Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kiss Army

Today in Music History:

In 1976 'Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975,' a best-of drawn from the Eagles' first four albums, enters the album chart. One-third of a century later it will be pronounced the best-selling album in history.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I've been a card carrying member of the KISS ARMY ever since order forms for the Kiss Army first appeared in November 1976's Rock and Roll Over album. I stuck by them during their lowest period (Unmasked and The Elder) and was still there when Lick it Up came out and it was cool to like KISS again. There is no doubt that KISS has had an influence upon many many artists. In fact KISS caused many of us to pick up that first guitar and start wailing. We yearned to be like Ace so much that we had to have a guitar.

Yep during that low period it was tough to be a KISS fan. People thought that Unmasked and The Elder were so bad that you were shunned if you were a KISS fan because they were so uncool. In their defense those two albums are actually pretty darn good. Unmasked Is actually a great pop album (aye there's the rub) which is not what the fans wanted. The Elder was to be a concept album as a soundtrack to an aborted film project. When the record was put together the songs were out of sequence of their original intention and the concept was lost upon the fans. Again another album that I quite like a lot. In fact my least favorite album was 1989's Hot in the Shade. Featuring 15 songs, Hot in the Shade contains the largest amount of material of any of Kiss's studio albums. Subsequently, the album is also one of the band's longest, with a running time of nearly a full hour (58:39). I just had a real hard time getting in tune with that one.

A personal fave of mine was Creatures of the Night which came out in 1982. By 1982, Kiss' popularity in the U.S. had plummeted. This was due partly to the changing landscape of popular music, but also due to the fact that Kiss had strayed from the hard rock style that had made them popular in the first place. When recording sessions for Creatures of the Night began in July 1982, Kiss was essentially a trio. Frehley still made appearances with the band but had ended his musical involvement with Kiss. Musically, Creatures of the Night was the band's heaviest recording since Love Gun in 1977, and was matched later only by Revenge in 1992 and Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions in 1997. Make no mistake it kicks some serious ass. The progressive rock stylings of Music From "The Elder" and the pop of Dynasty and Unmasked were completely absent from Creatures of the Night – which was, of course, the point. "I Still Love You", the only ballad on Creatures, was still heavier and darker than any ballad Kiss had released in earlier years. The production values contributed to the heaviness - in particular, the drum sound was louder and heavier than on any previous Kiss album.

But wait I'm getting off on a wild tangent here. Regardless of your feelings about KISS, one cannot deny their influence and let's face it alot of catchy tunes. Unfortunately in recent years it seems that Gene is only concerned about how many times he can keep repackaging old material. I don't care though because this band is one of my favorites and love them or hate them a Kiss concert was a thing of beauty. Besides, now that I'm an old fart I could care less if Kiss is cool or not. I likes what I likes.

So it's an amazing thing about the sheer amount of times their music has been recorded by other artists as a tribute to their influence. Garth Brooks, Cher, Anthrax, Nirvana, The Donnas, Foo Fighters and Motorhead, just to name a few, have all recorded a Kiss song. So I wanted to share a few of my favorite Kiss covers today. A couple of these have had some interesting retooling done to them.

Heaven's On Fire by Stars
Only You by Doro
I Love it Loud by Phunk Junkiez
Tomorrow by Pretty Boy Floyd
Shock Me by Red House Painters
Shout it Out Loud by Motorhead

Funny Toon