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
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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