KISS / KISS Alive! 1975-2000 / CD Review

Universal Records

As a KISS fan, you’ve got to wonder about the over abundance of compilation albums. Most of the time, they’re a complete waste of time and money. Rarely, the band gets it right. In the case of the KISS Alive box set, the band hit the mark. You’ve got the 3 KISS Alive discs in one package with a bonus live show from 2000 (the original Alive IV, before the Symphony took the title).

KISS Alive! is a bona-fide classic. Regardless of how “live” it actually is, the album set the benchmark for live albums in the mid to late ’70’s. It’s been remastered and sounds impressive. It’s also finally been put on a single disc. Listen to the power behind Peter Criss’ drumming on these recordings and you’ll see that he actually could play back then. KISS Alive II is just as legendary as the first, but not nearly as good. While containing a lot of the band’s signature songs, the album lacks the same cohesive concert feel that is so expertly crafted on the original disc. The inclusion of an edited “Rock and Roll All Nite” is pointless. If they really wanted the song in this collection 4 times, they could have included a version from the Alive II tour instead of just editing down a version from Alive!

KISS Alive III has finally been remastered (the first 2 were done in ’97) and also includes “Take It Off” which was formerly only included on foreign or vinyl pressings of the album. Musically, this line-up of the band is the strongest featured in this collection. Eric Singer’s powerhouse drumming is a highlight. While sometimes overplaying, he kicked songs like “Creatures of the Night” and “Watchin’ You” into the stratosphere. Alive III also includes the definitive version of “Deuce.”

And now, the drawback of the set. KISS Alive: The Millennium Concert should never have been committed to disc. Taken from leg 436 of their farewell tour, the band is just going through the motion. They songs sound tired and pale in comparison to versions released on the other discs of this collection. It’s sad to see that with the once great Peter Criss, the band became a shadow of it’s old self. The tempos drag to a crawl. It’s easy to see why this disc got shelved in favor of the Symphony project. It’s also clear why shortly after, the original band parted ways again.

For the price (you can find it for $19.99 on sale), this is a must have collection for hard rock fans. If you’ve never gotten the KISS Alive! discs before, now is a great opportunity to see that behind the bombast of the explosions, there’s a real rock and roll band there. Just don’t go into the Millennium Concert with great expectations.