Alive! is the first live album, and fourth overall, by American hard rock band Kiss. It is considered to be their breakthrough and a landmark for live albums. Released on September 10, 1975, the double-disc set contains live versions of selected tracks from their first three studio albums, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell and Dressed to Kill. It was recorded at concerts in Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Wildwood, New Jersey; and Davenport, Iowa on May 16, June 21, July 20 and July 23, 1975.
Despite their reputation and success as a live act, which emphasized theatrics as much as it did music, their notoriety did not translate to increased record sales. Fans told the band that their albums were not capturing how the band sounded live, so the band decided to release a live album. Kiss was essentially surviving on then-manager Bill Aucoin's American Express card. Complicating matters was the fact that their label, Neil Bogart's Casablanca Records, was having financial difficulties of its own stemming from a major misstep. The label had released a double album of Johnny Carson monologues earlier in the year. However, the album was a flop, but Casablanca had pressed millions of copies in anticipation of it being a strong seller.
Casablanca, however, did think a Kiss live album would be a respectable seller. The album outperformed expectations as it was certified gold, becoming both Kiss' and Casablanca's first top 10 album. Years later, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons recounted that in the weeks after the release, they saw a significant increase in concert attendance. In the documentary Kiss: X-treme Close Up, Stanley remembers that at one particular show in Dayton, Ohio, "the place was packed; I mean you couldn't have gotten another person in with a shoehorn".
The album's title was an homage to the 1972 live album Slade Alive! from the English rock group Slade, a band that heavily influenced Kiss.
There has been considerable debate as to how much use was made of studio overdubs. In his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up, Simmons stated that very little corrective work was done in the studio and that most of the studio time was devoted strictly to mixing down the multi-track recordings. He also emphasized that Kiss could not have done extensive overdubbing even if they had wanted to; thanks in no small part to the Johnny Carson album fiasco, the extremely meager budget allotted to the band simply would not allow it.
According to Dale Sherman's book Black Diamond and Goldmine magazine, in the early 1990s, Eddie Kramer stated there were a few overdubs to correct the most obvious mistakes: strings breaking or off-key notes, for instance. However, in recent years, Kramer has stated that the only original live recording on the album is Peter Criss' drum tracks. Stanley has noted that there is a bass mistake in the choruses of "C'mon and Love Me". He has also made comments that even though there have been live albums recorded later that make Alive! sound like it was recorded in a washroom, he has no qualms about it. Criss has also claimed, in his 2012 autobiography Makeup to Breakup, that the only original live recordings on the album were his drum tracks.
During the program Classic Albums, the band members all stated that while many changes had been made, such as overdubbing vocals and mixing together various crowd sounds to get a more amplified sense of the "live" sound, they considered the changes minor. In particular, they stated that they only altered the noise of the crowd to better capture the feel of the actual performances, since the raw recordings only dimly picked up the audience. They also stated that they had difficulties capturing vocals due to the natural jumps, dancing, and other stage activities.
Alive! was first issued as a double-CD set in what has now become known as a "fatboy" 2CD case. When the Kiss back catalog was remastered, it was housed in a slimline 2CD case, and in keeping with the rest of the reissue program, had the artwork restored. Alive! was re-released in 2006 as part of the Kiss Alive! 1975–2000 box set. The short running time of Alive! allowed for a single, unedited CD edition in that release. The remastered CD edition eliminated the breaks between the four sides of the original LP release, resulting in that version of the album playing as one continuous performance. The 72-page booklet packaged with the CD set erroneously credited songwriting for "Cold Gin" to Stanley instead of Ace Frehley.
Alive! received positive reviews. Greg Prato of AllMusic rated the album 4.5 stars out of 5 and stated that "Alive! remains Kiss' greatest album ever." Robert Christgau rated the album a B-, stating that he and "the multimillion kids who are buying it" "fall into neither category" of those who regard the album "as a de facto best-of" and "those who regard it as the sludge."
In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, the album was rated 4 out of 5 stars. It was called "a nonstop Kiss-krieg of two-note guitar motifs, fake-sounding audience noise, and inspirational chitchat", but it was then restated as the next best thing to being there, clearly. Jason Josephes of Pitchfork rated it 10 out of 10 points and said that "the album may seem like a joke, mainly because it contains every arena rock cliche in the book", but called it "total sonic proof of Kiss climbing their apex".
Alive! peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 album charts, and charted for 110 weeks, by far the longest in the band's history. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 159 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, it was placed at No. 26 on Guitar World magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time. In 2009, the same magazine placed it at No. 3 on their list of Top 10 Live Albums.
"Alive! was the first album I ever bought," Soundgarden's Kim Thayil told Guitar World in 1992. "And I wasn't alone: you can hear their influence all over metal and punk."Side one
Paul Stanley - rhythm guitar, vocals
Ace Frehley - lead guitar, backing vocals
Gene Simmons - bass guitar, vocals
Peter Criss - drums, vocals
J.R. Smalling - spoken word introduction