Review Summary: You wanted the best...you got the forgotten.
After two polar-opposite decades, Gene Simmons and his cronies at KISS found themselves in a pretty comfortable situation in the 90’s. Time had turned them from an average, even inferior rock band to an historical institution, and the group coasted along on the back of compilation albums and reunion tours for a good part of the decade. The numbers are conclusive: out of the nine albums released in the 1990s decade, only three were comprised of fully original material. The rest were some sort of compilation, either a live album or a true-blue greatest hits package. In the case of You Wanted The Best…You Got The Best
, it was both.
Titled after the band’s live-act catchphrase, this 1996 compilation doubles as a live album, since all the cuts come from stage performances. In fact, this is only one of the bootleggish traits exhibited by this poorly-received cash grab. Others would be the haphazard song selection, cheap selling tactics, tacked-on interview, unimpressive artwork and generally mediocre mix, with Peter Criss’ drums taking the biggest blow.
So I could wrap up this review right here, simply stating “this is a mere rush job, unworthy of your money or even a free download, unless you’re a diehard fan”. But I won’t. Because you see, the aforementioned cheap selling tactic is about the best cheap selling tactic they could have found, at least for someone like me: previously unreleased and generally forgotten tracks from KISS’s early career. In fact, this compilation might as well have been called “KISS: Revenge of The Forgotten”. About 95% of the songs on here are tracks unheard of since at least the late 70’s, making for a sort of “second chance” reserve team of KISS songs. However, the group can’t carry a good thing through to the end, and therefore there are two unnecessary megahits tacked onto the end.
Seriously, what are Beth
and Rock’n’Roll All Night
doing here?! They crashed this party, were definitely uninvited and unwelcome, and stand out like a sore thumb among the rest of the nerdy setlist. You can just see Rock and Roll All Night
standing there, gloating, while Room Service
and Let Me Know
grumble “this was our party” in the corner, over spiked cokes.
And indeed, before the arrival of the two bothersome guests, this album is a true geekfest. The first three songs lay down the law, with Room Service, Two Timer
and Let Me Know
, all previously unreleased and absolutely toe-curdling. Further on, Take Me
elicits a “WTF!?” double-take, as it is the most unexpected song in the tracklist. The rest of the songs are marginally more known, but only Calling Dr. Love
and, arguably, Shout It Out Loud
could be called regulars in the KISS setlist.
So yeah, for the best part of this album’s breezy duration, you’re standing there, geeking out. But then you start to see some flaws. For example, I could have sworn some of these tracks were from the Alives
. A quick Wikipedia check later, I’m proven right – only the “geeky four” were previously unreleased, with the rest being culled from the first two Alives
. This angered me somewhat, and took away some of the geek vibe, replacing it with the usual “stupid con artist Gene Simmons” vibe. Furthermore, while the audience is generally very audible and real-sounding, the sparks only come through on occasion, such as on the ever-excellent Let Me Know
and when I Stole Your Love
barges through your speakers without asking.
Aside from that, there is no denying that this is as close as it comes to a bootleg, in terms of general appearance, sound, and tracklist. I would find it perfectly reasonable to come across this in some supermarket shelf at budget price, and if it wasn’t for the geekish tracks, I would dislike it as vehemently as all the other reviewers online. Plus, the interview (which my illegal download did not possess) is supposed to be nothing more than stupid fluff, used for padding, in a tactic that – again – smacks of “Cheap K-Mart Compilation Making For Dummies”.
Still, the geekish tracks and brief running time won me over. This is perfect to pop in while performing any medium-length activity, like preparing for work or school, jogging, driving, cooking or cleaning house. Plus, it brings back some long-lost and very welcome acquaintance, which justifies the attributing of an extra half-point or so. Now my only sorrow is that we will apparently never get Got To Choose
in any KISS album ever again.
Let Me Know
I Stole Your Love