Part 4 in a series on Ace Frehley! Missed the last part, Second Sighting? Click here!
ACE FREHLEY – Trouble Walkin’ (1989 Megaforce Worldwide)
Gone was the Frehley’s Comet moniker, and gone was multi-instrumentalist and talented singer Tod Howarth. I believe he toured with Cheap Trick after the Comet, on backing instruments and vocals. In his stead came Richie Scarlet, certainly no slouch, and an alumnus from an earlier version of the band. Not only did Scarlet write some of Ace’s best stuff, but takes a lead vocal on the album Trouble Walkin’. Also back was drummer Anton Fig!
On top of all that, producer Eddie Kramer was back working with Ace again, and they have great chemistry together. Certainly all the elements were in place for a great solo album. The critics and fans were pretty much unanimous in their praise of Ace’s latest. Little did they know it would be his last solo album for 20 whole years!
Trouble Walkin’ was Ace’s heaviest solo album to date. Take “Shot Full Of Rock”, the opener. It is scorching from start to finish, but especially on the ripping guitar solo. It has a great chorus to boot, and a fine lead vocal from the Ace.
Frehley has a knack for selecting great covers, and his take on The Move’s “Do Ya” is superior to the original in some respects. As he has with other covers, Ace makes it his own. I think Ace does very well when rocking up poppier, melodic material and “Do Ya” is no exception. I always hoped it would be a bigger hit, but it wasn’t really.
“Five Card Stud” is co-written by Marc Ferrari of Keel. It’s not an exceptional song, but it does boast a suitably heavy riff, and plenty of tasty Ace licks and solos. It might not be the best song, but the guitar work makes it worthwhile.
This is followed by the weirdest song of all: “Hide Your Heart”, a song written by Paul Stanley, Holly Knight and Desmond Child. It had been demoed years before for Crazy Nights, but not used. Bonnie Tyler was first to record the song, then Robin Beck and then Molly Hatchet! When Kiss recorded it for Hot In The Shade, they released it as a single mere weeks before Ace’s album came out. By the time Kiss’ album came out (the week after Trouble Walkin’) the song had been released by no less than five different artists. The common thread to some of those versions seems to be Desmond Child. Obviously, Ace knew people would compare his version with Kiss’. Gene Simmons spoke to him on the phone to warn him that Kiss were releasing it as their lead single. Ace’s version, while harder, just is not as good. That’s not to say it’s bad, because Kiss’ version is awesome.
“Lost In Limbo”, a Richie Scarlet co-write, closed side one on a pedestrian note. Side two began with a better song, the title track. This would be a good time to mention that Peter Criss sings backing vocals! You can’t hear him, but he showed up. That’s Richie Scarlet saying “Take it, Ace!” and singing the bridge. This one’s a solid Ace rocker, guitar and cowbell heavy!
My favourite song is “2 Young 2 Die”. It’s just so heavy! I used to think Peter Criss was singing the lead vocal, because it’s so raspy. It is in fact Richie Scarlet, though Peter is on backing vocals again. This is an outstanding song, rhythmic and bass-driven. Anton’s drums are tribal and dramatic. The guitar solos are all over the place, but all of them are ear candy.
“Back To School” is a a fun song, and you can’t mistake who’s singing (screaming) with Ace on the chorus: one of the biggest Frehley fans on the planet, Sebastian Bach himself! He’s joined by Peter Criss, and Dave “Snake” Sabo and Rachel Bolan, also of Skid Row. This one is more hard rock than anything else, but damn catchy.
I’m not sure if “Remember Me” is really live, but it’s mixed to sound that way. A crowd is mixed in, and Ace says good evening to “Club Remulac, in France!” It is important to remember that “Remulak” is home planet of the Saturday Night Live characters, the Coneheads. Appropriate since this song is sung from the perspective of a space traveler, advising Earthlings to get some world peace happenin’. Good song, though, kind of lazy and light.
The album closes with “Fractured III”, and much like its predecessors, it’s an instrumental. The thing about the Fractured series is that they do sound all interconnected. They all sound related at the hip, or the heart, and that’s cool. I like all of them for different reasons. “Fractured III” might be the hardest, most electric of them to this point.
After this, Ace seemed to lay dormant for a number of years. In 1990 there was a rumour that Kiss were working on a reunion with Ace, Paul, Gene and Eric Carr which of course never happened. A few years later Ace turned up on his Just 4 Fun tour, playing a Kiss-heavy set of classics. Later came the Bad Boys of Kiss tour with Peter Criss, and finally the inevitable original Kiss reunion. During the reunion, there were some interesting Ace Frehley releases, and we’ll be talking about those things next.
As for Trouble Walkin’? Solid.