KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout

KISS 'Unplugged' Still Rocks All Night

(Album Review, March 1996)

The Times Leader
March 8, 1996

By Alan K. Stout
Times Leader Staff Writer

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Wait a second here.


They're synonymous with PLUGGED. Loud, grinding, in-your-face,get-the-hell-out-of-the-way-or-we'll-crush-you-like-an-insect-PLUGGED.

Yet despite the notion that these hard-rock legends conjure up images of Marshall stacks and pyrotechnics - rather than sitting stools and acoustic guitars - the group once billed as "The Loudest Band In The World" has decided to strip down and release 15 classics and favorites in an unplugged format.

The reason: The filming of "KISS - MTV Unplugged" last summer.

The result: Cool stuff.

Digging up and brushing off such nuggets as "Comin' Home" and "Goin' Blind," KISS has shown an irreverence to showcasing the "big hits only" and storms through such gems as "Rock Bottom" and "Domino" with the fever of a hungry young act.

"Sure Know Something," a minor hit from 1979, serves as one of the disc's highlights, and Gene Simmons' "See You Tonight" - an apparent ode to The Beatles - is a welcome and pleasant surprise.

Two long - although very good - Paul Stanley ballads, "I Still Love You" and "Every Time I Look at You," appear back-to-back on the album, slowing down the pace a bit too much. But things get cooking again when original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss pop in for the original four's first on-stage reunion in 15 years. Burning through a cover of The Stones' "2000 Man" and a beautiful version of their own classic, "Beth," the original KISS reunion alone makes this disc worth picking up.

The record ends when six past and present KISS members join together on stage, cranking out a rollicking version of "Nothin' To Lose" and the perennial fan-favorite "Rock And Roll All Nite."

Rumor has it that this supposedly one-time reunion may soon lead to bigger and even better things, such as a concert tour this summer. And the "Unplugged" program and subsequent CD show that even MTV may finally have a clue. (I'm surprised they were able to squeeze in some music between game shows, cartoons and volleyball matches). Although MTV has always been fairly supportive of the band, having KISS perform on "Unplugged" shows promise for the once-focused but now usually awful network, which has seen fit to produce "Rockumentaries" on a slew of overnight sensations yet has failed to do so on KISS, arguably the most successful American rock act of all time.

Could Rolling Stone and commercial FM radio be the next to embrace KISS?

Who cares?

KISS has sold 75 million albums worldwide, and despite gaining little support from the mainstream press or radio, has earned 20 U.S. gold records - more than any American group in history.

"MTV Unplugged" should easily make it 21.

Editor's note: "KISS - MTV Unplugged" will be released on CD and cassette on Tuesday, March 12. MTV will re-broadcast the TV special that evening at 9 p.m.