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Symphony: Alive IV

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★★★½☆
(181 Reviews)

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Limited edition digipak with raised lettering and an exclusive poster.In the Kiss universe, more is always, well, more. With this latest installment in the masked rock marauders’ live franchise, they have gilded the already overweening lily even more by hiring the 60-piece Melbourne Symphony to accompany them on 10 tracks. Like those who have gone before them–from Deep Purple’s coupling with the London Philharmonic Orchestra back in 1970 to Metallica’s 1999 pairing with the San Francisco Symphony–Kiss’s symphonic partners add a dimension and complexity hitherto absent from their hard-rock ethos. But that’s not necessarily a good thing since Kiss are true American primitives, and their anthemic songs work best in their raw, unvarnished state. The addition of the orchestra muddies their trademark sound: at times Paul Stanley’s bombastic in-your-face delivery is strangled by an aggressive army of strings, which also tend to totally subsume Gene Simmons’s sturdy bass playing. The symphony musicians (who all performed in Kiss makeup) are best appreciated on a lumbering beast of a song like ”God of Thunder,” where they become an ominous presence adding menacing sound effects and a chilling dynamic as Simmons croaks out the lyrics, or on ”Beth,” the band’s Top 10 ballad, which brandished strings in its original form. For those who aren’t enamored of the pairing of black tie and black leather, Kiss has considerately included six unadorned tracks, as well as six never-before-performed-live acoustic versions of classic hits. –Jaan Uhelszki

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  • The only (and I mean ONLY) reason to buy this disc is if you’re a hard-core fan and absolutely *must* have the bonus track on it. And if you ask me, having KISS fans buy Alive IV *twice* to get all the material from the shows is a pretty lame thing for Gene Simmons to do (tho not surprising). Instead, buy the two-disc limited-edition version of Alive IV (or even better – buy the DVD) and purchase the bonus track from one of the music download services.

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • So Alive IV finally came out after being promised to the KISS Army for, what, two or three years now? This KISS Symphony is waaaaaaaaaay better than what the original incarnation of ALive IV was supposed to be (the Millenium New Year’s show in Vancouver). And who can blame KISS for taking the opportunity to fix their old record label’s mistake (delay after delay of Alive IV and finally missing the boat completely when KISS left to start their own label) by finding something that they had never done yet – play with an orchestra. Tommy Thayer shines through as the Space Man of Right Now, Peter is back behind the kit where he belongs (E. Singer is great, but No), Gene keeps things tight on the bass, and Paul is, well, hard to shut up between songs. The biggest treat for KISS fans are the performances of Lick It Up, Forever, Shandi, and Great Expectations, all songs never recorded live in make-up. This version of Lick It Up is also the best version I’ve ever heard played. The show-stopper is God of Thunder with the orchestra adding even more ominous tones to an all ready dark arrangement – Gene had to be happy to with getting the top draw.Overall it’s not fair to compare this to the other three Alive albums, this one plays by its own rules. 4 out of 5 stars since Ace didn’t show up to play.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve always been a Kiss fan but ever since the reunion of the original line-up in 1996 their (old) songs have been rehashed and repackaged too often. The DVD version of Symphony is AWESOME and the sales figures of it say it all: Kiss is an audio-visual spectacle, hence the excellent sales of the DVD. On double CD -especially the ‘limited’ (ahum…) edition digi-pack – the band rocks equally fantastic but the general audience didn’t buy the album so saleswise the CD version failed miserable. Let me make clear that this album deserved to be #1 but this cheaply repackaged single disc…. what a joke !!! The beautiful digi-pack double CD only costs some $ 4 more than this sh**ty CD and who oh who is gonna buy it then ??? If you want this CD, spend the $ 4 extra and get the digi-pack double CD.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve been a Kiss fan since 1976 so i was really weary about purchasing a live album featuring the makeup lineup minus ACE and also a performance with an orchestra.In some cases their concept worked and in some it didn’t…First i must point out that their is an energy present from the band that i haven’t felt in many years.They really sound hungry again most likely because they want this concept to work so much yet i sense also for the first time a sense of insecurity.You can hear it in Paul Stanley’s comments between songs such as “Is this Cool?”The band knows deep down that it’s pretty sad that they have to resort to putting a guy from a Kiss tribute band in Ace Frehley’s makeup and costume and sell this off.The fact that no one can deny is that Tommy Thayer can look like Ace but he will never be Ace Frehley.Ace Frehley composed those guitar parts for those songs and he gave Kiss their raw unchained sound which Tommy does not have.Ace also invented his space Ace character not Tommy.Paul Stanley says that Kiss is not about one member but i must disagree with the point that Ace gave Kiss their sound with his guitar playing.Basically Paul is saying that any member is replaceable in a rock band.DO YOU THINK THAT LED ZEPPELIN COULD REPLACE JIMMY PAGE…I DON’T THINK SO!The sound from a great guitarist comes from his soul and you can not reproduce someone’s soul.Anyway here is my review.Side one starts off with the usual and overplayed crowd pleasers of “deuce” and “strutter” which are played effectively and with big gutsy bombast.Gene Simmons is really pumped as you can hear him screaming during the opening of “deuce”, “Let me hear you!”..and the fans just eat it up. I was most impressed with “Lick it Up” as they tear it up with a new arrangement and an exciting mid tempo stop where Paul tells the audience to “Clap your hands”. Tommy also provides some blistering leads which add to this highlight.”Calling Dr.love” is lackluster and is missing it’s bite but “Psycho Circus” is a roaring beast live.Sadly,Peter Criss’s drum playing is mediocre through most of the concert with sloppy fills and very weak sound. The acoustic set begins and unfortunately songs from “Unplugged” are played AGAIN… WHY not play something different like “Hard Luck Woman” or “Reason to Live”.Anyway “Shandi” is exciting and inspired as the band responds to australia’s curious love for this song and “Forever” is seen in a new tender light with the help of the melbourne ensemble strings.Side 2 is a mixed bag as some of the songs work with the full orchestra and some don’t.”Black Diamond” and “I Was made for loving you” are tailor made for the orchestra band blend but tunes such as “Love Gun” and “Do You Love me” fall flat.The orchestra just gets in the way of these songs and more than anything become a nuisance to the songs original uncultivated rawness.Finally we come to the expected closer of “Rock and Roll all Nite” which surpisingly rips like it never has before and is one of the most exciting moments ever in live rock n’ roll history.It’s unbelieveable.So to sum it up… a mixed bag hitting some high’s and some major low’s but those high’s might just make it worth your dollar…..O.F.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 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.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now