The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 4: A brand new BONUS review!
Radio broadcast CDs are common and cheap today. They are a great way to get rare live recordings from bands you love, at a good price, with acceptable sound quality. When this set was recorded at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland (April 1, 1974) Kiss only had one album out. It’s a rare early glimpse at the band when they were just beginning to stretch their road legs. Already, the performances on this CD were far more fiery than that on their studio albums — and that’s without Gene breathing fire.
The Agora set was a mere eight songs, and a strong representation of Kiss’ best early material. Almost everything is from the first LP; nothing from the second that would be released a mere six months later. The oddity is “She”, an old Wicked Lester holdover that wouldn’t come out as a Kiss song until 1975. Also fascinating is that Gene Simmons even does some talking between songs, and you can see why he lets Paul do all the talking now. “How many are you, a hundred? Are you ready to rock? Rock?” Paul Stanley was clearly better at stage raps, and this CD offers a reason why Gene doesn’t do them anymore.
As with any radio broadcast CD, do not expect flawless audio. This isn’t the greatest recording. There’s hardly any bass. What it is though is a great performance captured at the very beginning. Tracks like “100,000 Years”, “Nothin’ to Lose” and “Cold Gin” have so much reckless energy that they make the originals sound sterile. Kiss were a very active band on stage, and all that jumping around means bad chords, missed notes and vocals that drop in and out as Paul moves to and fro. You wanted authenticity? You got authenticity. The most consistent member is Ace Frehley whose solos were often highlights of any Kiss song.
Best track: “Black Diamond”.
But wait, there’s more! From ABC In Concert (03/29/74) comes additional versions of “Nothin’ to Lose”, “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond”. These are not flawless either, but they have more beef and a lot more bass. The performances are just as ragged. Then from their legendary appearance on the Mike Douglas Show (04/29/74) is the Gene Simmons interview and “Firehouse” once more. “Let me spread my wings”, says an awkward Gene, not quite the character he’d become later, but quite the ham. The audience (and guests) had no idea what to make of him. These are tapes that fans have had and loved for years, but to have them on a commercial CD is pretty cool. Besides, these really are bonus tracks. They’re not on other versions of Agora, such as the 4 CD Radio Waves 1974-1988 which only has the first eight songs.
Any Kiss fan needs the Agora show in some form. This CD may as well be your choice, since it’s affordably priced and has those lovely bonus cuts. Kiss is a band that evolved, year by year, from sheer touring experience. The early performances have a raw un-schooled edge, and that’s what makes them special.