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Music Review: KISS – Sonic Boom 2CD + Live in Buenos Aires DVD

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Well here it is—Sonic Boom—and it looks fantastic. Especially if you've got the special edition doohickey with the KISS Klassics CD and Live In Buenos Aires DVD. But it's the new music we're really interested in. And, so it seems—for the first time in a long time—is the band.

After all, I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted their final album to be the piss-poor Psycho Circus.

Now, Paul Stanley's CD of a couple of years back, Live To Win, was a bit of a treat, so I'm glad to say that he has a hand in nine of the eleven tracks on offer here, as well as being the album's producer. You see, no matter that their greatest success was in the make-up-wearing seventies, their best songs were in the eighties when Stanley was running the show. And it's when he steps up and takes total control that this latest album really hits home.

The single "Modern Day Delilah" is a hard-driving treat, as is the Poison-like (yes, really!) "Never Enough." Gene Simmons' solo contributions, however, are by far the weakest on the album. This is something that should come as no surprise to anyone who has had the misfortune to hear his solo endeavors but, thankfully, he's restricted to just two songs. There are a couple of pedestrian tracks from Stanley as well, and I don't think anyone will be putting "Stand" on replay either. We probably didn't need vocal contributions from Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, but at least KISS are pretending to be a real band again.

Other highlights include the insanely catchy "Danger Us," the metalized "I'm An Animal" (which would have sat snugly on Creatures Of The Night) and the melodic rock treat "When Lightning Strikes."Visually it may seem like 1977 but musically this is KISS in their eighties prime, and much, much better than I ever could have hoped for.

The KISS Klassics CD is the greatest hits re-recordings they did for the Japanese market a couple of years ago as KISSology. Fourteen stone-cold rock classics (and "I Was Made For Lovin' You"). If it doesn't have the energy of the originals, it bumps up the production values and even strays into their make-up free years for the likes of "Heaven's On Fire" and "Forever." It may be heresy to some, but some of these, such as "Hotter Than Hell," actually sound better than the originals.

Also included is a mini concert DVD recorded at the tail end of the KISS 35th Anniversary tour in Buenos Aires, in April 2009. Now, I made a 1000-mile round trip to see their sole UK show on that tour, so I may be a bit biased, as the memories came flooding back. The sound quality isn't the greatest, but from the thunderous opening of "Deuce" onwards, the Argentinean crowd lap up the splendor of Kiss in full flight. Shame there's only six tracks, but KISS being KISS, I'm sure there's an enhanced, super-duper edition just around the corner.

Minor quibbles aside, Sonic Boom is an excellent albeit unexpected addition to the band's Kisstory.

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About Stuart A Hamilton