The Box Set

by: Kiss

Longtime Kiss fans have come to expect things done on a grand scale by their masked heroes, and everyone's favorite rock & roll merchandising machine doesn't disappoint with their 2001 anthology, Box Set. Clocking in at a hefty six hours (that's a 94-song track listing of demos, rarities, hits, album tracks, and live material crammed onto five discs), the set comes in three different configurations, the first being a modestly priced, standard seven-by-11-inch box, the second a replica guitar case version, and the third (and most costly) gold premium edition, which features a larger case and additional gadgets. All three sets come with a 120-page color book, including track-by-track commentary mostly by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (a little more insight from Ace Frehley and Peter Criss wouldn't have hurt) and a biography by Jeff Kitts. While some fans voiced displeasure about the absence of certain rarities (most notably the holy grail of all Kiss collectors, several songs that Eddie and Alex Van Halen demoed with Gene Simmons back in 1977) and that this is the umpteenth time the group has recycled their renowned anthems for a compilation, Box Set ultimately delivers. For the most part (give or take a track or two), each disc chronicles a certain time period of the band. Disc one features the pre-Kiss years up to 1975, disc two features 1975-1977, disc three features 1977-1982, disc four features 1983-1990, and disc five features 1991-2000. Included are demos of such Kiss classics as "Strutter," "Deuce," "God of Thunder," and "Love Gun," as well as demos of tracks that never made it to any of their albums: "Doncha Hesitate," "Mad Dog," and "Love Is Blind," among others. But it doesn't end there; you'll also find tracks by the pre-Kiss group Wicked Lester (including an almost unrecognizable version of "She," a song Kiss would later re-record themselves) and a live take of the oft-overlooked Ace Frehley gem "Talk to Me," plus an unreleased Kiss version of "It's My Life" (the song was only previously available on an obscure Wendy O. Williams solo album) from their final studio album, 1998's Psycho Circus. The balance between the obscure and the well-known is tempered out with the inclusion of such scream-along arena rockers as "Black Diamond," "Do You Love Me," "Detroit Rock City," "Rock and Roll All Nite," and "I Love it Loud," as well as spotlighting such underrated album tracks as "Strange Ways," "Parasite," "Goin' Blind," "Larger Than Life," "Sure Know Something," and "War Machine." Although the quality of the material begins to dip on the last two discs (both focus primarily on the group's wishy-washy unmasked era, when Simmons and Stanley were the only two original members left), there's a little something for each Kiss fan to sink their teeth into on Box Set.' ~ Greg Prato

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