Alive! (Kiss album)

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Alive!
Kiss alive album cover.jpg
Live album by
ReleasedSeptember 10, 1975
RecordedMay 16, 1975 (Cobo Arena, Detroit)
June 21, 1975 (Cleveland Music Hall, Cleveland)
July 20, 1975 (RKO Orpheum Theater, Davenport)
July 23, 1975 (Wildwoods Convention Center, Wildwood)
Genre
Length78:17
LabelCasablanca
ProducerEddie Kramer
Kiss chronology
Dressed to Kill
(1975)
Alive!
(1975)
Destroyer
(1976)
Singles from Alive!
  1. "Rock and Roll All Nite"
    Released: October 14, 1975

Alive! is the first live album, and fourth overall, by American hard rock band Kiss. It is considered to be their breakthrough and a landmark for live albums. Released on September 10, 1975, the double-disc set contains live versions of selected tracks from their first three studio albums, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell and Dressed to Kill. It was recorded at concerts in Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Wildwood, New Jersey; and Davenport, Iowa on May 16, June 21, July 20 and July 23, 1975.[1]

The album's title was an homage to the 1972 live album Slade Alive! from the English rock group Slade, a band that heavily influenced Kiss.[2][3]

Background[edit]

From 1973 to 1975, Kiss released three albums: Kiss, Hotter than Hell, and Dressed to Kill.[4] Although the three albums helped to established a cult following in the Rust Belt, they were commercial failures.[5] Guitarist Paul Stanley attributed the low sales to Kiss' weak sound when they were in the studio versus when they were in concert. According to Stanley: "I never thought any of our first three albums captured the intensity of what the band was going for or was. And it was a problem because people would come to see us and many of them weren't buying our albums."[4] Kiss was famous for its elaborate stage performances, where the band members would wear kabuki-style makeup, use pyrotechnics, and spit fake blood at audience members.[5] Vocalist Gene Simmons said that because of Kiss' notoriety, they were kicked off of multiple tours with groups like Argent, Black Sabbath, and Savoy Brown because they were afraid to play after Kiss.[6]

Kiss' record label, Casablanca Records, had similar financial issues. By 1974, Casablanca's profits were declining, so CEO Neil Bogart decided to release a double album of audio highlights from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a show that averaged fourteen million viewers a night. Casablanca shipped 750,000 copies, but the album was an enormous failure.[5] Distributors mailed back their free copies, and Casablanca co-founder Larry Harris said: "It hit the floor with a lifeless, echoing thud."[5] The failure negatively affected many acts signed with Casablanca, including Kiss; the band only received $15,000 advance for the first three albums, and had yet to receive any royalties.[5] As a result of the breach of contract, Kiss began looking at other labels to sign with, and a lawsuit was eventually filed against Bogart.[7]

In a last-ditch effort to save the label, Bogart decided to capitalize on Kiss' onstage notoriety and have the band record a double live album. Kiss manager Bill Aucoin was receptive toward the idea, as he felt the band could finally achieve the sound they strove for. He also liked the fact that a live recording would be less expensive than a studio recording.[8] The band members also liked the idea, and within a few days Bogart arranged the Dressed to Kill Tour.[5] Bogart could not finance the tour however, so Aucoin paid for the entire tour with his own money, a total of $300,000.[5]

Recording and music[edit]

Alive! comprises sixteen songs recorded during four stops on the Dressed to Kill Tour: May 16 at Cobo Arena in Detroit; June 21 at Cleveland Music Hall in Cleveland; July 20 at RKO Orpheum Theater in Davenport; and July 23 at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood.[9] These performances featured elaborate setups. During the song "100,000 Years", stage crew members used flamethrowers to engulf the stage in a ring of fire, and Peter Criss' drum kit rose above the other band members.[5] The sixteen songs featured on the Alive! were taken from the band's first three albums, and often have extended drum and guitar solo.[10]

Overdubbing controversy[edit]

There has been considerable debate as to how much use was made of studio overdubs. In his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up, Simmons stated that very little corrective work was done in the studio and that most of the studio time was devoted strictly to mixing down the multi-track recordings. He also emphasized that Kiss could not have done extensive overdubbing even if they had wanted to; thanks in no small part to the Johnny Carson album fiasco, the extremely meager budget allotted to the band simply would not allow it.

According to Dale Sherman's book Black Diamond and Goldmine magazine, in the early 1990s, Eddie Kramer stated there were a few overdubs to correct the most obvious mistakes: strings breaking or off-key notes, for instance. However, in recent years, Kramer has stated that the only original live recording on the album is Peter Criss' drum tracks. Stanley has noted that there is a bass mistake in the choruses of "C'mon and Love Me". He has also made comments that even though there have been live albums recorded later that make Alive! sound like it was recorded in a washroom, he has no qualms about it. Criss has also claimed, in his 2012 autobiography Makeup to Breakup,[11] that the only original live recordings on the album were his drum and vocal tracks.

During the program Classic Albums, the band members all stated that while many changes had been made, such as overdubbing vocals and mixing together various crowd sounds to get a more amplified sense of the "live" sound, they considered the changes minor. In particular, they stated that they only altered the noise of the crowd to better capture the feel of the actual performances, since the raw recordings only dimly picked up the audience. They also stated that they had difficulties capturing vocals due to the natural jumps, dancing, and other stage activities.[12]

Re-release[edit]

Alive! was originally reissued as a double-CD set in what has now become known as a "fatboy" 2CD case. When the Kiss back catalog was remastered, it was housed in a slimline 2CD case and, in keeping with the rest of the reissue program, had the artwork restored. Alive! was re-released in 2006 as part of the Kiss Alive! 1975–2000 box set. The short running time of Alive! allowed for a single, unedited CD edition in that release. The remastered CD edition eliminated the breaks between the four sides of the original LP release, resulting in that version of the album playing as one continuous performance. The 72-page booklet packaged with the CD set erroneously credited songwriting for "Cold Gin" to Stanley instead of Ace Frehley.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[10]
Blender5/5 stars[13]
Christgau's Record GuideB–[14]
Pitchfork10/10[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[16]

Greg Prato of AllMusic rated the album 4.5 stars out of 5 and stated that "Alive! remains Kiss' greatest album ever."[10] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau rated the album a B-, stating that he and "the multimillion kids who are buying it" "fall into neither category" of those who regard the album "as a de facto best-of" and "those who regard it as the sludge."[14]

In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, the album was rated 4 out of 5 stars. It was called "a nonstop Kiss-krieg of two-note guitar motifs, fake-sounding audience noise, and inspirational chitchat," but it was then restated as the next best thing to being there, clearly." Jason Josephes of Pitchfork rated it 10 out of 10 points, and said that "the album may seem like a joke, mainly because it contains every arena rock cliche in the book," but called it "total sonic proof of Kiss climbing their apex."

Alive! peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 album charts, and charted for 110 weeks, by far the longest in the band's history. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 159 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.[17] In 2006, it was placed at No. 26 on Guitar World magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time. In 2009, the same magazine placed it at No. 3 on their list of Top 10 Live Albums.[18]

"Alive! was the first album I ever bought," Soundgarden's Kim Thayil told Guitar World in 1992. "And I wasn't alone: you can hear their influence all over metal and punk."[19]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Deuce"Gene SimmonsSimmons3:56
2."Strutter"Paul Stanley, SimmonsStanley3:22
3."Got to Choose"StanleyStanley3:40
4."Hotter than Hell"StanleyStanley3:30
5."Firehouse"StanleyStanley3:50
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
6."Nothin' to Lose"SimmonsSimmons, Peter Criss3:33
7."C'mon and Love Me"StanleyStanley3:05
8."Parasite"Ace FrehleySimmons3:34
9."She"Simmons, Stephen CoronelSimmons, Stanley, Criss6:56
Side three
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
10."Watchin' You"SimmonsSimmons3:49
11."100,000 Years"Stanley, SimmonsStanley12:12
12."Black Diamond"StanleyCriss, intro by Stanley6:16
Side four
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
13."Rock Bottom"Frehley, StanleyStanley3:21
14."Cold Gin"FrehleySimmons7:16
15."Rock and Roll All Nite"Stanley, SimmonsSimmons3:59
16."Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll"Stanley, SimmonsSimmons5:45

Personnel[edit]

Kiss
With

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[23] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[24] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 cd liner notes, 2006
  2. ^ Simmons, Gene (2002). Kiss and Make-up. Three Rivers Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-609-81002-2.
  3. ^ Ken Sharpe interview with Jim Lea
  4. ^ a b Sharp, Simmons & Stanley 2013, p. 488.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Staff (July 4, 2018). "How Kiss's Alive! Saved Their Record Label—And Changed the Music Industry". Mental Floss. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  6. ^ Sharp, Simmons & Stanley 2013, p. 491.
  7. ^ Sharp, Simmons & Stanley 2013, pp. 492-493.
  8. ^ Sharp, Simmons & Stanley 2013, pp. 491-492.
  9. ^ Weiss, Brett (2016). Encyclopedia of KISS: Music, Personnel, Events and Related Subjects. McFarland & Company. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7864-9802-4.
  10. ^ a b c Prato, Greg. Alive! – Kiss at AllMusic
  11. ^ "Makeup To Breakup"
  12. ^ VH1 Classic Albums – KISS ALIVE!
  13. ^ http://www.blender.com/guide/back-catalogue/52637/alive!-l.html[dead link]
  14. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 28, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  15. ^ Josephes, Jason. "Kiss: Alive!". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on November 2, 2005. Retrieved June 28, 2011.
  16. ^ The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Fireside. 2004. p. 461. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8.
  17. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  18. ^ Guitar World Top 10 Live Albums Archived May 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  19. ^ (quoted in) Tolinski, Brad: 'The Woodshed', Guitar World, September 1996
  20. ^ Interview with original KISS Krew member J.R. Smalling – Medium Archived September 15, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Search – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  22. ^ a b "Kiss – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  23. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Kiss – Alive". Music Canada.
  24. ^ "American album certifications – Kiss – Alive". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

Sources[edit]