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.
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