Ace Frehley – Origins Vol.1
The Spaceman, Space Ace, genius, guitar hero, rock legend. Over the years, these words and many more have been used in an effort to describe Ace Frehley. He’s an enigma born from cosmic dust (in The Bronx), created to inspire legions of musicians. But even an enigma draws his inspiration from somewhere, and with Origins Vol. 1, Ace has compiled twelve tracks that have either inspired him during his career, or in the case of two, he’s helped to pen.
Frehley has taken each track and made it his own, yet never strays far from the original, no mean feat considering some of the classics he has chosen for what we can only assume is the first in a multi-volume release. Ace hits the ground running from the first track, the Cream 1968 classic ‘White Room’. First thoughts on hearing this track were “holy shit, Ace just launched ‘White Room’ into outer space!” New life is injected into what could have been just another Cream cover.
There’s a few interesting choices on this album and in the hands of a lesser musician it could have ended up a rather mundane album of covers. But Ace is not on his own in this journey. He’s enlisted the help of some very fine musicians, not least of which is old KISS bandmate, The Starchild himself Paul Stanley, who takes over vocal duties on Free’s ‘Fire and Water’. Together, the pair rejuvenate what is now a fairly dated song. This is the first time since 1998 the pair have worked together – that’s almost worth the price of the album alone!
I have to admit when I saw Led Zeppelin’s ‘Bring it on Home’ on the tracklist I felt some apprehension. Ace isn’t known for his huge vocal range – he has his own unique style but it’s no match for Robert Plant in full flight. But fear not, Ace is happy matching Jimmy Page on guitar while the insanely talented Scott Coogan steps out from behind his drum kit to deliver a blistering vocal performance. It should be noted that one of Coogan’s many jobs is in the Beatles/Led Zeppelin cover band Six Foot Nurse so it’s not a huge stretch.
But it’s not just about guest vocalists. There are guest guitarists aplenty, starting with the great John 5 who lends his shredding skills to the Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Spanish Castle Magic’, helping to create an early highlight on an album containing so many. John 5 turns up again on the KISS track ‘Parasite’, the pair picking the song up by the scruff of its neck, shaking it up and firmly kicking its arse.
Slash is well known for collaborating with many and varied artists, so it was no real surprise to see him pop up on the Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’. No fault of either artist but this song just doesn’t do it for me. Another old well-worn cover is The Troggs ‘Wild Thing’, and to be perfectly honest I rolled my eyes at the inclusion of this track. But add Lita Ford to the mix and this tired old song suddenly has a new lease on life. Ms Ford’s sultry vocals combined with shredding guitars and we have another winner.
The big names continue with Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready strapping on his axe as Ace takes over vocals on another KISS classic ‘Cold Gin’. Although written by Ace, in its original 1973 incarnation he didn’t want to record the vocal track, leaving that to Gene Simmons. It’s safe to say that wrong has been righted – Ace kills it vocally.
Ace is happy and more than able to tackle songs solo. The Rolling Stones ‘Street Fighting Man’, another track that kicks arse, both vocally and musically. I have no doubt Ace could release a whole album of Stones covers and kill every one of them. The Kinks ‘Till The End Of The Day’ is another interesting choice, given the plethora of The Kinks songs that have been covered over the years. Ace plays it pretty straight and it’s a good solid rocking number. Steppenwolf gets a makeover in the form of ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, as Ace adds a real groove to this song, his vocals fitting perfectly (not to mention another blistering solo). ‘Rock and Roll Hell’ is another interesting inclusion as a KISS song that Ace neither wrote nor played on the original 1982 release. Sorry guys, but this is now Ace’s song.
The Spaceman has released an album of rare quality indeed. There are a bucketload of highlights and only a few misses. I’ve had this on high rotation since I received an advance copy and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
I’m giving Origins Vol.1 9 rock soldiers out of 10
Ace Frehley Origins Vol.1 is out on 15th April 2016
- White Room
- Street Fighting Man
- Spanish Castle Magic feat. John 5
- Fire and Water feat. Paul Stanley
- Emerald feat. Slash
- Bring It On Home
- Wild Thing fest. Lita Ford
- Parasite feat. John 5
- Magic Carpet Ride
- Cold Gin feat. Mike McCready
- Till The End Of The Day
- Rock and Roll Hell