Album Review – KISS 40
A decent compilation that highlights the band’s extensive history.
Compilation albums, especially “best of” compilations, are a common element of any established band’s discography, and generally showcase the greatest hits throughout their career. They often serve as a premium component of a dedicated fan’s collection and provide new listeners with a convenient place to listen to the band’s best music. However, the inherent subjectivity of what music constitutes a band’s best work, as well as the argument that compilation albums are a lazy way of reselling material that is already commercially available, has led to some criticism of the concept.
KISS is very familiar with compilation albums, having released 14 over their storied career, as well as 8 box sets, and the frequency of these releases and similar tracklists has led to growing fan backlash. This argument is subverted by their 2014 album, KISS 40. Featuring 40 tracks to represent the (then) 40 years of the band’s glittering career, the 2-disc album provides a wide spread of music and takes the listener on a journey throughout the progression of the KISS sound. This is achieved by utilising a “one album, one song” rule, in that every single album in the KISS catalogue is represented by one song. This includes live albums, previous compilation albums, and all four of the founding members’ 1978 solo albums. As a bonus, the album also features the track “Reputation”, a previously unreleased song written by bassist Gene Simmons, which acts as the only new material on the record.
The concept is not without its drawbacks, however. While albums towards the latter half of KISS’ discography generally feature a definite stand out hit, earlier albums such as Hotter Than Hell (1974), Dressed to Kill(1975), and Destroyer (1976), are all critically acclaimed and feature some of the best songs KISS have ever released, and only taking one song from each album results in well-known hits missing out, such as “Love Gun”, “Black Diamond”, “Flaming Youth”, “Calling Dr. Love”, and “Shock Me”, just to name a few. The other notable flaw in the album’s concept is that the inclusion of songs from albums that were not well received, and some that were critically panned, leads to obvious filler and subpar tracks. Songs like “Let’s Put the X in Sex”, “Room Service”, and “A World Without Heroes”, have no place on a “best of” album but all find themselves on KISS 40to make up the numbers.
Overall, KISS 40 is a positive addition to KISS’ extensive discography. Despite the flaws in its unique concept, the opportunity to hear underappreciated tracks that have been overshadowed throughout the band’s history alongside the more well-known and successful hits is well worth the purchase price. KISS 40 may well go down as the best compilation album in KISS-tory, and at the very least it provides a welcome break from compilation albums featuring the more of the same tracks.