>> SPACE TRUCKIN’ – hard, heavy, foxy ‘n free spaced Deep Purple (slight return), ample G-forces to take your breath away just long enough to ascertain the Space Bear is M.I.A. again, riding’ high in the saddle with Blackmore’s gang
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.
A splendid time was guaranteed for all …always has been KISS‘s charge: to deliver the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ and bang for the buck, even when it wasn’t in the budget you know?
Step right up to KISS’s ongoing 40-year, often magical mystery tour of mother earth, circa 2016. Yes, roll up for the Freedom To Rock Tour, it’s an invitation. KISS are a visual treat but they have now also become, like it or not, a downright heartwarming rock & roll celebration and they gave a lot of renewed love to the presentation of this show, on every level.
Beyond the amazing lighting, lasers, screen graphics, smoke & bombs, it was the best sound I have ever heard at an in-door KISS show, but we were directly next to the sound board (on purpose). They were not as loud as usual, and that worked as far as I’m concerned. Everything was distinct, damn right warm in fact. It was a rich sound.
A quick, but needed, tip of the Firehouse hat to MVP Tommy Thayer for having now settled in so nicely in to his Spaceman boots. I thought he really brought more of his own feel than ever before to the signature Ace solos and let it all hang out for the majesty of rock. His tone, timing and vibe were really nice and, along with Eric Singer, the two have become the bedrock of KISS in ways that Ace & Peter once were. To me, after last night, they are KISS, not impostors as once feared. I guess I’m back in the New York Groove after all?
Anyway, I’m still digesting some of the cool new wrinkles and the many magic KISStoric moments from last nights show but here are some pix from The Bradley Center in Milwaukee !
The amplifiers start to hum …the carnival has just begun …you’re in the Psycho Circus!
I would like to start the new year with a serous tip of the black ‘Firehouse’ helmets in remembrance of two rock soldiers who passed away in 2015; Lemmy Kilmister of MOTORHEAD & Gary Richrath of REO SPEEDWAGON. I can’t help but see KISS connections to both legends because, well … that’s what you do when you are a KISStorian.
I wanna start with Gary. I picked up the guitar because I wanted to be Gary Richrath on the cover of their double-live opus, You Get What You Play For. I am from the Midwest and Speedwagon, before they sold out (and Gary left the band), were in many ways the band that bridged the gap between 60’s folk to 70’s rock with tunes like Gary’s “Golden Country”. Speedwagon was ‘a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll’, somewhere between Skynyrd, Steve Miller, The Eagles and Seger but, with Richrath overdrive, could rival Nugent, Joe Perry, Neal Schon or Ace at any given moment. Plus, their image early on was wide scoped: quasi hippie-dippy, certainly ‘jammy’ and, above all, guitar-driven with Gary leading the charge on his Sun & Tobacco Burst Les Pauls. He always ripped, like Ace. Even if you didn’t dig the tune you could look forward to the solo. Richrath knew that; he was a closer. He had a singular tone, almost a precursor to Boston’s, and certainly akin to Ace’s on hits like “Roll with The Changes”. Blues based, hairy rock leads, no effects. Same gear as Ace too by and large. I’ve never heard Ace speak of Gary, maybe it’s time? Gary was classic mainstream radio rock competition and so similar to Ace in approach that it’s frankly mind boggling.
On to Lemmy, a larger more domineering rock presence to be sure… Gene, minus the booze n’ drug, may have modeled himself on Lemmy given his predilection for women, strippers and anything breathing / willing. Gene knew that Lemmy was the only real dude in LA and I imagine their respective black books had some overlap(?). But, to the music ….Gene’s classic growl / scowl vocal is probably closer to Lemmy than any other singer on earth (though on “Two Timer” I hear shades of the late, great Louis Armstrong), Gene always had an ear on England, from Slade to The Who … no fucking way he overlooked Motorhead, Lemmy’s delivery or Motorhead’s defiant stance and unwitting formula. And, obvious but rarely addressed, Gene’s semi-distorted bass tone, and guitar player attack, are closer to Lemmys’ than anyone else I can think of also …especially live, just listen to anything live from Alive II on. Notably, Motorhead never played with KISS; Gene may have known it would have been their ‘Kiss of Death’.
Over the years Lemmy provided a convenient stereo-type for the likes of Simmons to mimic. Now it’s time for KISS to cover “Ace of Spades” w/ Ace on guitar and Gene on lead vocal … or for Gene to guest in that capacity on Ace’s forth-coming ‘covers’ record?
Happy 2016 KISStorians!
I have now fully digested Ace’s Space Invader at home and in the vehicle. It’s a rock and roll party. For the first few weeks it was an everyday endeavor which was the first indication that Ace was back, even if he had neglected to say so.
SI is a nice kick in ass from Mr. Excitement. I give it high rankings …. perhaps his 2nd or 3rd best ever. It is that good and will provide a lifetime of spins for this Rock Soldier to be sure. Put it this way, if I made a double disc Ace Frehley bestie “Space Invader” cuts would be featured nicely.
First off, super catchy rocking numbers like “What Every Girl Wants”, “I Wanna Hold You”, “Gimme A Feelin'” and “Immortal Pleasures” make it a must have for any true rock fan, especially any KISS fan. Secondly, “Space Invader” has more guitars than stage right at a Cheap Trick show (ah, Rick) and they are meaty, beaty, big, bouncy and inspired. He stretches out a bit too with some new feels. The outro guitar solo on the title cut is arguably some of Ace’s hottest guitar work ever. The sustain drone and coincidental random feedback chimes that happen when he gets to the very top of the register near the end of the tune are magic. He does a couple of these Hendrix pull-off trills that recall the rapid-fire harmonic tweaks on the “Makin’ Love” solo on Alive II. Ace sounds relaxed (isn’t he always?) and smartly gives himself plenty of runaway for flight, allowing him time to get lost in the cascading rock, further propelling him back into the void for another ‘Ozone’ mission.
What I love about the record though, the thing that has really grabbed me, is the content. Yes, the content. The lyrics. The vibe. The messages. The love. The best illustration to me lies in the revelatory platitudes on the dark yet triumphant “Change”. It’s Ace offering some encouragement to those suffering from addiction and letting us all in on a little secret, in fact ‘the secret’ —- “that you can hold the world in your hand”. I think Ace is talking about projection, positive thinking, the laws of attraction. Reality. He’s a semi-cosmic spiritual cat, a child of the 60’s, a man of peace and a hippy at heart who has grown up enough now to set everyone in the conversation straight when he confides “it’s the changing that counts, now open your eyes”. Um ….fuck yeah bro.
I also dig “Past The Milky Way” quite a bit, a love song in which Ace admits he may not make it to Venus because he’s already “traveled very far”, instead proposing a “rendezvous on Mars”. A very reasonable request in light of all he’s been through really. Plus, his computer has been telling him he’s lost. Alas, the Spaceman is able to gather his thoughts enough to sing about becoming a better man. Sure, he’s “running out of oxygen”, we all are, but in Ace’s case he’s still got his guitar. He has traveled half way across the universe in more ways than one just to hold this chick in his arms. Amen.
Thank goodness and thank you Ace for the mammoth rock vision (and good time) that is “Space Invader” — you bring us great happiness from Jendell, AWK!
Thanks to my pal Dusty Wright of CultureCatch.com I got sit in on an interview with Ace Frehley done by Director of Artist Relations at Gibson’s NYC Showroom Jim Felber about the release of the Epiphone Ace Frehley Budokan Les Paul Custom. Ace was so mellow and cool; he had just been on with Matt Laurer of NBC’s Today Show that morning in conjunction with the release of his autobiography No Regrets and was now doing a photo session as well as interview at Gibson. Good times.
Just prior to the interview as we were mic-ing him up for the interview, Ace picked up the Epiphone guitar and handed it to me saying softly, “can you tune this and give me a little distortion? yeah?…. thanks”.
Two nights before I had caught Ace at BB Kings in New York and he had fallen off the stage. He could have been hurt. When I told him I was at the show he said “yeah, that was a drag….falling…. the funny thing is the bridge of my Les Paul really took all the force of the fall and it snapped the bolts…. if it hadn’t I might have broken an arm or leg”.
Ace was not really what i had expected. Being completely honest with you: he came off like a wise old indian chief. He knew how to make everyone feel at ease and welcome and seemed happy to be there but not hell-bent on being the most important person in the room. Engaging but mellow.
And get this: at one point before the interview Ace’s right hand man /co-hort Jon Ostronomy picked up my folder and started leafing through it remarking “whose is this?” and when I motioned it was mine Ace interjected…”dude, it’s Dave’s ……what are you doin?” (laughter)
It’s hard to tell on the video because of his shades but during the interview Ace would look around as he was telling a story and the couple moments we connected still fills the sails with a fresh Frehley “AWK” air!!
At one point Ace said, after playing a bit, “I’m better with my band” which really showed me a level of humility I had not really anticipated either. At was as if he assumed we were all guitarists there anyway and he was just another guy into them. That’s when I saw it for the first time; Ace the reluctant hero. The underdog who can jam, The dude you were rooting for, waiting with each other for the guitar solo, picking his moments tp shine. Hey, lady space? you better wake up fast!!!