REVIEW: Frehley’s Comet – Second Sighting (1988)

Part three in a series on Ace Frehley!  Missed the last part, Live + 1?  Click here!

FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)

Ace was rushed on Second Sighting.  I think that might be why it seems a little Tod (Howarth) heavy, song-wise.  I recall in an old Hit Parader interview circa 1989, Ace complained that he had to follow a “stupid schedule” on Second Sighting, and the album suffered for it.

Having said that, I like Second Sighting better than Frehley’s Comet.  I wondered what the hell Ace was high on when he made that comment about Second Sighting.  Indeed, this is my favourite (post-Kiss) Ace CD.  Let’s not forget how important context is.  It was summer 1988.  It was the summer of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen…and Ace Frehley!  I was a kid in love with the rock.

The lead single was a choice Ace may regret today.  Instead of coming out with a rocker, they went with “It’s Over Now”, a ballad sung by Tod!  I always thought to myself:  “If I was a kid and I didn’t know who Ace Frehley was, would I assume he’s the blond guy singing?”  Tod’s singing, playing the keyboards (a huge friggin’ keyboard), and then he breaks into a guitar solo on one of those little Steinberger’s with no head…odd choice for lead video, no?  Check out the close up on his two-handed tapping technique.  The perfect Howarth hair.  The video even seems to be vaguely about him and some chick.  I still have to admit that my teenage self loved the song, it might be a ballad but it was a quality ballad with some soloing.

Thankfully, the album itself was lead off with a better track, “Insane”.  It’s an Ace helmed good time party rocker.  New drummer Jamie Oldaker (Eric Clapton) isn’t as fancy as the unavailable Anton Fig, but he throws in some pretty cool fills.   Of course Ace lands the perfect solo, always complimenting the song.

The second track is a melancholy Dokken-esque rock ballad from Tod, “Time Ain’t Runnin’ Out”.  It has a pretty significant keyboard part, which some may find obtrusive.  Fortunately the guitar parts are great, and Tod’s powerful voice is easy on the ears.  It also has a pretty solid chorus.

I don’t know the story behind “Dancin’ With Danger”, but it sure boasts an odd batch of co-writers, including Spencer Proffer, Streetheart, Ace, and Dana Strum from rival band Vinnie Vincent Invasion.  The good news:  it smokes.  It has a ZZ Top-like sequencer part, adding a robotic pulse, but not taking anything else away.  The riff is pretty heavy, Ace takes the lead vocal and an absolutely scorching solo.

The first side of the album ended with “Loser in a Fight” which is kind of…meh…eh…  It’s OK, it’s heavy at least, but what I like about it is that is a co-lead vocal with both Ace and Tod.  It’s that old Kiss trick that I used to like.

SECOND SIGHTING_0001Ace enters on side two with some pretty cool guitar effects, leading into “Juvenile Delinquent”.  Ace sings to a 16 year old girl and tells her to follow her dreams.  It’s a little creepy when Ace sings “You’re looking good these days, believe it girl, I’m not blind.”  I tend to just block that part out when I hear it.  I think it’s a catchy song with a rock solid guitar base, and other than a couple lines in the song, I dig it.

“Fallen Angel” (not the Poison song that was a hit around the same time) is another Tod ballad.  Like “It’s Over Now”, it’s a totally solid song, but this one has some more balls to it.  It’s a little pissed-off sounding and the chorus is blazing hot.  It is followed by “Separate” which to me sounds like vintage Ace.  It’s sparse, the lyrics are basically spoken, and it has an extended guitar solo as the centerpiece.  It kind of reminds me of “Don’t Run”, an Ace demo that eventually became “Dark Light” on The Elder.

“New Kind of Lover” is a wicked cool hard rocker about Tod Howarth gettin’ it on with a ghost.  Once again, the solo is obviously Tod.  Some may find it offensive that Ace didn’t play every single guitar solo on his album, but Frehley’s comet was a band, and Tod’s no slouch.  His soloing style is opposite to Ace Frehley, which is one reason to allow him a couple solos.  It also lent the album a modern edge.

As is the Ace tradition, the album closes with an “instrumental” (technically).  Unlike past albums, it is not a nice pleasant “Fractured”.  Instead, this is a blitz of riffage and solos called “The Acorn in Spinning”, which does in fact have words.  The lyrics entirely spoken, Ace tells the tale of “this new fighter Bronx,” and a few other seedy characters.  As it happens, that summer I was introduced to the Sierra PC game, Championship Boxing.  Obsessed as I was with “The Acorn is Spinning”, I named my boxer Acorn and created a whole persona and cast of enemy boxers for him to challenge.

That’s the note I want this review to go out on, a note of personal anecdote, because for me this album is personal.  Summer 1988.  Ace may have been dissatisfied, but LeBrain 1988 was eager to hear the next one.  Little did I know that Frehley’s Comet had to endure some serious lineup changes.  But that’s next time.  See you then!

4.5/5 stars

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32 comments

  1. I seem to remember walking by Ace around this time, when I was working at Atlantic Records. He was much taller than I expected (I’m just under 6 feet tall, and he seemed to tower over me), and I remember thinking that years of wearing makeup did a number on his skin…although perhaps he always looked like that.

    As I mentioned in the comments of your last Ace post, I don’t own any Frehley’s Comet releases. I only have his Kiss solo album and his last one (Anomaly?). If I ever find these cheap on vinyl I will definitely pick them up, but I can’t see myself paying full price for the CDs. Is there a good compilation of his solo work that covers most/all the best songs?

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    1. Hey Rich, there are. And I intend to cover them! When Ace rejoined Kiss there was a flurry of releases. I’m going to be talking about 4 or 5 things that came out during that period!

      I always assumed Ace suffered from acne as a kid, and like Bryan Adams ended up scarred. I’m sure that 70’s era makeup didn’t help! Ace wears a beard now.

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  2. After the live Comet Ep I was looking forward to this release and I spun it and basically filed away as there were so many other releases that yr like Mike stated that I just left this one behind and was the last Frehley purchase I made.
    Sumthin on it the songs just didn’t gel ,the band here is fine but I guess I put a ton of hope into it just like I did with the first Frehleys Comet and it came up a little short and than my hopes were raised after the live Ep….finicky record buyer back in 88 I was!
    For me the 78 solo album is the album for me!

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    1. The 78 solo album is almost beyond compare. I really consider that and Frehley’s Comet to be separate things. He was on fire back in 78!

      So you have not checked out Trouble Walkin?

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  3. Well, Mike, usually I agree with most of the stuff you write and we have a lot in common when it comes to taste in music. But on this I must beg to differ.
    This album is a complete waste of money. I remember when I bought this and how disappointed I was when I first played it. Still am. Insane and The Acorn Is Spinning are the only decent songs on this album, the rest are somewhere between mediocre and utter crap. Sadly most of them are the latter. I too remember that Ace said that this album was rushed and he wasn’t happy with it all. I totally understand that. Separate must be one of the worst songs Ace have ever recorded. Dolls is a masterpiece in comparision. And of course, Tod Howarth is all over this album and I just can’t stand the guy. It’s Over Now… Yuck!
    But most of all, I find this album a complete mystery. I own a tape full of demos of songs that could have made a really great album for Ace and his band had he recorded them. I mean stuff like Audio Video, Give It To Me Anyway and Back Into My Arms were written for the debut and are all superior to the every song on this album. There are also great stuff like Animal, I Fell In Love and I Got The Touch – sure they’re a bit more commercial, but at least they’re all good.
    Also, the Streetheart tune, Dancin’ With Danger, is also on the demo tape I have, but the original one, performed by Streetheart. It’s exactly the same tune as on this album and Ace didn’t re-write nada on it, so why his name is there is anyone’s guess. Dana Strum? No clue, but according to this, he didn’t have anything to do with it either:

    http://www.discogs.com/Streetheart-Dancing-With-Danger/release/1035392

    So there’s my view on this album. To finish off this positive reply ;) I can only say that I give this album 2/10 and that Jamie Oldaker was a boring twat. Thank God Ace sacked his ass.

    I did tell you I would bring out the chainsaw for this album… :-D

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    1. Alright “Mastermind” (lol) I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one! I have a feeling we’ll be in more agreement when it comes to Trouble Walkin.

      I’m listening to the Streetheart version right now. You can hear that it’s almost identical. And what is a “coco wheel” anyway? (I think the correct lyric might be “cobalt wheel”, but sings “coco”).

      I also have a Tod Howarth solo version of this song from the late 90’s. We’ll be talking about that when we get there…

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      1. Haha! U know it. I’m not called Mastermind for nothing… ;-)

        Wasn’t Streetheart a Canadian band btw?

        And I have also heard that the Howarth songs on this album was from his old demos that he made long before joining the Comet. Could there be any truth in that, you think?

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        1. Yes they were Canadian!

          I wouldn’t be shocked at all if some of these songs originated as Howarth demos. After all, Ace already said they were rushed, plus they did a cover. To me that means that they needed songs so they used whatever they had.

          I know we don’t agree on the song “Separate” but I will concede that it does sound unfinished. Again I think the key is that they were rushed. 2 albums and a live EP in 12 months, that’s a busy period!

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    2. Well, I’m sorry that you think I am such a horrible drummer. I liked playing with ace and had a great time. Anton is one of my friends and has always respected me. I’m sorry you aren’t familiar with my long career … I will be happy with the 11 albums that I recorded with Eric Clapton …. And by the way, ace didn’t sack me, we all quit because he didn’t pay us….all the best to you guys, Jamie Oldaker

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      1. Excellent defense of your drumming and your history with Ace, Jamie. As I stated in a previous comment, I was always a huge fan of your drumming with Clapton (I believe that was you on the Money & Cigarettes tour, right? That was the first time I saw Clapton in concert). Haven’t heard this Ace album so I can’t comment on your performance, but hopefully you’ll take negative internet comments with a grain of salt. Cheers to you from a fellow drummer.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I second Rich’s comments, Jamie. Thank you for visiting my site, I’m sorry that it wasn’t a nicer visit…I do love this Frehley’s Comet album, I stand by my 4.5/5 star rating. It’s been over 25 years of love for Second Sighting for me.

        Cheers, Mike.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. An apology for the twat thing is in order from this guy. That was totally uncalled for – sometimes I write (and say) things before I think. You being really nice about it also makes me feel more like a dick.
        So I’m sorry for that!
        But I stand for my opinons about this album and the drumming on it. However, I haven’t heard any of the Clapton stuff so my comments are all about this record, not your drumming in general. I guess Clapton wouldn’t hire a no good drummer, though.
        About the sacking, I read in some magazine that Ace said he sacked both Jamie and the drummer before him, Billy Ward. But I’m not surprised about Ace didn’t pay his musicians, kinda seems like an Ace thing to do…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard Oldaker with Clapton. Maybe this is the wrong kind of music for him, maybe it’s the producer’s fault, but he’s plain boring on this album. Too bad Anton Fig left the band.

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        1. It’s so hard to have to live up to Anton Fig too. I had the chance to really listen to his playing, and he’s just a master. To me, it was a big coup for Ace to have Anton in the Comet in the first place.

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        2. One last thing: I read that Peter Criss was upset that he wasn’t asked to be the drummer in the Comet. I think there’s a good reason for that. Ace’s music is a little more technical than Kiss, and I don’t think Peter would have been up to the job truthfully. His style is more based on swing.

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  4. Listening to Loaded Deck now and It’s Over Now. Jeez, listen to the snare. Oldaker’s off beat – he comes in late with every strike. Either it was supposed to sound like that – almost unlistenable or the producer’s done deaf or they all were on a 24/7 drinking binge when this song was recorded…
    But the song itself wasn’t all that bad, like I remembered it. But Tod’s voice was, though…

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      1. Wanna hear something funny? There’s this Swedish wanna-be rock band called Takida, that should be avoided at any cost. Of course, they are huge in Sweden,because they write stupid shit songs for morons who loves commercial pop radio! And I loathe them. More than any rock band on this planet!
        Anyway, I have a good friend who works as a roadie / tour manager / backline and whatnot and has worked with Takida so many times that he has become friends with them. Of course, he had to tell them that I hate them and one day for my birthday two years ago I had a happy birthday wish in my FB inbox from their guitarist. I wrote him back and he admitted that it was my friend who had made him do it.
        They might be a crap band, but they have great distance to what they’re doing, I’ll give them that. :-D

        Did you listen to the snare?

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        1. I didn’t listen to that snare yet.

          So what are you saying about popular music in Sweden? Are you implying that the majority have bad taste? And if so, is this any different from Canada, the country that gave you Justin Bieber?

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        2. I guess that is the case in most countries because the majority of the population are more or less tone deaf and therefore has no interest in music other than something they can hum along to until they are fed up with it. Then they hum along to the next manufactured “hit” that’s popular that week.
          Popular music isn’t made to last these days, it’s like fast food for your ears.
          We have so much musical crap in this country, like you wouldn’t believe. On the other hand, we never gave anyone no Justin Bieber…. :)

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