‘Alive!’ paved the way for live releases like ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’, ‘Foghat Live’, ‘Double Live Gonzo!’, ‘Live At Budokan’ and many more, it’s a landmark for live albums and Kiss’ most indisputable musical legacy.
Written by: Dave T
SERIAL: NBLP 7020
CD REISSUE: Reissue list
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Paul Stanley – vocals, guitars * Ace Frehley – guitars * Gene Simmons – vocals, bass * Peter Criss – drums, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Deuce * 02 Strutter * 03 Got To Choose * 04 Hotter Than Hell * 05 Firehouse * 06 Nothin’ To Lose * 07 C’mon And Love Me * 08 Parasite * 09 She * 10 Watchin’ You * 11 100,000 Years * 12 Black Diamond * 13 Rock Bottom * 14 Cold Gin * 15 Rock And Roll All Nite * 16 Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Kiss’ first three albums, although each one a classic, failed to sell as expected. Sales were in the 150,000 range each, the two-studio-album-a-year routine became hectic and Casablanca finances were breaking even, no net income. Conundrum led to an action plan: a live record to reflect Kiss’s live energy on record or to an amicable end the Kiss-Casablanca contractual relationship with a win-win.
The band free to sign with a new record company, Casablanca able to avoid financial chaos and the live album would be a celebration of Kiss’ Casablanca career. How did it turn out?
Producer/engineer Eddie Kramer recorded five concerts for the album: Detroit’s Cobo Hall, Cleveland, two at Davenport, IA and the last at Wildwood, NY. The idea was to ‘build’ the concert at Cobo Hall, as witnessed by the famous back cover, using the best available live versions culled from all sources.
How ‘live’ is ‘Alive!’? IMO it faithfully reflects Kiss’s already legendary live performances. Overdubs? Sure. Doctoring? No. Listen to the bootlegs at Long Beach 1974, Winterland 1975 and especially the excellent ‘Alternate Alive’ included on Godfather Records ‘Thunderbolts And Lightning’ boot. The energy and overall sound was there, a starving young band playing hot hard rock while looking for stardom.
According to Eddie Kramer, ‘Who cares if it was over-dubbed? So what, it doesn’t matter – the energy still came through. All the bombast, all the glory and craziness’. End of discussion.
‘Alive!’ starts with roadie J.R. Smalling’s legendary spoken intro ‘You wanted the best..’, Paul’s guitar intro to ‘Deuce’, an explosion and a storming assault. Kiss sounds unleashed. Compared to the studio version the pace is sped up, frantic. Peter’s heavy use of cymbals deepens the effect. The whole recording will be like this. Gene’s vocals are mean, Ace shines in two solos.
‘Strutter’ introduces Paul’s raspy vocals, another album highlight. Ace’s dazzling vibrato in your face. No rest before ‘Got To Choose’, the vocal harmonies shine here. ‘Hotter Than Hell’ is strengthened in heaviness, a far cry from its studio frailty. ‘Firehouse’ drums are prominent as well as staccato riffs. It’s the place for Gene’s fire-breathing act. You can almost feel it.
‘Nothing To Lose’ gets its definitive version. Gene sings like a possessed man, Peter trashes his drum kit and the vocal interaction between them, sort of a desperate Q&A, is incredibly powerful. ‘C’mon And Love Me’ is another definitive version, one out of many. Heavy, intense, Paul’s intro is mighty as well as Ace’s vibrato throughout the solo and fills.
‘Parasite’ is 70s heavy metal, driven by Peter’s toms and Ace’s dark riff. The guitar solo is fast and furious. ‘She’ is another heavy slice, slower, Kiss’s stoner metal face. The drums duplicate Ace’s guitar interlude, suddenly accelerates the tempo and shockingly the final riff from ‘Let Me Know’ turns into Ace’s solo. Unison bends gradually sped up give the impression that his fingers and guitar caught fire.
‘Watchin’ You’ is one of the hidden gems and rounds up the trio of dark heavy tunes. Like a mix of Black Sabbath‘s darkness with Led Zeppelin‘s guitars. Gene’s vocals shine in his infrequent upper register and a blistering Ace solo.
Intensity reaches its climax with ‘100,000 Years’. Paul sings from the guts to the point of almost breaking, Ace’s syncopated solo is brilliant and Peter delivers a drum solo that resembles a furious train crossing a mountain tunnel. His jazzy, Gene Kruppa influence is shown. The icing on the cake is Paul’s preach, arguable the mother of all audience participation.
‘Black Diamond’ is the emotional peak. The song that only the drummer can sing. Paul’s electric intro tops the acoustic studio intro. Peter’s vocals, the harmonized guitar solo and Ace’s final solo plus the fireworks are overwhelming. We are heading for the encores. ‘Rock Bottom’ beats the studio version (again..) and the last three songs are breathtaking.
‘Cold Gin’, the ultimate Ace anthem, begins with Paul’s most famous stage rap. Ace’s Les Paul literally sings offering more tasty fills than any blues classic and an immortal ending solo, absent on the studio version. Gene’s bass lines are sharp and his fiery vocals interact with Paul’s harmonies. A lesson in 70s metal.
Without a warning, we are introduced to the definitive version of ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’. Just listen to Ace’s live solo: the musical translation of introduction, core and denouement. Alive! closes with ‘Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll’. A hard rock party. Kiss loosen up and jam! Gene addresses Davenport, IA (‘C’mon Quad City’) and Peter rounds up the song and the album with the spoken ‘Kiss Loves You..’
The expected sales for the album were at best 350,000 units. Not only did it reach gold status with sales in excess of 500,000 three months after its release, and has allegedly sold more than 9 million copies worldwide to date.
‘Alive!’ paved the way for live releases like ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’, ‘Foghat Live’, ‘Double Live Gonzo!’, ‘Live At Budokan’ and many more. It’s a landmark for live albums and Kiss’ most indisputable musical legacy. Even though Kiss became ‘larger than life’ by 1977, Kissteria starts with ‘Alive!’
Entire Album (Select Tracks)