This is a Herculean task and one I don’t take lightly. Some of you will be upset at my choices but here are some gems to reconsider from the original Spaceman’s significant body of work. The envelope …silence please.
SHOCK ME – ’nuff said really, the first echo of Ace’s evolving sound, getting rounder and more driven with each successive release off the band’s studio master-stroke, Love Gun.. This tune is like an Ace clinic really; uses the whole arsenal. To enter true orbit, the live version with extended solo off KISS Alive II is sure to set the stereo aglow.
CHARISMA – off Dynasty, the solo saves the song, as so often Ace did. Even if you didn’t dig the tune, you would dig Ace’s solo, always. Paul always criticizes Ace for “not growing at an artist” and yet, listen to this? listen to the rest of Dynasty? or Ace’s solo record? Even Unmasked? steady progression through all the records frankly. Check the solo on SAVE YOUR LOVE off the same record for more clarity on the subject. All quality, all fitting.
BUMP & GRIND – off the Gene Simmons produced Wendy O. Williams W.O.W. album, Ace has never sounded more urgent, as if the Spaceman was determined to send the Demon to Jendell for a spell. Fairly awful song, like some KISS numbers. but Ace propels it quickly into the hard rock ozone. Fierce.
ROCKET RIDE – when I want to turn someone on to Ace Frehley this is typically the tune I would pop on. I hear a reworking of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”, with a dash of punk and probably the coolest ending to any KISS song. Ace’s first wah-pedal solo and spot fucking on. Pure adrenaline.
STRUTTER ’78 – the redo on Double Platinum is absolutely devastatingly Ace, and arguably louder in the mix here than any KISS solo on any KISS record. One is finally allowed to bask in sheer Ace riffage. Good times.
SNOWBLIND – cool tune? check. bitchin’ rock solo? check. the closest one gets to Jimmy Page? check. If a little stiff and white, Ace can really pick when he’s in the mood …or snowblind.
100,000 YEARS – Ace’s solo on this Paul Stanley KISS classic doesn’t sound like anything or anyone else. Totally original. Typically Ace wore his influences on his sleeve but this solo was entirely of his own creation. Completely overlooked.
GOT LOVE FOR SALE – Ace just shreds this tune up and so almost more in command than any where else on record. It’s probably the hottest shit he’s ever played. Seriously. He does the same of HOOLIGAN. Some of his best super-pro work is on Love Gun.
INTO THE NIGHT – I love this solo. When it arrives it’s like someone lets Ace out of shackles. He ashes out with sheer rock fury. He’s done the same over and over again throughout his career on solo offerings on killers like INSANE, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, REMEMBER ME, GENGHIS KHAN, TROUBLE WALKIN’, SHOT FULL OF ROCK, PAIN IN THE NECK and so many others in the comets’ catalog.
KISSIN’ TIME – I know, it’s a real clunker, but not the solo bro. Ace is like a closing pitcher. He only needs a few pitches. It’s all in the delivery. At this stage of the game he was developing his craft and, if my Spidey senses serve me right, is stretching out a bit on this one. I feel like Ace and the boys decided it had to at least rock since they were all bummed about being asked to the cut the song in the first place and well, surprise, Ace’s instincts are right on. An early glimpse of Ace’s singular vibrato and his keen ability to build a lead that seals the deal, played like it’s all that matters in the universe.
It is as if Ace is so easily detached and distracted, or out of it, that a 2-bar solo is really what he is all about – a shot full of rock. Ace Frehley is the guitar solo, personified. ‘Scuse the soapbox but listen to the last two KISS records with Tommy Thayer: Ace is ‘the KISS sound’ they are going for — lock, stock & barrel. Stanley/Simmons really ought to come clean on that much. I don’t mind it, just don’t pretend it isn’t so. Would it kill Tommy to say “I try to emulate that classic Ace Frehley, early KISS tone and vibe”. To me, Ace is like the 300 pound gorilla in KISSroom, like it never happened. Truth is, it never would have without him.