To start this review with an introduction is total overkill and if you have no knowledge of Ace Frehley, you don’t deserve one because Kiss should count as common knowledge these days, no matter if you’re a fan or not. Old Space Ace has had a roller coaster of a career and almost every downfall has been due to his own fuck-ups, because if there’s one word that sums Ace’s life up, it’s fuck-up. Alcoholism, drug abuse, car crashes, internal band fighting, bad business decisions that has almost lead to bankruptcy – Ace has been there and done that. Musically, his career has been on the edge many times and the quality of his records hasn’t always been top-notch – in fact, on too many occasions, his music has been total crap. While in Kiss, Ace wrote many brilliant tunes and I don’t think Kiss ever recorded one bad Ace Frehley song. Think about it – “Cold Gin”, “Parasite”, “Strange Ways”, “Getaway”, “Shock Me”, “Rocket Ride”, “Save Your Love”, “Hard Times”, “Talk To Me”, “Two Sides Of The Coin”, “Torpedo Girl”, “Dark Light”, “Escape From The Island” and “Into The Void” were all his and they are still brilliant. He also took The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Man” and made it his own on Dynasty (1979). Fact is, there’s a lot of people out there that actually believes that it is an Ace tune. His solo album from 1978 is considered by many to be the best of the Kiss members solo efforts and it is today hailed as a true classic. But things turned sour when he tried to get a solo career going. Marked by drugs and alcohol, he had big problems getting a deal and when he did he used poor judgement when it came to picking material for the albums. His self titled debut album by his band Frehley’s Comet in 1987 was a long-awaited album and all of us who hade all those brilliant Kiss tunes and his solo album mind, expected greatness. Well, what we got was an uneven album of brilliant songs mixed with fillers and pure crap (“Something Moved”). If that wasn’t enough, the follow up Second Sighting (1988) was rushed by his record company and thereupon the album was a big pile of crap. That was the end of Frehley’s Comet. Frehley’s first album, under his own name came out in 1989 and was called Trouble Walkin’, was a big step up from the last debacle, however he had recorded a version of Kiss’ “Hide Your Heart” (also covered by Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck and Molly Hatchet) that was completely redundant. After that album, Frehley’s career went down the drain and his alcoholism and drug abuse made it impossible for people to work with him. The Kiss reunion 1996 was the first real sign of him (except for the odd club gig here and there) since then and the several break-ups that followed that tour has been in the press millions of times, so no need to get into that. Ace left Kiss for the final (?) time in 2002 and started working on getting sober and a new solo album and it would take seven years for his next studio album, Anomaly (2009), to be released. I really liked that album, but among Kiss fans that album has been – and still is – under debate. Some loves it, some thinks it’s ok and there are way too many who belive it sucks. It might not be a masterpiece, but it doesn’t suck either. It’s more unfocused and a bit sprawling.
Fast forward five years and the news that the old Jendell citizen had written a new album again. I’m gonna be completely honest here, I’m a huge Kiss fan and truly love that band and I am also an Ace fan, but my expectations on this album wasn’t exactly Mount Everest high. Sure, I thought that he would release a good album, just like Anomaly was and I would dig it for a while and then more or less forget about it. But that changed when I heard his first single, “Gimme A Feelin’¨. Wow! Ace had written his best song in years and the fantastic groove and sound took me right back to his first solo album from 1978. To me, this felt like a true Ace hit. All of a sudden I thought that Ace maybe had gotten his shit together and maybe, just maybe he would have a great album on his hands. Little did I know – and that was a good thing because when I first heard this album, I listened with open ears, no prejudice and no mountain high expectations. I was back at square one and I would give this album a real shot! The title track opens up and it floored me completely. The song could have been on the first Frehley’s Comet album and it would have kicked all the other songs asses on that album. I could also see it fit well on the latest Kiss album. The chorus is just brilliant. “I Wanna Hold You” is classic Ace Frehley rock ‘n’ roll with a good dose of pop on it – it could have been a rockier moment on Unmasked (1980). “Change” is pretty heavy rocker and this is how Ace is supposed to rock – brilliant! “Toys” haven’t really hit me, but it might be a grower. It reminds me of 70’s Kiss, but still it has to go into the “decent” category for now. “Immortal Pleasures” goes acoustic for a while and the song is more on the commercial side. On this album he shows that he can play this kind brilliantly – very catchy and a big hit potential. “Inside The Vortex” hit me like a ton of bricks, it’s a heavy rocker and Ace at his best. For the moment, my favourite on the album. There’s a change of pace with “What Every Girl Wants” where Ace visits Sunset Strip in 1988 for inspiration. I love it. It still kicks ass, though and it still sounds like Ace. I guess it wouldn’t have been wrong the first Frehley’s Comet album. The song I have the biggest problem with here is “Past The Milky Way”. Not that the actual song is bad per se, but Ace whispering “This one’s for Rachel” in the beginning of the song has a huge Yngwie Malmsteen alert all over it. You know the guy who writes obvious songs about all his girlfriends and wives. I really can’t stand cheese like that. The song itself is ok, but it’s a bit too cheesy and I find it bland. With “Reckless” he turns around again and this time it’s almost punky (Ace-punk?), but still with a catchy-as-hell melody. Whatever Ace does, something has to go under debate and this time it’s his choice of cover. Steve Miller’s “The Joker” is a song I always considered highly overrated, almost bad, so before I heard Ace’ version, I was sceptical to say the least. Kiss fans started to debate over this as soon it was released – some hate it, some love it, as usual. I love it. He totally Aced it and made it his own and it works like charm. It took a fired up Ace Frehley. screaming for vengeance, to make me like “The Joker”. Of course, there’s an instrumental here. Ace had some major success with “Fractured Mirror” from his 1978 solo album which lead to no less than four sequels in the so-called “Fractured” series, none of them remotely as good as the first one. This time “Starship” steps up and its a relief to hear that it’s not a “Fractured” instrumental, neither musically or in the title. It’s an almost 7 minute long thing that goes into different directions all the time and it is not until the end of the song when he can’t hold himself and points a quick nod to “Fractured mirror” anyway. Doesn’t matter as the song isn’t based on that track. Another favourite of mine and a great way to end the record.
To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed by this album. I knew that Ace wouldn’t make another piece of garbage like Second Sighting again, but this album is just bloody brilliant and I didn’t think he had it in him to make an album like this anymore. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons has always been fast to dismiss Ace and in many cases they have every right to do so, but this album is just a big middle finger to everyone who has claimed that Ace hasn’t got what it takes anymore, as a guitar player and as a songwriter. As a guitarist, Ace totally smokes here. I can’t remember when I last heard him play with such intensity, passion, smoulder and feel. He might not play as he did in 1976, but the guy is 63 and he’s on fire again and it’s almost cathartic for an old Ace to hear. Parts of me gets pissed off when I think that Ace is not in Kiss anymore because, even though I love their latest albums Sonic Boom (2009) and Monster (2012) – and I do like their current line-up, many of the songs on this album would have been perfect for Kiss in 2014. Well, it is what is with that and Frehley shows that he can stand on his own two feet with this. Just like on his ’78 solo debut, Ace handles all vocals and guitars and the most of the bass with some help from drummer Matt Starr. It’s also very cool that the cover art is made by one Ken Kelly, the guy who did both Destroyer (1976) and Love Gun (1977). With that, the circle just might be closed. Ace is back and he told you so, he sang on his classic song “Rock Soldiers” from 1987. Looking back, that wasn’t entirely true then, but in 2014 with Space Invader those words could be carved in stone. Ace is back. For real this time!
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
01. Space Invader
02. Gimme A Feelin’ (radio edit)
03. I Wanna Hold You
06. Immortal Pleasures
07. Inside The Vortex
08. What Every Girl Wants
09. Past The Milky Way
11. The Joker
13. Space Invader (radio edit) (Bonus Track)
14. Gimme a Feelin’ (explicit version) (Bonus Track)