Being a die hard KISS fan for almost 30 years now, this new release posed some challenges to my loyalties. I’ve read the comments ranging from the tunnel visioned “The greatest album ever!”, to the equally closed minded “They sucked then, they suck now” routine. I really believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, I know this is the 6th collection of live material from “The Masters Of Bombastic Musical Theatrics” (if you count “Unplugged” and “You Wanted The Best…”), but face it…that’s what these boys do best…Perform Live. In my book, it’s just plusses and minuses as to how good (or bad) this album is.MINUS: This is, for the most part (actually, with the sole exception of “Psycho Circus”), a rehash of the live stuff that made them the kings of the stadium shows in the 70’s and 80’s…and that they have continued to exploit for the last 7 years with nothing new or original to be seen anywhere in the near future.PLUS: This collection has some of the best live recordings of these songs ever released, most notably “Let Me Go Rock & Roll”, “God Of Thunder”, and “Black Diamond”. There are also some songs that have never been released live before…”Psycho Circus”, “Shandi”, and “Great Expectations” (which lends itself incredibly well to this format), so there is a trace of uniqueness to this particular live set.MINUS: Some of the songs don’t sound as good with full orchestration.PLUS: Some of the songs sound absolutely incredible (far better than the originals) with full orchestration, especially “Beth”, “God Of Thunder”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Great Expectations” (a pleasant surprise), “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (I HATED the studio version), and “Black Diamond” (speaking of which, if you like this, check out Yoshiki’s (X-Japan) piano version on the “KISS My Ass” tribute album). And I thought that “King Of The Night Time World” wouldn’t rock with strings…WRONG!MINUS: Ace Frehley isn’t playing with the band.PLUS: Tommy Thayer is playing with the band. And he can hold his own. But I agree with some of the critics that the band should have given him his own character, as they did with Eric Carr, and Vinnie Vincent. Ace was and always will be the Spaceman, and it isn’t fair to Tommy or the fans to keep him in Ace’s makeup for the sake of BIG BUSINESS. Tommy is an excellent guitar player, and deserves to be recognized…as himself. This isn’t as obvious in a strictly audio production, but once the DVD comes out…MINUS: The concert is heavily edited, and the recording uses only 96 of the 140 or so available CD minutes.PLUS: Although not really a plus for the CD itself, the whole shebang will be out on DVD soon, and should contain the entire concert, uncut. As was the case with McCartney’s “Back In The USA”, the DVD and CD will compliment each other (although, in Mac’s case, the CD had more tunes), and besides, this gives the group a chance to capitalize on the extra material (a plus for them rather than us).TOTAL: So, maybe it all balances out in the end. Overall, this CD is an excellent live collection of what have obviously been overplayed songs (c’mon…6 live albums, and no fewer than 5 greatest hits collections). I think it would have been in the band’s best future interests to have included 4 or 5 more different (previously unreleased live) songs to really make this set a gem, but they didn’t… So, it all comes down to what you value in your musical selections. If you value originality, this CD isn’t for you. If you are a diehard fan, it is a “must have”. But if you listen before you make a judgment, enjoy good “in your face” rock and roll with a slightly different twist, and don’t care if you’ve heard the songs before, then I believe you will find that this CD will make an interesting and worthwhile addition to your collection.