Released: 10 September 1975
Track List: Deuce; Strutter; Got to Choose; Hotter Than Hell; Firehouse; Nothin’ to Lose; C’mon and Love Me; Parasite; She; Watchin’ You; 100,000 Years; Black Diamond; Rock Bottom; Cold Gin; Rock and Roll All Nite; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll
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Best song: Nope, there’s a bunch to choose from.
Worst song: Maybe “Nothin’ to Lose” or “She”.
Previous album: Dressed to Kill
Next album: Destroyer
Casablanca Records is on its last legs. Kiss’s fans insist that their live shows are the best thing ever, but it’s not translating into record sales. Well, let’s make a live album; it’s our last hope.
There’s a lot of controversy about how much the album was overdubbed. How “live” is it really? Well, we’re going to pretend once again that this is the 70s and a lot of Kiss’s deceptive little tricks aren’t widely known yet. Let’s take it at face value: a pretty true rendition of the band in their live glory.
… well, it worked.
I’m not going to go into every single track, but I’ll make some general points and touch a few highlights.
First and most importantly, the album sounds live. The mix is much more trebly and bright. This album did absolute wonders for the songs from Hotter Than Hell. “Got to Choose” and “Parasite” in particular are vastly more enjoyable here. “Hotter Than Hell” may suffer a bit. It was actually pretty good in the studio already and here it’s a tad more sloppy. But it’s only a little step back; for the other four HTH songs (the others being “Watchin’ You” and “Let Me Go …”) it’s an improvement.
The conundrum I had with “Cold Gin” on the debut album is magnified here. Gene and Paul are famously abstemious when it comes to booze (and Gene is downright puritanical about it), yet here’s Paul getting the crowd engaged by talking about tequila and screwdrivers. I don’t get it. I guess the anti-alcohol stance wasn’t well-known in 1975, but now it just gives me cognitive dissonance. Whatever. The song itself is great.
“100,000 Years” is the extended song — you know, the one in a concert that winds up having a long solo bit and more crowd interaction. This was my favorite song of the first three albums to begin with, and I’m a purist. I wanted to hear “100,000 Years”, not crowd banter. But Paul’s banter isn’t bad. And the portions of the track which are the song proper are excellent. The transition from banter back to song with “Do you feel riiiiight?” and Gene’s bass returning is great, and Ace’s soloing is fantastic. (Asking a Rush fan to be impressed by Peter’s drum solo is another matter. Not happening.)
Lacking a time machine, this is a pretty good way to hear what the band was like live in ’75 … or at least, how they wanted you to think they sounded. But it worked. Their ticket sales began to skyrocket after this. It was their first Top 10 album. Suddenly they were making it big. Their next trip into the studio would have to be a hell of an album. Fortunately, they could now afford a big name producer …
Should you buy it? If you think of yourself as a Kiss fan, you’ve got to. It’s the breakthrough album and is a good listen. The Alive! recording of “Rock and Roll All Nite” still gets airplay as an alternative to the Dressed to Kill original, as well it should. If you’re buying entire albums, this ought to come after Double Platinum and Alive II. (The sound on Alive! is better than its successor, but II has better songs in its live sides and a couple nice additions in its studio side.)