1973 was an incredible career in the early evolution of KISS, most know of the groups origins but here is the quick version. Gene and Paul were in limbo after the demise of Wicked Lester and find an add in Rolling Stone magazine and Peter Criss enters the picture. The trio rehearse in the fall of 1972, needing a second guitarist Paul places an ad in Village Voice and they find the man who had “Flash and Ability” in Ace Frehley who would officially join KISS in December 1972. While not technically the most proficient players in the New York City scene, the group had an obvious chemistry and while songs like Firehouse, Deuce, and Black Diamond had already been written in 72, much of what would find its way on their debut and next couple records would be written at least in part during this first magical year together. This release by the KISS specialty label, Rocket Ride Records, collects the known audio from this year and presents it in one complete volume. While the majority of this material has been in collector’s circles for some time, this is the first time it has been presented in this fashion.
Disc 1 (56:45) Electric Lady Demos – June 17, 1973: Deuce, Cold Gin, Strutter, Watchin’ You, Black Diamond. The Loft, 10 East 23rd St, New York, NY – September 1973: Sound Check, Strutter, Firehouse, Watchin’ You, Let Me Know, Life In The Woods, Acrobat
Most attribute the Electrtic Lady demos to March 1973 so the above date is wrong. Gene and Paul had done work at the studio and these demos were done as a form of payment. It was produced and engineered by Dave Wittman and only supervised by the legendary Eddie Kramer and completed on March 13, 1973. Deuce and Strutter were officially released on the 2001 Box set, the full demo has been on bootlegs for some time, amazingly I do not have any of them so this was certainly a selling point to me. The quality is excellent, recorded on 4 track, it is incredible to think that the foursome was only together for three months at this point, they are totally in sync and the energy bristles on the tape.
The Loft rehearsal tape has also been reassessed since it was release in 2014 as Unreleased Spring 1973 Rehearsal (Zodiac 059). Originally thought to be in preparation for the Amityville run of shows at the Daisy, it is now believed to have been just before the bands private showcase at La Tang Studios for Neil Bogart, Kenny Kerner, and Ritchie Wise and other record executives. The sound and content is identical to the Zodiac release, the rehearsal itself is great, you can hear the band work through a live set in a casual fashion, the playing is very together, I have always liked Gene’s bass sound on this tape, while never really included in greatest bass players lists, he was actually an excellent musician as these early tapes prove. The band almost jam a bit on Strutter, Ace’s leads are impeccable throughout.
Disc 2 (74:49) The Daisy, Amityville, NY – June 16, 1973 – Set 1: Nothin’ To Lose, Firehouse, Life In The Woods, Simple Type, Acrobat, Deuce, 100,000 Years, Black Diamond. The Daisy, Amityville, NY – June 16, 1973 – Set 2: Strutter, Watchin’ You, Let Me Know. The Coventry, Queens, NY – December 21, 1973: Deuce, Cold Gin
The majority of the second disc is made up from the recording from The Daisy in Amityville, NY in the summer of 1973. The recording was first released on torrent sites in late 2013 and made its way into the collectors market via a couple excellent titles, Horny Bitches & Daisy Daze (The Godfatherecords G.R. 978) and Amityville 1973 (Zodiac 051). When compared to the Godfather title, the sound has been amplified slightly but is still strong and clear with perhaps just a tad more hiss that one would expect, very strong and clear. Far away from the bright lights of the big city, the band seems at ease during this performance and delivers a great performance with a small bar club type atmosphere.
The last two songs are from the historic Coventry shows in December 1973, the band had recently finished recording its debut record and these two shows represent the first time all four members work the white face paint make up, dressed in black leather and featuring choreographed stage moves. Both the 21 and 22 were video taped, sadly the footage from this first night was mostly taped over with the second night. The footage from the second night was finally released officially as part of KISSOLOGY III set. The recording is of very good quality though somewhat lo-fi as one would assume, it is a soundboard and features an introduction telling the audience of their new record and promoting their appearance at the Academy of Music on New Years Eve. There are some drop outs during the first minute of Strutter, but the energy of the band is evident from the first note. The power and aggression is tenfold over previous versions of the song on this set, the band is very together, sadly the recording ends at the 2:40 mark in Cold Gin.
Disc 3 (73:55) The Coventry, Queens, NY – December 22, 1973: Deuce, Cold Gin, Nothin’ To Lose, Strutter, Firehouse, Let Me Know, 100,000 Years, Black Diamond, Baby Let Me Go. The Academy Of Music, New York, NY – December 31, 1973: Deuce, Cold Gin, Nothin’ To Lose, Firehouse, Let Me Know, 100,000 Years, Black Diamond
The second night at the Coventry features audio taken from the KISSOLOGY set, it is very good but certainly lacks dynamics, as most fans of the video retrospectives know, it is clear and well balanced. The Coventry is an important piece of KISStory, it was the site of the groups first concert in January 1973 when the club was know as Popcorn. The music if fully formed, the act, while still in its embryonic stage, is there and visually the stage outfits and make up pretty much there, Paul still trying to figure out his.
The Academy of Music gig on New Years Eve is KISS’ first gig on a big stage, opening for National acts, the headliner Blue Oyster Cult also came from the bowels of New York City as well and Iggy and The Stooges. There were two shows from the headliners that night, KISS only performed at the first show, thankfully some enterprising rock fan captured the occasion. The audio is as bit rough, Ace’s guitar is in the forefront, the vocals come through and Peter’s drums are virtually inaudible, Paul’s guitar is very low in the background and Gene’s bass is like a low rumble. There is obvious distortion present and one is left with a raw but listenable sound, after a few songs the sound does settle down but never rises above fair. This is KISS’ first big show and they are in great form, the playing is tight and they play with an attitude that they are the biggest band on the planet. Firehouse is particularly interesting, it sounds like they use feedback instead of the siren, the sound is rough so I may be wrong. 100,000 Years has a brief Peter drum solo just as Paul starts his “Do you feel alright” rap, there is a few digital skips throughout this song, something that can be jarring due to the sound quality of the recording. The audience response at the end of Black Diamond tells us, and the band, that their hard work in 1973 was worth the blood, sweat and tears they put into it.
The packaging is quite nice, full color inserts adorned with a plethora of early live shots, outtakes from the first album cover and gig ads and ticket stub from the New Years Eve gig. An insert with even more great shots is included as is the highly collectable sticker. While some of this material has circulated prior, this is an excellent set to own, never has it been compiled together and in generally very good to excellent sound. For KISS fan’s this is an essential release and comes with my full recommendation.