CREATURES OF THE NIGHT 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET Kiss (UMe/UMG) Recordings) *****
Kiss celebrates the 40th anniversary of this crucial album in over-the-top style. Creatures Of The Night, originally released October 28th, 1982, has been given the deluxe box set treatment; 5 CD’s that include a newly re-mastered version of the original album, 75 previously unreleased tracks, and a Blu Ray audio disc featuring a first-ever Atmos 5.1 surround sound mix plus a high resolution newly remastered stereo mix of the original album. That’s a lot of fuss for 40 minutes of music; is it worth it? Oh HELL yeah.
Creatures Of The Night was a crucial juncture in Kiss’s career. Their fall from grace began with Dynasty in 1979 and continued in 1980 with the embarrassingly pop Unmasked. However, it was the laughable concept album Music From The Elder in 1981that nearly did them in. As a fan since their first appearance on In Concert before the release of their debut I enjoyed Dynasty; but the 2 records that followed stretched my devotion to the breaking point.
With their backs against the wall Kiss had to come heavy. Peter Criss had been fired and Ace Frehley followed in ’82- though he is on the Creatures album cover he didn’t play on the record. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and drummer Eric Carr delivered the goods, 9 cuts of blistering hard rock with help from a number of other guitar players- Robben Ford, Rick Derringer, Steve Farriss (Mr. Mister) among them, with Ace’s eventual replacement Vinnie Vincent (Vincent Cusano) contributing as a player and songwriter. As good as Creatures Of The Night was and is, it wasn’t enough to stop the slide that began in 1979 with the disco hit I Was Made For Loving You. Kiss managed to signal that they were still a force to be reckoned with on the rock & roll scene, and this album saved them from being sent to the showers.
This deluxe box set highlights a crucial chapter of Kisstory. The band found their mojo again and delivered some top flight hard rock. Kiss, never doing things in a small way, celebrate this milestone with an embarrassment of riches. If you have the original version of Creatures then cool; but if you’re a super-fan and want to dig deeper into what the group was up to in 1982, this set is nothing short of revelatory. The Creatures Of The Night 40th Anniversary Box Set is loaded to the nuts with extras like an 80 page hardcover book, photos, bumper stickers, a t-shirt, poster, press materials, the usual gew-gaws… but I don’t care about that stuff. That would just be more shit for the wife and kids to deal with after I cack. No, the music is the thing; so I bought this on I Tunes for $38.99, instead of the $300.00 U.S. price on the Kiss website.
The musical bonus material on the Creatures Of The Night 40th Anniversary Box Set paints a picture of a band redefining its priorities creatively, flexing muscle they’d forgotten they had and indicating some directions they might be heading, even after the makeup came off. We get some of the Creatures songs as works in progress, as well as demos for songs we’ve never heard before, decidedly different versions of songs that would appear on later records like Asylum, plus the 4 ‘new’ tracks that appeared on the Kiss Killers compilation that came out 4 months before Creatures did. We also get a number of tunes recorded live during the tour for the then new album as well as a number of classics. “So what?” you say, “everybody’s deluxe box set does stuff like that.” Maybe, but the crucial difference between this and the Zeppelin reissues or Black Sabbath’s Super Deluxe edition of Vol.4 is that I didn’t get bored. The Zep stuff is just the songs we already know in various stages of completion, and the Vol.4 set has something like 8 different takes of Wheels Of Confusion, mostly aborted attempts, and it was as tedious as watching Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary. I’d sue Rhino Records for rape if I hadn’t gone to their website and asked them to take my money- call it an expensive lesson learned.
Deluxe box sets like this are for the super fan; the mildly curious are better served by the 2 cd version that contains the original album plus a disc of bonus cuts. I’ve followed Kiss closely for nearly 50 years- the music on the Creatures Of The Night 40th Anniversary Box Set is a much closer look at a band in turmoil, showing how they overcame some self-imposed obstacles to emerge stronger than ever. I don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with the physical release, I just want the music and besides, $38.99 Canadian for the I Tunes version is a lot easier to take than $300 U.S. but hey, to each their own and let the depth of your own pockets make the call. As a die-hard Kiss fan, I judge this as being as essential as their 2001 box set.
DISC ONE: I Love It Loud, War Machine
DISC TWO: Deadly Weapon (Penny Lane demo), Nowhere To Run
DISC THREE: Not For The Innocent (demo), Partners In Crime (alternate mix 16B)
DISC FOUR: Firehouse (Sioux City Iowa, 12/30/82), Keep Me Comin’ (same show)
DISC FIVE: Love Gun Rockford, Illinois, 12/31/82), I Still Love You (Texas, 3/10/83)