alive iii

#792: The Summer of ’93 – Live Album Explosion

GETTING MORE TALE #792: The Summer of ’93 – Live Album Explosion

Keeping up with new releases is challenging for anyone.  Today, every band is releasing a box set, live album, compilation, EP, or even (gasp) new material!  This is not a new phenomenon.  As a young collector in an earlier time, 1993 was particularly challenging.  I was suffering from “live album burnout” due to a number of double lives that year.  I dutifully picked up the most important ones to me, as much as I could afford.

I plotted things out.  The first batch of live albums on my radar that year were as follows:

Four of my favourite bands in one brief chunk of time, with two of the four being doubles.  I had to budget this out somehow.

I’m not sure when I bought Van Halen’s album, but I most likely bought it first.  The dual CD set was at Costco for thirty-something bucks so I put it in the cart.  I know it was early in the year because I remember listening to it in the car while driving to school for final exams, which occur in April.  Specifically I remember listening to the live version of “Cabo Wabo” on my way there.

I found the Van Halen album underwhelming.  Too much stuff from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and some clattering solos made it a struggle to finish in one sitting.  Sammy Hagar would later comment that the album sucked because too much of it was re-recorded in the studio.  I just thought it was a drag.

Kiss were (and are) my #1 band, so I dutifully bought it as quickly as I could.  I didn’t get it on the day of release (May 18), but I do know the exact date that I purchased it:  May 20.  I know this because I remember that we had to get home from the mall (Fairway Park Mall’s HMV store) in time to catch the series finale of Cheers.  I got the free poster with my cassette copy.  I chose cassette for strategic reasons.  Double live albums were a bigger investment, so I liked to get those on CD.  I was already starting to distrust the cassette tape format.  I’d hate to buy a double cassette set and have one of the tapes go bad.  Alive III was a single tape, so I went for that and stayed with that until I got a double vinyl reissue a couple years later.

The Ozzy was a limited edition package.  I needed that special grille cover with the two “tattoos” inside.  I couldn’t afford it so I put it on my birthday list.  I accompanied my mom to HMV to make sure she got the right one.  Killed the surprise, but also the anxiety of not getting the exact version I “needed” for my collection!

Ozzy Osbourne had already supersaturated the market with live albums, and his was tedious to listen to.  I gave it more it than a fair shot, as I wanted to really hear how Zakk approached the live versions differently than Randy or Tony had.  It was an exercize that paid minimal dividends, wading through minute after minute of numbing “extra extra crazy” Ozzy monologues.

I decided to hold off on Iron Maiden as long as I could.  The idea of a single disc live Maiden album was a little off-kilter for me.  An album of tracks from 1986-1992 didn’t sound all that appealing to me.  Maybe I should wait until the second disc, due in October, came out so I could listen to both equally.  Maybe I should skip A Real Live One entirely.  The album seemed a hasty entity, being released so Maiden could tour to support new product.  The cover art was also lo-fi sketchy, compared to predecessor Live After Death.

Good or bad, I decided to hold off on Maiden for the time being.  I had enough live metal to digest anyway.

Kiss was the only album I was happy with, though it was clearly an inferior offering to Alive I and II.  Unlike Osbourne, it wasn’t too long, and kept the filler to a minimum.

When the next batch of live albums rolled out, I was weary.

The Bon Jovi live disc came with a pricey special reissue of Keep the Faith, a limited edition.  I immediately put that one on my Christmas list and did my best to pester my mom into buying it.  I had to make a decision about the others.  I scratched Satriani and Testament off my list.  They weren’t going to be priorities this time.

As for the final call on Iron Maiden?  The decision was made for me when I found Live at Donington, once again at HMV.  What was this?  It looked like a bootleg, but wasn’t.  It had no liner notes.  Absolutely bare minimum packaging.  Nary an Eddie in sight.  It was a “limited edition“, and a double CD with a complete concert.  The easy choice was to buy this instead of the other two albums.  For the time being, at least.  I finally did get all three albums, when I was working at the Record Store, in 1996.  The Boxing Day sale enabled me to get both live Maidens and the recent Tesla greatest hits for a reduced price.  It took me three years to get ’em!

That busy 1993 list doesn’t include live home videos released that year (Ozzy, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Kiss) or the albums that I didn’t even know about (Live Cult).  I had to draw the line and audio has always been my priority over video.

Too much is too much, and in 1993 we just had too much.

Do you remember what live albums you bought in 1993?  Comment below!

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Alive III (1993)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 44

 – Alive III (1993 Polygram)

A brief club tour warmed ’em up.  The full arena tour put Kiss back on the big stage, this time with a huge statue of liberty in addition to the Kiss sign.  As the show went on, the statue crumbled to reveal a skulled figure…giving the finger.  Not everybody got that.  The tour suffered from very poor attendance in the United States, partly blamed on grunge, and partly blamed on a late start (October).

Regardless, it was clearly time for Kiss Alive III.  There was early talk of Alive III back in 1986, set to follow the next studio album.  That never materialised, and some would argue rightfully so.  Kids of the 80s generation already had their own Alive III:  It was called Animalize Live Uncensored, and with the benefit of hindsight, it easily could and should have been the official Alive III.

The real Kiss Alive III was issued in 1993, produced once again by Eddie Kramer, and in the sacred tradition of all Kiss Alives….was heavily overdubbed in the studio.  It is the only Kiss Alive from the non-makeup era, and therefore the only Alive with the lineup of Stanely, Simmons, Kulick and Singer…and Derek Sherinian on ghost keyboards.  He followed Eric Singer over from the Alice Cooper group.

Although there is some overlap with Kiss Alive and Alive II, the third instalment is largely made of newer material, like opener “Creatures of the Night”.  Some fans were upset that “Detroit Rock City” was moved to the end of the set, but a shakeup on a Kiss setlist is usually a good thing.  Opening with “Creatures” was fresh and set the scene firmly back to the heavy sound of 1982, which really seemed to be what Kiss were trying to re-create.

Gene takes over on “Deuce” (1st repeat – Kiss Alive) and for the first time in years it seemed like Gene didn’t look and act goofy on stage.  Give credit to the beard.  It finally gave Gene an image he could work with.  Meanwhile on stage right, Kulick nails a vintage Kiss guitar sound, but without losing his technical advantages.  Another first:  Kulick finally sounded at home playing Ace Frehley guitar solos.  His revamped greasy rock solos fit love a glove.

But wow, does that crowd noise ever sound fake, and fans say that Paul’s stage raps were recorded later, because they’re not from Detroit, Cleveland or Indianapolis where the album was recorded.  “I Just Wanna” is the first Revenge track, but it sounds sterile like a studio version with glistening backing vocals.  It’s also too early in the album to stop the song for a singalong (and a bad singalong at that).  That’s followed by a fairly flat “Unholy” which, Kiss were discovering, didn’t work as well on stage.  Paul’s “Woo-woo” intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” sounds very dubbed, but the track smokes hotter than it did on prior tours.  You can hear Eric Singer clearly on backing vocals, adding a bit of sweetener to the mix.

“Watchin’ You” came as a surprise, an oldie from Hotter Than Hell (and 2nd repeat – Kiss Alive).  With Eric Singer on drums, they captured the jazzy Peter Criss drum vibe once again, but this time with more power and precision.  This is as close as it ever got to original Kiss.  Some would say it’s even better than original Kiss, but that would just be stating a preference.

Back to Revenge, “Domino” is the first song to really click live.  That’s probably because it was always close to that vintage Kiss vibe.  Another surprise is rolled out:  “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” from 1979’s Dynasty, but Wikipedia says this version was recorded at soundcheck.  Whatever the case may be, it’s not as purely heavy as the one on bootleg Unholy Kisses but it’s still good to have it on an Alive.  A set highlight is “I Still Love You” from Creatures, a real chance for Paul to sing.  In 1992 and 1993, Paul was arguably at his vocal peak strength.

They chose an interesting slot for “Rock and Roll all Nite”:  the first track on side two (original cassette version, side three for LP)!  Again, some fans loudly stated a preference for “Rock and Roll all Nite” (3rd repeat – Kiss Alive) as a closer, but it’s stale no matter where it sits.  It’s followed by 80s classic “Lick It Up”, a good song but always a little sparse in the live setting.  Don’t forget the overplayed “I Love It Loud” which was chosen as the only Alive III single.

“Forever” is a little surprising by its inclusion in the setlist that.  A good ballad, yes:  but was a ballad necessary?  It must have been because according to Paul “Every time we play this one, the place lights up like a damn Christmas tree.”  Also true:  Paul’s stage raps are not at all memorable this time out.  A great example is “Detroit Rock City”, although that may also just be that “Detroit” doesn’t belong near the end of an album (4th repeat – Kiss Alive II).

There was a Japanese/vinyl bonus track, finally available on wider release within the Alive! 1975–2000 box set:  “Take It Off”.  This is the one where the strippers came up on stage; yes indeed, a calculated move to shed Kiss’ kiddie image in the 1990s.  As a live song, it’s way better than  “I Just Wanna”.

Kiss closed the show with the complex anthem “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” followed by an actual anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” as a Bruce Kulick guitar showcase.  This works surprisingly well to wrap up a Kiss Alive that is very different from the other Alives.  Turn it up and hear the bombs bursting in air!

Where does Kiss Alive III sit today among the Alives?  It’s not the worst Alive, but we’ll get there.  Think of it like a movie.  Superman was amazing, and nobody expected Superman II to be as good as Superman.  But it was good enough to make a Superman III which wasn’t as good as I or II.  In reality, Superman III was a total bed-shit, but Alive III is not.  For its flaws, it is a pretty good live album.  There were a lot of live albums out in 1993 for Kiss to compete with:  Iron Maiden (two singles), Ozzy (a double), Van Halen (a double) and Metallica (a triple CD and triple VHS monstrosity).  Alive III is better than most of them (you figure out which).  Kiss were only modestly asking you to part with a single CD’s worth of money, and if you bought it at certain stores you’d get an Alive III poster while supplies lasted.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

Alive III finally behind them, Kiss were still not ready to record their next studio album.  For better or for worse, the post-Alive III era was a complicated, scattershot period with a few interesting releases to cover.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/11

VIDEO BLOG! Part 137: M.E.A.T

Anybody else remember Drew Masters and M.E.A.T Magazine?

RECORD STORE TALES Part 137: M.E.A.T

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 – Alive III (1993)

Part 31 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

KISS – Alive III (1993)

I like Alive III, but I don’t think any fan can say it’s as good or better than I or II.  How could it be?  Artificial or not, Kiss Alive! is one of the greatest live albums of all time.  Alive II was a contender.  Alive III simply could not live up to either.

If it didn’t sell well, I don’t particularly blame Kiss.  It was the summer of “live albums”.  Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, and Iron Maiden all had double live discs out that summer, and that’s a lot of money to be spent by the devoted rock fan.

Although the first two Alives avoided song overlap, Alive III does contain some old Kiss songs that were previously played on one of the first two:

  • “Deuce”
  • “Detroit Rock City”
  • “Rock And Roll All Night”
  • “Watchin’ You” (given a funkier touch here by Bruce)

Everything else is a more recent vintage, and rightfully so. Kiss hadn’t done a live album in 16 years at this point, so there were lots of new songs to play. “Creatures Of The Night” had been a setlist staple for ten years at this point.

Performance wise, this is really good. With Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer in the band, Kiss had evolved to a sleeker machine. The songs were played much more expertly, and not as loose. A critic would use the word “mechanically” but it’s just different, and a matter of taste. Bruce Kulick at this point was not playing his solos with as much 80’s trickery, and was now much more suited to playing Ace Frehley’s songs. Eric Singer seemed to master a nice middle ground between Peter Criss and Eric Carr’s styles.  He is in fact my favourite Kiss drummer because of his creativity on the kit.

All songs are sung by Gene and Paul, although Eric sings very nice backups.  There is one instrumental, Bruce Kulick’s guitar showcase on the “Star Spangled Banner”, never recorded by Kiss in studio form!

On the negative side, I don’t like the production, once again by Eddie Kramer who also helmed the first two.  It sounds too polished.  The audience sounds artificial, pasted on.  When Paul raps, the audience just screams through, there’s no reaction.

Interestingly, there are a total of five songs from Revenge (including the Japanese/vinyl bonus track “Take It Off”). That shows how strong the new material was, and why there aren’t more Kiss oldies.  It is a shame that today Kiss doesn’t sprinkle that much new material into setlists.

A point of trivia, at one point the inclusion of a brand new studio song called “Carnival Of Souls” was discussed. It was finally released a decade later on Gene’s solo album, Asshole.  So this is the time period from which that song originated.  Astute fans will recognize it as the title of an eventual studio album.

A Gene song was even selected as the first and only single:  “I Love It Loud”.  Personally I feel that even Eric Singer can’t play this song like Eric Carr did.  And it’s way too overplayed now.

Alive III is not as essential as the first two, but if you pick up the Alive Box, which is the route I stronly suggest you take, you’ll get them all (with the exception of the symphonic Alive).   Listening to I, II and III in a row will reveal growth and a strong catalogue of songs not immediately noticeable otherwise.

4/5 stars

With the long-awaited Alive III now behind them, Kiss began work on a number of new projects, including their own tribute album, a studio album to be called Head, and an acoustic “konvention” tour.  Check this space again for all that and more.