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Record Rack

July 30, 1999|STEVE APPLEFORD

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS

"Detroit Rock City"

Island

*

KISS was never a great rock band. Even at its best, the colorful group's songs were thin, cornball and laughable when placed alongside the work of such hard-rocking contemporaries as Led Zeppelin or AC/DC.

But KISS was unparalleled in tapping into rock's cartoonish imagination, with Kabuki makeup and songs of adolescent desire and bug-eyed abandon.

That same feeling is celebrated on this inspired soundtrack, which mingles well-chosen chestnuts with new tracks by contemporary artists paying homage to their metal heroes. Speed-metal act Pantera pushes Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" to neo-metal extremes, while Everclear's punked-up rhythm and sneering attitude are well suited to its version of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town."

The most liberties are taken with Marilyn Manson's inventive take on AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," transformed here into a horror show of grinding, post-electronic metal. And like the other new tracks, it holds up well beside classic rock recordings by Black Sabbath, Van Halen, KISS and others. It's enough to carry a metal fan to head-banging nirvana.

That's until KISS circa '99 closes the album by coughing up "Nothing Can Keep Me From You," an overwrought romantic ballad that shows where the band is at these days, and to remind fans that nothing cool lasts forever. The album is due in stores Tuesday.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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