Kiss - 'Kiss 40'

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Kiss - 'Kiss 40'
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Leaves no doubt that KISS always were, and indeed still are, the hottest band in the land.

To celebrate their 40th Anniversary, the Hottest Band In The Land - KISS, have cherry picked one song from each and every one of their albums to feature original material, or live content, as well as throwing in a few exclusives for good measure. Therefore, not only is every album from 'KISS' to 'Monster' represented here but also, fittingly, is every official band member (and a few others I'd wager) that has ever donned the grease paint, or in the case of Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick bad animal print or silk scarves.

Split over two discs, the first covers the years '74 to '84, kicking in with the Peter Criss led 'Nothin' To Lose' from the debut album and closing with 'Heaven's On Fire' from 'Animalize'. Along the way the likes of 'C'Mon And Love Me', the single edit of 'I Was Made For Lovin' You', the Paul Stanley sung demo of 'God Of Thunder' (originally released on 'KISS - The Box Set'), the Eric Carr tour de force 'I Love It Loud' and 'Lick It Up' (man, can Vinnie Vincent play) appear. Highlighting the cultural shifts this band has undertaken from the most basic (if catchy as hell) Rock 'n' Roll to out and out Heavy Metal (as we called it in the day of the 'Creatures Of The Night' album'), via Disco and in the case of the "interesting" Peter Criss solo track (all four solo albums are represented), 'You Matter To Me, Jazz-lite. Obviously the challenge for the band when compiling this celebratory set was to service the idea of representing every album, while still including as many of the big hits and fan favourites as possible. Hence the likes of 'Hotter Than Hell', 'Rock Bottom', 'Strutter' (although the inclusion of the 'Double Platinum' version 'Strutter '78' softens that blow), 'Black Diamond' and 'Hide Your Heart' don't make the cut. Although the omissions of 'Love Gun' and 'Rocket Ride' (the only Ace Frehley lead vocal is his solo cover version 'New York Groove') do feel like an oversight - and 'Down On Your Knees' over 'Nowhere To Run' from 'Killers'? Really?

However, cleverly, this issue is partly navigated through the likes of 'Deuce', 'Crazy Crazy Nights', 'Unholy', 'Cold Gin', 'Detroit Rock City' and 'Firehouse' representing the numerous live albums the band have released over the years, with three of those arriving from available on the night of the show CDs which have never been "commercially released" before ('Deuce' (from 'Instant Live'(2004)), 'Cold Gin (from 'Alive 35'(2009)) and 'Crazy Crazy Nights' (from 'Sonic Boom Over Europe'(2010))); the good bootleg quality of these trio actually proving to be genuine highlights.

Disc two takes up the story from '85s 'Asylum' album; 'Tears Are Falling' having aged remarkably well, however what with every release being covered we are also "treated" to one of my least favourite KISS tracks ever, 'Let's Put The X In Sex' from the miscalculated 'Smashes Thrashes And Hits' compilation. The other way in which this second disc suffers is from the constant mix of live and studio cuts, with seven of the eighteen tracks being live, whether with a Symphony orchestra, in acoustic style, from the aforementioned bootlegs, or from the bonus disc in the 'KISS Alive '75-'00'' box set. Although having the unheralded classic, 'Room Service' make the cut from the '96 live retrospective album 'You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best', is always a good thing. However the studio cuts, spread over three decades as they are and therefore possibly even more disparate than those on disc one, still cut the mustard. 'Jungle' (Radio Edit) is a a decent response to the Grunge years, 'Forever' (Remix) the best slow number Stanley has ever put his voice to, 'Psycho Circus' still a classic declaration of the return of the original four and 'Modern Day Delilah' and 'Hell Or Hallelujah' proof that Simmons, Stanley, Thayer and Singer cut it big style.

While some of the live tracks included are "commercially" exclusive to this release, the only true '40' "exclusive" arrives on the first disc, the previously unreleased (although widely available on bootleg releases) demo 'Reputation' being a nice inclusion, even if its repetitive nature and similarity in structure, if not exactly execution to 'Christine Sixteen' (which it precedes on this collection), does illustrate why it never made it as far as the public arena up until now.

The accusation that, especially when live releases are factored in, that there have already been more than enough compilations from this band to keep even this diehard KISS fan fully interested is a fair one. However, if ever there was a reason to celebrate the eclectic, classy, irresistible, unforgettable, genre defining music of KISS, then surely it has to be the band's 40th Anniversary. Taken in that spirit this compilation not only delivers on all fronts, it does it in a way which leaves no doubt that KISS always were, and indeed still are, the hottest band in the land...

Steven Reid

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