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Ace Frehley Returns To His Roots With Origins Vol. 2

Legendary guitarist Ace Frehley is best known as the co-founder of the iconic classic-rock band KISS but is also a successful solo artist in his own right, especially in recent years. The Original Spaceman has a unique style and sound that is instantly recognizable as he “Ace-ifies” a song truly making it something out of this world.  Frehley is also a terrific songwriter lending his pen to KISS classics like “Cold Gin” from their 1974 debut album and “Parasite” from Hotter Than Hell. Shockingly (bad pun intended), his most well-known KISS tune was “Shock Me,” off their 1977 Love Gun album which became an instant classic and a must-play tune during just about every live KISS show from that point on. It is on this song that Ace made his lead vocal debut with the band and entertained the masses at concerts around the world with his fireworks shooting out of his guitar. Ace may not be the first guitarist that pops into your mind when thinking of the best rock guitarists ever, but he has definitely earned his place in rock and roll history and has influenced many artists including Slash and John 5. In 2014, the rock world officially recognized his contributions and legendary status as Frehley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the other original members of KISS. 

His latest release Origins Vol. 2 is a follow-up to his successful 2016 Origins Vol. 1 album which hit #23 on the Billboard Top 200 and became his fourth Top 40 and second-best charting solo album to date. Like its predecessor, the new record is packed full of unique cover songs personally chosen by Ace and embellished with Ace’s signature sound. Of course, Ace is no stranger to cover songs as his 1978 solo album was the most successful of all the KISS members led by the hit single “New York Groove,” which was actually a cover of the 1975 song from the band Hello. With an absolute lifetime of songs to choose from, there was plenty to choose from.  Ace says “I just thought about the songs that I used to play in clubs when I was doing other people’s material. I went through my album collection and thought about the songs that influenced me the most. It was fun picking out the songs. It’s a pretty well-rounded record and I think the fans will enjoy it.”

The album opens with Ace putting a very early KISS spin on the Led Zeppelin classic “Good Times Bad Times” as he hammers out the bluesy riff and vocals to match. He even adds some lyrics of his own at the end of the song, giving a shout out if you will to a few people that may have done him wrong. Next up we have Mountain’s “Never In My Life.” It’s not the most famous Mountain song, “Mississippi Queen” would probably be more familiar to most people, but it’s got the classic Mountainesque riff, and not only that it was rumored that Jimi Hendrix himself gave this one a thumbs up during the original recording back in 1970. If not only one, but two, iconic guitarists love the song, stand up and take notice. Ace does a terrific job and even incorporates the Japanese lyrics for this track. 

Every classic rock fan in the world is going to love this next one, a rollicking ride through the Deep Purple masterpiece “Space Truckin’.” This one was actually recorded years ago with parts being re-recorded for the album. It also has Ace teaming up with his old friend, keyboardist Rob Sabino who has performed with an array of artists including Peter Frampton and Simon & Garfunkel giving the keyboard parts an outstanding touch. Pay attention to the chorus on this song because in Ace’s world we’re not just “Space Truckin’, “ we are “Space “Ace” Truckin.” 

Almost every artist names one band that has been a huge influence on them and that is The Beatles. Frehley is no exception and pays homage to the Fab Four with a surprising B-side selection “I’m Down.”  It’s a wild, frolicking, stomping, good time and it’s also the first song on the record to feature John 5 on guitar.  Ace does have quite the knack when it comes to featuring just the right guest artist on a particular song and when he takes on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones, none other than Lita Ford is on hand to handle the vocal duties. At the very end, Ace shouts out “Kick out the jams motherf*cker!” a reference to the one and only MC5.  

There’s some superb guitar interplay between Ace and John 5 on the Cream song “Politician,” and that’s about as political as Ace gets. The double solo on this track alone is enough to warrant a listen and another and another. Well, you get the picture, it’s excellent in every way. “Lola” by The Kinks gets the Ace treatment as well making this seminal tune a bit heavier but no less of a romping good time. 

One of my all-time favorite songs is “30 Days In The Hole” by Humble Pie off of their 1972 “Smokin’” album. There’s just something so urgent about Steve Marriott’s vocals and his range is fantastic. I was more than ready to hear this song “Aced” up and it did not disappoint. To tackle the lead vocals, Frehley turned to Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander and with Ace on guitar, the two put together an amazing performance. I just wanted to get into my best friend’s old Monte Carlo, pop in an 8-track, and crank this sucker up.  For any guitarist, it doesn’t get any more epic than doing a Jimi Hendrix tune and for his version of “Manic Depression,” Ace called his friend and fellow guitarist Bruce Kulick in. The two have worked well together with Bruce handling the bulk of the solo work and then the pair entangling toward the end for a twin guitar attack that knocks it out of the park. 

An interesting choice of tunes, Ace turns to Paul Revere & The Raiders’ “Kicks,” which didn’t originally have a guitar solo. So what’s the Spaceman to do, but add one in and not just any solo but a three-part harmony solo that adds a unique Ace edge to the classic tune.  Like “Kicks,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” was also written by the team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was made famous by The Animals. The original song was an anti-Vietnam song but Ace’s version is all about power, pure unadulterated rock and roll power done by one of the best. You can never go wrong with that. 

The record could very well end here but it just wouldn’t be the same without at least one KISS song so as a bonus track we have “She.” There’s simply no mistaking the opening riff of this tune and Ace gives it all he’s got. This is one that will have KISS fans longing for the good old days and wishing they could time travel back to 1974 and do it all over again. 

While we can’t relive the glory days of our youth, we can definitely still enjoy the music that was the soundtrack of our lives. If 2020 has got you down, check out Origins Vol.2 and “Ace” up your life a little bit. 

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