Friday, September 10, 2010

Kiss' Alive! turns 35

KISS - Alive!
Rating: ****

In 1973, Kiss were a new rock band that was doing something different. Their shows were theatrical as there was pyrotechnics and explosions. The band consisted of bassist Gene Simmons, guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley, and drummer Peter Criss. Each member also wore full-on make-up and each had their own persona, along with wearing costumes. By 1975, the band had three studio albums under their belts (Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, and Dressed To Kill) but neither of them did anything. The band were staying alive by touring and wowing audiences with their amazing stage shows. However in 1975, Kiss learned that their record label Casablanca Records were on the verge of bankruptcy. Kiss had to release an album that would sell and that people would buy. Since Kiss were known for their shows, the idea of doing a double live album seemed to be the way to go. However, live albums were known not to sell a lot of copies. Still, Kiss gave it a shot. The first series of shows recorded were at a sold out show at the Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan. When the band heard the tapes that producer Eddie Kramer had recorded, they were horrified: the audience was too loud and you couldn't even hear the singing. Like many live albums before and after it, Alive! had to be overdubbed in the recording studio. According to Kramer, only the drums are live. There is still dispute over which songs are live and aren't. Still with fake bomb explosions and audience cheer, Alive! still gave the listener what a Kiss show was like then.

Alive! feels like you are at the actual concert. Before the age of VHS', DVDs, or even YouTube, live records were the closest thing to being at the actual show. Once you hear the introduction to "Deuce", you know you're in for a good live album. "Strutter" follows. One other great thing about Alive! is that it captures the on-stage banter of Paul Stanley in between songs. His introduction to "Cold Gin": "I was talking to somebody backstage before and he told me there's a lot of you people who like to drink vodka and orange juice! Alright!" How can you not love this stuff? There are some performances of songs that are far better than the studio version. For example, "100,000 Years" goes on for 12 minutes. This includes a drum solo from Criss and Stanley pumping up the crowd. My personal favorite Kiss song "Black Diamond" sounds absolutely perfect and heavier than the studio version. "Rock And Roll All Nite" is a bit longer than the studio version and actually earned the band their first hit single. From start to finish, Alive! is an amazing live album by anybody.

Alive!, to the band's surprise, reached gold status very quickly. Unlike the previous Kiss albums, Alive! was an album that sold millions of copies. The album also catapulted Kiss into rock n roll super-stardom and allowed the band to make more fantastic albums and songs. 35 years after the release of Alive!, Kiss is still going on strong. Although Frehley and Criss are absent Simmons, Stanley, guitarist Tommy Thayer, and drummer Eric Singer are still touring and keeping this great music alive and kicking. Alive! is one of my all time favorite albums and ranks at #102 on my list of 200 top albums. This may not sound like much but Alive! did something that no other album had done before: it got me into live albums and the fun they can be when one listens to a live album. For relevance, Alive! should be celebrated as one of the greatest live recording ever made.

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