Kiss – ‘Unplugged’ (1996) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

Welcome back to Kiss Review Series and this time around we will discuss the album ‘Unplugged’ or is it ‘MTV Unplugged’, I wasn’t really sure. I stuck with ‘Unplugged’ as that is what it says on the spine of the vinyl cover. But it was recorded for MTV so didn’t know the right way to label this post. But enough of that garbage, let us get back to the Kisstory.

Kiss seemed in no hurry to do an album. It had been several years since ‘Revenge’. They have been putting out product as we have reviewed it, but yet no studio album. And with this review, still no studio album. In 1995, the band set out and did these Convention Tours as around this time, Kiss Konventions had started popping up. Kiss would go play these and they were all done as acoustic performances. They would even get some special guests to join them and one time Peter Criss showed up and jumped on stage with them. Kiss started to play lesser known songs at the audience requests and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Well, around that time MTV came a calling and asked if they wanted to do an episode of MTV Unplugged and the band agreed.

In typical Kiss fashion, they had to do it big and let me tell you, they did. The band, which consisted of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick at the time, would come out and do a full acoustic set. And for the “Big” part, the band would bring out two very special guest. The crowd was treated to songs by both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Totally awesome!! The crowd went nuts and so did I. I remember watching it and getting chills up and down my arm. And to make it even cooler, the final songs of the night, Eric and Bruce came back out and all 6 members and former members played together for the very first time. It was really a special, special night.

Thankfully it was captured on video for MTV, an album and even released on DVD. I have the vinyl and the Kissology DVD’s which includes the show plus some behind the scenes video. All really great. Let us talk about the Vinyl copy I have since that is what I am reviewing. The version I have was part of the 40th Anniversary Re-Issues of the Kiss albums. Mine is on 180-Gram vinyl and is a double LP, but sadly the band missed out on doing a Gatefold. In reading one of many Kiss books I have over the years, the reason for the lack of Gatefold was the label went cheap and didn’t think there was money to be made at the extra cost of a Gatefold…oh they are so wrong.

The set also comes with a full size poster. It consists of numerous snapshots of that evening both of the show and candid behind the scene shots. It is really nice and it is below…

And below is the back cover and it has 16 marvelous tracks and what is really cool is what the band played. They did a lot of lesser known songs and songs they rarely, if ever played. We will get to those in a minute. The band played for around 3 hours that night as they did reshoot some songs and there are several that didn’t show up on the album but are on the DVD. They were “Hard Luck Woman” that Paul actually sang, “Heaven’s On Fire”, “Spit”, “C’mon And Love Me” and even a country version of “God of Thunder”.

The album kicks off with the somewhat breezy “Comin’ Home” and then you get the bass thumping “Plaster Caster” with Gene on vocals. That is followed up by the rarely heard Gene ballad “Goin’ Blind” which was a wow to me. I can’t remember the last time this song got played by the band live. It had to be early 70’s. Really cool choice. Side 1 ends with “Do You Love Me” which is a song I do love from Paul and is only okay here.

Side 2 kicks off with the ‘Revenge’ song “Domino” and then they pull out “Sure Know Something” from ‘Dynasty’ which is a much better choice than “I Was Made for Loving You”. Another great performance. Then the band did a song from ‘Music from The Elder’ which I think caught everyone off guard. They played “A World Without Heroes” and Gene nailed it even if it was a little rough around the edges but that is what is great about live. To finish off the first disc you get “Rock Bottom” which I really loved the opening instrumental piece to that. They really turned it up a notch on this one.

Side 3 kicks with another very obscure track as they perform “See You Tonight” from Gene’s solo album which is like…WTF!!…but so cool. Then Paul really digs deep and gives it his all on the ballad “I Still Love You” from ‘Creatures of the Night’. I think it is Paul’s best performance of the night and that note he holds at the end is killer. It was so long you could’ve gone up and gotten another beer and come back and he’d still be singing it. Then the band goes into another ballad and this one had orchestration and had Philip Ashley on piano with the song “Every Time I Look At You” which is also from ‘Revenge’. I might like it better than the studio version only because it isn’t my favorite track off that album and they gave it some life and some balls. To end Side 3, this where the band brings Ace and Peter on stage. Ace sings the first song which is the Rolling Stones’ cover of “2,000 Man”. To hear Ace sing again with Kiss was just magical. The crowd loved it, the band loved and I loved it watching at home.

Side 4 starts it off with Peter going in to the Kiss Klassic, “Beth”…no surprise there at all. I remember Peter looking like the cat that at the canary. He was so excited to be back playing with the guys. At least it looked that way to me. Then the band brought Eric and Bruce back out and they played “Nothin’ To Lose” which was totally awesome as I do love that song. What I loved about it is that the vocals were shared with both Eric Singer and Peter Criss and I believe this is the first time Eric sang lead on a Kiss recording. Then they ended the night with “Rock And Roll All Nite” which is no surprise at all either. The cool thing about this version is the vocals were shared by Gene, Peter and Ace. The only one that night that didn’t sing was Bruce and he never sang lead on any Kiss song…up until this point as that would change for their next studio album. On the reissue, you get a bonus track just like the Japanese Release, you get “Got to Choose” as the final track.

And that is the album. The band’s first live album not to be have the word “Alive” in it and what a way to break tradition. The band sounded rejuvenated, fresh and alive! The Kiss Army finally got there wish to see the original four guys back together…too bad it was just this one show. Well, for now anyway.

This is one of my favorite live albums by the band if that tells you anything. You got 6 Kiss members at one time, you get songs rarely ever played live and you get a fresh sounding Kiss. What more could you want…well, the album did leave out all the Paul banter between the songs which you get on the video, but not here. But that is a minor, non-point deducting issue as you get 16 tracks of music and most of those tracks are obscure, rarely played tracks. That alone deserves an extra point. Overall, this is an easy 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars. You wanted the best, and with this, you got the best!!

Next Up: Kiss – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996)

Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!

The Kiss Review Series:

  1. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
  2. Kiss – Kiss (1974)
  3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
  4. Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
  5. Kiss – Alive! (1975)
  6. Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
  7. Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
  8. Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
  9. Kiss – The Originals (1976)
  10. Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
  11. Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
  12. Kiss – Alive II (1977)
  13. Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
  14. Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
  15. Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
  16. Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
  17. Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
  18. Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
  19. Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
  20. Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
  21. Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
  22. Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
  23. Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
  24. Kiss – Killers (1982)
  25. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
  26. Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
  27. Kiss – Animalize (1984)
  28. Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
  29. Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
  30. Kiss – Asylum (1985)
  31. Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
  32. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
  33. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
  34. Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
  35. Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
  36. Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
  37. Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
  38. Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  39. Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
  40. Kiss – Chikara (1988)
  41. Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
  42. Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)
  43. Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc
  44. Kiss – Revenge (1992)
  45. Kiss – Alive III (1993)
  46. Kiss – Konfidential VHS (1993)
  47. Kiss – Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994)
  48. Kiss – MTV Unplugged (1996)

The Bootleg Series:

  1. Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
  2. Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
  3. Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
  4. Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
  5. Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
  6. Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
  7. Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
  8. Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
  9. Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
  10. Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
  11. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
  12. Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
  13. Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
  14. Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
  15. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)

Kiss – The Box Set:

  1. The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
  2. The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
  3. The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
  4. The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
  5. The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
  6. The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)

Gene Simmons – The Vault:

  1. Part 1 – The Grand Opening
  2. Part 2 – Disk 1
  3. Part 3 – Disk 2
  4. Part 4 – Disk 3
  5. Part 5 – Disk 4
  6. Part 6 – Disk 5
  7. Part 7 – Disk 6
  8. Part 8 – Disk 7
  9. Part 9 – Disk 8
  10. Part 10 – Disk 9
  11. Part 11 – Disk 10
  12. Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
  13. Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
  14. Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
  15. Part 15 – The Final Verdict

26 thoughts on “Kiss – ‘Unplugged’ (1996) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

  1. This is a cool record. It’s sort of surprising how well their songs work acoustically. Then of course Paul had to get all ego about it and say if your song can’t be played acoustically then it isn’t a good song. Everyone says Gene is the asshole, but I think Paul is underrated as a total dickweed who blames everyone else for anything that goes wrong. His whole book is basically shitting on people for their personalities, behaviors, or even things beyond their control like physical appearance.

    You’d think a guy so self conscious about his ear would learn that it’s not okay to mock those who look different, but I guess all that L.A. therapy fucked his brain and convinced him that everyone else is toxic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is a lot more guarded then Gene which might make him more of an a*hole. When my brother met Paul & Gene in an airport, he did say Paul was the nicest guy and Gene was sort of a dick. But any given day that role can be reversed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You had me at obscure tracks! I love when bands take risks and play songs they haven’t played in years or at all! I heard about the Unplugged episode on a Kiss documentary and I think this opened the idea of having a Kiss reunion with the original lineup eventually. And not just for a live performance, but for real! Also, is it just me or does Ace look like Richie Sambora at a far angle? Anyways, great review John!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I remember watching an interview of Richie in 1992 and he talked about how he auditioned for Kiss before getting the gig with Bon Jovi. I commented that I was glad he didn’t join Kiss because he’s too pretty to be covered in makeup lol!

            Liked by 1 person

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