Review Summary: "Ace is back, and he told me so".KISS Him Goodbye: Ace Frehley Solo – Part One
In 1979, after years of unmatched success in the rock’n’roll world, KISS went through a difficult phase. Their audiences had decreased from packed stadiums to three-quarter-packed stadiums, and instead of ten groupies per element per night, they were now down to eight. Truly a tragedy.
Of course, this “tragic” turn of events reflected on both the band’s sound and their lineup. Simmons and Stanley started trying to frantically jump on bandwagons, and their two long-time acolytes – drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley – finally had enough and called it quits, leaving to deal with their own alcohol and drug issues. But while Criss would leave as early as 1980, right before the release of Unmasked
, Frehley would actually stick around for a couple more years, leaving his name attached to the should-have-been-career-shattering Music From: The Elder
and his photo on the cover on comeback of sorts Creatures Of The Night
. However, by this point, he had already exited the band, and although he didn’t know it back then, was about to disappear from the music world for around five years.
Cut to 1987, at the height of Hollywood Glam. Poison and Cinderella are huge, Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi are huger, and a slew of bands pop up like mushrooms trying to follow on their footsteps. In the midst of all this, Ace Frehley makes a quiet comeback under the band name of Frehley’s Comet. Frehley’s Comet – which at the time was sometimes referred to as the Ace Frehley Band – was composed of Ace himself on guitar and vocals, Tod Howarth on guitar and keyboards, John Regan on bass and Anton Fig – of Peter Criss studio replacement fame – on drums. Together, these four would release two albums and a live EP, practicing a sound which – surprise surprise! – wasn’t all that distant from KISS themselves.
Today’s review concerns itself with the first of these efforts, simply titled Frehley’s Comet
. It contains eleven songs, which veer evenly between the KISS sound of Creatures Of The Night
and a glammier approach at the genre. The first two tracks sound like they could have come straight out of Creatures
, which is unsurprising since one of them was written with Eric Carr, who drummed for KISS on that and many other albums. The following two songs set up the glammier side of the equation, with the Russ Ballard-penned pop-rock of Into The Night
and the faster tempo of Something Moved
. From then on, the album balances these two faces aptly, never letting one overpower the other. The result is a listenable, if at times unremarkable, album.
In fact, your first impression will be that there are no weak tracks here, apart from maybe closing instrumental Fractured Too
. Further listens will dispel this notion, showing that most of these tracks aren’t anything special either, but never detracting from the positive sum total. And then there are the standouts. Something Moved
provides an early one, with its unbridled energy and rock’n’roll attitude. But the best is saved for the tail end of the album, with two excellent songs back-to-back, bringing the overall level of this album even further up.
First up is Calling To You
, a quasi-cover in the vein of KISS’s own Shout It Out Loud
, originally written by 707 but appearing here with altered lyrics and writing credits. Now, I don’t know the original, but this version, quite simply, rocks. With a Survivor sound that would leave Peter Criss green with envy and a chorus and vocal performance that would make Paul Stanley proud, this is not only the standout of the album, but is going straight into my hard rock A-list. It is that
good. Keeping up the pleasant surprises is the playfully creepy Dolls
, which combines Beatlesque verses with a fast chorus and tops it off with Hammond organs and children’s backing vocals, making for another delightful track.
However, not all in this album is good. Despite some solid backup tracks, the occasional stumble is also present, namely in the form of Breakout
– a mere continuation of opener Rock Soldiers
– and Love Me Right
, a track so silly it might as well have been penned by Mr. Gene Simmons himself. As noted, instrumental Fractured Too
is also quite expendable, if inoffensive.
A final remark has to go to the musicianship. While Ace shreds as usual, and shows increasing vocal confidence, the real star here is Anton Fig. Yes, the man who was so metronome-like that he might have been
a metronome in Dynasty
shines here, free from Simmons’ constraints, peppering these songs with a number of fills and frills that would certainly please Eric Carr. The remaining two members are competent, but discreet, as befits this kind of sound.
In the end, then, we have a competent hard rock album which, while definitely above-average, is also a tad generic. In fact, if not for a couple of autobiographic lyrics and Frehley’s name plastered on the front cover, you could have mistaken this for the debut album of any underground glam band. And while that’s not necessarily a negative feature, it does end up detracting from an otherwise solid album. Nothing great, but worth a listen, especially if you like Creatures of The Night
Calling To You