With ‘Dressed to Kill’ out and sales only slightly better than ‘Hotter Than Hell’, the only thing the band really had going for them was their live shows. Their record label was nearly bankrupt and Kiss was about to lose their record deal and it was about to all coming to a crashing halt. The band had yet to receive any royalties after their pittance of an advance and their manager, Bill Aucoin, along with the band were ready to sue and get out of the contract.
In a last ditch effort to save the label and the band, Neil thought a Live album was the way to go. The Live shows is where people finally understood what Kiss was all about. With Gene Simmons spitting blood and breathing fire, with Ace Frehley’s electrifying guitar solos, Paul Stanley’s charm in his dialogue to the crowd and Peter Criss’ drum riser and solo, Kiss was a Live band that needed to be heard LIVE!! Plus, this was cheaper than an album, so they could afford to do this route.
‘Alive!’ was recorded over four stops on the Dressed to Kill Tour. You had May 16 at Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan, naturally; June 21 at Cleveland Music Hall in Cleveland, Ohio; July 20 at RKO Orpheum Theater in Davenport, Iowa; and July 23 at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey. With four shows recorded, they could piece together a perfect live album…well…maybe not!
The album wasn’t as “Live” as you would think. There were numerous problems with the recordings. The band didn’t always sing perfectly in to the mic, notes were missed in their high energy performances and nothing seemed to carry-over as well as they thought it would. They brought in legendary producer, Eddie Kramer, to fix the problems and it is immediately evident that they would have to go in the studio and overdub a lot of the album…okay, most of the album including the crowd noise. From what I understand, the only thing that didn’t get touched up was the drums which is a testament to how well Peter was playing back in those days and also to the fact he only had to sit there and play while the others ran around the stage and tried to play at the same time.
I mentioned early that Kiss was unhappy and trying to get out of their contract and five days after the release of the album (which was released on September 10, 1975), Bill Aucoin informed Neil that the band was leaving Casablanca. Neil immediately signed a $2 million check and kept the band. Luckily for Neil, the album sales went through the roof thanks in large part to the release of “Rock & Roll All Nite” as a single and that becoming the band’s signature song. Kiss had done it. They had a hit record and were now a successful band that were about to take over and rule the world.
I could go on and on about album details and could go in to the story of the two guys on the back cover, but I will avoid that as I am already taking up a ton of your time. But I will at least say how lucky those guys were making that sign and being in the right place at the right time as they are now immortalized forever on a Kiss album!! I think it is a great picture for the back cover and one of my favorites.
I think it is time we get to the music. Let’s get started…
The album kicks off with the famous introduction by J R Smalling saying, “You Wanted the Best, And You Got It, The Hottest Band in the Land, KISS”. Sadly, J R passed away a few weeks ago from a long fight with cancer. Then with big explosions Kiss comes at you with “Deuce”. The song is bombastic and full of life. Finally, an album captures the high energy and feel of what is truly Kiss. The guitar solo is riveting and the immense overall sound is like nothing you have ever heard. And they don’t slow down with the next song of “Strutter” as they bring you more of the same.
The opening guitar riff on “Got To Choose” and then Peter’s drum fills get you going with one of my favorite songs on Side One. Always liked this one and the confidence of Paul on vocals just brought this one home with me. Then we go in the two “fire” songs with “Hotter Than Hell” and “Firehouse”. I really love Paul’s short song intros saying just enough to introduce the song in a way only Paul can do. I also love the way the two songs just fit together so perfectly and how tight the band sounds on “Firehouse” (and yes, I remember there were a ton of overdubs but it still sounds cool). The siren at the end with the band jamming and you can hear Gene’s bass thumping with all he’s got. All the songs are just so much more fuller and the solos sound so much better than the original versions and it is no wonder those albums didn’t sell as well to the general public.
Side Two is no different. “Nothin’ to Lose” kicks it off with Gene singing the verses and Peter comes screaming in on the Chorus and his raspy vocals bring such power to the song. The combo makes this such a cool sounding song. Then we get Paul tearing it up on “C’mon And Love Me”. Another song that I love the guitar work and the sound is immense. Paul has never sounded better and you can feel his energy as he turns on the charm to the audience.
Then Ace really starts to shine with his guitar work on “Parasite”. He isn’t singing anything yet, so he has to kill it on his guitar licks to really standout and he does it on every song, but this is one of my faves. “She” comes in so dark and menacing sounding with a very heavy riff. Gene on vocals sounds like a demon looking down on his prey. The highlight of the song is music interlude with Ace laying down some sick licks and Peter backing him up with some equally impressive drum fills. Then it is all Ace with his fingers flying on a solo and then back to Peter for brief fill before a big finish.
“Watchin’ You” kicks off Side three with Gene on vocals and they get in a get out at 3 minutes before going into the epic performance of the 12 minutes “100,000 Years”. Gene kicks off the song off with his bass as the highlight. Paul sings his heart out, but the highlight is the drum solo in the middle with Peter. It’s Peter’s time to shine as he goes in to a long drum solo that shows how well he could play before all the trouble started. It isn’t your typical rock drum solo as he isn’t a typical rock drummer. He has more of a jazz feel to his style, but whatever he is, he does a bang up job here. The solo is interrupted by Paul as he does one of his long, drawn out monologues to the audience. He is a master at the banter.
Then we go in to one of my favorite live songs, which is sung by Peter, is “Black Diamond”. Paul does a little intro before he yells out “Hit It” and the band comes in loud and proud and Peter sings his heart out and another magical performance. The song ends with lots of explosions and leads you to believe it is the end, but they still play two more songs before the encore.
“Rock Bottom” opens Side Four with some cool crowd sound and starts up with Ace playing the guitar instrumental part before the full band joins in and slams it home. This is a standout track from ‘Dressed to Kill’ and I love this version as well. Let’s get to the biggest highlight of this whole album for me, “Cold Gin”. Paul does his banter about drinking and asking the audience if they like alcohol and asks them about different drinks before they rock out the song. This is another song that solidified Ace as my guitar hero back in the 70’s and I was only about 8 when this came out, but he was king for me. His playing was purely sensational.
Then we get to the song that started it all for the band. The start to superstardom was because of “Rock & Roll All Nite”. This is now their signature song and it is easy to see why. It is a pure rock anthem like no other. Now, it has been overplayed and I am truly sick of it and don’t care if I ever hear it again, but let’s be honest…it is a fantastic and amazing song to be played Live!! Speaking of Rock Anthems, they ended the show with another of their many anthems, “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll” which isn’t too shabby of an anthem either. The band ended with a band like they started and ended one of the best live albums ever!! Even if most of it wasn’t all live.
I won’t be doing a track score like a do with Studio albums because this is a live show and is meant to be reviewed as a full show, plus there is nothing I would replace on this album. My overall score for this release is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars! This is the album that did it for Kiss. The one that turned them to stars. Even after I know what I know about the making of this album, it is still the best Live album ever in my book as the backbone of this album is still a live show. I just don’t think it gets much better than this. What do you think?
Next Up: Kiss – ‘Destroyer’ (1976)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
The Kiss Review Series:
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
- Kiss – Kiss (1974)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
- Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
- Kiss – Alive! (1975)
The Bootleg Series:
- Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
- Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
- Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
- Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
- Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
- Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
- Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
- Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
- Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
- Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
- Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
- Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
- Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg Series)
Kiss – The Box Set:
- The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)
Gene Simmons – The Vault:
- Part 1 – The Grand Opening
- Part 2 – Disk 1
- Part 3 – Disk 2
- Part 4 – Disk 3
- Part 5 – Disk 4
- Part 6 – Disk 5
- Part 7 – Disk 6
- Part 8 – Disk 7
- Part 9 – Disk 8
- Part 10 – Disk 9
- Part 11 – Disk 10
- Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
- Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
- Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
- Part 15 – The Final Verdict