Kiss: Paul Stanley (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Gene Simmons (vocals, bass guitar); Mark St. John, Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick (guitar); Eric Carr (drums, background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Jeff Kitts.
The majority of Kiss hits collections to surface since the late '90s (and boy, have there been a truckload of them) have focused primarily on the group's makeup years, which is understandable since that's when the dudes smeared the grease paint back on. But for the most part, their unmasked years have been glossed over on subsequent hits collections (or included in small quantities). 2004's 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 is the first Kiss collection ever to primarily focus on their non-makeup era, covering the years 1982 through 1990. While this certainly wasn't Kiss' finest era -- neither commercially (with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley the only original members left by this point, Kiss saw their fan base dwindle considerably since their '70s heyday) nor musically (the group seemed to follow rather than lead the heavy metal pack) -- there are a few hard rockin' gems included here. Opening things up with one of their heaviest compositions ever, the title track from Creatures of the Night (the band's last release with makeup), the early portion of the collection fares the best, as exemplified by such further strong rockers as the anthemic "I Love It Loud," "Lick It Up," and "Heaven's on Fire." Then...there's a bit of a road bump. As the '80s wore on, Kiss became more and more pop-metal-oriented by merely trying to replicate the chart toppers of the day (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, etc.), as evidenced by such lackluster tracks as "Uh! All Night," "Crazy Crazy Nights," and "Reason to Live." If you're a newcomer to Kiss looking for solid, career-encompassing best of sets, such other titles as Double Platinum and The Very Best of Kiss are better bets. But if it's an overview of strictly the non-makeup era, then 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss, Vol. 2 is the collection for you. ~ Greg Prato