ACE FREHLEY solo eclipses ranked

ACE FREHLEY – 1978 — The crucible salvo that defined Ace’s sound for all of his future KISS & solo offerings and that served as the ‘shot over the bow’ that woke KISS fans to the fact that Ace was even cooler than we had thought ….if you don’t like “Rip It Out”, ‘What’s On Your Mind?” …I hope you suffer!

ANOMALY – 2009 — A transcendent Ace album that, although a little light on song count, takes us out of the KISS stratosphere completely in terms of message and style with Frehley left turns “A Little Below The Angels”, “Change The World” and ‘It’s A Great Life”. Buttressed by several cool rockers, the best perhaps being “Foxy & Free” and the brooding explosion that is “Pain In The Neck”, Anomaly is a celestial unveiling.

TROUBLE WALKIN’ – 1989 — A great back-to-basics rock record that was a kick in the teeth to anyone who thought Ace was “down & out” after Second Sighting, Trouble Walkin’ finally tapped the rock solid promise of his original ‘Comet line-up by (re)enlisting ‘Rock Soldiers’ Richie Scarlet on guitar & Anton Fig on drums. “Shot Full of Rock” says it all when Ace opines … “Ain’t got time for posers!”.

FREHLEY’S COMET – 1987 — A state-of-the-art Eddie Kramer produced 80’s rock tomb and a key moment in KISStory, the debut of ‘The Comet’ hailed the return of a made-over Ace with a competitive record and cache that inadvertently restored some credibility to the slightly faded KISS brand.

SPACE INVADER – 2014 — A return to hard rock form for Ace in response in part to those thrown off by the evolved scope of Anomaly, Space Invader takes us again off planet to a rendezvous on Mars and other spacey guitar-a-thon revelations like the title cut.  Had the production been as stellar as other Ace passages, Space Invader might have eclipsed them all cuz tunes like “Gimme A Feelin'” and “What Every Girl Wants” kick so much universal ass.

ORIGINS, Vol. 1 – 2016 — A bitchin’ ‘Space Ace’ time machine that takes us back to the bands & tunes that sealed Frehley’s rock & roll fate, ultimately sending smoking Les Paul‘s skyward for all to see.  Although a collection of covers, it also includes a couple hot re-workings of classic Frehley-penned KISS numbers in “Parasite” and “Cold Gin”, both still staples today whether seeing the Ace Frehley Band or the new KISS.

LIVE + 1 – 1988 — Although it’s in essence an EP, and only includes one studio newbie in the (seriously shoulda been a single!) “Words Are Not Enough”, Live +1  is a great snapshot of ‘Frehley’s Comet’ live that includes an awesome drum solo by Anton Fig. Recorded at The Aragon Ballroom here in Chicago, I was lucky enough to attend, remember the excitement Ace and the band generated and feel it’s captured well here.

SECOND SIGHTING – 1988 — A near-miss by Ace in terms of material & focus on what would turn out to be the ‘Comet’s swan song, Second Sighting has it’s fun moments and great Ace sluggers like “Insane” but ultimately left us wondering if ‘the Comet’ was might burn up on re-entry if they continued on this trajectory.

 

 

KISS – Heaven, Hell or Houston?

Who better than KISS to round out a 40-year catalog with no less than 5 songs with HELL in the title.  Indeed with KISS, even “Heaven’s On Fire”.  Like a lotta rock, KISS bleeds biblical references, consider offerings like “‘Thou Shalt Not”,  “On The 8th Day”, “Unholy” and “God Gave Rock & Roll To You”.  KISStorian ranks KISS’s journey ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’.

HOTTER THAN HELL — Street-wise Stanley burns ya like the mid-day sun … KISS’s industrially murky “Cross Town Traffic” has one of the best outros in rock history with the duel-panned Frehley solos wailing out on the fade … Yes, HTH is as close to KISS HEAVEN as HELL gets, rivaling ACDC’s “Highway To Hell” as the best rock cut with HELL in the title, all-time. The groove on the live version on Alive is KISS at it’s very best …rip rip, rip & destroy!!!

ROCK & ROLL HELL — Gene seems to think it’s his destiny, whether he wrote it or not, and sings RR HELL like he owns it,  perhaps because he really did want out of the KISS biz circa ’82. Certainly Ace left to save his soul, leaving Dr. Love to contemplate who was Saint and who the Sinner. One could argue that Creatures of The Night marks the Demon’s final serious salvo …soon he would wander the wastelands, no longer Lord.

I’LL FIGHT HELL TO HOLD YOU — Pure 80’s super-Paul travels to the brink to be bye your side in this diabolically good Crazy Nights cut…There was never a video made for HELL TO HOLD YOU, but one can easily visualize it’s cinematic MTV potential appeal …I see Paul braving heavy terrain, high winds, torrential rains, eventually reaching the mountain top, searching for the lost Xanadu. The Starchild has our backs.

HELL OR HIGH WATER — Gene’s best cut off Crazy Nights and my favorite Bruce Kulick rock hunt, HELL OR HIGH WATER may be the only Simmons song in which he admits having his feelings hurt. But nobody puts Gene in the corner, he let’s you know in the festive, feel good doo-wop bridge ….”Baby don’t doubt it, ain’t no doubt about it” …considering he’s willing to brave HIGH WATER potentially, I find it down right heart-warming that the ‘Man of 1,000 Faces’ considers facing HELL to boot if need be.

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL — Gene’s put you in purgatory, and he’s so hungry… ‘SOMEWHERE’ somehow worked on Hot In The Shade but the lyrics are so cheap novel cliche Simmons, and the hook so KISS sleepy, that it made us all long for days of yore when Gene was a Demon, not the ‘Albatross’.

 

In Need of Love, ACE @ THE AVALON ’94

ace94It was back in the winter of ’94, there’s a reason I remember it well …it was Ace at The Avalon and he was slippin’ & slidin’ on a “Rocket Ride” to hell.

I left the show seriously concerned about Ace. Believe me, at the time it seemed there was no way that KISS would ever re-unite. In hindsight, it’s possible their doing so may have saved Ace’s life.

Reports from Ace’s booze-soaked ‘Just For Fun Tour‘ must have had Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley starting to think ..”it’s now or never”, Especially so when intel on next years Criss/Frehley ‘Bad Boys Of Rock Tour’ pairing had similarly dark forecasts for the Cat & Spacemen alike.

But whose kidding who? Whether Gene & Paul had always known they would reunite at some point or not, both Ace & Peter’s camps we’re aiming at the same reunion Yahtzee. As it turns out, the perilous road bender worked, forcing KISS’s hand. one way and another. ace-avalon

Anyway, by the time Ace finally hit the stage an hour late, The Avalon was a scene of KISStoric anguish. It was f’ing freezing outside, but it was hotter than hell in the club as the low ceilings in the over-packed room drove the temperature up. As folks got restless, pre-show chants of “Fuck You!” bubbled up, rivaling the fading “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!!” flurries as Rock Soldiers started to suspect Ace was ‘around the corner at the liquor store” (or worse).

We later found out from the Avalon booking agent that Ace had had to be carried up the Avalon’s long backstage stairs by a couple of guys. Rumor is Ace’s ‘team’ couldn’t find him and didn’t realize that he had been passed out in the back of their Ryder truck. parked right outside on Sheffield.  Had they not found him, he may have frozen to death.

After the opening tune, “Rip It Out”, Ace stumbled to the mic bewildered and said, no bullshit, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it”.  He was partly referring to how hot it must have been on stage but, given the situation, it was a ‘loaded’ statement.avalon

Again people started cheering and jeering Ace simultaneously:  cries came out from all over …’We Love You Ace!” …”You Can Do It Ace!” …as well as “Fuck You Ace!”. It was as close to a KISS Army mutiny as I have ever seen.

KISStory tells us that although Frehley has ‘Trouble Walkin’ , he usually lands on his feet. In this case, he gets bye with a little help from his friends because, had the original four not come to terms a couple years later, I fear Ace’s may have taken a rough trajectory post ’94.  But perhaps it is as the Spaceman himself suggests in the tune “Immortal Pleasures” off Space Invader: he’s always been “protected by the powers”.

Maybe the Talisman are real?

 

 

Eric Carr saved KISS

cropped-scan0027-3.jpgMany KISStorians argue that Vinnie Vincent saved KISS but, any you way you slice it, it was ERIC CARR who saved KISS. The ride he took manning the drum fort on behalf of The KISS ARMY proves Carr was a true ‘Rock Soldier’ and, as The Elder would no doubt agree,  indeed ‘worthy of the fellowship’.

And as much as he gave it his all for KISS and their fans when playing live, Carr’s studio work is what makes him “King Of The Mountain” as savior of the band. Shit, take any track off Creatures Of The Night —  It’s Bonham meets the Demon & The Starchild and it sounds invincible! Even when KISS went soft rock on Crazy Nights, Carr remained heavy. He also wrote, sang, played bass, and made arrangement contributions on KISS material throughout his tenure with the band.

Even when the KISS experience soured for Carr personally, he never let it affect his level of devotion to the fans. He never, ever sucked. He was a pros pro and, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys on the planet.  His only fault may have been that his heart was a big as his bass drum and he wore it on his sleeve. So be it, amen Eric.

Anyway, I moved recently and found this:  my angry letter to Rolling Stone for ignoring his career.  I  share it with you on the Anniversary of his passing to give thanks to Eric for hanging tough when everyone else was jumping ship, Vincent included.

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Trunk gets Punked

tumblr_nzu0pvkbgi1sqa46ho1_500I just listened to Eddie’s rant about KISS manager / mogul Doc McGhee cancelling for Trunk’s show last-minute compliments of Metalfavs and left this unprecedentedly long comment  sharing my take on the YouTube.  And I don’t mean to pile on ‘cuz I do love Eddie; we all do. But, as Elton once said ” It’s a sad, sad situation. And it’s getting more and more absurd. It’s sad, so sad. Why can’t we talk it over?”

“as a long time music biz guy, the issue Eddie is having is that, as much as I am a fan of both he and KISS, Eddie wants it both ways. He gets to interact with artist as a media player and also wants to be friends with everyone in the band, and them all to allow whatever he says (on air).

By becoming an Ace & Peter mouth piece he broke showbiz protocol by getting as they say “too close to the artist”. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship without that, but Eddie needs more apparently? He has to be the #1 Kiss fan of all-time (and literally may be) but thinks that allows him to act differently than other media members do with artists, at least most successful ones.

Asking Paul to talk things out, and airing that out every chance he gets, is beyond the pale. Also, sharing Gene’s candid admissions on the subject is again a breach of that long-established understanding between artist and media. Same as with promoters. Grudges are bad business as a rule and space is at a premium. Ever heard the phrase “Are we on the record or off the record Eddie?”. That line, with Eddie, is blurred, and a bit embarrassing.

I can understand why Eddie feels he can do this because he was also in the real-deal actual record biz once as well as his being a long (suffering) supporter of all things KISS behind the scenes. But, I gotta tell ya, it’s not insane at all — It’s called showbiz and the first rule you learn coming up is know your role, who the star is and take only what you graciously get. But, to be fair, in KISStoric terms and others, Eddie’s had a charmed life it’s clear and has ‘Great Expectations’ by & large.

Eddie wonder’s aloud “what distorted information” Paul is acting on. He even regrets not knowing what is going on in Paul’s head day-to-day and yet has amnesia about dozens of interviews with Ace and Peter in which he has continually taken (their) sides and (worse) called in to question both Paul & Gene’s ethics.

I don’t want to sound like a KISStoric cynic but my guess is Doc was gonna cancel all along because he, and everyone in the KISS camp, knew Eddie was on a quest — damn it, he was gonna ask Doc “dude, man …what’s Paul’s issue with me man?”.

Goes to show there’s no business like showbiz! Nicely played Doc; Eddie’s been Stumped and now he’s been Punked!

FREHLEY shares true ‘Origins’ @ HOB Chicago

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Since the dawn of civilization people have made pilgrimages to pay homage to their Gods and gather with the tribe. That is the feeling before, during and after an Ace Frehley concert. You’re back in the ‘New York Groove’ and in your rock & roll happy place (space) with Ace at the controls.

Such was the case a couple of weeks back when Ace made an earthly appearance at House of Blues here in Chicago. Night orbits with Ace over the years in the Chi have been bumpy rides at times (Avalon, Cubby Bear, China Club, Dome Room) but I am happy to report that Ace’s head, band, and space are in a great trajectory at present, no matter how semi-dazed & confused the captain may be from the excesses of rock & roll.

What struck me about this show is that Ace really did take a deep dive into his true ‘Origins’ by choosing to do the stuff I think he is most comfortable playing, perhaps enjoys most. It was basically a few key Frehley solo cuts, a couple covers off the newbie ‘Origins’, several non-Ace KISS tunes and then of course the core Frehley-penned KISS classics delivered with renewed zest & love. A set of KISStoric Ace ‘feel goods’.

ace_hob52016’s stellar incarnation of ‘the Ace Frehley Band’ may in fact be Ace’s best live line-up ever. The addition of rock cosmonaut Chris Wyse on bass is nothing short of an Ace masterstroke. (Great bass solo Chris!) With Wyse’s well-honed hammer, drummer Scot Coogan‘s old school pocket, guitarist Richie Scarlet‘s razor rhythm attack and Frehley running the Les Paul warp drive, the band delivered cool grooves, cosmically faithful renderings and good vibrations all the way from Jendell!

A Tip of the Chicago Firehouse hats to hometown boy Coogan for kicking ass on every level required to do Ace proud. I get the sense now several years in that Scot may be the band leader in a sense. If  he’s not, he’s certainly the a heart & soul Rock Soldier that the KISS Army  need thank for his considerable tour of duty.

ace_hob2There were some fun moments during the show too. A couple of times we caught Ace watching co-guitarist Scarlet and being amused by the ‘Emperor of Rock’s’ mega antics stage left. For one thing, Scarlet has discovered a new move in which he whips his guitar with his scarf instead of picking it LOL.. During “Rock Soldiers”, Ace noticed ironically that his “old buddy Richie” was now rocking out stage right at the perfect time for Frehley to point at Scarlet when he sang the song’s lyric “and Satan on my right” laughing after he did so. Richie also took the liberty, while visiting the ‘windy city’, of dedicating “Bad Boys Are Comings” off Trouble Walkin’ to “Mr. Alfonso Capone”.

img_4857Early in the show, like four songs in, Ace wandered back to the kit between songs and was talking to drummer Scot Coogan when people starting yelling “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!”. Eventually Frehley returned to the mic and said calmly “hey …I didn’t go anywhere?”

img_4821For the intro to “Shock Me” Ace inquired “Who do you thinks gonna win? ….Hillary or Trump?”  He paused for comic effect and then said ‘”Who Fucking Cares!!! … nothing would SHOCK ME!!!”

At one point Ace asked us, very subdued, “Is it loud enough? …. yeah? … why not make it louder?” He then brought us all on back home, back to ’74, when he shared a revelation of sorts before going in to “Parasite”. Oh what a cool moment it was when Ace informed us that he had written the song about “this girl that used to follow KISS around from city to city” and oh to meet that girl with the ‘Parasite Eyes’.

Ace is one of the few rock icon who has never changed his true stripes or sold out. Masked, unmasked, loaded, sober or otherwise, Frehley is a ‘National Treasure’. To me Ace is the American personification of Jimmy Page meets Keith Richards. When it comes to KISStory, you can never count Ace out, no matter what hand he’s holding.

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