Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You Wanted the Best...

If you were alive in the ‘70’s, KISS was one of the most amazing bands around. Often written off as a kiddie band (partly through their own marketing and creative decisions), KISS actually produced some amazing music that rivals much of the output of their contemporaries.

I discovered KISS in fourth grade (1976). The first album I bought was Alive. I paid all in change at Kmart. Anyway, within the year, I had every release and my walls were plastered with posters and my room was littered with magazines such as Creem and Hit Parader. Sadly, I never had the dolls, but I did have the Color-Forms set. And my dad made me watch Kiss Meets the Phantom on the black and white TV in my room so he could watch the Rockford Files or something (I’m still a bit pissed).

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been watching Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels and I have sort of been thinking about those heady days of yore before my exposure to punk rock and all things out side the main stream. So I figured I would create a quick guide to the early KISS albums. That being said, the last KISS album I purchased was Unmasked, a dubious milestone, to say the least. I will also be ignoring the solo albums. (The only one that really was any good was Ace’s.) So for some insight into the albums that I am familiar with and their later catalog, I have enlisted the opinions of super fan (and good friend) Mike Hogan. RJ will precede my comments, and MH will designate Mike’s.

So without further ado,

4/5 …The classic debut. A really solid album with the exception of "Kissin’ Time" added after the first pressing, and "Love Theme From Kiss." Includes such staples as "Deuce" and "Strutter." My favorite song is probably "Black Diamond."
MH: 5/5... clean-stripped down production and mix, classic songwriting, fave tune: "100,000 Years"

4/5 … I think this album prepared me for my future tastes in weirder music. Everything about the album, from the cover to some of the music was a huge step forward creatively. The song writing wasn’t quite as solid as their debut, but instead of just repeating themselves, they tried some new ideas. Favorite track: "Going Blind."
MH: 4/5 ... minus one for production...mix is too muddy...songwriting is good but not as catchy as the first. Fave Tune: "Strange Ways" (one the best Ace Frehley solos of all time).

5/5 … Probably my all time favorite KISS album. What’s not to like. Heavy, catchy and they looked sharp in those suits. Don’t know if I have a favorite tune, but "C’mon and Love Me" is pretty close.
MH: 5/5 ... Best Kiss album of all time (I'm tired of hearing RNRAN though)... production...mix...songs...cover...title...freakin' classic... Fave Tune: "Rock Bottom" ... pure rawk ...\m/.

RJ: 5/5 … A fan favorite, the album that put the band on the map. The live version of "Rock n’ Roll All Night" was their first real hit and is still on regular rotation on many rock stations. But, the stage banter is some of the best parts of the record. Great version of "Firehouse."
MH: 4/5 ...good for 1975/1976 but I don't think lives up to it's name (and reputation) today after all the fixing we hear about ... Fave Tune(s): "100,000 Years" (..."DO YOU FEEL RI-AIGHT!!!") and "Black Diamond."

RJ: 3/5 … Too much production and silly songs. Throwaways include "Flaming Youth," "Great Expectations," and "Sweet Pain." I’m going to ignore "Beth." Favorite songs include "Detroit Rock City" and "God of Thunder."
MH: 3/5 ... good songs here and there but too much to listen to sonically...could do without "Great Expectations", "Beth", and believe it or not ... I know Cobain loved it, but I always hated "Do You Love Me"... my Fave Tune" Detroit Rock City."

5/5 … A great album. Songs are great, production is great. Can’t say anything bad about it. Next to DTK, it’s my favorite KISS album.
MH: 4/5 ... way better record than Destroyer as a whole. I like the fact that they recorded it all live. Fave Tune(s) "Makin' Love," "Mr.Speed" and one of the most under-rated Kiss tunes "Baby Driver."

3/5 … Another okay record, just slightly better than Destroyer. Ditch "Hooligans" and "Plaster Caster" and "Then She Kissed Me. Favorite songs: "Love Gun" and "I Stole Your Love."
MH: 4/5 ... minus one for including "Then She Kissed Me"... freakin' ridiculous. The whole album pretty much smokes until then end. Great production and mix though... Fave Tune: "Shock Me."

4/5 … Another live album highlighting tracks from the three studio albums released after Alive. I liked this idea of only doing songs since the last batch of releases so as not to double up. I always liked the opening salvo of "Detroit Rock City" and "King of the Nighttime World." Didn’t care too much for the studio tracks on Side Four.
MH: 4/5 ... I understand why they included "Beth" but they still get minus one...for that and "Any Way You Want It"...stupid decision to re-do that track. Fave Tune: "All American Man" and Fave Part: "Ace's Solo."

2/5 … Didn’t really like this album. Probably would like it better now that I have a bit more tolerance for disco, but most of the tracks sucked. But I actually liked the cover of the Rolling Stones "2000 Man." I liked Ace’s dry vocals.
MH: 2/5 ... To me, this album sucks ass ... the only cool thing about this record are Ace's songs. When they re-did "Sure Know Something" for the Unplugged thing I thought they finally did the song justice. I don't like the cover either. Fave Tune: "Hard Times."

RJ: 0/5 … Hated this album. Last KISS album I ever bought. In fact, I bought it, took it to my friend’s house to listen to it and left it there. Later I found out that his little sister was listening to it a lot. I think that sums it up. Even the cover was horrible. "She’s So European"? "Shandi"? "Talk to Me"? Crap, crap, crap.
MH: 2.5/5 ... Better songs than Dyansty. Seems like Anton Fig gave 'em a boost when he took over for Peter, but this album sucks ass. The mix is good but songwriting was lackin' balls. The cover/packaging didn't scream Rock and Roll either...too much compromising to get the record in little kids' hands. Fave Tune: "Naked City"

But, as everyone knows, the story for the four lads (and whomever took over when Ace and Peter left), continues to this day. I don’t care but Mike still listens and he has a couple of ratings for some later albums:

MH: Creatures of the Night (5/5), Lick It Up (5/5), Revenge (4/5), and Ace's Solo (6/5).

Hope that clears things up. I’d like to thank Mike for giving his two cents.

Sadly, I do not have any KISS on my iPod, so we will just have to see what is playing:

1. "A Magazine Called Sunset" by Wilco
2. "Bee Thousand" by Guided By Voices
3. "Neat, Neat, Neat" by the Damned
4. "Louie Louie" by Black Flag
5. "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" by the Birthday Party
6. "Kids on Coffee" by Descendents
7. "Letter Never Sent" by R.E.M.
8. "I Wonder U" by Prince
9. "Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference" by Morrissey
10. "Baby It’s You" by the Beatles


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