RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive! (1975)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 6:  

img_20170228_171256kiss-logoAlive! (1975 Casablanca, 2006 remastered edition from Alive! 1975-2000)

Music fans consider it one of the greatest live albums of all time.  Its name is spoken in the same breath as Frampton Comes Alive, Cheap Trick At Budokan, and Deep Purple Made in Japan.  It spawned thousands of young new guitar players (particularly of the grunge era), eager to emulate the six string heroism of Ace Frehley.  There is really only one miniscule issue:  Kiss Alive! is not really live.

Oh sure, Kiss and producer Eddie Kramer did record live shows.  When they listened back to the tapes, there were no performances that satisfied them.  Kiss were too rambunctious live.  They were busy jumping around, entertaining the crowd, not paying attention to each and every note.  For the live album, they weren’t looking for perfection, just performances without glaring mistakes or noise.  They realized they didn’t capture that with the shows they recorded.   So they did what most bands do:  went back into the studio and try to fix it.  Lead singer and guitarist Paul Stanley explained it in his book: “Yes, we enhanced it – not to hide anything, not to fool anyone.  But who wanted to hear a mistake repeated endlessly? Who wanted to hear an out-of-tune guitar? For what? Authenticity?”

Authenticity is an important part of great rock music, but not the only important part.  If you can’t tell the difference, then does it matter?  Fans listened to Kiss Alive! for decades, blindly enjoying every detail, from Ace Frehley’s extended “Rock and Roll all Nite” guitar solo, to Paul Stanley’s unforgettable stage raps.  Few suspected anything was out of the ordinary, unless they heard original bootleg recordings of the same Kiss gigs.  Eddie Kramer and the band re-recorded approximately 70% of the album.  The only thing they didn’t have to touch were Peter Criss’ drums, which were already pretty solid.  Bass, vocals, and even lead guitar was touched up and fixed, all but seamlessly.

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The reason Kiss Alive! was and is considered great is that you can’t tell the difference.  Unlike a double live Poison album (or even Kiss Alive II), you cannot hear obvious fixes and overdubs.  Kiss Alive! might not be authentic, but certainly sounds it.

With 16 scorching tracks all sourced from the first three Kiss albums, Alive! is all killer and no filler.  Even the typical “slow” moments, such as a long Paul Stanley rap backed by a Peter Criss drum solo (“100,000 Years”) is an unforgettable highlight.  Importantly, the new live version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” became the definitive one.  Today, it’s not the studio original version that still gets ready airplay.  It’s the Kiss Alive! version.  Many of these tracks usurp the originals as the superior versions:  “Firehouse”, “Cold Gin”, “Watchin’ You”, “Nothin’ to Lose”, and just about everything from Hotter Than Hell.  For the first time, all the warmth and energy are captured on Kiss vinyl.  If any of their studio material sounded sleepy, then this was a shot of caffeine.  Any sonic issues with the first Kiss studio albums are quickly forgotten by these volcanic recordings, finally capturing Kiss’ full power…in a roundabout way.

Kiss Alive! saved the band, and saved their record label Casablanca records.  Casablanca were on the verge of bankruptcy, and manager Bill Aucoin had to put the band on the road using his American Express card for currency.  Alive! put everybody back in the black.  It also put Kiss on the map as a rock and roll band to be reckoned with.  The two LP set was decked out with a gatefold sleeve, photos, a booklet, and even written notes from the band members.  For the first time, it felt like Kiss had released an album that lived up not only to their show, but their larger than life image.

Whether you decide to pick up Kiss Alive! on CD or LP, you will be in for a “rock and roll party” as per Paul Stanley.  Our recommended edition:  The four disc 2006 box set Alive! 1975-2000.  The set contains four volumes of Kiss Alive, deliciously remastered, with each album fit onto a single CD without losing any songs.  Fire away.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:   I would approximate that it was probably somewhere around 1978 when I first heard this record at a friend’s place.  I sat there and stared at the inner booklet and the album artwork, and I just wanted to be there.  I actually did get there many years later, but since I was like nine years old at this time and had not seen any sort of concert, it was all I knew of what a rock show was.  The picture on the back of the album taken at Detroit’s Cobo Hall is an unforgettable one, and makes you almost feel like you are there.  You get the scope of what it’s like to be on the floor for an arena show.  Tracks like “She”, “100,000 Years” and “Cold Gin” shine on this record specifically because of the banter of Paul Stanley.  I think it’s what truly makes the album special.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Bruce Dickinson may have learned a thing or two from the Starchild on how to connect with an audience.  Alive! is the most important album of Kiss’ career, and is especially significant for those who were lucky to be a Kiss fan at a young age, while their unstoppable takeover of the Earth was building and building.

Following the release of Kiss Alive! in September of 1975, the second half of the 70s became known as the “Live Album Era” of Rock and Roll. Not only were a lot of bands doing it, but they were having massive successes with them (At BudokanFrampton Comes Alive...Unleashed in the EastIf You Want Blood etc).  This pioneering album was able to make the listener feel like they were actually at a rock concert, better than almost any live record has since.  Kiss Alive! was truly the birth of what is now known as The Kiss Army.

However with all this good comes some bad.  It was revealed years ago what everyone had already suspected: Most of the record is overdubbed and even most of the crowd noise is dubbed in.  For this reason and this reason alone I didn’t give this album 5 steaks.  But I refuse to go lower than 4 ½ .

Favorite Tracks:   All of it.

Forgettable Tracks:  None


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/03

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38 comments

  1. I’m not gonna argue either. This album is perfect from front to back. Don’t care where or how it was made… just that it was made!

    Always thought it was pretty amusing though that for most of the 70s they complained that they couldn’t capture their live sound in the studio but, when they did the live albums, they ended up re-recording most of them in a studio!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes and that goes for Alive II and supposedly quite a bit of Alive III as well!

      Here’s my theory: Peter Criss’ drums were the main thing they kept. So they would have had to re-record to Peter’s drums, which were often faster. So maybe that pushed Kiss into playing more aggressive in the studio on Alive, because they had to keep up with Peter’s live drums.

      Just my theory!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I think its to do with the tempo and energy too. A lot of the 70s studio stuff was played really slow and ploddy. I think that’s why Dressed To Kill was so good, they actually got the tempos right on that. But the live versions were usually much more upbeat than the studio ones.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Two of those three flip and flop out of my top three. Replace Rock And Roll Over with Hotter Than Hell and we’re in the same boat. But really who cares, these are some seriously incredible albums!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. For sure Mikey….my alarm goes off at 5:15 am and it’s feed and let the dogs out/pour the first coffee of the day and cruise WordPress….than off to work at 6:15. ….

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’m almost exactly an hour behind you. 6:20 alarm goes off and I’m in the car by 7:10. I manage some WP time usually about 10 minutes…because I spend too much time on my hair…probably time for a shave again.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Glamour Boy! HAHAHA….looking forward to Meat Man’s solo review …like the fact that he’s piggybacking off your posts….thats cool….
          Still though boggles my mind that u can go through this whole Kiss catalog again!! What is it? something like 275 Kiss albums…
          I did the 8 Ozzy Sabbath albums spread out over a month and that almost did me in…hahaha…

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Well dude I basically listen to all the Kiss albums a few times a year. I mean, they’re my favourite band! So a lot of this is my thinking over the past 5 years of playing these albums over and over! LOL

          But also in the background I have a lot of non-Kiss stuff to post in between, so I actually haven’t written any Kiss stuff at all this week!

          Liked by 1 person

        5. HAHAHA…Nope…but great guess!..I will review that one at one point as its an interesting album as its cool to see Sam’s solo curve on how it went on the up and up…

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and let’s face it, there are a lot of artists using overdubs. Ozzy…Dio…I think even Maiden’s Live After Death sounds a little “too” sweet (if you listen especially to the backing vocals.)

      Like

  2. Great write-up (write-ups). One of four Kiss albums I own and I dig it a fair bit and it’s on my list to pick up if I ever see a vinyl copy. I wasn’t aware there was so much studio shenanigans going on with this until fairly recently, but as HMO says, what matters is this one exists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My friend, always remember this: Frampton Comes Alive and Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous were also largely constructed in the studio. You don’t hear too many people slagging those albums. Kiss Alive deserves the same. This isn’t Poison’s double live!

      I have three copies of this currently. I have the 2006 Kiss Alive box set, my original vinyl acquired in grade 8 in an epic three way trade (story here: https://mikeladano.com/2012/03/09/part-3-my-first-kiss-11-2/) and also the 180 gram reissue from my lovely Mrs.

      Like

        1. Cheap Trick at the budokan on the deluxe you get the domestic version which we all heard and it also features the full uncut show from one of there nights at the Budokan. It’s an interesting listen a little more looser ….
          In the booklet though they say they had to re record the bass as it didn’t record during the show ….
          They were all doctored up except Live Bootleg the greatest live album of all time in Deke’s world that is…

          Liked by 3 people

        2. I was listening to Live Bootleg the other day while packing up. Definitely one of the best live albums out there. Shambolic, rocking, great songs … and just pretty great overall.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. One of these days I’m going to do a post about live albums — what I like, what I don’t, and finish it off with a top 5 list. Think you’d wanna do a top five live albums of all time list with me?

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Aerosmith was too wasted to give a shit what they sounded like back then. Not a face band of mine … But their approach on that album is real and raw . That’s appealing to me.

          Fast forward to like 1991 .. I saw a weird lineup of ( in order of appearance) Black crowes .. Warrant .. Metallica and Aerosmith.

          Three songs into Aerosmith I noticed one mic on the stage and rich background vocals .. I left and hung outside after that

          Liked by 2 people

        5. Aerosmith wouldn’t be in my top ten or even top 20 bands. But Live Bootleg is one of my favourite live albums. And yeah they were wasted and didn’t give a shit. A lot of fans think they were better when they were wasted and didn’t give a shit. Maybe that’s true.

          The infamous 1991 Metallica four-band bill. Warrant is the real head scratcher on that bill.

          And that thing about Aerosmith live doesn’t surprise me at all, this subject came up on Aaron’s review of Aerosmith’s live album:

          https://keepsmealive.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/aerosmith-a-little-south-of-sanity/

          I really hated that album, you can really hear the backing tapes/overdubs/whatever. Not at all like Alive where you just can’t tell.

          Like

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