On Unplugged, Kiss grab acoustic guitars, plop down on stools, and play makeup-era hits like ”Do You Love Me” as if the songs are standards deserving such reverential treatment. And of course they are. Sounding crisper than anyone has a right to expect, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and the gang remind anyone who still needs reminding that few bands wrote funnier, more knowing babes-and-fast-times anthems, and they resurrect forgotten gems like the 1974 ballad ”Goin’ Blind” and ”World Without Heroes,” Simmons’ sulky 1981 collaboration with Lou Reed. If you’re not moved by the endearingly schmaltzy ”Beth” — one of four tracks featuring a reunion of the band’s original, now mythic lineup — then you are the real cold, fire-breathing demon that Simmons himself played with such tongue-slurping delight.
Like anyone — leather clad or not — Kiss crave respect and admiration, and both Unplugged and their 1994 tribute album (as well as a possible reunion tour, complete with makeup) appear to be part of the band’s campaign to guarantee their eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This yearning for acceptance is a bit unnerving: After all, didn’t Kiss earn credibility through their very lack of respectability? Not to worry: During ”Plaster Caster” — their ode to a groupie whose passion is making sculptures of, um, body parts — Simmons belches out, ”If you wanna see my love, just ask her!” Even without the benefit of video footage from their MTV special, you can still picture the knowing leer on his face. A