Sean's Kanadian KISS Konnection
KISS Discography 1971-1975

I have rated each album on a scale of 1 to 5 demon boots (5 being the best) according to my own tastes.  Remember, these are my own opinions and should be taken as such.  Scroll down the page, or click on the album title to go directly to the review.
 
Wicked Lester

Recorded October 1971; unreleased
Tracks:
Sweet Ophelia/ Keep Me Waiting/ Love Her All I Can/ Simple Types/ She/ Too Many Mondays/ What Happens In The Darkness/ When The Bell Rings/ Molly/ (We Want To) Shout It Out Loud/ Long, Long Road

***CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS FOR THIS ALBUM***

    A bootleg that everyone seems to have, or at least have heard at some point.
    BEWARE: there are a lot of copies out there and like any bootleg, sometimes the quality can be pretty bad.  The fact that the original was never fully mastered doesn't help, so don't count on good sound quality.  For most people, though, it is enough just to HAVE these songs in your possession.
    Without Ace and Peter, the Wicked Lester album doesn't feel like the early KISS albums, obviously, but you can sense the beginnings of what would become that KISS "sound".  Taken as a separate entity from the KISS catalogue, Wicked Lester does have its moments.
    Sweet Ophelia has that bad 70's porn music sound with the "wocka-wocka" guitar riff.  Paul turns out a good vocal performance though.  Keep Me Waiting sounds like something off of Paul's 1978 solo album.  I'm willing to bet that he wrote this one.  Like She, Love Her All I Can doesn't sound a lot different from the later KISS versions; they are simplify "electrified" for the KISS sound.  However Love Her All I Can has an absolutely dreadful vocal track!  And what's with that hockey arena keyboard in the middle of the song?  It's a good thing that KISS decided to alter this one before recording it for Dressed To Kill in 1975. Simple Types sees Gene take a turn behind the mike for leads.  Pretty bad stuff, indeed!  Most interesting is the version of She found here; it is a cross between Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues--very psychedelic sounding with, of all things, a flute, being a dominant instrument in the mix.  Too Many Mondays sounds like a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young throwaway but is one of the better songs on the album. What Happens In The Darkness is one of the peppier songs found here and features that distinctive Paul Stanley lead vocal.  When The Bell Rings has Gene and Paul sharing the lead vocal duties on a passable song. Molly is another pretty good song; very catchy. (We Want To) Shout It Out Loud, an old Hollies song, has Gene singing lead again on a song that you would NEVER expect Gene to be singing lead on.  A sweeping ballad, this song lets Gene display his vocal talents much like he does later on with 1981's A World Without Heroes.   The final song, Long, Long Road, is a nice ballad performed by Paul complete with harmonica.  This is another one of the better songs on the album.  It could easily be performed today without seeming dated.
    The Wicked Lester recordings really are a must-have for any true KISS fan.  It's like getting your hands on an early manuscript of a great piece of literature; you can see (or in this case hear) what the artist had in mind before honing it into the masterpiece.  The titles of the songs are all assumed; none of them have "official" titles since the recordings were never packaged for release.  Hearing the Wicked Lester sessions is so strange because Paul's and Gene's vocals are easily recognizable yet they don't sound like KISS!
    The Wicked Lester demos will likely never see the light of day officially (it is rumored that Gene and Paul each have a copy of the original recording); then again Carnival of Souls made it to your local store and they said the same thing about it, too.  Inclusion of these songs on the long-awaited KISS box set would be the best idea rather than releasing them as an independent package.  Finally, everyone could have these songs, in their true form, rather than hearing them as umpteeth-generation copies.

Interesting facts:
 

Rating: 


KISS: The Demo

Recorded June 17-23, 1973; unreleased
Tracks:
Deuce/ Cold Gin/ Strutter/ Watchin' You/ Black Diamond

    This is the original demo record cut by KISS in 1973 that lead to them getting a record deal with Casablanca.  Four of these 5 songs would appear on KISS' self-titled first album; the fifth (Watchin' You) would show up on the next KISS release, Hotter Than Hell.  These songs are very raw but greatness truly can be heard.  These 5 songs are some of KISS' best and obviously they did something right because look what happened!
    Deuce is actually better than the version which would appear on KISS' self-titled album in 1974.  Gene's scream is more blood-curdling and Ace's guitarwork really shines.  Cold Gin is the rawest of the demo tracks.  It sounds like a jam version of the song rather than the polished version which appears on KISS. Strutter is sped up a bit but otherwise it is pretty much the same as the official version on KISS.  Ace's solo is a good one, though, and the vocal harmonizing stands out as well.  Watchin' You is also very good.  There are more vocal stylings here by Gene than in the Hotter Than Hell version but it doesn't quite measure up to the final recording.  Finally, Black Diamond is just as good as the version on KISS.  Peter's vocals complement this song like no other except maybe Nothin' To Lose.  In this version, his gravelly-voice accentuates the raw, edgy feel that KISS' music had in their early years.
    KISS' demo recording is truly a quintessential inclusion in any TRUE KISS fan's collection.  It captures the image that the band was trying to convey: raw, hard rock and roll with a truly original gimmick.  I love the early incarnation of the makeup, especially Gene's huge eye-makeup and Paul's rather scruffy, bloated appearance.

Rating: 



KISS

Released February 18, 1974
Tracks:
Strutter/ Nothin' To Lose/ Firehouse/ Cold Gin/ Let Me Know/ KISSin' Time/ Deuce/ Love Theme From KISS/ 100,000 Years/ Black Diamond

***CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS FOR THIS ALBUM***

Strutter (Stanley/Simmons)
(3:10)
Great countdown on drums at the beginning of the song from Peter.  Ace's guitar solo really is the stanout on this song though.  This mid-tempo rocker is one of my favorites from KISS' early years.  Lyrically, Strutter sets the pace for many of KISS' songs that would come after--WOMEN!! Rating: A+

Nothin' To Lose (Simmons)
(3:27)
Nothin' To Lose is a great cut.  Peter's bluesy vocals add a raw touch to the chorus and his drums have never sounded better.  I'm still up in the air on what "I thought about the back door" is all about?  Are the boys saying that if she won't agree to sex you up the old-fashioned way, try another...ummm, route?!  Rating: A

Firehouse (Stanley)
(3:17)
This song is a much slower tempo but it doesn't lose any momentum.  Gene's bass line really rumbles throughout the song and the siren at the end is a quirky touch.  Rating: A-

Cold Gin (Frehley)
(4:22)
For me, this is one of KISS' greatest songs...EVER!  The opening riff, then the drums, then the bass...great stuff.  Gene's vocals and Ace's guitar are the real standouts on this song.  Ace's solo here is one of his best.  Great drum coda from Peter too.  The subject matter of Cold Gin certainly foreshadows Ace's behavior a few years later, too!  Rating: A+

Let Me Know (Stanley)
(2:58)
This is not one of KISS' classic songs but for some reason, I have always found it one of my favorites from the album.  The lyrics are silly, there really isn't anything fancy to speak of...that is until about 2:10.  The band harmonizes "...then you'll let me know-ow-oww-owww," which breaks into a great jam session to close out the song.  I wish the band would have explored this further because it seems like a cool riff that just couldn't find a place.  Rating: B+

KISSin' Time (Mann/Lowe)
(3:52)
Ever heard that old saying, "All good things must come to an end"?  Well, here it is.  This cover of Bobby Rydell's 1959 hit song was reportedly done to fulfill some obligation and it shows.  It just doesn't fit the rest of the album.  Whoever decided to put this on an otherwise perfect album should have been fired.  Definitely the low point of the album.  Rating: D

Deuce (Simmons)
(3:06)
Alright, we're back on track with Gene blasting through KISS' best song.  From the opening riff to the "wahowww" of Gene's bass, no other song comes close.  And the scream that Gene lets out after Ace's brief solo...what can I say?!  This version is unbelievable but to see the band perform it live is a real experience!  Rating: A+

Love Theme From KISS (Stanley/Simmons/Criss/Frehley)
(2:24)
This is a good grooving  instrumental that lets the band's musicianship stand out, especially Gene's bass.  The low-end of this song is definitely its strength.  Rating: B

100,000 Years (Stanley/Simmons)
(3:22)
Gene starts this bizarre song out in fine fashion with the instantly recognizable bass line.  Peter's drumming  really shines here, as well.  Great vocal outing from Paul on one of KISS' forgotten gems. Rating: A

Black Diamond (Stanley)
(5:13)
This song is one of KISS' all-around best musically.  The opening acoustic intro with Paul in full falsetto glory segues into a crunching groove with Peter handling the lead vocals.  Every member gets a chance to shine on this song vocally and musically.  Eventually, the song winds down around 2:35, and leads into Ace's searing solo, a cool drum refrain and finally the slow, distorted fade out.  A real victory for KISS!  Rating: A+

    The one that started it all!  Musically, it is hard to beat KISS.  This album contains SOOO many GREAT songs, that it is easily my favorite album from the band (followed by Rock and Roll Over and Hotter Than Hell).  The hard, raw edge is there and will be found again on Hotter Than Hell before the commercialism and success sets in.

Interesting facts:

Rating


Hotter Than Hell

Released October 23, 1974
Tracks:
Got To Choose/ Parasite/ Goin' Blind/ Hotter Than Hell/ Let Me Go, Rock 'n Roll/ All The Way/ Watchin' You/ Mainline/ Comin' Home/ Strange Ways

***CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS FOR THIS ALBUM***

Got To Choose (Stanley)
(3:54)
A weak choice for the album opener (Parasite would have been my choice) but not a bad song, otherwise.  Definitely unlike any other song in its structure, Got To Choose has a slow groove with an odd falsetto chorus from Paul and harmonies by Gene.  The best part is the last 40 seconds where the song winds down with "who's your baby". Rating: B

Parasite (Frehley)
(3:01)
One of my early KISS favorites.  The rough guitar part makes for one of KISS' heaviest songs.  Gene's vocals really add to this song.  Ace really deserves the credit here for writing yet another GREAT song (and giving himslf a killer solo, too)!  Rating: A+

Goin' Blind (Simmons/Coronel)
(3:36)
Another one of KISS' early forgotten songs.  I love this song and other than the MTV Unplugged special, I have never known the band play it live.  The song is such a departure at this point from the rest of the KISS material that it deserves to be commended.  The bizarre lyrics and Gene's even more outlandish vocals add to some fantastic musicianship, especially Ace's guitar work.  For the doubtful KISS fan, I strongly recommend giving this song another chance.  Rating: A+

Hotter Than Hell (Stanley)
(3:31)
Simple song dealing with more female woes.  The chorus and bridge are great, while Gene's bass and Peter's drums again dominate.  Also, an excellent vocal from Paul.  Rating: A

Let Me Go, Rock 'n Roll (Simmons/Stanley)
(2:14)
Great song performed live by the band.  Quick and to the point, with high energy and a rousing backbeat with focus on Ace's scorching guitar throughout.  Rating: A-

All The Way (Simmons)
(3:18)
The structure of this song has always puzzled me with it's staccato beats and strange intro.  Not a bad song overall, but certainly one of the weaker ones on this album.  Rating: C+

Watchin' You (Simmons)
(3:43)
Simple but strong intro riff from Ace and Gene's powerful vocals make this song one of my favorites on the album.  More odd lyrics here but the song doesn't suffer because of the strength of the music. Rating: A

Mainline (Stanley)
(3:50)
Absolutely dreadful.  Peter's delivery of this song makes it one of my least favorite KISS songs ever.  The song seems poorly structured and it still surprises me that Paul wrote this.  The song is just bland.  Even Ace's solo is uninspired.  Wasn't there SOMETHING better that could have been substituted?  Rating: D-

Comin' Home (Stanley/Frehley)
(2:37)
I can honestly say that I didn't give this song a second thought until I saw the band play it live on MTV Unplugged.  Upon further listening, I realized that this is a really good song!  Rating: A

Strange Ways (Frehley)
(3:18)
Peter's raspy vocal, and especially Gene's crescendo at the end of the song, makes this one for me.  Crank up the subwoofer for this one: a thumping bass groove throughout really rattles your spine.  And listen to Ace's solo!!  Like Goin' Blind, this song is a true "diamond in the rough."  Rating: A

    Released only 8 months after KISS, Hotter Than Hell is nearly as good the first album.  Even though Hotter Than Hell is often considered one of KISS' most forgotten albums, there's just something about this album that has always appealed to me (no, it's not the naked women on the back cover).  The only weak points here are Mainline and All The Way.  Overall, I feel that it outshines such later classics as Destroyer and even Love Gun.  The allure for me is not only the songs but the fact that KISS was a struggling group trying to get noticed.  The sound of Hotter Than Hell is raw and lacks the slick production of KISS' later albums, which for me is a major strength.  It's still about the music at this point; not what the families were taking their kids to see, circa 1978-9.

Interesting facts:

Rating:   1/2

Dressed To Kill

Released March 19, 1975
Tracks:
Room Service/ Two Timer/ Ladies In Waiting/ Getaway/ Rock Bottom/ C'mon and Love Me/ Anything For My Baby/ She/ Love Her All I Can/ Rock and Roll All Nite

***CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS FOR THIS ALBUM***







Room Service (Stanley)
(2:59)
Not exactly a classic song, it is one of the better ones here.  This song explores the groupie phenomenon that the band was beginning to face.  Ace has a smokin' solo and the chorus has a catchy feel to it.  Rating: B+

Two Timer (Simmons)
(2:47)
Gene brings a slow, sleazy groove to this song.  Is it good?  No, not particularly.  In fact, this is one of my least favorite Gene songs ever.  It just doesn't strike a chord with me.  Rating: C-

Ladies In Waiting (Simmons)
(2:35)
This second outing from Gene is far better than Two Timer, and carries on the theme so far on this album of  women.  Ace has a good solo here but otherwise, there isn't much to discuss.  Rating: B-

Getaway (Frehley)
(2:43)
This peppy song has Peter taking over vocals and the result is good.  The chorus is the weakest part of this song but the rest of it has a great groove.  Another cool solo from Ace, as well.  Rating: B+

Rock Bottom (Stanley/Frehley)
(3:54)
Finally we have a song that is not either average or awful!  Ace's two-minute, 12-string intro is magical and as far as I am concerned is one of the finest pieces of music he has ever written.  Once the kick drum begins, this song takes the listener to another level again.  Paul's powerful vocal leads us through one of KISS' most underrated songs. Rating: A+

C'Mon And Love Me (Stanley)
(2:57)
One of the better songs on the album.  Simple with a catchy chorus.  Sums up the KISS formula: Keep It Simple Stupid!  Rating: A

Anything For My Baby (Stanley)
(2:35)
Aside from the opening drum beat that sounds EXACTLY like Rock And Roll All Nite (give it a listen if you don't believe me), this song is one of my favorites on the album.  Paul's lead vocal is the standout on a catchy song that went nowhere.  Rating: B+

She (Simmons/Coronel)
(4:08)
A re-tooling of one of Paul & Gene's Wicked Lester songs.  The opening of this song is amazing.  Ace's guitar work has never been better and Gene and Peter really tear up the rhythm section. Listen to the two of them around the 2:30 mark of the song.  Then Ace kicks in with another solo.  CLASSIC!!  Rating: A+

Love Her All I Can (Stanley)
(2:40)
Another borrowed tune from the Wicked Lester days.  Relatively unchanged from it's original version, this song is one of my favorites on the album.  Listen to Peter's cowbell--nice touch.  The guys harmonize nicely but sadly, this is one of those songs that never really caught on.  Rating: A

Rock And Roll All Nite (Simmons/Stanley)
(2:49)
KISS' signature song.  Twenty five years later, it is still a party standard and closes every show the band plays.  Unfortunately, it has been overplayed to the max and suffers because of it.  Still, the simplicity of the song can't be denied as it's chorus is anthemic and Peter's drumming helps bring the song home.  Rating: A

    With another speedy release (13 months after KISS and only 5 months after Hotter Than Hell), the lack of originality and new material really begins to show.  The first half of Dressed To Kill is sub-par at best.  Only the second half saves it, making this is a decent album.  Dressed To Kill has several songs that are true classics including KISS' signature song, Rock and Roll All Nite, which is still a party staple almost 25 years later.  Though nearing overkill several times during the band's career, RARAN embodies what KISS wanted for their fans: a fun and memorable experience summed up in under 3 minutes.  Unfortunately, Dressed To Kill is one of KISS' weaker albums padded with mostly forgettable tracks. Two Timer and Ladies In Waiting are 2 of Gene's worst make-up era songs.  His singing on Two Timer is enough to make you choke. Room Service and Anything For My Baby are only slightly above average.  This is the worst of the first three KISS albums, but it is still listenable...and not even close to their worst album of all time.

Interesting facts:

Rating: 1/2


Alive!

Released September 10, 1975
Tracks:
Deuce/ Strutter/ Got To Choose/ Hotter Than Hell/ Firehouse/ Nothin' To Lose/ C'mon and Love Me/ Parasite/ She/ Watchin' You/ 100,000 Years/ Black Diamond/ Rock Bottom/ Cold Gin/ Rock and Roll All Nite/ Let Me Go, Rock N Roll

***CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS FOR THIS ALBUM***

    This is the album that broke KISS and made them a household name.  With quadruple platinum sales, Alive! sold more copies than anyone ever dreamed!  Heralded by many as the best live album of all time, Rock and Roll All Nite (Live) was released as a single and the album began selling like mad.
    Deuce opens Alive! with an energy that surpasses the original version on KISSDeuce sets the pace for a fantastic hour-and-a-half of KISS at their best: LIVE! Firehouse whips up the crowd with the siren wailing at the end of the track; Parasite has never sounded rawer; and 100,000 Years allows Peter's drumming to shine.  She gets a real kick in the ass having the end riff of Let Me Know tagged on, coupled with Ace's ripping solo.  Paul's narrative and Peter's percussion gets the crowd whipped up for Cold Gin and it's a real hoot to revel in its 70's cheesiness.  Closing with Let Me Go, Rock N Roll, Alive! leaves the listener wanting to hit rewind/repeat on his or her stereo to start all over again.
    I'm not usually a fan of live albums but Alive! stands heads above the rest.

Interesting facts:

Rating: 

KISS Discography 1971-1975
KISS Discography 1976-1978
The Solo Albums 1978
KISS Discography 1979-1982
KISS Discography 1983-1987
KISS Discography 1988-1993
KISS Discography 1994-1997
KISS Discography 1998-Present
Ace Frehley Discography
Peter Criss Discography
Eric Carr Discography
Vinnie Vincent Discography
Union Discography


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