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"Get up! and get your grandma outta here!",
This review is from: Alive! (Audio CD)
...The first line Gene screams from the immortal "Deuce" which opens one of the best live albums ever made. KISS Alive! (Sept.1975) was the big breakthrough album for KISS. They didn't receive much radio play from the first 3 albums until they had some success with "C'mon & Love Me" from the previous album Dressed to Kill. Ironically, Dressed to Kill also featured what was to become their first big hit "Rock & Roll All Nite", but it was the Alive! version that climbed the charts, not the original studio cut. Alive! was the first top ten album KISS made and remained on the charts ultimately reaching quadruple platinum sales (4 Mil) and beyond. Obviously, KISS is a very visual band and an electrifying stage presence so it made sense they would achieve their first success with an album document of one of these shows.
Alive! was the first album where KISS worked with producer Eddie Kramer who previously worked with legends like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Kramer would go on to produce 6 seminal KISS albums from their peak era in the 1970s including Ace Frehley's '78 solo album (he also worked on most of Ace's solo output in the 80s). Another interesting fact is that this album would complete an original contract that KISS had signed with Casablanca records. Since the first three albums weren't successful upon release, Alive! had to be a hit or else. Also this is not one single concert recording. Apparently the performances are from different shows with the rumored majority being from Michigan, but also other places like New Jersey and Ohio have been mentioned. It doesn't really matter because the show flows well and this is probably the common practice for most live recordings to get the best selection of tracks. All four band members have also admitted that some things were doctored (overdubbing of vocals and instruments) here and there to clean up the recording but not to perfect it. Again, this is common practice.
Alive! was originally released as a double LP set with a total of 16 tracks. Opening up the gatefold album cover featured a track listing and a photo consisting of hand written letters from each member of the band. There was also a booklet featuring great photos of the band and advertisements for the previous 3 albums. On the back cover was a photo of the audience with a focus on two fans holding up a sign they made. If there was ever album packaging missed by the invention of tapes and CDs, it's KISS albums.
Now the important part, the songs. When Alive! was released on CD it was spread onto 2 discs with the first 9 tracks on disc 1 and the remaining 7 on disc 2. When I heard it was going to be remastered, I assumed Alive! would be condensed onto a single disc because it can be, but it remains in it's 2 disc form. However it has been digitally remastered and if you had to have this album in 4 discs it would be worth it. The first CD kicks off with regular show opener "Deuce" then goes through exciting versions of other debut album tracks: Strutter", "Firehouse", & "Nothin' to Lose" (featuring Peter Criss on chorus). You're also treated to revitalized versions of "Got to Choose", "Parasite"(listen to those drums!), and "Hotter Than Hell" from their second album of the latter track's title. The remaining two songs, the spirited "C'mon & Love Me" and the groovy closer "She" are from Dressed to Kill. Disc 2 opens and closes with two Hotter Than Hell tracks (both with Gene on vocals) - "Watchin' You" (great guitar harmonies) and "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll". In the middle is one great track from Dressed to Kill - "Rock Bottom" (with a shorter intro) and the meat being four essentials from the debut album - "100,000 Years" (with drum solo), "Black Diamond" (strong vocals by Peter), the Ace penned "Cold Gin", and of course the classic "Rock and Roll all Nite", which I always thought should've been the album closer. The one time I was lucky enough to see KISS on stage was a few years ago when they came to my town (Carbondale, IL) during the make-up reunion tour. All four members were there at this time and "Rock and Roll all Nite" was the closer. I remember the sight of the giant sparkling disco ball and confetti flying everywhere. It was and is the loudest concert I've witnessed and the rest is a blur of fire and spectacle. Gene breathed fire, Peter's drums rose high, Ace shot a stage light down with his Les Paul and yes, Paul smashed his guitar to smithereens. A truly momentous occasion. This album is completely essential.
KISS: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss