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Ep. 73 KISS Cover Artwork, What Sucks and What is Iconic on Three Sides of the Coin

Episode 73, April 29, 2014 this week we dig into Michael’s rack of KISS vinyl and look at the cover artwork of all the KISS albums. Which one’s suck? Which one’s are iconic? Which one’s did Tommy rate a big fat zero? Yeah we missed Psycho Circus, we will get that one next week.

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  • Jordan Van Dyk

    An absolutley fantastic episode! One of my favorites so far.

    I also agree that the covers of Sonic Boom and Monster were wasted opportunities.

    My idea for a Monster cover would be four “monsterized” (think Psycho Circus toys) KISS characters bursting out of a closet, or peeking out from underneath a bed with glowing eyes like on COTN. The cover we did get is a nice shot, but I’m tired of all these “band shots honestly. With a name like Monster, the concept potential was just so wasted. What a shame…

    Keep up the good work, and you guys certainly make me look forward to every Tuesday!

  • John Connolly

    Lane Cove NSW is New South Wales Australia

  • Ken Monteiro

    Totally agree with all of your comments on this one. Did you guys not do Psycho Circus or did I take my headphones off for a minute? It’s hard to pick a favorite between Destroyer, R&R Over, and Love Gun, but since I am a designer I think I would have to go with R&R Over because I think it is brilliant and more creative than the other two. The worst cover has to be Carnival of Souls with Animalize following close behind. I’ve always hated that cover and there is no creativity and very little effort put into that cover. At least some of the other bad covers (i.e. Asylum) were paintings so some effort went into those.

  • Mike Scott

    As a huge KISS fan, it’s always been a frustration to see them chasing trends, including the album cover artwork. Despite Paul and Gene espousing that they’ve always competed with themselves and made their own rules, it’s completely false. For the most part, in my opinion, the album covers reflect the influence of the state of the music industry at the time. This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of GREAT covers. But, for a band with such iconic imagery, it’s very surprising how often they fell short of excellence in their graphic presentation. This includes their music videos but that’s a separate topic.

    Personally, I agree most closely with Michael’s ratings and comments. And, artwork is subjective so there’s no right or wrong answer. But, I think it would have been very interesting to tie in what was happening in the music industry at the time of each album release, as well as where KISS was as a band at that time. You touched on it here and there but it’s really revealing to look at it in depth.

    Most album art for rock bands in the 70’s was either a fairly bland photo or some trippy artwork. So, KISS’ first three records fall into that category for me. Toward the end of the decade there were more photos on albums which were still surprisingly uninteresting in many cases. When KISS went with the Ken Kelly artwork, it tied in perfectly with their persona as characters. But, it was typical for the time when both Kelly and Frank Frazetta were very popular as was mythology and science fiction in films. Great concept, yes, but original, no. But, don’t get me wrong, Destroyer, RnR Over and Love Gun are perfect KISS album covers. By the time we get to Dynasty, KISS has introduced color, glitz and glam to their makeup, costumes and stage show. Again, so did many other acts like Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, etc. Remember, this was post Saturday Night Fever and the time of Solid Gold where big lapels were all the rage. Many fair-weather fans say KISS went disco here but they really didn’t, save one song. My first KISS concert was on the Dynasty tour and I loved it!

    Enter the 80’s and KISS’ steady demise coming off Unmasked and The Elder. Again, Unmasked is reflecting the popularity of pop-oriented rock at that time. Metal was changing and I think KISS was unsure of exactly where they fit. Not to mention the inner turmoil of the band itself. Just a bad decision all around on artwork and direction (although I really like the music on Unmasked myself!). The Elder reflects a desperate attempt by KISS to mimic Pink Floyd’s The Wall and gain some critical respect. I still cannot fathom how they can make a concept album that is supposed to be the soundtrack to a movie that never gets made in the first place.

    Now we get to Creatures of the Night. It was a perfect KISS album cover and the music provided a sigh of relief to many of us fans that wondered if the real KISS would ever return. Unfortunately, that greatness didn’t carry over to touring and they panicked. Being “unmasked” on MTV was either too late or unnecessary in my opinion. The cover of Lick it Up is a fantastic shot of Gene and Paul but Eric and (especially) Vinnie being exposed was fairly anticlimactic. Ace and Peter would have been a phenomenal “reveal” if it had happened early. But, this album did ring in the march to the 80’s excess.

    Your comments on Animalize through Hot in the Shade are on the money. They totally look like the time period they are in and focus primarily on Gene and Paul, the remaining “real” KISS members. While there is plenty of good music, there’s not much great KISS music. As a fan, it felt like KISS was simply hanging in there trying to survive instead of kicking ass like the hottest band in the land. Again, with all of the imagery and design potential associated with the band, to finish the decade with a sphinx wearing sunglasses shows just how lost KISS really was in their identity.

    Time to reign it in again so KISS decides to bring back Bob Ezrin, Vinnie Vincent, Dick Wagner, and more to try and recapture, I mean make a “new” KISS sound (sarcasm intended). Revenge provided a facelift to wash away the dead skin that had enveloped the band for the past decade. The cover art looked like KISS and the music sounded like KISS…great! But, were they moving forward or backward in time? Seems like the latter to me but I’ll take the great music anyway.

    Speaking of nostalgia, the MTV Unplugged performance was the KISS Army soundly beating Gene and Paul over the head with a wake-up call to get the band back together. They couldn’t help but listen and finally realized that KISS must be about that hungry, balls-to-the-walls, everything in your face band that they created and drifted so, so far from over the past decade and a half. Oh, and it was time to put the makeup back on! The album cover wasn’t great but it didn’t really matter, did it? KISS was back!

    From the reunion tour through Psycho Circus and Ace and Peter’s BS, it was clear that the KISS machine was firmly established again. A return to the KISS “klassic” sound and lineup (or should I say makeup?) was hereby decried as gospel. As we were soon to see, it didn’t matter who was beneath that makeup. But, the subsequent album covers, hyperbole, and concerts have been KISS through and through. And finally, finally, KISS was no longer chasing trends. They were simply being themselves, the ones they always should have been, the hottest band in the world…KISS!!