Origins Vol.1, Ace Frehley, Entertainment One Music, 2016.
Ace Frehley has been on a roll. His most recent efforts, Anomaly (2009) and Space Invader (2014) were both excellent. Frehley hopes to continue this upwards trend with Origins Vol. 1.
Originally, the album was conceived as a backup plan in case Frehley didn’t release Space Invader in time to capitalize on KISS’ 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Ace delivered on both counts as Space Invader came out in due time and we get this album as a bonus. Origins Vol. 1, like it’s title implies, sees Ace going back to his roots covering artists he grew up listening to. The likes of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Free and Steppenwolf are covered and in some instances, Frehley’s own body of work with KISS.
“White Room” starts the album with a bang. Under Ace’s wing, the classic Cream tune sounds great. Edgy playing, shredding solo and l like the alternating vocals between Frehley and his drummer Scott Coogan (who has a very pleasant voice I’ll add).
I was expecting a Rolling Stones cover and “Street Fighting Man” is a fine choice for the Spaceman. It also harkens back memories of Dynasty where Ace covered “2000 Man”.
The cover of Free’s “Fire And Water” has people talking with good reason. An appearance on lead vocals by Paul Stanley is significant in the scope of the KISS universe. “Fire And Water” marks the first time Paul and Ace are featured on a song together since Psycho Circus in 1998. It’s a solid cover, Paul sounds good and it’s fantastic to have these two on the same song once more.
“Emerald” is an in-your-face bombastic all-out guitar attack. The tune sees Ace trading solos with Slash who does a terrific guest appearance here.
“Bring It On Home” was one song that I thought could have gone either way. As it turns out, I underestimated Ace. His playing is spot-on with some of his own flavour with his drummer again doing an excellent job on the lead vocals.
I wish Ace made a less obvious choice than “Wild Thing”. To his credit it’s a very good version -featuring Lita Ford, no less- but I would have loved to see him tackle a song like “All Along Watchtower” or something else and see him give that a go instead of a song that’s already been covered to death.
“Magic Carpet Ride” is a pleasant, upbeat, feel-good song and Frehley’s take on the song is slowly becoming one of my favourite songs of the album. I also really enjoy Ace’s vocal performance on this one.
“Cold Gin” seemed like a no-brainer, Frehley wrote the song on the KISS debut and Gene sang it. It’s the spaceman going full circle. I’ve heard Ace in interviews many times saying how much he wished to re-record that song. And you know what? It works quite well. The song has a faster pace and Ace sounds good covering himself (ha!).
Same with “Parasite”, he wrote the song and finally sings it and it sounds great. It gives those songs a completely different life with an updated guitar sound. If you wondered what those KISS songs would have sounded like if Ace sang, here it is.
“Rock And Roll Hell” came as a complete shock. Ace covering a Gene song? From an album he didn’t even play on? Yep. I’m glad someone convinced him to take a stab at it because the result speaks for itself. The original is one of my all-time favourite KISS songs and Ace does it justice by putting his own spin on it.
I was delighted at the album’s sound and production. This is a guitar album as well as a rock ‘n’ roll album, representative of Ace. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot here and albums by artists covering other artists don’t usually hold much interest to me. That said, upon reading about the project and seeing the selection I decided to give Origins Vol.1 a chance. Well, that and the fact that Frehley delivered on his last two solo outputs.
The selection of artists covered are for the most part ones you would expect from Ace given how much recognition he has already given them. The choice of songs is not all that startling either. With Paul Stanley, Lita Ford, Slash, John 5 and Mike McCready are all more than capable guest who add depth to album. The highlight of the album is inevitably the guitar work’s strong, heavy approach. Ace seems to struggle vocally at times, but he’s not a young chap anymore and vocals were never exactly his forte either. For his age he sounds fine, and at 65 he delivers a great product.
Origins Vol.1 completely took me by surprise. I wouldn’t say it’s mind-blowing, but admittedly with this album being a covers project, it’s much better than I could have possibly imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this being a covers album; my hat’s off to Ace who has effectively released 3 excellent albums in a row. The songs sound great, the guitars are fantastic and the list of guest adds to the project. Well done Ace, you made your rock soldiers proud once more. Makes me wonder about an Origins Vol. 2, hmmm. 4/5 stars.