alive ii

REVIEW: Klassik ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017)

KLASSIK ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017 EPs)

When I was a kid buying new Kiss albums likes Crazy Nights, I used to say “Kiss should go back and make a full album that sounds like Side Four of Alive II.” Either that or Kiss Killers. I thought either direction was worthy of re-visiting, since they were small collections of songs, not full albums.

The guys who created the original band Klassik ’78 read my mind, and decided to do something about it.  In the spirit of the Kiss sound circa Alive II, Klassik ’78 took it upon themselves to write and record a “lost” Kiss studio record that could have followed Love Gun.  Imagine Kiss didn’t split to make solo albums or return with a Disco record.  Original Kiss, not ghost musicians.  Klassik ’78 aimed to create an album from that exact year in that precise alternate universe.  The remarkable thing is that they actually succeeded.


The Side One EP has a bangin’ opener:  the Paul-styled “Standin’ Tall”.   Paul-vocalist “Joe” nails the Starchild’s mannerisms, while the riff mimics that kind that Paul was writing around the time of Rock And Roll Over.  A slaying Kiss-like chorus drives it home.  Klassik ’78 member “Tom” rolls out a Gene-like song as authentic as the Demon’s long tongue.  “Please n’ Tease” is a “Love ‘Em Leave ‘Em” styled sleaze rocker just like Simmons used to write them.  There’s even an Ace-y solo that burns like the Spaceman’s rockets.  “Mean Business” definitely nails the Alive II vibe, kind of like a sequel to “Larger Than Life” with a guy who’s doing his best to sound raspy like Peter Criss.  Another perfect faux-Frehley solo is the ideal topping.  “Passion & Love” is obviously a “Paul” song, a mirror image of “Mr. Speed” and a nearly perfect vocal.  Every “Ooh yeah!” is spot-on.  There’s a good chance you could fool any casual fan into thinking “Passion & Love” is an actual lost Kiss song from 1977.  “Rock and Roll You” is another Gene-like vehicle, right in that Kiss pocket.  Finally, with a title like “Streetwise”, you’re probably already expecting a track like Ace Frehley.  That’s exactly what you get, with a crunchy Ace-like riff, sharp licks, and the same kind of spacey vocals (also by “Tom”).  “I grew up in the city, spent my time on the street.”  Every lyric on Side One is crafted to fit the Kiss member it’s for.  The attention to detail is remarkable.  Certain moments of the “Ace” guitar solo have bits inspired by Frehley’s 1978 solo album.  It’s uncanny.

The important thing is that these are not just tracks that sound exactly like Kiss songs.  These are songs that sound exactly like good Kiss songs.  Could Klassik ’78 deliver another six tracks to make it a full, good album?


“Joe” in the Paul Stanley guise opens Side Two with a stunning “World on Fire”.  It is in the style of Stanley’s ’78 solo disc, but with the Frehley guitar fills of Kiss instead of Bob Kulick.  Time for a “Gene” song next with “Ain’t No Fool”, kinda similar to “Mad Dog” as released on the Box Set.  Another obvious Ace title is “Jendell”; I say “obvious” because hard core fans know that Ace Frehley supposedly comes from planet Jendell.  “I was sent on a mission, light years ago.  To help the human condition, for how long I didn’t know.”  Yep, it’s a “Space Ace” track and a good one at that, once again with tones inspired directly from the Frehley solo album.  Back to Alive II (think “Rockin’ in the USA”), it’s another “Gene” song with “American Made”.  The title alone is perfectly Simmons.  “I”m American Made, and all my dues have been paid.”  In the vibe of “Makin’ Love”, it’s a Stanley-like “Hot On Her Heels” next.  Once again, you could easily fool friends into thinking this is actually Kiss.  Closing Side Two is “Victims (Nosferatu)”, implying a Kiss Demon epic.  Think “Almost Human” from Love Gun, but with more heft.  Klassik kloser, pardon the pun.

I’m not going to bullshit you.  If the Klassik ’78 album was a real Kiss album from 1978, it would be considered one of their best, with the original six.  Obviously Kiss have no intention of ever making an album like this, so why not let Klassik ’78 have some fun with it?  Obviously the fans responded, because the limited run of CDs (re-titled The Un-Originals) sold out immediately.

Check out Klassik ’78 on iTunes, put on your old jean jacket and set your time machine back to 1978.  This album will transport you back.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive II (1977)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 10:  

kiss-logoAlive II (1977 Casablanca, 2006 remastered edition from Alive! 1975-2000)

Kiss in 1977 were a band of four different personalities, and those personalities were beginning to drift apart. There was talk of allowing members some time to do solo albums and blow off some steam. There was a Kiss movie happening (Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park), not to mention Love Gun and its accompanying tour.  Kiss Alive! was the album that made them a household name, so why not try to buy some time with another live release?  The band had amassed three more studio albums in the interim.

Eddie Kramer was hired once again to recapture the magic.  Shows (and soundchecks) in L.A. were recorded, and older tapes from a pre-Love Gun Japanese tour were dusted off.  They had lots of material to work with, and so it was decided that Alive II would have no crossover with tracks from Alive!, a value-conscious move that  fans appreciated.  They were still short enough songs to make a full double live, so studio time was booked at Electric Lady to record new songs too.  As with the previous Alive, much fixing and re-recording was done to the live tracks.  Some of the soundchecks were used with audience noise overdubbed.  Two songs (“Hard Luck Woman” and “Tomorrow and Tonight”) were actually re-recorded completely.  Knowing now what we didn’t know then, this certainly explains why Alive II sounds more sterile than the first, and why you can hear Paul Stanley singing backup vocals to his own lead vocals.

Alive II has always been viewed as sort of a poorer cousin to Alive!  It’s hard to blame the studio tampering, because Alive! was done the same.  For whatever reasons, it’s a lot more noticeable on Alive II, although not to the point of distraction.  Alive II simply does not have the same oomph, the same fire bleeding through.  Even with tracks like “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “God of Thunder” and “I Stole Your Love”, it’s hard to compete with Alive! for sheer ferocity.

As is their penchant, some songs like “God of Thunder” are much faster live.  “God of Thunder” could be the heaviest version of that track on tape.  “Ladies Room” and “Dr. Love” are also faster and harder.  “Makin’ Love” blows away the album version, and “I Want You” comes close.  Ace Frehley’s vocal slot on “Shock Me” is a welcome treat and obvious highlight, featuring Ace’s big solo spot.  As for Peter Criss, “Hard Luck Woman” is a nice electric version, but “Beth” underwhelms.  Singing “Beth” to backing tapes is a “who cares” moment anyway, but Peter doesn’t nail it either.

The real point of interest on Alive II is side four, the studio side, for two reasons.  One is that it’s a surprisingly strong side even though only one of these songs has gone on to be a classic today.  Paul Stanley has dismissed these tracks as schlock, but fans don’t always agree.  The second is that Kiss’ internal problems had come to a head, and once again members were secretly replaced on recordings by outsiders.

Ace Frehley wasn’t around, except to record his own song (“Rocket Ride”), which has become a second-tier Kiss classic.  Maybe to spite Kiss, he played all the bass and guitars on it.  Ace’s track is immediate, Kiss-like and perfect for his persona.  With Peter Criss in the pocket, Ace lays down some seriously wild effects-laden six-string magic.  But that was it.  Ace was focussed on his forthcoming solo album.  The wheels were already in motion and songs were being written.   To keep things from falling apart and maintain a facade of unity, Kiss decided that all four of them would release solo albums, unified, under the Kiss banner.

Meanwhile, Paul and Gene came up with a few tracks for side four.   Replacing Ace Frehley on lead guitar was the man who he nudged out of the job in the first place — Bob Kulick.  Paul and Bob had maintained a friendship in New York ever since his 1973 Kiss audition.  Bob was asked to come in on the sly and record uncredited.  His task was to play like Ace would have done it, a difficult task.  “Ace wouldn’t play that note”, someone would say from the control booth as Bob struggled to come up with the enigmatic “right” vibe.  But he did it, and now that we know the truth, fans hold Bob’s work in high esteem.

Paul Stanley’s “All American Man” (Stanley/Sean Delaney) has the goods:  a signature guitar hook, a memorable chorus and a killer solo that we only know now was actually Bob.  “All American Man” is a natural extension of where Kiss were headed with Love Gun.  Gene had the next two tracks, “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.” and “Larger Than Life”.  “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.” sounds like Gene writing his own “Ballad of John and Yoko”, but a hard rock version.  As for “Larger Than Life”, you can guess what body part Gene’s talking about.  “Larger Than Life” works because of the combination of Gene’s “monster plod” riff with Bob’s sweet guitar lightning.  Finally a cover of the Dave Clark Five hit “Any Way You Want It” closes Alive II, quick and catchy.  Kiss have a way of adapting their blocky rock style to covers and making it work.  Suddenly the Dave Clark Five sound like Kiss, rather than vice-versa.

Alive II arrived in stores on October 14 1977, exactly two weeks ahead of the much-hyped movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.  There are some who would consider this the end of the beginning.  But Kiss weren’t done releasing albums before the big solo projects came to fruition.  We know today that making Alive II was a financial move rather than an artistic one, but the reality is it was conceived as a product.  At least it was a quality product.  As usual, Kiss and Casablanca rewarded fans with goodies inside the original LP.  It had a gatefold cover, a booklet entitled “The Evolution of Kiss”, and temporary tattoos.  Good luck finding those intact.  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.  There’s even a bonus track:  the single edit of “Rock and Roll all Nite”, from the original Kiss Alive!  This 3:23 version is from the 7″ single, edited down from the 3:59 Alive! album version.  It was the first CD release of that version.

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Alive II is an album that for me, gets kinda lost in the shuffle amidst the Kiss discography.  Not because it’s not a good live album, but more that it’s very much Alive-lite.  There are definite highlights on this record of course, but it doesn’t pack the consistent hit-parade punch as the first “live” record.  I also have never really understood why side four was all studio tracks.   Kiss did get a minor hit out of “Rocket Ride” though, a pretty good Ace tune here, and a sign of things to come with an Ace song on the charts.  The other studio tracks feature some good guitar work, but not memorable overall.  If Kiss has played any of these songs live at all I would be surprised, but I’m sure LeBrain will have some Turkish B-side thingy that will prove me wrong.  [I don’t. – LeBrain]

I was wond’ring aloud (purposeful and cheap Tull shout-out there) earlier about the whereabouts of a good “God of Thunder” cover in an earlier review, but perhaps that cover is right here.  Kiss plays it live here in double time and I like the feel of it.  “Shock Me” shines on this album.  So do a few other Kiss classics.  I just see a few unnecessary garnishes on this plate.

Favorite Tracks:  “Shock Me”, “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “God of Thunder”, “I Stole Your Love”

 Forgettable Tracks:    Side four


 

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/12

 

 

 

Part 189: Hiding the Music

RECORD STORE TALES Part 189:  Hiding the Music

1985:

There was a group of kids on the street (Bob, myself, Rob Szabo, and Peter Coulliard) that were competing for a cassette copy of Kiss Alive II.  There was only one copy that we knew of in town on cassette.   Guys like Bob and Szabo would know that — they were older, had nice bikes, and probably had been checking all over town.  The only copy we knew of was at a store called Hi-Way Market.

Other kids on the street such as George and Todd had the album on vinyl, but Bob and myself didn’t really have any decent equipment for playing records at the time.  Cassette was portable, it was our primary medium in 1985.  In 1985, you didn’t listen to “albums”, you listened to “tapes”.  The cassette copy at Hi-Way Market was priced at $12.99.  This was more expensive than most, because it was considered a “double album” even though it was still just one tape.

KISS ALIVE II BACK

None of us had $12.99 plus tax right then, but Hi-Way Market had this tape we all wanted.  Hi-Way Market was a great store.  It had old creeky wooden floors.  Downstairs were groceries and clothing.  Upstairs, the greatest toy store in town.  Every Christmas they did a giant Space Lego display.  It was incredible.  But off to the side of this store, up a narrow staircase, was a little record store.  I bought my first Iron Maiden (Live After Death, on vinyl) there.  (I think the deciding factor in buying the vinyl of that album was the massive booklet, a rarity in those days.)

Since none of us had the money, Peter Coulliard hid the copy of Alive II behind something else in the store.  Something where no Kiss fan would ever look for it.  Probably behind Duran Duran or Michael Jackson.  This enabled Peter to have the edge when he finally did gather the necessary funds, thus edging Bob, Szabo and I out in the battle for Alive II.

1999:

These two kids kept coming into the store that were fascinated by my copy of Kiss’ Carnival of Souls.  These were young kids…well, about the same age as Bob, Peter and I were back when we pulled this stuff.  They did not have the $10.99 ($12.64 with tax) to purchase Carnival of Souls.  We didn’t have the only copy they could find, but we did have the cheapest one.  The mall stores were asking at least $20 for new copies.

So these kids came in day after day, week after week, moving Carnival of Souls.  They continually got more creative with their hiding places.  My job was to make sure the shelves were also straight and orderly, and when you’d find Kiss under Anne Murray, you’d put it back.  When bosses found Kiss under Anne Murray they’d give you crap.  So, much as I sympathized with the kids’ musical choice, they were grinding my gears as manager.

Finally I got fed up.  I sent the CD to Trevor’s store with an explanation of why he had to keep it and sell it there.  Then the two kids came in again.

“Hey, umm, do you have Kiss Carnival of Souls?” asked the first one.

“Nope, sold it yesterday,” I lied.

“Awwww…” said the second kid.

It had happened.  I had become “the man”!  I had lost sight of my old self.  Didn’t I pull that “hide the album” stunt myself? In fact, didn’t I do it with GI Joe figures at Hi-Way Market?  I did!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…Early Birds.

Sh*t LeBrain’s Dad Says: “Beach Creature”

BEACH CREATURE

Shit LeBrain’s Dad Says:  “Beach Creature”

I remember one night at the cottage, I had my ghetto blaster with me, and my sister and I were listening to Kiss Alive II.  Cassette, of course.  This would have been summer of 1986.  Track #3 was “Ladies Room”, sung by Gene Simmons:

I’ll meet meet you in the ladies room
I’ll meet you greet you in the ladies room
For my money
You can’t be too soon

My dad did that thing that dads sometimes do.  He stood there with a strained look on his face, trying to figure out the words.  Struggling to hear what Gene was singing, my days said:

“A ‘beach creature in the ladies room‘?  Is that what that man is singing?”

REVIEW: KISS – Alive! 1975–2000 (Box Set plus bonus tracks, 2006)

Part 44 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Alive! 1975–2000 (2006, 4 discs, Best Buy bonus CD, iTunes bonus track)

This is it folks.  This here is the only way to get your Kiss Alive on.

All tracks are digitally remastered of course, and all albums are complete, not truncated.  They managed to squeeze both Alive! and Alive II onto single discs without editing out any music or banter.  Alive III (1993) makes up the third disc.  The fourth CD is the previously unreleased album, Alive IV – The Millenium Concert.

This concert, from December 31, 1999 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, was to be released in 2000 but shelved.  It was released for the first time in this box set, and remains exclusive to this box set.  I’m not too keen on it myself.

I think the Millenium Concert sounds dull and uninspired, and maybe that’s part of the reason that it wasn’t released in 2000.  The band are playing by-the-numbers versions of the songs with few surprises. Perhaps this was an indication of the deeper problems setting in within the original Kiss lineup again.  The production also sounds over polished, and the crowd noise distracting.

One song from this concert, “Rock And Roll All Nite”, was included in the Kiss Box Set as a sneak preview.

There were bonus tracks included on the discs to render obselete your original versions (and entice you to buy them again).  The second CD includes the radio edit version of “Rock and Roll All Nite (Live)”.  The Alive III CD finally includes the Japanese and vinyl exclusive track, “Take It Off”.

When I first pre-ordered Alive IV back in 2000 before it was shelved, I pre-ordered the Japanese version which was advertized to have three bonus tracks:  “God of Thunder”, “2000 Man”, and “Detroit Rock City”.  These three songs remain bonus tracks, exclusive to different versions of this box set.

There was a Best Buy limited edition that contained “2000 Man” and “God of Thunder”.  But somebody screwed up and put the wrong CD inside the first few thousand copies.  Those unfortunate buyers received the regular disc of Alive IV, no bonus tracks.   This was rectified by sending those customers a fifth CD, the corrected version of Alive IV.  I paid $100 for my copy with fifth CD included.  It is pretty rare.

iTunes have their own bonus track, which is “Detroit Rock City”.  When I bought the song, it was available on its own for $1.29 or whatever.  Prior to this, you had to shell out $40 to buy the whole set again, just to get that one song!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996 vinyl, Japanese import CD)

Part 35 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!
SAM_2209

KISS – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996, Japanese import, bonus track)

When this compilation album came out, it was the first and only time we had two Kiss albums on our store’s front rack simultaneously!  It followed hot on the heels of MTV Unplugged, only about 3 months prior.

Kiss had just announced their big reunion tour and this album was tied in to promote that. It is a milestone in a few ways. It was the first musical product released by the reunited original lineup Kiss. It was also the third (or fourth depending if you count Kiss My Ass) consecutive non-studio album release in a row by the band, which had never happened before. It would also not be the last, with Greatest Kiss and the UK-only Greatest Hits soon to follow.

It was a dark time for the Kiss army craving new music.

You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!! (one comma and two exclamation marks: punctuation is important) was a live compilation of:

  • 8 hits from KISS Alive! and KISS Alive II
  • 5 previously unreleased live versions (including the bonus track “New York Groove”)
  • 1 interview with the entire band by Jay Leno, 17 minutes long

The previously released songs were all remastered for the first time, a sneak preview of the Kiss remasters to start coming in 1997.  New liner notes were provided by Robert V. Conte, who would later do all the liner notes for the Kiss Remasters series.  Judging by his use of certain adjectives, I’m guessing he was pretty much told what he could and could not write!

It’s hard to argue with the selection of hits. “Rock Bottom”, “Parasite”, “Firehouse”, and “Rock And Roll All Nite” (the definitive version) from the first Alive! were definitely highlights of that album, but then again you couldn’t have gone wrong with any selections from Alive!  From Alive II it’s “I Stole Your Love”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth” (really? ugh), and “Calling Dr. Love”. (Interesting: no “Detroit Rock City”.) All are pretty monumental Kiss songs that the band were playing live that summer.

The unreleased material was interesting. They purport to be from the same concerts that Alive! and Alive II were taken from, but it is clear that at least the lead vocals were recorded in 1996. Since the voice changes naturally with age, you can tell it’s not Paul Stanley 1975 singing. Having said that, even though I’m bitter that Kiss tried to pass these off as vintage live songs, they are really good versions. I’ve always liked both “Room Service” and “Two Timer” as deep album songs from Dressed To Kill. I especially like “Let Me Know”, one of the earliest Kiss songs ever, and one of my personal favourites.

Exclusive to vinyl and Japanese import, is a live version of “New York Groove” from Australia 1980 and with Eric Carr on drums. This is the same version of the song as the Kissology 2 DVD. Since KISS could have gone with “Shock Me” from Alive II if they were trying to include an Ace vocal track, I choose to think of this inclusion as a little nod to Eric Carr and thanking him for keeping the band going during the 80’s. I think this version was also released in Australian markets so, I am sure this was also a nod to the fans there for patiently waiting for Kiss to come back. Kiss would of course play “New York Groove” live on the 1996 tour as well.

SAM_2212The 17 minute interview with Jay Leno is interesting and fun, though I have to be honest, its inclusion here makes this album one that I don’t listen to often. Jay’s a funny guy and there are lots of laughs here (almost all at Gene’s expense!) but don’t expect any revelations you’ve never heard before.

In addition to containing “vintage” songs that weren’t exactly that, You Wanted the Best was to include “photos from the Kiss vaults” inside according to the sticker on the front.  There’s nothing inside apart from a skimpy booklet.  The CD did have a neat-o coloured jewel case, as you can see from the photo gallery.

Essential only to the diehards. Everyone else pick up Alive! and Alive II, or even better…the 4 CD Alive box!

2/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Alive II (1977)

Part 9 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

Produced once again by Eddie Kramer, this is taken from multiple shows in 1977, plus 5 studio tracks.  The crowd noise (probably from the Japanese shows) is a bit shrill and the overdubbing of Paul Stanley’s voice is much more noticeable than it was on the first Alive.

The problem that Kiss had in Alive II was to avoid repeating any songs from Alive!, which was only two years prior. That resulted in a truncated tracklist, and then Simmons had the idea to tack on a fourth side of studio material.  He says this was inspired by the ZZ Top album, Fandango!  That idea turned out to be pretty smart, as the five new songs are by and large very decent.

Two other songs were recorded at rehearsals or soundchecks: “Tomorrow And Tonight”, and “Hard Luck Woman”. Crowd noise was overdubbed and the songs sweetened in the studio.

Once again, it is hard to argue with the track selection on Alive II. There are very few songs I would have excluded in favour of others.  The concert opens with the double salvo of “Detroit” and “King of the Night Time World”.  “God of Thunder” is played at a faster tempo and I generally prefer this version to the original.  Ace’s “Shock Me” is here, and Peter Criss sings on “Hard Luck Woman” and of course “Beth” (sung to backing tapes as always).

Ace also had a lead vocal on “Rocket Ride”, one of the new songs. Let’s talk about those a bit.

“All American Man”: I like the riff a lot, and I find this to be one of Paul’s coolest songs. I have also felt it had a similar vibe to the stuff they’d later record for Killers, 4 years down the road. But who’s that on lead guitar? Bob Kulick.  Kulick replaced Ace Frehley on lead guitar, on four of the five studio tracks on Alive II!.

“Larger Than Life”: A Gene plodder. Another pretty strong one. I think you can guess what he’s singing about in the title.

“Rockin’ In The USA”: Gene loves the USA which has given him so much. The lyrics are pretty bad, but it’s basically Gene’s love song to America, much like the Beach Boys had done.

“Rocket Ride”: Ace’s track. Ace plays all guitars and bass, Peter Criss plays drums, and the other two only contribute vocals. An Ace classic which later appeared on his solo Live + 1 EP.

“Anyway You Want It”: I have a soft spot for Kiss covers like this Dave Clark Five track. I think Kiss did a great job with it, particularly with the vocals. Paul plays all guitars.

I must stress, I think you should buy the Alive Box rather than this version. You’ll get four Alives, and some rarer tracks.

5/5 stars. Might not be very live, but it sure is very rock.