Released: 2 April 1978
Track List: Strutter ’78; Do You Love Me; Hard Luck Woman; Calling Dr. Love; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll; Love Gun; God of Thunder; Firehouse; Hotter Than Hell; I Want You; Deuce; 100,000 Years; Detroit Rock City; Rock Bottom (intro only); She; Rock and Roll All Nite; Beth; Makin’ Love; C’mon and Love Me; Cold Gin; Black Diamond
Best song: Come on, this is a greatest hits compilation. Okay, “Love Gun”, because that’s their best song ever. Duh.
Worst song: “She”
With the second triad of studio albums (Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun) behind them, it was time for The Hottest Band In The World to release a greatest-hits package. One of the songs was completely re-recorded (“Strutter” became “Strutter ’78”) and a number of the others were remixed. My breakdown is only really going to focus on those changes, and make a few comments about the selection; I’ll quickly gloss over the songs which didn’t noticeably change.
One other note: The packaging of this album is gorgeous. The gatefold cover is in silver (“platinum”) foil, and on the inside, above the track list for each side is an embossed portrait of one band member. It’s really rather nice.
“Strutter ’78” opens the album and is the biggest change. Every review I’ve ever seen by a “real” reviewer prefers the original from the debut album, but I like this better. The chorus benefits from the extra repetition of the title; in the original, that guitar gap feels like it’s lacking something. And the disco-era beat actually feels a little smoother.
“Do You Love Me?” was not remixed (and neither was “Love Gun” a side later — don’t mess with a good thing), and “Hard Luck Woman” is not particularly different from the original, but “Calling Dr. Love” benefited from the process. It’s a lot punchier, though the first few seconds of very low-volume noise are unnecessary. There’s an extra guitar lick after “you need my love and don’t you know it’s true” that adds a little interest without distracting. Coming back from the instrumental break, the original “Oooh, they call me …” is replaced simply by a peremptory “Call me …” command, which fits Gene’s persona as the one who will give the orders around here thank you very much.
“Firehouse” is remixed to remove the siren at the end and replaces the hard stop with a fade-out segue back into the opening riff of the song, something we’ll encounter in “Black Diamond”. It’s a bit of a weird change. What’s wrong with the siren? But whatever, the core of the song is fine.
“100,000 Years” is much brighter in the remix. The opening bass notes have some reverb, so you feel like Gene’s on stage instead of sitting next to you in your dorm. There is a guitar figure badly buried in the original mix that gets to shine on Double Platinum.
“Detroit Rock City” has had the “story” removed: the “newscast” introduction is gone, as well as the sound effect of the fatal crash at the end and the engine noises during the bridge. About 10 seconds of the instrumental break in the bridge is gone as well. That latter cut is not an improvement. If I had done it, I might have gotten rid of the introduction (or maybe just started it with getting in the car, skipping Gene’s newsreading), but kept the crash, engine noise, and definitely the missing piece of bridge. “King of the Night Time World”‘s first note begins before the crash is fully complete, but surely they could have worked that out. Oh well.
“Rock Bottom” was one of the best songs on Dressed to Kill, yet all they kept here is an abbreviated version of the arpeggiated instrumental introduction, which is followed right away by “She”. Yuck. “She” is iffy at best. Put “Rock Bottom” in here, in full, intro and all, if you really need a song from Dressed here. Better yet, skip the intro and give us “I Stole Your Love” or “Parasite”. The only reason I can think for the “Rock Bottom” intro being included without its song is that it’s so different from the rest of the catalogue that it was here just to go “hey look, we can play pretty guitar pieces as well.” Whatever. It’s a greatest-hits album, not an oddest-moments album. I like “Rock Bottom”, but go big or go home.
The only other change worthy of comment is “Black Diamond”. The slow coda wind-down ending has been replaced by … going back into the acoustic intro and the first Paul-sung verse, ending with another “hit it!” and the guitar starting up, so the song loops back into itself. Since the song is the last one on the album, why not just let it wind down like in the original? That’s actually kind of a quirky and cool ending. But the “infinite loop” works well enough, and if we want pretentions of artsy-ness, it just shows … erm … how the hard life on the streets is a never-ending struggle. Sure, that’s it.
It seems obvious to say this about a greatest-hits compilation, but it’s true: if you only buy one classic Kiss album, this is it. Plain and simple. The 8-track version of this album (two tapes) was one of the first pieces of music I ever owned, and I wore the thing out pretty thoroughly. Some of the changes are suspect, but mostly they’re improvements, and as a survey of the six studio albums to date, the track list is overall good.
What would I change on the track list? As I said above, I would have dropped “She” for the full version of “Rock Bottom”. I don’t really care for “Hard Luck Woman”; Peter already sings on “Black Diamond” and (ugh) “Beth”, so did we really need to throw him this bone? If we did, I would have rather heard “Hooligan”, which Peter himself actually wrote and is more fun. But, I know, “Hard Luck Woman” was an actual hit. I also find “C’mon and Love Me” pretty tedious as Kiss hits go; I might have replaced that with “Nothin’ To Lose” or something. Doesn’t matter. It’s a good summary of Classic Kiss. Get it.