It was a Fall day in 1977, and I was in the fourth grade. During lunchtime, the kids were allowed to bring in records. I remember back then that I was pretty dogmatic and stubborn. I was stuck on listening to Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” and the other kids hated it. I hated the stuff they brought in just to hate it. One gal brought in Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell,” and I just hated it. Of course, now that I have matured, I love the album. Yes, I still say “album.” I am stuck in the 70’s, and proud off it.
Anyway, this classmate brought in this album that had a dark looking cover with these four guys in poses with nutty looking costumes, and ghoulish looking faces. They looked like monsters to me. I was like “Who are they?” I really didn’t want to hear them. Well, the album the kid brought in was titled “Destroyer” by a band called KISS. Something weird happened though. When the first song, “Detroit, Rock City” played, I got interested. The song had a great beat, and the music itself was pretty good. The kids played the rest of the album, and I liked a lot of the album.
I went out a few weeks later with someone and bought the album, and my mother, may God rest her soul, had a fit. She wanted to know how did I know these people, and all that, and we were going to return the record. I was crushed. Anyway, a week or so, we were at dinner, and out of the blue, she asked me if I wanted to keep it. I said I did. She looked it over, and decided it wasn’t all bad. I played it in my room, and I have been a fan ever since.
I have been a KISS fan for 34 years and counting. I have just about the large majority of their albums, minus the myriad of compilations. I have seen them 46 times in concert, in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In my opinion, they are the best live act ever. Hands down. After nearly 40 years together in various line ups, KISS still puts on a hell of a show, bar none. I have been blessed to have met everyone who has ever been in the band with the exception of Vinnie Vincent, and Eric Carr (RIP Eric), and I have attended countless KISS Expos.
My favorite member is Ace Frehley, and I have a precocious 14 year old beagle named for him. I love and respect everyone who has been in the band, and love all the line ups, but my favorite line up is the original line up : Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley.
Now, when one hears about KISS, one thinks of the bombs, and the blood spitting, and the fire breathing, and the exploding guitars, etc. There are those misinformed who think they are Satanic, and evil. Of course, there is Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone who as long as he is part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, KISS will be kept out of there.
I guess KISS doesn’t sing about flowers and puppy dogs, and cater to aging hippies enough for Mr. Wenner and his country club. Of course, acts like ABBA, and Madonna are in the Hall of Fame. Anyway, despite all that, KISS has put out great albums throughout their 38 year career. The band had several albums sell multi-platinum. The band’s songs, in my opinion, are very underrated, and I think a lot of them stand up today.
When I made this list, I left out the compilations, obviously. However, I did consider the four solo albums, and the live albums, as they were done under the KISS name.
So without further ado, here are the TOP TEN KISS ALBUMS OF ALL TIME:
I will be brief and start by giving you the best of the rest that are excellent albums, but didn’t make the cut.
2. Creatures of the Night: After the “Elder” debacle, KISS went back to being hard rockers, but fans may have moved on.
3. Animalize: KISS was trying to imitate Van Halen or something here with having the ill fated Mark St. John playing on this very good album. I didn’t think he fit the band’s style honestly. Good album though.
This is the band’s eponymous debut album. It was released in February of 1974. It didn’t chart well. However, you get the classic KISS songs such as “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Cold Gin” which was written by Ace Frehley, but Ace wasn’t confident enough in his voice, so Gene sang it. “Gin” is one of my favorite songs on the album as is “Deuce.” I never could figure out what “Deuce” was about. I think Bruce Kulick said one time that the song didn’t make any sense but it was a great song. He is right. I just love the opening , “Get up…and get your Grandma out of here.” Great stuff. The classic song that ended many a KISS show, “Black Diamond” is also on this album.
RANKING: I put it at #10 as you can hear some of the rawness of the band as players, but you can hear that the songs are really good. Definitely get this album.
9. DRESSED TO KILL
This is KISS’ third album. “Dressed to Kill” was released in March of 1975. It is well know for its cover featuring all four members of the band in business suits. There is the unique song “Rock Bottom” where there is that pretty acoustic intro, and then it starts rocking. “Come on and Love Me” is also featured. Some cool obscure tunes like “Ladies in Waiting,” and “Anything for my Baby” are featured. Closing the album is the KISS classic, “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
RANKING: I ranked this album at #9 because even though the band plays a lot better as a unit than maybe the first one. It is not ranked higher because the other albums are more “mature” if you will. Pick it up though.
8. HOTTER THAN HELL
KISS released their second album, “Hotter Than Hell” in October 1974. The album cover is fantastic with the Japanese writing and the whole makeup of the cover. The songs from this album are great. The title song, “Hotter Than Hell,” “Parasite,” (again written by Ace Frehley but Gene sings it), “Goin’ Blind, ” and “Coming Home” are on this awesome album.
RANKING: I ranked this album at #8. Had it not been for a few other albums, I would have put this album much higher, as this album is a real classic. Band is still a bit raw sounding, but the songs are terrific.
7. Paul Stanley Solo Album
Before I continue, a little KISStory shall I say: By 1977, KISS had become HUGE. They were icons. They were the hottest thing since sliced bread. Everyone wanted a piece of them. They were in comic books, and were a merchandiser’s dream. There was KISS this, KISS that. KISS dolls…..of course, it is like that now, but I digress. By 1977/78, all the pressure was getting to the band, particularly members Ace and Peter who wanted to quit, now remember, they were both wasted out of their minds at that point, but anyway, the four members decided to take a break and do solo albums. They would dedicate the albums to each other. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes the band would make, but I digress. The sad part was that none of the members would play on each others’ albums.
Anyway, all four of the solo albums were released in September of 1978. I put Paul’s on this list. As I said earlier, I took the solo albums into consideration as they were made under the KISS name. Paul’s album is awesome. It shows his talent as a singer, and a writer. Songs like “Love in Chains,” ” Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?,” and “Move On” are featured. His solo album is the only one of the four to feature all original songs. Paul shows he is one of the most talented people in rock history, and one of the talented members of the band.
RANKING: I put this album at #7 as I do realize it is a solo album, but it is a great KISS album, and it features Paul’s talents so well, as a lot of the songs on the album could be KISS songs as well. If you love good rock music, definitely get this album.
6. ALIVE II
Released in October of 1977, this is an excellent live album which is really three sides live and the fourth side featuring five studio tracks. As most KISS fans know, Ace Frehley only played on one of the tracks (again due to his substance abuse issues), a song called “Rocket Ride.” In fact he played guitars AND bass. Bob Kulick plays lead guitar on a few of the tracks. Ironically, back in 1972/73, Bob Kulick auditioned for KISS , and lo and behold, a guy named Paul Frehley walks in with the red sneaker and the orange sneaker, and the rest is KISStory. Anyway, the live part feature great live versions of “Detroit,Rock City,” “King of the Night Time World,” “Love Gun, ” “Making Love,” etc is awesome.
RANKING: I ranked this album # 6. I think overall, it is an excellent live album. I also appreciate hearing what KISS would have sounded like with Bob Kulick had HE been selected instead of Ace.
5. ACE FREHLEY SOLO ALBUM
Released in September of1978, this was arguably the best of the four solo albums according to critics, and fans. Ace has a terrible problem with substance abuse (he is currently sober going on three years or so.), and he also was known to be a bit lazy as far as producing music, and being part of the band. This had the other members wondering what Ace would come up with for his solo album. Well, to their amazement, he came up with a fantastic record.
The album displays Ace’s prowess as the legendary guitarist that he is. The album has songs of all sorts of moods, and spawned a hit on the charts, a cover of “New York Groove.” Other great songs on this album are “Snowblind,” “What’s On Your Mind,” “Rip It Out, ” and “Fractured Mirror.”
RANKING: I rank this album at #5 because it is an overall great album, and it is a very influential album for guitarists such as the late Dimebag Darrell of Panteral. Newer fans, and older fans will really appreciate this gem. The album, from beginning to end, is a must for not just KISS fans, but rock fans, and particularly guitarists to own.
This classic was released in March of 1976. The band had just come off a mega tour, and become stars upon the success of their live album, “Alive,” (more on that later) and got into the studio with super producer, Bob Ezrin (The Wall). The direction that the band went into was a more “mature” direction. In other words, Ezrin, and the band were trying to get the band to not write songs about partying and screwing and all that. This album also featured studio musicians as Ace Frehley , let’s say was absent from sessions. Ace didn’t get along with Ezrin either.
The album is a classic. It isn’t anything like previous albums. The production is much more polished, and the band is much more “mature” in their playing. The songs on the album are some of the band’s greatest songs including the song that kicks off the album, “Detroit Rock City,” “King of the Night Time World,” “Beth,” “Sweet Pain,” “God of Thunder,” and “Flaming Youth.” Great overall album. Album sales were slow at first, but when DJs got the “Detroit, Rock City” single and turned the disc over and started playing the B side, “Beth,” then the album started taking off, and “Beth,” written by Peter Criss (for his then wife Lydia) became a huge hit for the band, and earned them a People’s Choice Award.
RANKING: I have this at #4. Great album. There are a lot of eclectic moments in the album. There are so many different songs on this album. It proved that KISS can be pretty versatile. The use of the Harlem’s Boys Choir on “Great Expectations” is a nice touch. Totally recommend. One of the band’s very best. I would have it ranked higher, but I think Ezrin has the album a little too polished. However, a must own for KISS, and rock fans nonetheless.
3. LOVE GUN
This gem hit the stores in June of 1977. This album features Ace Frehley’s vocal debut on “Shock Me.” The album also features all four members singing at least one song. Peter sings a song called “Hooligan,” and Gene and Paul sing the rest. It is a great album from the start with “I Stole Your Love,” to “And then She Kissed Me.” Another great fact about this album is that a then unknown Eddie and Alex Van Halen played on the demo of “Christine Sixteen.” Besides “Shock Me,” the other songs that stand out are “I Stole Your Love,” “Love Gun” (Paul Stanley said that he feels that this song was one of the best he ever wrote. ), “Plaster Caster,” “Almost Human,” and “Christine Sixteen.” Great production by Eddie Kramer.
RANKING: I put this album at #3 as this was one of the band’s best as far as musicians, and song writing. The well known songs are great, and the obscure song are great too. I recommend this to KISS fans and ROCK fans alike.
2. ROCK AND ROLL OVER
As far as I am concerned, this album is the band’s best studio album EVER. Yes, I said it. Totally perfect album. Excellently produced by Eddie Kramer who seemed to get the best out of Ace Frehley, and the rest of the band as well. Released in November of 1976, this powerhouse goes all out. It rocks from beginning to end. There is not one bad song in the bunch. Songs like “Take Me,” “I Want You,” “Makin’ Love, ” (featuring a KILLER guitar solo by Frehley) and “Baby Driver” (Peter’s vocals are fantastic.) just kick the listener’s butt. I just think this is an overall brilliant record.
RANKING: I have this at #2. It is such a great album. I SO wanted to make it #1, as I think it is a MUST OWN for ROCK FANS, but I think there is only ONE album that should be #1……..
*Murmurs of crowd noise.* Announcer shouts: ” YOU WANTED THE BEST AND YOU GOT IT. THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND, KISS!!!” After this, the first chords of “Deuce” get started………
Anyway, Casablanca Records at this point was having a hard time financially, and nearly went under. One idea for KISS was since they had a great reputation for being a live act, why not put out a double live album. There was some doubt considering the finances of Casablanca records, but the album became a hit, and KISS were on their way to becoming megastars.
The album is awesome. It captures the essence of KISS in a live setting. Great live versions of “Deuce,” “Cold Gin,” “Let Me Go , Rock and Roll,” “Watching You,” “Come On and Love Me,” and “Coming Home.” That is just starters. The album is just amazing. If a rock fan wants to pick up a live album, I would start them with this one. One great live song after another.
RANKING: This album is #1 for obvious reasons. Great live album, and it is the album that pretty much putt KISS on the map as far as being music stars. A MUST OWN in any rock fan’s collection.
I hope everyone reading this enjoyed this list as much as I did creating it. Feedback is welcomed, and wanted.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead
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