The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 26:
The Animalize tour was the most successful that Kiss had done since the original lineup. It was an exciting stage show including a finale with the band playing on a levitating platform over the stage. It was logical to film the Detroit concert, returning to the Cobo Hall where much of Kiss Alive! was forged in 1975. It had been a long time since Kiss released anything live. The sequel album Alive II came in 1977, and then Kiss underwent radical upheaval and change, as we have documented through this series. In the 1970s there was a pattern: Three studio albums and then a live album. Animalize was the sixth studio album since Alive II with no Alive III on the horizon.
Fans had their own theories as to why Alive III never materialized when due, but it likely has a lot to do with the lineup changes, shifts in direction, and fading fortunes. These events all struck right around the time when the third live album would have been appropriate, but as Kiss replaced members and took off the makeup, they had to re-establish themselves as a valid, current entity not dependant on past glories.
The Animalize Cobo Hall concert that was filmed was released in 1985 as the home video, Animalize Live Uncensored. For an entire generation of Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored was our own Alive III. You could break down KISStory up to this point into three distinct eras as seen in the chart below.
Kiss had a whole new generation of fans, the MTV generation, who associated the makeup with ancient history. We didn’t have our own Kiss Alive. Without one, we made Animalize Live Uncensored into our unofficial Alive III.
Kiss were introducing yet another guitar player to the fans, but Bruce Kulick was fitting in great. Animalize Live Uncensored gave the fans at home a chance to check out his interpretations of new and old Kiss classics. He gave the Mark St. John tracks a smoother soloing style with more emphasis on hooky licks. The threw on tons of the flash that was in vogue at the time, but he didn’t showboat. He did exactly what the bosses (Paul and Gene) wanted, and he did it well enough to win over fans and keep the gig.
The Kiss of the 80s were way, way faster than the Kiss of the 70s. Eric Carr could play things that Peter Criss couldn’t, and speed was in fashion. Even old songs like “Cold Gin” and “Detroit Rock City” were sped up and 80s-ized. The fast stuff from their 80s albums, like “Fits Like a Glove” and “Young and Wasted” are done up even faster. Lots of songs by the original band such as “Shout it Out Loud”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Firehouse”, “Strutter” and many more were dropped in favour of new ones. “Under the Gun”, “Thrills in the Night” and “Heaven’s on Fire” were the newest, while plenty of songs from Lick it Up and Creatures were also retained. Using the chart above for reference, only five Kiss songs from the first two eras combined were included. The third era, never before represented in live form, gets ten tracks. The rest of the space is taken up by solos: Paul Stanley (guitar), Gene Simmons (bass) and Eric Carr (drums). There is no Bruce Kulick solo. As you have probably surmised, a Paul Stanley feature solo is as basic as they get, with Gene’s only a modicum more memorable. Eric Carr’s is fun and flashy — more so on video.
One big highlight of Animalize Live Uncensored is Eric Carr’s lead vocal debut on a Kiss release. The Fox was given “Young and Wasted” from Lick It Up to sing, in addition to Peter Criss’ part in “Black Diamond”. And so Kiss fans began a long and painful wait to hear him sing something on a Kiss studio album.
For dyed in the wool Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored is universally remembered for mainly one thing: that is Paul Stanley’s epic song introductions. “Love Gun” is the most legendary, a tale of Paul “partying” too much and having to go to the doctor to get himself checked out. The nurse decides to “start this examination just a little bit early” and asks Paul to remove his pants…where she discovers his (wait for it) “LOVE GUN”! There are so many great Paul intros on this video that it’s worth checking out for them alone. Full visuals help.
But what about a CD release, for that generation of fans for whom this is their Alive III? There are options. None are perfect. In fact, there isn’t even a DVD version. There are only semi-official looking bootlegs and the old original VHS. For CDs, you must go with a radio broadcast release, and none are perfect. Single disc versions are obviously trimmed for time and usually have 15 tracks including a couple solos. There is also a two disc broadcast from WLLZ in Detroit which has all 18 songs and all the solos too. This is available on a quadruple disc set called Radio Waves 1974-1988, released in 2015.* It even has intros and raps not included on the original Animalize Live VHS release! “Black Diamond” has a much longer introduction and much of the talking isn’t available elsewhere. During the encores, they mess around with the traditional “Oh Susannah”. The other intros and raps, the classic ones, are edited or missing completely! You just can’t win.
Only one track from this concert has been officially released on LP and CD: “Heaven’s On Fire”, which was Kiss’ contribution to Ronnie James Dio’s Hear N’ Aid – Stars album in 1986. Kiss completists will want to make sure they have that one.
One could meticulously paste in all of Paul Stanley’s missing and edited stage raps, and add them to your tracklist. It would be bloody time consuming. You’d have to listen to your compiled creation a few times to justify the time spent putting it together. But it could be done. It really is a shame that this broadcast CD is a few intros shy of complete. The sound is iffy at times too, with a lot of static where there shouldn’t be. But for the time being, it’s the best we got.
To be continued…
*CD 1 is Agora Ballroom, previously reviewed in a prior superior edition. CD 4 is Live at the Ritz 1988, but including the song “Reason to Live” often missing from the broadcast!
Original mikeladano.com review: 2012/08/01