Album Reviews

Kiss – Kiss 40 Review

kiss_40_review

Released by: Ume

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: Classic Rock

Links: https://www.facebook.com/KISS

 

Current Line Up:

Paul Stanley – Vocals / Guitar

Gene Simmons – Vocals / Bass

Tommy Thayer – Guitar

Eric Singer – Drums

 

Tracklist:

CD 1
1. Nothin To Lose
2. Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
3. C’mon and Love Me
4. Rock And Roll All Nite (Live)
5. God Of Thunder (Demo)
6. Beth
7. Hard Luck Woman
8. Reputation (Demo) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
9. Christine Sixteen
10. Shout It Out Loud (Live)
11. Strutter ‘78
12. You Matter To Me (Peter Criss)
13. Radioactive (Gene Simmons)
14. New York Groove (Ace Frehley)
15. Hold Me, Touch Me (Paul Stanley)
16. I Was Made For Lovin’ You (Single Edit)
17. Shandi
18. A World Without Heroes
19. I Love It Loud
20. Down On Your Knees
21. Lick It Up
22. Heaven’s On Fire

 

CD 2
1. Tears Are Falling
2. Reason To Live
3. Let’s Put The X In Sex
4. Forever (Remix)
5. God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II
6. Unholy (Live)
7. Do You Love Me? (MTV Unplugged)
8. Room Service (Live)
9. Jungle (Radio Edit)
10. Psycho Circus
11. Nothing Can Keep Me From You
12. Detroit Rock City (Live)
13. Deuce (Live 2004) – UNRELEASED COMMERCIALLY
14. Firehouse (Live – 1999/2000)
15. Modern Day Delilah
16. Cold Gin (Live 2009) – UNRELEASED COMMERCIALLY
17. Crazy Crazy Nights (Live 2010) – UNRELEASED COMMERCIALLY
18. Hell or Hallelujah

 

It’s impossible to traverse a collection such as this without indulging in a history lesson. With an output as vast and as varied as this, it would be foolish to avoid one. So I won’t. It’s another year and another Kiss (Does it have to be typed ‘KISS’? No? Good.) anniversary.  A few years ago it was ‘Kiss Alive 35’, and next year will probably yield another celebration of sorts, but before the band reaches its 41st year we have the happily titled ‘Kiss 40’ to keep us busy.  Celebrating 4 decades of decibels, it’s a compilation album culled from each of the 40 albums, studio, live and otherwise that Kiss have released.

Pleasingly, the track list appears in chronological order, and as such, it highlights the development or otherwise of the band over time. Their 1974 debut album is rightly regarded as a classic, containing such gems and live staples as Cold Gin, Firehouse and Deuce, (which fear not, are represented later in various live guises) however this compilation opens with Nothin’ To Lose. It’s an appropriate opening statement that says much about the young band. Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll follows, almost as quickly as its parent album Hotter Than Hell, which was released within months of the debut. Gene Simmons unmistakable voice, no attitudinal growl is all over both. Still, it’s the ever yelping Paul Stanley who lends his angelic tones to the most of the tracks. The band’s golden period from the mid to late 70’s is well represented with the evergreen C’mon And Love Me, a live version of Rock N Roll All Nite from the much celebrated and career saving Alive! platter, and a demo version of Simmons’ trademark demonic God Of Thunder. Here presented in demo form, it’s surprisingly stripped of its balls, with vocals by Paul Stanley. The Catman gets his chance to shine on the fan dividing Beth, the ballad to end all ballads. Criss again takes lead vocals on the Rod Stewart / Faces-aping Hard Luck Woman. Christine Sixteen, a live version of Shout it Out Loud and a late 70’s recording of Strutter all follow from the period when Kiss could do no wrong. However, thirteen tracks in and still there is no lead vocal from Ace Frehley. That all changes with New York Groove, a track which scored the Spaceman a rare solo hit single back in 1978. There’s a track from each of the four Kiss solo albums which, need anyone need reminding were all released on the same day. The relative failure commercially of the solo albums hit the band hard. Kiss had always been superheroes. They seemed indestructible. However, the cracks were beginning to show, and with success came alcoholism, drug addiction and megalomania. The spell was broken, and the band would never be the same again.

Kiss was changing, being dragged kicking and screaming into the 1980’s. The fabulous high-camp disco of I Was Made For Loving You was just too much for some of the Kiss army. They may have lost some of their more hardcore fans, but the success of the single meant that they had gained a new audience. The finger of blame may have been pointed at Stanley and produced Bob Ezrin, but Peter Criss wasn’t shy of experimentation with funk and soul, as evidenced on his solo track You Matter To Me. The drummer was the first to go. In truth he had been absent for years, but officially at least, he stayed long enough to perform on 1980’s Beatles-esque pop splendour Shandi. The airy-fairy nature of the song bears little resemblance to the hard rockin’ nature of their early output. In an attempt to regain some credibility, the band decided to record a concept album. (Music From) ‘The Elder’ was however, was an experimental step too far, and it was to be Frehley’s swansong. Here, A World Without Heroes reminds that it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t Kiss. Drastic measures were needed. They needed a killer hard rock album, and they delivered one, in Creatures Of The Night, their finest release of the 1980’s. Frehley stuck around long enough to feature in the video for I love It Loud, which is a heavy, stomping Kiss Classic. With half of the original line-up now gone, their next move would surprise everyone.

With Paul Stanley firmly in the driving seat come 1983, the band unmasked publically for the first time. Out went the cartoon make-up, and in came Hollywood glamour. The 80’s were the decade that saw the band loose its identity and even Gene Simmons lost interest. Like most bands from that period, it was all about big hair, big budget videos, and clothes that were louder than the songs. Still, they had some of their biggest hits (outside of the USA) during this period, including a first for them, in a top 10 UK single with Crazy Crazy Nights, which is criminally absent from this collection. The quality of the tracks here dips significantly as we traverse the decade that taste forgot. From the pomp of Heaven’s On Fire, to the quintessential 1980’s ballad Reason To Live, which features perhaps the most hideously inappropriate and over the top guitar solo of all time, courtesy of Bruce Kulick.

Thankfully, a new decade was just around the corner, and the band made a cracking album in Revenge before the inevitable reunion. Two tracks are present from this period, in God Gave Rock And Roll To You II and a live version of Unholy. The very nearly blew it with the horrible and ill-advised cod-grunge of Carnival of Souls, from which Jungle is present. However before it could be released, the success of an MTV Unplugged appearance by the original band led to a fully-fledged reunion. The band went on to record one album in Psycho Circus from which the title track is here. It’s a terrific and exciting statement that scream’s ‘we’re back!’, despite all being less than happy behind the scenes. The rest of the album is a hotchpotch of faithful live renditions of classics played by both the reunion line-up and the band active since 2003, featuring Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. There are also two excellent studio tracks from that latest version of Kiss in Modern Day Delilah and Hell or Hallelujah.

And there you have it, forty years of history in just over a thousand words. Kiss has always divided opinion, but the world would be a much duller place without them. Given their legendary live spectacle and out of this world image it’s easy to forget what a great catalogue of work that this band have produced. This is as comprehensive a collection that has ever been put together. You wanted the best? You got the best.

 

Written by Eamon O’Neill

Ratings    Eamon    9/10

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