KISS: Creatures of the Night: 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe, 5 CDs + Blu-ray audio). KISS was in crisis mode in 1982. Their previous three albums — 1979’s disco-influenced “Dynasty,” 1980’s poppy “Unmasked” and 1981’s concept album “Music From ‘The Elder’” – were critical and commercial failures. The band lost original drummer Peter Criss in 1980 and original lead guitarist Ace Frehley was largely missing in action by the time Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and drummer Eric Carr hit the studio to begin work on “Creatures of the Night.” Lead guitar duties fell to a rotating lineup of Robben Ford, Steve Farris, Bob Kulick and Vinnie Vincent, with Vincent cowriting several songs and officially replacing Frehley in December 1982.

KISS decided on a leaner, hard-rocking return to form and, while the album initially failed commercially, it garnered positive reviews and has grown in stature over the years to where it now is considered one of KISS’ best albums. (Afterwards, the band removed their facial makeup and released the career-rejuvenating “Lick It Up” in 1983.) In addition to a harder sound, the album has a heavier, darker mood, as in “Rock and Roll Hell” and “Danger.” The single “I Love It Loud,” with its stomp beat, has been performed on nearly every subsequent KISS tour, while “War Machine,” the ballad “I Still Love You,” with its emotive Stanley vocal, and the title song featured heavily in their live sets for years.

This edition has 103 total tracks, with 75 being previously unreleased. Newly remastered on the first CD, the original album has improved sound. The title track is the thunderous opener, signaling the raucous, more heavy metal approach. “Saint and Sinner” features Vincent’s nice guitar on the instrumental break. Ford played the guitar solos on “I Still Love You” and “Rock and Roll Hell.” The heavy “War Machine” closes the nine-song album.

The second and third CDs feature 34 demos, rarities and outtakes, including the unreleased demos “Deadly Weapon” and “Not For the Innocent” and outtake “Betrayed.” More of their previous glam rock is “I’m a Legend Tonight,” one of four tracks previously released on the “Killers” compilation (1982). Also, from “Killers” is Stanley’s terrific “Nowhere To Run,” which also appears here in demo and instrumental versions. “Deadly Weapon” is punchy, while “Feels Like Heaven” has a very different, jaunty sound. Five instrumentals wrap up disc two. Disc three includes the first two takes of “I Still Love You” – one heavier, the other sloppy – and some fooling around. There are three takes each of “Saint and Sinner” and “Rock and Roll Hell.”

The fourth and five discs contain 26 unreleased soundboard live recordings from the Creatures ‘82/’83 Tour and seven tour sound effects, all recorded and archived by tour sound engineer Harry Witz. The sound is more than a bit rough and, in general, the live music does not do much for me. Stanley’s “rap” to open “Love Gun” is lame. While Carr’s drum solo in “God of Thunder” stretches the song to 10 minutes, Simmons’ bass solo and Stanley’s guitar solo are short. All but one of the recordings were made at either Rockford, Ill. Dec. 31, 1982, Sioux City, Iowa Dec. 30, 1982, or Houston, Texas March 10, 1983.

The Blu-ray audio disc has a first-ever Atmos and 5.1 surround mix from the original album multi-tracks, plus the high-resolution, newly remastered 1982 stereo mix of the original album.

Almost worth the price of admission itself is the 80-page hardcover book with new interviews with Simmons, Stanley, Ford and others. There are liner notes by Ken Sharp, terrific unreleased photos, handwritten lyrics, and images of rare collectibles.

Since it is a KISS box set, there are collectible bonus items, including the album’s 1982 press kit, band biography, three posters, two stage drawings, promo photos, a Creatures T-shirt iron-on transfer, a bumper sticker, replica ticket, backstage pass, four trading cards, 1982 replica tour program, four illustrated art cards, the Gotham Rock City News Vol. 2 newspaper, five glow-in-the-dark guitar picks and four buttons.

The other configurations are 2-CD Deluxe, 1-LP Half-Speed Master 180gm, 1-CD Remaster, a 5-CD Super Deluxe Edition Digital Download + Streaming, 2-CD Digital Download-only version, plus a color vinyl exclusive. Grade: original album B+, unreleased recordings B, live recordings C, extras A+

The Monkees’ “Headquarters” box set is laid out. Courtesy of Rhino.

 

The Monkees: Headquarters: Super Deluxe Edition (Rhino, 4 CDs + 7-inch vinyl). This set, exclusively available at Monkees.com and limited to 4,000 copies, revisits the entire “Headquarters” project with 69 previously unreleased recordings, including the entire album newly remixed, the debut of backing tracks made for an abandoned version of the album, the band’s earliest demo recordings and studio outtakes.

This third studio album by The Monkees represented a peak moment for the band in terms of creativity and camaraderie. Released in May 1967, it was the first album recorded by the group after winning a battle with musical supervisor Don Kirshner for control over its music. It was the first album on which the group members made substantial songwriting and instrumental contributions, rather than relying on session musicians and professional songwriters. It topped the charts, sold three million, and was the group’s third No. 1 album in less than a year.Here, the entire 14-track original album has been newly remixed from original multitrack elements, which were resynched to create the best fidelity version ever available. The set includes the debut of the backing tracks – most without any of The Monkees on them – made for an abandoned. Kirshner-led version of the album, as well as the band’s earliest surviving demos and recordings that would be completed in 2016 for The Monkees’ final studio album, “Good Times!”

In a press release, Micky Dolenz, the last surviving Monkee, says, “Monkee music was great music. Terrific songs crafted by gifted writers and produced by skilled producers. But ‘Headquarters’ will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember the camaraderie, the collaboration, the enthusiasm, and the occasional creative angst.”

Particularly due to Nesmith, the album had an expanded musical palette, with banjo on “You Told Me” – one of three songs he wrote – and pedal steel on the pretty Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart ballad “I’ll Spend My Life With You” (one of their three songs). Nesmith also wrote the midtempo “You Might Just Be the One” and the upbeat “Sunny Girlfriend.” The more serious “Shades of Gray,” written by Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, features a French horn and cello. Boyce and Hart also wrote the breezy “I Can’t Get Her Off of My Mind.” Peter Tork wrote the upbeat “For Pete’s Sake,” which has a nice vocal arrangement, while Dolenz wrote the rocking “Randy Scouse Git.” “No Time” is old-time rock.

Disc one also has 11 remixed bonus tracks, including two versions of Nesmith’s “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Other highlights are the rocking “All of Your Toys” and covers of Neil Diamond’s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and “Love to Love.”

The other three discs are devoted to, respectively, January 1967 session, February 1967 sessions and March 1967 and beyond sessions.

In January and February 1967, Kirshner oversaw sessions in New York, where more than an album’s worth of backing tracks were recorded. At the same time in Hollywood, the Monkees – Dolenz, Davy Jones, Nesmith and Tork – began recording songs with producer Chip Douglas. This set sees the debut of the band’s earliest demos for “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” and “All of Your Toys.” The band recorded them to convince Kirshner the group should have more creative input.

Kirshner balked at that, and the showdown continued until late February, when he was dismissed after unilaterally removing Nesmith’s “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” as the B-side on the band’s new single. With Kirshner gone, the band took creative control and began recording with Douglas producing (credited as Douglas Farthing Hatlelid).While previous reissues, like “Headquarters Sessions” (Rhino Handmade, 2000), have focused exclusively on The Monkees’ time in the studio, the new collection is the first to revisit the songs Kirshner planned to include on the album. There are 23 previously unreleased backing tracks from those sessions. Many were recorded by producer Jeff Barry in New York early in 1967. They include several songs he wrote or co-wrote (“99 Pounds,” “Gotta Give It Time”), plus contributions from other songwriters, including the two from Diamond. Unheard outtakes include “Detuned 12-Bar Jam,” an informal recording of Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind,” and different versions of “You Just May Be the One,” “Forget That Girl” and “No Time.”

Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Andrew Sandoval compiled and remixed the audio and penned the detailed liner notes in the illustrated 28-page booklet. The set includes a 7-inch vinyl single of “All of Your Toys/The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Grade: set B+

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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