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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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KISStoric time travel now possible!

KISS Time Machine4Sources close to KISStorian.com are reporting that Abner Devereaux is back to his old tricks and has been working feverishly on a machine in which he will be able to travel back in KISStory!!

Long exiled for his transgressions at Magic Mountain, it is now feared that he may finally make good on his promise to “derail this Psycho Circus whatever it takes”. I hereby implore the KISStoric Galactic Council as well as our friends at KISS Army Alpha Minor (and all their affiliates) to hear ‘n take heed of this very real ‘Abner Alert’. I have a few coordinates of my own I wouldn’t mind punching into Abner’s fantastic machine:

kiss-portrait-1977-photo-GCJanuary 1973 > Oh to time travel back to the first time all four original KISS founders jammed together when Ace Frehley auditioned for the band.  Imagine hearing “Deuce” with Bob Kulick on lead and watching a spaced Frehley, in two different colored sneakers, walk over nonchalantly and plug-in mid-song to the dismay of Gene & Paul. “Sorry curly” Ace was reported to have said when rebuffed by the even-then domineering Simmons. In No Regrets Ace admits he chugged a couple tall boys before venturing in to try out for the role of “guitarist with flash and balls”.  Good thing Abner has been unable thus far to intervene via his time machine and introduce a Bob Kulick clone with long hair for it may alter KISStory forever …AWK!!

o_kiss-live-1983-san-francisco-creatures-tour-cd-r-7774April 3rd, 1983 > Ah, the last date of KISS’s ’10th Anniversary Tour’ in support of Creatures Of The Night with the new line-up and, most notably, no Ace Frehley on lead (despite his being on the album cover). Given the poor attendance of the tour and tepid sales of the record, it would be interesting to check-in on the vibe backstage after the show in San Francisco that night. Sure, KISStory tells us that they would still play a few South American dates in their face paint before their true unmasking on Lick It Up but this Creatures US jaunt was almost curtains for the band. Simply have Abner flip a switch and this might have been the last KISS concert ever, in the US or anywhere. San Fran was no treat for the Sex Pistols either who played their final show there in January of ’78. Pretty vacant.

thNovember 27, 1984 > What a long strange trip it’s been …. especially in the Animalize portion of KISStory when KISS briefly had two lead guitarists in the late, great Mark St. John & now long-time KISS’r, Bruce Kulick.  This evening in Baltimore seems a little like an alternate KISS universe. It was the night that both Kulick & St. John played with the band, ultimately joining each other together on stage to take the encore bows with Gene, Paul & Eric ….as a 5-piece!! Whether there were actually 5 KISS members playing on stage together at the same time at any point seems highly unlikely but, if you were there, please set us straight dude. It’s reported that St. John only played three nights stateside before being ultimately being let go. This would have been the last of those three and apparently enough pudding for Gene & Paul to make a decision. Foiled again, Abner.

2d37aeddcabbcda78b86599bd82e2ab7March 8th, 1985 > Ace’s first show after KISS with Frehley’s Comet at the L’Amour Club in Brooklyn. The bootleg was a childhood prized possession I got on cassette by mail from the New England Kiss Collectors Network back in the day. I love when Ace says “like dig it man ….it’s like such a ….great pleasure …to play for you people … I haven’t been on stage in years … it’s the fucking worst!! … but the reception I’m getting from you people just makes it all that much better” .. early Comet, before the album, with Richie and Arthur and Anton and John. A hot night for rock & roll. The energy in the room may have been enough for Abner to defect and become a ‘Rock Soldier’ …or did he spike Ace’s drink?

March 30th, 1986 > I was actually at this show, but wouldn’t mind going back! No sign of Abner, but we felt his presence as there was a snake there that night (but it was opener King Kobra). This was the night on the Asylum Tour that KISS played Hammond, Indiana. Only problem was it was Easter Sunday and local Church officials rallied to protest the show and all things KISS. Me and my bro tried to talk to a few of the ‘church elders’ about our ‘KISS Elders’ but they weren’t having it. KISS was, as they put, “what’s wrong with America”. Abner’s sentiments exactly. The universe handed me a free photo pass that night so, had I seen Abner backstage, he would have been a goner or at least questioned severely … “okay, Abner, what are you doing in Hammond man?”

It’s no wonder Abner wants to go back in KISStory — he may be the only one among us who could accurately see the future; a KISS with no original members.