Alive II


1977: Casablanca Records 830 932-2

Disc 1

  1. Detroit Rock City
  2. King of the Night Time World
  3. Ladies Room
  4. Makin’ Love
  5. Love Gun
  6. Calling Dr Love
  7. Christine Sixteen
  8. Shock Me
  9. Hard Luck Woman
  10. Tomorrow and Tonight

Disc 2

  1. I Stole Your Love
  2. Beth
  3. God of Thunder
  4. I Want You
  5. Shout It Out Loud
  6. All American Man
  7. Rockin’ in the USA
  8. Larger Than Life
  9. Rocket Ride
  10. Any Way You Want It

The concert renditions which fill up three quarters of this set (three LP sides, in the original release format) are OK, a little hasty and pat, which makes it compare quite unfavorably with its predecessor, Alive!, and for the most part I ignore them. But for any Kiss fan who’s more into their studio work it’s worth owning the CD just to have four of the five new tracks included at the end (“Any Way You Want It,” however, is execrably ghastly).

The quality of the extra tracks indicates that they were captured during the Love Gun sessions, although I don’t know that this is actually the case. While the theme of all of them is no different from most other Kiss tracks (sex, shallow desire, muscle, and other general rock topics), and the vocals are very much along the lines of the stuff on the band’s previous two albums, the beefy strut of the playing is just a little cockier and tighter. And the songs flare and flex, smirk and pose, and generally kick just a little more ass just a little more deftly. They’re great fun…I’m always tickled to re-hear them.

One aspect of the group’s style that I’ve liked in their studio recordings (I confess I haven’t listened for it much in the concert versions, because the audio quality was less geared toward instrumental performance than toward the overall impression) stands out on the track “Larger Than Life,” and that is Gene Simmons’s bass lines: they dance along a melody of their own that beautifully balances the guitar work happening above them. Duran Duran’s bassist John Taylor is similarly adept at making the bass far more than a dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum strumming bit.

Actually the instrumental expertise of each of Kiss’s musicians (and presumably uncredited studio musicians as well, given the patchy history of the group’s recording scenarios) has been noted more diversely than I would have thought a couple of decades ago (when Kiss was still fighting off being dismissed as a “gimmick” group without actual musicianship). This is where the studio recordings shine: every element of the recording contributes to a concisely cut gem, but you can still hear those elements individually. It may be the vocal shit that you focus on in your first hearing (depthless words notwithstanding), or Ace Frehley’s dazzlingly tight electric guitar solos, but when you go back for repeated listenings you’ll find that EVERYBODY’s smokin’. Peter Criss’s percussion in particular surprises, astonishes, and electrifies when you actually listen for it: on this album’s extra tracks, you hear his mastery in (among many other areas) the range of expression he can get out of just a cymbal or hi-hat…it’s amazing.