Live + 1

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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REVIEW: Frehley’s Comet – Live + 1 (1988)

Part 2 in my series of reviews on Ace Frehley!  Missed the last part, Frehley’s Comet?  Click here!

FREHLEY’S COMET – Live + 1 (1988 Megaforce Worldwide)

I remember finding this EP in a department store’s music section, and having to choose between this and Brighton Rock.  It really wasn’t a difficult choice.  I couldn’t have both so I chose Ace Frehley.  After all, Ace was my favourite member of Kiss.

“Rip It Out”, printed as “Rip-It-Out” on this EP, opens the set, recorded in Chicago.  “You wanted ’em, here they are!  Frehley’s Comet!”  Hmm, that opening doesn’t sound at all familiar, does it?  Ace and the Comet tear through it, and let’s not forget that the drummer who played on the original, Anton Fig, plays on this one too — solo included.  I like the way that Tod Howarth sings, backing up Ace.  His higher voice lends to a nice harmony, thick and Kiss-like.  “Rip It Out” flows right into “Breakout”, another song with a drum solo, and this one extended!  “Anton rules, doesn’t he?” asks Ace during the fade out.

Those two songs took up the first side.  “Something Moved”, another recent song from Frehley’s Comet, is sung by Tod.  It’s an aggressive hard rock song, but Anton lays down a solid beat, while Ace throws out some wild bends.  Ace’s Alive II classic, “Rocket Ride”, is the final live song.  In this case, I don’t think it’s much compared to the Kiss original.  I prefer Kiss’ sloppy rock n’ roll take on it, Ace’s version is too tight for my liking.  The solo smokes though.

My favourite song is the new studio track, “Words Are Not Enough”.  It’s a slick, commercial hard rocker.  All the ingredients are included:  A keyboard riff, a killer chorus, and a knock-out extended solo.  Given the time period, I always felt this was the biggest “potential” hit Ace could have had.  It was bang-on for 1988 and I still like it in 2013.

I wholeheartedly recommend Live + 1 to any respectable Kiss fan, and to any hard rock fans wanting a first taste of the Ace.

4.5/5 stars