Shogun Assassins (Golden Eggs EGG-145)
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – April 2, 1977
(72:22) 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 Criss Solo, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, Beth, Black Diamond
KISS played four concerts at the famed Nippon Budokan during their inaugural visit to Japan in spring 1977. Two of the four concerts took place on April 2, an afternoon and evening performance, both were professionally recorded and filmed for eventual broadcast on Japan’s Young Music Show and a couple years later on HBO in North America. There are at least two other sources for these two concerts, The Burning Hellfire The Complete April 2, 1977 (Tarantura TCDKIS-4,5,6A,6B) and Burning Hellfire (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-823/824) feature separate audience recordings. Of course the video made its official debut on the incredible KISSOLOGY Volume One: 1974-1977.
For this new title, the folks at Golden Eggs present the evening show from what is being billed as soundboard in stunning quality. The sound certainly lives up to the bill. After listening to audio samples of the known soundboard on youtube and the first disc of the Tarantura Burning Hellfire release, this recording is a different source. I am unsure if this new recording is a conventional soundboard source and based upon the timbre of the recording, I summarize this is an open air mic recording versus a straight line recording. First off you can clearly hear the venue echo specifically during Paul’s between song raps. Secondly the audience is close to the microphones, I’ve listened to this concert very close and did not pick up any muffled audience talk or mic bumps one would associate with an audience recording, but there is more audience presence than is found on a typical soundboard. Mr. Peach was in very close proximity to the stage and his recording features a lot of crowd noise as you could feel the excitement near him. An open air mic set up makes sense, you get the benefit of excellent music sound plus the added atmosphere of the hall ambiance.
The sound quality is indeed excellent, the balance is near perfect, at times Ace’s guitar is a tad low in the mix. It has a very powerful sound, Gene’s bass has a thick sound giving it a punch and this sounds incredible when played loud. I like the mastering employed by the Eggs team, clear and crisp highs, thick lows, excellent range of frequencies with a nice warm analog sound. KISS played a standard set during the Japanese tour so there’s no musical surprises, just a set made up of pure Rock and Roll. If anything the concert features a standard and workman like performance, the Japanese dates were the end of the tour so one does detect a bit of weariness in the performance. When listening back to back with the Peach tapes one gets the same feeling, the audience is enamored with the band making for a lively atmosphere. Also curious is that while listening to this Golden Eggs title, I find my review of the Tarantura title still relevant from a review and sound standpoint.
The band again takes the stage with the opening salvo of Detroit Rock City and Take Me. The audience seems to really enjoy Ladies Room tonight, they clap throughout the song, and the band delivers a great version of the song. Again one can refer to the KISSOLOGY video, the audience sounds crazy but they do so within the confines of their individual seats. Firehouse gets a huge cheer from the crowd, it’s great to hear the older songs as the band play them with such confidence and the audience clap throughout, they love the music too. Gene’s bass can be clearly heard and really gives the song its groove. Makin’ Love is spectacular, with its Led Zep riff the song really works well live, Ace rips a great solo to boot and the ending of the song featuring the band locked in to the riff just hammers the audience to great effect. I Want You follows, the opening track on Rock And Roll Over and arguably the strongest song on the record, the guitar riff is wicked and Paul also interjects the call and response portion based upon the Chorus much to the delight of the audience. Speaking of the audience, while not as loud screaming wise they are certainly into the show, they are more into the clapping and singing along, Paul does a great job getting his point across as he is a master showman.
Peter’s drum intro to Do You Love Me? has the audience clapping along, I have stated it many times that this is one of my favorite KISS songs, even though he did not write it, Paul sings it as if he did and seems as if it was coming from his perspective. The harmony guitar section is great, Paul and Ace locked in tight and for an arena the size of the Budokan the recording sound way more intimate. Gene’s bass solo that starts the second disc sounds massive in this capture, as if some larger monster was moaning from the depths, the crowd roar their approval as the Demon devours the stage amid smoke and blood. God Of Thunder is played at Marshall tempo thanks to the wonderful drumming of Peter Criss, there does sound like there was a musical miscommunication just before Gene breaks into the first lines of the song. The audience is enamored with the song, they make their presence felt with some cheers and a lot of clapping. Peter plays another excellent drum solo clocking in at over 4 minutes, again the crowd cheer him on in fine fashion.
Rock And Roll All Nite is the culmination of the main set, it is the KISS anthem and the audience is part of the party for sure. Shout It Out Loud is the first encore, the audience’s enthusiasm is at a high point and they clap along with the band to great effect. The band leave the stage and the crowd wants more, they cheer and clap for another solid three minutes before the opening stains of Beth bring the house down. What can be said about Beth, simply a beautiful song and how fitting that the band’s first massive hit was from Peter. The audience respectfully claps almost quietly during the song making for an emotional rendition, Peter gives a heartfelt “Thank you” at its conclusion. The final encore is the classic Black Diamond, Beth ignited the flames that could only be quenched by the song. The audience quiets as Paul plays the opening chords of the song, Paul says “Hit It” and the band (and audience) erupt in celebration. Peter’s vocals are spot on, while there have been three drummers who have sang the song, it is Peter who does it the best, his raspy and soulful vocals really make it special. Ace lays down the leads and the ending is quite dramatic, again it is Ace’s expressive leads that wring the last bit of energy from you.
The packaging is typically excellent, a tri gatefold sleeve with pictures from the Japanese tour, the one on the back taken from the rear of the stage is reminiscent of the Deep Purple Live In Japan record, the original Japan version of Made In Japan. The Tarantura and Empress Valley are deluxe editions and quite expensive, for those wanting to experience the power of KISS at the near pinnacle of the live powers, this Golden Eggs title is your ticket to the show.