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Kiss – KISSTORY II (Magic Bus MB-05)

KISSTORY II (Magic Bus MB-05)

In 1977 The Hottest Band In The Land embarked on their first tour of Japan with a second one in 1978…By 1980 the worldwide demand was so hot that the band created KISSteria in Australia! Here you find a document of their AUSTRALASIAN adventures, here is…KISSTORY II.

The folks at Magic Bus are back with a new KISS box set and if you haven’t guessed it, they are focusing on two very important KISS Army strongholds. Japan and Australia have been very important to the history of KISS, their passion for the band has been second to none and they have supported the group from literally afar. When you look at the long stretches between visits to both countries and the fact that the band was able to stay relevant to the indigenous rock fans is a testament to the music of KISS. This box set is not only an examination of the band but an evaluation of the special bonds that KISS shares with their fans. The set is a massive 12 disc opus with each CD filled with music from the main tours, oh there is something I liked, each CD has a nice picture showcasing the beautiful women of each of the countries and the sleeves that house them are decorated with relevant photos from these tours and if that is not enough there is a 36 page booklet with pictures, advertisements, liner notes and tour dates. With box sets of this size not only do you get value, and excellent presentation, you get quality. There is not a poor sounding recording in this set and if there is one recurring theme for this box it is…TURN IT UP LOUD!

Kosei Nenkin Hall, Osaka, Japan – March 25, 1977 (Magic Bus MB-05 A)

Disc 1 (76:58) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Take Me, Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll, Ladies Room, Firehouse, Makin’ Love, I Want You, Cold Gin, Ace Solo, Do You Love Me?, Nothin’ To Lose, Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, Beth, Black Diamond

KISS’ first trip to Japan was truly an event, the groups management did clever marketing deals like making Pan Am airlines and their KISS Clipper the airline that transported the group, friends and family and some press to Japan, something that certainly put the group, and the airline in the papers. The famous Japanese promoter, Mr. Udo, greeted the band at the airport, his company would handle the entire 10 concert tour. In a typical KISS twist of fate, when the plane arrived at the airport, KISS was in full make up and the customs officials would not let them in, they had to remove their make up, get clearance, then re apply their make up, it was worth it as a plethora of fans were on hand to welcome them Beatlemania style.

The concert featured here is the second date on the tour and is the earliest known recording of KISS in Japan. The recording is easily in the very good range, clear, well balanced, all instruments and vocals coming through clear in the mix with just a minor bit of distortion in the top end. There is no interference near the taper but the audience is present giving the tape a wonderful ambience, certainly one to turn up loud. I did an Internet search for the Hall, it is sleek and modern looking, quite tall and when you look at it you can see the reason for the quality tape, the taper was probably in the front row of one of the balconies. There would be no variation of songs with the band performing the same set as the previous American tour, the band plays a tight and energetic show for 2,400 screaming (between songs) fans. The quality recording makes it even easier to enjoy this professional and well played concert, with a language barrier, Paul does very few between song raps and the band hit the adoring Japanese audience with a full frontal assault of music, and a new stage set. The audience seems quite happy and happily claps during a few songs and is very responsive to the music, an excellent opening disc of this box. The sleeve features one of the shots done at a Japanese shrine by legendary photographer Bob Gruen.

Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – April 2, 1978 (Magic Bus MB-05 B)

Disc 2 (79:09) I Stole Your Love, King Of The Night Time World, Ladies Room, Firehouse, Love Gun, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Makin’ Love, Christine Sixteen, Shock Me, Ace Solo, I Want You, Calling Dr. Love, Shout It Out Loud, Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Black Diamond

For some time there was precious little audio circulating in the collectors market of KISS’ second Japanese tour, then came the Mr. Peach archives and excellent quality recordings for four of the five concerts surfaced, giving collectors an idea of what condition the band was in the last days of KISSmania. The audience recording is easily very good, it is a bit thin sounding and does have top end distortion and is pretty well balanced and comes close to rivaling the Peach source found on the Maiko Girls From Hell (Tarantura TCDKIS78-5-1,2) in terms of quality. The recording also captures the crazy atmosphere inside the Budokan perfectly, this demands to be played loud!

The group is definitely at ease during this tour, Paul is comfortable with the audience and does some typical introductions and he gives a heartfelt “We Love You” just prior to leading the audience in a rock and roll chant leading to Let Me Go, Rock And Roll. While the energy is high, there is a bit of weariness evident towards the end of the concert. One only has to image that in just four short years the band would come from being a curiosity on the Rock concert circuit, releasing a staggering six studio and two live albums and one of the biggest bands in the world. This concert is an important show for KISS fans for many reasons. It was the fifth sold out show at the Budokan, breaking The Beatles record of four. It would be the last concert, save for the show done in California a month later for the filming of KISS’ Phantom of the Park Movie, for well over a year. It would also be the last time it seems like the group was a cohesive foursome, the exhaustion of the past four years and the pressures of stardom would prove too much. The sleeve cover is KISS getting an award, while Gene and Paul ham it up, Peter looks tired and Ace looks buzzed.

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia – November 18, 1982 (Magic Bus MB-05 C/D)

Disc 3 (78:16) Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Shandi, Calling Dr. Love, Firehouse, Talk To Me, Is That You?, 2000 Man, Ace Solo, I Was Made For Loving You, New York Groove, Love Gun, Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Eric Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite

Disc 4 (14:05) Shout It Out Loud, King Of The Night Time World, Black Diamond

With KISS’ popularity in America at an all time low, the band would look to other shores to support their most recent opus, Unmasked. They would do their first tour of Europe since 1976 and for the first time, perform in Australia where their popularity rivaled the United States circa 1978. The band would do 10 dates down under to mostly capacity audiences, there was a lot of tour coverage from the media with some complaining it was too much and unwarranted. Unmasked was popular in Australia with the song Shandi being a minor hit, the band would include it in the set, much to the fans delight. With a full European tour under his belt, new drummer Eric Carr was now fully integrated into KISS, in fact it would be his playing that would give the band much needed energy, sadly it would come too late as the tour would be Ace Frehley’s last with the band.

The recording featured here is a good to very good slightly distant audience source, they were playing a large outside venue with a capacity crowd of 20,000 fans. There were high winds and the concert came close to being canceled, the recording does swirl like many outdoor recordings, thankfully the taper used windscreens so while it does breathe it does not distort. The sound is clear and atmospheric, the vocals are a bit up front but all instruments can be heard, the audience is quiet around the taper and you get a feel for the event. The Adelaide concert has had a couple previous releases, on vinyl as Firehouse (K2A A/B/C/D) that contains about 3/4 the show and as part of the 4 compact disc box set KISS in Australia (Cedrum Sound Lab CD51-54) that features the complete show. I own neither of these titles so I cannot do sound comparisons.

The concert is well, excellent, the band give a tight and professional performance that did not feature a lot of their typical pyro due to the weather. I like the 1980 sets, they had a great trio of songs to open the set in Detroit Rock City > Cold Gin > and a killer Strutter that really gets the audience going. The Ace portion is great, Is That You? is one of Ace’s great latter day KISS tunes and it goes into 2,000 Man, again really like the KISS versions of the Klassic. Eric Carr’s drum solo is one for the ages, a typical great solo by Eric and about two minutes in the audience starts this “Eric…Eric” chant that is cool and he gets them into a rousing clap along also, man his early playing was so great. The sleeve has a typical 1980 posed shot of the band, Gene looks hilarious with the face he is trying to make, like Phyllis Diller seeing a ghost!

Civic Assembly Hall, Nagoya, Japan – April 16, 1988 (Magic Bus MB-05 D)

Disc 4 (65:03) Love Gun, Cold Gin, Bang Bang You, Fits Like A Glove, Crazy Crazy Nights, War Machine, Reason To Live, Heaven’s On Fire, Tears Are Falling, I Love It Loud, Lick It Up, Black Diamond, Shout It Out Loud, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City

KISS returns to Japan for the first time since 1978, ten years is a long time and much has changed since then, there have been a few line up changes and the make up has been gone for a while but the band still has a passionate following. The tour was a short six concert affair, all concerts were handles by the famous Mr. Udo and the NHK television network recorded and broadcast the Tokyo April 22 gig which became the source for the majority of the audio and video bootlegs from their return to Japan.

The recording featured here is a very good audience recording, it is slightly distant that is clear and atmospheric with a good dynamic range, if anything it is just a tad fuzzy sounding. The audience is perfect in the mix and the excitement and atmosphere is perfectly captured, based upon other set lists from this tour this concert was shorter than the others, although you detect cuts after many songs, I am guessing to fit this into a certain time space, the edits are perfectly smooth and am guessing only screaming is missing. What it loses in length easily makes up for it performance wise, the band is playing with guts and the audience eats up every second of it! Great performance but I have to tell you, I have this show cranked up and it rocks, except when the band play the songs from the as of then recent record Crazy Crazy Nights, Reason To Live sounds horrible, the keyboards are horrendous and for me bring down the energy level, hell even looking at the pictures on the CD’s can’t get me worked up, thank God for the next button.

Once you get past that the rest of the show kicks ass, Heaven’s On Fire and Tears Are Falling have the crowd worked into a frenzy, during Paul’s intro to the latter he says “It’s about somebody who’s crying…” some girl in the audience screams “me” in the distance that had me laughing, KISSteria for sure. Black Diamond is back in the set, having not been played in March 1985, you would never know it as they play a very powerful version of the song. The sleeve has a live shot from the Unmasked tour, Ace and Gene with capes and Paul with his black feather jacket.

Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – April 22, 1988 (Magic Bus MB-05 E/F)

Disc 5 (78:24) Love Gun, Cold Gin, Bang Bang You, Calling Dr. Love, Fits Like A Glove, Crazy Crazy Nights, Bruce Solo, No No No, Reason To Live, Heaven’s On Fire, Eric Solo, War Machine, Tears Are Falling, Gene Solo, I Love It Loud, Lick It Up, Black Diamond, I Was Made For Loving You

Disc 6 (18:23) Shout It Out Loud, Strutter, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City

The famous concert at the Budokan in 1988, as previously stated, the band was filmed for use on the NHK Television, the same company who recorded the famous April 2, 1977 concerts that for most KISS fans saw due to the hour long concert special that was shown in America on HBO. The recording featured is an excellent soundboard that has been released many, many times. Dating back to the vinyl days with Kamikaze Kissing at the Budokan (Parrot Records K5 A/B/C/D), Guns ‘N Kisses (Metal Mess Records MMR 9103), and At Budokan (TK 1/2/3/4). On CD there are titles like In The Land Of The Rising Sun (DIDX 006630/6772), Dr Loves House parts 1 & 2 (Golden Stars PTCD 1128/1129), Live In Japan 1988 – Calling Dr Love (Crocodile Beat CB 53007), Crazy Rock City (DGCD 007), A Crazy Night With KISS (Dancing Horse DH-021), Night Of The Living KISS (Duce 003-004), Boxx Vol. 3 (Apple House Music BAN-030-C), and Guns ‘N Kisses I & II (Metal Mess 9203-1/2), and finally DVD titles like A Crazy Night With KISS (WOW-004) and Live At Budokan (GR-038). Being professionally recorded we can expect, and receive, the best quality and this title delivers, the NHK folks did an excellent job recording this concert, you get a perfect mix of music to audience and all vocals and instruments are well balanced, if your stereo is not on 11 yet, this is the concert to get it there with. I have had the old Guns ‘N KISSES titles for years, the version featured here is significantly better in quality, obviously taken from a far superior source and this version is complete also so I get a nice upgrade.

Performance wise this is a great concert, KISS knows when to bring it and for this show they really Rise to It (pun intended), but when you take into the perspective with the previous concert just days earlier in Nagoya, the band is glad to be back in Japan and this joy is translated to the concerts. While I must admit to not being a fan of the Crazy Nights material and thus the live recordings do not get many repeats, this concert got more than a couple spins doing this review and I can see revisiting this concert again, it’s just a damn good recording and show. The sleeve has a typical promo picture of the band circa Crazy Nights.

Ace Frehley – W’Ohol, Osaka, Japan – November 8, 1993 (Edit) (Magic Bus MB-05 F)

Disc 6 (59:28) Shock Me, Parasite, Trouble Walkin’, Breakout, Shot Full Of Rock, New York Groove, Strange Ways, Cold Gin, 2000 Man, Rock Soldiers, Rip It Out, Rocket Ride, Detroit Rock City

The quality continues with a real gem of a recording, Ace Frehley in Osaka on the Trouble’s Walking tour with an edit of the soundboard recording that was featured on the excellent title Just For Fun Japan Tour 1993 (Zodiac 063). The quality is very similar to the Zodiac version, not amplified as much making it just a tad easier on the ears when turned up loud. As previously stated the recording is incomplete missing Strutter and the drum solo, for those of you who have never heard this show before, you my friend are in for a treat. This is Ace at his best, loose and raw, needless to say this concert is essential to KISS and solo Ace fans and while it is a great addition to this box set, you really need to get the Zodiac title as well to get two shows from this rare tour. The sleeve has a nice pic of Ace holding his guitar, with the ace of spades in his strings.

Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, Australia – February 6, 1995 (Magic Bus MB-05 G/H)

Disc 7 (78:50) Intro, King Of The Night Time World, Deuce, Shout It Out Loud, Parasite, Unholy, Creatures Of The Night, Calling Dr. Love, Makin’ Love, Tears Are Falling, Domino, I Was Made For Loving You, Take It Off, Watchin’ You, Firehouse, I Want You, Love Gun, She

Disc 8 (79:04) Lick It Up, Forever, I Love It Loud, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Heaven’s On Fire, God Gave Rock And Roll To You II, Rock And Roll All Nite. Bonus Tracks: Hyatt Hotel, Perth, Australia February 3, 1995 (Unplugged FM); FM Intro, Strutter, Hard Luck Woman, Lick It Up, Rock Bottom, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Nothing To Lose. Bonus Tracks: Strutter ’95, Perth – February 4, 1995; Shandi

After a fifteen year absence, KISS returned to Australia in early 1995, with no new music to promote, the band began to further explore their 70’s output and get closer to their fan base that had supported them for the past 20 plus years. The Australian tour would be comprised of not only traditional concerts, but fan specialty KISS Konvention appearances where the band would have a Q & A session, an acoustic concert and an autograph signing session (the KISS Konventions proved to be so successful that they would bring them to the United States). The band’s popularity in the Land Down Under that there was still much demand for the group and the electric shows are extremely important in KISSTORY as they are the last big shows to feature Bruce Kulick on guitar as well as much of the music from Revenge.

The recording featured here is the second “electric” show in Adelaide, Australia, there has been a previous release of this material, KISS My Ass Down Under ’95 (Red Robin Records ROB 1049 A/B) so needless to say I am very glad to have this concert. It is a very good audience source, just a tad distant with the vocals just a tad low in the mix, nothing that hinders ones enjoyment. It is very clear and enjoyable, the drums sound very powerful in this recording and this is one where you can really enjoy Eric Singer’s fantastic playing. I love the Revenge era, for me it ranks up there in the sans makeup era with Creatures, Lick It Up and Animalize, gone was the glam look and pop songs, back was the hard rock sound that made the band the terror of parents everywhere.

Look at that set list, fricking rocks! The band was delving deep into their back catalog, the Klassic like Deuce and Parasite mix perfectly with Domino and Unholy, the mid era stuff like Tears Are Falling and Heaven’s On Fire sound fresh delivering a very hard hitting concert. I have always felt that this formation of KISS was really hitting its stride, but fate steps in and KISSTORY would change once more. The remainder of the second disc features another piece of KISSTORY, the first Unplugged show from Perth. The recording is a radio broadcast done for Triple J, a national Radio station in Australia. The sound is near excellent and sounds like it was recorded from the radio broadcast, well balanced and really a joy to listen to, Hard Luck Woman and Rock Bottom being standouts. The last bonus tracks are Strutter ’95, I believe this is actually a sound check specifically done to aid earthquake relief for the city of Kobe, Japan that was devastated on January 17, 1995, based upon KISS Alive Forever the date would be January 30, 1995. The last track is an electric version of Shandi from Perth on February 4, 1995, the sound is good, distant but clear and enjoyable and you can’t have a KISS tour in Australia without it. Both CD sleeves have pictures from the Revenge era, KISS back in black.

Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan – January 18, 1997 (Magic Bus MB-05 I/L)

Disc 9 (69:52) Deuce, King Of The Night Time World, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Do You Love Me?, Firehouse, Watchin’ You, Shock Me, Ace Solo, Calling Dr. Love, Shout It Out Loud, C’Mon And Love Me, Cold Gin, I Stole Your Love, Love Gun

Disc 10 (79:18) Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter Solo, New York Groove, 100,000 Years, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Rock And Roll All Nite. Bonus Tracks: Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – January 22, 1997; Deuce, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Firehouse, Shout It Out Loud, Cold Gin, Rock And Roll All Nite

Finally…the return of KISS. As we all know, the KISS Unplugged project was the genesis for the reunion of the original line up for KISS, but its roots certainly go back a few years prior. KISS made it through the 80’s and that in itself is an accomplishment, yet by the mid 90’s they found themselves in the same boat as the early 80’s, nobody outside their loyal fan base cared. They released home videos, much of which featured classic 70’s footage, the last few tours featured a set list drawn heavily upon the material and the Konventions catered to that nostalgia…the time was right. They had the right people in place to make it happen, Danny Goldberg put Mercury Records behind the group and Rock and Roll manager extraordinaire Doc McGhee took over managing the reunion, the results were beyond expectation. The first major date on the tour, Detroit’s Tiger Stadium (I Was There!) sold out in 47 minutes…all 40,000 seats. A further selection of dates sold out within minutes, when it was all said and done the band played to capacity audiences around the world.

For this box set we get the first of seven sold out concert throughout in Japan at the 46,000 seat Tokyo Dome. This massive gig has been in the collectors market before on the titles Destroys Dome (None Label), and Love Deuce / Paul’s Birthday (LD 01/02), the latter being coupled with a recording from Osaka. The audience source is excellent, all instruments and vocals come through clearly and there is a nice range of frequencies including a great bottom end. There is a couple screamers close but do not really interfere, in fact only add to the hysteria of the performance, and like most huge arena events you can hear the size of the venue in the sound.

I listen to these recordings in order, and I found it very interesting when compared to the previous couple shows, gives you a new appreciation of the other musicians who have played with KISS during the previous 15 years. Ace and Peter bring a looseness not heard in some time, yet this is a good thing, it sounds rock and roll. For guys who have not seriously toured in a long time, especially Peter, they really bring it, the concert is well paced and well played, this is another recording that sounds great loud, fists in the air and singing along. I have a couple reunion era shows on CD, this is the best in terms of quality so I really like these concerts, what I really found interesting on this set are the bonus tracks. They are culled from the second concert in Osaka, Gene had a severe throat infection and only sang on Deuce and God Of Thunder, so we get some cool versions of Gene songs with Paul on vocals and a cool Cold Gin with Ace singing it. The recording is excellent and was the subject of the Now And Forever (Wyvern WV-19922 1/2). If anything there is a bit less screaming and even better frequencies that Tokyo due to the smaller hall. The sleeves both feature the original four in new, yet classic poses.

The Super Dome, Sydney, Australia – April 7, 2001 (Magic Bus MB-05 M/N)

Disc 11 (71:59) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Deuce, Shout It Out Loud, Talk To Me, I Love It Loud, Firehouse, Do You Love Me?, Calling Dr. Love, Heaven’s On Fire, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Shock Me, Ace Solo, Psycho Circus, Lick It Up

Disc 12 (72:40) Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Eric Solo, Cold Gin, 100,000 Years, Love Gun, I Still Love You (jam), Hard Luck Woman (jam), Shandi (jam), Black Diamond, I Was Made For Loving You, New York Groove (jam), Parasite (jam), She (jam), Makin’ Love (jam), Rock And Roll All Nite. Bonus Tracks: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia – April 3, 2001; Got To Choose (jam), Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia – April 5, 2001; Forever (jam), Goin Blind (jam), Strutter (jam), Rocket Ride (jam), Mr. Speed (jam)

The success of the Alive Worldwide tour put KISS back on the map, an average new record, Psycho Circus, and the obligatory over merchandising, not to mention inner band drama forced KISS to evaluate the situation. For the band to move forward, they used a clever marketing tool… The Farewell Tour. When you look back it seemed like what now?, but in reality a long term working relationship with Ace and Peter would really never work. The band Criss crossed the United States from March to October 2000, by tours end the relationship with Peter was strained, so much that he almost quit a few days prior, yet ultimately played his last gig (for a time) October 7. The band had scheduled dates in Japan a few months previous and in a surprise move brought Eric Singer back into the band, in right into the Catman makeup. Not only would the band tour Japan, but they would also add 8 dates in Australia as well.

The Australian leg would directly follow the Japanese leg in the first half of March 2001, by all accounts the stress around the band was lower and one has to listen to the recordings and you hear a difference. Eric interjects a lot of energy and really seems to tighten up the band musically. The recording featured here is taken from the first of two nights in Sydney, the audience source is excellent, slightly distant yet very well balanced and with a great punch to it, if anything it may suffer from a bit of distortion. Performance wise this is the stronger of the two reunion era shows. The set lists for Japan and Australian legs were similar, one definite highlight was the inclusion of the Unmasked chestnut Talk To Me, last time it was played was December 3, 1980, great version, it surprisingly sounds fresh. In fact fresh is a perfect adjective to describe this concert. The band sound like they are enjoying playing together, the music flows perfectly, just listen to Let Me Go, Rock And Roll, Gene first shouts Eric Singer and he take a nice fill, then Ace, and he lays down a brilliant solo. One of the cool things they started for the Japan and Aussie dates was a bit of a medley of some of the Klassic KISS songs, this was done towards the end of the show. Paul does a couple solo before Black Diamond, Hard Luck Woman has the audience singing along with him, great moment for sure. The other songs, referred to as jams range from 30 seconds to just over a minute, great to hear them just play even as the song falls apart. 

The bonus tracks are special, the “jams” from a couple evenings in Melbourne, even though they are just snippets, we got some rare material like Goin’ Blind, a rare attempt at Rocket Ride that has the audience and band laughing, then they start Mr Speed, fricking 90 seconds of excellent improv. The Melbourne material falls into the good to very good range, clean and atmospheric but not up to the quality of the main show yet and excellent way to end the collection. The sleeves have a cool posed pic with the new “Catman” front and center, and a live shot of the band taking a bow, again a fitting finale!

There you have it, it took a month to listen to these concerts and get my thoughts down on paper so to speak. A multitude of sources was used for reference, first being the excellent KISS Bootlegged site, a true work of passion for KISS. A few books also, KISS Alive Forever, Behind The Mask, and Nothing To Lose, to be truthful I even dug out my Marvel KISS Comic magazines from the 70’s! A well thought out and executed box set, the mission statement at the start of this review has been fully realized. Paul sums up this box set during the 2001 Sydney show, he tells the audience about getting their money’s worth, that KISS sweated their asses off for them, that is KISS’ mission statement and it still rings true, through fashion trends, line up changes, good or bad…through decades. Magic Bus, Well done.  

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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