Alive! 1975-2000

Kiss

Live albums should be mandatory for Kiss. Like a savage beast that thrives in its natural habitat, Kiss, onstage, is king of the jungle. Not even their best studio work comes remotely close to duplicating the Marshall stack onslaught, shameless excess and glorious flamboyance of their live sound. Few bands have recorded live albums that can transport listeners the way Kiss’ do — you don’t need to see their theatrics to feel the excitement. Crank up Kiss’ box set Alive! 1975-2000 — the guided-missile solos, the rallying anthems, Paul Stanley’s evangelist-style spiels whipping the crowd into a born-again frenzy — and you’ll feel like you’re suddenly front and center in the fray.

Alive! (1975) was Kiss’ slingshot into superstardom — and their last gasp for life. With their label nearly bankrupt, and their three anemic-sounding studio albums tanking, they released “Alive!” and explosively proved their power-chord prowess. It’s mind-boggling that the live versions of classics like “Strutter,” “Cold Gin,” and “Firehouse” are even remotely related to their studio counterparts. The remaster maintains the material’s brass-knuckled punch, while honing the sound to such surgical sharpness that it sounds brighter and — here’s the best part — even louder than the original.

Alive II (1977) is the weakest of the four, although following up a monumental album like Alive! would be akin to parting the Red Sea — twice. It contains great material from “Destroyer,” “Rock And Roll Over” and “Love Gun,” including “Christine Sixteen,” “Shout it Out Loud,” and “Shock Me,” plus five studio cuts. But the live segments sound thin and weak, and could have probably benefited from a remixing, along with the remastering. Alive II doesn’t do justice to slam-bang songs that thrive live. And the studio cuts — although good songs, themselves — disrupt the illusion of attending a live concert, like being abruptly awakened from a great dream.

In 1993, Kiss came blazing back with an inferno of a live album, Alive III. Guitarist Ace Frehley, drummer Peter Criss, and the makeup were out. Bruce Kulick (guitar) and Eric Singer (drums) were in. Kulick, one of Kiss’ most talented replacement guitarists, skillfully filled Frehley’s platform boots, and — sacrilege! — Singer’s drumming was superior to Criss’. The lineup was tight, and dug into songs like “Lick it Up,” “Heaven’s on Fire,” and the bonus cut“Take it Off,” with breathless passion and exuberance.

The Millennium Concert was one of the reunited classic lineup’s many annual farewell shows, recorded at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on New Year’s Eve 1999, and spanning everything from “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond” to “Psycho Circus” and “Into the Void.” It’s always great to start the new year with a Kiss. And it's even better when there's a different version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” on each disc!

~ Merryl Lentz

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