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KISS
IKONS
Mercury Records
www.kissonline.com


If you have ever thought to yourself that you recognize all things KISS but cannot name more than three songs, ("Detroit Rock City", "Rock and Roll All Nite", "Beth") then this is the CD set for you. As the liner notes point out, an anonymous somebody had pointed out that only two bands have ever existed where all four members where immediately recognizable - KISS and The Beatles.

While it's debatable whether this is an overstatement, it's undeniable that all four members of KISS are immediately recognizable - so long as they're wearing the outfits and makeup. KISS experimented with being musicians without all of the hoopla once and although it wasn't a failure, it wasn't fun for anybody either.

And that's the heart of the matter with this KISS offering. This collection highlights some of their best work, including the tracks adored by their fans but ignored by the radio ("Calling Dr. Love", "Parasite", "Love Gun") but anything created outside of the original line-up of Simmons, Stanley, Criss and Frehley is notably absent. Fans of the "Lick it Up" era of KISS will be disappointed. In recognition of this, this 4 CD set is an incomplete greatest hits compilation - kind of like the first comic book in a series. It is essential to anybody who wants to better understand what the hullabaloo is all about from the band's pioneering age in the 1970s without having to experience the re-branded KISS that went lamely along with the 1980s hair metal explosion.

The overall production is top-notch and is exactly what's expected from KISS but anybody new to KISS may find the songs themselves sounding a little dated. There's a few strong reasons that KISS are in the rock n' roll hall of fame but it had a lot more to do with the theatrics and showmanship of the band than the music. While it's undeniable that there are hits in the catalog, KISS has always been an admittedly self-promoting marketing effort, the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme. They're all good musicians but to suggest that the music has always come first with KISS is to misunderstand fundamentally why the band matters. Anybody who remembers the double-fold LP Alive and the inserts the records came with understands that the visual presentation of what a KISS show delivered was and is equally important.

-William "Cadillac" Donovan

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Mike Doughty



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