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Erik Rupp
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 KISS - ALIVE II (1977)
« Thread Started on Sept 28, 2009, 10:50am »

KISS - ALIVE II (1977)


By the end of 1977, when KISS released ALIVE II, they were literally on top of the music world.

Love Gun, their most recent studio album, had become a huge seller, and the subsequent tour was their most successful to date. So what to do next? As they had after their first three studio albums KISS and company decided to do another live album as there had been three further studio albums since KISS ALIVE was released in 1975.

This time there would be a twist. As was considered, but dropped, for ALIVE in 1975 this time they would record a side of new studio songs to go with the three sides of live material. That decision was likely made due to the fact that with some of the songs from the first three studio albums remaining in their live set there weren't enough of the new songs played live to fill out a complete double album.

So, as with ALIVE, KISS brought Eddie Kramer out to record a couple live shows. And as with ALIVE they went in to the studio to extensively re-record guitar, bass, and vocal parts to clean them up.

Unlike ALIVE's raw, powerful sound, ALIVE II would have a sleeker, more polished sound. Yes, the songs showed more spark and energy than their studio counterparts, but the re-recorded parts in the studio are more obvious here. Hell, on, "Love Gun," at one point you can hear no fewer than three Paul Stanleys singing at the same time! An amazing vocal feat! ::)

Other than overdoing the overdubs one of the biggest disappointments with ALIVE II is the mix. Everything sounds great - great guitar tones, great vocals, the bass sounds big, but still punchy and clear - but the guitars are often buried in the mix. KISS is a guitar driven band, and these songs need a lot of guitar. But on ALIVE II some of them have the guitar lower in the mix than the studio versions. It almost sounds like an attempt to make the album sound a little, "Safer," for the non-Hard Rock fans. The guitar is still audible, of course, but on some songs you have to listen hard to hear exactly what Paul or Ace are playing, and that just shouldn't happen on a KISS album.

As for the performances (studio massaged or not), there are plenty here that are absolutely first rate.

The opener, "Detroit Rock City," and the connected follow up, "King of the Night Time World," both set the tone for the album. This will be a high energy, rip roaring album. Both of those songs rank among KISS' best, and they are well represented with these performances.

"Ladies Room," is given new life on ALIVE II, as the band plays with a fire and enthusiasm that goes far beyond the studio version. It would have been a little better with the guitars (particularly Paul's) just a tad higher in the mix, but the song is still far better here than on Rock and Roll Over.

"Makin' Love," is one of those high octane bursts of energy, but with this version it loses a little of it's edge. On the studio version the guitars are absolutely in your face throughout. Here they start out good and loud and then drop back a bit in the mix taking away a little of the song's bite. It's another great performance, though, and it sounds live.

Perhaps the worst offender of the gutars buried in the mix crime is, "Love Gun." As one of KISS' signature songs, and one of their most powerful, this should have been one of ALIVE II's highlights, but it instead falls a little flat. The guitars are absolutely drowned out by the vocals and the bass, and that's a shame as this is one of KISS' big guitar songs. Again, it's a great performance (all three Pauls sound great on vocals, and the band sounds really good - well, Gene Simmons on bass and Peter Criss on drums do, anyway), but the mix sabotages what should have been an aboslutely killer live version.

As, "Calling Dr. Love," should have been as well. I don't know when bass became the lead instrument in KISS, but on the ALIVE II version of, "Dr. Love," it is. It's another first rate, high power, high energy performance, but where's the guitar?

It's in, "Christine Sixteen." The hit single from their then current Love Gun album was a little more power pop than most of what KISS had recorded to that point, but here rather than going with the guitar buried in the mix they've kept it up front - maybe to help the song fit in with the songs around it (which have more attitude and a Hard Rock edge to them than does, "Christine"). Gene's vocal here is rougher and gruffer than the studio version (where he gave a smoother interpretation), which fits in with his chosen, "Demon," persona.

Then they turn the microphone over to Ace Frehley for, "Shock Me," one of the songs on ALIVE II that truly improves on the studio version in almost every way. Ace's vocal is a little less confident than the studio version, but the band's performance is much stronger - it's explosive! And Ace's lead guitar work has more bite on this live version as well. His full guitar solo at the end is one of the highlights of his career, and the whole thing has an immediacy that was missing from the safer studio version.

Then there are the simulated live tracks, "Hard Luck Woman," and, "Tomorrow and Tonight." Neither were played at any of the shows recorded for ALIVE II, so they were recorded during soundchecks. The live simulation works fairly well, as most fans had no idea for decades that they weren't played in concert. On, "Hard Luck Woman," KISS trades the acoustic guitars for clean electric tones, and the performance does have a live vibe. With, "Tomorrow and Tonight," it really comes across as a more mature, but toned down, "Rock and Roll All Nite." Again, Paul Stanley's rhythm guitar is too low in the mix as it's very hard to hear what he's playing. Ace's rhythm part is up front, though, so the mix is a mixed bag. Peter plays the song with explosive power and energy, propelling the song forward at a brisk, but not rushed pace. The song may have actually worked well live if they could have fit it into their live set.

One of the more disappointing songs mix-wise is, "I Stole Your Love." Live, they literally exploded into the song, with Ace playing loud, stacatto chords to the opening quarter note of each riff leading into the song. Those explosive chords are almost completely absent from the version here (if you listen very carefully you can just barely hear them). The rest of the song is, again, a mixed bag. The performance is absolutely fantastic. Vital, vibrant, and enthusiastic - but the mix is too, "Safe." This is a guitar song with the guitars far too low in the mix.

That wouldn't be a problem with the next song. "Beth," was, and is to this day, KISS' biggest hit single. Lush, orchestral, and completely lacking percussion, this song seemed an unlikely choice for a KISS concert, but the band used the studio backing tracks on tape for the live performances as Peter Criss sang the song alone on stage. This is an edited version of the song (the instrumental part in the middle is removed, thankfully), and while Peter's vocal here is rough (occasionally going off key for an instant), it is acceptable.

Gene Simmons' signature song at the time was the menacing, "God of Thunder," and it is par for the course with this album. The performance is great, but there isn't enough guitar in the mix. (I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more guitar!) "God of Thunder," despite being Gene's signature song, features Peter Criss's drum solo, one that is far better and more effective than the one on ALIVE, particularly because it is much shorter. The song is also played at a much faster tempo than the studio version, which gives the song a very different feel than that version.

The live material closes out with, "I Want You," and, "Shout It Out Loud." "I Want You," introduces some of Paul Stanley's excessive vocal gymnastics to the mix, which he would accentuate further and further as the years would go by. The song itself works very well, and like almost everything else on the album is played very well (another performance improvement on the original studio version). "Shout," has more energy than the more controlled studio version, and as the studio version had the guitars fairly low in the mix this is an improvement all around.

The studio tracks vary fairly widely in quality. "All American Man," features one of Paul Stanley's best guitar riffs, along with some great vocal melodies, while Gene Simmons' songs, "Rockin' In the USA," and, "Larger Than Life," are a little more run of the mill (not bad at all, with, "Larger," being the better of the two, but they're not first rate songs like, "All American Man").

Ace Frehley's second ever lead vocal track comes in the form of, "Rocket Ride," which may be even better than his first ("Shock Me"). "Rocket," features a monster guitar riff and some solid vocal melodies from Ace. The performances on the song (mostly Ace, Ace, Ace, and Peter) are all outstanding, and this song, along with, "All American Man," hold up well against any studio recordings that KISS has ever done. Ace's solo here is one of his best, and Peter plays extremely well on the track.

Interestingly, the mix on the studio songs features more guitar than the live mix for most of the songs.

Why the band chose to close out the album with a cover song is something a lot of people will never fully understand, but that's just what they did. Covering the Dave Clark Five's, "Any Way You Want It," may seem unlikely for KISS, but that's the song they chose. It's an OK cover song, but another fresh KISS original would have served the album better.

Overall, while ALIVE II isn't quite up to the standard of their landmark ALIVE (largely because of the mix), thanks to some fiery perfomances this is still a great example of why KISS was as successful as they were in the mid and late 1970's. Despite my many gripes about the mix, this is still a near great live album overall that has some absolutely fantastic moments.


« Last Edit: Sept 28, 2009, 11:08am by Erik Rupp »Link to Post - Back to Top  IP: Logged
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 Re: KISS - ALIVE II (1977)
« Reply #1 on Sept 28, 2009, 12:26pm »

Very nice. I love the Destroyer songs stripped down and more raw than the studio versions. Christine Sixteen is also played like it always should have been. I am one who wishes there was no studio side 4 and those songs saved for the next studio album. Flaming Youth, Take Me, Do You Love Me, Hooligan were all played live close to that time and songs like Mr. Speed, Plaster Caster, and Got Love for Sale would be great live songs to have been considered to fill out a side 4. That being said and Alive II being what it is, Rocket Ride is a fantastic song. All American Man is a favorite but the guitars always sounded funny to me as not KISS like. Later I learned Bob Kulick does them and I'm not a fan of his playing.
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