Frehley back after 5 years

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First Posted: 8/18/2014

At this point in his career, ex-KISS guitarist Ace Frehley isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel, and it’s near certain that no one is expecting him too, either. On his first studio album in five years, Frehley delivers a record that, while not as heavy as his last offering, 2009’s “Anomaly,” or as instantly memorable as his 1978 eponymous solo debut, is filled with classic “Ace-isms.” There are the nearly spoken verses in his “hang loose” Bronx dialect, ultra-cool, lasciviously slanted lyrical content that only he can pull off, and of course, that unmistakable pentatonic/chromatic lead blend jettisoned so effortlessly from a slung Les Paul. In a single line, the album is Ace to the bone.

Playing heavily upon his KISS days as alter-ego the “Spaceman,” Frehley sends the title track into orbit (pun fully intended), with self-referencing passages like “he comes from distant galaxies, he stands before you to set you free.” A bit hokey, sure, but if you know any of Frehley’s past work, you’ll sing right in step without batting an eye. “Gimme a Feelin’” is patented Frehley Chuck Berry-inspired, proto-metal boogie with a thick guitar bed and big chorus.

Frehley sounds particularly energized when he’s ripping into a solo. Whether it’s an attempt to re-capture KISS-era six-string fire like his blazing leads in 70’s gems like “Shock Me” or “Love Gun,” or simply the style he’s locked into, the result is a “can’t miss” sound for die-hards to embrace. Listening to his guitar work on “I Wanna Hold You,” which features a faux-surf drum into reminiscent of KISS’ 1975 track “Anything For My Baby,” it’s clear Frehley is, decades on, a man now comfortable in his own skin – you know it’s him upon first note played.

Other notable tracks like “Immortal Pleasures” owe a nod to the garage rock of the 1960’s on which Frehley cut his teeth – his Pete Townsend influence showing though in the song’s strummed meat ‘n potatoes riff rather than the more decidedly metallic overtones of past albums, while “Reckless” could pass as a latter-day AC/DC outtake – Frehley’s melodies kept nicely in check alongside a key sense rhythmic phrasing. Not to missed is his cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” which comes off like one of the most adventurous tavern sing-a-longs you’ve ever heard – true to the original yet utterly suggestive in Frehley’s own way.

Playing to his strengths and an unshakeable image that he’s content with never living down, Ace Frehley should satisfy fans with this collection of snarky rock ‘n roll that’s as schmoozy as his personality itself