Kiss – You Are The Best – Because I Say So! (The Godfather Box G.R. BOX 26)

26GrCoverYou Are The Best – Because I Say So! (The Godfather Box G.R. BOX 26)

It’s been two years since the last KISS box set from The Don, and after reading the booklet for the MK V set and its description of “third and final installment”, I was not expecting another KISS box so I was quite pleasantly surprised when I saw this set announced. The theme for this new box set also intrigued me, it is a homage to The Dutch KISS Army, an organization of hard core KISS fans who organized the first fan club for the band outside of the United States back in 1976. Before listening to any of their music I sat down and read the 24 page booklet that gives an excellent historical overview of TDKA. What I took away from it was that the Netherlands is home to hard core KISS fans, after listening to the music found inside this set, it most certainly confirms their passion for this band and their music.

The box uses the same configuration Godfather has utilized for all other box sets. For this set we are treated to six discs housed in three gatefold sleeves all adorned with relevant photographs. There is the aforementioned 24 page booklet with a history of TDKA and also lots of old newspaper clippings, handbills and the like. The Don always goes the extra mile, one only has to look at the track times to see this set is jammed packed with music and other goodies, let’s get right into the good stuff…KISS LIVE!

26GrABThe Kiss Of Death (G.R. Box 26 A)

RAI Congrescentrum, Amsterdam, Holland – June 23, 1976

(72:07) Intro, Deuce, Strutter, Flaming Youth, Hotter Than Hell, Firehouse, She, Solo Ace Frehely, Nothing To Lose, Shout It Out Loud, Solo Gene Simmons, 100,000 Years, Solo Peter Criss, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Rock And Roll All Nite, Let Me Go Rock And Roll

KISS’ first European tour consisted of a 17 concert run that started May 13, 1976 in Manchester, England and would end June 6 in Horelbeke, Belgium. The tour would find the band playing in England, West Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium, many of the dates were in small theaters and were almost like a step back considering the band’s status in America. While several shows were recorded from the audience, only the band’s gigs in London and Paris would garner any attention from bootleggers.

For the first disc on this set we are treated to KISS’ first concert in Amsterdam, Netherlands at the RAI Congresentrum. According to KISS Alive Forever the concert was recorded by a local radio station but was deemed unusable and has never aired or surfaced. The audience recording used for this release can be considered good, it is distant and thin sounding but is clear and enjoyable capturing the event nicely. The mix favors the vocals and guitars with the drums being a bit low in the mix. The recording begins with a drum and guitar check and fans chanting “KISS…KISS…” and after the obligatory introduction the band hit the stage with the devastating Deuce and Strutter combination. One of the highlights of this tour was the addition of the rarely played Flamming Youth from the Destroyer record, it was assumed to be played on the Canadian tour that preceded the European tour and a select few of the American summer dates so having another version in the collection in quite welcome.

Paul takes a minute to say hello to Amsterdam and talks about the language barrier and based upon his rap about getting the place hot, an audience member is ready and shouts Hotter Than Hell. Of course the song is paired with Firehouse, the audience cheers loudly at the songs conclusion in obvious appreciation for Gene’s fire breathing skills. Ace’s playing during She is excellent, he nails the chord changes just prior to his solo with perfection and gets a nice ovation at its conclusion. There is a pause in the tape between She and Nothing To Lose, no music is lost and it is smooth. The band do a superb version of 100,000 Years yet Peter’s drum solo is just average, Paul does a great rap starting with him asking how many people like to smoke hashish, he gets a decent response and then moves into his believe in rock and roll segment. The segment is interrupted by a small tape cut at 7:09, again little is lost. Paul really has to work the audience but his hard work pays off, he gets the audience on their feet and clapping by songs end.

Black Diamond ends the main set and the audience waste no time in chanting “We want more…we want more…”, they would not have to wait long. Detroit Rock City starts the encores in strong fashion and the band play a confident version of the song. The obligatory Rock And Roll All Nite follows and the audience is demanding Cold Gin, they would get a rousing version of Let Me Go, Rock And Roll to finish the gig.

26GrAB2Satanic Rites (G.R. Box 26 B)

Groenoordhallen, Leiden, Holland – October 5, 1980

(79:54) Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Calling Dr. Love, Firehouse, Talk To Me, Is That You, 2,000 Man, Ace’s solo, I Was Made For Lovin’ You, New York Groove, Love Gun, Gene’s Solo, God Of Thunder, Eric’s Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, King Of The Nighttime World

KISS was in a massive transition in early 1980, original drummer Peter Criss had left the group and the years of hard road work and recording that had reaped such massive success was crumbling beneath them, so much that by the time they released their eighth studio record, Unmasked, the band would not tour America in its support due to lack of interest. While the band would lose popularity in America, in the rest of the world they were still very popular so the decision was made to go to parts of the world where they had little, if any previous touring activity, hence a lengthy European tour, their first since 1976, and the band’s first trip to Australia.

The band would play a single concert in the Netherlands, in the city of Leiden. The audience recording is fair to good, it is distant and thin sounding, the vocals and guitars dominate the mix with the drums being pushed to the back. The recording is also incomplete missing the final song, Black Diamond, that being said it is more than listenable and does sound better played at louder volumes.

With this recording you get the feel of a large venue filled with KISS fanatics, so much that during the introduction, the band finish it with a loud roar of “KISS” and the band takes the stage with Detroit Rock City. Paul changes some of the lyrics of the song to “I got to laugh I know I’m gonna die…and I don’t care” almost defiantly. Cold Gin and an absolutely killer version of Strutter follow in non stop succession. The addition of Eric Carr has certainly breathed life in the band, the playing is very tight and powerful, just listen to the drum fill to transition Cold Gin into Strutter.

The center section of the concert is made of up then recent material, beginning with Ace’s Talk To Me, a rather standard version but what follows is really great. Is That You also from Unmasked is really good live, it has that raw feel to it and is less pop more rock and most effective live, the audience also give their approval. Ace gets his first solo spot with his cover of The Stones 2,000 Man that comes from the Dynasty record. Ace keeps it loose and the song rocks live, and his solo is simply out of this world, he uses more effects and while his solo does not really showcase his musical ability, it does give him the ability to present himself as a showman, the crowd love it when he fires his Les Paul gun while laying down some echo laced leads. Paul has a great rap for I Was Made For Loving You, the audience love it as well as the song, they clap along with the band.

The last part of the show is designated for Klassics. God Of Thunder features a great Eric Carr drum solo that goes for eight minutes and can be considered epic. Rock And Roll All Nite finishes the main set, encores are the standard Shout It Out Loud and King Of The Nighttime World, Black Diamond was the final encore but was either not taped or deleted due to CD time constraints. There are some interesting circumstances surrounding this concert that were documented in the liner notes that were quite interesting.

26GrCD26GrCD2Face Lift (G.R. Box 26 C/D)

Vorst Nationaal, Brussels, Belgium – November 13, 1983

Disc 1 (74:19) Intro, Creatures Of The Night, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Fits Like A Glove, Firehouse, Solo Paul Stanley, Exciter, War Machine, Gimme More, Solo Vinnie Vincent, Solo Gene Simmons, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, Solo Eric, Young And Wasted, Love Gun

Disc 2 (79:24) Black Diamond, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite. Interviews & Specials 1976-1988: Dutch FM Gene Int 1976, Veronica’s Pop Journal 1980, Leiden TV Report 1980, Radio Special 1980, AVRO Lick It Up Premier 1983, Los Vast Int With Paul 1984, Eric Carr Int 1984, Paul Stanley Int Vara’s Vuurwerk 1987, TV Int With Gene 1988, Tilburg TV News Report 1988

After the disappointing Unmasked record, but with a semi stable line up KISS decided to work with studio wizard Bob Ezrin on The Elder debacle and the band found itself in a deeper hole, only the most loyal of their fan base stuck with them. The band did what they needed to do, get back to what had built their foundation, solid hard hitting rock music. A European import was the first step, Killers was basically a greatest hits package that included four new tracks, while not their best it certainly was there breeding grounds for what would start the rebirth of the band. The next major step was the Creatures Of The Night record, one of the hardest and strongest records the band would ever produce and arguably the best of their eighties output. Sadly by this point original guitarist Ace Frehely was so disillusioned with the band as well as suffering from personal demons and while he appeared on the Creatures cover, he played on little of the record. A man who did play on the record and would play a major role in KISS for the next couple years was Vinnie Vincent. While he had an immense ego and was very difficult to work with, his guitar skills were unmatched as well as his song writing abilities. The results were the most dramatic play in the KISS drama, the removal of their make up and the release of Lick It Up. While the no make up made the head lines, Lick It Up showcased the band with a hard and heavy modern sound and would put the band back in hard rocks fans good graces.

The tour in support of Lick It Up was massive, it began with a European tour that ran through October and November 1983, after which Vinnie was fired from the band. After a desperate search for a guitar player yielded nothing, the band was forced to bring him back for the American leg, his last tour with the band. As the booklet liner notes state, there was no concert in Holland on the tour so TDKA organized a bus trip to Belgium for what was described a Belgium / Dutch show, this is the source for the next set in the box.

The source for the Brussels gig is a good audience recording, it is slightly distant and there is some slight top end distortion present but nothing that interferes. The mix is good, vocals, guitars are more prominent but the drums can also be heard yet the between song chatter is low in the mix as is the audience noise, thankfully it’s a great tape to turn up loud. Since the band was using a revamped stage of the 10th Anniversary tour (Creatures Of The Night) the recording begins with the sound of a tank before the obligatory “You wanted the best…” intro. The opening salvo of Creatures into Detroit Rock City smokes and gets the audience into it early on, just take a listen to Eric’s drumming on the latter, he is all over the kit with great fills. The set list was a mix of the new with the Klassics, nothing from Dynasty or Unmasked would make the set list, with the majority of the old material culled from their debut. Firehouse gets the nod due to its use of Gene’s fire breathing stunt, Paul tells “Brussels” that they are going to get it hot and the audience responds with “Hotter Than Hell”. The band waste little time in getting into new material with Fits Like A Glove and a brilliant version of Exciter, with the latter only played during the European leg.

War Machine seems to launch from my speakers, damn I love that riff. Paul does a bit more audience participation by getting them to chant “All Right!” as a prelude to Gimme More, like Fits Like A Glove and Young & Wasted the song fits with the faster tempo music that was the “thing” during the early 80’s. Eric Carr’s voice was much more suited for background vocals and he helps fill the chorus out nicely. Vinnie gets a solo spot during the song, man he takes advantage of it by ripping up the fret board like a madman, vastly underrated player for sure. Gene’s solo is a bore, without the blood spitting routine all he could do was play chords and stare at the audience, thankfully an aggressive I Love It Loud follows and seems to wake the audience from their slumber. Paul does a great vocal on I Still Love You, the whole song reeks of desperation and sounds emotional, Vinnie’s leads are spot on also.

Paul starts the Black Diamond intro quietly, after a minute the audience starts clapping, once the full band kick in it is pure rock fury. Eric’s voice is much smoother than Peter’s but he does a great job with the lead vocals on this song, throw in Vinnie ripping a great solo makes for a great take on the Klassic. Paul does a little audience appreciation as an intro to Lick It Up and Rock And Roll All Nite finishes a superb concert in fine fashion.

The balance of the disc is made up of various interviews and specials done for radio and TV. Some of it is in English with the majority in Dutch. The Veronicas Pop Journal has the band talking about the split with Peter and canceled dates in Europe. Ace handles the Peter issue with class. The Eric Carr interview from 1984 is great also, the interaction with him and the fan asking questions is fun, in fact there is a bit of promotion for the Zwolle November 4, 1984 show. While it is hard to understand this is a fun and interesting look at KISS in another country.

26GrEFJungle Fever (G.R. Box 26 E)

Ijsselhal, Zwolle, Holland – November 4, 1984

(79:22) Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Fits Like A Glove, Heaven’s On Fire, Paul Solo, Deuce (Intro), Under The Gun, War Machine, Eric Solo, Young And Wasted, Creatures Of The Night, Gene Solo, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire), Love Gun, Rock And Roll All Nite

While the Lick It Up tour was probably the least attended of their tours, it established KISS as a live band to be reckoned with in the face of up and coming metal bands, the old guys still had it. Building on their new momentum the band and new guitarist Mark St John would record Animalize and with the help of radio promotion and more importantly MTV the album would greatly surpass Lick It Up and reach platinum status. Sadly St John would develop Reiter’s Syndrome and would not be able to play, he would recoup a little and play a couple of shows with the band but it was his replacement Bruce Kulick who would step into the lead guitar position, a place he would remain until the 1994 reunion.

Again the band would begin the tour in Europe before covering North America, it was towards the end of the European jaunt that the band would again play The Netherlands. TDKA has been organizing KISS koventions for a few years, and there happened to be one to coincide with the band’s performance and much to their surprise, all four members of KISS stopped in the convention the day of their performance in Zwolle. For the concert later that night, an enterprising member of the audience would record the band, the recording is a very good source, just a bit distant yet fairly well balanced and clear with a great punch to it. The drums are prominent in the recording and are clear and powerful lending to some of that punch. There is just a bit of distortion present and there is very little audience interference near the taper and the atmosphere is perfectly captured.

The set list focuses on the newer material with just a few klassics mixed in, the band again use the Detroit Rock City and Cold Gin combo to start the show off, they waste little time getting into new music and after Fits Like A Glove they play a great Heaven’s On Fire with Paul trying to get the audience to sing the falsetto introduction. Paul takes a solo spot early, it cannot really be called a solo as he plays very little and uses it as an audience participation event, even though you cannot see what he is doing the man has a ton of Charisma and keeps the audience on their feet. He even gets into the riff to Deuce to finish off his spot. The Deuce fragment serves as a prelude to a speed metal version of Under The Gun, Eric’s drumming is really pushing the band for this one. Eric’s solo is sandwiched between War Machine and Young & Wasted, in a much better position than the previous tour where it came from I Still Love You. That is the one thing I look forward to, he does the lead vocals for Young & Wasted also that are quite nice also.

There sounds like a different source is used partially for the intro to Creatures from 0:01 to 0:07, it is seamless and we do get the full introduction. Paul’s guitar sounds a bit out of tune for the beginning of I Still Love You, once the band kicks in it is less noticeable. Another highlight is the rarely played I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire), the song features Bruce doing a really great solo, his playing is still tentative as if he is still figuring out how to play solos, he nails this one. Love Gun has an interesting intro from Paul, the theme is the same but this one is a bit different than I have heard before. Although it is not listed on the gatefold sleeve or box cover, Rock and Roll All Nite finishes the disc.

Another highlight of the tape is the Gene on drums segment, one forgets that even though KISS’ music is relatively simple, the band are world class musicians, I side with the fans, they love it and I love it to. The band jam a bit of Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba and it sounds like Bruce does a quick Twilight Zone tease while Paul introduces a song about “all the wonderful adventures we can have with our tongues”. The band is obviously having a good time and get into a jam that includes Secret Agent Man, the Johnny Rivers tune and then get into a country hoedown that leads into Oh Susanna. “Real vintage old KISS…dedicated to The Dutch KISS Army” is Paul’s intro to Black Diamond, something that gets a nice ovation although Paul has to stop the song to get the crowd to sing louder…after a little prodding it works. A brilliant end to a great concert.

26GrEF2Monsters Of Rock (G.R. Box 26 F)

(78:47) Gene On Drum, La Bamba, Lick It Up, Jam Session, Black Diamond.
Willem II Stadium, Tilburg, Holland – September 4, 1988: Intro, Deuce, Love Gun, Fits Like A Glove, Heaven’s On Fire, Cold Gin, Black Diamond, No No No, Crazy Crazy Nights, Tears Are Falling, I Love It Loud, Strutter, Shout It Out Loud, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City

KISS would not make it back to Europe for four years when they did a late summer / early fall tour in support of Crazy Nights. The band would play dates as headliners as well as a Monsters Of Rock package that featured headliners Iron Maiden as well as David Lee Roth and Anthrax as well as a couple others, it is one of the festival dates that is featured here. KISS would get a 60 minute slot to get their music across, needless to say KISS is up for the test, one only has to listen to Paul telling the crowd just prior to the opening of Deuce that they are there to kick some ass.

The recording is an audience source and for being in an outdoor stadium the sound does move around a bit but the music is well balanced and has some balls to it. It is a bit distant but the atmosphere is perfectly captured, as expected in crowds of this size there is some chatter that can be heard but does not really interfere. The band hit it from the words go, Deuce is up first and is a proven opening song, Bruce is more than comfortable in his role and delivers a great solo. Paul salutes 35 fucking thousand people and leads the band into Love Gun, always curious to hear the song so early in the set but it works.

Paul gets into a bit of Led Zeppelin in the form of Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love as a prelude to Fits Like A Glove. The tempo is not as fast as the 83 and 84 versions found on this set, and it’s for the better. The audience does not seem interested in helping Paul with the falsetto intro for Heaven’s On Fire again, you can hear a pin drop in the stadium. The band go old school for Cold Gin and the mid set Black Diamond that is a bit abbreviated (I guess mid set is better than not at all). Perhaps the audience are really high cause Paul seems like he constantly has to get their attention, just listen to the intro to Cold Gin, once they awaken they are fine.

No No No is high energy but just does not sound like KISS, Crazy Crazy Nights follows, thankfully that is all that is played from the record. Tears Are Falling gets the audience going again and Paul’s intro to I Love It Loud sounds like rap! With the audience fully awake the band finishes with a strong run of Klassics with Strutter leading the charge. Shout It Out Loud and Rock And Roll All Nite keep the party going and Detroit Rock City finishes the main set in fine fashion. Interesting concert to listen to, it takes a while but the band win the audience over and by the time they play Rock And Roll All Nite, the audience is singing along.

Another interesting and comprehensive review of KISStory, the premise of focusing on The Dutch KISS Army was interesting and I initially wondered how I would like it. On the plus side we get five concerts that I would not have heard as well as the extras found on disc D, the down side is that the tape sources are average. After multiple listening’s, I can safely say how much I enjoyed this set, the performances are top notch and the mastering of the tapes is excellent. The presentation is what I expected, first class and I applauded a label that once again gives me something different and a huge value for my hard earned buck.

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