ACE FREHLEY

"Origins Vol. 1" (Entertainment One; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Legendary Kiss axeman Ace Frehley returns with a collection of cover songs that, based on the title of this recording, were inspirations for his life in music. Songs on this CD were originally performed by Cream, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, Free, The Troggs, Steppenwolf, the Kinks, Sonny Boy Williamson and ... well, Kiss. And they're good songs, too. You know them all ... although you may not recognize a couple of them as they appear on this CD.

"Origins Vol. 1" is classic Ace. It's got killer guitar tone, chunky riffs and typical Ace vocals. By that, I mean they get the job done, but they're nothing to write home about. Ace has a couple of guests performing on this album, as well, including former band mate Paul Stanley who takes vocal duties on the cover of Free's "Fire and Water." It's an interesting track in that there's almost nothing from the original left. It's a strange, yet effective cover tune, and is different enough to piss of some purists. Lita Ford joins Ace on vocals for a version of The Troggs "Wild Thing," a song that, unfortunately, has been covered too many million times and just kind of drags along here.

Other guests join Ace on "Origins" as well, but this time they're in the guitar department. John 5, who I understand is a huge Kiss fan, appears on two tracks, and Slash and Mike McCready appear on two others. Their appearance lights up the cover songs they perform in.

Overall, I would say that "Origins Vol. 1" is a flawed collection of cover tunes that have all been "Frehley-ized." "Flawed" is probably the wrong word. These are the songs that Ace wanted to honor by playing them, and playing them his way. Some of the songs work very nicely, some do not. The highlights for me were "Parasite," a cover of Ace's own tune from Kiss's "Hotter Than Hell" album, and "Emerald," by Thin Lizzy, with Slash and Ace tearing up the solos.

For more information, check out http://www.acefrehley.com.

"Space Invader" (Entertainment One; 2014)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Space Invaders" is Ace Frehley's latest solo offering and, while it rocks the house with big fat chords, addictive choruses and solos that are as familiar as they are welcome, it doesn't quite hold up to Frehley's last outing, "Anomaly."

All that's good about an Ace Frehley album is here: the aforementioned riffs, choruses and solos. The crisp production. The unrepentant rock'n'roll atmosphere of each and every song. The bad news is that the not-so-great stuff here as well. As I said in my "Anomaly" review, Ace isn't the best singer or lyricist and sometimes the stiff vocals, combined with so-so lyrics, are wince-inspiring. I was excited when I heard that Ace was covering Steve Miller's classic "The Joker," but the version found on "Space Invaders" is a little stiff and takes too much of the loose groove out of the track ... and it becomes just another cover song.

I certainly don't mean to say that "Space Invader" is a failure; it's not. It's a fun record to listen to, with its rocket man lyrics, Ace's playful personality, and those solos that burn their way into your mind the first time you hear them. "Gimme a Feelin'" is a particularly notable track, thanks mostly to Frehley's fretwork. And fans of Ace's previous work will eat "Space Invader" up. It just didn't catch my attention like "Anomaly" did ... but that doesn't mean I won't listen to it often.

For more information, check out http://www.acefrehley.com.

"Anomaly" (Bronx Born; 2009)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

After spending some time in the studio with R. Scott Bolton and Snidermann for my debut on Rough Edge Radio, one thing became apparent: Bolton is a big KISS fan and Snidermann probably uses their CDs as coasters. I labeled Scott "KISS" and Steve "KISS OFF!" When this disc came out, I thought I should pick it up and listen to a guitar player I used to marvel at, primarily because of his persona of "The Spaceman."

The guitar here is really good. I have a few guitar players I strive to play like but I've never considered Ace one of the bunch. He's a pioneer, no doubt, and should be recognized for that contribution. This disc came out after a long hiatus; Ace's last disc was "Trouble Walkin'" which was released back in 1989.

Ace dedicated this disc to Eric Carr and also to Dimebag Darrell. The music is tough sounding and when Ace puts pick to string he can make some nasty riffs come out of his axe. I recommend ripping this disc and putting it on your MP3 player so you can hear the back and forth guitar mixing. The drums are played by Anton Fig who is known as a remarkable session player. The songs here sound a little dated if it weren't for the great production.

Fans of Ace will love his signature guitar licks and dirty blues solos. After hearing this disc I was impressed when Ace plugged in and played. I guess I forgot what he sounded like. His vocals are just all right -- he won't be winning any awards but you won't be throwing tomatoes either. I guess he could have hired some vocal guns but Ace is Ace so he's gonna do what feels right.

The band: Ace Frehley - lead vocals, lead guitar, additional bass; Anthony Esposito bass; Anton Fig - drums, percussion; Derrek Hawkins - rhythm guitar; Scot Coogan - drums, percussion; Marti Frederiksen - keyboards, additional bass and rhythm guitar.

For more information, check out http://www.acefrehley.com.

"Anomaly" (Bronx Born; 2009)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Legendary Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley returns to the fray with his latest solo album, "Anomaly."

The good news for Frehley fans is that "Anomaly" fits right into Ace's canon. "Anomaly" is fat with chunky guitar chords, dynamic lead riffs and simple song structures that are easy to sink your teeth into. Ace was always the rawest of the Kiss musicians, his style often neared pure punk rock, and there's no denying that, from Track 1, "Anomaly" is an Ace Frehley album.

The CD begins with the driving "Foxy and Free," and it's a standard Ace Frehley song that could have appeared on his 1978 solo album or any of the later solo or Frehley's Comet albums that followed. In fact, most of the songs on "Anomaly" could have been written and recorded any time during the past 31 years. Ace's music never changes that much and this album fits in with the rest of them like it was always there.

There are a few nice surprises on "Anomaly." Ace covers the classic Sweet hit, "Fox on the Run," and strips down all the gloss that Sweet gave that tune and roughs it up a bit. The heartfelt "Change the World," although not completely successful, does get points for its sincerity, as does "A Little Below the Angels." The instrumental "Space Bear" is a highlight (although those expecting Satriani-style shredding will not be impressed) and, in fact, outshines the signature "Fractured" (this time "Fractured Quantum") instrumental that closes the album.

Of course, as with any Ace Frehley album, there's some bad news as well. Ace still isn't the best singer, and often his vocals sound a little stiff and forced. Ace isn't the best lyricist, either and, coupled with his limited vocal abilities, some of the songs will have eyes rolling.

Regardless, this is an Ace Frehley album and its one of his best. His fans know what to expect. Considering its first week success (opening at #27 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart), there are a lot of Ace Frehley fans out there and they're going to love "Anomaly."

For more information, check out http://www.acefrehley.com.

"Greatest Hits Live" (Megaforce; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

You gotta love Ace Frehley. The man's an honest-to-God icon. An inspiration to thousands, if not tens-of -thousands, of rock'n'roll stars and rock'n'roll wannabes.

This CD, with tracks taken from previous live Ace Frehley offerings such as "Live + 1" and "12 Picks," is Ace exactly as you remember him. Scrappy, sloppy, raw and just barely in control. Contained here are live versions of songs from Ace's solo CD, his Frehley's Comet days, and songs that he and KISS made famous.

They're all given the classic Ace Frehley treatment here: Ace's perfectly out of tune vocals (bandmembers John Regan and Tod Howarth weren't much better than Ace at the microphone; witness the utterly annoying "Breakout"), the clunky arrangements and the guitar solos we've heard Ace play over and over and over and over and over and over.

Yet, while the tracks on "Greatest Hits Live" may be far from tight, it's the solos that make a difference. Something magical takes place when Ace rips into a solo. An Ace Frehley solo can change an entire song. "Deuce" starts out as though the band is playing in a pool of molasses here, but when it's time for Ace to solo, the entire song explodes with energy. And, although we've all heard the "Shock Me" solo enough times to sing it by heart, it still cooks ... and you know if you could only see that goddamn smoking guitar, you'd be standing on your seat screaming for more.

Ace is Ace. You either love him or you hate him but he doesn't care. He's gonna do it his way and he does it again on "Greatest Hits Live."

Also included are two unremarkable studio tracks, "One Plus One" and "Give it to Me Anyway," from Frehley's "Loaded Deck."

For more information, check out http://www.acefrehley.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright 2017 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.