Ace Frehley – “Origins Vol.2” (eOne / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
And the hits just keep a comin’ as Ace Frehley, Kiss co-founder and 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, continues his reflections on a lifetime in music with “Origins Vol. 2”. Releasing his first compilation album in 2016 that hit #23 on the Billboard Top-200 charts, becoming his 4th Top 40 and second highest charting solo album, this 12-track successor was less arduous given Ace already had a winning formula, thus allowing the guitarist to concentrate on putting special touches in embellishing the already famous original songs. Helping him to do so were guests like keyboard player Rob Sabino, who has performed with the likes of Peter Frampton and Simon & Garfunkel, and grew up with Ace in the Bronx, while guitarist John 5 (Dave Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson) added his magic touch as did Lita Ford, whom Ace has remained friends with since she was in The Runaways. Over the decades, Ace has interacted with fellow guitarist Bruce Kulick (Kiss, Meat Loaf, Grand Funk Railroad, Billy Squier) on numerous occasions and given the two also share a common love for Jimi Hendrix, Kulick delivers the bulk of a befitting solo to the cover of ‘Manic Depression’ with Ace lending his hand in soloing off together towards the end. With other choices stemming from his memories, such as ‘Politician’ having been inspired by Eric Clapton when Cream made their US debut in 1967 and ’30 Days In The Hole’ featuring another friend in Robin Zander from Cheap Trick, who opened for Kiss in the 70s, the biggest challenge for Ace was indeed covering the vocals, and considering the rock god performances of originals like Robert Plant, Ian Gillan and Mick Jagger, Ace hasn’t ducked anything but rather handled it in his own fine style. With a monster cowbell from drummer Matt Starr (Mr Big, Dizzy Reed, Joe Lynn Turner), Zepp’s ‘Good Times Bad Times’ rocks in with plenty of ballsy groove as Ace adds in tons of 70s rock ‘n’ roll fire to his guitarwork while his own trippy vocals are authentic to that era. Continuing to Mountain’s ‘Never In My Life’, which goes back to his high school days, the lyrics are taken from the Japanese album insert with the more appropriate ‘…bolt of lightning…’ reference as Ace stokes the song with tons of licks and breaks to beef up the Leslie West original. Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’ this time around features engineer Alex Salzman’s prominent bass and Sabino’s pumping organ that rocks the original in its own right as Ace adds in a wild solo and rather than take on Gillan’s screaming highs, offers his own tripped out vocals to match the singing of Purple’s own zonked out crowd before Starr’s double bass drumming smashes the song into orbit! With as much sass and attitude, only Lita Ford could offer a vocal lead to match Jagger on an energised ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and she absolutely nails it complete with power chords and Ace’s superb guitar work all over the song including in a funked-out solo that would have Keith Richards nodding his approval – nice. Performed as one of his very first songs live, ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, originally recorded by The Animals in 1965, features towards the end of the album, and while the original mood perseveres on this heavier version, the rawness connects to the 60s style, even though Ace is emphatic that both then and now, it’s less about the political connotations but more about just being a great song. Indeed, “Origins Vol.2”, while being well thought out, has not been overly pondered on but rather allowed freshness and spontaneity to take their natural courses in making for a superb collection of songs to create even more fun memories for Ace and you.