REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Space Invader (2014 Japanese release)

NEW RELEASE

ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader (2014 E One/Victor Japan)

Ace Frehley doesn’t exactly crank ’em out anymore, but the five year break between albums isn’t too bad by today’s standards.  Anomaly surfaced in 2009.  I think it could have delivered more than it did, but Space Invader is more immediate.

The title track “Space Invader” opens the album; a solid rocker with a strong chorus.  The guitar solos absolutely smoke.  Ace has lost nothing over the years, even his voice has barely changed.  His singing could be more melodic, but he has character.   This song takes me back to when I first heard Frehley’s Comet back in ’87.  Hearing Ace’s guitar front and center doing things I had forgotten he could do.  Awesome.

“Gimme a Feelin'” (hilariously labelled a “radio edit” even though it is also the album version) is plenty catchy enough, with a vintage Frehley vibe.  A song like this could have been on any Kiss album in the 70’s, although I find the production a bit…cluttered.  It fades abruptly, but “I Wanna Hold You” returns to that vintage Kiss vibe.  This time, it’s the pop side that albums like Dynasty explored, but with the heaviness that fans expect.  There’s nothing wimpy about “I Wanna Hold You” even though it could have come right from 1979-80.  Ace goes into a more ominous vibe for the strong “Change”.  Now it’s 1982 and it’s Creatures as if Ace was on it.  It really makes you wish for what might have been.  Then “Toys” feels like it’s aping the “She” riff, but in an obvious way.   It also shares characteristics with 1988’s “The Acorn in Spinning”.

SPACE INVADER_0002“Immortal Pleasures” is a change of pace, allowing Ace to play some acoustic guitar.  It’s a fairly simple song, and it took a bit to grow on me, as I didn’t like it at first.  “Inside the Vortex” is trademark Ace, and again I think what works is simplicity.  The riff is tricky, so Ace keeps it simple with the robotic vocal and it’s perfect.  This one might be an early runner for “personal favourite”.

A nice traditional rock riff is what I need next, and “What Every Girl Wants” hits the spot.  This one reminds me of…[gasp] Poison!  I don’t mean that in a bad way really.  It is true that Space Invader is not exactly innovative (“Inside the Vortex” notwithstanding), but it does deliver on rock and roll.  That’s all you can really expect from Ace Frehley, and that’s just fine.  “Past the Milky Way” has an appropriately spacey vibe, as Ace gets his acoustic out again.  The lyrics are cool:  “Now I’m runnin’ out of oxygen, but I’ve still got my guitar.”

Heading into the home stretch, “Reckless” stomps in a nondescript kind of way.  You may have heard Ace’s cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”.  Some love it, some don’t.  I am undecided.  I can’t say that I needed to hear the song anymore.  The standard album closer is the 7-minute “Starship”, which sounds at first as if it could fit in Ace’s “Quantum” series.  Then it goes in a number of different directions, all cool.  It’s a long instrumental that holds interest, and is an album highlight.  Bravo Ace.

The Japanese version comes with three bonus tracks:  an extended (4:44) version of “Reckless”, the radio edit (3:18) of “Space Invader”, and the “explicit” version (4:05) of “Gimme a Feelin'”.  (The vinyl has a “different remix” (?) of “Reckless” and an extended version of “The Joker”.  At least, I think that’s true, there’s conflicting info out there.)

I love the Ken Kelly cover art, which fits the classic sound of Space Invader.  The album is not perfect but it’s a step up from Anomaly and a proud addition to the Frehley library.  Any fan of the Space Ace who craves those licks and stuttery solos will find much to love here.

4.5/5 stars

 

More ACE:
ACE FREHLEY – 12 Picks (1997 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2009 Bronx Born)
ACE FREHLEY – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996 Attic)
ACE FREHLEY – Frehley’s Comet (1987 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Live + 1 (1988 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – Loaded Deck (1998 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)
ACE FREHLEY – Trouble Walkin’ (1989 Megaforce Worldwide)
Return of the Comet – Tribute to ACE FREHLEY (1997 Shock Records)
Spacewalk – A Salute to ACE FREHLEY (1996 DeRock/Triage)

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32 comments

  1. Wow….I wasn’t expecting a 4 on this Mike. I guess I will have too check it out. Great detailed review. Even on Tv last night there was a commercial for Space Invaders ..so he’s getting the push from the company…..cool…does he play everything on it except for the drums?

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  2. Got this, standard jewel-case US edition, yesterday from my local BB/big box. Surprised at the middling reviews I have seen for this so far, except for you and a few others. It seemed like when “Anomaly” was released, the reviews were overly positive, almost distractingly so. Nevertheless, this will be encoded and on the iPod for gym listening this morning.

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  3. This album is just f**king awesome!! The biggest surprise of the year. It’s EASILY Ace’s best effort since his 1978 solo album. I actually didn’t think he still had it, but he’s gonna prove the world wrong with this. It’s really annoying that he’s not with Kiss anymore when many of the songs on this album could have fitted both Sonic Boom and Monster like a glove.
    My review of this will be up in a couple of weeks.

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    1. Glad you liked it too Jon, as enthusiastically as me! I think it’s going to make my end of year list. And I agree many of these songs would have been excellent Kiss songs. Shame they just don’t want to give Ace a shot, but Gene and Paul are such control freaks that Ace is wasted in that band. That’s the truth.

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      1. I’m actually a bit overwhelmed about this album. It’s actually a bit surreal that Ace has managed to create such solid record now in his 60’s.
        I’m gonna start writing my review tonight, I really can’t wait…

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  4. I didn’t grow up listening to KISS, but I listened to this and really liked it. And he managed to be interviewed and stick to the music and not stick his foot in his mouth. I read a funny interview and he took a shot or two at Gene, but it was still good.

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    1. Gene has been pretty nasty to Ace over the years, so when Ace takes a shot or two back, it’s more than fair. I think this album proves Gene wrong on a number of points. Bravo Ace.

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      1. I think all of you need to read Paul Stanley’s book. While some of you think he was a control freak, that’s not true. (Gene was, however, and was only in it for himself, as well as the money and the credit for everything.) He just was concerned about the quality of the work. He was there to have a good band, and had a good work ethic. When Ace turned out to not have a good work ethic, then that’s where the problem began. There are a lot of facts about Ace Frehley’s substance abuse and general laziness that you should know. He bitched and moaned about everything he was expected to do as a band member, even from the beginning, was always late for practices and performances, and just really didn’t care about anything except getting paid his share and getting credit for things he didn’t even do. Ace was given MANY chances to correct his behavior, and his playing abilities declined as the years went by. (Same with Peter, who could barely keep time, let alone play well) He finally had to be let go, as he just couldn’t cut it anymore. For a lot of recordings, studio musicians filled in for the guitar parts (same with Peter on the drum and vocals). For the reunion tours, he was once again given a chance to play and perform. While he was happy for the new chances, he still couldn’t cut it and, once again, had to be let go. In fact, for the last tour he played in, he had to pretty much start from scratch, as he hadn’t even practiced or played for a long time. He’d totally lost it. He worked with a professional on getting his chops back, but just barely was able to do it. When it went downhill from there, he didn’t even finish the tour. For recording purposes, they had to use many takes, just to get some good parts to splice together for the final recording. It’s doubtful anything is straight through, so I wouldn’t trust Ace’s abilities just yet. Do some research on this one, guys…

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        1. Well, all of what you wrote aren’t really anything new. I’ve known about all of this long before I read Paul’s book – a great book btw. I think Mike meant that both Gene and Paul are quick to pull out the chainsaw on Ace and especially Peter, sometimes without there being any reason for it. I mean, Ace & Peter haven’t been in the band for ages, so what’s the point in name calling? Besides, Ace has been clean and sober for years now so all about Gene’s ranting about Ace’s drug problems is irrelevant now and it feels like he just does that to get more acceptance for Tommy and Eric. This album also proves both Paul and Gene wrong when they say that Ace has lost everything, both as a player and as a song writer.
          We all know that Ace and especially Peter were two pains in the ass back when and I think that Paul’s book mirrors the reality of what went on in the Kiss camp completely. But that was then and this is now, so could Gene just shut up and play his bass instead of being a dick about everything and anything, please.

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        2. Well, we all know that Gene is usually a dick about everything, but time will tell all things, as far as what has gone on with Ace. For now, according to what you say, I will give Ace the benefit of the doubt, okay?

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        3. Sounds good! Definitely worth giving him the benefit of the doubt this time.

          Back in 78 the rest of the band didn’t think he could come up with the goods for a solo album, but he sure did.

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        4. Definitely checking out your review this morning! Ace has definitely not lost anything as a player. Maybe being in Kiss pushes him to drink, I don’t know.

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        5. We can also agree on that both Ace and Peter has been complete fuck-ups, but this album is really, really good.

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  5. Mmmmm licks and stuttery guitar solos. I like ’em! That last line had me sold. I doubt I’d get the fancy-pants version like you always do, Mike, but I like the sounds of all of this.

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