Saturday, April 25, 2015

TOP 10 GREATEST KISS ALBUMS

TOP 10 GREATEST
KISS ALBUMS
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As an admitted 40-year
KISS junkie, I still enjoy
the private analysis and
open discussion of the
"Hottest Band in the Land."
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Strip away the cosmetic trappings, and at the core, KISS is simply an honest and pure, song-based rock and roll band. So if you can let go of any personal, rock vs. pop, metal vs. rock, make-up vs. non-make-up, old vs. new, or "Spaceman" vs. "Impostor" baggage that you might be carrying, and focus on the songs, you might have some fun with this little feature. I sure did.

10
Alive II

October 1977 — the height of the KISS Empire — just before the fall. Packed with plenty-o-post-Alive! standards, the band's second double-record set perfectly projected KISS' (now) well-crafted image and bombastic grandeur. But what Alive II lacked was the perceived authenticity of its live predecessor. In fact, it possessed all the genuine sincerity of a Hillary Clinton press op. However, where Alive II did succeed was in the newly-recorded Side Four studio tracks. Despite the near-40-year debate over who actually played what on these tracks, "All American Man," "Rockin' in the USA," "Larger Than Life," and "Rocket Ride" remain classic keepsakes from the band's golden, cock-rock glory days.

9
Lick it Up

Packing more punch than a heavy-weight prizefighter, Lick it Up oozed as much cred as any previous KISS collection, and it returned the band to a rightful place of rock prominence — after a three-year dry spell. Even sans make-up, the band members' look was as legit as the music. "Exciter," "Young and Wasted," "Gimme More," and "Fits Like a Glove" are still bona fide skull-crushers, and the title track remains a Classic-Rock radio staple.

8
KISS

KISS' 1974 debut was a reasonably hard-hitting showcase for such enduring fan favorites as "Deuce," "Strutter," "Firehouse," "Cold Gin," "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond." It may have been flawed somewhat by its rather sterile-sounding production, but you never forget your first "kiss," and this one always will rank among the band's all-time best.

7
Unmasked

By early 1980, KISS had clearly become splintered and rather misguided. If the pre-school-ish, cartoon-style album cover didn't compel the last remaining members of the KISS Army to all seek immediate "Honorable Discharges," the undeniable Top 40 poppiness did. Yet, despite not knowing with absolute certainty exactly who played on the record, and its overall local studio-like production, what makes Unmasked such a treat is the songs. Sure, they may feel like they were culled from three separate solo projects, but the fact is, the songs were (for the most part) all top-shelf. "Is That You?," "Tomorrow," "Two Sides of the Coin," "Torpedo Girl" — even the should-a-been-a-monster, "Shandi" was simply superb. One of the least shameful of KISS guilty pleasures.

6
Asylum

Asylum is one of the most song-based records in the KISS catalog, and the strongest of the band's post-make-up era — bar none. I remember vividly, crawling through my local shopping mall to the record store, on my hands and knees (with a broken foot) to buy this record on the day it was released. "King of the Mountain," "Who Wants to be Lonely," "Tears are Falling" and "Uh! All Night" all were Rock and Roll Over-worthy. After 30 years, the songs still hold up. 

5
Creatures of the Night

At the time of its release in late 1982, Creatures of the Night was the most exciting and authentic-sounding album to don the iconic crest in several years. Marking the end of the band's glorious original make-up era, the bone-crunching songs were as ferocious as the production. Even if whittled-down to just the title track and the arena-sized power ballad, "I Still Love You," this album would still stand up as one of the mightiest KISS albums ever. 

4
Dressed to Kill

Simply put, Dressed to Kill is a Simmons-driven classic. So crisp. So clean. So punchy. A superb, cohesive collection of concise, super-tight, get-to-the-hook, golden nuggets. Along with Rock and Roll Over, it was one of the two last KISS records that you knew for certain that the four guys on the cover were actually the same four guys cutting the tracks. Had Neil Bogart also produced the first  two KISS albums, the band might have broken sooner.

3
Alive!

Arguably the definitive KISS record, Alive! proved to be both a band and industry game-changer. It would likely have clinched the #1 spot here had it not become such common knowledge in recent years that it's more or less a fabricated live album. But you still can't deny the concert vibe. The "live" energy of "Firehouse," "Parasite," "100,000 Years," "Rock Bottom" and "Let Me Go Rock and Roll" was so authentic, that as a kid, I could actually (sorta) smell the sulfur from the detonating stage pyro permeating from my 8-Track H-Fi set (I think). And the personal hand-written notes printed inside the LP's gate fold sleeve and the souvenir, concert-style program insert were absolutely epic.

2
Destroyer

Over the course of the last 39 years, I've worn out three copies of Destroyer on 8-Track  I've also bought two different vinyl versions (one black, one red), two different CD versions (one original pressing, one remastered) and I destroyed one cassette copy. Destroyer was a must-have treasure trove of youth-oriented rock anthems targeted at teens (like me) who felt misunderstood and out of place at home, at church and at school. Paul Stanley understood me. And although (at the time) I didn't personally own "7-inch leather heels," I felt like I understood him, too. Despite achieving icon status, "Detroit Rock City," "God of Thunder" and "Beth" are NOT the true gems of this set. As an awkward 7th grader, I personally connected best with "King of the Night Time World," "Shout it Out Loud" and "Flaming Youth." Even at 13, I "got" the strip show vibe of Peter Criss' sexy-sounding drum track on "Do You Love Me?" — but I was kinda uncertain as to why Gene Simmons always had a whip beside him, and how on earth, pain could be sweet. Lessons learned. Looks like we're gonna have ourselves a rawk and roll pawty! 

1
Rock and Roll Over

The look, the image, the songs, the sound  the KISS "machine" had now become perfected by the fall of 1976. Paul Stanley's "I Want You" was a magically delicious opener to what was (and is) THE perfect KISS album. I remember first hearing "Calling Dr. Love" — the dirty guitar distortion along with driving cowbell, and thinking that it was the crunchiest sound ever. But as a naive 13-year-old church boy, I was sorta perplexed by exactly what kinda "stuff" the gal was showing Gene Simmons in the "Ladies Room." Ace Frehley shined throughout as rock's newly-minted golden guitar god, while Peter Criss' Rod Stewart-like vocal charm helped propel "Hard Luck Woman" into the Top 20 — and his seemingly 18-minute-long drum fill on "Makin' Love" still gets me a bit "chubby." But for my money, it's hard to beat "Take Me" and "Mr. Speed."

Alrighty, Privates, Corporals, Sergeants, Generals and all other ranking members of the KISS Army I hope you all enjoyed my retrospective analysis. As always, I welcome and encourage everyone to share your own comments, insights and personal experiences. And most of all — thanks for stopping by!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

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FEATURES FROM
CHRISTOPHER LONG

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3 comments:

  1. Ferraros Top 10...10.KISS 9.Revenge 8.Hotter than Hell 7.Destroyer 6.Love Gun 5.Alive 4.Alive 2 3.Physcho Circus 2.Sonic Boom 1.Crazy Nights

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting choices, for sure. Thanks for weighing in!

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    2. Ferraro says...I'm one of the chosen KISS fans that likes the Singer Thayer KISS era just as much as the others KISS eras

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