Review Summary: "Second choice"? Think again.
Ace Frehley. Always part of the least engaging part of KISS – along with Gene Simmons – the guitarist nevertheless produced some of the most interesting moments on the band’s records. After leaving for a solo career, he became somewhat more affable and continued to produce quality hard rock, if at times bordering on excessive cheese. After a few years of touring with his solo outfit Frehley’s Comet, he found himself once again immersed in drinking, gambling and drug problems, leading to a period in which his only signs of activity were best-of compilations. First there was 1997’s 12 Picks
, and a year later a companion piece was released, with the title Loaded Deck
Featuring another genius cover – an Ace
, get it? – this compilation is often seen as Part Two of 12 Picks
. Allmusic.com goes as far as labelling this “the best of the rest”, i.e., the songs that didn’t make it into the earlier compilation. It’s only ironic, then, that this is actually the best of the two.
In fact, Loaded Deck
supplants its predecessor in nearly every chapter. The song selection is better, there are two brand new – and not half bad – tracks, and even the live portion seems more natural and less tacked-on than on the previous chapter. If not for the presence of Fractured Too
rounding up the album, one could almost consider this one a “half-and-half” compilation, with studio tracks filling up one side and the other being devoted to a live performance. As it is, the two Fractureds
sort of negates the live section, making it seem a little random, but further damage is averted by the quality of the material itself.
In fact, the pleasurable listen starts on the very first note of the album. One Plus One
, the first of the two new tracks, features a great hard-rocking riff, which is later coupled with superb verses and a decent, fun chorus. The somewhat cheesy lyricism is the only thing that drags this track down somewhat, but if you’re in a mood to forgive some fun mathematical puns, not even that will bother you. The second track, Give It To Me Anyway
, is less successful, mostly because it’s a little too cheesy for its own good. It does, however, feature a great guitar solo.
After the two new songs, we are subjected to a great selection of studio and live tracks. There’s no Hide Your Heart
or Into The Night
, of course, and there’s still no Calling To You
, but there is
an awesome live rendition of the excellent New York Groove
. Power ballad It’s Over Now
, the catchy Do Ya
– another great riff – and Remember Me
are also present here, with the truth being disclosed about the latter: it wasn’t a fake live after all, rather a “real” live track inserted into an otherwise studio album. Puzzling, but when a song is as good as this, who cares?
There isn’t much to say about all of it, because not only is the song selection pretty strong, the live portion is also actually inspired, unlike its counterpart on 12 Picks
(puzzling, since they come from the same show in London). All in all, I wouldn’t have done away with more than a couple of songs on this album – Fractured Too
are overlong and unnecessary,Give It To Me Anyway
is a little cheesy, and Stranger In A Strange Land
is sort of nondescript. Everything else is spot-on, and despite the absence of the two hits mentioned in the previous paragraph, even Shot Full Of Rock
manages to assert itself, sounding better than it did on Trouble Walkin’
When all is said and done, there is only one conclusion: this may have been the “B-List” of Ace’s solo career, but it’s an overall better record than 12 Picks
, which supposedly contained the “A-List”. It’s also the only quintessential record of Ace’s solo career, and the only one non-fans and curious parties should really acquire.
One Plus One
New York Groove