origins vol. 1

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.