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Kiss – KISSTORY III (Magic Bus MB-09)

KISSTORY III (Magic Bus MB-09)

One the eve of KISS’ final tour, The End Of The Road, the Magic Bus label have released the third and final set of the KISSTORY box sets. Dubbed Swedish Invasion 1976-1999, this massive 12 disc set features recordings of concerts exclusively in Sweden dating back to their first European trek in 1976 to the 3D infused magic of the Psycho Circus tour in 1999. The recordings come from the best possible sources and have not been released in this quality or completeness before. The box is the same as the other KISSTORY sets, six individual outer sleeves that each hold two discs with each adorned with a specific member of KISS. There is a 36 page booklet filled with live shots, promo posters and local articles, all with blue base and yellow cross based upon Sweden’s flag.

Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden – October 10, 1980 (Magic Bus MB-09 A/B)

Disc 1 (78:59) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, 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, Shout It Out Loud, King Of The Night Time World

Disc 2 (8:17) Black Diamond

Even though Dynasty was a successful record and tour the band had to contend with Peter Criss’ departure and the realization that fan interest in the USA was at an all time low. They forged on and released Unmasked and although Peter was featured on the cover he did not play on the record but was featured in the video for Shandi, his last effort with the group. They held auditions and found one Paul Caravello, a New York based drummer who more than fit the bill and with makeup and the Fox persona he became Eric Carr. The band played one American gig before heading out for a European and Australian tour.

The recording used for Viking Blood is a very good audience source that has a nice fat sound with very little crowd interference. It finds the band towards the end of the European tour so the group is in great shape and very tight with Carr’s addition giving a much needed kick in the butt, the band would need it as the opening band for much of the tour was the then up and coming Iron Maiden. There has been a previous release on CD 5 and 6 of The Lost Tapes (Godfather Box G.R. BOX 12), the sound quality on this new set is an improvement over the older Godfather version. When comparing the two, the sound is louder, brighter, clearer and is a significant upgrade.

Interestingly the band performed a set list filled with either the relatively new or pre 1977 classics, Detroit Rock City always gets a crowd on its feet and this one is no different. You can hear some punters singing along when Paul and Ace play the harmony lead section, the band do not skip a beat and go right into Cold Gin and Strutter, the latter having not been in regular rotation since 1976. There is little time for talk, Paul makes few words, the band is there to rock. Talk To Me is one of two new songs and one of three songs Ace would take lead vocals on. Like the Dynasty material, the Unmasked songs benefit from the straight forward rock and roll approach in the live setting. Is That You? is the heavier of the new songs, live, the main riff has a much heavier feel and the chorus has a harder end, makes you think that with the right producer Unmasked could have been a much better record.

Ace rips into the 2000 Man riff with a nasty guitar sound, I like how the first verse is done with just guitar and drums and in the second, the full band kicks in, it makes it much heavier. Ace’s use of effects makes for an interesting guitar solo, it has an outer worldly feel to it, the crowd cheers their approval as he fires shots from his guitar. Paul goes a little X rated in his introduction to I Was Made For Loving You with much applause from the audience. The song has a much heavier feel than the 1979 versions, the guitar chain saw style riff gives it a more metal edge and an overall more satisfying feel. The audience chants loudly for the band and they are crushed by Gene’s bass solo, it is very heavy in this recording and sounds like a lumbering monster comes to life, it is not enough for the audience and they continue to scream and shout and it sounds like there could have been an equipment issue as you can hear Gene in the distance shouting “Oh YEAH” and the audience follows and soon gives their approval as Gene ascends to the upper stage for God Of Thunder. The song also gives us a chance to enjoy an Eric Carr drum solo, he starts off a little slow but soon quickens the pace and has the crowd cheering with him, his playing is different from the old school swing style of Peter Criss as Carr is much more of a hard hitting rock drummer.

The encore of Black Diamond is found on the second disc and the set finishes this way in classic KISS style, the intro has the audience stomping in unison as Paul goes through the prelude to the intro until the audience is on the brink of exploding and Eric Carr makes his singing debut with the band handling the lead vocals.

Olympen, Lund, Sweden – May 30, 1976 (Magic Bus MB-09 B)

Disc 2 (69:51) Deuce, Strutter, Flaming Youth, Hotter Than Hell, Firehouse, She, Ace Solo, Nothing To Lose, Shout It Out Loud, Gene Solo, 100,000 Years, Peter Solo, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Rock And Roll All Nite, Let Me Go Rock And Roll

KISS played their first concerts in Europe during a 17 date tour in the spring of 1976, while the band was one of the hot and popular bands in America, European audiences were less than enthusiastic about the band. The make up and flashy show did little to impress the rather snobbish European Rock audiences and thus the band would play to small numbers in theater type settings. Needless to say this reaction bruised their egos and the band would not tour the continent for four years. Thankfully there are several recordings from the tour to access the band’s performances, the concert in Lund comes near the end of the tour and is the last known recording to surface. The recording is an audience source that falls into the good range, slightly distant and thin sounding yet clear enough for all instruments and vocals being clear in the mix. There has been only one previous release of this concert, Scandinavian Assault (Rocket Ride Records RRR-08), a four CD set documenting four shows from the 1976 European tour.

The performance in Lund is really good, while the audience seems restrained compared to their American counterparts, KISS is well received in Sweden and make the band feel welcome. The set list is a variation of what was used on the final leg of the Alive! Tour, the best of the Alive! record plus Flaming Youth, Shout It Out Loud and Detroit Rock City from the Destroyer LP which had been released in March 1976. The pacing of the set is excellent, Deuce and Strutter is still the best opening combo in the history of Heavy Metal, and this concert is the last known recording of Hotter Than Hell into Firehouse as the combo would be broken up for the Summer of 76 tour, the former dropped from the set after the Roosevelt Stadium gig.

The band still has the early mentality of keeping the talking to a minimum and assaulting the audience with song after song, musically they are very tight and like most of the early recordings, Peter’s powerhouse drumming is the foundation for the group and is noteworthy on songs like She and an explosive 100,000 Years. This is also the last recording of 100,000 Years until it made its return during the Revenge tour in 1992, the song features Peter’s drum solo and Paul’s “Do You Believe in Rock And Roll” rap, the ending sadly cut due to a tape flip. Detroit Rock City has a recreation of the car crash ending like on record and as soon as the sound fades, the audience chants for more. This is also the concert where Paul introduces Ace to sing the next song, he refuses and Gene and Paul take vocal duties for a blistering version of Let Me Go, Rock And Roll, he preferred to let his guitar playing do the talking. Ace would not make his vocal debut for another year when he would sing Shock Me during the Love Gun tour.

Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden – November 18, 1983 (Magic Bus MB-09 C/D)

Disc 3 (50:44) Intro, Creatures Of The Night, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Fits Like A Glove, Firehouse, Paul Solo, Exciter, War Machine, Gimme More, Vinnie Solo

Disc 4 (48:40) Gene Solo, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, Eric Solo, Young And Wasted, Love Gun, Black Diamond, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite

With the 1980 European tour a huge success, the revitalized KISS opens the tour in support of Lick It Up with a 36 date trek of Europe with three concerts in Sweden, all towards the end of the tour. Much had changed in KISSWORLD since the 1980 tour, Ace Frehley had left the band and they had put out two of their strongest records since the 70s with Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up both finding KISS return to their Hard Rock roots. Of course the band had also taken off their make up to time with the release of Lick It Up, this helped get KISS in the news, the record did the rest and all of a sudden the band was popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

The audience recording featured here is a very good audience source. It sounds like the taper was close to the stage, all instruments and vocals are clear in the mix and is well balanced with a nice range of frequencies. There is no real tape hiss or audience interference near the taper and sounds great at loud volumes. There was an old single LP vinyl release featuring a portion of this concert, The Tickler (Roxy Records) and its clone Home Sweden Home (ARMY 016), finally this is the first full version of this concert on CD.

The only recordings on this set to feature the guitar Wizardry of Vinnie Vincent whose short time in KISS would help to revitalize the group on record and onstage. His arrogance would be his undoing and by the time the band started the Lick It Up tour, the division between Vinnie and the others was reaching its zenith, so much that he would be fired at the European tours end. Unable to find a suitable replacement, he was rehired for the North American dates but that tour would be his last. One would not know it when listening to the live recordings, the band is tight and energetic and plow through a set consisting of songs from Lick It Up and Creatures Of The Night plus a few 70’s gems thrown in for good measure.

Creatures Of The Night and Detroit Rock City are a superb opening salvo and from there the band hits the audience with punch after punch with the only real mellow song being I Still Love You. Eric Carr’s drumming is spectacular, just listen to his fills on Cold Gin as he takes the drums to a place Peter never could have gone, albeit his very different style. What makes the Vincent era so great is they just let him go solo wise, perhaps a bit too far as his solos during the Klassics are completely his own with no homage, per say, to the original Ace solos… solos that the guitarists that followed did not stray far from. The middle of the show is really good, Paul does an interesting and rather musical solo leading into Exciter. War Machine is always great, the band get into a great groove complete with synchronized movements. Vinnie gets a six minute solo during Gimme More and it’s incredible, his playing is like Van Halen meets Rhoads, with a morsel of Hendrix thrown in for good measure.

Based upon the crowd reaction there is some anticipation for Gene’s solo, yet sadly the old blood and guts is gone, all that remains is some doomy bass sounds leading into I Love It Loud. Eric Carr’s solo comes at a strange time, in fact it serves as lead in for Young And Wasted and almost sounds out of place. The concert picks up with a fast pace for the rest of the show, Love Gun, Black Diamond, Lick It Up and Rock And Roll All Nite make for a great finale.

Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden – October 27, 1984 (Magic Bus MB-09 E/F)

Disc 5 (52:01) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Fits Like A Glove, Heaven’s On Fire, Paul Solo, Under The Gun, War Machine, Eric Solo, Young And Wasted, Creatures Of The Night

Disc 6 (51:33) Gene Solo, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire), Love Gun, Rock And Roll All Nite, Lick It Up, Oh Susanna, Get It On (Bang A Gong), Hey Joe, La Bamba, Black Diamond

KISS’ twelfth studio album Animalize would be their best selling album of the 1980’s, the hard work they began on Creatures Of The Night finally paid off. Released on September 14, 1984, the record would be the first to land on Billboards top 20 since Dynasty in 1979, sales by December would be over one million thus garnering the record a platinum certification. With Vinnie Vincent gone the band found guitarist Mark St.John whose time in KISS was short due to a fluke arthritis condition that left him unable to play. The band then sought out Bruce Kulick to fill in for the upcoming UK / European tour, he fit in so well that he was formally ask to join the KISS, his tenure would last 12 years.

With Hard Rock and Heavy Metal at its 80’s zenith, KISS was finding the European touring markets quite lucrative and again the tour started overseas. The band’s concert at the 9,000 capacity Scandinavium took place about a month into the tour with Bon Jovi serving as opening act. The audience recording used for this title is near excellent in quality, the taper was in a great position and captures a perfect blend of music to audience making for a really enjoyable atmospheric recording. The tape is very clear and detailed with all instruments and vocals nicely defined with the drums having a nice punch to them. The recording is just a tad thin but sounds great at loud volumes. There has only been one release of this concert back in the days of vinyl as Live Without A Net (Happy Frog Records SA-001).

The audience is charged up and begins chanting “We Want KISS” while the blaring sounds of an emergency vehicle siren blares over the PA. Detroit Rock City is the opener followed by Cold Gin, and the return of Strutter (just briefly) to the set making for a great old school opening segment. The set list is pretty much the same as the previous tour with just a couple songs from Animalize thrown in, overall the emphasis is on the newer material. Bruce Kulick’s style is more 70’s style and his playing fits in perfectly with the KISS style of Hard Rock. While he certainly is not the fast lead player Vincent was, he was certainly a proficient player, just one listen to his leads on Strutter and one knows KISS had found their man.

Paul gives some vocal instructions prior to Heaven’s On Fire and the band tries to get the audience into some participation during the song with marginal results. Paul again takes a mid concert solo, pretty much a bunch of riffs to get the crowd cheering, this leads into Under The Gun, the tempo is fast and furious. The band wisely move Eric Carr’s solo between War Machine and Young And Wasted, the latter even features the drummer, as seen in Melody Maker, on lead vocals.

Gene’s bass solo is much better than the previous tour, he plays a bit of Hall Of The Mountain King that has the audience chanting along, something they continue into a muscular I Love It Loud. The crowd has been throwing various clothing on stage, something Paul thanks them for just prior to I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire), the last and perhaps strongest of the Animalize songs played. This tour features some cool band jams in the encore section, Paul starts by saying “This is not something you’ll usually hear” and they break into an instrumental version of Oh! Susanna. A loose version of the T Rex classic Bang A Gong follows and finally we get a cool version of Hey Joe with Paul doing his best Hendrix vocal impression. The Ritchie Valens classic La Bamba gets KISSED and just prior to Black Diamond, Paul plays a snippet riff from Zep’s Immigrant Song. A superb recording and concert.

Frolundaborg, Gothenburg, Sweden – September 16, 1988 (Magic Bus MB-09 G/H)

Disc 7 (42:24) Intro, Love Gun, Fits Like A Glove, Heaven’s On Fire, Cold Gin, Black Diamond, Bang Bang You, No No No, Firehouse, Crazy Crazy Nights

Disc 8 (44:36) I Was Made For Loving You, Deuce, Reason To Live, Tears Are Falling, I Love It Loud, Strutter, Shout It Out Loud, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Night, Detroit Rock City

Fast forward to the late summer of 1988 and KISS was touring Europe as a solo act and also doing select dates on the Monsters Of Rock stadium tour, the latter seeing the band performing as an opening act, their first in that capacity since 1975. Crazy Nights was not the commercial success they had hoped, too polished with a sound more geared to Hair Metal. This affected their live performances, this visit to Gothenburg finds our heroes playing the intimate 4,500 capacity Frolundaborg.

The recording for this title is a very good audience source, slightly distant with nice balance and all instruments and vocals being clear in the mix. It does have a nice bottom end with crisp highs that border on distorting, the audience is just close enough and capture the ambiance of the venue and performance well. This was the tour where the band made the conscience decision to better balance the set list between the newer material and their 70’s classics. The focus was on the music and much to the dismay of Eric Carr, the group elected to drop their all too long individual solo spots, couple this with a new sequence of song order made for a tour.

Love Gun was the tour opener, great song but fails to get it going, even more curious is Fits Like A Glove getting second song nod. Perhaps most curious is Black Diamond being early in the concert, sandwiched between Cold Gin and Bang Bang You. The Crazy Nights material seems to find the audience losing focus, even Firehouse fails to get their attention back, it would take a bit of Disco to do that. I Was Made For Loving makes its return to the stage during these summer shows after haven’t not been played since 1980. Paul does some interesting falsetto style vocals over the steady riffing and the song seems to get a new life. Deuce is more effective as it is pure Rock and Roll, it’s just loose enough, Bruce channels his inner Ace.

Reason To Live gives the audience and reviewer time for a bathroom break, Tears Are Falling gets the crowd and myself back into it. Live versions take the heavy up a notch and begins a monster runs of songs to finish the concert, newer songs like I Love It Loud and Lick It Up side by side with legit Klassics like Strutter and Rock And Roll All Nite with the Detroit Rock City bringing the concert to its conclusion. This tour would be the last European dates for KISS until the massive reunion eight years later.

Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden – December 6, 1996 (Magic Bus MB-09 I/L)

Disc 9 (58:52) Intro, Deuce, King Of The Night Time World, Do You Love Me?, Calling Dr Love, Cold Gin, Watching You, Firehouse, I Stole Your Love, Shock Me, Ace Solo, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Shout It Out Loud

Disc 10 (68:44) I Was Made For Loving You, C’Mon And Love Me, Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter Solo, New York Groove, Love Gun, 100,000 Years, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Rock And Roll All Nite

The reunion we all knew would happen finally did, the four original members of KISS buried the hatched, signed the contracts and proceeded to do what they had done in the 70’s, show the world what a real Rock and Roll band was. There was such an energy surrounding these shows, the anticipation, the celebration, the utter euphoria…I have vivid memories of Tiger Stadium on opening night, one of the few concerts I ever saw that exceeded all expectations…an EVENT. Staggering to think that the band played 192 concerts on this and literally in 24 countries playing to capacity or near capacity everywhere they played.

KISS would play two concerts in Sweden in December 1996, one each in Stockholm and Gothenburg, each sold out in less than an hour. The concert from Stockholm was chosen due to the quality of the recording. The audience tape is of excellent quality, clear detailed with a full range of frequencies and a perfect balance of instruments and vocals. There is no interference near the taper but the crowd is definitely in the mix giving this tape great atmosphere. This is not the first release of this concert, Kissin’ Stockholm (Bad Records Bad-001), Rock ‘N Roll In Globe Arena (Mixing Records 7005) and Burning Stockholm (Kiss 96/1&2) are all taken from this performance.

The set list is like being thrown into a time machine and landing in 1977, Deuce leads the charge and is the perfect song, you can feel the atmosphere bristling with energy as the audience is ready and really into it. Paul is the consummate front man, endearing himself to the Swedes by saying a few words in Swedish, his introduction for Cold Gin has him talking about drinking Glogg and asking people don’t drink and drive…KISS Kares! Ace does his first vocal halfway through Cold Gin and the audience gives him a huge round of applause. Watching You was a surprise, a good one and the band punctuate the line “Everybody else is here watching US”.

The audience claps along to the beginning of Firehouse, eager in their anticipation for Gene’s fire breathing, yes all the 70’s bits are here. Ace gets to introduce Shock Me, it’s brief but strangely full of charm with the audience singing along with him during the chorus, Sweden loves Ace. His solo goes over the top, his fingers are nimble and he plays a blistering solo overlayed with effects that sends his guitar into the atmosphere. Let Me Go, Rock And Roll comes close to its 70’s heyday, Ace nails the solos and Peter’s drumming is simplistically great, Pete screams “Stockholm…Who loves you?”. Interesting to dissect Peter’s drumming on this recording, certainly more basic than the 70’s, seems like he lost his swing a bit yet his energy level is high. One has to guess to the workout regiment to get him in shape to even do a tour of this magnitude. Of course as soon as I think Peter is holding back he hits me with some great powerful fills in I Was Made for Loving You!

The old school solo section is back, Gene’s elephant farts and blood letting is a highlight, the crowd chants “Gene…Gene…Gene”. Great to hear God Of Thunder with Gene soaring up to the lighting truss. The song seems to lumber across the stage, the tempo is a bit slower making for a heavy rendition, Peter nails the marching pattern perfectly and of course the Catman gets his solo spot as well. 100,000 Years is another highlight, the band really capture the essence of the Alive! version playing a tight version. A definite highlight is during the beginning of Black Diamond the audience sings along with Paul who stops, asks them if they want to sing and the answer is a resounding YES and he lets them sing the whole “Out on the streets for a living”, gives you tingles in all the right places. The Stockholm “Choir” also lends their talents to a typically emotional Beth, the feeling inside the Globe is quite moving. The Kings have returned.

Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden – March 4, 1999 (Magic Bus MB-09 M/N)

Disc 11 (61:09) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Psycho Circus, Shout It Out Loud, Deuce, Do You Love Me?, Firehouse, Shock Me, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Calling Dr Love, Into The Void, Ace Solo, King Of The Night Time World

Disc 12 (63:22) Gene Solo, God Of Thunder, Within, Peter Solo, Cold Gin, Love Gun, 100,000 Years, Rock And Roll All Nite, Beth, I Was Made For Loving You, Black Diamond

KISS was back and as no surprise to anybody they go into the studio to make Psycho Circus, their first record with the original four since…well Dynasty I guess. In typical KISS fashion the album features the typical studio musicians as the Simmons / Stanley duo did not feel the other two were up to snuff. Once again the Ace song Into The Void is the best of the lot, certainly the most underestimated songwriter in KISStory. A new album deserves a tour and the band play a scaled back trek in support of the record.

This time the band schedule four dates in Sweden, all sold out and this concert featured here is the first night in Gothenburg. The audience recording is near excellent and sounds like it was recorded very close to the stage so the audience sounds off in the distance.  It’s a clear and detailed recording with a nice bottom end yet the high frequencies make it a bit thin sounding. A bit of crowd noise near the taper at times but it gives the tape a nice atmosphere.

This concert is unique as it is the only known time they open the concert with Detroit Rock City, the pairing with Psycho Circus makes for a solid opening salvo. With much of the set list being a re sequenced version of the previous Alive Worldwide trek, it loses a bit of the grandiose of that tour. For Do You Love Me? Paul tells the crowd to put on their 3D glasses, the reaction from the crowd is priceless that they see the images on the screen. Paul gives a tour recap of the past few nights and the reaction from the audience was rather surprising, it reminded me of one state versus the other. The studio version of Into The Void is the only song all four members played on, so it’s only fitting that the song be played live, great song and the new vehicle for Ace’s always interesting guitar solo.

God Of Thunder blends into Within very nicely, both have a doomy vibe to them and Within is like an extension of Thunder, love the shared vocals as well. Peter’s drum solo is really good, not bombastic as in the 70’s so he takes a different turn and does an excellent solo highlighting his percussion skills. I like that the main part of the concert ends with Rock And Roll All Nite, it makes for a better set of encores IMO. As always Beth is a highlight, the love the audience gives to Peter is moving. While the often maligned drummer seems to be the catch all from Simmons and Stanley, Beth can be considered the song that broke the band open to the masses and the ovations he received on these tours are usually the loudest of the night.

Final verdict? Magic Bus delivers another comprehensive KISS box set with a diverse selection of concerts from the many incarnations of the band. The sound quality lives up to the billing as being the best for these particular recordings, performance wise there is not a bad one in the lot. The packaging is great with each member of the band through the years getting a CD and sleeve with their picture on it. The booklet, while thin on information, is filled with great photos, ticket stubs, concert posters and magazine or newspaper articles. Being American, one tends to take KISS for granted as they are an American band, I grew up with them and still listen to them some 40 plus years later. What makes the KISSTORY box sets so nice is you get a feel for what KISS means across the planet, I came to the conclusion that KISS is not an American band, they transcend countries and are worldwide ambassadors of Rock And Roll.

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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