Friday, December 16, 2011

KISS - Ace Frehley

I’ve taken a bunch of shots at Kiss and most of them are deserved.
But the one thing that I haven’t managed to accomplish is to find a Kiss record that is so awesome that it warrants the amount of worship that sustains a band for nearly forty years.

I’m not done with the catalog, but what I can claim is that the best of the lot is nearly 30 years old and is not good enough (in my opinion) to give them a pass at the band’s creative declined that began as quickly as we began to see any evidence of their greatness.

One of the album’s in their catalog that people kept encouraging me to listen to isn’t even a Kiss album. It’s Ace Frehley’s solo album, cited by the Kiss Army as the best solo album of the lot and performed by the band’s true hard rock patriarch.

I’ve got to confess that those folks were on to something, but their praise may be a little lacking in some circles. Ace Frehley is not only the best of the solo albums, it may even be the last great glam rock album of the 70’s, serving as a vital blueprint for the glam metal bands that began popping up in the early 80’s.

Ace Frehley got a bunch of traction from the hit single “New York Groove,” a song that eventually loses its luster the moment you hear the original version by the band Hello. It’s note for note, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

That being said, the track works well within the sequence of the record and with the fact that Ace must have been saving up his best material for this outing. Either that or Gene and Paul could have been cockblocking his contributions entirely.

I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s very clear that Frehley has a different approach to his material than anything else in the Kiss cannon, and that is probably what makes it so enjoyable. His music is heavier; his lyrics straddle between an afterthought and precocious druggy couplets. In other words, it mirrors Ace’s awesome cover portrait, while the other solo records merely rehash the image for end cap marketing, snagging the attention of the pre-teens loitering in suburban shopping malls. Ace Frehley was the only record that hinted at any danger while underhandedly demonstrating that awesome riffs could still come out from under the influence.

With nearly every track sounding like a winner, it’s “I’m In Need Of Love” that stands as the perfect example of Ace’s unique approach of sloppy Stonesy blooze performed live on fucking Skylab. “Snowblind” and the opener “Rip It Out” bring things closer to planet Earth but they’re equally rewarding, rocking terra firma with some memorable riffs.

Much of this is due to Frehley’s choice of producer, Eddie Kramer. The man who brought Hendrix’s otherworldly guitar antics to tape does a great job of getting Ace’s more restrained guitarwork off the ground. Kramer gives Frehley’s tone a nice bite and his work is just as vital to the success of Ace Frehley as the musicians.

Based on all of this, it’s no wonder that Ace Frehley is revered among Kiss fans and why it continues to be referenced as a vital piece of Kisstory. Gene and Paul were foolish not to give Ace more of an input in the albums, particularly after the band began to become more of a parody of their costumes rather than trying to break down the walls of legitimacy with Les Pauls and a nice buzz.

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