For a long time I refused to even considered this record, due to the admission of overdubbing significant parts of this record after the fact. But, the thing is, everybody did this back then, or nearly everybody. Over time, we’ve learned that many of the great “live” albums featured extensive overdubs. (And some of them weren’t ever live in the first place! But just had dubbed in crowd noise.) So I figured, since this broke KISS like Frampton Comes Alive broke Peter Frampton, I should probably listen to it.
The good news is that KISS is much better live than in studio, whether or not some of these parts weren’t actually live. They were right to record this as their studio albums often don’t really convey what made them so popular. (That’s more true the later you go in their discography, in my experience.) And there’s only one audience participation number, which is a fucking miracle. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that KISS still remain unbelievably inane – their songs are dumb, their riffs are rarely not generic and one of their two lead singers is terrible. (Though, once again, I am don’t notice how clunky Simmons is on bass, so that’s a testament to either his initial performance or his overdubs.) In terms of bad material I didn’t know already, I’d like to single out “Cold Gin” which is a song written by a teetotaler about alcohol abuse.I may not have completely believed Simmons when he claimed he never drank on Family Jewels but now he’s convinced he has absolutely no idea about alcohol.
Stanley’s banter is also pretty damn dumb, but that’s par for the course for most live albums I’ve heard. The bigger problem is that it’s very clear that the stage show just doesn’t come across aurally (obviously). A huge part of this band’s appeal is the theatricality of their performances and, given that this is not something present in their actual music, it’s just absent from this.
And then, of course, there’s “100,000 Years”. In 1975 bands were still occasionally including audience participation numbers on their live albums but it was starting to become less common. Someone apparently figured out that the listener couldn’t figure out what is going on! But, if someone knew that when KISS made this record, they didn’t tell this band. It’s 12 minutes of mostly Peter Criss drumming while Paul Stanley occasionally yells at the crowd. If that sounds terrible to you, you’re right, it is absolutely awful.
But if you skip that track, this is the best KISS album I’ve ever heard. Sure, that’s damning with faint praise, but it’s definitely something.
6/10 if you could somehow eliminate “100,000 Years” from the track listing. So 5/10.