Anyhoo, Ace took 20 years to put out this album. I derided the idea of a new Ace solo album in this very blog many times. I think I in fact said that this album had as much chance of coming out as did Chinese Democracy from Guns and Poses. Well, guess what? Both albums are out and I am a dumb-ass.
The last couple of years, there was an increasing level of buzz about Ace’s album. He kept saying it was taking so long because he was a perfectionist and wanted everything to be just so. He said he was modeling it after his 1978 solo album, which was arguably the best of the four KISS solo albums and sold the best, and had the highest charting single (New York Groove). I thought this was typical stalling, and I also questioned if Ace could follow up his 1978 work so many years later. It’s always a slippery slope to try and re-create a past success, because many times those successes are accidental and really can’t be replicated.
But Ace wasn’t blowing smoking guitar smoke out his ass. This is by far the closest thing to his 1978 solo album that he has ever put out. It obviously sounds more modern but the songs are just as hooky, and some of the same cool effects are used (backwards guitar, looping delay, etc) to great effect. Ace’s vocals are surprisingly strong, thanks to three years of sobriety (congrats, Ace!). He wisely did not try to rehash the 1978 solo album’s song structures, but he did capture its spirit and it holds up very well as a follow up, which is what he said he wanted to do.
Highlights are the mostly instrumental Genghis Khan that begins with a very Jimmy Page White Summer-esque intro, that goes into a pretty rocking, catchy groove with some nice vocal effects. Other highlights are the opening track Foxy and Free, the re-make of Sweet’s Fox On The Run, Too Many Faces and another instrumental, Space Bear, which pulls the riff from John Entwistle solo tune My Size. Yes I am the only person who has ever heard that song so who cares?
Ace’s vocals are a true highlight here. I was always pissed that Ace sang sort of sparingly on his post-1978 solo albums, but he admitted it was because he was too wasted to make it happen. On Anomaly, his vocals are perhaps even stronger than on the 1978 solo outing. Good for Ace for having his act together enough to pull it off.
There are a few weak tracks. Three of the last four are not real keepers, but they do find Ace stretching into areas new to him as far as I know. While kind of schmaltzy, A Little Below The Angels covers Ace’s drinking regrets and is a nod to The Beatles, melody and feel-wise. Change the World is also Beatle-esque and a bit better song than Angels. The CD ends with Fractured Quantam, the third instrumental on the CD and a throwback to Fractured Mirror from the 1978 album. It’s a nice take and a good closer.
Now, Ace is signing better than ever, but don’t expect to be bowled over by the lyrical content on this album. This is the same guy who wrote Rocket Ride and Shock Me. But who buys an Ace Frehley solo album for the lyrics? You buy a solo album by Ace to pay homage to the coolest dude who was ever in KISS. The guy who was always a little bit kooky, and who contributed some of the most rocking tunes in the latter half of the makeup era and seemed to be the one guy who kept the KISS rock and roll torch burning while Gene Simmons dated movie stars and Paul Stanley wrote KISSco songs and ballads.
Sadly, once Ace left KISS, his albums were fairly spotty and he was a bit of a loose cannon. I would always buy Ace’s solo work hoping, hoping, hoping for songs like Ozone, Talk to Me, Save Your Love and Rip It Out. I was always let down until this week. It took Ace 20 years but he got it right. Now we’ll see next month if KISS can live up to its “we are returning to the 70s era KISS sound” hype, ‘cause ole Ace sure as hell did!
PS – The packaging is cool. You unfold four cardboard flaps to access the CD, which is slid into a couple of grooves and is suspended about an eighth of an inch above the bottom of the package. Remove the CD and Ace is giving you a thumbs up in a pretty classic photo. Those four flaps can be bent inwards to make a four sided prism (does that exist?) with different images on each side. It’s neat, and I am glad I didn’t iTunes the album for this reason.