FREHLEY still celestial on “Spaceman” (E-One)

Now that the gloves are off, I thought it a good time to finally weigh in on the ever-rocking Ace Frehley‘s latest voyage, the self-produced Entertainment One release Spaceman, yet another aural sortie that finds the celestial one in a good place making vibrant new rock.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or have given up on new rock & roll altogether, you may need a wake up call — Ace Frehley is one of the few old school true hard rock cats left carrying the torch with any efficiency. In the past decade, Frehley has put out (countem’) four albums, all with stellar cuts & euphoric rock moments worthy of his ever-ascending pedigree and any playlist.

Reality is, a lot of folks sold out, gave up or can’t quite give a fuck enough to figure out how to get their fans new music. Ace …you know, the notoriously lazy drunken lay-about, decided when he got truly sober years ago to take over the main command deck, learn the new tech cold and bring it on home ….to his home studio. He’s cut out the flack and has been doing what he loves to do most, and you can feel it in his records; Ace is in his element. With what he’s endured, it’s a miracle he’s alive, not jaded and is still in love with rock & roll.

Spaceman may not be the very best of the four, but it’s f-close at moments and is as endearing as anything he’s ever released. In fact, when the final chapters of KISStory are written, I believe there a number of songs, sentiments & performances on Spaceman that will end up as major notches on the time capsule.

Relistening to it here today, a smile came over my face as I found myself breaking on through the turbulent atmosphere to the other side …kinda like the gravity that used to hold me down somehow just didn’t exist no more?!

The album features long-time, par-excellence Ace Frehley Band member Scot Coogan on drums on most of the record with the exception of the re-appearance of Anton Fig on “Pursuit of Rock & Roll” and guest jams by Matt Starr on “Rockin’ With The Boys’, “I Wanna Go Back” & “Quantum Flux”. Ace plays most of the guitars and bass, minus Gene SImmons’ singular playing on “Without You I’m Nothing” …count down’s comin’ on, here we go:

WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING > A ballsy, earnest rocker co-written with former band mate Gene Simmons that wouldn’t have worked (ie – been convincing) coming from Simmons or KISS. Frehley though knocks it out of the park with a great lead vocal, edgy semi-autobiographical verse lyrics and a bitchin’ solo that quickly re-affirms why you developed a taste for the Blue Koolaid way back.

“Now through the years, I’ve hit some walls, with no regrets .. when we’re apart I get the blues”” 

ROCKIN’ WITH THE BOYS > More straight talk from Ace delivered with customary ‘don’t sweat it’ chill. This one grows on you like a new pair of favorite jeans and the comfy feel continues into the solo as Ace eases back on the throttle, laying in behind the beat to get ‘back’ in NY groove.

We’ve had our differences, now don’t make a fuss, we’ve had the best of times” 

YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND > Co-written also with Simmons, ‘Wish’ features a similarly luke-warm Simmons chorus / title benefiting again significantly from Ace’s well-honed pop sensibility on the verse melody & lyric. An ill-fated reunion of sorts, no surprise this is the only tune on the album that feels a little forced. Like with most old flames, you often find once is enough.

Seen many miracles, don’t be concerned, so few are chosen”

BRONX BOY > More street cred and a great P&L statement from Ace that takes us back to the ‘hard times’ as a teenage gangbanger that he may not have escaped were it not for his guitar & considerable swagger, drunk or sober!

“I’m just a street kid, we seek and destroy, I lived so much of it, I’m just a Bronx Boy.” 

PURSUIT OF ROCK & ROLL > A rock anthem to rival KISS’s many arena driven-forays over the years. Ace’s ‘State Of The Union’  is a rocket ride with Anton Fig burnin’ up the drum kit and Frehley high on the fumes, literally shouting out to The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and even The Beatles.

“Don’t want no strife, ‘cuz it’s the enemy, that gets into your soul” 

I WANNA GO BACK > It’s almost impossible not to love this cover of the Eddie Money hit. The choice, and Ace’s delivery of the bitter-sweet Money lament, is flat-out charming, further illuminating Ace’s range and deep love for a great hook, regardless the artist or era. It wasn’t a guitar tune until now, and it’s a fucking cool departure.

I wanna go back, and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know”

MISSION TO MARS > Were I Ace’s manager I would have tapped the glorious  “Mission To Mars” as the lead single (or “I Wanna Go Back”?) as it’s perhaps Ace’s best vocal since “Rip It Out” and tracks us on radar somewhere between ’74’s “Parasite”, ’89’s “Lost In Limbo”, 2009’s “Outer Space” and Elon Musk’s flying Tesla. Wonder how many times Frehley left the pavement in his DeLorean?

“My ships off course, by some unknown force ….Between heaven and earth, you know we’ll always be first, and that’s why”   

OFF MY BACK > Even if it’s now clear Ace never heard Spinal Taps’ “Bitch School”, this tune is super catchy and boasts the hottest solo on the album. If not Ace’s rawest Frehley fret  attack ever from the get-go, the solo outro shifts to urgent blues phrasing reminiscent of Leslie West of Mountain or Rory Gallagher!

“We go in circles with no end in sight”

QUANTUM FLUX > The closer is, as is tradition for Ace, a continuation of the instrumental epics that started in ’78 with the haunting powerhouse that is ‘Fractured Mirror’.  No exception to the fleet, ‘Flux’ is transcendent and takes Ace and us out of orbit into emotional time-scapes, reverberating key influences Jeff Beck & Jimmy Page while remaining pure Ace Frehley through and through.

The crazy thing is that, with Ace, you can go back. He still gives me that feeling. There’s ‘Space’ on board …Ace’s got you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

KISStorian’s 5 best BRUCE KULICK KISS solos

As acropped-scan0014-51.jpg matter of fate, unfortunately Bruce Kulick is slightly land-locked in the 80’s because he had to wear so many fret-defying hats in KISS‘s post make-up, hair band phase. But Bruce is a guilty pleasure with no bad after taste who has done some excellent guitar work with KISS and beyond, especially on his solo disc BK3. But, as it relates to our furry fab four, these are this KISStorians’ top 5 of all time:

“HELL OR HIGH WATER”  – You get sizzle & steak on this ripping solo from Kulick. The high point is the Hendrix-infused long high bend that is, to me, the hottest shit he’s ever laid down. Say what you will about the production on Crazy Nights, in some ways it’s Bruce’s most succinct and dialed in 80’s sound. It’s consistent through-out and one of the most pleasing elements of the album. The fade out riffage is hot also. It reminds me a lot of his brother Bob to be honest and, by all accounts, this take is the Demon’s favorite Kulick shred on tape. Ripping Kulick.

“TEARS ARE FALLING” – Off the semi-screechy Asylum opus from ’85, Bruce’s solo here is A1, top-notch, super-melodic and ends on a searing jam of high notes that removes bras at Paul’s request (yeah, he produced it). The harmony guitar line is so cool — instantly singable, hooky, and a big part of the tunes appeal. Pure melodic 80’s Kulick.

“KING OF THE MOUNTAIN” – Also off Asylum, the Kulick solo here, and the extended outro jam out, is hairy and yet slick thanks to what seems like a long leash from Paul. Bruce managed to do some sweet Van Halenesque tapping and yet infuse the blues into his playing like the classics Clapton, Page, Beck, Hendrix and, dare I say, the original ‘Spaceman’ Ace Frehley. Majestic Kulick.

“FOREVER” – Though slightly saccharine for this KISStorian’s tastes as a number, Bruce really shines on an acoustic solo that elevates the song nicely (if not the entire Hot In The Shade album). I don’t think it could be improved on (though who wouldn’t love hearing the electric version he apparently did that ended left on the cutting room floor in favor of the keen radio-friendly approach). I am especially fond of the descending phrase at the end of the figure.  It’s so tasty a solo in fact that it is, musically speaking, a legitimately KISStoric highlight/moment. Classy Kulick.

“I WALK ALONE” – Bruce’s swan song on Carnival of Souls, and his only lead vocal with the lads, “I Walk Alone” is down right epic and recalls the guitar work of Queen’s Brian May. You can really feel the love on this track, perhaps more than any other KISS/Kulick effort. It’s a great song that is somehow in KISS’s wheel house and yet a little farther reaching in scope. If God Gave Rock & Roll to You and I, the fact that “I Walk Alone” made the record is a miracle of Biblical proportions; must have been the 8th Day? Amen. Epic Kulick.

RICHIE SCARLET talks shop

richie2

 

When did you first fall in love with the guitar?

The day I heard “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Who did you first try and emulate when you picked up the guitar?

Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.

What are your favorite five guitar solos of all-time? 

1) “Child in Time”, Richie Blackmore- Deep Purple

2) “Theme for An Imaginary Western”, Leslie West – Mountain

3) “Machine Gun”- Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsies

4) “Dazed and Confused”, Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin

5) “Shapes of Things”, Jeff Beck – Yard Birds

How has 2012 been treating ‘The Emperor of Rock & Roll”?

2012 has been an extraordinary year. Between playing out in the North East with my show. Playing lead guitar on Rockabilly Legend Charlie Gracie‘s new single, “Baby Doll” which went to umber one. Appearing in Dee Sniders latest video “Mack The Knife”, Producing Dez Cadena of the Legendary Horror/Punk/Cult Band The Misfits. Playing all guitars on legendary Rock and Roll Chubby Checker’s newest single. Started to record my new CD. Due out October 2012. Also, I have been doing many other studio projects. It has been very creative year. The icing on the cake was joining Ace Frehley on stage in NYC with Anton Fig, after 10 years.

How did that come about?                               

Ace invited me down and my wife Joann spoke with his people. The next thing was Ace asked me to join him on stage. It all happened very quickly….”AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL THING”.

Did you read Ace’s book, “No Regrets”?

Yes I did…. I enjoyed the first 3 chapters the most, before Ace was in KISS. Overall, I enjoyed the entire book.

You’ve been working with Dez Cadena w/ Black Flag and The Misfits, how’s that going?

It was a blast with Dez. We are still working together.

Which track on your recent disc“Fever” is your fav and which ones do fans gravitate to? 

My favorite track is “Radio Dreams”. Fans seem to be drawn to “I’m No Good” and “Standing in the Rain”.

What was it like playing with Leslie West? learn any new licks from him? 

I was able to tour the world for 8 years with Leslie West & Corky Laing ofMountain. I already knew the Licks (LOL)

Is there anyone you haven’t jammed with that you would like to someday?