Even though the new Ace Frehley album “Anomaly” has been out for a couple months I just barely picked it up. I don’t follow every single one of my favorite artists religiously so the new Ace album had slipped under my radar. Luckily, I subscribe to Guitar Player magazine and they did a cover story on the new Kiss album and included an interview with Ace Frehley which is what tipped me off to the new album.
First off let’s back up a bit and talk about the new Kiss album. I don’t have it and I certainly don’t plan on buying it. Why don’t I own the new Kiss album? Because Kiss isn’t Kiss without Ace Frehley on lead guitar and Peter Criss on drums! Oh don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the “after Kiss” Kiss albums and have several of them. I’m also a big fan of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. But the new Kiss album is a major turn-off for me because they’re trying to capitalize on the Kiss makeup legacy by dressing up substitute players on lead guitar and drums. That’s why I’m officially boycotting the new Kiss album.
Now back to Ace, I’ve been an Ace Frehley fan since I got my first Kiss album in 1976. Back in grade school everyone had to have their favorite Kiss member and my favorite was always Ace. That was before I even learned to play guitar so maybe it was a premonition that one day I would become a lead guitarist in a rock-n-roll band myself. It’s funny because George Harrison is my favorite Beatle too and he’s the lead guitarist, go figure.
About the new Ace Frehley album, Anomaly. It’s extremely good and I loved it the first time I spun it in the CD player. It’s definitely not an album that has to “grow on you” this album kicks right out of the box. I’ve been enjoying it more and more through each listen but it caught me well from the very first listen. Ace produced all of the songs except the cover of Sweet’s “Fox On The Run”. He’s a great producer and the album sounds fantastic. It’s full sounding with tons of guitars cranked up through Marshalls. The bass is thumping with loads of low frequencies and Anton Fig’s drumming is just as bombastic as ever. Anton is definitely part of the Ace Frehley sound.
Ace plays all the guitars on the album and lot of bass guitar as well. The leads are excellent and completely classic Ace Frehley. That’s not to say his playing is stuck in the 70’s. Ace’s guitar playing has definitely improved with age and his sound is very fresh even though it’s based in his years of experience with his sound. The guitar sounds are familiar in the sense that you can tell that this is the same guy playing on those classic 70’s Kiss albums but the overall sound of Anomaly is very modern hard rock. That’s a good thing because the natural progression of Ace’s playing, songwriting and singing is evident on this album.
As for the singing, Ace isn’t wasting any tracks with another singer doing lead vocals. Ace sings lead on every song that has singing on it and he’s nailing it. I personally love Ace’s voice because nobody sounds like him (except maybe for every guy born in the Bronx!) but that New York twang works so perfectly for Ace. It totally gives Ace a vocal identity and that’s a very important thing for a singer to have. I’m proud of Ace for having the guts to sing his heart out on this album and I certainly don’t want to hear anyone else singing lead on an Ace Frehley album.
I really can’t say that there are any throw-away tracks on the album. All the songs rock hard with an honest sincerity that makes it hard to skip any of the songs. In that way it really reminds me of his 1978 Ace Frehley solo album. My favorite songs on the album seem to keep changing every time I listen to it. I will say that “A Little Below The Angels” is a fascinating autobiography of Ace’s alcohol abuse and recovery. The cover of “Fox On The Run” is just a rockin’ good time and totally fun to listen to. The instrumental “Fractured Quantum” keeps up the Fractured instrumental album closing tradition and leaves you wanting more.
Now I know there will be the standard naysayers out there crying “The lyrics are too shallow!” or bitching about the dialogue with the little girl on “A Little Below The Angels”. But let’s remember, Kiss members are no strangers to adding a little cheese to an album. It adds a bit of classic Kiss flavor to an album to have some cheesy lyrics or silly sound effects. That’s what makes them so darn like-able and this Ace Frehley album pays homage to some classic Kiss cheesy moments. You’ve got to remember that with Ace it’s guitar first, lyrics and singing second.
Ace, I hope you don’t take another 20 years to record an album that is this much fun. But if that’s what it takes to do a great album like this, I’ll wait!