KISS – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996, Japanese import, bonus track)
When this compilation album came out, it was the first and only time we had two Kiss albums on our store’s front rack simultaneously! It followed hot on the heels of MTV Unplugged, only about 3 months prior.
Kiss had just announced their big reunion tour and this album was tied in to promote that. It is a milestone in a few ways. It was the first musical product released by the reunited original lineup Kiss. It was also the third (or fourth depending if you count Kiss My Ass) consecutive non-studio album release in a row by the band, which had never happened before. It would also not be the last, with Greatest Kiss and the UK-only Greatest Hits soon to follow.
It was a dark time for the Kiss army craving new music.
You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!! (one comma and two exclamation marks: punctuation is important) was a live compilation of:
- 8 hits from KISS Alive! and KISS Alive II
- 5 previously unreleased live versions (including the bonus track “New York Groove”)
- 1 interview with the entire band by Jay Leno, 17 minutes long
The previously released songs were all remastered for the first time, a sneak preview of the Kiss remasters to start coming in 1997. New liner notes were provided by Robert V. Conte, who would later do all the liner notes for the Kiss Remasters series. Judging by his use of certain adjectives, I’m guessing he was pretty much told what he could and could not write!
It’s hard to argue with the selection of hits. “Rock Bottom”, “Parasite”, “Firehouse”, and “Rock And Roll All Nite” (the definitive version) from the first Alive! were definitely highlights of that album, but then again you couldn’t have gone wrong with any selections from Alive! From Alive II it’s “I Stole Your Love”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth” (really? ugh), and “Calling Dr. Love”. (Interesting: no “Detroit Rock City”.) All are pretty monumental Kiss songs that the band were playing live that summer.
The unreleased material was interesting. They purport to be from the same concerts that Alive! and Alive II were taken from, but it is clear that at least the lead vocals were recorded in 1996. Since the voice changes naturally with age, you can tell it’s not Paul Stanley 1975 singing. Having said that, even though I’m bitter that Kiss tried to pass these off as vintage live songs, they are really good versions. I’ve always liked both “Room Service” and “Two Timer” as deep album songs from Dressed To Kill. I especially like “Let Me Know”, one of the earliest Kiss songs ever, and one of my personal favourites.
Exclusive to vinyl and Japanese import, is a live version of “New York Groove” from Australia 1980 and with Eric Carr on drums. This is the same version of the song as the Kissology 2 DVD. Since KISS could have gone with “Shock Me” from Alive II if they were trying to include an Ace vocal track, I choose to think of this inclusion as a little nod to Eric Carr and thanking him for keeping the band going during the 80’s. I think this version was also released in Australian markets so, I am sure this was also a nod to the fans there for patiently waiting for Kiss to come back. Kiss would of course play “New York Groove” live on the 1996 tour as well.
The 17 minute interview with Jay Leno is interesting and fun, though I have to be honest, its inclusion here makes this album one that I don’t listen to often. Jay’s a funny guy and there are lots of laughs here (almost all at Gene’s expense!) but don’t expect any revelations you’ve never heard before.
In addition to containing “vintage” songs that weren’t exactly that, You Wanted the Best was to include “photos from the Kiss vaults” inside according to the sticker on the front. There’s nothing inside apart from a skimpy booklet. The CD did have a neat-o coloured jewel case, as you can see from the photo gallery.
Essential only to the diehards. Everyone else pick up Alive! and Alive II, or even better…the 4 CD Alive box!