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Kiss Tribute album includes some standout tracke

Classic Kiss Regrooved.
Various Artists.
Mercury Records.

By Scott Deskin
Associate Arts Editor

Many groups came and went with the 1970s. They range from the relatively minor, like Foghat, to major ones that burned out on their own intensity, like the Sex Pistols. Kiss lies somewhere in the middle ground of this generalization, but their popular influence is probably more far-reaching than their actual artistic accomplishment. However, between 1973 and 1977, Kiss was one of the premier glam metal bands in the world. Not surprisingly, the new Kiss tribute album, entitled Kiss My Ass, focuses on this fruitful period in their history. The bands who perform on the album all acknowledge an artistic debt to Kiss (in varying degrees), and each artist puts a particular spin on the song that they cover.

The song that leads off the album is "Deuce," performed by Lenny Kravitz. He layers his vocals over a wide groove that moves quite nicely, tied together after each refrain by a guest harmonica overdub by Stevie Wonder. The next song, Garth Brooks' version of "Hard Luck Woman," is a surprisingly heartfelt effort that gains strength from country-pop star Brooks' assured lead. Other standouts include forceful versions of "Plaster Caster" and "Detroit Rock City" by two local favorites, the Lemonheads and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Both of those songs rock as close to the original versions as anything else on the album. But the track that closes the album should come as a sonic surprise: Yoshiki joins with the American Symphony Orchestra for a classical version of Paul Stanley's "Black Diamond," which suggests some alternate facets to the band's personality.

There are a few downers on the album, though. The Gin Blossoms' version of "Christine Sixteen" is serviceable, but the vocals are too anonymously sweet to convey any feelings of lust in the singer. Even worse is Toad the Wet Sprocket's incredibly lame country version of "Rock and Roll All Nite," which compromises the touchstone of Kiss's repertoire for an unfeeling, emotionless rendition by a band whose musical convictions lie in drawn-out chords and a lead singer's ability to whine. On the other side of the spectrum, a rendition of "Calling Dr. Love" by Shandi's Addiction (made up of members from Rage Against the Machine, Tool, and Jane's Addiction) is a little too emotionally grating to be enjoyable.

Like the Jimi Hendrix tribute album Stone Free, Kiss My Ass is a conditional success. As long as the bands stick primarily to arrangements in the same hard-rock mold as the original Kiss, the songs sound surprisingly fresh. So, for diehard fans of the band (in their original '70s incarnation), this album is not bad for recycling old songs for profit, as well as providing the new Kiss with some publicity for an upcoming album.

Another item of note: The liner notes for the CD offer the owner a view of several Kiss fans' tattoos in a collage form that conspicuously obscures original member Ace Frehley's face. Maybe Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who are still with the band today, are a little too vain to be taken seriously anymore. The Kiss name may still be attached to a band in 1994; but, as they say, the '70s are over.