It has been some two decades between solo albums but former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s new album picks up right from where he left off. Earlier, actually, with first track Foxy & Free sounding like it could have come straight off of that first solo album from all the way back in '78. Not that it’s dated, no way, it’s just distinctive, very distinctive. That blues-based, rocking guitar work can only be one man - that droll voice could only belong to one spaced out, acne ridden guitar freakin’ genius.
Of course, I am biased here; in my teen years KISS was the band for me and my motley group of fuck-ups and never-weres… they were the band we embraced; and as much as Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons might like to think they were the stars, for most of us it was Ace Frehley, the spaced out alien struggling to cope with the real world who struck the deepest chord.
So it was with some trepidation that I put this album on the stereo – would he be able to cut it, would the rumours of sobriety be true, would Ace still sound like Ace? And the answer is yes all round. The fucker has still got it! The aforementioned Foxy & Free leads straight into first single Outer Space, both songs vintage Frehley, and the air guitar keeps firing as Pain In The Neck follows on before the one song I’m not so sure about, the cover of Sweet’s Fox On The Run – it’s such a distinctive tune for me that I have trouble hearing someone other than Brian Connolly singing it; but it does grow on you.
Genghis Khan has the guitar frets whizzing, the ballad A Little Below The Angels talks up Ace’s hard and dumb antics, following on from the bragging rights of his classic Rock Soldiers way back in the day. Only this song praises the fact he’s still here, sober and still going strong. Sister pumps it up again and the bravado and simplicity of It's A Great Life will have you singing along thinking damn but yeah, it ain’t such a bad life after all. Finally Ace wraps it all up with his latest Fractured instrumental – the one common link to all his work – Fractured Quantum.
There’s nothing overly fancy here, no modern touches to try and fit in, no remixes or special guest stars (except Meatloaf’s daughter?), just a '70s guitar hero strapping on the axe and letting the music do the talking. Simple blues-based, heavy rock with a straight-forward rhythm section holding it all down (drummers Scott (Brides Of Destruction) Coogan and Anton Fig helping out there); simple melodies, catchy choruses and Ace’s guitar work sailing over top out into the stratosphere.
It’s a beautiful thing, a mighty fine celestial rock and roll dream. Forget the face painted old farts pretending to still be doing it for the fans, this guy is out there for us still. Still off on his own world, his own trip and still talking to us, the motley bunch of fuck-ups and not quite, never-weres. Welcome back pal. We missed you.
Ace's Anomaly is out now on Bronx Born/Riot. You can get your hands on it here.