Thursday, April 17, 2014

The KISS Catalog: Hall of Famers Have a Lot of Material to Sort Through

My favorite band of all time, KISS, got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week, and in honor of the occasion, I thought I'd go back and review the band's entire catalog. Even though I am something of a super-fan, you shouldn't assume that I am not objective. I am. KISS has some amazing albums, and some truly awful ones. I can help you sort it out.

KISS - Kiss (1974). Here it is. The debut album. Barely a year as a band, and KISS was already out with its debut LP. This album is nearly perfect. The material is exceptional, and many of the songs are still in the band's live set 40 years later. Though some may complain about murky production and slow tempos, I think it's important to remember just how green the members of KISS actually were in 1973 when they entered the studio to record this album. Their record company, Casablanca, hired two pop producers - Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise - to work with the new band. Apparently, the band bashed out the basic tracks in less than a week, and had completed the album in less than two weeks. KISS' constant rehearsal paid off, as very little time was wasted with production gimmicks or massive re-arrangements of the tunes. There was no need. This stuff was pretty near perfect. The record avoids an A+ from me only for the forced inclusion (against the band's wishes) of the Bobby Rydell cover, "Kissin' Time." The label president wanted it, and as with most record company executive decisions, it was a mistake. 

Rating: A
Best songs: "Deuce" "Cold Gin" "Black Diamond" "Nothing To Lose" "Firehouse" "100,000 Years" "Strutter"

KISS - Hotter Than Hell (1974). The band followed up its debut a few months after its release with its second LP, Hotter Than Hell. One of the tunes on the record, "Watchin' You" was on the band's original '73 demo, and the rest of the tracks were new. Once again, production is an issue (they used the same two producers again), though it is much harder to overlook on Hotter Than Hell. The tracks sound like they were recorded in a wet basement and were mixed by a deaf guy. Despite that, this album is still so fucking good! KISS was so creative and the band members were gelling so well at this time, that nothing was going to keep this record from being great. Pretty much every song is a classic, except for the title track which seems a bit forced. The band's playing was vibrant and exciting, and the songs had a nice variety of topics lyrically. Though I think nearly all of this album stands the test of time, KISS rarely plays songs from this album in their sets. Ace Frehley still plays "Parasite" in his solo shows, but I can count the number of times I've heard KISS do HTH songs live on one hand. Not sure why. That should be revisited.

Rating: A
Best songs: "Parasite" "Let Me Go, Rock and Roll" "Goin' Blind" "Strange Ways"

KISS - Dressed To Kill (1975). For the band's third album in a little over a year, the strain of all the constant work was beginning to show in Dressed To Kill's tunes. After lackluster sales of the first two LPs, Casablanca Records fired KISS's initial producers and label head Neil Bogart took the rains for this record. While the production is brighter and more accessible (which the label wanted), the band clearly did not have enough time to work on material. This is apparent in the re-use of two songs from Simmons and Stanley's first band, Wicked Lester. Both "She" and "Love Her All I Can" were essentially remakes (drastically different than they were done before, but still). Few of the "new" songs were as good as those. Even so, the record does contain the original version of the band's signature song, "Rock and Roll All Nite."

Rating: B+
Best songs: "She" "Love Her All I Can" "Getaway" "C'mon and Love Me" "Rock and Roll All Nite" "Rock Bottom"

KISS - Alive! (1975). After another poor selling LP, KISS was at a crossroads. Their reputation as a stellar live band helped the band draw huge crowds, but that was not translating into sales. The record company was broke, the band was broke, and it looked like this might be the end of the line. Fortunately, the label was willing to try once more with KISS, and allowed the band to release a live album (which was cheaper to produce than a new studio LP). Producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix), who had done KISS's initial demo, was brought in to capture them live, and the result was an overwhelming success. The songs from the first three albums were so much more exciting and powerful when performed live, that the Alive! album almost made them obsolete. The double LP set was just what the record buying public wanted from KISS. It was a major commercial success, and made "Rock and Roll All Nite" the hit song it was destined to be. This is unquestionably KISS's finest hour and its best overall album. A masterpiece.

Rating: A+
Best songs: "Got To Choose" "Firehouse" "Let Me Go Rock and Roll" "Cold Gin" "Black Diamond" "She"

KISS - Destroyer (1976). KISS's studio follow-up to the massive Alive! record is considered by many to be the band's best studio album. I disagree. The record is quite good, and a major departure from the first three albums, but it is not quite the masterpiece many claim. Producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd) was brought in to help KISS make a "proper" studio album. While his expertise aided classics like "Detroit Rock City" and "King of the Night Time World," his over indulgence in studio trickery brought about some of my least favorite KISS tracks. Though Peter Criss' "Beth" was a monster hit, I just don't like the song. Same goes for "Great Expectations." Those two songs just don't sound like KISS, and have never done anything for me. Ezrin's production generally softens the edge of KISS's heavy sound, and to make matters worse, he introduced the band to the idea of "ghost musicians." In this case, Ezrin brought in session player Dick Wagner to play the solo on the otherwise excellent, "Flaming Youth." Though the secret use of session players was common practice, KISS had not engaged in it until Destroyer. Sadly, it set a pattern that would ultimately bring down the original line-up of the band a few years later.

Rating: B
Best Songs: "Detroit Rock City" "God of Thunder" "Flaming Youth" "Sweet Pain"

KISS - Rock and Roll Over (1976). For KISS's second album of 1976, the band once again tried to capture its live sound on tape. They enlisted Alive! producer Eddie Kramer who set the band up in an empty arena to track the album. While it hardly sounds like a live album, the results are much stronger than the over-produced Destroyer. The songs pack a harder punch, without the sludgy-ness of the first two albums. The only drawback to the album is the lack of songs from Ace Frehley. This would be the second album in a row not to include an Ace penned track. His guitar playing is great, as usual, but it is disappointing not to have his unique perspective on the album. After the success of "Beth," KISS tried to have another mainstream hit with "Hard Luck Woman." The song - written by Paul Stanley and sung by Peter Criss - is better than "Beth" by leaps and bounds, but it ultimately comes off as too derivative of Rod Stewart. The rest of the record suffers no such fate, and Peter's other tune, "Baby Driver" is easily his best KISS song.

Rating: A
Best Songs: "Calling Dr. Love" " I Want You" "Baby Driver" "Makin' Love" "Ladies Room"

KISS - Love Gun (1977). Though a solid case could be made that the debut KISS album is the band's best studio effort, I tend to declare that 1977's Love Gun should hold that title. With Eddie Kramer back behind the board, KISS entered the studio with its best batch of songs in years to make this album. The opener, "I Stole Your Love," is perfect, and it tells the listener that you are in for one hell of a ride with this record. "Christine Sixteen," a moderate hit, comes next and shows the band experimenting with piano and an early 60s writing style (of course it is warped due to Gene's perverted lyrics!). Nearly every song is a winner (with the exception of Peter's "Hooligan"), and I even kind of liked the cover of "Then (s)He Kissed Me" at the end of the album. The real gems, to me, on this record are Gene's "Almost Human" - a fantastic song that comes off like a great horror movie and features some experimental production - and Ace's first ever vocal on his song "Shock Me." Strangely, only the title track and "Shock Me" lasted in the live set after the Love Gun tour ended. That has always been a mystery to me.

Rating: A
Best songs: "I Stole Your Love" "Shock Me" "Almost Human" "Plaster Caster" "Tomorrow and Tonight"

KISS - Alive 2 (1977). After three more studio albums, KISS once again released a live album. KISS were bonafide rock stars by this point, and the production behind its live show was second to none. But a live album can't really capture stage production, so the music has to really stand out and define the record. For the most part, KISS succeeds on Alive 2. KISS chose not to repeat any songs that appeared on the first Alive, so it has less to choose from. Still, the choices were good, and the live versions of "Shock Me," "Christine Sixteen," and "Shout It Out Loud" exceed the original, studio versions. Without songs from the first three LPs, KISS was only able to fill out three sides of music. The fourth side featured new studio songs. Though I like pretty much all of the songs, most were recorded without the participation of Ace Frehley. For one reason or another, he didn't show up to the sessions, so guitarists Rick Derringer and Bob Kulick played his parts. Ace did contribute, however, with the song, "Rocket Ride." This is the only track Ace plays on, and the only one the rest of the band does not. Once again, KISS recorded a 1960s cover song for the album. In this case, they recorded a version of "Any Way You Want It" from Dave Clark Five.

Rating: B+
Best Songs: "Shock Me" "Ladies Room" "Shout It Out Loud" "Rocket Ride" "All American Man"

KISS - The Solo Albums (1978). Five years of constant touring and recording had put a strain on the personal and creative relationships within the band. The tension was massive and problematic. KISS's manager, Bill Aucoin, came up with the idea of having each member record his own solo album and have them released simultaneously. The results were mixed.

Ace Frehley - Ace surprised everyone (including his bandmates) with his solo album. The material was strong, the performances were amazing, and the production (courtesy of Eddie Kramer) was top notch. Ace had the biggest seller of the four and "New York Groove" became his signature song. Rating: A.

Gene Simmons - Gene gets points with me for the diversity of material on his solo album. From Beatle-esqe pop songs to sleazy rockers to covers of Disney songs, Gene's album really runs the gamut. Not all of it works, of course, but a great effort, nonetheless. Rating: B

Paul Stanley - Paul clearly felt he had little to prove with his album. It sounds pretty much like a KISS album with only Paul Stanley songs. That can be both good and bad. Personally, I think many of these songs would have been better had KISS done them, rather than the studio musicians used here. Decent stuff, but only one song, "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me," is truly memorable. Rating B.

Peter Criss - This album is un-listenable. It is garbage from start to finish, without even one redeeming song. If this is the kind of music that Peter, personally, prefers than I'm glad he was asked to leave the band less than two years later. Total disappointment. Shit sandwich. Rating: F

KISS - Dynasty (1979). In the two years since KISS was last in the studio together, a lot had happened. Not much of it was good. On balance, the solo album idea was a failure. To prove to the fans and the world at large that KISS was not breaking up or falling apart, the new album had to be good. While some of it is pretty good, most of it is not. Due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, Peter Criss does not play on Dynasty (with the exception of his awful, "Dirty Living"). Anton Fig, who had played on Ace's solo album took over. The two worked well together on that, and their streak continues on Dynasty. All of Ace's tracks on the record are fantastic. Nothing but solid rockers with Ace's unique take on life. Ace even re-made the Stones' "2000 Man" into one of his own signature songs. Gene mostly phoned it in here, though I do love the song, "Charisma," because it sums up Gene Simmons, the man, perfectly. Paul contributed one medicore rocker ("Magic Touch") and two shitty disco songs ("I Was Made For Loving You" "Sure Know Something"). Despite having a major hit with "I Was Made..." this marks a low point in the original era of KISS. Disco sucked then, still does.

Rating: B-
Best Songs: "2000 Man" "Charisma" "Hard Times" "Save Your Love"

KISS - Unmasked (1980). Though Unmasked was the last of the original line-up albums, we now know that, once again, Peter Criss did not perform on the album. He was more or less out of the band by this time, but that remained a secret for many years. In reality, the band had not really recorded as a foursome in three years, and that distance was glaring on this awful album. For some inexplicable reason, KISS chose to work with the same producer as on Dynasty -- with much worse results. Ace, as he did on Dynasty, contributes the best overall songs on the album. However, due to the horrendous, early 80s pop sheen of the production, even his songs suffer on Unmasked. Paul's highlight is the album's opener, "Is That You?" which has a great vocal track. Besides that, Paul gives us nothing memorable here. Same with Gene. Were these guys even awake when this was being recorded? I sometimes wonder.

Rating: C-
Best songs: "Talk To Me" "Is That You?" "Two Sides of the Coin"

KISS - Music From The Elder (1981). And now we arrive at KISS's most controversial album, Music From The Elder. After nearly a decade of writing songs about partying, screwing, rocking, rolling, and whatever else the band felt like singing about, the boys decided to try for respectability. They re-hired Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin (fresh off producing Pink Floyd's The Wall), and tasked him with helping the band pull off a concept record of their own. And there lies the mistake. There wasn't then, and there still isn't now, a need for a KISS concept album. Unless the concept is fucking groupies, no KISS fan wants to hear it. Furthermore, the concept behind The Elder is so convoluted and confusing that no one can really explain it - let alone enjoy it. Hearing Paul Stanley sing, in falsetto, that he is "Just a Boy," or to listen to Gene sing about some mysterious figure named, "Mr. Blackwell," was more than most KISS fans had the patience for. Aside from Ace's track, "Dark Light," the album is pretty bad. Now, not all KISS fans agree with me on this. There is a small, but dedicated, group of fans who sincerely love this album. Who am I to tell them they are wrong? They are wrong, but who am I to tell them?

Rating: C
Best songs: "Dark Light" "A World Without Heroes" "The Oath"

KISS - Creatures of the Night (1982). After three medicore to terrible albums in a row, KISS was in desperate need of a return to form. The band's American audience had dwindled down to a nub, and despite a UK/Australia tour in 1980, the band had not been on the road in nearly three years. With the sting of The Elder's colossal failure still being felt, the band decided that a return to its hard rock roots was in order. Ace Frehley, for all practical purposes, was out of the band. So, in addition to getting its career back on track, KISS now had to replace its second founding member in two years. This was going to be a serious uphill battle. Fortunately, the band was up to the challenge. KISS was hungry again, and that hunger led them to work outside of their comfort zone. After writing collaborations with a guy named Vincent Cusano, the band took a risk and made him the new lead guitar player. He changed his name to Vinnie Vincent, and KISS soldiered on. Creatures is, without a doubt, the band's heaviest record ever. The guitars were powerful, the drums were smashing and loud, and the material was back to basics, KISS style hard rock. The band had not been this good since 1977's Love Gun. But if KISS thought that simply making a great album was enough to resurrect its career, it was not. Creatures of the Night was the band's poorest selling record ever, and the accompanying US tour was a failure. So much for the big comeback. Better luck next time.

Rating: A
Best songs: "Killer" "War Machine" "Creatures of the Night" "Saint and Sinner"

KISS - Lick It Up (1983). After yet another commercial disappointment (and this time with a great album), the band decided that its trademark makeup was keeping people from giving KISS's new music a chance. So, for the first time ever, KISS "unmasked" prior to the release of the album, Lick It Up. Supposedly, there were two covers shot - one with makeup and one without - and the one without makeup featured the band members wearing the clothes they wore to the photo shoot. The Creatures line-up remains for LIU, and once again the writing of Vinnie Vincent added immensely to the quality of the material. Vincent's guitar playing was decent, but lacked the melodic qualities of his predecessor. When the album was finally released, the band got enough attention from the unmasking to propel Lick It Up to gold status. The heavy metal audience was once again willing to embrace KISS, and the subsequent tour was its most successful since 1979. Despite all this, Vincent was fired at the end of the tour, and KISS once again had to search for a new guitarist.

Rating: B+
Best songs: "Exciter" "Young and Wasted" "Lick It Up" "A Million to One" "Fits Like a Glove"

KISS - Animalize (1984). Though few knew it at the time, Gene Simmons had begun going through something of an identity crisis when the band took its makeup off. He no longer had the Demon persona that he had with the makeup, and he didn't really know who he was anymore. This "identity crisis" led to an extended period of Simmons being somewhat absent creatively from KISS. Paul Stanley picked up the slack and produced the band's next album, Animalize, by himself. New guitarist Mark St John was brought in to give the band a more "modern" sound. Unfortunately, the "modern" sound the band sought amounted to little more than copying the more popular hair metal bands of that time: playing at light speed, utilizing the hammer-on technique, and heavily compressing the sound. Despite the derivative nature of the music, KISS still managed to churn out a fantastic single, "Heaven's On Fire," and Eric Carr's drumming was spectacular throughout. The rest of the material - especially Gene's contributions - were poor at best. "Burn Bitch Burn" is about as good an example of Gene's phoning it in as can be found. He embarked on an acting career at the same time, and had to work on his songs during his off time from shooting a movie. It showed. Animalize was huge hit thanks to "Heaven's On Fire" and the subsequent tour went even better than the previous one. New guitarist Mark St. John was out of the band early into the tour, and he was replaced by Bruce Kulick. This would be the band's fourth guitarist in three years.

Rating: B-
Best songs: "Heaven's O Fire" "Thrills in the Night" "Get All You Can Take"

KISS - Asylum (1985). With two successful albums in a row and support from MTV, KISS went into the studio with new guitarist Bruce Kulick filled with a new found confidence. Unfortunately, that confidence did not translate to great songs. For Asylum, the music seems forced and, once again, derivative of other bands. The production was muddy and the lyrics on many songs - especially "Uh All Night" - are among the band's worst ever. Still, MTV airplay can sell records, and the first single, "Tears Are Falling," was a modest hit. The record went platinum, but I don't know anyone - including the band members themselves - who views Asylum fondly. The tour for the record saw the first decline in attendance in a few years, and began a pattern of disappointment that would last for the next few years.

Rating: C-
Best songs: "Tears Are Falling" "King of the Mountain" "Secretly Cruel"

KISS - Crazy Nights (1987). While some consider The Elder to be the band's worst, and some consider Unmasked the worst, for me, I think that dubious honor belongs to Crazy Nights. After the moderate success of Asylum, the band decided to stop self-producing and work with Ron Nevison. Nevison had success with Ozzy Osbourne and Heart, and KISS wanted some of that Nevison touch. He specialized in radio friendly rock, and that is what we got on Crazy Nights. The album is so sterile and polished that it is very difficult to tell the difference between this record and anything in John Waite or Richard Marx's catalog. I am not exaggerating. The album had a few moderate MTV hits with "Crazy Crazy Nights" and the power ballad "Reason To Live." The supporting tour, however, was KISS's lowest point ever. The Omaha show drew an astonishingly low 2,600 people in an area that held 9,000. It was hard to watch.

Rating: F
Best songs: "Turn On the Night"

KISS - Hot in the Shade (1989). After the disaster that was Crazy Nights, KISS had nowhere to go but up. There is a slight improvement in the writing - slight - and the production is not nearly as polished as the last record, but HITS is still lacking in a number of ways. Since the album was originally released, it has been revealed that nearly all of the album's tracks are demos made by Gene and Paul. Sometimes Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr were present, sometimes not. It is unclear who actually plays on any given track. It hardly matters with most of these songs. Eric Carr turns in his first ever original lead vocal (he did "Beth" the year before on a greatest hits collection, but we'd all like to forget that) on "Little Ceaser," a track he wrote. For some inexplicable reason, Gene chose Dynasty and Unmasked producer, Vini Poncia to write songs with for the album. None of his songs stand out, at all. Equally as inexplicable is how Paul's song, "Hide Your Heart" was simultaneously recorded by KISS, Ace Frehley, and Bonnie Tyler. The song is okay, but it isn't that good. The album's power ballad, "Forever," was co-written by Paul and Michael Bolton. It's terrible, but it was a Top 10 hit - the band's first in a decade. The Hot in the Shade tour became the band's most successful in years, and KISS played its longest set ever...nearly 2.5 hours every night. This was easily the best non-makeup tour the band ever did. 

Rating: C
Best songs: "Rise To It" "You Love Me To Hate You" "Little Caesar"

KISS - Revenge (1992). After the success of the Hot in the Shade tour and the song, "Forever," KISS was dealt a major blow with the death of drummer, Eric Carr. Carr had been with the band for over a decade, and had become a fan favorite. KISS dealt with the death by going back to work. Carr was replaced by Eric Singer, who had just completed a Paul Stanley solo tour. He had also worked with heavyweights like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. For the third time, KISS decided to work with producer Bob Ezrin for Revenge. Ezrin had been behind one of KISS's biggest successes (Destroyer) and one of its biggest failures (The Elder). Another person returning to the fold was guitarist Vinnie Vincent (1982-1984), who co-wrote a number of songs with Gene and Paul. There was never any doubt about Vincent's writing talent, nor about his ability to collaborate well with Gene and Paul. As long as he wasn't actually in the band, they all got along well. The end result is KISS's heaviest and most cohesive album since Creatures of the Night a decade before. Revenge was dark, heavy, and powerful, though in my opinion, not the best non-makeup album (that title belongs to Lick It Up). The band included a tribute to its fallen drummer in the form of  "Carr Jam 1981," which was a leftover track Carr had worked on in 81, but never completed. KISS completed the track and included it here. Despite the accolades from the heavy metal world and from fans, the album failed to sell as well as its predecessor. The tour had the same fate.

Rating: B+
Best songs: "Unholy" "Domino" "Heart of Chrome" "Carr Jam 1981"

KISS - Alive III (1993). KISS made its name on its live show and became stars due its live album, Alive!. However, 1993's Alive III falls short of the previous two live albums in a number of ways. Since the last KISS live album was released in 1977, and it was now 1993, there was a lot of music to include on the album. KISS pulled a cut from Dynasty, a few from Creatures, one from Lick It Up, one from HITS, and a few from Revenge. Though much of the 80s output was lame, fans like myself, had been hearing KISS do some of those songs for years, and thought they should be included. On a personal level, I feel that the band should have used tracks recorded throughout the 80s so that Eric Carr could have been featured on the album. He was in the band over a decade, and should have been featured on the live album. Overall, this is a forgettable record, and not one that comes anywhere close to the standard set with Alive! and Alive II.

Rating C
Best songs: "Creatures of the Night" "Deuce"

KISS - MTV Unplugged (1996). After Revenge, KISS began holding its own fan conventions throughout the country, and performing an acoustic set at each one. Rather than continuing to play the same 20-25 songs, the boys started delving deeper into the catalog and pulling out obscurities like "Coming Home" and "Plaster Caster" for the acoustic shows. The fans loved it, and it gave Gene and Paul the cover to begin looking backward into the history of the band. After a successful appearance from Peter Criss at one of the conventions, the wheels of a reunion of the original members began to turn. So, when MTV approached the band about appearing on the show Unplugged, Gene and Paul used the opportunity to test the waters of a reunion with Ace and Peter. Most of the album, MTV Unplugged, features the band as it was in the 90s. But for the encore, Ace and Peter came out, and the original line-up performed together for the first time since 1979. It was an amazing success, and the fans loved it. The reunion was coming.

Rating: A-
Best songs: "See You Tonight" "2,000 Man" "Coming Home" "Nothin' To Lose"

KISS - Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997). Following the Revenge tour, but before the 1996 reunion of the original line-up, KISS went into the studio to record its next album. By 1994-95, the musical landscape had changed quite a bit, and grunge was among the most popular musical styles at the time. So, once again, KISS sought to chase a trend, rather than create one. To me, Carnival sounds like KISS attempting to make an Alice in Chains album. The songs are certainly heavy, and the playing is great, but the dark subject matter doesn't seem very KISS like. Still, it is better to judge an album based on what it is, rather than what it is not, right? So, I will say that the record is a decent effort by KISS to be relevant in the mid 90s. Apparently, Bruce Kulick had the most involvement on the record, and even has a lead vocal on the song, "I Walk Alone." There is no telling what the fan reaction to Carnival would have been had it not been shelved in favor of the reunion tour. But with all the excitement about the reunion, few seemed to care about it. Somehow, a copy leaked out and fans began hearing it. Reaction was mixed, but there is is no doubt that the fans wanted it to be released. Reunion or not, KISS can't just record an entire album, and just scrap it. Once it was released, most fans were critical. Even so, it is important that it was released so as not to shortchange that version of the band. This is how KISS would have continued on had the reunion fallen apart. Hey, it's better than Asylum or Crazy Nights!

Rating: B-
Best songs: "Master & Slave" "Hate" "Rain"

KISS - Psycho Circus (1998). After the success of the reunion tour, KISS sought to capitalize on the good will and renewed interest in the band with a new album featuring the original line-up. Unfortunately, Gene and Paul decided that the "reunion" album would be better if Ace and Peter just stayed home during the recording sessions. KISS enlisted producer Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi) for the album, after Bob Ezrin was not available. The result is terrible. Just terrible. Most, if not all, of the drum tracks were played by a guy named Scott Valentine, and much of the lead guitar was played by either Bruce Kulick or Tommy Thayer (who would later replace Ace in 2002). The writing is forced and cheesy, the production is overblown, and with the exception of Ace's track, "Into the Void," it sounds nothing like classic KISS. Suffice to say, Psycho Circus was a major disappointment, and set the tone for the remainder of the original line-up's time together.

Rating: D
Best songs: "Into the Void" "Journey of 1,000 Years" "Psycho Circus"

KISS - Sonic Boom (2009). After waiting more than a decade to follow up the disastrous Psycho Circus, KISS finally re-entered the studio with its newest line-up: Simmons, Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer. By the time of Sonic Boom's release, I had already given up on KISS ever returning to its former greatness. After firing Ace and Peter, KISS had Eric and Tommy assume their characters, and essentially, pretend that they were the originals. Some fans had no problem with this. I did. Big time. I have no problem accepting KISS without the original four, but using Ace and Peter's make-up on two other guys is just tacky, disrespectful, and lame. In the studio, this version of the band is tight and stripped down. The excess of Psycho is gone, but the poor songwriting remains. The album is not all together horrible, and "Modern Day Delilah" is a decent single. That's about all I can say.

Rating: D+
Best songs: "Modern Day Delilah" "Say Yeah"

KISS - Monster (2012). Monster is the first KISS album ever that I did not purchase. I just can't bring myself to buy it and face being extremely disappointed again. KISS is now firmly a part of my past. I haven't seen the band live since the 2000 Farewell Tour. I guess Monster could be the greatest KISS album ever made, but I will never find out. Good luck to the guys and all, but this is where it ends for me. Congrats on the Hall of Fame. It is well deserved. Retirement is certainly an option at this point.

There you have it. My take on the lengthy KISS catalog. I didn't pull any punches. This is an honest take.

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