The Magic Bus label returns with an exciting new box set, this time focusing on KISS, the aptly titled KISSTORY. The design of the box is the same as the David Bowie Time May Change Me, the cover and art work is based upon the 1995 book KISSTORY and it boasts 10 cds that provide an excellent cross section of music along with a 36 page book filled with pictures and a brief write up of each recording. What is certainly a selling point for this collection is the fact that all of these recordings have not been previously available (save one) in the collectors markets on vinyl or compact disc. Each “chapter” consists of 2 cds housed in a mini LP style sleeve with venue and track listings provided on the inner CD sleeve, individual members are featured on the covers, sleeves and discs using era relevant pictures that tie the whole box together.
KISSTORY 1-2 (MB-02 A/B)
Forum De Montreal, Montreal, Canada – July 12, 1977
Disc 1 (78;13) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Take Me, Calling Dr. Love, Hooligan, Love Gun, Firehouse, Ladies Room, Christine Sixteen, I Stole Your Love, Shock Me, Ace’s Solo, I Want You, Makin’ Love, Gene’s Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter’s Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, Beth, Black Diamond
The first disc features the earliest known recording from the Love Gun tour, the band’s stop in Montreal, Quebec, Canada was the third date. The Love Gun tour was dubbed the Can-Am tour since the band played their longest tour of Canada till then. The Love Gun tour is an easy fan favorite largely due to the costumes and staging were at their 70’s peak, lots of pyro and hydraulics made for many memorable images. The recording itself is a very good audience source, it is clear and detailed with great balance and if anything it is just a tad distant and a bit thin sounding and sounds great when cranked to 11. The audience sounds rather reserved compared to the more popular recordings from California, the taper found a sweet spot as there is no real interference near him. There has been a previous release of this show, Montreal Canada 77 (Concert Production International) is a four LP set featuring the complete concert as well as ALIVE II studio outtakes.
There are a couple if things that make this recording unique, first it is the only recording on the tour where Detroit Rock City would be the opening song, it would move to the encores and I Stole Your Love would take its place as found on the Daily City, CA a month later. This is also the first recording of Peter Criss’ Hooligan, a song that would only be played on this short tour. The Love Gun material is very well integrated into the set and the audience is responsive to it, so much that at the end of I Want You someone says “I Want You Too”. Some of Paul’s raps sound a bit un polished for lack of a better word, he would improve upon them as the tour progresses. Great to see a rare recording get some much needed attention, audio recordings from this short tour are rare in the collectors market, this one fills a nice gaps and is a joy to listen too. The front cover, inner sleeve, and CD features the Catman, Peter Criss.
Civic Center, Providence, RI, USA – July 31, 1979
Disc 2 (75:47) King Of The Night Time World, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Move On, Calling Dr. Love, Firehouse, New York Groove, I Was Made For Loving You, Christine Sixteen, 2000 Man, Ace’s Solo, Gene’s Solo, God Of Thunder, Peter’s Solo, Shout It Out Loud, Black Diamond, Detroit Rock City, Beth, Rock And Roll All Nite. Bonus Track: Peter Criss’ Ad For Budweiser
Bootlegs from the Dynasty tour are very few and far between, billed as “The Return Of KISS” the tour was well represented but most cite the tour as the original groups last gasp. First off Dynasty managed to alienate their early hard rock fan base with is disco (sucks) styled single I Was Made For Loving You and overall pop feeling. Secondly Peter Criss was not in good shape, his drug use and “hooligan” shenanigans made him very hard to deal with and were getting worse. With so few documents of this tour in the collectors market, this disc is very welcomed. The audience recording is in the solid good range, it’s a bit distant and has great balance yet it’s just a bit fuzzy but the recording picks up the atmosphere perfectly. As the liner notes state this date was added after the first show, Aug 1, sold out and the arena was only half full making for an ideal taping situation, the taper had to flip the tape during Love Gun so the label decided to cut the small fragment of the song.
First thing turn this up, it is a really good performance by the band, the playing is cohesive and Peter is playing well. Case in point is the second number Let Me Go Rock And Roll, his fills harken back to five years prior! The tour also found the group trying to incorporate music from each of their solo recordings into the set, by this point Gene and Peter’s contributions had been dropped yet Paul’s Move On and Ace’s New York Groove were certainly worthy of their places in the set. Unlike previous tours the band would play a scant two songs from Dynasty, their crossover hit I Was Made For Loving You and Ace’s cover of the Stones’ 2,000 Man, the later took the place of Shock Me for Ace’s always enjoyable solo spot. In hindsight you can see that contrary to popular beliefs (Paul and Gene) Ace was the one who really wanted to play rock and roll. There is some noise on the tape associated with the master itself that plagues the guitar solo, the tape splice is very well handled, in fact you would not even know it was there if you didn’t know where Love Gun was. There is a cool bonus track, Peter Criss’ musical ad for Budweiser, clocking in at 28 seconds featuring Criss’ singing a typical jingle that is most interesting. The back cover, inner sleeve, and Cd feature the StarChild Paul Stanley.
KISSTORY 3-4 (MB-02 C/D)
Le Bourget, Paris, France – September 27, 1980
Disc 3 (76:56) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Calling Dr. Love, Firehouse, Talk To Me, Is That You?, 2000 Man, Ace’s Solo, I Was Made For Loving You, New York Groove, Love Gun, Gene’s Solo, God Of Thunder, Eric’s Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud
Disc 4 (73:58) King Of The Night Time World, Black Diamond
After the success of Dynasty (yes it was a success) the band re groups with producer Vini Poncia to record the very under whelming Unmasked. We all know that Peter did not play on the record and while his image was on the LP cover he was not a functioning member of the band. His swan song with the group would be the lip sync video for Shandi. With Criss out of the group, they hold auditions and hire Eric Carr and with their brand damaged in America, abroad there was great interest in the group so they wisely book a European tour to support Unmasked. There was also some love coming from the collectors market as several of the European tours found their way to the vinyl bootleg market, this recording from Paris is just one of those releases. Initially released as French KISS (Kornyphon Records TAKRL MK-2021/22 A/B/C/D), a double LP of the entire show. French KISS (Dance and Ball 260 462 A/B/C/D) was a release that featured full color sleeve in similar quality. Viva’ Le France (Gypsy Eye Records GE-219-220) featured audio taken from an LP transfer in acceptable quality.
For this new box set, the label boasts to be from the master tape as the quality of the recording is the best I have heard. Cleaner, brighter, with much better dynamics than the old Gypsy Eye title this is the best I have ever heard. The recording is excellent and sometimes has been mislabeled as a soundboard source. It has great balance and depth and like most excellent audience sources picks up the ambience of the hall and captures the spirit of the performance perfectly. The taper was in a sweet spot and there is no interference in the vicinity and for maximum enjoyment this needs to be loud. The addition of the hard hitting Carr on drums infuses much needed energy into KISS, the band’s performances on the European tour are excellent, they had up and coming NWOBHM stars Iron Maiden as openers yet there was no doubt who were the stars. The set list is a nice cross section of klassics and new material with the live setting giving a harder edge to the newer Dynasty and Unmasked material. In fact if you listen to this show and the Providence 79 show back to back the difference is staggering, the band are once again a hard hitting live unit. The last track is Paul’s 30 second commercial for Folgers coffee, as I wrote this portion and was playing it I could hear my wife in the next room laugh out loud, yes it’s that funny. The cover, sleeve, and Cd feature The Fox Eric Carr, the true star of this concert!
Ruhr Stadium, Bochum, Germany – August 28, 1988
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, Shout It Out Loud, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City. Bonus Track; Paul Stanley’s Ad for Folgers
Fast forward to the Crazy Nights tour, after a long American tour the band returns to Europe during the summer of 1988 to take part in the massive Monster Of Rock Donnington Festival as well as the five date stadium festival tour that followed. Since Crazy Crazy Nights had been popular on the charts, KISS would also add their own 18 gig headlining tour as well. The Monsters Of Rock shows were somewhat of a first for KISS, it was the first time they would open a concert for an act who used to open for them (Iron Maiden) and the band played to the largest audiences in Europe to that point.
This recording is new to the collectors market, it is a good audience source, as one would expect for a recording in a stadium with 40,000 metal fans, the quality is distant and does move around a bit. The sound is clear and fairly well balanced as you can hear all the instruments and vocals. After a few songs the sound does stabilize a bit and captures the event nicely, do not hesitate to turn up the volume for maximum enjoyment. By this point of the Crazy Nights tour, the band had added more klassics to the set and the audience response to the band is positive, this energy comes full circle from band to audience and back top the group who deliver an excellent performance. The band waste little time of their sixty minute set on long tedious rants. The new material is well received, No No No is really powerful, the band give a nod to the mighty Led Zeppelin by playing a bit of Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love before Fits Like A Glove. The back cover, sleeve and Cd feature guitar God Bruce Kulick.
KISSTORY 5-6 (MB-02 E/F)
Halle Des Festes, Lausanne, Switzerland – November 15, 1983
Disc 5 (77:49) Intro, Creatures Of The Night, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Fits Like A Glove, Firehouse, Paul’s Solo, Exciter, War Machine, Gimme More, Vinnie’s Solo, Gene’s Solo, I Live It Loud, I Still Love You, Eric’s Solo, Young And Wasted, Love Gun
Disc 6 (77:33) Black Diamond, Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite
One of the great things about KISSTORY is being able to look at how the band changed to adapt to the current musical climates. By 1983 hard rock was again in favor and with a bit of timing and publicity, the band would make the most dramatic change in their history, to take off the make up. With MTV on their side they went unmasked for the first time and did it to coincide with a new record, the brilliant Lick It Up. The publicity would help generate much needed interest and more importantly, money into the band. Having weathered the loss of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, the band was playing with a chip on its shoulder yet the inner turmoil was still present. Their hot shot guitar player, Vinnie Vincent did not mesh with Gene and Paul, yet onstage the music they played was at a high and consistent level.
From what the liner notes say, the recording from Lausanne, Switzerland is new to circulation, the label used the master tape and cleaned it up by correcting the speed and a few channel issues. Whatever they did kudos to them as this is a great sounding recording. Easily falling in the very good range, the audience source is clear and well balanced with a nice range of frequencies, if just a tad bit distant. There is very little audience interference and sounds great loud. By this time KISS was a powerful force, current musical trends found the band playing at a faster tempo and they were now a very tight unit. Eric Carr’s drumming was excellent and he was incorporating more and more fills into the songs and coupled with the underrated yet incredible lead guitar chops of Vincent made for maximum enjoyment, in fact the 82-84 era is my second favorite time in KISSTORY, this concert backs up this statement in spades. The set list also reflected these trends, gone was the early 80’s pop styling’s and in their place current hard rock with the majority of the set being made up of music from Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up plus a few klassics thrown in. The cover, sleeve, and CD feature shredder extraordinar Vinnie Vincent.
SIR Studios New York, NY, USA – November 30, 1984
Rip It Out, Audio / Video, Cold Gin, Give It To Me Anyway, Dolls, Breakout, Back Into My Arms, Animal, Ace Solo, New York Groove, We Got Your Rock, Remember Me. Bonus Track; Ace Frehley’s Ad for Dunkin Donuts
The remainder of disc 6 is culled from a showcase featuring Ace Frehley’s new project; Frehley’s Comet. After exiting KISS the spaceman had gotten his act together and had been writing new music and started playing some live dates. While the first Frehley’s Comet record would not be released for another three years, the group would record at least three demo tapes before signing to Megaforce Records. The recording featured here is actually a matrix of a very good yet dry soundboard and a very good audience recording. The audio quality is excellent, clear and thanks to the audience source, atmospheric yet it retains an intimacy brought by the audience source. The line up was Ace on guitar and vocals, Ritchie Scarlet on guitar, John Regan on bass, Arthur Stead on keys and the great Anton Fig on drums.
The most interesting part of this recording is the unreleased material, songs like Audio/ Video, Give It To Me Anyway, Back Into My Arms, and I’m An Animal all appear on his demo tapes and circulate in the bootleg market so to have excellent live versions of them is a treat. The Comet is a great band, they play a tight set of the new music plus some solo Ace and the usual KISS klassics thrown in. Ace’s vocals are really good and his lead playing is really great, this tape is historically important and from a sound and performance aspect, very enjoyable. To round off this excellent disc we get a 25 second Dunkin Donuts commercial featuring Ace Frehley, certainly the most enjoyable of the commercials on this box, it manages to capture Ace’s fun loving spirit. The back cover, sleeve, and Cd feature…you guessed it Space Ace sans make up, in all his glory.
KISSTORY 7-8 (MB-02 G/H)
War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN, USA – December 7, 1984
Disc 7 (79:26) Intro, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Creatures Of The Night, Fits Like A Glove, Heaven’s On Fire, Thrills In The Night, Paul’s Solo, Under The Gun, War Machine, Eric’s Solo, Young And Wasted, Gene’s Solo, I Love It Loud, I Still Love You, Love Gun, Black Diamond
Disc 8 (79:42) Lick It Up, Rock And Roll All Nite
After the Vincent departure and the Mark St John tragedy (I call it a tragedy, great player loosing his ability and never really recovered…RIP) the band finally gets some much needed stability with the addition of Bruce Kulick. In the liner notes for this set it states “Bruce was the only worthy successor to Ace Frehley” and while I love me some VV, I have to agree. Bruce is a stellar musician whose style was rooted in 70’s rock with a flair for the current styles blended together like rock star blood into ink. He was first hired to fill in for St John while he received treatment and fit in perfectly with the group, playing and personality wise. While St John played a few sporadic dates with the band it was obvious he would not return and was officially fired on December 7, 1984, Bruce Kulick officially became a permanent member the next day. Animalize continued on the success of Lick It Up, thanks to MTV the band saw record sales and concert attendances up and with three excellent records in a row, KISS was back.
The recording from Ft Wayne, IN is a very good audience source, it’s very clear and atmospheric with a full range of frequencies. There is no real audience noise near the taper (am I sounding like a broken record or what? No these are just some decent audience recordings!), it has great balance and the atmosphere is perfectly captured. A sole track, Thrills In The Night from this concert was released on While The City Sleeps (Godfatherecords G.R. 714/715) in similar quality now we are treated to the full show. Such was the group’s confidence that a scant five klassics are in the set, the rest is all current output, and the results are staggering. The band plays like a group possessed, I am guessing that this was very satisfying for Paul in particular as he was the guiding force during this period as Gene was doing his movie star thing. Listen to this band! The playing is tight, confident, and full of energy as they steam roll 6,500 Hoosiers under their musical prowess…great show. Gene is the cover boy for this show, he is on the front cover, sleeve and CD.
Roxy Theater, Northampton, PA, USA – March 19, 1975
Deuce, Strutter, Got To Choose, Hotter Than Hell, Firehouse, She, Ace’s Solo, Nothing To Lose, Parasite, Gene’s Solo, 100,000 Years, Peter’s Solo, Black Diamond, C’Mon And Love Me, Let Me Go Rock And Roll, Cold Gin
Dressed To Kill. Over time the record has grown on me so much that it has taken Hotter Than Hell of its lofty pedestal and become my favorite KISS album. Recorded with their backs to the wall and with no money for production, the band pulls out a diamond. The record would spawn a bit of a hit in Rock And Roll All Nite yet the band was still using a heaving touring schedule to make their name. Taking on all comers the band seemed like they would play anywhere, anytime and their hard work and belief in themselves was beginning to pay off. Having taken a whole month off to record Dressed To Kill, the band returned to the road with two shows at a small theater in Northampton, Pennsylvania. With its close proximity to New York City, The Roxy Theater attracted many notably names in rock such as Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Rush all played the tiny theater in the mid 70’s.
March 19, 1975 found KISS playing two sold out shows, an early show at 6:30 and the late show was at 9:30 pm. The recording featured here is the complete second show, it is an audience recording that falls into the fair to good range. It is muffled and the bass frequencies are strong yet it is clear with the vocals and instruments being heard with the bass in the foreground. When Gene is not playing or between songs the sound clears dramatically. There is thankfully no real audience interference, you can tell the audience is into the show yet the band sound a bit isolated in the small venue. The set list is standard and the same as the Hotter Than Hell tour, none of the material from the freshly recorded Dressed To Kill is in the set, save for the brilliant She that was a concert staple since the previous year. Historically significant as the earliest known Dressed To Kill recording makes this an excellent addition to this set, yet one that will not bear repeated listening’s. Ace is again on the back cover, sleeve, and CD yet this time in his 70’s make up and costume…brilliant!
KISSTORY 9-10 (MB-02 I/L)
Toad’s Place, New Haven CT, USA – March 12, 1989
Disc 9 (78:50) Intro, I Stole Your Love, I Want You, Tears Are Falling, Tonight You Belong To Me, C’Mon And Love Me, Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me, Heaven’s On Fire, Hide Your Heart, I Still Love You, Band Members Introduction, New York Groove, Crazy Crazy Nights, Reason To Live, Lick It Up, Let’s Put The X In Sex, Love Gun, Goodbye, Communication Breakdown, Detroit Rock City
Paul’s first solo tour in early 1989 was an exorcism for him, he had to get away from KISS, specifically the Demon who Paul had felt berated him. With no expectations to live up to, Paul put his solo band together, Bob Kulick, Bruce’s older brother who had worked as session guitarist on more than a few KISS records was an easy choice, he brought in bassist Dennis St James and KISS had used Gary Corbett on the Crazy Nights tour. That left only the drummer, by this time Eric Singer had a decent resume, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, and Badlands. Eric auditioned and was a perfect fit.
With no new solo material record to promote, Paul played a set list of whatever he wanted, mostly klassic KISS tunes plus a few songs from his 1978 solo record and a couple gems thrown in for good measure. The recording from Toads Place in New Haven, Connecticut has been in circulation for some time. It is a semi pro recording of excellent quality, superb sounding well balanced are all qualities the recording contains. It picks up the vibe of the room and the performance very well and to be blunt, is a joy to listen too. It has seen a prior release, Tonight You Belong To Me (Shadow Play SP 1004/1005) was a two disc set covering the complete show. It should be noted that there is a semi pro video of the concert as well, it has circulated amongst traders forever, feel free to check it out on youtube.
In his autobiography Face The Music, Paul spoke about the importance of the tour as a rebuilding of his confidence and his desire for acceptance and the difficulty of his relationship with Gene. One listen to this and you can here the passion he has for HIS music and while the band sticks to the original structures of the songs, they certainly put their stamp on them. This was one hell of a band and much is due to the excellent playing of Bob Kulick, the guy is a beast! A few of the gems for me are a brilliant Hide Your Heart, a great take on Ace’s New York Groove….”I’m not Ace Frehley”, a great moment of spontaneity and a nod to one of Paul’s favorite bands Led Zeppelin. A great and fun performance, like any great performance, the energy pulls you in. Of course Paul takes center stage for the packaging, he adorns the front cover, inner sleeve, and CD.
Riverfront Park, Nashville, TN, USA – July 30, 1994
Disc 10 (76:27) Intro, Deuce, I Stole Your Love, Parasite, Domino, Got To Choose, Calling Dr. Love, Lick It Up, Strutter, She, Makin’ Love, Going Blind, War Machine, Love Gun, I Love It Loud, Detroit Rock City, Black Diamond, Heaven’s On Fire. Bonus Track; Gene Simmon’s Ad for Dr Pepper, KISS’ Ad For Pepsi
The early 90’s were again tough years for KISS, they spent tremendous energy during the 80’s trying to keep up, yet by the time grunge became the big thing the band had little desire to do it all again. Instead they began to embrace their fan base by playing sets that dug deep into their back catalog. For a couple years their touring in America was just a few sporadic dates, they did play some large South American shows and toured Japan as well. For the last disc on this set we are transported back to 1994 where KISS made a one off appearance in Nashville as part of the NAMM Convention and a celebration of Gibson Guitars 100 year anniversary. Held in an outside setting on the Cumberland River, the band delivered a brilliant set of pretty much old school, badass KISS tunes.
The recording is a good to very good audience source. It is a slightly distant recording, the vocals and drums are prominent in the mix with the guitars a but buried. Paul asks the crowd how they are in different sections after Parasite so we know this was recorded on a side, what one I do not know. There are occasional whoo and hoos but that is to be expected but for the most part the audience seems to really enjoy the band and they return the love with a great performance. Some real nice deep tracks on hear, Got To Choose and Going Blind are great to hear. By this time the band had almost come full circles and in hind sight their reunion with Ace and Peter was really their saving grace. An excellent show and great way to close out this box set. What? there something missing? Yes there is. We have heard ads from the other three original members so to close out this set proper lets here from God Of Thunder himself, Mr Moneybags Gene Simmons. In true Simmons fashion, his ad is for Dr Pepper Cherry, what else would it be? We also get a quick KISS ad for Pepsi that is quick and to the point. The back cover, inner sleeve, and CD feature the new kid, Eric Singer.
There you have it, ten CD’s packed with KISSTORY, excellent content coupled with superb packaging make for a comprehensive look at KISS. Folks, this is how it’s done.