Title: “Alive II”
Release date: 1977
Favorite track: “Calling Dr. Love”
I’ve never been a huge fan of live albums, but if you peeked at my record collection you would never know it. I happen to own a lot of ‘em.
I love seeing concerts, and I find many musicians are phenomenal live — often better — but recorded versions of the performances, well, meh.
Live albums were a big deal in the world of 1970s rock music because performances often featured new musical arrangements and, frankly, I think record labels probably pushed it for financial reasons. Many of the musicians were already so prolific I don’t think live albums were necessary. But, they are nice to acknowledge as a piece of rock sub-genre history.
A live album makes a lot of sense for KISS, because the band was known for its over-the-top live performances, featuring the iconic heavy face paint we see every Halloween. The hard rock group also incorporated intense special effects, such as fire and smoke.
“Alive II” is a 20-track double album featuring live versions of KISS’ “Love Gun Tour” in 1977. It was the band’s second live album — hence the “II.”
The fans and critics loved it.
As for me, I don’t listen to much KISS, and I don’t make a habit of listening to live albums. So, it’s not bad. I do think it’s cool that Cheap Trick and Styx opened for KISS on this tour. What a trifecta.
This live album starts out strong with one of KISS’ staple songs, “Detroit Rock City,” but I didn’t start there.
I’m typically a sucker for a title track, so I always listen to it first.
This was my first time hearing this record, so I listened to “Love Gun” first. I appreciate the lyrical basis of “you pulled the trigger on my love gun,” and it certainly has the quintessential energetic KISS sound. It’s definitely the kind of song I would belt out in the car with no remorse.
I actually prefer “Calling Dr. Love” to the title track. It’s even more fun to sing, and I think most are familiar with it. This would be a blast to hear live. It was written and sung by bass guitarist Gene Simmons (aka the Demon).
“Christine Sixteen” is another favorite. The rhythm is catchy, and I can’t help but chant the title with Simmons, who also wrote and sang this one.
I like how all of the band members participated in the songwriting process. For example, guitarist Ace Frehley wrote “Shock Me” (truly inspired by being shocked), lead vocalist Paul Stanley wrote “God of Thunder” and drummer Peter Criss co-wrote “Beth.”
One thing I don’t enjoy about some hard rock music is an overly rapid pace. Music nerds and metal lovers crowd around the fast guitar riffs, but I’d rather be lulled into love with a song. “I Stole Your Love” feels too rushed.
“All American Man” is an example of the perfect pace. It’s the type of rock 'n' roll cruise I love.
“Beth” is one of KISS’ few and well-known ballads. My editor, Brenda Shoffner, pointed it out when she looked at the track list. You probably already know I love songs with a name in the title, and “Beth” is definitely a nice change of pace on this otherwise lively record.
Musically, that track surprisingly suits the band’s sound. It’s exactly what I envisioned a KISS ballad would sound like.
“I Want You” features some randomly placed soft vocals and music to contradict the band’s heavier side. It’s dynamic and, again, probably fun to see translated on a stage.
I dig “God of Thunder,” because it features exceedingly macho vocals and a powerful bass line. It’s truly a musical manifestation of its title.
I honestly find most of the songs on the record hyper-genre specific. But I did hear a touch of blues and soft rock in “Larger than Life,” and punk or indie rock in the concluding track, “Any Way You Want It.” The latter reminded me of The Ramones, which turned out to be ironic when I realized The Ramones recorded it, too. It’s a remake of a song by English rock band The Dave Clark Five.
There is nothing out of place on this album art.
With photos of heads wearing clown-like face paint and two S's that look like lightning bolts, one could recognize a KISS cover from miles away. Gotta love it.