REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Loaded Deck (1998)

Part 8 of a 9 part series on Ace Frehley.  So close to the end now!   Did you miss any?

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ACE FREHLEY – Loaded Deck (1998 Megaforce Worldwide)

So then an other odds n’ sods disc from John Regan of Frehley’s Comet arrived.  Like 12 Picks, this one also came with an Ace guitar pick.  The most appealing songs in this collection are the unreleased tracks “One Plus One” and “Give It To Me Anyway”.  Both are complete Frehley’s Comet songs, produced by Eddie Kramer.  My respected reviewer friend Jon holds these songs above many that made it onto the actual albums.

“One Plus One” is an excellent commercial rocker with that Ace “quirk” to it.  This one might have been cut from 1987’s Frehley’s Comet album because it was considered too pop.  That’s a shame because it’s great.  Tod Howarth’s high backing vocal complements Ace’s lead for maximum hooks.  I love it.  This song is addictive.

“Give It To Me Anyway” is one of the oldest Comet songs, dating back to 1985, recorded for 1989’s Trouble Walkin’, and left unreleased.   This is a tough, funky rocker, musically ambitious.  Anton Fig’s avalanches of drum fills are always soothing, but Richie Scarlet’s raspy vocals are the real hook.  Not that the chorus is bad either!

After these two valuable now-classics, Regan throws on three Frehley also-rans that didn’t make it onto the prior 12 Picks compilation.  They are Ace’s excellent cover of The Move/ELO’s “Do Ya”, Tod Howarth’s ballad “It’s Over Now”, and “Shot Full Of Rock” from Trouble Walkin’.  I like all three songs, but I question the wisdom of including “It’s Over Now” on this compilation.  Ace didn’t write it, didn’t sing on it, didn’t play the guitar solo…

A smattering of live tracks makes up the next section of the CD.  Some of these are from the Live + 4 VHS release, others are from the same gig that the Live + 1 EP was recorded at.  “Stranger In A Strange Land” (from Frehley’s Comet) is from this show, and has Anton Fig on drums.  Not the greatest song but you can actually hear where it would fit into Live + 1 (right before “Something Moved”).  Up next is “Separate” which Ace introduced as “Separate the Men from the Boys”.  I’ve admitted to liking the song, but this is especially cool as this is the very first performance of it.  I dig the vocal and Ace’s chugging guitar and I think it actually works live, surprisingly.

LOADED DECK_0004Tod Howarth…I’m sorry dude…you suck at introducing songs.  I wish you said nothing in front of “New York Groove”.  You’re no Paul Stanley, believe me.  I ain’t gonna “clap those hands”.  Thankfully the performance of the song is great, even if Jamie Oldaker butchers the drum part.  “Rock Soldiers” is once again back to the Anton Fig lineup, and this time Ace does the intro himself.  You can immediately tell it’s a different drummer, it’s like night and day.  “Remember Me” is the last of the live tracks, and though it’s presented live, it’s the same version that is on Trouble Walkin’.

The final two songs are parts 2 and 3 of the “Fractured” tetralogy (though in 1998 still a trilogy).  Part one, of course, was on Ace’s 1978 solo album, which is considered part of the Kiss catalog.  Therefore, John Regan wouldn’t have been able to use it on Loaded Deck.  It’s fine…a bit of a cop out way to end a compilation album I think.  To me, it feels like, “We’re all out of good songs so here’s two instrumentals.”  For the casual fan, it’s a “blah” ending.  For the die-hards, well, we already have these songs…part one included…and could make our own tapes with all of them, should we desire to experience them like that.  I’ve never had that compulsion.  They were all individual album closers, that felt right ending the albums in that context.  Together, it doesn’t work for me.

Sometimes a compilation leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  If it’s a disjointed listening experience, I’m less likely to return to that compilation.  Loaded Deck gets fewer plays in my collection than 12 Picks does.  Even though they are meant to complement each other, like two discs of a double anthology, I think 12 Picks is a better album experience.

What Regan should have done is make an album of just the unreleased studio and live songs, without the stuff we already had on the studio albums.  Megaforce figured that out, and in 2006 issued Greatest Hits Live, a compilation of these two compilations.  After we already bought said compilations.  Awesome.

2/5 stars for the album, just go ahead and get Greatest Hits Live instead.

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8 comments

  1. Ah well… it sounded like it was worth getting at the time anyway! I’ll be the beneficiary of your hard-earned wisdom and opt for Greatest Hits Live. I take it there was nothing on that you didn’t have already?

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  2. Tod Howarth…I’m sorry dude…you suck at introducing songs. Too… ;-)
    That was kinda mean, wasn’t it? But I just can’t help myself… :-D

    Ah well, Give It To Me Anyway is great and it’s a mystery that that song was left out of the Frehley’s Comet debut when they did record mediocre stuff like Something Moved or Dolls. But One Plus One is a bagatelle, not bad, but it’s in on ear and out the other.

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    1. I like One Plus One, more now. I like Ace’s pop side. He could have made a living writing pop songs!

      Mean to Tod Howarth? Bah. He’s the one who does the crappy song introductions. There are so many bad ones. Shock Me is pretty terrible too. Even Ace seemed to think so. When introducing Shock Me, Tod tells the story of how Ace got electrocuted. He then says, “When Ace he came to, he wrote this song!” And Ace says, “I did?”

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      1. I’d be all for a greatest hits, with an excellent track list, but I don’t think I’d want it live. If there were both, a live and an album version set, I’d buy the latter. I tend towards hits sets being studio tracks. I even avoid buying hits sets that have one or two live tracks – look at Slipknot’s hits set. No thanks. What’s wrong with the studio versions? Anyway. I think we’ve had this discussion before, you saying sometimes the live versions are better (KISS Alive, right?). That may be an exception to the rule. If a band needs a hits set, or is filling out a contractual obligation, make it studio tracks. If you want to release live songs, release a live record. Keep them separate.

        It could just be me. I am a weirdo, after all, but there you go.

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        1. There really isn’t a good Ace hits collection that suits your needs. Then again, I’m not sure how much Ace the average guy needs. Surely his Kiss solo album, but beyond that is really individual!

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