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Reviewed by Will Harris
A second volume of “Kissology”? Really? Surely no one but the most obsessive KISS fans are really screaming for such a thing, especially since virtually everyone would concede that the band’s true glory days were reaching their conclusion by 1978…right? Well, no, actually. It turns out that there are a ton of reasons to explore “Kissology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol. 2 – 1978-1991,” but let’s start with the one that the old-school fans will really be psyched about: the inclusion of the legendary TV movie, “KISS in ‘Attack of the Phantoms.’”
If the title of the film doesn’t sound quite right to you, don’t freak out; when the movie originally aired in America, it was called “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” but it was released theatrically in other territories, and that’s the version of the film that’s included here. Originally pitched to the band as a cross between “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Star Wars,” the movie finds Paul, Gene, Ace, and Peter more or less playing themselves, with the big difference being that…wait for it…they’ve got super powers! The guys have arrived at Magic Mountain to play a few gigs, but while they’re there, they find themselves battling an evil genius who works for the theme park and has created an army of incredibly lifelike robot minions in order to extract his revenge on those who have fired him. The evil genius in question is played by Anthony Zerbe, and, damn, he’s awesome; he’s a comic book super villain come to life. Unfortunately, the special effects used to provide the band’s super powers aren’t nearly as effective (a game of Pong would look hi-tech in comparison), and the only member of KISS to show any semblance of acting ability is Gene Simmons. Still, the camp level is turned up to 11, so the whole thing is still a hoot and a half; just sit back and enjoy the fun.
Only those aforementioned obsessive KISS fans will really want to sit through all of the full-length concerts that are included within these three discs, but what really makes this fascinating for rock historians are the various interview segments. There are excerpts from an NBC special entitled “Land of Hype and Glory” as well as the band’s appearance on “The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder,” along with an early CNN interview with Peter Criss following his departure from the band; the latter is particularly funny because it was done prior to his bandmates making the decision to remove their make-up, so only his back appears on camera! Speaking of the make-up, we’re also treated to the great unmasking, which the band did as an MTV exclusive; they’re interviewed by J.J. Jackson about the transition, and it’s interesting to hear them speak of it.
Of the live performances from various TV shows, you’ll be transfixed by how absolutely ridiculous the band looks during their appearance on “Fridays.” The make-up was still intact, but the hair…oh, God, the hair. Paul’s wearing a purple headband, and when he describes himself in the liner notes as looking like he’s come over from an evil version of Duran Duran, it’s, like, “Well, he’s really hit the nail right on the head, hasn’t he?” A certain percentage of the KISS army will also be enthused by the opportunity to hear performances from the band’s concept album, The Elder, but, okay, probably not many; still, it’s stuff you almost never hear them play anymore (possibly for good reason), so it’s worth it for the uniqueness of it. There are also a couple of videos thrown in, including “Shandi” and “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II,” and while the latter is memorable mostly for being Eric Carr’s last performance with the band before succumbing to cancer, the former is fascinating because the song sounds so darned un-KISS-like. (It does, however, have some great pop harmonies.)
Lastly, while the liner notes within the set’s booklet would appear to be really impressive, when you listen to the band’s audio commentary on the set, you realize that almost all of the quotes from the booklet are taken directly from the commentary. It’s disappointing, but…well, if I might channel my inner Paul Stanley for a moment, it just means that you don’t have to waste time reading and can spend more time rocking! OH, YEAH!!!Damn, that rock ‘n’ roll screaming is hard on the throat. I think I’ll leave it to the professionals from now on.