Symphony (Alive IV)


Sanctuary Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


Tell me again why KISS didn't call this Destroyer and Symphony 2003? They should have.

KISS pulls 7 of the 9 songs on their 1976 release in a fit of nostalgia that is a dream come true for KISS fans. Destroyer has stood the test of time as being a pinnacle of the band's career, a treasure that some question . And that's not all. Recorded in Melbourne, Australia, on February 28, 2003, KISS, the ultimate party band, is playing alongside a symphony. KISS ramps up to playing with their additional band members by playing 6 songs as a quartet to start out the evening. They then introduce a wind ensemble and play 5 songs. Finally, they play 11 songs with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble.

If you discovered KISS in the 80s, you're basically out of luck. The band wants you to forget the hype they created when they unmasked in 1983 and took off their makeup, much in the same way they wanted you to forget that they used to wear makeup after they no longer wore makeup. It's one thing to discount an entire CD when it is a truly awful CD, but to neglect the years that now-deceased drummer Eric Carr and guitarist Bruce Kulick contributed to the band <not to mention drummer Eric Singer and guitarists Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John> is a crime. Missing from this release are stellar tracks like "Rise to It" from Hot in the Shade, "No No No" and "Bang Bang You" from Crazy Nights, or "God Gave Rock and Roll to You," "Take it Off," "Domino," or "Spit" from Revenge. Hell, even "Burn Bitch Burn" from Animalizemy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is missing.

But none of those songs from the 80s have maintained their popularity like the tracks they have included. KISS is smart to recognize that their 70s success has made them rich and that fans at a KISS show, as demonstrated by demanding outrageous prices during their not-so-farewell farewell tour. People want to hear "Strutter" again. They salivate at the idea of hearing "Deuce." KISS could have easily excluded "Psycho Circus" from this release, substituting it with another gem from the 70s like "Hotter than Hell" or "Firehouse" during the band's 'solo' opening set.

The second set, where the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble joins the band on stage is the strongest set of the evening. "Beth" kicks off this set and finally, the song gets performed as it was recorded, strings and piano contrasting the rest of the band's material. Launching immediately into Hot in the Shade's "Forever," the band is smoking. Substitute lead guitarist Tommy Thayer nails the solo on this song that would make original soloist on this song, Bruce Kulick, smile. Pulling from the Hotter than Hell release, "Goin' Blind" On the other hand, the inclusion of "Shandi" from Unmasked is well-deserved. The song is a mid-tempo ballad and the symphonic arrangement goes along with the riff of the song. The trumpets during the song's introduction are a nice touch. The funk bass intro of Dynasty's "Sure Know Something" spotlights the Simmons/Criss rhythm section.

The final set, rich in Destroyer-era material, is a long haul. "Detroit Rock City" followed by its usual follow-up "King of the Night Time World" launch the band into its final hurrah on this release. The steady backbeat of drummer Peter Criss introduces "Do You Love Me." Perhaps the most satisfying orchestral arrangement, this version features interesting string arrangements that compliment the performance, offering additional melody lines during the verse. It is not just KISS and a symphony on the same stage - this song is the two elements playing together. Pity the song barely cracks four minutes.

As you may expect, this release ends with two of KISS' biggest commercial successes: "I was Made for Loving You" and "Rock and Roll All Nite." For a song that the band once distanced themselves from because of the disco beat, this song sounds like it should have always had an orchestra. "Rock and Roll All Nite," the unmistakable anthem of all parties, features an extended crowd participation section during which the crowd is encouraged by guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley to spit back the title of the song until it's coming out of your ears. This is not a great release, but it is a great KISS release - meaning that if you are a fan of the band, you will be able to latch onto these versions of your favorites. Gems like "Love Gun" and "Shout it Out Loud" in addition to the entire set with the Symphony Ensemble make this a worthy release. If you are looking for an example of great symphonic music, remember who you are dealing with. KISS is a party band - make no mistake that partying and having fun is the focus of this release.

Rating: B

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© 2003 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.