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Kiss’ Top 10 Albums Ranked

The absolute cream of the Kiss crop

It’s been more than 40 years since Kiss released their debut album, and about 38 since music fans began debating whether the makeup-smeared New York City-bred foursome are rock & roll deities or merely false prophets in platform heels. The induction this year of the band — whose original lineup consisted of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (a.k.a. the Starchild, the Demon, the Spaceman and the Catman) — into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seemed to bring about a ceasefire between the Kiss Army and the band’s detractors, though only momentarily. And so the critical battle rages on, even as the fact remains that beneath the mounds of makeup and masses of merchandising lies a glitter-strewn heap of very, very good music. You want the best? You get the best. Here are the Top 10 albums (solo efforts not included) from the group many believe was, is and forever will be the Hottest Band in the World.

Courtesy Mercury Records

2

‘Alive!’ (1975)

The exciting cover shot alone was enough to put asses in arena seats, even though it's about as "live" as some of the sounds on this concert document. But Kiss were always masters of illusion, and with this 1975 double album they brought all the bomb-exploding, light-strobing, fire-breathing, blood-vomiting, greasepaint-streaked madness of the Kiss live experience direct to every teenager's bedroom, up through their oversized headphone cans and straight into the collective bloodstream. The track list is a veritable cherry-picking of the best tunes from the band's first three albums, with amped-up tempos and jacked-up crowd noises correcting the unjustly limp studio performances that saddled some of the originals, in particular the Hotter Than Hell material. And the version here of "Rock and Roll All Nite," hotrodded with a now-iconic Ace guitar solo, has since surpassed the studio take to stand as the definitive arrangement of the song. 

Courtesy Casablanca Records

1

‘Kiss’ (1974)

Kiss' debut crackles with an energy and exuberance that even the much-lauded Alive! doesn't match. And  song-wise, there ain't a stinker in the bunch (and, yes, that includes the reissue, with the super sugary cover of the Bobby Rydell hit, "Kissin' Time" tacked on). Leadoff cut "Strutter," a Stanley/Simmons glam-pop nugget that kinda sounds exactly like its title, remains perhaps Kiss' finest recorded moment, though track two, "Nothin' to Lose," runs a close second, with a buoyant, bass-led melody line, euphoric Beatles-y falsetto harmonies and the Demon, Starchild and Catman all trading off vox about trying to get in the back door. It's the true "Love Theme from Kiss."

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