I’ve been doing a lot of Top5s ever since I started this blog more than a year ago, and I never did one about my favorite albums of all time.
However, doing a Top5 about my favorite albums would be too trivial and I’m not a big fan of triviality. Therefore, I decided to do a series of Top 5 lists with my favorite albums from my favorite bands. And there’s one more rule: live albums are out. There will only be studio albums.
And let’s make one thing clear: this is MY PERSONAL OPPINION. It doesn’t mean these albums are the most important, most influential or most innovative.
Kiss is probably the first band I ever listened to and was aware of. It was in the early eighties and I remember seeing the adverts for Creatures of The Night and liking those four masked guys. I thought it was cool. Add to that a lead single (“I Love it Loud”) that any children could sing along to – at least the beginning: “oh, oh, oh” and it was love at first listen.
However, Kiss discography is a little tricky: there are those 1978 solo albums. And I must confess, Paul Stanley’s solo album from 1978 is probably the greatest Kiss album ever in my opinion. Therefore I decided to establish a rule on this particular Top 5: the solo albums are out. Only Kiss albums released as a group will be assessed.
Here we go:
#5: Creatures of the Night
I had a huge doubt between Creatures and Revenge. I decided to go with the first for a simple matter of emotional memory. As I said that was the album that Kiss was releasing when I first heard the band. And of course, that blue cover also had a huge impact on me. And obviously there are the songs. Besides the aforementioned “I Love it Loud” (which already showed a songwriting partnership with future Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent) there is a lot to enjoy on Creatures. The title-track that also opened the album is great, “Killer”, “Rock and Roll Hell” and “War Machine” display Gene Simmons at his best (something that was already getting rarer by that time): heavy and intense. The latter two also shows the talent of an upcoming Canadian artist: Bryan Adams is credit on both songs. “Danger” is my favorite on the album, a great Hard/Heavy helmed by THAT voice of Paul Stanley. The sappy ballad “I Still Love You” is OK and “Keep me Comin’”and “Saint and Sinner” can be seen as fillers, but nothing that takes away the quality of the album as a whole.
#4: Hotter Than Hell
It’s actually hard to separate the first three Kiss albums as they were written almost all at the same time – before the release of the first one – hence the release date so close of one another. I guess that for my taste, the greatest selection of those first songs ended up on Hotter than Hell. The first six songs show how inspired and hungry Kiss was at the beginning. “Got to Choose” and its wonderful Beatles-like harmonized vocals, the Heavy riff of “Parasite” (how perfect this song would fit Anthrax many years later), the emotional and deliciously ridiculous “Goin’ Blind” (“I’m 93 and you’re 16”, anyone?), the adultery-loving title-track, the simple and spot-on “Let Me Go, Rock’N Roll” and an underrated Gene Simmons gem, “All the Way”. “Watchin’ You” follows and here’s one of those incomprehensible things: this song went on to become a classic, but within the context of the album, I don’t think is that good. This is followed by one of the greatest Peter Criss moments in Kiss: the happy and cheerful “Mainline”. Then it’s the wonderful “Comin’ Home” which would be forever enshrined in history as “the song that opens Kiss unplugged”. Closing the album, the first time Ace’s voice is heard on “Strange Ways”.
#3: Love Gun
This is normally seen as the album that transformed Kiss in the greatest band in the world by 77-78. It would lead to the classic “Alive II” and a story on the cover of Forbes magazine with the headline: “Kiss: an empire of 9 digits”. There was also when the band innovated merchandising-wise: lunchboxes, pinball machines, pajamas, comic books and the wonderfully awful movie: “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park”. But how about the music? Well, Love Gun has plenty of good music. Opening with one of the best, fastest and heaviest songs Kiss ever wrote, “I Stole Your Love”, followed by another tale of love for a much younger woman, “Christine Sixteen”, (in our politically correct days of today, Kiss would probably be accused of pedophilia), “Got Love For Sale”, and a great Ace moment: “Shock Me”. This is like Ace coming out of his shell. Well written, well sung and with a great solo to boot. “Tomorrow and Tonight” is another Stanley masterpiece spiced with some Gospel backing vocals (something he must adore as he revisited it on “Silver Spoon” on Hot In The Shade and on “Bulletproof” on his second solo album, Live To Win). The title-track was born a classic (and nowadays is impossible not to remember how Stanley used to introduce it on the Animalize tour telling the story of the nurse and his reply: “Honey, this is no pistol this is my Love Gun.”). “Hooligan” and “Almost Human” are OK and “Plaster Caster” became more famous for becoming much better unplugged. The album is closed in marvelous style with the awesome version of “Then She Kissed Me”, one of the greatest covers ever recorded.
#2: Rock and Roll Over
After the strings and polished arrangements of Bob Ezrin and Destroyer, Kiss decided to go back to basics and their favorite producer, Eddie Kramer. And what a comeback this was! It’s clear from the beginning the signs of a band firing on all cylinders, ready to take on the world. “Baby Driver” and “See You in Your Dreams” can be considered fillers, but the rest of the album is made of stone-cold classics and criminally underrated gems. It opens with one of the first category “I Want You”, another master-class in vocals and songwriting by Paul Stanley, followed by one of the latter category, the luscious (“sitting in the back/her head down in my lap”. I wonder what she was doing…) “Take Me”, another great Paul Stanley moment. After this one-two moment of Stanley is time for two bonafide Gene Simmons’ classics: “Calling Dr. Love” and “Ladies Room”. “Love’Em and Leave’Em” is a love declaration for groupies and a song that sadly became a footnote in the band’s history, although it even has a video. It is followed by “Mr. Speed”, one of the greatest Kiss songs ever, and unfortunately another destined not to enter the pantheon of famous Kiss songs. “Hard Luck Woman” and “Makin’ Love” close the album. The first is a Rock and Roll classic, written by Paul with Rod Stewart in mind and sung beautifully by Peter. The latter is another great rocker with another great riff, sung and written marvelously by Paul.
I remember when I watched the documentary Kiss Xtreme Close Up on laserdisc (remember those?) and watched it like 100 times. Of course, there came a time when I knew everything they said by heart. And there’s something that Gene says about Destroyer that fits perfectly with what the album is: “It’s the crème de la crème”. If every album I talked about till now had fillers, that’s not the case with this album. Every song is great. It was Kiss reaching majority and doing it in style. The album opens with probably my favorite Kiss song of all time and one of the perennial Rock classics, “Detroit Rock City”. Even people who don’t like the band very much know this song and can hum the melody of the solo. It is followed by the wonderful “King of the Night Time World” (and how great they both sound together opening “Alive II” as well?) and another eternal Kiss classic: “God of Thunder”, written by Stanley but brilliantly sung by Simmons. This is the album where Stanley starts to really shine as the great writer in Kiss. Those first three songs have his imprint. “Great Expectations” shows all Gene’s potential as well (and how beautiful it sounded with strings and children’s choir on Alive IV?) and the rebellious teen anthem “Flaming Youth” is another gem by Paul. “Sweet Pain” is a straight up Kiss rocker and “Shout it Out Loud” another eternal Kiss classic and a rare collaboration between Stanley and Simmons, with an invaluable contribution from producer Bob Ezrin. And with all this ingredients, the greatest single of the album was “Beth”, a sappy ballad sung by Peter that God knows why became huge. “Beth” is by no means a filler, but nobody thought it would make such success. Last song is “Do You Love Me?” with a drum intro reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)”, an infectious chorus and another one that turned out a classic. How can you argue with a tracklist like that?
Behemoth – The Satanist
Billy Joel – Storm Front
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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