David Letterman

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Milwaukee Live ’87 (2015)

scan_20161014ACE FREHLEY’S COMET – Milwaukee Summerfest Live 1987 (2015 Echoes radio broadcast)

In 1987, Ace Frehley had just begun his comeback.  He recorded a well received debut as Frehley’s Comet, with a notable appearance by drummer par excellence Anton Fig.  Anton had been working steadily for the Letterman show since 1986 and so was not on the tour this CD was captured from.   This version of the Comet featured new drummer Billy Ward.  They were recorded live in Milwaukee at Summerfest on June 29th of that year.  It was taped for broadcast and somehow survived.  Live radio broadcast CDs are so common now that you can even find them at Walmart.  Some are worth the cash, others less so.  A Frehley’s Comet broadcast from the first tour is automatically interesting to Kiss collectors.

Unfortunately what buyers will discover is that this CD is a harsh chore to listen to.  Vocals are back in the mix, bass way up front, and there is a thin haze of staticky air over it.  Ace’s perennial opener, “Rip It Out” (from his 1978 solo album) is but a shadow of the better produced version on the Live + 1 EP.  This is through no fault of the band, featuring mainstay bassist John Regan, singer/guitarist Tod Howarth, and Ward.

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Ace sings lead on most of the material, but Tod Howarth has a couple songs from the first Comet LP.  “Something Moved” and “Breakout” (co-written by the late Eric Carr) are fast paced action, while “Calling to You” is anthemic pop rock.  Howarth was in excellent voice that night, this much is certain.  Ace sings a handful of Kiss tunes as well as solo and Comet material.  Gene Simmons originally sang “Cold Gin”, but Ace took it back for himself by singing it live.  At the same time, Kiss were also playing “Cold Gin” live (a song Ace wrote) and fans will have to decide who pulled it off best.  Ace even tackles “Deuce”, a song Gene wrote.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?

It really is a shame that the audio hampers the listening experience.  It sounds like a legitimately great Ace performance.  Having a guy like Howarth in the band enabled Ace to have multiple lead singers like Kiss did.  On the Kiss covers, Howarth takes the Paul Stanley role.  Billy Ward and John Regan make the songs a little more complex rhythmically than the Kiss originals, but Ace also adds in new and extended solos.  The end results are enhanced, Ace-ified covers.  No notable tracks are missing; it is a really solid set list of Ace Frehley classics.

There are some who will happily purchase anything with Ace’s name on it (guilty!) and there are others who can live without.  Decide who you are and spend your money appropriately.

3/5 stars

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Blu-ray REVIEW: I’m Still Here (2010)

By special request of J. at Resurrection Songs!  This is an old review that I wrote when the Blu-ray of I’m Still Here was released.  I have since sold the movie and have no good way of re-watching in order to ensure I still feel the same way about it.  Hence, this review was written in 2010 and may or may not reflect my opinions if I saw the movie again….

IM STILL HERE BLUI’M STILL HERE (2010 Magnolia)

Directed by Casey Affleck

I can’t stand today’s media as much as the next guy, so when Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix revealed that they just “punk’d” the media in a big way, I was curious about the results. Joaquin faked a major meltdown in front of the world, pretending that he was retiring from acting to become a rapper. His rapper persona, “JP”, grew out a long straggly beard and hair to feign mental illness.

The movie never addresses the issue of “fake/real”. As far as the film is concerned, Affleck doesn’t let on. It was only after the fact that they both let the cat out of the bag.

Things start out innocently enough. “JP” reveals that he’s become interested in music and wants to concentrate on that. As the beard expands, so does the odd behaviour. Weird, disjointed and off-rhythm raps, dirty clothes, and the beard continue to grow. The infamous Letterman appearance follows and this is when most people heard of Phoenix’s breakdown. The media reports, which immediately follow his public television “meltdown”, are covered as well.

JP gets frustrated trying to find a producer, finally getting some interest from P. Diddy. Trying to hook up with Diddy is damn near impossible, but when he does, Diddy is interested. One song, “Compli-fuckin-cated”, could have been a novelty hit for real. When it comes time for concerts, the stage gigs don’t go well, as JP is heckled by the crowd. Can JP redeem his rap career and finally begin to express himself in a meaningful way? If the drugs don’t get to him first, maybe.

I’m Still Here wasn’t a bad film. It was definitely a unique film; I’m just not sure how much entertainment value it had. Pranks tend to go best when they are short and sweet,and to the point. When they last a year and become a full length movie, the lines between prank and reality are blurred (which I’m sure was part of the point). I admit that Phoenix did outdo himself, creating this character based on himself, and living with it for this time, never breaking character in public. The problem is, while technically it is a great achievement, as a character JP isn’t all that interesting. As a breakdown, we’ve seen far more interesting real ones in recent years. Hard to top Britney shaving her head, you know?

Spacehog fans will enjoy Antony Langdon’s appearance as a personal assistant to JP. Royston Langdon contributed to songwriting.

The Blu-ray bonuses are generous, with all sorts of featurettes and deleted scenes with commentary. Perhaps they will shed some light on the process. The movie hasn’t clicked with me, but I’ll give it another shot. It is a strange animal after all.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)

LOOK!  It’s Rock and Roll!  I’m gonna review all of Ace Frehley’s solo albums.  Welcome to the series!  For Ace’s 1978 solo album, click here!  This review goes out to MARKO FOX!  Thanks for inspiring this idea. And happy birthday to ANTON FIG!

 

“Rock Soldiers come, and Rock Soldiers go.  Some hear the drum, and some never know.  Hey, Rock Soliders, how do we know?  ACE is back and he told you so!”

ACE FREHLEY – Frehley’s Comet (1987 Megaforce Worldwide)

It’s very daunting for me to review this.  My sister bought this album for me, for my birthday, in July 1987.  I had been a Kiss fan for a few years, and immediately liked Ace best.  Yet he’d been quiet for so long.  I didn’t even know what he looked like.  Then, the powerful video for “Into the Night” premiered on Much, and I knew right away.  I absolutely needed the album.

Frehley’s Comet is the debut release by Ace Frehley’s new band.  He had quite a band, too.  Singer / guitarist / keyboardist Tod Howarth had a really powerful, commercial voice and added keyboards to the mix, which was an edge in the late 80’s.  Meanwhile, on drums, was Anton Fig.  Veteran of at least three Kiss releases (Ace’s 1978 solo album, Dynasty, and Unmasked), there’s a reason David Letterman refers to Anton as “Buddy Rich Jr.”  Having Anton in the band was a serious coup.  On bass was John Regan, who proved to be a the only member to stick around for all of the 80’s.

“Rock Soldiers” was a great opening track.  Ace is back and he told you so?  Yeah!  This stomping anthem is the tale of Ace’s own carnage.  “And the devil sat in the passenger’s side of DeLorean’s automobile.”  And later, “When I think of how my life was spared from that near-fatal wreck, if the Devil wants to play his card game now, he’s gonna play without an ACE in his deck!”  How could Me 1987 not have loved this song?  It had a killer singalong chorus and was released as a single.

“Breakout” is interesting because the riff was written by Eric Carr, Ace’s old Kiss bandmate.  “Breakout” is in fact “Carr Jam ’81”, the song written at the time of The Elder.  Kiss never used it, so Ace did.  Tod sings lead on this one, and Anton plays his own drum solo where Eric once did.  Ace then turns in a friggin’ classic Frehley solo.

“Into the Night” is a Russ Ballard song, which surprised me, as I always felt that the lyrics fit Ace’s New York background like a glove.  It’s a mid-tempo rocker, and as first single, it was the first song that I heard.  Today, it still sounds dramatic and cool.

“Something Moved” is another heavy rocker, written and sung by Tod.  It’s similar in vibe to “Breakout”, and I really like when it goes into what I call the “Stryper riff” at the 2 minute mark, right after Ace’s solo.  Side one ended with “We Got Your Rock”, a sleezy one about groupie with a backstage pass.  To be honest, this one disappointed me back then.  I still find the lyrics to be pretty bad.  Ace co-wrote this one, hopefully not the lyrics, because the music’s decent enough.  If it were a Kiss song, it would be one of those Gene Simmons monster tunes.

Thankfully, side two starts on a better note.  “Love Me Right” is an Ace song, with a hard, solid riff and beat.  Yet it’s Tod’s “Calling To You” that is the gem of the album.  It’s a nice hard rocking commercial song with a scorching lead vocal.  The chorus is killer, and I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t the biggest hit of 1987 back then.   Sounds like a dual guitar solo too, with Tod taking the first solo and Ace finishing ‘er off.

The weirdest song is, without a doubt, “Dolls”.  Ace wrote this one completely by himself, words and music, and I have no idea what the hell he’s singing about.  I don’t think I want to know.  Anyway, musically it’s a bright pop rock number, based on the keyboards.  “Stranger In A Strange Land” is back in riff rock territory.  The chorus sounds great, with Tod and Ace singing together.

The album closes with “Fractured Too”, an instrumental sequel to “Fractured Mirror” from Ace Frehley.  It’s not quite as good as the first “Fractured”, but it has stood the test of time.  It’s this kind of music that Ace doesn’t always get recognized for, but his layers of shimmering guitars are very cool.

I wish the lyrics on Frehley’s Comet were better.  At least the music smokes!

4/5 stars