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by antiGUY

WARNING:  This is more in the form of a rant than a review, just so you know going in. -aG

Last month ScottVile looked at the latest “greatest hits” installment from Aerosmith, a band that doesn’t shy away from repackaging their music into new compilations, throwing a new cover on it and hoping people will buy it, even though they probably already have most of the songs on other greatest hits CD’s.  

KISS has taken that to a new low, and are utterly shameless about it. Since the original members regrouped, KISS has put out one “greatest hits” compilation after another. One “you wanted the best…” was only half filled with music, the other half was an interview with Jay Leno, which might be cool for a fan to hear once or twice but how many times can you replay an interview and keep your interest? 

KISS plays this new compilation off by saying it covers their entire career. True, it does but it’s hardly the “Very Best of KISS”. If you’re a diehard fan, chances are you already own the Box Set and won’t need this CD. This might make a good introduction to KISS’s music to a new fan but the other “greatest hits” CD’s do as well. There is really no apparent reason to release this CD except to sell a few thousand extra CD’s. 

Ok, we know that KISS wants to make their money and there were quite a few lean years for Gene and Paul during the 80’s. Not to mention the fact that their management signed away their merchandising in their heyday of the 70’s for a song, the band got very little out of that gold mine. So chalk it up to lessons learned and this time around Gene and Paul weren’t going to make the same mistakes, they were gonna milk regrouping and putting the makeup back on for all it is worth… and then some. In a way it is fitting, KISS has always been over the top and well releasing one greatest hits package after another is pretty over the top. Let’s not get into all of the new merchandising schemes they have gotten into since they put the makeup back on… KISS condoms or KISS Kaskets anyone?  No, what about a KISS car?  

I’ll admit it, I was a huge KISS fan growing up. I was just a kid when my cousin took me to see KISS on their last tour in makeup (“War Machine Tour” for the “Creatures of the Night” album). They fired my young imagination and did help get me into rock music and made me a devote follower. After that concert I went to the used record store and snatched up every KISS record I could find. “Destroyer” became a favorite. 

I was watching when they revealed themselves for the first time without makeup on MTV and debuted the video for “Lick It Up” (still one of my favorite KISS albums). To my eleven year-old eyes they were more than a rock band, they were bigger than life, sure part of it was the music but another part was the whole image, the whole KISSness of it all. Unless you’ve been there you won’t know what it’s like but I was a devote recruit in the KISS Army and remained one for years, always longing for the day they would reunite with Peter and Ace and put the make-up back on. During those years they released several albums and no longer having the image to fall back on, they had to really deliver with the music and contrary to popular opinion they did come out with some great music through the years.  I don’t care who well conceived your image is, you don’t stick around in rock n roll for 30 years on image alone.

I got older and my taste in music broadened but part of me still loved KISS. When they released “Revenge”, I thought this is it the ultimate KISS line-up, the ultimate KISS album. But it would be some years before we got a follow-up studio album. In the meantime grunge happened and something that many diehard KISS fans had hoped for finally came to pass; the original members of KISS regrouped, put on the makeup and went out on tour in full KISS glory. I saw several shows on that tour and it was great, it lived up to my years of expectations and then some. It was like going back in time and in my mid twenties, some of the spirit of youth had been replaced with responsibility and growing up and seeing KISS again like that was a way to tap into that youthful dream you have of playing air guitar in your bedroom with your mom pounding on the door, yelling to turn down that noise.  

If they would have quit there, I think my enthusiasm would still be intact. But it was several things that really turned me against the “modern” KISS. One was hearing the studio album they planned to put out before they regrouped. KISS has always been a band that followed the trends in rock but hearing them do Alice in Chains type songs was a bit too much. Then they did an album supposedly with all four original members (rumor has it studio hacks were actually involved). That album which had such promise, was really disappointing. They repeated one of their mistakes from the past, wrapped an album around a concept. Although, the first time they did this with “The Elder” the music was actually pretty good, not just KISS. With “Pycho Circus” they went with the theme of a comic book series and the music was predictably mediocre. The title track was classic KISS but the rest of the album seemed to be missing the old spark and magic, sort of like they were doing it by the numbers and just threw it together.  A tour followed and another greatest hits package. Then the band announced they were retiring and doing one final tour. So I went and had a blast at the shows. Say what you want about KISS, they do put on one hell of a show. But then the retirement never happened. Peter Criss left the group and they carried on with Eric Singer wearing Peter’s makeup. That didn’t seem right, before they would give the new member their own make up, like when Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent joined the band. Then they started appearing in concert with someone else in Ace’s makeup. All of these things, coupled with the over the top merchandising, the admission that hey we aren’t retiring, kind of killed the magic of it all for me. Maybe I’ve outgrown my childhood heroes and finally see them without all the varnish, for what they are; normal human beings doing a job but they were never just another band and now they are destroying their legacy, even with some diehard fans. 

This CD is just the icing on the cake. I don’t begrudge KISS their success and wanting to make money but come on guys give us something new. Give us something that we can believe in, don’t just mine your catalog yet again, slap a new cover on it and put out yet another greatest hits collection. 

If you are gonna do a compilation, don’t do the predictable thing, why not put out a compilation of the non-hits, or the forgotten hits? They did partially here, so that is one thing in favor of this CD because is it does include some songs that have been ignored since “Double Platinum”; KISS classics like “I Want You”, “Got to Choose” and “C'mon And Love Me”. But some of the songs here are the exact same tracks that are on virtually all the compilations, “Callin Dr. Love”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Deuce”, “Beth”, “Strutter”, “Detroit Rock City”, need I go on?  Why not more of the other songs? “Magic Touch”, “Sweet Pain”, “Under The Rose”,  “100,000 Years”, “Mainline”, “Rock Bottom”, “Take Me”, “Makin' Love”, “Naked City”, “Odyssey”, “Charisma”. There are tons of old school songs that could make up a cool compilation. You can even take a few tracks from the solo albums, like Paul’s “Tonight You Belong To Me”, “Move On” “Take Me Away (Together As One)”. Ace’s “Fractured Mirror” and “Rip It Out”. Gene’s “Radio Active”, “See You Tonight” and “Mr. Make Believe”. Peter’s “I Can't Stop the Rain” and “Don’t You Let Me Down”.   

What about the four songs from “Killers” that were never released in the U.S.?  

From the unmasked days, what about  “Reason to Live”, “King of the Mountain”, “Secretly Cruel”, “Thrills In The Night “, “Every time I Look At You”, “Rise To It”, “Take it Off”, “Tears Are Fallin”, “Heart Of Chrome”, “I Just Wanna”, “Hide Your Heart”, “You Love Me To Hate You”, “Million to One”, “All Hell’s Breaking Loose”, “I've Had Enough (Into The Fire)”, there are plenty of great songs to choose from, there is no reason to repackage the same songs over and over again. Most fans have these songs and those who want them can find them on any number of compilations, why not put together a compilation that shows more of the group’s musical history aside from the same predictable tunes? If you did that then maybe people would have a reason to pick up a new KISS compilation. As it stands, this one doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the last Greatest Hits CD, so there really is no reason to buy it. 

CD Info 

KISS - Very Best Of Kiss
Label: Universal
Got To Choose 
Hotter Than Hell 
C'mon And Love Me 
Rock And Roll All Night 
Detroit Rock City 
Shout It Out Loud 
I Want You 
Calling Dr. Love 
Hard Luck Woman 
I Stole Your Love 
Christine Sixteen 
Love Gun 
New York Groove 
I Was Made For Lovin' You 
I Love It Loud 
Lick It Up 
God Gave Rock & Roll To You II
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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