Released: 2006, VH1 Classic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Renowned for being one of the most bootlegged bands in heavy metal, KISS have finally taken charge and released KISSOLOGY: THE ULTIMATE KISS COLLECTION VOL. 1 – 1974-1977, the first in a series of DVDs featuring the classic shows that have been passing through underground fan circles in umpteenth-generation copies for over thirty years. Only instead of being those static-filled, scratchy videos we have become used to, these are the original first-generation masters taken directly from the KISS vault. Augmenting the four full live shows are various television appearances, promo clips and documentaries that span over six hours, plus a bonus third DVD featuring one of three shows depending where the set is purchased. In addition, an optional audio commentary track featuring Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons is available plus two Easter Eggs that are well worth searching for. KISS being KISS, the packaging is phenomenal with an eight-panel fold-out, a huge booklet with liner notes, as well as a replica backstage pass from the 1975 spring tour! In other words, the only thing that makes this set better is knowing it is only the first volume and there are rumored to be at least three more coming to chronicle the band’s full career.
Right from the beginning, the magic of KISS is evident as the hungry young band levels everything in its path. A genuinely frightening Gene Simmons appears on The Mike Douglas Show in early 1974 and one can almost see the delight in the bassist’s eyes as he witnesses the gasps and nervous laughter from the stunned crowd. The notorious, black-and-white-filmed Winterland Ballroom show sizzles with electricity and a twenty-three year old Ace Frehley’s blistering guitar solos ready to influence an entire generation of axe-slingers. The huge “KISS” sign, siren, smoke, fire breathing, blood spitting and choreography were already in place. At the close of the band’s performance of “Black Diamond” on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, Peter Criss destroys his drum kit and the band’s black leather, controversial stage show and eye-catching appearance get them labeled as dangerous, but soon after, KISS’ popularity begins to rise, first with “KISS Day” in Cadillac, Michigan, the assembly of the KISS Army and the soon-to-be-released KISS ALIVE! album. Once the rollercoaster ride takes off, KISS is the biggest band of the seventies and rather than becoming feared, they became household names, playing sold-out stadiums and their popularity is astounding to witness during their Japanese tour as they outsell The Beatles at the famed Budokan Hall during the ROCK AND ROLL OVER tour. Rounding out the collection, the band play at Houston’s The Summit for the LOVE GUN tour and the stage show is immense, the setlist is phenomenal and Ace finally sings on “Shock Me.” It is here that the band, at their absolute peak, leave fans ready for the next volume…and the inevitable slide back down.
As a KISS fan for almost twenty-five years, having these shows in DVD form is a long-awaited blessing. Trading and bartering have secured me much of this material over the years but in the form of vastly inferior, VHS copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy, etc.. Now, with KISSOLOGY: THE ULTIMATE KISS COLLECTION VOL. 1 – 1974-1977, it is all here, looking and sounding better than ever expected. Some fans opinions may have soured in recent years but 1974 through 1977 is KISS at their most unrelenting, unforgiving and totally thrilling. You wanted the best, you got the best…the hottest band in the world: KISS!!!