produced, they were very popular with MTV viewers - all appeared regularly on the network's viewer request program at the time. The first video, "Crazy, Crazy Nights," is a no-frills clip of the quartet lip-synching the anthemic song to an auditorium full of excited fans, while the 2nd one, "Reason To Live," is a ballad that features clips of an attractive blond seeking revenge on her unfaithful lover, Mr. Paul Stanley (!), while the band plays the song. The final clip, "Turn On the Night," is one of the album's most keyboard-heavy tracks, and follows the set-up of the previous video for the most part - a female fan is shown enjoying a concert by the band, while Kiss plays away. Besides the 3 clips, no other footage is featured, which makes the Crazy Nights video of interest to Kiss completists only. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Dynasty Play

Dynasty marked the first time that the original four members of Kiss didn't all appear together for the entire album -- session drummer Anton Fig subbed for Peter Criss due to the latter's erratic behavior and injuries sustained in a serious car crash. And even though it was a platinum-plus smash, Dynasty marked the beginning of Kiss' unfocused period, which would ultimately end in a nosedive of the band's popularity, as well as Criss and Ace Frehley leaving the band by 1982. In latter-day interviews, the band admitted that they started to listen to outsiders about what direction the music should go around the time of Dynasty. And since small children were a large part of Kiss' audience by 1979 (due to merchandising and the God-awful TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom), the band began backing away from heavy metal and embracing pop. Included is their hit disco experiment, "I Was Made for Loving You" (which was no better or worse than any other rock-meets-disco experiment of the late '70s), as well as "Sure Know Something," a melodic pop/rocker that should have also been a smash. Many other tracks would have been better if they weren't so glossed up (due to producer Vini Poncia), such as "Charisma," "Magic Touch," "Hard Times," and a great reworked cover of the Rolling Stones obscurity "2,000 Man." Not a horrible album (that distinction would go to 1981's Music from "The Elder"), but certainly not on par with such classics as Hotter Than Hell, Destroyer, or Love Gun. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Love Gun Play

Love Gun was Kiss' fifth studio album in three years (and seventh release overall, peaking at number four on Billboard), and proved to be the last release that the original lineup played on. By 1977, Kiss merchandise was flooding the marketplace (lunch boxes, makeup kits, comic books, etc.), and it would ultimately lead to a Kiss backlash in the '80s. But the band was still focused on their music for Love Gun, similar in sound and approach to Rock and Roll Over, their previous straight-ahead rock release. It included Ace Frehley's lead vocals on "Shock Me," as well as one of Kiss' best and most renowned hard rockers in the thunderous title track. The album's opener, "I Stole Your Love," also served as the opening number on Kiss' ensuing tour, while "Christine Sixteen" is one of the few Kiss tracks to contain piano prominently. "Almost Human" is an underrated rocker and features a great Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar solo from Frehley (no doubt due to ex-Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer manning the boards again), while "Plaster Caster" is a tribute to the famous groupies of the same name. The only weak spots on an otherwise stellar album are an obvious "Rock and Roll All Nite" ripoff titled "Tomorrow and Tonight," and a pointless remake of the Phil Spector-penned classic "Then He Kissed Me" (reworked as "Then She Kissed Me"). ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail Asylum Play

Sonically, Kiss retained their revitalized roar throughout Asylum, turning in a tough but supple performance that would have been more impressive if the songs were stronger. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Thumbnail Box Set [Special Edition] Play

Longtime Kiss fans have come to expect things done on a grand scale by their masked heroes, and everyone's favorite rock & roll merchandising machine doesn't disappoint with their 2001 anthology, Box Set. Clocking in at a hefty six hours (that's a 94-song track listing of demos, rarities, hits, album tracks, and live material crammed onto five discs), the set comes in three different configurations, the first being a modestly priced, standard seven-by-11-inch box, the second a replica guitar case version, and the third (and most costly) gold premium edition, which features a larger case and additional gadgets. All three sets come with a 120-page color book, including track-by-track commentary mostly by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (a little more insight from Ace Frehley and Peter Criss wouldn't have hurt) and a biography by Jeff Kitts. While some fans voiced displeasure about the absence of certain rarities (most notably the holy grail of all Kiss collectors, several songs that Eddie and Alex Van Halen demoed with Gene Simmons back in 1977) and that this is the umpteenth time the group has recycled their renowned anthems for a compilation, Box Set ultimately delivers. For the most part (give or take a track or two), each disc chronicles a certain time period of the band. Disc one features the pre-Kiss years up to 1975, disc two features 1975-1977, disc three features 1977-1982, disc four features 1983-1990, and disc five features 1991-2000. Included are demos of such Kiss classics as "Strutter," "Deuce," "God of Thunder," and "Love Gun," as well as demos of tracks that never made it to any of their albums: "Doncha Hesitate," "Mad Dog," and "Love Is Blind," among others. But it doesn't end there; you'll also find tracks by the pre-Kiss group Wicked Lester (including an almost unrecognizable version of "She," a song Kiss would later re-record themselves) and a live take of the oft-overlooked Ace Frehley gem "Talk to Me," plus an unreleased Kiss version of "It's My Life" (the song was only previously available on an obscure Wendy O. Williams solo album) from their final studio album, 1998's Psycho Circus. The balance between the obscure and the well-known is tempered out with the inclusion of such scream-along arena rockers as "Black Diamond," "Do You Love Me," "Detroit Rock City," "Rock and Roll All Nite," and "I Love it Loud," as well as spotlighting such underrated album tracks as "Strange Ways," "Parasite," "Goin' Blind," "Larger Than Life," "Sure Know Something," and "War Machine." Although the quality of the material begins to dip on the last two discs (both focus primarily on the group's wishy-washy unmasked era, when Simmons and Stanley were the only two original members left), there's a little something for each Kiss fan to sink their teeth into on Box Set.' ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Thumbnail 5 Classic Albums Play

Part of Universal's Classic Albums series, this box set from hard rock legends Kiss features four of the group's biggest studio albums (their 1974 eponymous debut, 1975's Dressed to Kill, and 1976's Destroyer and Rock & Roll Over), and one greatest-hits set (20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss). ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi

Thumbnail 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 Play

The majority of Kiss hits collections to surface since the late '90s (and boy, have there been a truckload of them) have focused primarily on the group's makeup years, which is understandable since that's when the dudes smeared the grease paint back on. But for the most part, their unmasked years have been glossed over on subsequent hits collections (or included in small quantities). 2004's 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 is the first Kiss collection ever to primarily focus on their non-makeup era, covering the years 1982 through 1990. While this certainly wasn't Kiss' finest era -- neither commercially (with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley the only original members left by this point, Kiss saw their fan base dwindle considerably since their '70s heyday) nor musically (the group seemed to follow rather than lead the heavy metal pack) -- there are a few hard rockin' gems included here. Opening things up with one of their heaviest compositions ever, the title track from Creatures of the Night (the band's last release with makeup), the early portion of the collection fares the best, as exemplified by such further strong rockers as the anthemic "I Love It Loud," "Lick It Up," and "Heaven's on Fire." Then...there's a bit of a road bump. As the '80s wore on, Kiss became more and more pop-metal-oriented by merely trying to replicate the chart toppers of the day (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, etc.), as evidenced by such lackluster tracks as "Uh! All Night," "Crazy Crazy Nights," and "Reason to Live." If you're a newcomer to Kiss looking for solid, career-encompassing best of sets, such other titles as Double Platinum and The Very Best of Kiss are better bets. But if it's an overview of strictly the non-makeup era, then 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 is the collection for you. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
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