IKONS presents a four-CD collection of previously released KISS material with each disc featuring 14 songs by the band member who sung them. I am a fan of their trademark over-the-top goofiness and straightforward rock, but there doesn’t seem much point to this set. There’s nothing new for members of the KISS Army and it’s a poor introduction to new listeners.
Disc one is by The Demon (Gene Simmons) with tracks from every studio album between 1974’s KISS and 1979’s Dynasty as well as “Larger Than Life” from the unlive part of Alive II and “Radioactive” from Simmons’ 1978 self-titled solo album. It’s a good mix of well-known songs (“Calling Dr. Love”) and deep album cuts (“Ladies Room”), most of which revolve around sex, including the ode to the underage “Christine Sixteen” that contains a bass riff sampled for Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina.”
Disc two is by Star Child (Paul Stanley) and follows the same pattern as disc one with a song from every studio album between KISS and Dynasty as well as “All American Man” from the unlive part of Alive II and “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me” from Stanley’s 1978 self-titled solo album. It also presents a good mix of well-known songs (“Detroit Rock City”) and deep album cuts (the schizophrenic “Rock Bottom” with its acoustic-instrumental opening). He uses the word “love” often, but aside from the quizzical “Do You Love Me” and the angry “I Stole Your Love,” other references (“C’mon And Love Me,” “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”) are more in line with Simmons’ carnal tunes, in case anyone was confused by the subtlety of “Love Gun.”
Disc three is Space Ace (Ace Frehley) and is the weakest of the set, making clear both his justified lack of confidence in his singing voice and why he never broke big away from the group. Although he wrote songs, Frehley didn’t sing lead until “Shock Me” from Love Gun, so this disc moves further ahead into the KISS catalog to accumulate 14 tracks. There are five from his 1978 self-titled solo album, two from ‘80s albums Unmasked and (Music From) The Elder, and one from 1998’s Psycho Circus. It’s all below-average rock, and I can’t imagine ever taking this disc back out of the sleeve.
Disc four is The Cat Man (Peter Criss) and he sang a few KISS hits: “Hard Luck Woman,” “Black Diamond,” and of course the band’s biggest hit “Beth.” Like the first two discs in the set, this one covers the studio albums from KISS through Dynasty, but Criss didn’t sing as much as Simmons and Stanley so also included are four selections from his self-titled album and one from Psycho Circus (“I Finally Found My Way” which repeats the emotion and arrangement of “Beth”). The disc is a contrast in styles because the rock of classic-era KISS tracks, including lesser-known tunes “Baby Drivers” and “Hooligan,” doesn’t mesh well with the sounds of pop (“I Can’t Stop The Rain” yet another “Beth” retread) and disco (“That’s The Way Kinda Sugar Poppa Likes”) from Peter Criss. KISSFAQ states, “Much of this material was originally written in 1971 for Peter's pre-KISS band Lips,” and it sounds like it, especially the easy-listening “Don’t You Let Me Down”.
Even though no gimmick should surprise anyone when it comes to KISS, IKONS is a rather curious release since Frehley and Criss haven’t been members of the band since 2002 and 2004 respectively. Frehley quit after performing at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah and has been replaced by Tommy Thayer. Criss’ contract was not renewed after it expired in March 2004 and has been replaced by Eric Singer in his third stint as KISS drummer. But when has common sense ever got in the way of making a buck with this band?
Those who want to “Rock And Roll All Nite” would be better served with KISS’ classic live album Alive or any number of best-of compilations that have been released.