Review Summary: The best of the "solo" albums by Kiss, Ace's solo album is an excellent combination of his abilities, and arguably the best album he ever did
Back in 1978, Kiss was one of the main international musical acts. Having just released two successful albums, Love Gun and Alive II, they had gained a loyal fanbase throughout their four-year career. They had built a certain reputation, which was about “love ‘em or hate ‘em”. And that year, they made a really weird move. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, frontmen of the band, thought that it would be a good idea to release four separate albums, each one made by one of the four members of the band. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had to agree, of course. So this little project was born.
It’s hard to think what Paul and Gene were thinking about, since the band was doing things right. While Paul and Gene might have seen as another chance to earn reputation and become famous, this opportunity meant much more to Ace and Peter. They wanted to record an album proving that they were worthy musicians by themselves. Whilst Peter really failed with his bland poppy rock album, Ace did not. In fact, he created the best of the four “solo” albums, showing all his talent and getting some independence from the band, developing all his skills. His success was not what Paul and Gene expected, and this point marked the slope of Kiss as a group, because of internal conflicts and discussions.
The album itself is a varied collection of excellent hard rock songs. Ace stretches his abilities, and he took over all the guitars, as well as the bass guitars (except on three songs) and the vocals. Drums are played by Anton Fig, a decent drummer. While this album does not stray far away from Kiss signature sound, it also features Ace’s touch, implementing some melodic passages which fit excellently the album (best example of this is the instrumental Fractured Mirror). His guitar playing evidences that he is the most technically gifted member of Kiss, and his compositions are truly formidable and varied.
As a Hard Rock release, this album is really varied. You may find powerful songs with good riffs and nice tempos like the opener Rip it Out and Snowblind. Fast and upbeat songs with enjoyable choruses and catchy melodies are also found, Speedin’ Back to My Baby and What’s On Your Mind, for example. Some songs with obvious blues and perhaps a little psychedelic influences which make the album seem varied and focused are also there, like I’m In Need of Love.
The radio friendly pop tune, New York Groove (which was not composed by Ace but by Ruse Ballard) is the catchiest song here, and even if you do not know who Frehley is it is likely that you have heard this song. It is very simple and the chorus is infectious as hell. The best song has to be the instrumental Fractured Mirror, a beautiful and melodic piece of music, which consists of a progression of melodies intertwining, making of this songs one of the best things Ace Frehley ever did, and the best way to close such a solid release
All this is maximized by the coherence of Ace’s guitar playing, especially when soloing. His solos are just outstanding, and always seem to fit the song in which they are. There are some technical ones, some melodic and some which show his skill but also add to the atmosphere of the music. Also, the addition of Fig contributes since he is a fairly good drummer whose playing fits Ace’s compositions well.
Overall, Ace’s solo effort is arguably the best of the four, closely followed by another good album which is Paul Stanley’s. It is more than a proof that Ace Frehley is more than an employee of Kiss, a backup member, but a skillful musician, technically gifted and with songwriting abilities to match or even overcome those of Paul Stanley (and of course Gene Simmons also). Moreover, it is a strong collection of excellent hard rocking songs which stand on their own as a formidable album, surely the best one Ace did without the other Kiss members. Shamefully, Ace’s problems with alcohol and drugs, and his conflicts with Paul and Gene (due to egos, mainly) got him away from Kiss and from his best years as a musician. He would later form his own project (Frehley’s Comet), but it never rocked as much as this album does.
-Rip it Out
-Speedin’ Back to My Baby
-What’s On Your Mind?