KISS – Comes Alive

These are the two most iconic live albums by KISS. I remember the first time I played them. I was transported to that world of explosions, fire, smoke, blood spitting, and levitating drums. Over the years there have been lots of reviews written about these two albums, but one thing remains true today – they capture the KISS live experience as well as it can be captured without actually seeing the band in concert.

kiss alive

Okay, so the album wasn’t entirely live. We all know that by now. The guys in the band, and anybody who had anything to do with producing it, has admitted it. That used to bother me. Why the hell would you give us a “live” album that wasn’t live? Here’s the thing, though. A KISS concert is loud. A KISS concert is charged with electricity. Just throwing up a couple of recording devices doesn’t cut it. You can’t record a show and expect it to work on the same level as it does live, and KISS wanted “Alive!” to capture the concert experience, so yeah, there was some tinkering to get the crowd and the explosions to sound and “feel” like it would if you were at the show, which is understandable.

But what about the rest of it? How many mistakes were fixed, how much of the in-between song chatter was overdubbed, what about guitar solos and drums? We’ll never know the full extent. Peter claims none of his drums were touched. Ace recalls very little of his guitar needed to be fixed. Gene and Paul say minor mistakes were touched up, but that if you listen, you’ll still hear plenty of of them. Their producer, Eddie Kramer, says they did a great deal of the work in the studio.

Listen, it’s okay to fix glaring mistakes in the studio. Lots of bands do it. You don’t notice mistakes when you’re actually at the concert, but you don’t really want to hear them when you listen to the album. On the other hand, you don’t want a live album to sound like a studio album, so there has to be a sweet medium, and I think “Alive!” is on the money. If the history of “best of” lists is any indication, plenty of others agree with me. “Alive!” consistently finds its way onto lists of the greatest live albums of all time. Whether you agree or not, I think “Alive!” captures the KISS concert experience remarkably well.

Side one

  1. “Deuce”
  2. “Strutter”
  3. “Got to Choose”
  4. “Hotter Than Hell”
  5. “Firehouse”

Side two

  1. “Nothin’ to Lose”
  2. “C’mon and Love Me”
  3. “Parasite”
  4. “She”

Side three

  1. “Watchin’ You”
  2. “100,000 Years”
  3. “Black Diamond”

Side four

  1. “Rock Bottom”
  2. “Cold Gin”
  3. “Rock and Roll All Nite”
  4. “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”

kiss alive II

Let me say right up front that I like this album a lot, but I have some serious issues with it. “Alive II” never achieved the stature of the first live album. It simply doesn’t have the credibility. My first, and biggest issue, is the fourth side of the album being studio tracks and not live songs. KISS didn’t want to duplicate songs from the first album, so they chose to use studio songs to extend the album’s running time because they didn’t have enough “live” recordings to fill it. Well, they could have easily added five additional live songs. I would’ve liked  “Do You Love Me?” “Take Me,” “Hooligan,” “Got Love for Sale,” and “Plaster Caster.” Three of these songs were mistakenly listed on early pressings of the album but never actually appeared. As for the studio tracks, I liked them a lot, but I think they should’ve been released on their own, maybe as a collectible EP.

My next issue with the album is the recording of the songs themselves. Like the first live album, “Alive II” was tweaked in the studio. That wouldn’t be an issue if it had been done the same way, to enhance the live experience, but that’s not the case. “I Stole Your Love,” for instance, wasn’t even recorded in front of an audience. It’s a sound check recording with crowd noise added in the studio. That, to me, goes beyond normal tweaking.

Those issues aside, I love the way the album sounds. It’s more bass heavy than the first album. I also like the songs they included. The addition of the five songs I mentioned earlier would’ve elevated “Alive II” immensely, and I would’ve paid extra for the five studio tracks as a stand-alone product.

Side one

  1. “Detroit Rock City”
  2. “King of the Night Time World”
  3. “Ladies Room”
  4. “Makin’ Love”
  5. “Love Gun”

Side two

  1. “Calling Dr. Love”
  2. “Christine Sixteen”
  3. “Shock Me”
  4. “Hard Luck Woman”
  5. “Tomorrow and Tonight”

Side three

  1. “I Stole Your Love”
  2. “Beth”
  3. “God of Thunder”
  4. “I Want You”
  5. “Shout It Out Loud”

Side four

  1. “All American Man”
  2. “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.”
  3. “Larger Than Life”
  4. “Rocket Ride”
  5. “Anyway You Want It”
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