“I wanna leave but I can’t get away….”
With the recording of Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions all but forgotten, KISS rode a wave of nostalgia that started in 1995 with the reuniting of the original band on MTV Unplugged. KISS was once again at the top of the world, as the original members went on a reunion tour that ran through 1996 and 1997. Intent on staying at the top, KISS headed into the studio to record their first new studio album with all four of the band’s original members…..sort of. Recording for Psycho Circus began in January of 1998 and would last until April of that year. Although it was promoted as the first album to feature Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, and Gene Simmons together since Dynasty (1979), Criss and Frehley’s images were used much more than their actual musical abilities.
The album was released in September of 1998 to much success. It’s supporting tour, the Psycho Circus World Tour, also proved to be very popular with fans. A massive onslaught of promotions were put into action to pump up the reunited band’s image and tons of gimmicks were used on the tour, with music videos, and with the album itself. It was a lot like KISS’ gimmicks in the 70’s but on a much bigger scale. Some of the more notable things used by KISS included a 3-D music video for the title track, 3-D sequences on the supporting tour, and multiple versions of the album including a Japanese release with pop-up images and a lenticular version (the version that I personally own).
The album featured ten tracks with one bonus track on the Japanese release. Three singles were officially released and a fourth one (I Finally Found My Way) was released as a promotional single. The first single, Psycho Circus, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and hit the top ten lists of four different countries. We Are One, the second single, topped out at #18 on the Norwegian charts but failed to chart in the United States. The final single, You Wanted The Best, reached #22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, one of KISS’ best album debuts.
- Psycho Circus (Single)
- I Pledge Allegiance To The State Of Rock & Roll
- Into The Void
- We Are One (Single)
- You Wanted The Best (Single)
- Raise Your Glasses
- I Finally Found My Way
- Journey Of 1,000 Years
Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Ace Frehley (lead and backing vocals, lead guitar on Into The Void and You Wanted The Best), Peter Criss (lead and backing vocals, drums on Into The Void), Kevin Valentine (all other drums), Tommy Thayer (all other lead guitars except where noted), Bruce Kulick (lead guitars on Within and additional guitars), Shelly Berg (piano, orchestrations), Bob Ezrin (Fender Rhodes piano)
As you can tell from the personnel list, the contributions of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were limited. Criss only played drums on one track and Frehley only played lead guitar on two tracks. In fact, only Into The Void (written by Frehley and Karl Cochran) features all four members performing together. Paul sang lead on four tracks. Gene sang lead on three tracks. Both Ace and Peter sang lead vocals on one track each. All four members traded off lead vocals for You Wanted The Best. Bruce Fairbairn produced the album. Stanley had five co-writing credits. Simmons had four writing credits. Frehley had one co-writing credit. Bruce Kulick, Holly Knight, Karl Cochran, and Bob Ezrin all had one co-writing credit and Curtis Cuomo had two.
I really enjoyed this album. It was the second album that I purchased from the band on its initial release. A friend of mine actually let me borrow his copy (as my copy of Hot In The Shade was gathering dust) and it re-ignited the spark for my interest in the group. In fact, you could say that Psycho Circus pushed me over the edge into being a full-fledged fan of the group. I love Into The Void. It’s my favorite track on the album. A very close second is Psycho Circus. You Wanted The Best and Within are two other tracks that I really enjoy. Even though most of the tracks aren’t truly the “original” KISS, they are still great tracks with strong lyrics (a weak spot for KISS in my opinion) and a massive sound. The only real clunker for me was I Finally Found My Way. To me it completely derails the pounding sound of the rest of the album.
Naysayers dislike the album because it isn’t “really KISS” and that’s a shame because this album is a really strong rock record. It’s not as good as Revenge or Creatures Of The Night, but it can hold its own against anything else that the band put out in the 1980’s and 90’s. It was great to see the original members back together again and up to their old tricks on the stage. Ace would eventually leave the group for good in early 2002 and was replaced by Tommy Thayer (in full Spaceman costume and face paint). Peter Criss would leave in 2001, return in 2002, and leave again for good in 2004. He was replaced by Eric Singer (in full Catman costume and makeup) on all three occasions. The addition of Thayer and Singer in costume was controversial, but fans old and new continued (and still continue) to support the band. In 2009, eleven years after the release of Psycho Circus, KISS would release their first album of new material featuring the so-called imposters, Sonic Boom. I’ll take a look at that album and its follow-up, Monster, next month to finish off The Year Of KISS!
Thanks for checking out my post! I’ll see you again real soon!