The Greatest Band In The World (The Godfatherecords G.R. 910)
Selland Arena at the Fresno Convention Center, Fresno, Ca. USA – November 27, 1979
(79:56) King Of The Night Time World, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Move On, Calling Dr Love, Firehouse, New York Groove, I Was Made For Loving You, Christine Sixteen, 2,000 Man (with solo Ace Frehley), Love Gun, Solo Gene Simmons, God Of Thunder, Shout It Out Loud, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Rock And Roll All Nite
With the release of Dynasty in May 1979, KISS had mounted a successful come back in the music industry as it was their first studio record since 1977’s Love Gun. The record would sell to triple platinum status and would spawn a hit single with “I Was Made For Loving You” but overall the record would suffer from a pop influenced production that while bringing tons of new, younger fans would ultimately alienate their core rock audience. Troubles within the band were reaching an all time high with drummer Peter Criss suffering from substance abuse troubles, so bad was the relationship with the drummer he would not even play on Dynasty, his parts played by a session drummer. These issues would further manifest themselves during the tour to support the record, dubbed The Return of KISS, with Criss reportedly playing sub par for much of the tour and at its conclusion would find the drummer exit the band.
During late November 1979 the band would play 6 dates in California, all to mostly capacity crowds and the warm weather and friendly confines of the state would find the band in good form musically. The recording featured here is being dubbed as a soundboard recording, it is excellent and well balanced with all instruments and vocals cleanly heard. I have listened to this recording over and over and even through head phones trying to pick it apart and did not find anything to make me think the SB claim was not true. It has been released before on such titles as Show Us (WFT-001/002), Alive 79 (KTS-AS 702), this new release by Godfathers is most certainly the best of the lot and is a nice upgrade in sound as well as the usual solid packaging from the Don.
“King of The Night Time World” was the opener for the entire tour, great song but the slow beginning does not offer that killer punch, thankfully the second tune, “Let Me Go Rock And Roll” really sets the pace for the show. The crowd favorite gets the asses shaking, the use of echo by Gene and Paul is clear and distinct. Ace is playing extremely well and handles the leads with ease. Paul does his introductory speech with promises of rock and roll music as he removes some cloths, much to the delight of the screaming masses, the crowd has the high shrill as it sounds like there are plenty of girls in attendance. During 1978 the band put out solo records to much hype, they would incorporate some of these songs into their live set and the first is from Paul Stanley’s record, “Move On”. His record did not stray far from the KISS sound and “Move On” is a nice addition to the repertoire, the band handle it with ease and turn in a solid version. The band play well received but standard versions of “Dr Love” and “Firehouse” but it is Ace’s solo song “New York Groove” that garners a huge ovation. The song has that clap and sing along groove and Paul adds some nice backing vocals, Ace’s singing is much more confident than on previous tours having found much more confidence with the success of his solo record.
We must not address Peter’s drum playing, he is really enjoying himself during the show and plays wonderfully. Just listening to Paul’s extended intro rap for “I Was Made For Loving You” brings a smile to my face, he throws in these little fills that add much nuance to what Paul is implying. The version of the song from this period are much more like the record version with a real disco feel complete with lots of falsetto vocals with echo from Paul, thankfully Ace rips on the solo that gives it a small rock edge. Ace leads the band through the paces with his take on the Rolling Stones “2,000 Man”, the lyrics match Ace to the T except its not the kids that didn’t understand him but his own band mates. His singing is again great and is full of that Ace humor and charm, and of course the song serves as a vehicle for his solo spot. Keeping with the spaced out theme he incorporated some Close Encounter snippets for good measure, as well as a new musical theme to further incorporate the visual special effects that would make his solo spot something to remember.
Paul’s intro for “Love Gun” is rather sedate compared to others, quick and to the point as he used some of the rap for “I Was Made For Loving You”, the song itself is anything but sedate with Peter playing the double drum kick perfectly giving the song a certain feel not found in the post Criss versions. Gene’s solo of elephant farts is more of a visual thing but it leads to “God Of Thunder”, this version is different sounding as his bass is very prominent in the mix that eliminates the eerie feeling of the song, thankfully it is remedied by the time Ace takes his solo, one that is much too short as it gives way to Peter’s drum solo. Peter’s drum solo is great, he plays the entire set and in engaging himself with the crowd as they cheer him on for a solid four minute piece concluding with several bangs on the gong that makes his intent clear. The “God Of Thunder” reprise gives me the heavy and evil sound I want from the piece and is a strong conclusion. The end of the main set is near and Paul is demanding the audience participate and what better song to get things moving than “Shout It Out Loud”. I used to have this song on 45 single and played the hell out of it way back then and it holds a special place for me and I love the live versions, simple but effect complete with Peter taking some vocal improvisation to great effect. Paul does a quick solo to open “Black Diamond” and while the song marks the end of the main set, for me it finally brings the vocal talents of Peter to the forefront. His singing has always been an intricate part of the band’s sound in the early days, I must admit his voice does not sound as strong as it has on previous tours. The song does not fail to deliver though, instrumentally the band is still a force to be reckoned with and Ace plays the dramatic slow solo with much passion, punctuated by the explosions that bring the song to conclusion.
The encores start with a Paul rap saluting California prior to “Detroit Rock City”, the song coupled with the pyro give the show a massive shot in the arm as the band aim to Destroy the audience of 7,000 plus. The harmony leads by Ace and Paul are perfect as is the rhythm section of Simmons and Criss making for a very strong version of the song that garners a huge ovation. There is no time to relax as the opening stains of the pre recorded for “Beth” plays over the PA system, the ballad is wonderful and I found it quite moving as Peter’s time in the band was almost over, in less than a month he would play his last show with the band and he knows it giving a heartfelt “I Love You” at its conclusion. Paul gives his “Do you believe in rock and roll” rap that gets the crowd on their feet and the concert explodes with “Rock And Roll All Nite”, the sound must have been deafening as the song sounds slightly off kilter at the beginning but quickly the tempo picks up to a furious pace as the band shake their fists and stomp their feet for one last time making for a very rock and roll version (Go Ace Go!).
The packaging is the standard tri fold sleeve, there are many dramatic pictures adorning the sleeve with many of the shots of Paul have him with the fractured mirror Iceman guitar. There is also a cool picture of Peter’s drum set in full levitation in the center, but there is one glaring omission, where’s the liner notes? I have always looked forward to readings the ramblings of such luminaries as Chris Lee and Peter Cushing, Ron Housecase, Edwin Newman, and Carla Short. Another excellent KISS title from an overlooked tour but a very significant one that deserve many repeated listenings at high volumes.