'KISS 40' commemorates four decades of the band doing things their own way'
By Eric Shirley
2014 is a landmark year for the Hottest Band in the World. KISS started the year off by being inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame and announcing a tour that will take them across the United States. Not a bad way to kick off the celebration of forty years of makeup, mayhem, and magic. The group now releases a new compilation album featuring one song off of every studio, compilation, and live album. They top it off with a few commercially unreleased tracks that will get their army even more heated up and ready to party with the band in a concert venue somewhere.
The songs off of their different albums aren't always the ones you'd expect the group to choose for "KISS 40." This just shows the guys thinking outside of the box again. Known for "Deuce" off their debut album, this time we get "Nothin' to Lose." Instead of the title track, we get "Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll" from "Hotter than Hell." "Reason to Live" is the cut of choice from "Crazy Nights" versus the title track we got on past greatest hits collections.
I noticed quite a few softer songs were included on "KISS 40." There's plenty of room in a double disc set to commemorate the sensitive side of the band as well as the red-blooded macho one. Some good examples of this are "Shandi," "A World without Heroes," "Forever," "Beth," "Hold Me, Touch Me," "Nothing Can Keep Me from You," and "Reason to Live."
The real excitement for "KISS 40" is the unreleased tracks. All three of the live cuts are from concerts throughout the 2000s with Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer playing drums. The band sounds powerful and full of newfound energy and charisma. "Deuce" was recorded for an "Instant Live" CD in 2004. "Cold Gin" was captured off the Alive 35 tour from 2009. "Crazy Crazy Nights" is featured from their Sonic Boom over Europe run in 2010.
One track in particular off "KISS 40" raised my level of enthusiasm even higher than it already was. The chance to get my hands on an unreleased demo from 1977 entitled "Reputation" had me in overdrive. The song perfectly reflects what the band was doing at that time in their career. The background vocals are reminiscent of the ones heard on "Tomorrow and Tonight" and "Got Love for Sale" off of "Love Gun." It goes without saying the song was obviously written to be included on that album since the years match up. The lead guitar is made up of the great melodic lines Ace Frehley was laying down at that time. Gene's vocals mirror those of "Plaster Caster" and "Christine Sixteen" as well.
"KISS 40" is a well-rounded example of a band that has withstood the test of time and soldiered on through thick and thin doing things their own way. It features great examples of the band's live performances over the years. The album also stands as a testament to the different band members who came, went, and are still playing with the group. Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick, Mark St. John, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer are all well represented here. "KISS 40" shows the power of a band whose legend will endure for decades to come.