Paul Stanley (Vox)
Gene Simmons (Vox/Bass)
Ace Frehely (Lead Guitar)
Peter Criss (Drums)
- Latter Tracks –
Vinnie Vincent (Lead Guitar)
Eric Carr (Drums)
You wanted the best, well you got the best… the very best of Kiss that is! This compilation spans 3 decades of the evolutionary money machine that is Kiss, with a heavy emphasis on period 1975-1977. Funnily enough this was the period when Kiss were at the height of their commercial success, and only four of the twenty one songs come from the post-Frehely/Criss era. Perhaps this is the perfect metaphor for the legacy of Kiss, as debatably they were more instrumentally-abled and well rounded band with Vinnie Vincent and Eric Carr onboard.
The first two tracks <b> Strutter </b> and <b> Deuce </b> are from the debut Self titled album, released in February 1974. Both are decent Classic Rock tracks, the former co-written by Messer’s Simmons and Stanley, and the later by only Simmons. Simmons also takes the vocals on Deuce, and is clearly the better of the two opening tracks. Both are written in the same machismo manner as you’d expect from the “Knights In Satan’s Service”. Despite the harsh lyrics, hard rock style and masculinity personified attitude in the vocals there are some neat effeminate pieces of air guitar from Ace Frehely. This rescues what otherwise would be pretty bland songs.
Surprisingly for a “Best of” from one of the most commercially driven Rock bands created, there is place for two songs off the commercially unsuccessful <i> Hotter than Hell </i>. Considering this album was written in August of 1974, and released in October of the same year it is little wonder that these tracks were poorly produced and not very well received. <b> Hotter than Hell </b> the song is actually a pretty sloppy re-writing of <b><i>Free’s All Right Now</b></i> (a song that my own band frequently covers).
After the first four tracks comes the more famous tracks section which includes <b> Rock and Roll All Nite </b>, <b> Detroit Rock City </b>, <b> Beth </b> and <b>Love Gun</b>. <b> Rock and Roll All Nite </b> is not the studio recorded track from <i> Destroyer </i> infact its taken off the 1975 Live album <i>ALIVE!</i>, and actually this is probably quite a good move as Kiss live far surpass the Kiss in a recording studio. <b> Detroit Rock City </b> is probably one of my personal favourites from this collection, written by Stanley and Bob Erzin (producer of Pink Floyd’s The Wall). The drumming from Peter Criss is frantic, yet controlled and Simmon’s bass is actually not bad! Peter Criss gets his moment on this album too, with the power ballad he personally wrote and performed <b> Beth </b>. This provides a welcome interlude from the macho-ness of the previous eight tracks, and is piano based which adds a nice touch of variety. Criss also gets a shot on the vocals for <b> Hard Luck Woman </b> which along with <b> Christine Sixteen </b> concludes the softer edge of this collection.
The final six tracks of the collection include some of the better ones, <b> Love Gun </b> which is a punchy little number, with trashy riffs and smutty lyrics of which Motley Crüe would be proud .<b> I Was Made For Lovin’ You </b> is much in the same vein, but with a disco inspired twist. Segmenting the two however, is the only track that made it from the 1978 “Solo” projects. Thankfully, its taken from Ace Frehely’s self titled solo album. <b>New York Groove</b> was the biggest selling single of all the solo projects from Kiss members in 1978, and is a decent track. Out of the four original members Ace may not have been the most able singer or the most appreciated member, but he was certainly at a par in song writing ability. This song may not display much of his lyrical prowess however, or even vocal ability, but it is catchy and does stand out amongst the heavier elements of this CD. The following four tracks are from the Post-Criss/Frehely era and feature Eric Carr on Drums, and Vinnie Vincent on lead guitar. Despite Frehely’s lead guitar ability which was in my opinion a driving force behind Kiss’ early success, he is not really missed in the tracks <b> Lick it Up </b> and <b> I Love it Loud </b>. Eric Carr’s intensity on drums on the latter track (my personal favourite in this collection) clearly make a difference from the more jazz orientated Peter Criss. It is ashame that only one track each came from <I> Creatures of the Night</i> (1982) and <i> Lick it Up</i> (1983), and that none were taken from the concept album <i>Music From ‘The Elder’</i> which despite its commercial failure showed a much more musically mature side to Kiss. The final two tracks <b> Forever </b> and <b>God Gave Rock n Roll To You II </b> both sound very 80s/early 90s. The former was even co-written by Michael Bolton, both are power ballads and a lot more mature than the previous tracks. Sadly in the 21st Century both tracks come across pretty clichéd and cheesy. I suppose it is pretty synonymous of Kiss that they adjusted to the sound of the moment, and sought the most commercially viable content for their albums. Whether it be from classic rock to disco, a concept album or power ballads, Kiss were at the forefront attempting to adapt their sound. This collection is a pretty neat overview of Kiss, and not a bad listen, although it could have been a lot better. It is much more of a Greatest Hits than a Best of.
Live version of Rock and Roll All Nite
Inclusion of Peter Criss’ Beth and Ace Frehely’s New York Groove
Overall fairly well distributed album despite lack of Vincent/Carr material
Not enough Vincent/Carr material
No Music from ‘The Elder’ tracks
Overtly commercialised song selection
I Love it Loud
I Was Made For Lovin’ You
Detroit Rock City