Ace Frehley, Alive II, Alive!, Bruce Kulick, Crazy Nights, Creatures of the Night, Destroyer, Dynasty, Eric Carr, Eric Singer, Gene Simmons, KISS, Lick It Up, Love Gun, Mark St. John, Music, Music From The Elder, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Rock and Roll Over, Tommy Thayer, Unmasked, Vinnie Vincent
Have you recovered from the first half of the list? Are you torn up about it? That’s okay. I’m used to that. So, here we go into the top 15 KISS albums in my preferred order. Let’s go!
#15 — Crazy Nights (1987). Yeah, this gets a lot of flack for being bubble gum, sugary rubbish, but not with me. I loved this album and I still like it. Is it as good an album as Destroyer or KISS or Rock and Roll Over? Nah, but I enjoyed it. I was almost 17 when the album came out and it was still KISS to me. It didn’t matter how sugary it was, I couldn’t hear enough of it. But, then again, I like that pop-rock stuff. So, there.
#14 — Destroyer (1976). Yeah, what is widely called their best album isn’t even in the top 10 for me; barely does it crack the top 15. Yes, it has classic tunes, including one of my top ever, “God of Thunder,” but overall, it just isn’t my bag. Now, it could be that I never had this as a kid on record and didn’t spend all my pubescent years listening to it. I got what I could when I could and it was never gifted or given to me as a present and I didn’t buy it myself. So, it just doesn’t hold the same nostalgia as the following albums did. Now, I agree it is great, I just don’t get excited about it.
#13 — Lick It Up (1983). I talked about this album on its 35th birthday, which is September 18. You can go back and read more if you want. It was heavy and “metal” and that’s some of what made this a great album. It wasn’t about sex, it was about serious rock stuff. It was a great album and I dig it.
#12 — Dynasty (1979). The disco craze had just hit and this is where KISS decided they needed to be trendy over their roots and hit up Vini Poncia to produce an overly-slick album that reeked with disco flavor, and I liked it. I talked about the album earlier this year on May 23, its anniversary. I talked about how I really didn’t notice that it was different until much later. I did notice that “2000 Man” sounded unlike KISS, but the rest of it wasn’t really different. I couldn’t pick out the differences back then, I was 8 years old.
#11 — Creatures of the Night (1982). The “lost” album. It wasn’t lost, it wasn’t hidden away, it was where many KISS fans were just looking over KISS after their disco/pop/art rock debacles from 1979-1981. As with the previous album, though it was a departure, I didn’t notice the difference. The last true “makeup” album it was KISS trying to get their feet back under them. So, until they went back and listened, most KISS fans didn’t know what they were missing. I will say, it is the coolest of any KISS cover.
#10 — Paul Stanley (1978). So, that means that two solo albums cracked my Top 10. This is very KISS-like, but there was something about it that also wasn’t KISS. It was a little less hard as the KISS stuff. Well-written songs and a bevy of great studio musicians helped make this a fun album to listen to. I could see these being KISS songs and not just KISS throw-aways. To me, probably the best of the solo albums. But…
#9 — Gene Simmons (1978). Gene’s album was what I felt the solo albums should be and my favorite of the four. It was the most experimental, had the widest range of styles, the biggest guest list of any of them and still pulled off a great album that was a lot of softer Beatles-esque tunes, groove rock, horror film feels, and Disney tunes. I mean, c’mon! That’s amazing. Way to go, Demon!
#8 — Unmasked (1980). Unofficially the first album after Peter’s “departure.” But, realistically, it was. Dynasty held that last thread with a Peter tune, but this was not Peter and although I could tell the drumming was different (I was 9) I didn’t know it wasn’t actually Peter until several years later. Some pan this record, a lot. But, as I’ve had to tell one person and probably a few others, don’t think of it as a hard KISS record because it certainly isn’t. Think of it as a good pop record. It has a lot of cool tunes on it if you’ll give them the chance. I always loved the cover, too.
#7 — Alive! (1975). What really broke KISS out was this album. The live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” kicked it up that notch. It is certainly a Klassic with the whole album a non-stop punch in the face. It’s energetic and KISS was still hungry. The cracks hadn’t started to form, yet. While it is probably their best live album…
#6 — Alive II (1977). This one is my favorite and yes, I know to call this a “live” album is probably a misnomer, it’s the time/era of KISS that is my favorite. I wish they would have filled the five studio songs with more live stuff, but the song selections that I grew up with was spot on. Most of it was overdubbed and recreated in the studio, but it’s still the live album I go to first.
#5 — Rock and Roll Over (1976). So, here we are in the Top 5. This album was the follow-up to Destroyer and I think it surpassed it. I wrote a review about this just two weeks ago. It was given to me by my Uncle Ricky, as was my first copy of Double Platinum. He was my first grownup KISS fan. I didn’t have older brothers or even cousins that were into or aware of KISS. He helped me. Starting slow, ramping up and just having a great mixture of song styles, this album has it all. It was well represented on Alive II, as well.
#4 — Hotter Than Hell (1974). the band’s sophomore effort was a great followup to the debut album. This was one of the first albums I was able to get my hands on and my mother put up a fight because it said “hell.” As I wrote just a few weeks back, it sounds like it was recorded in an old porcelain bathroom, but I think that also adds to the charm. Some of my favorite KISS songs are on there.
#3 — KISS (1974). The one that started it all. The KISS debut album is the Klassic-est of Klassics when it comes to KISS. From the opening drum intro of “Strutter” to the tape drag of the bombs at the end of “Black Diamond” it really never gives up except for “Love Theme from KISS.” It’s a great album, all the way through.
#2 — Love Gun (1977). The first KISS album I ever owned. The bombastic opening of “I Stole Your Love” to Ace’s debut vocal performance on “Shock Me,” to the bizarre penis references in “Plaster Caster” to the gender-altering cover of the Crystals’ tune “And Then She Kissed Me,” the album has many highlights and five of the first six songs are represented on Alive II. Also, a great album cover, one in which I spent a lot of time staring at when I was 7. And…
#1 — Music from ‘The Elder’ (1981). I have said many times that this was my favorite KISS album and I still maintain that. Though, really, any of the top 15 could probably sit on the top of this list. They’re like kids, my favorite one is the one in front of me at that moment. But, this album was KISS trying to be artistic and gain critics’ approval. They didn’t need either one but they thought they did. To most KISS fans and critics alike this was the ultimate KISS “mistake.” A beautiful mistake in my opinion. While Love Gun was the first KISS album I owned, this was the first CD I bought (along with Hotter Than Hell) after Bad English’ debut. At the age of 10, I was only really familiar with “The Oath,” “A World Without Heroes” and “I” and I just knew those tunes were rocking. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it was what it was, or attempted to be. I think it’s gravely overlooked and deserves a second or twelfth listen if you didn’t like it the first time you listened. But, keep an open mind. Like with Unmasked, you have to be prepared to put aside the KISS aspect and listen to the album as a whole. I love it and while I know it’s not the best KISS album, it currently sits at the top of my faves.
So, there you have it, Dear Reader. I know many of you will disagree with just about all of this list and I’m prepared for that. Send me your comments, but keep it cordial. Again, this is my opinion and isn’t supposed to represent how “good” any album is. What is your top 5? I’d like to hear that. Or heck, do the full list.
I did leave off 19 greatest hits albums and other inconsequential recordings, including the box set and You Wanted the Best You Got the Best with two new “live” tracks. I just felt that the three greatest hits albums that I included were enough. Most of them were repetitive anyway. So, yeah, let me know your thoughts, not like you wouldn’t anyway.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Once I was a fool dreamin’ my life away, and then yesterday I found you lookin’ for me, draggin’ your heart around at the lost and found. I love you, you’re the only one who could make me feel love was smart. I feel you deep inside of me, beatin’ up against my heart. And I found out, I found out, what makes the world go ’round. Oh I found out, really found out, what makes the world go ’round.” – “What Makes the World Go Round” (Stanley/Poncia)