“YOU WANTED THE BEST, AND YOU GOT THE BEST!! THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD, KISS!!” Hmmm, got any idea on who this week’s Klassic Albums Live is about? That’s right, Maestro’s favorite band since he was a mere four years old, KISS. This time we’re gonna get into their second live record Alive II. Now I know some of you are thinking (and probably screaming), “Da fuck is this?!?” Where’s the C.A. on Alive!?!?” Well, it’s like this. I love that album, I really do. But I love this one even more. Here’s why: in 1978 before I had even turned five years old I was a full-on KISS junkie. After I got Destroyer the year before, I begged my parents to buy me more records from them, which they did.
Anyone here remember Columbia House? Well, in ‘78 my parents joined and got a bunch of stuff on 8-track tape (you heard right). And in that package was Love Gun and Alive II. The Saturday morning that arrived I flipped!! I had no idea Mom and Dad did that for me, but I was grinning ear-to-ear. My first order of business was to grab my little plastic guitar and get on my stage (and by stage, I mean the slightly raised and tiled floor of my family’s bar room) and rock out. As soon as that iconic intro finished “Detroit Rock City” came through the speakers and I was in absolute Heaven. I was up there doing my best impersonations of Paul Stanley as we moved into “King of the Nighttime World” and my Mom just chuckled watching me.
Recorded over three nights at the legendary L.A. Forum, Alive II accomplishes the task of making you feel like you’re right there in the room with the band and 17,000 screaming fans. Plus, these live versions are just full of adrenaline, showcasing a band that was on top of the world at the time and could seemingly do no wrong. To this day I still prefer Gene Simmons’ vocals on this version of “Ladies Room” to the studio one, and the live recording of “Makin’ Love” is so hot I thought my tape would melt on impact. Fun fact: me and my crew would go into my garage and put this album on while acting out the tunes. We had plastic guitars, a big Igloo cooler and sticks to beat on it with as our drum set, and all the neighborhood kids would come to watch our “concerts.” And it was glorious!
Oh man, what can I say about “Love Gun” here that hasn’t already been said? The band is on fire and drummer Peter Criss’ emphatic snare hits at the end just drive that point home further. 40 years later this song is STILL a highlight of any KISS show. “Calling Dr. Love” and “Christine Sixteen” are bonafide classics, and Gene’s delivery rules here. But one of the biggest moments for me, then and now, is when Paul introduces the next song by saying, “We got a little surprise for you tonight! We’re gonna turn the microphone over to Ace Frehley, “Shock Me”!! I was on the ground in seconds. This track features my favorite guitar solo of all time, and live Ace didn’t drop a note. Plus he goes nuts in his after-song solo. Another reason he’s my favorite guitar player ever.
Peter gets to shine vocally as the band plays “Hard Luck Woman”, then they rip into “Tomorrow and Tonight.” “I Stole Your Love” was actually recorded at a 3 p.m. soundcheck, but that’s okay, because you can tell the band is firing on all cylinders, and this is another case where hearing four guys on a stage doing it trumps the studio version. “Beth” features Peter singing once again, and obviously the crowd goes wild, given what a monster hit it was. And from there we go straight to Hell with “God of Thunder”, The Demon Gene Simmons’ rallying cry. “I Want You” destroys, as does set finale “Shout It Out Loud”, the band giving it their all and the audience responding in kind by going crazy.
The cool thing too is that we get five studio tracks to end the record, starting with “All American Man”, and continuing with “Rockin’ In the U.S.A.”, “Larger Than Life”, “Rocket Ride”, and album closer “Any Way You Want It.” Man, when I was a kid I was absolutely mesmerized by this album. And you know what? I still am. It’s my favorite live record of all time, and I will be forever grateful to my Mom and Dad, both of whom are no longer with us, for not only understanding, but encouraging my KISS obsession, which remains strong 40 years later. So this one’s for you Rita and Joseph Cousins. Every time I listen to this one, you two will be forever in my heart, and that is why Alive II from KISS will always be one of the Klassic Albums Live. ~dc