Review Summary: Now THIS is a live album!!
The two-year span between 1975-1977 had seen KISS graduate from “just another hard rock band” to “kings of the night-time world”. A string of good-to-great albums and some clever marketing had allowed Simmons, Stanley, Criss and Frehley to enter every preteen boy’s heart and every teen girl’s panties. So by the time the heat started to dwindle, it seemed only natural to rekindle it with a live album that captured the band’s best phase. Hence ALive II
Now, like Alive!
(the first), this album is not devoid of controversy. Talk of overdubbing was once again present, but is not as relevant this time, for a simple reason: unlike its predecessor, Alive II
like a live album. It has that spark, that unbridled energy that the best live performances manage to retain even after they are encapsulated in a recorded format. As soon as the band comes bursting forward with a short and electric Detroit Rock City
, you know you’re in for a Rocket Ride
, pardon the pun.
And in fact, during the next hour or so, the group very rarely lets the enthusiasm drop below very high levels. Sure, not every song is a gem, but most of them manage to strike up enough excitement to warrant repeated listens. Witness how, for example, that heavy metal riff from Makin’ Love
becomes even heavier live (although the interpretation in this case lacks a little luster). Or notice how Christine Sixteen
comes out on top even though it doesn’t feature the recording’s catchy piano. Or see how Stanley and Simmons hold the crowd under their thumb with their confident swagger - when Simmons says ”if any of you girls wanna get themselves KISSed, meet us in the Ladies Room!”
, one can’t help but think they’re actually making such a proposition (which, by the way, is bound to be accepted by the gaggles of shrieking girls that seemingly make up the audience. Seriously, in two years, KISS went from a regular audience to the second coming of Beatles concerts!). Even the “exactly-like-it-is-on-the-record” Beth
has that ambiance, with the audience clapping and singing along. Not to mention, Peter Criss’ solo this time has clearly audible audience cheers behind it, unlike the version on *ahem* ”Alive!”
All in all, then, a pretty good live record, with quite a few standouts. As noted, Detroit Rock City
starts things off with a bang, only to be followed by the equally excellent King Of The Night Time World
. Further on, Christine
struts her stuff, while the Hard Luck Woman
follows a few steps behind. Finally, Tomorrow and Tonight
shows why it is probably one of the best songs in the KISS catalog. Meanwhile, Ace Frehley leaves his virtuosistic imprint on quite a few songs, more notably his own Shock Me
, where he manages to make a seamless transition from the song itself to the obligatory cöck-rock guitar solo, without it seeming tacked on at all. Shout It Out Loud
and Makin’ Love
among others, also benefit from his soloing talents.
The problem then, is that the second half of the record doesn’t live up to the first. While far from bad, it just has fewer standouts. Not to mention God Of Thunder
is perhaps the only poor interpretation of the album. And what’s with the five tacked-on studio tracks at the end? While not bad, they just completely wreck the “live” vibe this album had managed to conjure up. What’s worse, they’re mostly none too great. The best of the bunch is probably Rocket Ride
, a Frehley composition which shows KISS ahead of their time – the track is driven by the type of lick used by re-emerging hard rock bands that want to show modernization and old age didn’t keep them from rockin’ in the 21st century…except KISS were already doing it in 1977!!
The remaining tracks have Bob Kulick on guitar – a by-product of Ace Frehley’s increasingly “I-don’t-care” attitude which would kickstart a relationship between the Kulick brothers and KISS, the main fruits of which would be bore in the 80’s. Of these, the only standout is Rockin’ In The USA
, a patriotic song where the chorus goes ”Rockin’ in the USA/there’s no place I’d rather stay”
. Some very funny lyrics serve this song, which highlights the high and weak points of countries like England – ”there wasn’t much to do”
and Japan – ”had much to eat”
. The three remaining tracks vary between the hopelessly uninteresting stomp Larger Than Life
, the piss-poor Beatles pastiche of Any Way You Want It
and the okay-ish All-American Man
A final bone of contention goes to the fact that KISS completely ignore the songs from the previous phase in their career. Not even Rock’n’Roll All Night
, a live staple, appears here! Still, none of this can keep Alive II
from being a great live album, and a huge step up in relation to its predecessor. With better source material, more energetic performances, and less studio tampering, only a few flaws keep this record from being even more iconic. But if you want to get a live KISS album, make sure it’s this one.
Detroit Rock City
Hard Luck Woman
Tomorrow and Tonight
Rockin’ in The USA