#3 Alive II
This is a tough call. Alive II is basically a 3-side live album with a pretty lousy studio side tacked on to fill it up. Here's the story of the Alive II concert recordings, per Wikipedia:
Most of the live tracks on Alive II were recorded during the band's August 26-28 residency at the Los Angeles Forum while on the Love Gun tour. The 3:00 PM soundchecks at the August 26 & 27 shows were recorded, and later used on the album (i.e. "Tomorrow And Tonight") with crowd noise being dubbed in later. "Beth" and "I Want You" were lifted from the aborted Japanese live album and used on the finished Alive II.
So once again, a KISS live album really isn't a KISS live album, at least most of the way through.
So what? It rocks, again. The songs are better live, again. Paul Stanley proves himself the best crowd-worker in rock again. Ace shreds. Peter croons. Gene drools blood on the cover.
Plus, it comes with TATTOOS, man!
Alive II's first three sides are as good a rock show as Alive!, which is saying something. The album starts with a 1-2 punch off Destroyer - a blistering rendition of "Detroit Rock City" and its followup track "King of the Nighttime World" (ohhhhhhh yayehhhhh I'm the KING of the NIGHTTIME WOOOOOOORLD). Ace's solo on "Detroit Rock City" is among his best work, and he imbues it with real feeling here. Peter is gamely thumping along. You can hear Paul preening through the microphone.
Gene "leads it to the 'Ladies Room'" next. The faked crowd noise gets a little annoying and, frankly, embarrassing. But it does capture what it was like to be at a KISS show - in the 1980s, in Australia or Brazil.
"Makin' Love" and "Love Gun" continue the tradition of being better versions than the studio cuts (as do the later "I Stole Your Love" and "I Want You," the latter featuring an extended call-and-response session courtesy of Stanley).
Side Two features two of Gene's better middle period numbers, "Calling Dr. Love" and "Christine Sixteen" (see Love Gun review for content discussion). Peter Criss' second major ballad, "Hard Luck Woman," and the somewhat limp "Tomorrow and Tonight" round out the second side.
But the showpiece of this portion is Frehley's vocal debut "Shock Me," a song based on a real life electrocution he suffered in Lakeland, Florida in 1976. A word of warning - Frehley absolutely cannot sing. But his guitar work, and the Paul gem "ACE FRAAALEIGH, LEAD GUI-TAWWW" at the end of the song raise it to show-stopping.
Side three features a treacly "Beth" and, as closer, the follow-up to "Rock N Roll All Nite" known as "Shout it Out Loud." The best song on side three is the seriously reworked (and improved) "God of Thunder," which actually does sound like a song about a rock god, as opposed to the Destroyer version, which sounds like a pervert yelling at a dwarf.
Side four almost ruins the album. Again, per Wikipedia:
Although Ace Frehley was originally credited for lead guitar on the studio tracks, the remastered version released in 1997 confirmed what had been speculated by Kiss fans for years - Bob Kulick actually played lead guitar on three tracks ("All American Man", "Rockin' In The U.S.A." and "Larger Than Life"), not Frehley. Frehley's sole involvement for the studio songs was to handle all guitars and bass guitar for "Rocket Ride." Paul Stanley played all guitars on "Any Way You Want It" which was originally recorded by the Dave Clark Five in 1965.
Seriously, the Dave Clark Five? "All American Man" and "Rockin' in the U.S.A." are typical Paul and Gene fillers. Not terrible, not great. The highlight is Frehley's "Rocket Ride," which may or may not feature any other members of KISS. It does feature co-writing by Sean Delaney, the carnie-roadie-driver-choreographer known as the fifth member of KISS.
Alive II side four is probably where what was going wrong started to eclipse what was going right. But it's a good record up to that point.
Next up, #4 - it's taken this long to get to a 70s studio album?