This will be the first of what I plan on being a fairly regular series of posts featuring/discussing/reviewing the various music that I'm currently listening to, especially on vinyl. I'm going to try and post these 1st thing Monday mornings so if I review something that you would like to get you can take a break from work, order the music, and hopefully have it to listen to for the coming weekend.
Since I purchased my Project Debut Carbon DC turntable I have really enjoyed the whole vinyl "experience" It has given my long-lived love of music a nice little kick in the ass. There is something about the whole process of listening to music on vinyl that I find very relaxing and intense all at the same time. So, to start things off I figured I might as well begin with one of the first albums I bought as a kid, KISS Alive!
You wanted the best, you got it...the hottest band in the land, Kiss
Those are the first words that come out of the speaker when the vinyl starts spinning on side 1 of this double album, which was originally released in October of 1975. At the time it was KISS' 4th album and is widely considered their breakthrough album. The album contains songs from their first 3 records and was compiled from live recordings at 4 different concerts. There's pretty much no doubt that KISS Alive made KISS one of the most popular bands of it's time and sealed their legacy.
I originally purchased my copy of the album from the local head/record shop in the Spring of 1977 with money from my paper route. I seem to remember the cost being something like $9 or so but that was 38 years ago so my memory might be a bit off :-)
One thing my memory is very clear on is the fact that I enjoyed the album and definitely got my money's worth out of it, playing it on my Panasonic stereo system and probably irritating my parents in the process. All I know is that I heard "Mark, turn down that music!" more than a few times while playing this.
what's old is what's new again
When I made the decision to get back into listening to music from a spinning plastic disc I immediately thought of this album, more from a sense of nostalgia than anything else. So, I did some research and decided to purchase the 2014 re-issue from Amazon. I could have bought a used copy of the original album for $10-$20, and I may still do that, but I decided to first get the "new" version of it just like I did way back in 1977. "But Mark, where's your original album?" you might be asking. Well, the original KISS Alive (and all my other vinyl from back then) has been lost somewhere for a long,long time. I think my little Brother took them as his after I went to College and after that who knows? (don't worry little Brother, I don't hold it against you....too much) :-) I really wish I still had the 15 or 20 albums that I managed to acquire as a kid but with the advent of the cassette tape and then the CD in the early 1980's I pretty much abandoned vinyl and switched to CD or cassette for my listening. OK, back to the present....
The 2014 version of the album is supposedly remastered from "ultra-high definition" Direct Stream Digital transfers from the original analog tapes. The record is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and is in a gatefold cover, just like the original. It looks exactly like I remember my 1977 copy being, including the cheesy "personal notes" on the inside from Gene, Peter, Paul and Ace. There's also a nice booklet with pictures of the band-mates. All and all it is a high quality production that should last a long time with care.
what about the sound?
Since I purchased KISS Alive I've listened to it three times (the first full listens since approx 1981) so I think I have a decent feel for the album at this point. In my purely unprofessional music reviewer opinion I think it's an OK recording at best, nothing special, but listenable. Some of the tracks seem a little "compressed" and others seem fairly open with a decent sound-stage. The brand new vinyl is pretty much devoid of any noise except for the music (I still clean brand new vinyl though). Considering this album was originally recorded live at multiple locations in likely "less than optimal" conditions I think it's pretty good. As live albums go, KISS Alive is a solid, fun to listen to, example. Now, I don't claim to be a KISS fanatic at all, just an old guy who liked KISS back in the day and likes to listen to it every once in a while now. As I researched reviews on this album I think I'm in the majority in my opinion. Many people seemed to think that this 2014 re-master/re-issue is pretty good for the fact that it's a KISS album. I don't think any of their records will fool anybody as sonic masterpieces but this version of ALIVE is OK sound quality wise. As for the songs, it's a pretty good mix. Here's a listing by side (with my favorites in Bold and Italics:
- Got to Choose
- Hotter Than Hell
- Nothin' to Lose
- C'Mon and Love Me
- Watchin' You
- 100,000 Years
- Black Diamond
- Rock Bottom
- Cold Gin
- Rock and Roll All Nite
- Let Me Go Rock and Roll
I guess the bottom line on the KISS Alive 2014 remaster is that if you like KISS (and all the glam and excess, including in price, that goes with it) and don't mind spending $28-$40 (depending on when/where you buy it) for a new copy it's a justifiable purchase. I think the price is a little steep overall for what you get but that's the way it is these days with vinyl, especially new vinyl. As of this date (March 2015) the album is selling for $30 on Amazon. While it isn't audiophile quality it is an entertaining album and comes in a quality package. You can probably find a good quality 1975-ish copy of this album for $10-$20 on Discogs if you want to purchase used. That's something I will probably do myself to get an original copy in my collection.
I hope you liked this review. Please let me know if there is anything else you would like me to add to these reviews in the future and I will do my best to accommodate the request.