Ace Frehley - Anomoly
2009 Bronx Born Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
As a kid of the seventies, Kiss was my great obsession along with baseball cards, Star Wars, Get Smart reruns and my Fonz felt poster. No different than most of my susceptible peers growing up with Kiss. We all knew where Gene, Paul and Peter stood, but Ace Frehley was the dark horse we kids knew very little about other than his onstage persona as a rider of the nebula. The Spaceman, as Frehley eventually became known, was for all intents and purposes, the soul of Kiss, much as George Harrison was for The Beatles. The same case might even be made with Ringo Starr and Peter Criss respectively.
In the same manner as The Fab Four (though Kiss is hardly in the same league even at their finest hour), you had a core duo writing most of the songs, allotting here and there for penned and sung ditties from the other two members.
Let's quickly inventory some of Ace Frehley's songwriting contributions to his old band: "Cold Gin," "Shock Me," "Getaway," "Strange Ways," "Talk to Me," "Hard Times," "Rocket Ride," "Two Sides of the Coin" and "Save Your Love." Not to mention co-writing credits on a number of Kiss tunes, some of the best being "Parasite," "Flaming Youth" and "Rock Bottom." Ace also fielded the Stones' "2000 Man" with a more street-tough choke than the original source.
Need I go there with the Kiss solo albums from '78? The truth is well-evident and well-documented who ruled that exercise in futility which at least fetches nice duckets if you have the vinyl versions with the posters still inside. "Rip It Out" alone manhandled anything Ace Frehley's comrades issued by themselves.
Though bailing on Kiss the first time after Creatures of the Night (do the research if you want to know about the inner controversy of that otherwise booming album, along with the Alive II sessions turmoil) Ace came back to the scene during the eighties with his Frehley's Comet venture featuring his self-flogging metal confessional "Rock Soldiers." Add a snap-tight crew including the underrated Tod Howarth and soon-to-be David Letterman-bound Anton Fig, and Ace had it made for a moment. Seriously, the first Frehley's Comet album and his sadly-dismissed 1989 solo effort Trouble Walkin' stood toe-to-toe with much of their competition in the hairball sweepstakes.
After Trouble Walkin' The Spaceman went on sabbatical, resurfacing in his old Kiss duds during a vintage years reunion and a so-called "farewell tour" which is still going almost a decade later. We all know Ace and Peter Criss waltzed back out of the Kiss camp as fast as they returned, to be looking at their famed alter egos painted and platformed onto alternate players.
By all means Ace Frehley would have a reason to vent and gripe to his heart's content with his first solo album in 20 years, Anomoly. Instead, what we get from Frehley is a rock-solid howdy to his fans with more passion and occasional sweetness than might be expected of him at this point in his career.
Anomoly may skid to a meandering crawl in a couple of spots, but gol-dang does Ace Frehley sound motivated in 2009! God bless him, his voice has not aged one iota, nor has his dirty Strat scorches. While the songwriting of Anomoly keeps things mostly in a mid-tempo primer with repetitious beat patterns, you'll want to give Ace a great big hug for his bravado and his willingness to bare himself.
This is perhaps the most honest Ace Frehley has been with himself and his faithful audience. While the '78 solo album remains Frehley's most invigorated snapcase of rawk ecstasy, Anomoly is the work of a senior mind still playing in a young dude's body. You can already picture the smoke belching out of Ace's guitar during the wailing shred of his solo on the bang-dango "Sister." You can likewise fall into nearly the same dreamscape of electro-acoustic nimbleness on "Fractured Quantum" as Ace's original composition "Fractured Mirror," the latter being to this day one of his undeniable masterpieces.
The first two songs of Anomoly, "Foxy & Free" and "Outer Space" are hedged with classic glam and Aerosmith grooves plus spots of Ace's own "Wiped Out" and "Rip It Out." "Foxy & Free" is perhaps the most footloose and giddy tune Ace has written ("Dolls" from Frehley's Comet notwithstanding), while "Outer Space" pumps and pumps some more with absolutely gnarly distortion surf and an infectious chorus. If anyone has questions as to whether or not Ace Frehley still has affection for his far-flung character, consider "Outer Space" your answer.
With Anton Fig helping out yet again on 9 of the album's 12 tracks, Anomoly keeps a steady rhythm throughout. Fig gives "Pain in the Neck" some extra snap while keeping the stomp-jam instrumental "Space Bear" the necessary glue to hold it from going too wayward into Kiss-laden pastures, even if Fig gets slightly happy on the bass pedal. Otherwise, he remains one of the hardest hitters in the game.
"Ghenghis Khan" is one of the most adventurous songs Frehley's yet attempted and he turns largely to Led Zeppelin with complicated and frequently beautiful acoustic lines kicking the track into a blues-splashed stratosphere. You have to wonder who Ace's muse for this weighty cut is, particularly whomever inspired the chorus line "so long...Genghis Khan...now you're gone, so long..." Hmmmmm...
As Ace tries to feed some of his spiritual ideals into Anomoly's tracks such as "Change the World," "It's a Great Life" and "A Little Below the Angels," they slow the pace down musically, save for "Angels," which is downright innocuous. Hearing Ace testify to his little girl how beautiful angels are, followed by a spritely gang of kids singing the chorus, these after Ace has lyrically purged himself of his past sins...irresistible.
What works for Anomoly is Ace's upbeat resolution on this thing. Even when talking about having difficulty finding which is the real him on "Too Many Faces," Ace keeps a laidback step to the song which makes the ripping solo come off more effectively. You can hear Ace practically cleansing himself with those tugs. His cover of Sweet's "Fox On the Run" is by-the-numbers but he's simply enjoying the moment and you can't fault him. Historically his vocal patterns have mimicked those guffed on Sweet's version. This was meant to be.
Not always perfect, Anomoly is nevertheless a golden nugget in Ace Frehley's personal catalog. It's both grounded and galactic and most of all, it's a fun-time shuttle ride into Ace's decidedly anti-blackened life. Who was the Star Child?
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Ace Frehley - Anomoly