CD Review of Ikons by Kiss
Kiss: Ikons
Recommended if you like
Alice Cooper, Slade, Sweet
Label
Mercury/Universal
Kiss: Ikons

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

A
nother year, another Kiss compilation. At this point do we blame the powers that be at Universal Music, or do we just go ahead and point our collective finger at Satan himself; Gene Simmons? Preying on their devout fan base, the band and their label(s) have found countless ways of teasing the completists. I mean, this is the same band that re-released their first three albums and packaged it as something called The Originals only a few years after they originally came out! Whatever the case, Ikons is a four-disc collection where each CD highlights one of the seminal NYC band’s members.

The Demon finds Gene Simmons doing what he does best…wait; scratch that. It finds Simmons doing what he does second-best; singing songs filled with more double entendres than an AC/DC compilation. All of the usual suspects are here. No Simmons lead collection would be complete without arena rock standards like "God of Thunder" and "Calling Dr. Love," and they appear here early on. Power-pop nuggets "Christine Sixteen" and "Radioactive" also make appearances, reminding us how a gooey vocal hook and a simple power-chord riff can get stuck in your head after one listen. These sugar bombs wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of Sweet’s earlier records. The inclusion of one of the band’s finest yet overlooked metal moments, "Charisma," was a pleasant surprise.

Disc #2 is entitled The Star Child and it showcases the only other original lasting member, Paul Stanley. Like you would expect, hits like "Love Gun" and "Detroit Rock City" find a home here. Actually, most of the 14 songs picked on his CD are probably known even by the most casual Kiss listeners. It would be surprising to not hear "Strutter" and "Do You Love Me?" at one of the veteran act’s concerts. It would have been nice to have seen a lesser-known, Stanley-sung fare like "Mainline" or the stunning soft-rocker "Shandi" instead of some of these bigger ones.

Space Ace is all Ace Frehley. Even at their commercial peak, the guitarist never really possessed the kind of voice that would get the band regular radio airplay. That said, his bourbon and cigarette-ruined vocals carried a lot of character and lent his material an undeniable charm that has aged well all these years later. The proverbial class clown, Frehley delivers his signature "New York Groove" with equal parts Alice Cooper-like confidence and Borscht Belt comedic bite. You can almost imagine him in the vocal booth with a bottle of Jack Daniels on one side and a groupie on the other. "Rip It Out" is the kind of straight-ahead rocker that inspired countless garage bands back in the late ‘70s.

Finally we have The Cat Man, which will hopefully turn people onto some of the Peter Criss-fronted Kiss tracks which have been overshadowed by his fellow bandmates’ work. Yes, "Beth" was a huge Billboard staple, but how many of you really remember "Getaway"? Criss actually has the ideal singing voice for this kind of thing. Think of the gravelly tone of Faces-era Rod Stewart and you’d be close. It can’t be a coincidence that Paul Stanley had originally written "Hard Luck Woman" (included here) for Rod the Mod, but wisely chose to keep it in the family. Most of the stuff on Criss’ disc holds its own, and there are even a couple of tracks that probably could have been hits if they were marketed right. "Hooligan" should have been playlisted on AOR stations in 1977 but it somehow missed its chance.

In the end, Ikons serves as a solid introduction to Kiss’ vast discography, but for fans of the band who already own the original recordings, there isn’t anything here to deem it an essential purchase. With Simmons constantly whoring out the band and his endless stream of tacky soundbites, it’s easy to forget how hard the band rocked in their prime.

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