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Kiss 

The Box Set (Mercury)

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Like a good orgasm, Kiss's worth isn't measured by any sort of critical evaluation, but by how loud it makes you scream. And the 80-million-plus devotees of Kiss's umpteen records must have raw vocal cords indeed.

Granted, most of the criticism leveled at Kiss's pleasure-for-pleasure's-sake rock and roll has been apt. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley did build their career on theatrics, and they were total trend whores. This five-disc boxed set proves that. When the makeup came off, Kiss floundered, as evidenced by the latter two discs in this collection, which follow the band from 1983 on. After the delicious "Lick It Up" opens disc four, Kiss has trouble getting it up -- a fate worse than death for these dudes. Moreover, tracks like 1979's disco-tinged "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and 1992's grunge-leaning "Unholy" demonstrate just how deferential Kiss was to whatever fad it thought would help shift units at the time.

But none of that lessens the puerile thrills of "Strutter" or "Rock and Roll All Nite" or any of the 60 cuts here that chronicle Kiss's '70s heyday, when the band was as perfect a blend of artifice and sexuality as breast implants.

More by Jason Bracelin

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