Despite having produced three albums before it, KISS' 1975 release of Alive! is considered the album that not only put them on the map, but was also a technical wonder that blazed a trail in live album production. KISS released three highly successful albums after Alive!: the massive Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over, and Love Gun. All of this was done in the course of two years.
While touring in support of Love Gun, KISS began preparing for their second live album, Alive II. The album was released on October 14, 1977 and proved to be very successful. It sold extremely well, but time has worn dwon the popularity of the album. Much like any sequel to a highly successful film, it is often looked at as "just another live album" instead of a groundbreaking work like its predecessor.
I might be calling down thunder from members of the KISS Army when they read my next statement, but I stand by it proudly: Alive II is a better album than Alive! Why? Basically this album trumps the original for the simple fact that KISS as a band sounds tighter, plays better, and were at the top of their game as far as the original four members are considered. Alive! gets all of the attention because of its importance as one of the first live albums to be successfully recorded and released. It also draws attention due to the fact that there was a bit of studio doctoring before the "live" album was released and many modern day naysayers scream foul over this fact.
Alive II features the band's biggest tracks from Destroyer, Love Gun, and Rock And Roll Over, and wisely avoids tunes that were released on the first live album, thus giving listeners a reason to shell out money for this second live release. Some of the songs featured include Detroit Rock City, Calling Doctor Love, Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, Beth, Christine Sixteen, and God Of Thunder.
Three songs on this album deserve to be singled out. The first one is Hard Luck Woman featuring drummer Peter Criss on vocals. Amidst all of the hysteria surrounding the bulk of this performance (only Beth really slows things down), Hard Luck Woman takes the group's sound in a completely different, and somewhat country, sound. King Of The Night Time World, fronted by Paul Stanley, sounds better here than it does on Destroyer, and that's saying quite a bit in my opinion. The third song that deserves extra attention from the listener is Shock Me by Ace Frehley. While I'm a big fan of the studio version of this track from Love Gun, this live version features an extended solo by Frehley at the end of the song that confirms the rumors that Frehley was a huge influence on Eddie Van Halen. This solo is the highlight of the album and one of Frehley's best!
Outside of featuring only live tracks that weren't on Alive!, KISS added five new studio tracks at the end of the album to entice buyers. The tracks are All American Man, Rockin' In The U.S.A., Larger Than Life, Rocket Ride, and Anyway You Want It. To be honest, most of these tracks are fairly forgettable, and are the only reason I gave this album four stars instead of five. The first three are particularly ho-hum and detract from the album overall. Bob Kulick (brother of Bruce Kulick, who would later become KISS' longest playing lead guitarist) played guitar on four of the five tracks, and while he does a good job, only the Dave Clark cover Anyway You Want It is worth multiple listens.
On the other hand, Rocket Ride, the only studio track to feature Ace Frehley (he played lead and bass guitar and lead vocals), is an instant KISS Klassic in my book.
When looking solely at the live tracks on Alive II, the album gets five stars and easily trumps Alive! as the best sounding live album that KISS produced with the original lineup. Throw in the tepid studio tracks, and I have to knock off a star.
KISS fans both new and old should pick up a copy of this album. Better yet, try to grab the Alive! Box Set and snag all three of the band's first live albums and the never-released Millenium concert that features the original band members in one convenient set.
If you're just curious about the band, this is also a very good pick as it gives you a taste of some of the group's biggest tunes from three of their biggest albums.
The video below is a bit dull, but it features the live version of Shock Me from Alive II. Enjoy!
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