After three studio albums, it was time to repeat the magic with another live album, ‘Alive II’. It worked well the first time so it seemed like that was the intention this time around to try and capture that gold again. However, that was not the original intention. While the band was touring Japan for ‘Rock & Roll Over’, they recorded the entire show of the band at the famed Budokan Hall in Tokyo on April 2, 1977. They felt the band needed a break before recording the next album and this would be it. However, Casablanca hated the album and it was scrapped.
The band went and released ‘Love Gun’ as planned and then it was time for another live album. This time they recorded three shows at the LA Forum on August 26-28 of 1977 while out on Tour for the ‘Love Gun’ album which was just released in June. Heck, they even recorded the soundchecks as the goal for this album was to not duplicate any songs that were on ‘Alive!’. And to add something special to the album, Side Four was going to be all new studio songs which gives this release a little something extra. Eddie Kramer was brought back in to produce and he worked his magic.
The album was released on October 14, 1977 only 4 months after ‘Love Gun’. The release was a 2LP set and the cover of the album was so striking with the massive Kiss logo and the pictures of the band. The ones on the front are kind of small, but if you flip it over to the back cover…WOW!! Look at the detail and the color. Gene is the most menacing and sure looked like a Demon to me with all the blood still coming from his mouth plus all the sweat from busting his ass during the show. It is the best picture I think I’d seen of Gene up to this point. The other guys are all prettied-up and the pictures look great, but Gene’s…Damn!!
Then you open that gatefold and look at that show. The band giving it there all in the middle of the show…okay, not really. They shot this prior to the show and set off all the pyro at once to make it look like their show was so massive. It was, but not this big. Sadly, this is itty-bitty compared to the “End of the Road Tour” pyro! My copy of the album still has the original album sleeves with the fan shot on one side and the album pictures on the other. Both sleeves have the same pictures.
The album opens with “Detroit Rock City” and then goes right in to “King of the Night Time World” just like the kick off to ‘Destroyer’. Plus, those two songs have to come one after the other if you are going to play them both. They don’t replicate the car crash to transition between the songs, instead Peter hits the massive Gong behind him which kind of simulates the crash. The one thing I have noticed on this one is the crowd noise does sound less realistic then I remember on ‘Alive!’. Oh well.
The quickly get through “Ladies Room”, “Makin’ Love” and “Love Gun” as there are no extras added. They get in, they get out and don’t differ too much from the original versions. The standout for me on this Side is “Makin’ Love”. I thought the guitar on this sounded really cool and Peter’s drum roll at the end was awesome. This one sounded live and overall there was something special about it. The songs for the show all sound fantastic, almost too good. The tempo is a lot faster as the band seems to be playing with a sense of urgency. So far, the Paul Stanley banter between songs has been minimal, yet effective. I guess they have to limit the banter to cram 15 tracks on three sides.
Gene kicks off side 2 in a big way with a twofer including “Calling Dr. Love” and “Christine Sixteen”. Gene sounds great and the band is killing it. Then the big highlight on this side for me. Ace Frehley finally gets his day in the sun with him singing “Shock Me” which was his first song he sang on an album. He sounded sensational and the guitar playing on this track was awe-inspiring as he got to throw in his solo on this song. This was one of the main reasons Ace became my favorite back when I was 8 years old. Sorry Paul…you become my favorite again soon.
Peter Criss gets in on the singing act as well with “Hard Luck Woman” and then Paul goes in to “Tomorrow And Tonight” which he wrote in hopes to repeat the success of “Rock And Roll All Nite” but it doesn’t come close. This is the only side that actually features all members of the band singing a song. Pretty cool!! These two songs were not played live either my friend. They were going to use the soundcheck versions, but instead, how do I say this…they were completely re-recorded in the studio and the crowd was added later. Sorry!
Side 3 starts off with a song that was not from any live show. “I Stole Your Love” was actually recorded during one of the soundchecks at the Forum shows. They went back in and added the crowd noise. Hell, it fooled all of us. Two other things to note on this side are that “Beth” and “I Want You” aren’t from the LA Forum shows. They were actually used from the Budokan Hall recordings that were scrapped earlier in the year that I mentioned a little while back. As I said, they didn’t want to repeat any songs from “Alive!”, so they took songs however they could get them.
Gene demons up with his signature song “God of Thunder” (written by Paul) and he is in rare form. He comes across as evil as ever, but the highlight is Peter’s drum solo. Peter pretty much steals Gene’s thunder…pun intended! Peter was a hell of a drummer in his prime, there is no denying that and this shows it. Next up is a another favorite of mine, “I Want You”. This is another track taken from the Budokan show and is spectacular as Paul sounds great and it is these lesser known tracks that really have the band shine. The way he gets the crowd involved on singing “I Want You” and his extended notes on it are what you want from a live show. The show ends here with Paul asking everyone if “you people want a little bit of rock & roll then Shout it Out Loud” and though not as outrageous as “Rock And Roll All Nite” is still a fitting song to end a show and it sounds bombastic and huge with explosions and Gene and Paul sharing vocals. It ends on a high note.
Side 4 is all studio tracks. At the time, we thought the whole band played on these tracks, but behind the scenes things were beginning to disintegrate. Ace only played on the song he sang as the band was having major issues with him so they brought in Bob Kulick to play on all the other tracks. You remember Bob, he auditioned for Kiss back in the beginning, but Ace came in right afterwards and got the job. The first new songs was “All American Man”. A Paul Stanley written and sung track that has some great sounding guitars (thanks to Bob). As a tall child, I strutted around singing this heavy rock song because I felt it described me…well someday it would as I did reach 6′ 2″.
Next up was “Rockin’ in the USA” sung and written by Gene Simmons. That is two songs in a row mentioning the US in some way which made this feel like a very patriotic set of songs. It is actually about touring in the US and dang it rocks out and is a blast of a song. Gene continues with “Larger Than Life” which is exactly what this band was in my eyes. The song is a slower, dirtier groove and more of a menacing Gene song.
Then we get to the only song Ace Frehley wrote (with Sean Delaney), sang and actually played on, “Rocket Ride”. The song was originally written for an Ace solo album but Kiss needed a song so he gave them this one. This is a signature Ace song and probably the best song on the whole album. The guitar playing is slick and it plain kicks major ass.
The last track on here was a Dave Clark Five cover of “Any Way You Want It” sung by Paul. It is very catchy and also very corny and to me the weakest song of the new tracks as it is very repetitive. Oh well, it didn’t end on high note, but let’s go back and listen to “Rocket Ride” again and again and again!!
And there you have it. This would become the final album of the Classic Kiss era in many people’s book. Definitely mine. And what a way to go out. Yes, this isn’t as good as “Alive!” as the overall show is a little flat for me. The crowd noise isn’t believable and you can’t beat that setlist of ‘Alive!’ either. But don’t let that fool you, it is still a remarkable album and the studio tracks are an added bonus that lifts the score higher. In fact, I still think this is one of the best albums they’ve done. My overall score is a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. As an 8 year old kid, I was mesmerized by them and at 51, they still blow me away. Kiss is at their pinnacle here and they went all out to deliver the best live album (cough, cough) they could and they did just that.
Next Up: Kiss – ‘Double Platinum’ (1978)
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)
- Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
- Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
- Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
- Kiss – The Originals (1976)
- Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
- Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
- Kiss – Alive II (1977)
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)
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