Kiss legends Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley have put down their swords, laid aside their differences, and reunited on a new album by the Space Ace, which sees the former Kiss guitarist delivering a collection of classic rock covers in his trademark laconic drawl.
For many who have served time in the battle-hardened ranks of the Kiss army, Frehley was always the coolest and most naturally talented member of the high-heeled, costumed clowns with a taste for slap and feminine clothing.
Frehley’s chuck it in the bucket, f**k it, and move on attitude was in stark contrast to Paul Stanley’s bubbling over with excitement and friendly labrador demeanor, and the Space Ace’s effortlessly laid back persona often made Gene Simmons’ demonic theatrics look like amateur night at the big top
It’s true, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons may have written the lion’s share of the Kiss catalogue but for every “God of Thunder” and “Detroit Rock City,” there was also such unlistenable dirge as “Bang Bang You” and “Love’s a Deadly Weapon.”
Quality control has always been something of an issue with the “Lennon and McCartney” of the cock rock scene.
Compared with Stanley and Simmons, Frehley may have only written a handful of songs that graced Kiss albums, but nearly every one is a soul scorching, fret destroying, megabeast.
Think “Parasite,” “Gold Gin,” “Shock Me,” “Strange Ways,” and “Flaming Youth.” It may have taken Frehley some time before he found his voice and was confident enough to sing his own songs, but when he did, it wasn’t in the hight pitched and camp style of Stanley, or the affected gruffness of Simmons; it was with a tone from the streets boasting something which Kiss often lacked — credibility.
It’s no secret that when the four Kiss members decided to venture out and each release a solo album, Ace Frehley’s was the only genuine classic amongst the bunch.
If you haven’t heard Ace’s debut masterpiece, you’re missing out big time. From “Rip It Out” to “Fractured Mirror,” the album is a timely reminder that Stanley and Simmons should have let Frehley have more input on the Kiss albums. The guitar, the voice, the delivery. It all combines to create something spectacular that definitely stands the test of time.
The trouble with Frehley is he never really seemed to fulfill his real potential. On successive solo albums, there were always classics such as “Rock Soldiers” and “Into The Night,” but nothing on the scale that would have made Stanley and Simmons think twice about releasing such hellish travesties as Crazy Nights.
Yet, just like a malt whiskey, Frehley was a rare vintage that once again proved himself as the most genuinely talented member of Kiss during their brief reunion.
When the original four reunited to record “Psycho Circus,” it wasn’t a shock to fans of the Space Ace, that Frehley’s “Into The Void” was the most authentic, engaging, and memorable track on the album.
However, after that brief but incendiary spark, the light grew dim yet again, leading Paul Stanley to snap in an interview with Guitar World in 2014 that Ace Frehley “got involved in a lot of things that really diluted and diminished his craft.”
“What we had at the beginning was magical… Ace and I played great together. But in my mind it’s a crime what Ace did: He threw away incredible potential and talent. The Ace I played with when the band first started out was a comet – and not [Frehley’s late-Eighties band] ‘Frehley’s Comet!’ But he was burning bright and really had the ability – and this would rub him the wrong way – to be a real contender. But he stopped practicing. He got involved with a whole lot of things that really diluted and diminished his craft. I saw that comet grow dim.”
Frehley on the other hand remained incensed for a long time that Simmons and Stanley were still trying to sell the idea of the original Kiss line-up to the world, minus himself and Peter Criss.
The Inquisitr reported that Ace thought the idea of Tommy Thayer wearing his old costume and make-up, copying his moves and signature guitar sound was like a bad joke that Stanley and Simmons failed to get.
“Tommy’s not so bad. He’s a hired gun just trying to make a living. I’m not really complaining about it. I’ve moved on with my life. I think the fans are more upset about it than me. I’m constantly bombarded by fans saying, ‘Ace, you should be back in the band. We’re not happy with the line-up, it’s half of a Kiss cover band.’
“I could easily step back and put on the make-up and do the job, but I don’t think Paul and Gene want to share the money. They’re all about the money. The don’t want to give me 20 percent when they can pay a salaried employee.”
As is often the case with highly strung musicians, they fight, they make-up, they fight, they release a new album. And Ace Frehley is doing exactly that, with his old buddy Paul Stanley making a guest appearance for old time’s sake alongside such notables as Slash and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
Rolling Stone reports that Ace is realeasing a covers LP called Origins Vol. 1, featuring Frehley’s take on tracks by rock giants such as Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Cream, and of course, Kiss.
Stanley sings on Frehley’s cover of Free’s “Fire and Water.” Seemingly an odd and bluesy choice for the trademark Stanley falsetto, but as Ace explains, Stanley wanted to do something beyond the pale and outside of the box.
Asked if there was any awkwardness in reuniting with his fellow make-up wearing brother from the 1970s, Frehley said absolutely not.
“We’ve always been friends. The press seems to amplify negativity. I guess it makes good copy.”
And when asked his opinion on Stanley’s vocal, Frehley had nothing but praise.
“I thought Paul did a fabulous vocal on it. He jumped at the chance to do this because it’s something that’s outside of Kiss and his character in Kiss, and it gave him a chance to, you know, sing.
“With Paul, you usually think of him singing in a slightly higher register and on ‘Fire and Water,’ he’s singing deep from his diaphragm, and it’s a real cool vocal. Everyone’s who heard it was just thinks it’s the s**t.”
We won’t know if it really is the s**t, or if it indeed it is s**t, until Origins Vol. 1 is released on April 15. In the meantime, check out the track listing below, pick up your air guitar and burn baby burn.
Origins Vol. 1 Track List
1. “White Room” (Cream)
2. “Street Fighting Man” (Rolling Stones)
3. “Spanish Castle Magic,” feat. John 5 (Jimi Hendrix)
4. “Fire and Water,” feat. Paul Stanley (Free)
5. “Emerald,” Slash (Thin Lizzy)
6. “Bring It on Home” (Led Zeppelin)
7. “Wild Thing,” feat. Lita Ford (The Troggs)
8. “Parasite,” feat. John 5 (Kiss)
9. “Magic Carpet Ride” (Steppenwolf)
10. “Cold Gin,” feat. Mike McCready (Kiss)
11. “Till the End of the Day” (Kinks)
12. “Rock and Roll Hell” (Kiss)
(Photo by Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images)