REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 1 (2016)


Interview by Mitch Lafon

NEW RELEASE

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ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 1 (2016 e One)

FACT #1:  Covers albums rarely have enough fuel in the tank to get an engine running.

FACT #2:  Ace Frehley has never done a covers album before.

The main thing is that Ace Frehley is still alive and making music.  He’s never been the most prolific writer in Kiss, hence this diverse assortment of covers.  In the pot are songs from bands that influenced Ace, a few Kiss covers (including one that Ace never played on originally), and a guest shot by Paul Stanley (among others).  Sometimes it’s hard to feign interest in a covers album, but these factors make Ace’s enticing.  Not to mention, it’s a clean and sober Ace playing these songs.

Ace and drummer Scot Coogan play everything on Cream’s “White Room”, with Coogan singing the bridges.  This guitar-heavy version takes what Clapton did, and “Aces” it up.  It’s guitar solo nirvana, though the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” takes a few minutes to get to that same point.  Ace has always done well with Stones covers, and it seems he can identify with songs like “Street Fighting Man” due to his rough past.  It’s a fun excursion but the solos are the draw.  Imagine the Stones but with the bright fun Gibson stylings of Ace Frehley.  Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic” is a natural choice since Ace’s speak-sing style always seemed influenced by Jimi.  Purists may scoff, but Ace’s take on “Spanish Castle Magic” is pretty enjoyable and guitar-heavy (John 5 on guest guitars).

The online hype focused on Paul Stanley’s return to Ace’s orbit.  While Ace plays all the guitars, Paul ably takes all the vocals on Free’s “Fire and Water”.  As Kiss fans are well aware, Paul has suffered from some serious vocal issues in the last few years.  Live, Paul can be a bit of a mess.  In the studio, he makes it work.  Paul lacks the power he had back in the Kiss days, but his singing here is great considering.  It’s over far too quickly.  Paul singing Rodgers is quite a moment.

Ace is well suited to Thin Lizzy, a band you don’t think of as influential to Kiss since they were contemporaries more or less.  “Emerald” has gone down in history of one of Lizzy’s heaviest favourites.  Predictably, the highlight of “Emerald” is the solo section.  Lizzy were a two-guitar band, so Ace got Slash to come in and solo back and forth, answering each other like Gorham and Robertson.  The two go toe-to-toe in a blur of Gibson Les Pauls.

Led Zeppelin had a serious impact on young Kiss, and Ace’s covering of “Bring it on Home” is inspired and transformational.  Lord knows what guitar effects Ace has up his sleeve, but he nails this Zep classic without any missteps.  Ace sings the bluesy intro, but drummer Scot Coogan ably handles the higher main vocal.

Scan_20160424 (3)One of the most notorious and difficult songs to cover without sounding like an asshole is “Wild Thing”, 51 years old and still inspiring cover versions.  Lita Ford makes a surprise appearance on both lead guitar and vocals, and she sounds amazing on both counts.  There is just no good reason to cover “Wild Thing”, because the Troggs did that definitively in 1966 and that’s that.  More significant is Frehley’s update to his own “Parasite”, a song originally from 1974’s Hotter Than Hell.  Gene Simmons sang it originally, though Ace wrote it.   Speaking of “definitive”, it’s very tempting to think of this as Ace’s conclusive statement on “Parasite”.  After all, Hotter Than Hell was sonically pretty disappointing.  Plus Ace had 40+ years to grow as a guitarist since then, and believe it — Ace blows the doors off “Parasite”.  This is a song worth buying the CD for.

Unfortunately “Parasite” is book-ended by two songs that didn’t need remakes, the first being “Wild Thing” and the second “Magic Carpet Ride”.  Ace does inject it with his trademark fun style, but it’s all very unnecessary.  Brilliant playing though.

A second Kiss update is “Cold Gin”, featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam.  Like “Parasite”, Gene Simmons sang the original, but “Cold Gin” was one of the first stone cold classic Ace-written Kiss tunes.  Ace has every right to try and reclaim it as his, a difficult task since the Kiss Alive! version is the only one you will ever truly need.  Now with Ace doing the vocals and more soloing added, this version can perhaps be considered the second most important take — the one with Ace singing.

A pretty standard Kinks cover (“Til the End of the Day”) works fine.  You can trust Ace to know how to treat the Kinks.  The final and possibly biggest surprise is the final Kiss cover.  The odd thing about it is that Ace never played on the original version of “Rock and Roll Hell”.  This tune came from the batch that Kiss wrote with Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance in the early 80’s.  It was recorded for 1982’s Creatures of the Night, the album that Ace didn’t participate in, before leaving the band.  He appeared on the cover, he appeared in the videos, and fans didn’t know any differently, but Ace didn’t play or write anything on Creatures.  In fact Ace never heard “Rock and Roll Hell” until recently.  When coming up for ideas of songs to cover for Origins Vol. 1, Ace’s label rep Ken Gulick burned Ace a CD of tracks to listen to for consideration.  (The CD contained two Who songs, two Cheap Trick songs, and mind-blowingly, two by Rush.)*  Because Gulick felt that Ace had some unfinished business with Creatures of the Night, he also included two songs from Creatures on the CD.  The ballad “I Still Love You” was the other track.  Frehley apparently went bonkers for the Simmons-sung “Rock and Roll Hell”, and now we finally get to hear what might have been if Ace hadn’t left Kiss when he did.  Perhaps if Ace was in good enough shape, Simmons could have given him “Rock and Roll Hell” to sing, and it would have sounded something like this.  Matt Starr’s drums are given a similar echoey treatment to replicate Eric Carr’s sound from the original LP.

Does this close the book for Ace making amends with his Kiss past?  I sure hope note.  Vol. 1 implies a Vol. 2.  If Ace were to continue covering Kiss tunes he never had the chance to sing in the studio, that leaves “Strange Ways”, “Comin’ Home” and possibly more that he could consider updating with his stamp.  Although Origins has some “blah” moments as most covers albums do, among the highlights are undoubtedly the Kiss tracks.  They push the album out from being a mere curiosity, to a must-have for any Kiss fan.**

4/5 stars

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* Source – Ultimate Classic Rock

** Made a double must-have by the low low price.  I paid $12.88 at Wally World (plus I scored a “holy shit, jackpot” load of rare Star Wars figures).  HMV were charging $15.99, and had him filed under “Ace Freshley“.  HMV – the music store – has Ace’s name spelled wrong.  Yet one more strike against the once-mighty HMV chain!  See below for the evidence.

For Jon Wilmenius’ excellent review of this album, click here.  

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49 comments

        1. I gotcha!

          This started when I was a kid. I liked the stickers that some bands put on their albums during the “stickering craze” of the early 90’s. You know, things like “This album contains controversial material so F*** off if you don’t like it” or whatever. And then I started keeping receipts for major purchases for things like the Pink Floyd Shine On box set…that evolved into the pictures!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes yes yes, I can absolutely dig that. I do have a couple of international purchases that have escaped stripping, but the stickers thing is also cool.
          Now with the BIG purchases, usually I find it better to forget. ‘Move along… nothing to see here…’

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I use the line, “I bought it on clearance, I would have been stupid not to buy it…it’s worth more than this on ebay.” Which of course has no meaning at all, because as if I’m going to sell it on ebay.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Once on FB I read a post by someone who created this meme thingee saying, ‘I have this nightmare my wife will sell my records for what I said I paid for them’. I remember thinking, ‘You joking? She’ll give them to the local Charity shop!’

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Dudes, I keep every sticker from the packaging. I cut out around them with scissors, so the sticky part stays on the plastic, and then I put the thing in the center of the booklet. I’ve done this for years. I’ve probably sold off a bunch of CDs and made other people say WTF when they opened the booklet and a sticker fell out.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I read a few negative things about this but now I think you have convinced me to get it. Oh, and John 5, Slash, Lita Ford, etc..etc.

    Good on him for re recording songs he was not part of in Kiss. That makes you think what if.

    I can’t picture him doing a Rush cover. Maybe a real early one like Working Man, or In The Mood. However, here’s hoping there is a vol 2.

    I have to go now. I’m just going to hang out near the end of your driveway just in case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well Rush opened for Kiss back then, and I bet Ace could cover those two songs you mentioned (or any from the first LP). I’d love to hear Ace cover some more unexpected tunes. Cheap Trick is another that opened for Kiss, I’d love to hear Ace do Surrender.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. How about Helix?
          Helix was a wicked concert. Gimme an R ..O… C…K and the crowd yells ROCK.

          All kidding aside, he would do awesome on a Helix song.

          I’m seriously going to email, or post a message on Ace’s Facebook page to do a Helix song.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been thinking about doing a post about HMV for a while. Comparing them to Amazon. I was all setnto roast HMV, then I got lucky the umpteenth time I called and an angel of a customer service lady. All it took was one person to give a rat’s ass, and now I have no issues anymore.

    As for the online presence, HMV, Walmart and I’m sure others in their music section have issues. Ace Freshly. COME ON. Hire someone with an ounce of musical credit. The music sections, gamer, sports, collector etc. all have passionate fans. You need passionate employees to run these departments including the websites. They lose all credibility with me .
    Perhaps a post.about these mistakes is in order.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My buddy Rob used to punk HMV all the time. He’d go in there looking for Led Zeppelin bootlegs like “Sweet Jelly Roll”and then watch as they looked in vain. Because they didn’t know their Zep.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have only ever found one HMV store employee that was any good. He is around my age, and into rixk/metal. He is the guy that led me to The Wild! and told me about Sleazeroxx. Alsi, he is local, but only works there one day a week.
        It sucks when you walk into a music store, all 20 year old’s listening to top 40 bullshit dance music. They have no clue about anything outside their narrow field, and will tell you what their computer says.
        Plus it is like you are borhering them when you ask a question. If you ask where something is they point and say “over there.” Thanks!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There used to be a number up at the HMV on University…you know the one that doesn’t exist anymore. Too bad. They had some good people there. I knew two or three of the managers there personally. Worked with one even.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Geez!

          People used to try and stump me all the time. Nitzer Ebb…Einstürzende Neubauten…customers used to think I was faking it that I had heard of these people. But I wasn’t! (I had one boss who accused me of faking my knowledge too.)

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Ahhh the 90’s. When a ton of competition and narrowing sales forces anyplace that sold music to actually spend time researching bands. Now the internet is even more prevalent, and it would be easier to check facts, but this generation can’t be bothered.
          No way someone could try and call you out as a fake. If I would have been there I would have said “Go ahead, ask Mike a music question. If he gets it right, you buy all of us beer after work, and apologize to Mike.”

          Like

  3. Good call on Ace taking cover songs and making them his own! 2,000 Man is one of those. It’s one of the better Dynasty tracks actually all of his tunes on that record were.
    Glad your digging this album Mike……

    Like

  4. You know, I like KISS enough, and all, but I wouldn’t ordinarily care about something like this. But damn this sounds more than alright! Lots of cool tunes and great guests.

    Surprised there isn’t an import version of this with a cover of Let It Bleed with Baby Metal guesting… ;)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe that will be on Vol. 2.

      This isn’t an essential purchase (for anyone but Kiss fans), but it’s Ace. Ace always did covers in the Kiss days. If anyone from Kiss is most qualified to do a covers album, it’s Ace. He’s also the one guaranteed to throw enough guitar chills and spills to make it worth your coin.

      Like

  5. Although a major KISS fan, I must admit to being pretty agnostic on the idea of this album (not having heard it yet). Reading your entertaining and informative take on it, and having read Jon W.’s positive review as well, I feel myself being drawn toward the light. I’d say I like Ace best on his own stuff, but have to admit that Ace’s versions of “2,000 Man” and “New York Groove” are fabulous and easily beat the originals. At the same time, I’m less enamored of his “The Joker,” “Fox on the Run,” and “Do Ya” covers … erg, what to do, what to do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed on The Joker. I didn’t mind the other two you mentioned. I could live without both mind you, but I like more than dislike them.

      Check out some tracks on Youtube! I understand Ace will be debuting the lead single/video with Paul Stanley in a matter of days.

      Like

  6. Haha! Good ol’ HMV!

    Not one that I would normally bother with, but I’d pick this up if I saw it cheap, I think. Really like the artwork and it sounds like a pretty decent album, too …

    Like

  7. Our opinions on this record are more or less identical, so your review is spot on.

    Just one thing, the original Parasite holds a double lead vocal of both Gene and Paul, it’s just that Gene’s voice is higher in the mix.

    Did you know that Rock And Roll Hell is half a cover by Kiss as well? The chorus was used back in the 70’s by Bachman Turner Overdrive. I think Jim Vallance wrote it back then.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you can find it on YouTube.

        It would be cool if he covered more Kiss songs from when he was out of the band. And I would love to hear Getaway with Ace’s vocals.

        Like

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