KISS OFF THE SOUNDBOARD: LIVE IN DES MOINES 1977 album review

KISS has been rocking the world in various incarnations for five decades. That’s not a misprint.

With a band has been touring for damn near 50 years, it’s no surprise there are bound to be some soundboard recordings made from their vintage concerts that can be subsequently released as live albums of sorts. In recent years, we’ve begun getting the KISS – OFF THE SOUNDBOARD series of live releases, giving us a look at many of these classic vintage moments from the band’s storied career. To date, the releases have mainly comprised concerts from the 1990s and 2000s, but the latest installment in the series goes way back in KISStory, to the band’s 1970s glory days.

OFF THE SOUNDBOARD: LIVE IN DES MOINES 1977 is a soundboard concert recording from November 29, 1977, recorded during the band’s ALIVE II World Tour. Recordings from this tour, of course, were the basis for the ALIVE II live album released by the band a month prior to the recording of this live album. ALIVE II’s tracklist was made so that tracks performed on the original ALIVE! Live album from 1975 weren’t repeated, although those tracks from the first three studio records did continue to be performed on subsequent tours. ALIVE II also included five new studio tracks on its fourth and final vinyl side.

This soundboard recording, essentially, is an authentic “warts and all” live recording from the ALIVE II tour, with the original setlist unaltered, including the songs that had been cut from ALIVE II since they appeared on the first ALIVE!. I’m a sucker for new live releases of vintage material from my favorite bands, and when I heard KISS was going to begin putting out archival recordings, I was ecstatic enough, particularly upon hearing we’d be getting a soundboard recording from the ALIVE II tour!

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first – the sound quality on this release isn’t very good. It’s well below average for what’s supposedly a soundboard recording, and sounds quite rough throughout. It’s certainly not bad to the point that it’s unlistenable, but the audio limitations are noticeable. Some moments suffer more than others; the spoken word monologue section in “Christine Sixteen,” for example, is barely audible. To put it simply, don’t come in here expecting a crystal clear audiophile experience that’ll rock your speaker system.

But the most important part of a live KISS experience is the performance itself, and I’m happy to say that Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley give a great show from start to finish; you can tell these guys were young, energetic, and at the top of their game here, with a fantastic setlist culled from all the band’s releases up to the time. “Shock Me,” Frehley’s lead vocal debut which appeared on the band’s sixth album, LOVE GUN, gets a blistering live rendition here. There’s the obligatory hits but also plenty of minor hits and album cuts that have largely since faded into obscurity, some of which appeared on ALIVE II as well. Sure, if you go see KISS nowadays, you’ll still hear the obligatory “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” but what about cuts like “Ladies Room,” “Let Me Go Rock N Roll,” and “King of the Night Time World?”

This release, despite its poor sound quality, is a great time capsule, and I don’t think KISS Army soldiers, young and old alike, will be too disappointed with what they hear here. It’s the ultimate relic of a bygone era from one of rock’s great bands, and it’s fantastic this is finally seeing the light of day. Fans will definitely want to add this one to their collections.


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