Released on May 18, 1993 (Mercury Records)
For those who have read my other reviews, either on this site or my blog page, they will know how live albums are something I normally will not listen to much. They will also know that I am a major KISS fan (although unconventional fan), especially the Eric Carr years. Being a different type of KISS fan makes other KISS fans scratch their heads. I have never heard Alive I all the way through. I list Crazy Nights as one of my favorite albums by the band. The great thing about the KISS Army is that they are so passionate about the era they like the most (much like “who is your favorite James Bond” in movies).
When Alive III came out in 1993, I did not hear it until a few months later (or was it years?) when it was available through my BMG cassette music club. Much like many KISS fans of this time, the sadness of drummer Eric Carr‘s death was still lingering until the band released its Revenge album, which even die hard critics were impressed with due to the back to the streets sound of the band. Many felt the 1980s KISS was too much like every other band out there, with the glam look, and lackluster songs (although I for one liked most of their work in the era as well as the classic songs from the 1970s). The major question with this album for me was how would new drummer Eric Singer, along with guitar player Bruce Kulick gel together in a live setting?
The album was recorded from three venues: Cleveland (Singer‘s hometown), Detroit, and Indianapolis. It was also the first live album the band put out since 1977’s Alive II. When many fans left the KISS Army after the original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were no longer in the band, Revenge brought back many fans to the fold. The album starts off without the normal “You Want The Best, You Got The Best” intro that is in most KISS concerts and goes straight into “Creatures Of The Night,” which is a good opening song, with Singer‘s thundering drumming kicking off the show. The listener also can hear the pyrotechnics shooting off as if they were in the area with the band.
The band ‘s next song is “Deuce”, and “I Just Wanna,” (from the Revenge album). The fans singing along with the chorus and repeating the “Fah” part in “I Just Wanna” captures how the band gets the audience into every part of the show with a sing-a-longs. The fourth track, “Unholy,” also from Revenge is a great song, especially on the studio album, but for some reason, the backing vocals are not as strongly heard on this version. Bruce Kulick‘s solo on the song is great and nasty sounding (in a good way). The new studio album is represented well on this live collection. Another example of the crowd reaction is in the next song, “Heaven’s On Fire,” with another song to sing with the band. Singer Paul Stanley‘s voice in on, especially during the introduction of the song, hitting the opening notes, as opposed to just having the band start the song and going into rhythm before the first verse.
“Watchin’ You” answers my question on how the band would sound together, especially on some of the older classic songs. This song grooves nicely, and Singer and Kulick pull off the classic breaks in the song. If someone questions the musical talents of Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick, this is one that may change your mind. After another Revenge song, “Domino” (which is a classic Gene Simmons tongue in cheek lyric song, and with guitar fills throughout the song, which makes a better live sound), “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” comes in, and is probably one of the weaker songs on the album. I am not one that hates the so-called KISS “disco” album, but instead of Stanley singing the song like the studio, he sings the lyrics higher, almost in the range of “Heaven’s On Fire,” and drags the notes out that takes away from those that like the original song structure. Stanley tries a little too hard to show his vocal range on this song.
After the ballad “I Still Love You” (which has no complaints here for the sake of a short review), the anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite” is played, which usually closes the shows and most KISS collections. Nothing against the song as it is a classic and has stood the test of time, but it has become one of my least favorite KISS songs due to it being excessively overplayed (even back when this album came out). The next tracks, “Lick It Up,” “Forever,” and ” I Love It Loud” are all nicely done, especially “I Love It Loud,” where the backing vocals are now heard better in the mix, and adds to the song’s power, unlike some of the other earlier tracks mentioned about the lack of backing vocals being heard. Once again, the listener can experience being in the crowd singing along with the chorus.
The collection continues with “Detroit Rock City,” and another Revenge selection, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II.” Many artists will not end a concert, or even a concert recording, with a slower song (except Barry Manilow perhaps), but this song fits nicely. I am sure Gene, Paul, Bruce, and Eric loved the fact that this song was placed at the end after playing mostly in your face songs throughout the set list, and getting to head home by giving their bodies a settling down. The slower vocal part on the song comes across very well and the notes are hit, which in live settings could be a problem. Finally, the album ends on a patriotic note with Kulick‘s version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Guitar players would like this version, along with giving Kulick nods as being an underrated player who sometimes does not get the respect that he deserves.
Although live albums are not normally my thing, Alive III is still a great KISS record, even listening to it today. Nothing sounds outdated, and the selections cover all of the decades of the band up to the release, from the 1970s through the recent album cuts. There are some albums not represented, but the decades are still portrayed. Some KISS fans like to joke about the inside liner notes, where there is a timeline of the band members and their projects from the past (including the mention of Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi mistakenly named “Tommy“), but not withstanding the printed errors in some of the foldouts, the music is what counts, and this is a good album from one of the underrated lineups of the band.
01. Creatures Of The Night
03. I Just Wanna
05. Heaven’s On Fire
06. Watchin’ You
08. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
09. I Still Love You
10. Rock And Roll All Nite
11. Lick It Up
13. I Love It Loud
14. Detroit Rock City
15. God Gave Rock ‘N” Roll To You II
16. Star Spangled Banner
Gene Simmons – bass, vocals
Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, vocals
Eric Singer – drums, vocals
Bruce Kulick – guitar
Derek Sherinian – keyboards
Produced by Eddie Kramer and KISS
Mixed by Eddie Kramer and GGGarth
Mastered by Steven Marcussen
Reviewed by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, May 2018
KISS‘ “Take It Off” video (from Alive III):
Kiss with Take it Off from Alive III