It's no secret that KISS' popularity was solidified by their live albums, particularly 1975's Alive!, and their live shows. Full of electricity, smoke, fireworks, theatrics, and tongue-in-cheek tunes, KISS worked their lives shows as if each one was their last.
When the popular 1990's MTV series Unplugged, where popular acts were stripped of their electronic equipment and played acoustic sets, announced that the hottest band in the world would be performing on their show, I have to admit that I had my doubts. How exactly would KISS sound without the electric guitars, pounding bass, and all of their signature fireworks? The planet was about to find out.
On August 9, 1995, KISS took the stage and surprised not just their fans, but the entire world when they turned in one of the best performances of the entire Unplugged run. Instead of leaning on KISS live show standards such as Shout It Out Loud, I Was Made For Lovin' You, Lick It Up, and Detroit Rock City, the band picked tunes that your average listener might not recognize and hardcore KISS fans hadn't heard in a long time. The result was an excellent acoustic hard rock show that captured the power of the individual songs and the band members themselves.
The actual show incorporated more songs than the Unplugged disc, but the CD comes packed with fifteen wonderful KISS tracks that are sure to please not only the KISS crowd, but people who appreciate acoustic music in general.
The album opens with Comin' Home, an upbeat rocker originally from Hotter Than Hell. Paul Stanley's vocals sound wonderful, and the band (consisting of the then current lineup of Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, and Bruce Kulick) never sounded tighter.
From this point on, the band hits the audience with excellent acoustic renditions of some of their lesser know tracks and a couple of obvious ones as well.
With Plaster Caster off of Love Gun, Gene's bass pushes the tune along. As sleazy as this track is, it fits perfectly into this acoustic set.
The twisted breakup tune Goin' Blind, another Hotter Than Hell track, about a ninety-three year old man wanting to cut ties with his sixteen year old lover, sounds even better than Plaster Caster in this setting. Of particular excellence is Bruce Kulick's guitar solo.
The epic Destroyer album, which is quite possibly KISS' greatest studio album, is represented by two songs in this acoustic set. The first song off of that album to be played is a personal favorite of mine, Do You Love Me? The song sounds great and loses none of its original electricity.
Another studio album favorite of mine, Sure Know Something, from 1979's Dynasty, is also featured on this album. I love this version of the song. In fact, I might go as far as to say that this version is my favorite.
KISS ventures into their 90's tunes with Revenge's Domino and the ballad Every Time I Look At You. Domino is quite possibly one of KISS' dirtiest tracks (and that's saying a lot), and it gets an excellent bluesy acoustic treatment here.
Other albums represented in this set include Creatures Of The Night, Music From The Elder (which seems like an odd choice but actually works here), and, of course, KISS.
After perusing some great lesser known tracks in their catalogue, KISS then drops a huge surprise on the crowd by bringing out original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Ace sings Dynasty's 2000 Man and Peter belts out Beth. Then Eric Singer and Peter Criss double up on an excellent rendition of KISS' Nothin' To Lose.
So what song closes out an acoustic KISS concert? The same song that closes out every KISS concert, Dressed To Kill's Rock And Roll All Nite! Gene starts off the track by singing the first two verses and then after the chorus, Ace and Peter split the next pair of verses. While there are no explosions or flaming guitars by the end of the tune, the song is no bombastic in its stripped down acoustic version.
There are very few KISS albums that I would recommend to non-KISS fans that aren't greatest hits packages, but I have to say that if any album deserves a listen from non-fans, Unplugged is definitely the one. It would become the concert that triggered KISS' successful farewell tour with the orignal lineup and spark interest in the band once again, proving that great bands always come back for more.
Here's the track listing by song and original album:
1. Comin' Home - Hotter Than Hell 2. Plaster Caster - Love Gun 3. Goin' Blind - Hotter Than Hell 4. Do You Love Me? - Destroyer 5. Domino - Revenge 6. Sure Know Something - Dynasty 7. A World Without Heroes - Music From The Elder 8. Rock Bottom - Dressed To Kill 9. See You Tonight - Gene Simmons 10. I Still Love You - Creatures Of The Night 11. Every Time I Look At You - Revenge 12. 2,000 Man - Dynasty 13. Beth - Destroyer 14. Nothin' To Lose - KISS 15. Rock And Roll All Nite - Dressed To Kill
Pros: You get to hear the musical ability of this band. Cons: Why do they ever let Ace sing? The Bottom Line: A great band, a great concert idea...It could not help but be good!! You have to give these guys their due. Rocking for the past zillion years, they have continuously been able to produce great rock and roll! Yes, they have had their ups and downs. But through it all, the band has stayed true to itself...and it's music. … more
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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MTV UNPLUGGED was recorded live as part of MTV's "Unplugged" television series. Kiss: Paul Stanley (vocals, acoustic guitar); Gene Simmons (vocals, acoustic bass); Eric Singer (vocals, drums); Bruce Kulick (acoustic guitar). Additional personnel includes: Jon Grindstaff (conductor, arranger); Ace Frehley (vocals, acoustic guitar); Peter Criss (vocals, drums); Phil Ashley (piano). Recorded live at Sony Music Studios, New York, New York. Personnel: Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley (vocals, guitar); Peter Criss (vocals, drums); Gene Simmons (vocals); Jon Grindstaff (strings); Phillip Ashley (piano); Eric Singer (drums). Recording information: 1996. Director: Joe Perota. Editors: Tat; Ralph. Never given their due by critics but loved by legions of fans, Kiss have become accepted in rock folklore partly because of their ability to write fun songs about groupies, sex and the glamour of being a rock star, without coming off as pretentious louts. These topics get revisited on MTV UNPLUGGED, with the added bonus of prod... Song List: Disc 1 1. Comin Home 2. Plaster Caster 3. Goin' Blind 4. Do You Love Me 5. Domino 6. Sure Know Something 7. World Without Heroes, A 8. Rock Bottom 9. See You Tonight 10. I Still Love You 11. Every Time I Look at You 12. 2000 Man 13. Beth 14. Nothin' to Lose 15. Rock and Roll All Nite