ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 1 (2016)
Legendary Kiss, original Space Ace guitarist ACE FREHLEY will release “Origins Vol. 1” tomorrow April 15, a collection of twelve newly recorded classics from Ace’s formative years featuring some of the biggest names in rock and roll, most notably Paul Stanley joins Ace on Free’s hit ‘Fire And Water’. This collaboration marks the first time that Ace and Paul appear on the same studio recording since Kiss 1998 reunion album Psycho Circus.
Frehley returns with his sixth post-Kiss solo album. His first, but not last, if the title’s anything to go by, album of cover versions. No one would say Ace is the best Rock guitarist out there but many cite him as their favourite. He’s never been the most technically proficient player but his erratic and, at times, very inventive fretwork has won him a legion of fans over his forty odd year career.
Case in point, the opening track ‘White Room’, a cover of the Cream classic, showcases his fine style with some great guitar work and his instantly recognisable vocals perfectly. A great version of a great song kicks the album off nicely.
Staying in British waters, track two sees The Rolling Stones ‘Street Fighting Man’ gets the Ace treatment. By no means a sloppy attempt but it does dip into pub cover band territory.
The stories of Ace taking up roadie duties for Jimi Hendrix are not entirely true but it does add to the myth. As such, the inevitable Hendrix cover is a rousing version of ‘Spanish Castle Magic’. Ace sounds like he’s having a lot of fun with this one and there’s some frantic, one would imagine improvised, guitar work on the outro between Ace & guest guitarist John 5.
A treat for Kiss fans next as Paul Stanley turns in an unexpectedly low key vocal on Free’s ‘Fire & Water’. It’s good to hear him sing out of Starchild mode and keep it restrained instead of his usual high note theatrics.
I’ve read a lot of interviews with Ace Frehley but don’t recall him ever mentioning Thin Lizzy so it came as a pleasant surprise to see ‘Emerald’ included here, and it’s a cracking version. Long-time friend Slash turns in some fine guitar work.
Seeing a Led Zeppelin song on the track listing was no big surprise but the choice of song certainly was. Instead of going for an obvious, well known track we’re treated to ‘Bring It On Home’ from Zep’s second album. And it’s a welcome choice. Some great trademark Ace string bending in this one and the vocals are top notch.
And so we move onto the first of three Kiss covers, the mighty ‘Parasite’. Ace originally wrote this for Hotter Than Hell, but passed on vocal duties the first time round. The song has been a staple of his live set for some years now and it shows on the vocal performance on this version, it’s raw and gutsy and fits the song superbly. Once again John 5 guests on guitar and when the extended solo takes off it really soars. Definitely an album highlight.
Do we need yet another version of ‘Born To Be Wild’? We don’t, so thankfully we get a stomping version of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ instead. The scratchy rhythm guitar parts are custom made for Ace’s off the cuff style so this works really well. I’d like to see played live.
Delving once again into the Kiss back catalog with the first song he wrote with that band, ‘Cold Gin’. Ace has been doing this song live since he left KISS so it’s no surprise that he included it here, he’s obviously very proud of it. He’s joined by Mike McReady of Pearl Jam for this version which has a tasty solo usually reserved for the live version. It’s a song we KISS fans have heard a million times, but we still love it. And it’s nice to have a studio version sung by the man who wrote it.
The penultimate track on the album is The Kinks ‘Til The End Of The Day’. Not a bad song by any means but if a single were to be released from this album then this would only be fit for B-side status.
The last track is possibly the most surprising. The third Kiss cover and the only one that Ace didn’t play guitar on the original, ‘Rock n’ Roll Hell’ from the Creatures Of The Night album. Ace was on the cover, featured in the I Love It Loud video and had a lead guitar credit but didn’t actually appear anywhere on the album.
An odd choice, then, but better than going with the obvious route with Shock Me. I actually prefer this version, the vocals are more in your face than Gene’s deadpan delivery on the original and the solo is simple yet effective.
“Origins Vol. 1” is a great collection of songs with some nice surprises along the way. Ace Frehley is in fine form both vocally and with the six strings, and the good thing of this recording is its natural feeling. You can tell these song are in Ace’s ADN.
Hopefully it won’t be a long wait for Vol. 2.
01. White Room (Cream)
02. Street Fighting Man (Rolling Stones)
03. Spanish Castle Magic (Jimi Hendrix) (Feat. John 5)
04. Fire And Water (Free) (Feat. Paul Stanley)
05. Emerald (Thin Lizzy) (Feat. Slash)
06. Bring It On Home (Led Zeppelin)
07. Wild Thing (The Troggs) (Feat. Lita Ford)
08. Parasite (Kiss) (Feat. John 5)
09. Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
10. Cold Gin (Kiss) (Feat. Mike McCready)
11. Till The End Of The Day (The Kinks)
12. Rock And Roll Hell (Kiss)