Released by: eOne
Release Date: Out Now!!!
01. White Room (CREAM)
02. Street Fighting Man (ROLLING STONES)
03. Spanish Castle Magic (JIMI HENDRIX) (feat. John 5)
04. Fire And Water (FREE) (feat. Paul Stanley)
05. Emerald (THIN LIZZY) (feat. Slash)
06. Bring It On Home (LED ZEPPELIN)
07. Wild Thing (THE TROGGS) (feat. Lita Ford)
08. Parasite (KISS) (feat. John 5)
09. Magic Carpet Ride (STEPPENWOLF)
10. Cold Gin (KISS) (feat. Mike McCready)
11. Till The End Of The Day (THE KINKS)
12. Rock And Roll Hell (KISS)
Ace Frehley is a bona fide legend. I can say that despite being a lifelong fan of the man, and not look like a total fawning nerd. Having survived his years playing guitar with KISS and the many close calls with his storied issues with alcohol and other intoxicants, through his foray into a solo career with the excellent Frehley’s Comet, to finally venturing out into a true solo career, Ace has created some incredibly memorable music, as well as caused numerous infamous incidents, some he’d probably like to be forgotten. Since around 2007 Frehley has been clean and sober, which is a tremendous feat for anyone, let alone the Spaceman known for loving to get blasted out of his mind. It’s a shame his musical output during the last couple of decades hasn’t been as prolific as his fans would love, or as strong as his earlier material, but overall I’m just happy knowing Ace is in a better place now mentally. His last album, Space Invader, didn’t live up to the greatness I know is within the man, though I will admit it has grown on me some as time has progressed. I still don’t love it, it’s one of the few bits of music over his career that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I have come to not cringe too much listening to it. His latest offering is entitled Origins Vol. 1 (indicating that there will be more to come.) Essentially he has selected several classic songs to cover as well as re-working a couple of old KISS standards.
The only real complaint I have, and I’ll knock this out now, is the production. The overall sound of the album could’ve (and should’ve) been better. Having gotten that out of the way, it’s so much better than Space Invader. I know some folks are disappointed by the album (at least a handful of friends hated what they heard before its release, one calling it “shit” based on the three tracks out prior.) Origins is exactly what I expected from an Ace covers album. I’ve always believed he had a knack for picking out the perfect songs to make his own, going as far back as his 78 solo album with “New York Groove” and his cover of the Stones classic “2000 Man” to the ELO classic “Do Ya” on Trouble Walking to his most recent take on Steve Miller with “The Joker.” He takes the Stones on again with “Street Fighting Man,” and does a great job of it. The standout tracks for me are Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald,” “Wild Thing” with a guest vocal by Lita Ford, the Hendrix classic “Spanish Castle Magic,” and the Led Zeppelin/Willie Dixon “Bring It On Home,” which truly shows Ace in a different light. I also have to give kudos to the collaboration with KISS singer Paul Stanley for doing a great vocal on the Free song “Fire and Water.” For years I have lambasted Stanley for his vocal iniquities and begging for him to hang it up. He’s no Paul Rodgers, but he sounds better than he has in ages here. Of course he doesn’t try to hit anything super high in the song either, so maybe he is accepting his deficiencies and compensating for it. Nothing at all to be ashamed of in that either. Frehley also revisits “Parasite” and “Cold Gin” from his halcyon days, and really beefs them up, but his inclusion of “Rock and Roll Hell” is a bit of a head scratcher. I like the song, but it’s the one track on Origins Vol. 1 that could’ve been left off, Sadly, it’s the last track which is kind of a letdown, as that is the track that should leave the listener begging for more.
Let’s face some facts: Ace is no spring chicken, but he can still kick some significant ass on that fretboard. I saw him twice on his recent tour and was pleased beyond words. He’s always been sloppy, but that’s part of his appeal. It works for Jimmy Page and many other legends so why not Ace. Frehely is also not known for his vocal ability, but he has always been able to make his voice work for the song he’s singing. It’s unlikely he will ever be able to make another album as solid as his 78 solo album (and I believe that is an unrealistic dream many of his longtime fans need to realize,) but with the exception of Space Invader, he has recorded songs that, at least to me, have never failed to entertain me, and as I said above, that album has grown on me. Origins Vol. 1 will not please everyone, but it should please enough people. Of course in this day and age a lot of people thrive on being grumpy. I dig it and I hope you do too.
Written by: Chris Martin
Ratings: Chris 8/10