KISS has sold over 100 million albums since their self-titled debut album first arrived in 1974. Even putting aside the numerous compilation sets, solo albums and instant live albums, deciding upon the the best Kiss albums can be a daunting challenge given their massive back catalog which includes 20 studio albums and 8 live albums. Let's take a look at 7 of the best albums recorded by KISS over the course of their 45 year career.
7. Rock and Roll Over
KISS enlisted the talents of famed producer and engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Santana) for their fifth studio album. The 1976 release has a heavier sound than its predecessor - 1975's Destroyer – but failed to perform quite as well commercially. The lead single “Hard Luck Woman” managed to crack the top 20 and the follow up single “Calling Dr. Love” went on to became a setlist mainstay.
6. Love Gun
KISS maintained a harder edged sound, tapping Kramer once again for their 1976 studio album Love Gun. It proved to be the legendary New York rocker's highest charting album to date, climbing to No. 4 on the U.S. pop albums chart before the band made a questionable jump to a disco sound on 1979's Dynasty. Ex-Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley made his lead vocal debut on the track “Shock Me” and the album's title-track has turned into a setlist regular.
5. Hotter than Hell
KISS' 1974 sophomore outing suffers from a low budget and production that doesn't fit the band's usual standard, but contains a number of solid tracks. The album along with its singles, including “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” and the title-track performed only moderately well on the charts, but went on to receive regular rotation at their live shows along with staples like “Parasite” and “Watchin' You.”
4. Dressed to Kill
Although the album is short on length with a runtime of barely a half-hour, KISS' third studio album enjoyed better production than its debut and sophomore releases. Dressed to Kill boasts a number of strong tracks like “Rock Bottom” and “Love Her All I Can.” Although its lead single – a studio version of their signature song “Rock and Roll All Night” - only enjoyed mid-chart success initially, a live version on the monster rock anthem was later reissued, which hit No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Following on the heels of the success of 1975's Alive!, Kiss followed up with the best-selling studio album of their career – their 1976 studio album Destroyer. Aided by a larger budget and the talents of producer Bob Ezrin, the album was the band's most diverse to date and produced a string of hits including the power ballad “Beth” and setlist mainstays like “Shout It Out Loud,” “Detroit City Rocks,” God of Thunder” and “Flaming Youth.”
Although KISS' 1974 self-titled debut album enjoyed only moderate chart success when released, the songs on the album have stood the test of time. Although the production suffers from a limited budget, the band's energy and enthusiasm shine through on each track. Critics have come to embrace the album over the years and it has spawned numerous setlist staples like “Deuce,” “Firehouse,” "Strutter," “Black Diamond” and “Cold Gin.”
From the outset of their career, Kiss built their reputation on delivering the best live show around. But great live shows did not translate into huge record sales over the course of the band's first three studio albums. Everything changed with the issue of their 1975 double-album Alive!. Bolstered by the live reissue of their single “Rock and Roll All Nite” and with powerful renditions of fan favs like “Deuce” and “Black Diamond,” Alive! proved to be their breakthrough album in North America and gave the uninitiated their first taste of the excitement and energy of a Kiss concert.