REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Trouble Walkin’ (1989)

Part 4 in a series on Ace Frehley!  Missed the last part, Second Sighting?  Click here!

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ACE FREHLEY – Trouble Walkin’ (1989 Megaforce Worldwide)

Gone was the Frehley’s Comet moniker, and gone was multi-instrumentalist and talented singer Tod Howarth.  I believe he toured with Cheap Trick after the Comet, on backing instruments and vocals.  In his stead came Richie Scarlet, certainly no slouch, and an alumnus from an earlier version of the band.  Not only did Scarlet write some of Ace’s best stuff, but takes a lead vocal on the album Trouble Walkin’.  Also back was drummer Anton Fig!

On top of all that, producer Eddie Kramer was back working with Ace again, and they have great chemistry together.  Certainly all the elements were in place for a great solo album.  The critics and fans were pretty much unanimous in their praise of Ace’s latest.  Little did they know it would be his last solo album for 20 whole years!

Trouble Walkin’ was Ace’s heaviest solo album to date.  Take “Shot Full Of Rock”, the opener.  It is scorching from start to finish, but especially on the ripping guitar solo.  It has a great chorus to boot, and a fine lead vocal from the Ace.

Frehley has a knack for selecting great covers, and his take on The Move’s “Do Ya” is superior to the original in some respects.  As he has with other covers, Ace makes it his own.  I think Ace does very well when rocking up poppier, melodic material and “Do Ya” is no exception.  I always hoped it would be a bigger hit, but it wasn’t really.

“Five Card Stud” is co-written by Marc Ferrari of Keel.  It’s not an exceptional song, but it does boast a suitably heavy riff, and plenty of tasty Ace licks and solos.  It might not be the best song, but the guitar work makes it worthwhile.

This is followed by the weirdest song of all:  “Hide Your Heart”, a song written by Paul Stanley, Holly Knight and Desmond Child.  It had been demoed years before for Crazy Nights, but not used. Bonnie Tyler was first to record the song, then Robin Beck and then Molly Hatchet!   When Kiss recorded it for Hot In The Shade, they released it as a single mere weeks before Ace’s album came out.  By the time Kiss’ album came out (the week after Trouble Walkin’) the song had been released by no less than five different artists.  The common thread to some of those versions seems to be Desmond Child.  Obviously, Ace knew people would compare his version with Kiss’.  Gene Simmons spoke to him on the phone to warn him that Kiss were releasing it as their lead single.  Ace’s version, while harder, just is not as good.  That’s not to say it’s bad, because Kiss’ version is awesome.

TROUBLE WALKIN_0006“Lost In Limbo”, a Richie Scarlet co-write, closed side one on a pedestrian note.  Side two began with a better song, the title track.  This would be a good time to mention that Peter Criss sings backing vocals!  You can’t hear him, but he showed up.  That’s Richie Scarlet saying “Take it, Ace!” and singing the bridge.  This one’s a solid Ace rocker, guitar and cowbell heavy!

My favourite song is “2 Young 2 Die”.  It’s just so heavy!  I used to think Peter Criss was singing the lead vocal, because it’s so raspy.  It is in fact Richie Scarlet, though Peter is on backing vocals again.   This is an outstanding song, rhythmic and bass-driven.  Anton’s drums are tribal and dramatic.  The guitar solos are all over the place, but all of them are ear candy.

TROUBLE WALKIN_0003“Back To School” is a a fun song, and you can’t mistake who’s singing (screaming) with Ace on the chorus:  one of the biggest Frehley fans on the planet, Sebastian Bach himself!  He’s joined by Peter Criss, and Dave “Snake” Sabo and Rachel Bolan, also of Skid Row.  This one is more hard rock than anything else, but damn catchy.

I’m not sure if “Remember Me” is really live, but it’s mixed to sound that way.  A crowd is mixed in, and Ace says good evening to “Club Remulac, in France!”  It is important to remember that “Remulak” is home planet of the Saturday Night Live characters, the Coneheads.  Appropriate since this song is sung from the perspective of a space traveler, advising Earthlings to get some world peace happenin’.  Good song, though, kind of lazy and light.

The album closes with “Fractured III”, and much like its predecessors, it’s an instrumental.  The thing about the Fractured series is that they do sound all interconnected.  They all sound related at the hip, or the heart, and that’s cool.  I like all of them for different reasons.  “Fractured III” might be the hardest, most electric of them to this point.

After this, Ace seemed to lay dormant for a number of years.  In 1990 there was a rumour that Kiss were working on a reunion with Ace, Paul, Gene and Eric Carr which of course never happened.  A few years later Ace turned up on his Just 4 Fun tour, playing a Kiss-heavy set of classics.  Later came the Bad Boys of Kiss tour with Peter Criss, and finally the inevitable original Kiss reunion.  During the reunion, there were some interesting Ace Frehley releases, and we’ll be talking about those things next.

As for Trouble Walkin’?  Solid.

4/5 stars

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29 comments

  1. These reviews continue to make me curious about Ace’s solo career beyond the initial Kiss solo album. I’m not always in the mood for ’80s hard rock, though, so it’ll have to happen (a) when I find the CDs or LPs cheap and (2) my brain is geared up for this era. I’ll be using your reviews as a guide, so thanks for posting them.

    One small correction: “Do Ya” was originally recorded by The Move, Jeff Lynne’s band prior to ELO, and then re-recorded by ELO for the hit version. I like Ace’s version, but ELO’s recording is still the gold standard for this song, and The Move’s original has its own quaint charms:

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      1. Just realized I gave two reasons as “(a)” and “(2)”. That’s something I would usually do as a joke, but apparently my brain battery is a little low this morning. It’s only Tuesday and I have my own post to write today, so I better wake up soon.

        Looking forward to more info on Ace.

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        1. Sadly I have to make you wait for me to talk about the next studio album, which Outer Space is from. But Ace made us wait 20 years, so it’s all fair.

          I think what I have coming up instead is cooler in many regards. Rare Ace tracks…oddball Comet releases…all very cool stuff and some of it is hard to find, so stay tuned! I’m actually MORE excited about the upcoming set of Ace reviews than the next album, so I hope you enjoy. I know I enjoyed listening and writing.

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    1. You know what, I hear where you’re coming from there. I get that. I think it’s more just a general sound of the late 80’s more than anything intentional (although both have co-writes by Desmond Child.)

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  2. This one kicks Second Sighting in the nuts! Still it’s a bit uneven and i think the debut Frehley’s Comet album was better. It’s also sad that he dropped the Frehley’s Comet moniker and went solo. However, the whiny Howarth is gone, thank God and the way cooler Richie Scarlet is back, so that’s all good. Do Ya is a really cool cover (do ya, do ya want the Ace…?) and yeah, he really Aced it. But there’s a few songs that doesn’t really cut it, like Hide Your Heart. I can’t grasp why on earth he decided to do that song when everybody and their mother had done their version. Ace’s version is a throwaway. Robin Beck does the best version of that track, btw. But as a whole, this is a very good album and I really like the heavier production. 7/10 from me.

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    1. Time to go listen to Robin Beck’s version!

      Thanks for the feedback Jon. I believe Richie Scarlet later showed up with Sebastian Bach, didn’t he? I have a CD called Bring ‘Em Bach Alive, that I never listen to.

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      1. Yep, Scarlett is on that one. I own it too, but just like you, I never listen to it. I don’t need to hear a recording of Bach playing a gig full of Skid Row covers. But there are some good original songs on that album as well.

        My review of Robin Beck’s new album Underneath will be online within a couple of hours or so. Very good album. But check out Trouble Or Nothin’, that’s an AOR / Melodic rock killer.

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        1. Awesome. I’ll be checking that review soon. I know very little about Robin Beck.

          I guess I’ll put that Bach on my revisit list. I do love the guitarist with the big bat wings, Jimmy Flemion. Love that guy.

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  3. Cool stuff! Like the sound of this one. Only heard a couple of tracks from it… title track and Hide Your Heart (prefer KISS too but Ace’s is still good). I keep an eye out for this on vinyl but I’ve never seen it about. I mainly know Richie Scarlet from the Bring Em Bach Alive album which I quite enjoyed. And I think Howarth might have had a short stint with Cheap Trick before doing Comet as well as afterwards.

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  4. By this time unfortunately I had moved on from Aces career just the hype I guess I built up in my head over his releases and it always kinda falling short…ie Frehleys Kiss album classic even today than waiting 9 yrs for the Comet.solid but kinda falls short than the classic E.P is released and hope a meter shoots up and than Second Sighting which for me comes across a little to lean kinda like a cooked up Foreigner soo..when Trouble Walking came out my younger brother bought it ,I listened to it and it wasn’t bad but I think I just kinda moved on by than..Back To School was kinda cool with Sebastian on it (I think,if memory recalls)….
    Even Kiss Hot In The Shade album was a let down…I dunno what it was but I guess there were other releases I was just into more by the point….

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  5. Yep those 3 artists that u mention all put out solid debuts ,I bought 2 of the three(slaughter and Yankees ) I did not buy Extreme as my brother bought that on cassette and I just listened to his copy….but of the three I really got into Damn Yankees…what a fantastic debut and word on the street at the time was Shaw and Blades asked Rik Emmett to join but he declined as he was to fried out from Triumph….man I gotta do around from that one now!

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    1. Holy crap…the idea of Rik Emmett in Dam Yankees is almost too much for me to comprehend. Triumph is one of my all-time favorite bands, and in his prime no one could touch Emmett’s abilities on guitar & vocals. Shaw & Blades are no slouches, of course, and thinking about the three of them harmonizing almost brings tears (of joy) to my eyes.

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    2. Interesting Deke. I read it was actually Mike Levine that was asked to be in Damn Yankees, before Jack Blades. Great debut though and well worth a revisit.

      I am going to be discussing Extreme II soon, I recently acquired all the singles, so be ready for a great comprehensive. Review!

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  6. Btw, I read that Tod Howarth and his old band Cocoa Blue will be releasing a new album soon. A covers album. Wow! What a thrill. And he’ll be covering Smoke On The Water. And Tush. Very imaginative! Who wants to hear Smoke On The Water for the millionth time? And doesn’t Purple have like a million better songs? If I never hear Smoke On the Water again it’ll be too soon… Almost as bad as when German band Bonfire covered Sweet Home Alabama. Jeez…

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    1. I read this too. I was so disinterested, I didn’t even feel the need to tell you :) BORING. Not interested.

      The only cover of Smoke that I even remotely enjoy was by TM Stevens, and it was a funk cover. I like it because it is so completely different.

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