Mike Mccready

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Bronx Boy (2018 EP)

 

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 46: Ace Frehley solo

We’re doing this one out of order because it’s a brand new release.

ACE FREHLEY – Bronx Boy (2018 EOne EP)

Original  guitarist Ace Frehley has been more active in the studio than his former band of late.  In the last decade we’ve had some great Ace originals (Anomaly and Space Invader) and a much better than expected covers album (Origins Vol. 1).  This week, Ace finally announced the title of his next solo album:  Spaceman, due October 19.  Kiss hasn’t been interested in recording an album since 2012’s Monster.  At least Gene Simmons will be making a cameo on Spaceman.

Spaceman is preceded by the limited, numbered Bronx Boy EP.  This four track record spins one new song and three you may have missed.  “Bronx Boy” will be on the new album.  It’s a shorty (under 3:00) but it packs the signature Ace punch.  Killer riff, blazing solo, great chorus, and plenty of balls!  Lyrically it’s Ace revisiting his street punk persona from his youth.  “You better look out!”

Also on the A side, you will find an unreleased remix of “Reckless” from Space Invader.  It’s a little longer and more dynamic.  “Reckless” is a brilliant tune, probably better than “Bronx Boy” itself when it comes down to brass tacks.  It’s a little more unique, in that Ace way.  It is exclusive to this EP.

On the B-side are two of the best covers from Origins Vol. 1.  Cream’s “White Room” features drummer Scott Coogan helping out on backing vocals (singing that high part).  Really though, it is a showcase for the Ace’s incredible guitar work.  Thick, thick harmonies and plenty of wah-wah will make you drool in envy.  The old Kiss classic “Cold Gin” has Mike McCready from Pearl Jam on guest guitar.  Seems like just about everybody in Seattle was a Kiss fan at some point.*  Just as important though is having a studio version of “Cold Gin” with Ace singing — the guy who wrote it!

In the grand scheme of things, do you need to buy this?  To the practical fan, no.  The album will be out in October and most practical fans don’t care so much about rare versions or physical media.  What about the fans who do care about those things?  Do they need Bronx Boy?  The answer is fuck, yes!  Limited and numbered on grey marble vinyl, with an exclusive remix — these things matter.  It means the price will go up in the coming months.  Plus, you’ll just enjoy spinning it.  And there’s a free download card if you can’t spin the vinyl!

4/5 stars

For another great Bronx Boy review, check out 2loud2oldmusic!

* Nirvana covered “Do You Love Me”.  Alice In Chains have performed in Kiss makeup.  The Melvins had three Kiss-inspired solo albums.  Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) names Ace Frehley as one of his earliest inspirations to play guitar.

 

 

COMPLETE FREHLEY REVIEWS

ACE FREHLEY – 12 Picks (1997 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – ACE FREHLEY (KISS solo album) (1978 Casblanca)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2009 version)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2017 deluxe edition)
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 – Milwaukee Live ’87 (radio broadcast CD)
ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 1 (2016 eOne)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)
ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader (2014 E One/Victor Japan)
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)

 

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.  

REVIEW: Pearl Jam – Ten (Collector’s Edition, aka The Mother of All Box Sets!)

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Pearl Jam – Ten (2009 Collector’s Edition, 4LP, 2 CD, 1 DVD, 1 Cassette boxed set)

This is how you do a box set!

Obviously, due to the price tag ($250 give or take), this box is not for every fan. This set is for the diehards — the ones who try to collect all the live bootlegs, all the singles, are members of the Ten club, and go see them live every year. Or, this is for people who just want to own something monstrous and cool looking. No matter who you are, if you have the disposable income, you will not be disappointed. There are some things that I was mildly disappointed with (which I shall get to in a moment) but on the whole, if you bought this, you got exactly what you wanted.

This box is packed full of goodies so numerous that I can’t list them all. Needless to say, don’t let the kids get into it or stuff will go missing. From Vedder’s scrap book, to photos, to even a reproduction Mookie Blaylock rookie card! (Pearl Jam’s original name was Mookie Blaylock in case you wondered.) Like I said, this box is loaded. It will take days to absorb all the goodies inside, all packed within a very sturdy and attractive black case. Amazon shipped this set very well packed.

To some, all that stuff is just paper and doesn’t matter next to the music, and in some sense they’re right. So onto the music.

This box includes the original Ten on vinyl and CD. It also includes the 2009 remixed Ten on vinyl and CD. The CD version contains 6 bonus tracks. Brendan O’Brien himself helmed the remixes. I have never been fond of the sound of Ten, until now. If you liked the remixes done for Rearviewmirror, you will like this. I have always found the original mixes too muddy and dull, now they are very bright and crisp. Dare I say it, they are heavier and more rocking. But the essence is the same, and casual fans will probably think this is the way the album always sounded. The six bonus tracks are mostly demos, all very rare.

Also included on DVD is the complete MTV Unplugged performance, previously unreleased and longer than the original broadcast version. This DVD was also included in the more affordable regular retail version so don’t shell out just for this DVD, although it is truly excellent and a great performance.  Legendary performance in fact.  Back in the early 90’s, this is one that spread by word of mouth.  We didn’t get MTV up here in Canada so it was even harder to see stuff like this.  Generally you had to buy a bootleg video at some shady store in Owen Sound or something.  And it looks and sounds a heck of a lot better than bootleg video.  5.1 surround sound plus “Oceans” which did not make the broadcast.

There’s exclusive music in this box, which is another real reason to get it. Drop In The Park, included on vinyl only, is a September 20, 1992 concert at Magnuson Park in Seattle. This is a 9 song album, two records (four sides!) with a 12 minute version of “Porch”. This is a fantastic early concert, a highlight of which was “State of Love and Trust”. As an added bonus, and one not heavily advertized, was that the album comes with a tiny coupon with a download code. You can download the whole album on mp3 and burn it to CD. Nice added touch.

And more!  Also included is a reproduction of Pearl Jam’s original demo cassette, Momma-Son. Right down to the cassette shell and J-card, this replicates the tape that Eddie and the boys made. These early arrangements are really interesting, with “Once” being quite different. This being a cassette, it sounds like…well…a cassette. I would recommend playing it just once, and burning it if you have the technology to do so. After all, tapes wear out fast.  One play could screw it up if it doesn’t like your tape deck.

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I mentioned earlier that some tunes were not included. What I wish they did was give you a download code to get mp3 versions of Momma-Son. Throw in some mp3s for MTV Unplugged, and now we’d be cooking. However these items were not made available for mp3 download. Astute fans may already have them on mp3 anyway…(wink).

Also not included were the four bonus tracks available for sale on the iTunes version. For the record, those tracks were “Why Go”, “Even Flow”, “Alone”, and “Garden” recorded on December 31, 1992 at The Academy Theater in New York. After spending this much money, I felt ripped off that I needed to buy those tracks separately. So being the obsessive compulsive collector that I am, I shelled out.  Again.  I had to buy the whole album again to get the four tracks.  I guess different retailers need different exclusives, it’s what makes the music world go ’round?

There are also MIA bonus tracks from earlier versions of Ten. Europe had “Alive (live)”, “Wash” and “Dirty Frank”, while Japan had “Master/Slave” and the Beatles cover “I’ve Got a Feeling”. For a box set of this stature, I’m afraid to say that these songs really had to be included. Otherwise, this is an incomplete picture of what Ten was and is. In my opinion. Some of that stuff can be easily found on singles and Lost Dogs, others not.

Yet Ten is an historic album.  It is one of very few that you cannot deny was part of a dramatic movement that shook the music world to its core.  Not the rock world, the music world.  Don’t forget, two years later, Pearl Jam were collaborating with Cypress Hill.

I’m going to be totally truthful to admit that Ten is not my favourite PJ album (Vitalogy is), and that I don’t really listen to it much anymore.  I’ve heard “Jeremy” a lotta times…let’s put it that way.  Still, I have never been tired of “Even Flow”.  The guitars of Stone and McCready are strait out of 1970, they are buttery smooth.  Sounds like Fenders and Gibsons to me!  You can’t go wrong with the basic album, even if you don’t like every single song.  It’s an album, it’s a portrait, and it friggin’ rocks at times!

The bottom line is, armed with this information, only you can decide whether this edition of Ten is worth the money. Another drawback to consider: After spending this money, do you really want to play the CDs in the car? It does look awesome on the shelf, but unless you have the money to burn, you may be wiser get the scaled down edition.

5/5 stars. My complaints are mostly nit picks.