Part three in a series on Ace Frehley! Missed the last part, Live + 1? Click here!
FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)
Ace was rushed on Second Sighting. I think that might be why it seems a little Tod (Howarth) heavy, song-wise. I recall in an old Hit Parader interview circa 1989, Ace complained that he had to follow a “stupid schedule” on Second Sighting, and the album suffered for it.
Having said that, I like Second Sighting better than Frehley’s Comet. I wondered what the hell Ace was high on when he made that comment about Second Sighting. Indeed, this is my favourite (post-Kiss) Ace CD. Let’s not forget how important context is. It was summer 1988. It was the summer of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen…and Ace Frehley! I was a kid in love with the rock.
The lead single was a choice Ace may regret today. Instead of coming out with a rocker, they went with “It’s Over Now”, a ballad sung by Tod! I always thought to myself: “If I was a kid and I didn’t know who Ace Frehley was, would I assume he’s the blond guy singing?” Tod’s singing, playing the keyboards (a huge friggin’ keyboard), and then he breaks into a guitar solo on one of those little Steinberger’s with no head…odd choice for lead video, no? Check out the close up on his two-handed tapping technique. The perfect Howarth hair. The video even seems to be vaguely about him and some chick. I still have to admit that my teenage self loved the song, it might be a ballad but it was a quality ballad with some soloing.
Thankfully, the album itself was lead off with a better track, “Insane”. It’s an Ace helmed good time party rocker. New drummer Jamie Oldaker (Eric Clapton) isn’t as fancy as the unavailable Anton Fig, but he throws in some pretty cool fills. Of course Ace lands the perfect solo, always complimenting the song.
The second track is a melancholy Dokken-esque rock ballad from Tod, “Time Ain’t Runnin’ Out”. It has a pretty significant keyboard part, which some may find obtrusive. Fortunately the guitar parts are great, and Tod’s powerful voice is easy on the ears. It also has a pretty solid chorus.
I don’t know the story behind “Dancin’ With Danger”, but it sure boasts an odd batch of co-writers, including Spencer Proffer, Streetheart, Ace, and Dana Strum from rival band Vinnie Vincent Invasion. The good news: it smokes. It has a ZZ Top-like sequencer part, adding a robotic pulse, but not taking anything else away. The riff is pretty heavy, Ace takes the lead vocal and an absolutely scorching solo.
The first side of the album ended with “Loser in a Fight” which is kind of…meh…eh… It’s OK, it’s heavy at least, but what I like about it is that is a co-lead vocal with both Ace and Tod. It’s that old Kiss trick that I used to like.
Ace enters on side two with some pretty cool guitar effects, leading into “Juvenile Delinquent”. Ace sings to a 16 year old girl and tells her to follow her dreams. It’s a little creepy when Ace sings “You’re looking good these days, believe it girl, I’m not blind.” I tend to just block that part out when I hear it. I think it’s a catchy song with a rock solid guitar base, and other than a couple lines in the song, I dig it.
“Fallen Angel” (not the Poison song that was a hit around the same time) is another Tod ballad. Like “It’s Over Now”, it’s a totally solid song, but this one has some more balls to it. It’s a little pissed-off sounding and the chorus is blazing hot. It is followed by “Separate” which to me sounds like vintage Ace. It’s sparse, the lyrics are basically spoken, and it has an extended guitar solo as the centerpiece. It kind of reminds me of “Don’t Run”, an Ace demo that eventually became “Dark Light” on The Elder.
“New Kind of Lover” is a wicked cool hard rocker about Tod Howarth gettin’ it on with a ghost. Once again, the solo is obviously Tod. Some may find it offensive that Ace didn’t play every single guitar solo on his album, but Frehley’s comet was a band, and Tod’s no slouch. His soloing style is opposite to Ace Frehley, which is one reason to allow him a couple solos. It also lent the album a modern edge.
As is the Ace tradition, the album closes with an “instrumental” (technically). Unlike past albums, it is not a nice pleasant “Fractured”. Instead, this is a blitz of riffage and solos called “The Acorn in Spinning”, which does in fact have words. The lyrics entirely spoken, Ace tells the tale of “this new fighter Bronx,” and a few other seedy characters. As it happens, that summer I was introduced to the Sierra PC game, Championship Boxing. Obsessed as I was with “The Acorn is Spinning”, I named my boxer Acorn and created a whole persona and cast of enemy boxers for him to challenge.
That’s the note I want this review to go out on, a note of personal anecdote, because for me this album is personal. Summer 1988. Ace may have been dissatisfied, but LeBrain 1988 was eager to hear the next one. Little did I know that Frehley’s Comet had to endure some serious lineup changes. But that’s next time. See you then!