In time for what they’re dubiously dubbing their “final tour,” Kiss have rolled out KissWorld — The Best of Kiss. Touching on every one of the group’s eras, from makeup to no makeup and back to kabuki, the 20-track compilation amounts to Kiss for beginners. And if an album featuring “Detroit Rock City,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Beth” and “Lick It Up” sounds familiar, it should: KissWorld is at least the 12th compilation the group has rolled out.
Kiss fans are a loyal bunch who will buy just about anything with the group’s logo embossed on it, so it makes sense that no other band in the history of rock has recycled its back catalog so tirelessly. Still, that’s not to say that each of these collections is exactly the same. So here’s a guide to the U.S. Kiss compilations (not counting ones released in Japan, the U.K. and elsewhere) to help you decide which is the right one for your lifestyle.
Double Platinum (1978)
Pro: The band’s first anthology, a double LP back then, lays out the core repertoire from the band’s first, makeup-clad era: the tracks above (minus “Lick It Up”), “God of Thunder,” “Do You Love Me?” and all the rest that excited young loyalists like Kurt Cobain and remain ridiculously addictive decades later.
Con: Muddy, lo-fi sound compared to later collections. Some early-years deep tracks (“Makin’ Love,” “I Want You”) don’t need a revisit in 2019.
Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
Pro: For those tuning in during their facially cleansed Eighties revival, here’s a bit of that pumped-up era (“Tears Are Falling, “Heaven’s on Fire”) with a handful of classics from the previous decades: a decent one-stop-rocking collection.
Con: The requisite two new tracks are only noteworthy for their over-the-top wink-wink titles (“Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “[You Make Me] Rock Hard”). A remake of “Beth” is a sweet memento of drummer Eric Carr (who, sadly, died of heart cancer in 1991) but doesn’t add much to the Peter Criss-sung original.
Greatest Kiss (1997)
Pro: Their 1996–7 reunion tour needed product to push, hence this Seventies-centric comp that reinstates the original “Beth” and rescues one of Paul Stanley’s strongest pop tunes, “Sure Know Something,” along with the standard repertoire (and must-owns like Gene Simmons’ semi-introspective “Goin’ Blind”). Still one of the core collections.
Con: Ace Frehley’s Unmasked rocker “Two Sides of the Coin” is not one of the greatest, and forcing fans to repurchase old material just so they can get a reunion-tour live version of “Shout It Out Loud” is so … Kiss.
The Very Best of Kiss (2002)
Pro: Another rehash of the golden age but with alternative tracks (“Christine Sixteen” instead of “Goin’ Blind”), plus worthy related relics like Frehley’s “New York Groove” solo cut .
Con: The mood is spoiled when we briefly lurch into the Eighties with “Lick It Up” and Stanley’s screechy power ballad “Forever.”
The Millennium Collection (2003)
Pro: Bare-bones 12-track Seventies overview for those who want the makeup-years staples and nothing else. (Subsequent volumes focused on the Eighties and Nineties, respectively.)
Con: As the title reveals, this cashed in on the new-century fad three years too late.
Pro: The best-sounding of the Kiss compilations by then, with (finally!) crisper sonics on the likes of “Strutter” and “Deuce.” Ending the selection in the early Eighties allows for must-hear oddities like the Gene Simmons–Lou Reed collaboration “World Without Heroes” and the steely rocker “I’m a Legend Tonight,” once relegated to a Japan-only anthology.
Con: Why is the Stanley-sung soft-rock wet noodle “Shandi” here? Plus, do we really need one track from each of their solo albums, even if Simmons’ “Radioactive,” complete with Bob Seger shouting along, is still dumb fun?
Pro: Budget-priced digital-only anthology (about $10) with 15 songs from the ’74–’77 era. So pure it doesn’t even include the grinding disco sellout “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.”
Con: Starting with the title, the definition of “rote rehash.”
Pro: A new twist! Four-disc boxed set with each disc devoted to one of the original four members, focusing on the songs that spotlighted him. (“Black Diamond” is on the Criss portion, for instance.) Pleasant surprise: no “Shandi” on the Stanley disc!
Con: Only the hardest-core Kiss fans will want an entire CD of just Frehley’s or Criss’ contributions.
Pro: Fifteen-cut sampler from all their eras that, at least, avoids the usual recycled cuts.
Con: Then again, a Kiss collection without “Rock and Roll All Nite” or “Cold Gin” but with the Eighties arena chant “Uh! All Night,” the Nineties Simmons growler “Domino” and “Let’s Put the X in Sex” is like Kiss without face paint.
Playlist Plus (2008)
Pro: The three separate Millennium anthologies cobbled together, so you get all that music in one place.
Con: Even though the Nineties disc means we get two tracks from their shockingly good MTV Unplugged (one of the best records they ever made), it also means you have to wade through two dozen throwaways from the Reagan and Clinton eras.
Kiss 40 (2014)
Pro: How do you get KissHeads to buy yet another repackage, this one pegged to their 40th anniversary? Simple: pick one song from every one of their albums as a novel gimmick.
Con: Interesting idea, for sure, even it means that “Detroit Rock City,” “Deuce” and other cuts from earlier albums already represented are heard here on later live versions. It also means we get … “Shandi”!
Pro: For a split second, the latest but surely not the last Kiss anthology promises a genuine twist: Since the current lineup (Simmons, Stanley, drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer) is shown on the cover, will KissWorld amount to re-recorded versions of their anthems, as bands like Journey have recently done? Plus, how have they not used the phrase “KissWorld” anywhere else before?
Con: Alas, no remakes, just another career overview — this one minus “Deuce” or “Strutter” but making room for “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “Unholy.” The contemporary lineup is represented by two recent, marginal songs. And give it up one more time for … “Shandi”!