Kiss: Destroyer: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe, 4 CDs + Blu-ray). A 45th anniversary is kind of an unusual one to celebrate, but diehard Kiss fans will want this set despite its hefty price tag. While there also are vinyl and digital editions, this 4-CD plus Blu-ray audio box set also includes a wealth of extras aimed at Kiss fans. There are facsimiles of the 1976 Kiss Army membership pack, including certificates, newsletters, press photos and bios, as well as new iron-on logos, bumper stickers, concert posters, the Gotham Rock City News interview newspaper, two stage blueprints, a 68-page hardcover book and a 16-page 1976 tour program.

The original album is included in the 96kHz 24-bit Blu-ray format, with two bonus tracks, an acoustic version of “Beth” in place of the usual version and Ace Frehley’s original solo on “Sweet Pain” in place of the familiar Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper) one. Steven Wilson was brought in to create a first-ever Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround mix of the original studio album. The first CD includes the original album, newly remastered at Abbey Road Mastering, while disc two has five Paul Stanley demos (3 unreleased) and 10 Gene Simmons ones (5 unreleased) from their personal archives. Disc three has six single edits, five instrumental versions and three early versions of songs, with 15 of the 22 tracks previously unreleased. The fourth CD contains the band’s electrifying live performance at the L’Olympia in Paris, France on May 22, 1976.

“Destroyer” was originally released on March 15, 1976 as the group’s fourth studio album, and is considered to be one of the quintessential Kiss albums. It was the band’s first album to sell one million copies in its first year and holds the title of being their all-time best-selling studio album. It contains concert staples and Kiss Army favorites “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “God of Thunder” and “Beth.” Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, see Deep Purple below) was brought in as Kiss’ new producer, helping the band reach new levels, sonically and creatively. The band’s growth as musicians and songwriters and experimenting with new sounds came in the form of the softer side of songs like “Do You Love Me?,” and songs heavy with orchestral arrangements, including “Great Expectations” and their Billboard No. 7 hit single “Beth.” Following the breakthrough success of 1975’s No. 9 Billboard-charting “Alive!,” “Destroyer” was the album that brought Kiss to the forefront of the mainstream and transformed them into global rock icons.

The album proved to be as close as Kiss got to a polished sound in the 1970s, with dynamic massed guitars, power chords and precision in “Detroit Rock City,” an anthemic, stadium-ready show-starter that opens with a radio news report that includes a fatal accident. It is one of seven numbers that Ezrin co-wrote. Another outside writer involved was Kim Fowley (Runaways) who co-wrote two songs, including, with Stanley, the classic “King of the Night Time World,” a shot of glam that helped define Stanley’s onstage Lothario persona, as does “God of Thunder” for Simmons, a heavy beat, lumbering anthem with some children’s play chatter in the background. Fowley also co-wrote “Do You Love Me?,” a cynical song about lustful groupies.

“Great Expectations” is mid-tempo, baroque pop-rock, with a big high-note chorus, while Simmons’ “Sweet Pain” is rock and roll, more like the band’s earlier work. It has lots of backing vocals and a fine chorus and drumming by Peter Criss. The athematic “Shout It Out Loud” quickly became a catchy classic. Criss’ “Beth” is undeniably schmaltzy, but it features lush orchestration by members of the New York Philharmonic and Wagner on acoustic guitar.

Of the disc two demos, most of which Ezrin rejected, Stanley’s “Doncha Hesitate” and “God of Thunder and Rock and Roll,” faster than the album version, have been available previously. A good new one is “It’s the Fire,” with a drone buzz and nice guitar. There also is an early version of “Detroit Rock City” and the grinding “Love is Alright.”

Much of the Simmons’ demos would surface as finished songs elsewhere. “Bad Bad Loving,” with a new chorus, became “Calling Doctor Love” and the handclap-filled “I Don’t Want No Romance,” a new release, became “Ladies Room,” both on “Rock and Roll Over,” the band’s next studio album. Both the funky “Man of a Thousand Faces” and “True Confessions,” but with Helen Reddy backing vocals, ended up on Simmons’ 1978 solo album. The funky “Burnin’ Up with Fever” also made a solo album, with added vocals by Donna Summer. “Rock n’ Roll Royce” is a song about meeting up with groupies, while the vocal is heavily echoed on “Star,” which is either ironic or revealing.

Disc three contains an acoustic mix of “Beth,” as well as a mono version and two instrumental versions. Also of interest is a live rehearsal version of “King of the Night Time World,” and a couple of versions of “Ain’t None of Your Business.” There are early versions of “Great Expectations,” “Flaming Youth” and “Do You Love Me?”

The live disc is a loud and rough recording made in Paris. The sound is a bit sludgy, with the mix overwhelmingly favoring the guitars at the expense of the vocals. There is plenty of crowd noise and general chaos as the band rocks through debut album classics “Deuce” and “Strutter,” plus the then-new songs. Frehley gets a guitar solo, Criss a drum solo and Simmons a bass solo.

Everything is housed in a lift top-style box that features artist Ken Kelly’s original “Destroyer” cover art, one of the most iconic album covers in rock. Grade: A+ for Kiss fanatics; B+ for others

Nirvana: Nevermind 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (DGC/UMe, 5 CDs + Blu-ray, 60 min.). This 1991 release, which mixed pop and punk and paved the way for grunge, changed the course of popular music like few albums ever have. It also ended the dominance of 1980s hair metal. The Aberdeen, Wash. trio – singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and new drummer Dave Grohl – used heavy chunks of ’70s bass and guitar to cross genres into their sound, which caught on in a huge way – the album sold 7 million copies – thanks in part to the cheerleading rally-from-hell music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that dominated MTV.

Cobain, who wrote some 70 percent of the music (as determined by a subsequent lawsuit that looked to reallocate the album’s profits among the group members), impressionistically strung words, seemingly haphazardly, into lyrics, creating a song’s mood. His songs use a lot of lyric repetition, usually ending in a shriek, as on “Stay Away.” The music has blunt, guileless riffs.

This new box set pairs the original, remastered album with four live recordings that date between November, 1991 and February, 1992, showing the band’s growth over just a few months. The first of the four live shows, filmed for Dutch television, can be watched on the Blu-ray disc. An earlier, 20th anniversary anthology showed the creative process leading up to the album through demos, rehearsal tapes and rough mixes.

The new box has a total of 94 audio and video tracks – 70 previously unreleased – available across configurations ranging from Super Deluxe Editions to standard digital/CD and single disc vinyl with a bonus 7-inch. In all formats, “Nevermind” is newly remastered from the original half-inch stereo analog tapes to high-resolution 192kHz 24-bit.

When listening to “Nevermind” for the first time in probably two decades, I was reminded how much I actually liked the music. In addition to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” classics it yielded included “Come as You Are” and “Lithium.” “In Bloom,” which became the album’s fourth single, also is good. Soft acoustic guitar opens “Polly,” a dark and tragic song about a 14-year-old girl who was abducted, tortured and raped in 1987. The musically outstanding “Drain You” features a pop melody, as does the catchy “On a Plain,” while “Territorial Pissings” is pure punk assault, after Novoselic opens the track in a silly voice doing some of the lyrics from The Youngbloods’ 1967 hit “Get Together.”

The album seems to end with the acoustic “Something in the Way,” which adds cello accents, but after 10 minutes of silence, there is a hidden track (6:42).

Included as both audio and video is Nirvana playing Amsterdam’s Paradiso on Nov. 25, 1991. For much of the show, Cobain stands rather still, as Dutch stage divers, with and without shirts, cavort around him and Novoselic. Grohl also is shirtless, at least at the beginning, but dons a shirt after the opening few numbers. His drum attack is awesomely pulverizing here. The barefooted Novoselic moves around the most. Cobain does lay the mic and stand on the floor during “Breed” and drops to his knees to sing “she said” repeatedly into the mic. At the end, Cobain topples Grohl’s drum kit by jumping on Grohl.

The mix is a bit thin-sounding. Cobain’s voice is raw and fine throughout, although he torpedoes “Come as You Are” by caterwauling the lyrics, after a hissy fit over his inability to tune his guitar correctly. When one stage diver dances a jig during “Love Buzz,” Grohl goofily sings a bit of the Village People’s “Macho Man” in time to the riff.

The band sounds progressively better in each of the concerts that follow. The second is Dec. 28, 1991 at the Pat O’Brien Pavilion in Del Mar, Calif. It features three songs from “Bleach,” Nirvana’s debut album, and highlights include “Breed” and “Lithium.” The third concert, previously unreleased, took place Feb. 1, 1992 at The Palace in Melbourne, Australia. The set list is considerably shifted around, with the great “Aneurysm” opening the show. The crown sings along to “Lithium,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has moved from early middle to the last song of the regular set. This time, the encore opens with the band fiddling with feedback. The last concert is from Feb. 19, 1992 at the Nakano Sunplaza in Tokyo, Japan. Cobain’s voice seems off, but midway it is either Novoselic or Grohl who says he is recovering from illness. “Lithium,” “About a Girl” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are solid, with Cobain even playing a distortion-filled feedback solo on the latter. On “School,” Cobain sings and screams “Drinking cow sperm again” instead of “You’re in high school again,” reflecting the illness comments.

The set comes with a 40-page hardcover book with unreleased photos. Grade: set A

Eric Clapton: The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions (Mercury Studios/Universal, Blu-ray + CD, 77 min.). The lady of the title is Clapton’s wife Melia, the sole spectator at this intimate quartet recording session at Buck Hall in Cowdray Park, a Victorian country house built in 1875 in West Sussex, England. Clapton decided to perform and record the two sessions after the pandemic wiped out his tour, including his near-annual performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Clapton may have made news by being on the wrong side for opposing pandemic lockdowns and coronavirus vaccines, but he makes a right move by enlisting keyboardist Chris Stainton (Joe Cocker, The Who, Clapton since 1979), bassist Nathan East (Toto, Bee Gees, Clapton since the 1980s) and drummer Steve Gadd (Steely Dan, Bee Gees). All three have played in Clapton’s touring bands. The set of 17 numbers has Clapton playing acoustic guitar, with East often on stand-up bass and Gadd using brushes on his drums, until Clapton goes electric for the final three numbers.

During the opening “Nobody Knows,” the video shows the setting up for the performances. Throughout the video, directed by David Barnard, there are occasional views of the estate property and building. Early on, Clapton performs two numbers by Peter Green (early Fleetwood Mac), including a surprising “Black Magic Woman” (made popular by Santana) and “Man of the World.” East’s bass leads into J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight,” a hit for Clapton, and there is a nice version of Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues,” which goes back to Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos in 1970. From the same album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs,” the quartet will perform a warm, wonderful version of “Layla” later.

Next, the quartet turns to the blues for Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway,” a fine choice, followed by the gentle, soulful “River of Tears,” which Clapton wrote about his son, reflecting that he had never looked into his own father’s eyes. Clapton performs a nice solo midway through Melvin Jackson’s “Rock Me Baby.” With East singing on the chorus, the blues of “Going Down Slow,” by St. Louis Jimmy Oden, also goes down very nice. The acoustic portion of the show concludes with “Layla” and “Tears in Heaven,” another song Clapton wrote in 1991 about his son, but this time after 4-year-old Conor fell to his death out of an accidentally left open apartment building window. The latter song features sweet keyboard playing by Stainton.

The electric portion is all blues, with some sterling piano work by Stainton. It starts with Muddy Waters’ “Long Distance Call,” with solos by Stainton and Clapton, then they perform Clapton’s “Bad Boy,” which he wrote in 1970 with Bonnie Bramlett for his eponymously-named first solo album. Clapton had toured with Delaney & Bonnie (Bramlett) in 1969, and the Bramlett’s contributed to the writing of seven of the songs on his debut album, including five with Clapton and one each with Leon Russell and Steve Cropper. Clapton’s first recording of “After Midnight” also appeared on that solo album.

The show closes with Preston Foster’s “Got My Mojo Working,” with all four singing on the chorus. The four clearly were having fun performing these plugged-in numbers. The CD has the same material as the Blu-ray.

The release also is available on DVD+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl, and a deluxe edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray and CD packaged in a 40-page 12-inch-square hardback photo book, digital video and digital audio. In addition, a CD-only version is available exclusively at Target. Grade: A

Deep Purple: Turning to Crime (earMUSIC/Edel Germany CD, 50 min.). The pandemic lockdowns also informed this latest Deep Purple album, one in which the veteran band has a lot of fun playing classic songs by others. The album, the band’s 22nd studio album, was produced and mixed by veteran Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, see above Kiss), who assembled the band members’ separate recordings. Ian Gillan recorded his vocals at Real World Studios, while drummer Ian Paice, bassist Roger Glover, guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey each recorded at their respective home studios.

The album, which is terrific fun, opens with a version of Love and Arthur Lee’s “7 And 7 Is,” which is the album’s first single as well. There some old-style rock with Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” – kind of appropriate for mid-pandemic – then Peter Green’s (early Fleetwood Mac) “Oh Well,” which opens with solo guitar before really rocking, and the first verse is sung a cappella. The rocking continues with Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels’ “Jenny Take a Ride!” The latter has a tinkling piano solo that leads into an organ solo.

Unexpected choices include Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow,” Louis Jordan’s brassy “Let the Good Times Roll” and Jimmy Driftwood’s “Battle of New Orleans.” The latter is fun, with fiddle, squeeze box and Glover, Gillan, Morse and Ezrin all singing together. I do like me some classic rock though and, in addition to “7 And & Is,” there are The Yardbirds’ “Shape of Things” and Cream’s “White Room.” A deep cut is Bob Seger’s “Lucifer,” from his 1970 “Mongrel” album.

After 11 choice song choices, the album ends with a mostly instrumental medley that includes Don Nix’s “Going Down,” Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg, Al Jackson Jr. and Booker T. Jones’ “Green Onions,” the Allman Brothers’ “Hot ‘Lanta,” Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” and, finally with a vocal, Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood and Spencer Davis’ “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

Back before Gillan and Glover joined the band in 1969, the first Deep Purple lineup had released four covers as singles. They were “Hush” by Joe South, “Kentucky Woman” by Neil Diamond, “River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner, and “Help!” by The Beatles. Grade: A

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

The Nirvana “Nevermind” box set is opened.