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VH-1 Classic Records presents
Kissology: Vol. 1 1974-77 (1974-77)

"By 1975...we began to realize that we were going to become exactly what we thought, a phenomenon, as opposed to a rock band. Rock bands make music. Phenomenons impact society."
- Paul Stanley (himself)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: January 11, 2007

Stars: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss
Other Stars: Paul Lynde, Mike Douglas, Margaret Hamilton
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for sexually themed lyrics
Run Time: 06h:19m:00s
Release Date: October 31, 2006
UPC: 894316001246
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B+B+ B

DVD Review

Everyone has those formative experiences that shape what comes later on; for me, musically, Kiss was one of them. Not necessarily in a completely musical sense, but in an overall idea of theatricality and imagery. I first got into Kiss when I was about 7, like a lot of kids I imagine, transfixed by the sheer power of their look: the makeup, the costumes, and the personas each member supposedly embodied. And so I had a handful of their records, which I played sporadically. A few songs appealed to my undeveloped ears, but mostly, as I recall, the music was noisy and didn't do much for me. The band was cooler as figures on trading cards, puzzles, action figures, and lunchboxes. So, before too long, I moved on. Music is something we can always return to though, and I eventually came to appreciate Kiss' '70s stuff, though the non-makeup years left me pretty cold. I tend to view the band as the musical equivalent of White Castles: the sort of thing you don't necessarily want to admit to liking, but can't help having a taste for now and then.

The aptly-named Kiss Army has long supported the group through years fat and lean, buying a veritable metric ton of licensed tat over the decades, even extending to the Kiss Koffin. What Kiss fans have always wanted however, is the goods from the vault, and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have finally given us that with the first volume of Kissology, covering their career from its early struggling days through the heights of success, via full concert performances, TV appearances, and more. Most of this material is, as I understand it, not unknown to the hardcore fan; bootlegs have of course long circulated, but the opportunity to own copies presented in the best format possible make this a must-have for just about any fan of Kiss, aside from the casual listener.

Let's start with the concerts. First is the January 31, 1975 date at San Francisco's Winterland, where promoter Bill Graham's house cameras recorded the show in black and white. Following that is one of the dates from Detroit's Cobo Hall in January 1976; Detroit was one of the first cities to really go crazy for the band, and three dates were scheduled, of which this is the third. (Selections from the first date are on one of the bonus discs, see below.) An April 1977 show at Tokyo's Budokan was initially broadcast on HBO in the U.S. and dates from the Destroyer tour, supporting the album (their fifth) that finally took America by storm. The final concert dates from the Love Gun tour in September 1977, at the Summit in Houston. A decent number of the same songs are duplicated across the four shows, including two appearances of the grotesque ballad Beth, sung by drummer Peter Criss. The concerts just sort of blend together for me; you see enough flashpots, see Gene flick his tongue and stomp around, and the Peter drum riser lift up, and they all start to blur.

Turning to the television appearances, ABC's In Concert presents three tracks from a March 29, 1974 show. Vastly more fascinating is the band's appearance on Mike Douglas' talk show from April 29, 1974, in which Simmons is brought out for some chat before the band's number. What's really interesting to watch is the absolute contempt the other guests have for Simmons; one of the two male guests has barely turned away after shaking his hand before giving the audience a look of scorn. Simmons, for his part, tries to play his role as demon/monster, and the audience seems uncertain of how to react to corny comments that he'd like to eat them and such. Of main interest on Disc 2 is an appearance on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, where the band make one of their first forays into the television mainstream, heralding their future path. Appearing with Margaret Hamilton and Lynde, their bit is played for broad comedy, and there's little that's threatening about the band. It wouldn't be long before Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park rears its ugly head.

Being Kiss, this wouldn't be complete without some kind of milk-the-fans element, and the catch with this release is the availability of three different limited edition bonus discs (containing further concert footage), based on where you buy a copy. Wal Mart and Best Buy each have their own bonus discs, and everywhere else gets the third. So the diehard will no doubt feel compelled to buy three copies to get all the material, a lunatic proposition, but not one outside the norm for diehard fans of the band, notable for their dedication. If, at some point, all that bonus footage gets released as part of an "ultimate" Kissology set, it will come as no shock to anyone.

In the end though, that's what Kiss have always been superb at, far better in fact than any musical undertaking: marketing. You either accept that and the band for what they are, or you don't get the whole concept. Reading their biography shows a band single-mindedly devoted to creating a brand and expanding that brand to any available avenue, something they've done quite well, excepting their lean years from about 1982-95 when the make-up came off and the band were rightly considered has-beens. The resurgence in nostalgia interest that the original line-up's 1996 reunion brought about enabled them to crank up the merchandise machine again, with similar results to their initial arc of success, minus the dodgy TV movie. The band continues cranking out the tat even as we speak, with the recent release of new Kiss fragrances. When they bury you in your Kiss Koffin, now you can smell great. In the end, it's basically pointless to complain about anything involved with Kiss; if you've followed the band for any length of time, you know exactly what you're in for, both musically and in terms of presentation, and this set gives us the band in its heyday. You can't ask for much more.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video quality depends on the source material, and that ranges from solid to beat up. The transfer itself is fine, which does no favors for the more ropey footage, but I would guess that for most Kiss fans, the historical importance of the material outstrips any practical concerns about quality.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in Dolby 5.1 or 2.0 stereo, and both sounded perfectly fine to me. The 5.1 track is a fuller, more immersing experience, but the 2.0 track will certainly serve for those without 5.1 capability. Occasional faults of the original materials sometimes cause problems, but again this is expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 72 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Booklet with color photos and commentary
  2. Bonus disc of concert footage
  3. Sticker
Extras Review: The main extra of note is commentary by Simmons and Stanley on each disc, usually not amounting to more than the opening minutes of each segment. Some comments are longer than others, but it's pretty interesting stuff to hear, if not filled with revelations. The more devoted fans may be less impressed, however. Included with the set is a 20-page booklet, which includes some of the commentary in text form, to go with listings for each performance and several photos. Also included is a replica sticker/patch type thing of an early Kiss stage pass. The bonus disc comes in a separate paper sleeve held int the pocket of the digipak. The disc also has two amusing easter eggs, both accessed by arrowing up on the main menu screen on each disc. The first features footage of the band during a 1973 gig before their first album release, shot from the back of the room and devoid of much detail, although you can see the same choreography that appears later on the professional material. On the second disc, Ace Frehley provides footage of his wedding reception, where the band played without makeup, captured here on film. The quality is again pretty bad, but it's interesting as an artifact.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Kiss fans have long wanted legit releases of classic concerts and televised appearances, and now they have them, with the first volume of Kissology. Diehards will already have it, and while the casual Kiss fan may find it overkill, there's plenty here to enjoy. The discs are laid out well and look good, considering the quality of the original materials, so no real complaints on that point. The packaging is slick, and the availability of bonus discs at selected retailers will appeal to the hardcore collector.


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