Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Kiss 4: Alive!

We’ve already alluded to the Casablanca label’s skill at losing money; suffice it to say that the next Kiss album came directly out of an economic strategy. A live album was supposed to be cheaper to record than a studio album, and while the spectacle, pyrotechnics, and other hallmarks of a Kiss concert could only be imagined while listening to a record, Alive! managed to convey all the excitement of actually being there.

Part of the Kiss branding was to deliver the songs onstage exactly as they were pressed onto vinyl, so there’s very little derivation from the gospel on these four sides. “Firehouse” doe gains an annoying siren over the end of the tune and “100,000 Years” is stretched to twelve minutes for a drum solo and several minutes of Paul exhorting and cajoling the crowd, but all the songs were familiar to fans from the three albums they already owned, and nobody complained. (Except Ace Frehley, whose desire to stretch his solos was indulged only on “She”.)

Only after years of rumor did Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons finally admit that while the songs on the album were indeed recorded in concert, much overdubbing afterwards covered all kinds of bugs common to live recording, such as missed notes, microphone placement, and the like. Even the crowd noise was enhanced in places. Besides, Paul’s intros and interjections, which scale the dizzying heights of unintentional hilarity, must be heard to appreciated, whether in or out of context.

None of this takes away from the whole, which is that Alive! is still a classic live album, and one of the seminal examples of its era. The packaging is devoted to the cult of the fan, from the kids posing with the homemade banner on the back cover to the handwritten messages in the gatefold (opposite photos of the other fine Kiss albums for your collection). A deluxe eight-page color booklet only underscored just how awesome they were. This was not reproduced in future CD editions, unfortunately, which also continued to offer the program on two discs, despite being short enough to fit on just one.

Kiss Alive! (1975)—4

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