Rock and Roll's most powerfully effective merchandise machine, Kiss, has added yet another item to its ever growing catalogue. This time it's not the gazillionth "$ex Money Ki$$" biography, a super-expensive Ki$$tory book or a huge coffin-shaped Wine Cooler box, but an actual musical offering. Lo and behold, it's the long-awaited "Alive IV"!

Well, not quite. The long-awaited "Alive IV" was put on hold a few years ago, and the name has been used to subtitle Kiss' experiment with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, "Kiss Symphony".

Kiss "Symphony - Alive IV" contains two CDs featuring three "acts". The first one is straightforward Kiss playing six songs that could have come straight off "Alive III" with the exception of the song "Psycho Circus". Tommy Thayer (formerly Kiss guitar roadie) plays the Ace Frehley character, and other than him there's Gene, Paul and Peter. Almost classic Kiss. Paul Stanley is still up to his usual "how are you, people?" banter. The six songs comprising the first act are not actually the most essential additions to any Kiss fan's collection.

Things start to get a little more interesting with Act Two: Kiss on acoustic instruments with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble. Played this way, "Beth" and "Forever" do not gain much. Besides, Peter Criss' vocals on his signature song are faltering at best. "Goin' Blind" is pretty cool, I always did like that song (despite the now suddenly apparent pervert implications of "I'm 93, you're 16"). "Sure Know Something" is nice to hear played this way. "Shandi" sucks hard, largely because it was a crap original to begin with, from the crappiest original-members-with-make-up-era Kiss albums ("Unmasked").

Most interested (or least un-interesting, if you will) is disc 2, which contains 10 cuts of Kiss playing with the full Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The orchestrations are pretty staightforward and do not add as much as I had hoped and expected. Metallica's "S&M" wasn't groundbreaking to begin with (though it had quite a few good moments), but Kiss' contribution to coupling symphony with rock is even more irrelevantly superfluous. Two minor highlights are the presence of "Do You Love Me" (a pretty obscure track to which, curiously, all members of the audience seem to be able to sing along every word) and the children's choire lending a hand with "Great Expectations".

Kiss have done some good things and some lesser things through their 30 years in the business. Let's just say that "Symphony - Alive IV" is somewhere slightly on the wrong side of the middle. Nonetheless I can see myself getting the forthcoming DVD eventually.

Still waiting for a full-concert DVD from their circa 1978 or circa 1996 shows though.



Written August 2003


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