Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 5th 2018
Ace is the One
Ace Frehley was the original lead guitarist with world-straddling, make-up bedecked glam rock band KISS. Before we go any further, I should say, I enjoy Kiss' 1970s output, like their 80's output, am ambivalent to the rest, but they have released some of the greatest live rock albums ever, including one of the very best done with a symphony orchestra.
But this isn't about Kiss.
Ace Frehley was an original member of Kiss, and remained so until the early 1980s, and then since the late 90s he has appeared occasionally with them again. However, he has always, since 1978, released his own solo albums.
Lately, he's released quite a few; three in four years. And, quite frankly, this latest one is superb.
It is a rock album and unapologetically so. There's no getting around it. And that is awesome. Younger bands could do far worse than take notes of how Frehley attacks a guitar and how a supporting band should support without over-dominating the lead. It's a throw-back to the way albums used to be made, and it makes me realise just how lame a lot of newer acts actually sound.
Ace in 2011
So, as you can see, this is an album I enjoyed. Now, let's break it down; here are the tracks:
Without You I'm Nothing was co-written by former Kiss band-mate Gene Simmons, who even appears on the track! It's a good opener, setting a tone that is heavy (including amazing guitar solo) without being over-bearing.
Rockin' With The Boys is one of the album's highlights. It's got one of those trademark Kiss choruses where you can imagine a crowd joining in and bellowing it at a concert. It's also a melodic track, and has another killer solo, brief though it is.
Your Wish Is My Command was also co-written with Gene Simmons, and is the track that sounds most like a Kiss track on the album (early-80s era). Three tracks in and I'm hooked.
Bronx Boy was the first single released from the album. It has probably the best guitar lines on the album, and its autobiographical lyrics are definitely amongst the finest on the album.
Next is Pursuit Of Rock And Roll. This is not a bad track; the musicianship is fine and it sounds quite good. But the lyrics are not strong. "…liberty and the pursuit of rock and roll…" does sound like a rejected line from a Jim Steinman song. The words do drag it down a touch, I'm afraid.
I Wanna Go Back is another track that is just there. A little mundane, with, again, not a strong lyrical line.
Mission To Mars is, musically, one of the best tracks on the album. Its Mars mission lyrics seem to be straddling modern science with classic rock motifs of fantasy and science fiction. That's not a bad thing (and there's not a wizard or dragon or orc to be heard of!) and the track does not suffer for it.
Off My Back would have been one of my favourite tracks because the music is so damn good. But the lyrics! They do sound at times like the sort of bad poetry written by teenaged boys in the back of their maths books after their girlfriends have left them. And I should know – I wrote more than my fair share of similar words in my time. Shame.
And we finish with Quantum Flux. A six and a half minute instrumental track, like prog-rock meets hard rock. And my favourite track on the album. The guitar work throughout is masterful; the playing is beautiful. I could listen to this all day… Glorious way to end.
At a total running time of less than 40 minutes, it does not overstay its welcome. That also means there is no filler. Note that I did not find any track bad; no tracks failed to 'grab me'. This is easily an album I can just put on and let play without having to skip anything. What has been released has been the best. Something else some modern artists should possibly take note of.
Yes, Frehley's voice is not the strongest throughout. And some of the lyrics are a little embarrassing; maybe an extra instrumental or two would not have gone astray? But they are minor quibbles in what is a quality release.
This is a strong album, for lovers of real rock music. Recommended.