Review Summary: Oh, record...you were doing so well...
In 1982, Ace Frehley left KISS, the band which had given him a career, to deal with his own personal issues; in 1987, after five years of silence, he kickstarted a “second life”, which saw him release two albums and an EP with a band called Frehley’s Comet, plus a totally solo effort, 1989’s Trouble Walkin’
. And then…he disappeared again. Unbeknownst to everyone, it would be no less than twenty years
before Ace released another solo record, in the form of last year’s Anomaly
. Which isn’t to say that “Space Ace” was idle; not at all. In that period, the guitarist, singer and songwriter returned to KISS, toured extensively, kinda-sorta-almost recorded an album with his former band (Psycho Circus
), and released no less than three greatest hits packages, the first of which is the one on review here.
Graced with an exceedingly descriptive title and an absolutely genius artwork – 12 Picks
, get it?! – this first attempt at gathering the best of Ace Frehley in a single disc was on to something, but squandered it when it decided to stick to tactics more synonymous with Gene Simmons. I have mentioned before that I hate live inserts on otherwise studio albums, and half of these 12 Picks
were taken from a Frehley’s Comet gig in London, England. Not only does this make the compilation look cheap, cheesy and unlicensed, but it also detracts from the listener’s attention, because these live cuts are long-winded, unenthusiastic and really, really boring.
In fact, not even the presence of some old-school KISS material particularly manages to excite. Cold Gin
gets a lively interpretation, but both Shock Me
and the puzzling Deuce
are underwhelming. As for the solo material itself, it is okay-ish, but a little limp, particularly on Rocket Ride
. As such, the main points of interest end up being the slightly rockier beat replacement drummer Jamie Oldaker infuses Deuce
with, and his own slightly understated interpretation of Anton Fig’s original drum breaks on Breakout
. Other than that, this is a perfectly expendable section of the record.
And the worst part is, before this ploy the album was headed for the stratosphere of Best-Of compilations. The first four tracks are absolutely flawless, representing the best in each of Ace’s solo records, and rescuing the only decent song from Second Sighting
. One could argue for the inclusion of Remember Me
or Calling To You
, but overall this section manages to give us just about the best choruses in Ace’s solo career. The downside is the neglect of Frehley’s 1979 solo debut itself, but I guess you couldn’t ask for much more. The problems begin with tracks 5 and 6, which are two random selections from the second-string material. The remainder of the songs are the live set described above, which make for an underwhelming wrap-up.
In conclusion, then, this would have been better off without the marketing ploys. If it had been a seven- or eight-song album of studio material, or even if it had stretched it to include a few more songs from each album, it might have been worthwhile. As it is, you don’t really need it, even if you don’t have anything by Ace as a solo artist.
Into The Night
Hide Your Heart