One of the perennial saving graces of rock & roll is its accessibility to the true believer. In a sort of Horatio Alger formula, if you need it badly enough and have the right attitude, eventually you’ll become an adequate rocker. Kiss, a band built almost entirely around an image, offers the latest proof of this maxim.
Kiss has improved dramatically during its recording career, first to the high point of raw efficiency achieved on “I Wanna Rock & Roll All Night,” more recently to improved instrumental technique. The group has brought a lot of listening and a lot more outright thievery to Alive II, resulting in a textbook demonstration of how to play Stones/Who hard rock. The guitar solos on “King of the Night Time World” and “Shock Me” are note-for-note duplications of sections from Pete Townshend’s long improvisation (“My Generation”) on side two of Live at Leeds. Even more startling is the way the screams over sustained guitar codas on those two songs and on “Makin’ Love” sound exactly like Roger Daltrey finishing off Townshend’s pyrotechnics.
It’s open to question how much credit to give a band for using such well-proven formulas, and it’s also true that a wan reflection of the original, no matter how sincere, is still not the real thing. But it remains that Alive II captures the essence of live rock & roll very well — perhaps even a little better than the recent Stones set.