The Greatest Show On Earth (The Godfatherecords G.R.497)
Civic Center, Lakeland, Fl. June 11, 1979
(78:52) King Of The Night Time World, Radioactive, Move On, Christine Sixteen, Firehouse, New York Groove, Calling Dr. Love, Tossin’ And Turnin’, Love Gun, 2000 Man, I was Made For Lovin’ You, God Of Thunder, Shout It Out Loud, Rock And Roll All Nite, Beth, Detroit Rock City, Black Diamond
“In June 1979 KISS sets up their full stage production at the Civic Center in Lakeland Florida to go through the final rehearsals for the Dynasty tour. The tour, billed as “the Return of KISS”, was in fact far from that. What started as a tight unit in 1973, five years later the band members had drifted apart in personal, but also in musical terms. The performances on this tour suffered from this which is clearly evident on this historical rehearsals recording where the playing is often below par. A few months after the tour the original line up was no more…”
The liner notes to this new title from GF is a fairly accurate summary of the state of KISS in 1979, the band had not played live since April 1978 spending much of the previous year making the KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park movie and each member releasing solo records and finally putting forth the full band effort on Dynasty, released in May 1979. This recording comes direct from the soundboard and is from rehearsals for the tour, the sound is very good with a slight bit of hiss present but is well mixed and enjoyable. It is a complete concert with no audience and for the most part you get the full stage banter from Paul.
The recording fades in a the beginning of King of the Night Time World from the Destroyer record after which Paul’s intro speech says they have new things and old things and leads into Radioactive from Gene’s solo record, first the of four tunes from each members solo efforts. Ace plays a nice short solo that is complimented by Paul and the band goes directly into Move On from Paul’s solo record. The idea to play tracks from the solo records is an interesting choice, you get to hear full band takes on songs that were originally played by different studio musicians.
Paul uses pretty much the same intro “we gonna get this place so hot we’ll have to call the Firehouse” as he has done for years, the bands plays a smoking version of the classic song full of confidence. Next up is Ace’s solo track New York Groove, the song has some great backing vocals from Paul that sometime over power Ace’s vocals and again Ace plays a great solo. Ace gives some instruction as the music stops stop it, he must be referring to a lighting or vocal effect before launching into the end of the song.
The last solo track, from Peter’s record, is Tossin and Turnin a cover version of the Bobby Lewis hit. A strange choice that is well played by the band and Criss gives a good vocal but sounds out of place in the set, and was eventually dropped from the tour as was Gene’s solo track. A great version of the Rolling Stones 2,000 Man is played with some great vocals by Ace, and great backing vocals from both Paul and Gene. The song also is the vehicle for Ace’s guitar solo and also featured his light up guitar body, the solo is but a couple minutes but is not overplayed and is definitely more of a visual thing. I Was Made For Lovin’ You, the single from the Dynasty record, was certified Gold ion August 1979, is ht or miss.
This early live performance still has the heavy disco undertones, thankfully Ace again plays a nice solo that saves it. Makes me wonder if there was some kind of a baking track they were playing with, overall not effective. Gene’s bass solo leads us into the final part of the show, the band playing their strongest material in the set, four of which come from Destroyer. God of Thunder, probably the most evil sounding track the band would ever do also features a short solo from Peter. The two big anthems are next, Shout It Out Loud and Rock And Roll All Nite, both fist is the air sing along songs with vocal contributions from all in the band.
A joke by Paul, “what do they call 69 in China? Two can chew” leads into the intro tape of Beth, the breakthrough hit to the masses from 76. Peter gives instruction to the lighting people about his spotlight as he takes center stage and tell Eddie he is going to fire him. You can here the vocals echo in the empty arena and even though Peter sings over a pre recorded track its a great song. The opening strains of Black Diamond sounds as if they are coming out of the distance with out the crowd and just when the vocals should start Peter goes off about his microphone stating the chain of command around here is bull shit and tests his mic during Paul’s vocal section.
After 2:53 the track switches to another source, I am not sure if this is the same recording, the playing sounds more confident and could be from either another rehearsal or a concert as the songs fades very fast a the end. The packaging is the typical gatefold sleeve with beautiful color pictures of the band from the Dynasty era, live and posed shots in the newer stage outfits. As always a very classy effort. For the KISS Kollector this is a must have, rare songs, intimate banter between members and good sound will make this a nice addition to the Kollection.
This is a interesting piece of history that gives hardcore and casual Kiss collectors a glimpse behind the scenes of what it was like to play in this GlamRock 4 piece who sold out stadiums in the late 70’s and released two of the most popular live rock albums that this collector had in his collection. What I hear in this release is a band that is on the verge of crumbling probably due to the stress of touring among other reasons including egos. With saying this, I still find this a important piece of Kiss history to surface and applaud Godfather for adding this to their excellent releases.