Ace Frehley, Alive III, Animalize, Asylum, Bruce Kulick, Carnival of Souls, Double Platinum, Dressed to Kill, Eric Carr, Eric Singer, Gene Simmons, Hot in the Shade, KISS, Kiss Alive IV, KISS Killers, KISS: MTV Unplugged, Mark St. John, Monster, Music, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Psycho Circus, Revenge, Smashes Thrashes and Hits, Sonic Boom, Tommy Thayer, Vinnie Vincent
I threatened this a while back. I threatened that I would do my own ranking list of KISS albums, and here it is. There are a few criteria to this list and I will give some details as to why on some of them. This is my opinion and not based on anything other than my preferences with the albums. This doesn’t even represent what I think are the better albums and which are the worse as far as the overall substance, it’s where I prefer them.
I know there will be controversy and I know that there will be screaming and yelling at me over some of them, especially one pretty low on the list. We’ll hit it fairly soon. But first, let’s go over the criteria. To begin, these are the first 20 studio albums, the four solo albums, Alive I-IV, Unplugged, and the three “greatest hits” albums that I felt qualified (read: that I consider worth a crap). I am going from #32 and counting down backward. According to how long-winded I get, I may break this down into two posts, we’ll see when we get there. Okay, ready? Here we go:
#32 — Sonic Boom (2009) and #31 Monster (2012). As I said in my post about these two last month, I think Monster is the better of the two, but both are pretty much non-existent to me. There are some hits and misses on each but, more misses than hits.
#30 — Hot in the Shade (1989). This was the long-reigning worst KISS album until the previous two came along. It was half-arsed, lacking substance, about five songs too long and, with the exception of about four songs, I didn’t care about any of it.
#29 — Dressed to Kill (1975). Yeah, this is the one that will probably get the most attention and get me screamed at by my KISS-lovin’ friends and “purists” alike. While this album has three of my favorite songs overall (top 15 probably), it also has that song on it. It has “Rock and Roll All Nite” on it. It also has “Getaway” and “Room Service” on it. Neither of those is awful, I just think they’re quite cheesy. The album, to me, sounds thin, and I just don’t like to listen to it. So, there’s the first surprise.
#28 — KISS Symphony: Alive IV (2003). To really even call this a KISS Alive is kind of pushing it, to me, anyway. Yes, it is live and some of it is done with the Melbourne Symphony, but it’s thrown together and while I like to listen to it, it just doesn’t move me as a KISS album.
#27 — KISS Killers (1982). This was originally a Japanese-only release and then was re-released here in the US later. It’s kind of shoddy production and while there are four new songs on this album, outside of “Nowhere to Run,” I don’t really care for the others. The new songs were recorded because Phonogram, the international label at the time, pretty much made them after the disappointing sales of 1981’s Music from ‘The Elder.’ The makeup and costumes are of that same period.
#26 — KISS: MTV Unplugged (1996). This has some great version and I have the full uncut show on VHS somewhere, and it got the “band back together.” I like to listen to it, but it’s not something I listen to often, so it isn’t dislike but disinterest that puts it this low on the list. Not a bad album.
#25 — Alive III (1993). I did like this album. I saw the tour it was on and I loved hearing “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and later KISS tunes live. The sound is pretty good on this, too. It’s starting to get into albums that I just had to place them somewhere, not because I disliked them, same as the one previous.
#24 — Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997). I wrote a review of this last month, too. It was a big
departure from even the heaviest (to that point) KISS albums like Revenge and Creatures of the Night. I don’t know that they could have toured in support of this album, though, as I don’t think Gene could even play half of the bass lines on the album. Nor, do I think they’d want to. I liked it, though. I just don’t listen as much as its predecessors. You can search the blog for the review if you missed it. Just type in Carnival of Souls.
#23 — Psycho Circus (1998). Again, reviewed just recently. I do think while it attempted to capture the old-makeup days’ glory, it missed a lot of its spirit. I do really like the album, but not better than the next 22.
#22 — Ace Frehley (1978). Yeah, here’s the second yelling spot. In September, I wrote about the four and stated that Ace’s album was my least favorite. To me, the solo albums were a chance to experiment and Ace experimented the least. While Paul’s was also KISS-like, Ace’s was just plain KISS.
#21 — Smashes Thrashes & Hits (1988). A good representation of KISS from 1974-1988 (including the two new originals). I talked a bit about this album last month, too.
#20 — Peter Criss (1978). It was a lot of disco, country & western, boogie rock and ballads. But, I liked it. And, I liked it better than Ace’s.
#19 — Double Platinum (1978). The KISS greatest hits album that started it all. Two records, four sides, each loaded with KISS Klassics. Some remixes, most notably “Strutter ’78” which added a little disco hi-hat overdubs in to jazz it up a bit. Some tunes had parts removed and some remixed and rearranged. I wore that record out.
#18 — Animalize (1984). I don’t know that I’ll ever really understand the title or cover, but that’s okay. It was 1984 and that was the going thing. “Heavens on Fire” is still one of my favorite non-makeup songs and “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire),” “Under the Gun,” “Thrills in the Night” were pretty cool, too. There were some Gene clunkers but there was a lot of energy on the album.
#17 — Asylum (1985). The only reason this album gets higher than Animalize is that this album has “Tears are Falling” and “Who Wants to be Lonely” which are two of my favorite KISS songs overall, not just non-makeup. Again, a lot of energy on this album and it’s fun to listen to.
#16 — Revenge (1992). Released after Eric Carr’s passing, KISS went into “heavy mode” to right the wrongs that their direction had taken. The did the same in 1982, yes, 10 years earlier. It’s like they had started to veer and needed to correct. The album is a monster (more so than the one actually titled that) and while there are heavy tunes, there are also some Paul cheese. Paul cheese generally isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that, cheese. The album that the Alive III tour was recorded for, I saw this tour and it was great!
I think I am going to stop here and break it up. I’ve given you enough to stare at your screen agape already. I’ll get back to the rest later this week, maybe tomorrow.
So, just from this, go ahead, Dear Reader and all you KISS fans, give it to me. I can handle it. Again, this is my opinion, not based on anything else. I’m pretty outspoken about a lot of the albums, but I’ve tried to keep my verbosity to a minimum on this. Be on the lookout for Part 2.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Open yourself to me. Let me show you what it can be like. Baby, giving it all that you’ve got. Nothing can hold you back. Some things can stand alone. A mountain can feel no desire. But a heart isn’t made out of stone. Wake up in the middle of the night. Nobody’s gonna make it alright.” – “Who Wants to Be Lonely” (Stanley/Child/Beauvoir)