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Salt Lake City Weekly Kiss My Ace

One the eve of KISS's 1998 takeover, Ace Frehley's second solo compilation inspires the question, "Uh, why?"

By Bill Frost

FEBRUARY 2, 1998:  So, this CD turns up in the mail. It's called Loaded Deck, and it's the latest — and allegedly final — compilation of hits and out-takes from former and current KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley.

When you're a member of the Liberal Media Elite, you get tons of weird stuff in the mail. In the same week that Loaded Deck arrived, I also received a pack of information on how to overthrow the U.S. government by "opting out" of paying taxes — and "opting into" a cozy cell with your new roommate, Hacksaw?

Also that week: A press release for an obscure, straight-to-tape movie starring former Diff'rent Strokes star/video-store hold-up artist Dana Plato, titled The Story of Jack and Jill ... and Jill, "Plato's long-lost lesbian soft-porn film." I immediately called this public relations firm to express my disgust and outrage at their tastelessness. The tape should be here in time for my birthday.

Back to Ace: Two years ago, just before KISS launched their multi-million-dollar reunion tour, Megaforce Records released 12 Picks, a — duh — 12-song "greatest hits" collection spanning Frehley's erstwhile solo career from 1982-'90. Since he only released four marginal albums with his band, Frehley's Comet, you'd think that one compilation would cover it, right?

Apparently not: With KISS gearing up for another summer of blood, fire and merchandising, ex-Frehley's Comet bassist John Regan has slapped together a second package of leftovers and out takes. All of the liner notes and thank-yous were written by Regan, and he's also the only one doing interviews for this release. In the '70s and early '80s, Frehley was replaced by uncredited studio musicians on some KISS albums because he was too busy wrecking Lamborghinis and exploring liver damage to show up and record his parts. Is he being left out of the loop on his own solo compilations as well?

"I don't see it as capitalizing but, with the resurgence of KISS, a renewed interest in what Ace had done with these projects. There's really good stuff there that a lot of fans don't know about," Regan says in the accompanying press release. Yeah, OK.

Thing is, the fans do know about it. After KISS' 1978 simultaneous solo-album releases, everyone thought that Ace was going to be the one with a viable solo career, because his was the only one that basically didn't completely suck. Ace Frehley was also the only one of the four to score a hit single, "New York Groove." After he was platform-booted out of the band in 1982 (if you ask him, he quit — yeah, OK), it took Frehley five years to finally release his first post-KISS solo album, Frehley's Comet, in 1987. It wasn't worth the wait.

But we Ace-heads kept the faith: I even went to see Frehley's Comet open for two extremely bad hair-metal bands in '87 at the old Salt Palace. He sang off-key, he jumped around drunkenly, and he did the smoking guitar bit — it was just like the KISS days. Except that, without the KISS spectacle, Ace and the Comet just seemed like some bar band who'd wound up in an arena.

Ace on last year's KISS reunion tour.
They did end up in a bar — the Zephyr Club — a few years later: Frehley was still in rock-star mode, demanding a whole roasted chicken before he would even consider going onstage. He also charged the few Ace-heads there $50 an autograph — a bar band with attitude.

There was only one reason that the fans stuck with Ace: Guitar-playing that could peel the panties off a co-ed at 50 paces. The vibrato, the tone, the piss-take attack — and the occasional smoke display — were always unmistakably his. He just insisted on singing, writing bad lyrics (ever really listen to "Rock Soldiers"?) and hiring equally-annoying singers to trade off vocals with in Frehley's Comet. If he just would have joined Aerosmith, everything would have been fine.

But, after a few listens to Loaded Deck, Frehley's Comet doesn't seem all that useless. While 12 Picks focused on more commercial tunes and live versions of old KISS standards, Loaded Deck just goes straight for the big, dumb rock stomp that Ace was the master of: Verse, chorus, verse chorus, SOLO!, whatever.

"It's Over Now," which is basically a vehicle for pretty-boy singer Tod Howarth, is the only nod here to Ace's ill-advised attempts at pop-metal. "Shot Full of Rock," the Move/ELO cover "Do Ya," "Stranger In a Strange Land" and "Remember Me" all rock with the subtlety of Macho Man Randy Savage doing a Massingil commercial. "Give It to Me Anyway," a tough out take featuring on-again-off-again vocalist Richie Scarlet, shows what Frehley's Comet could have been if they hadn't kept hiring those hair-metal weenies to sing. Also included are "Fractured Too" and "Fractured III," the sequels to one of the best rock instrumentals of all time, "Fractured Mirror" from Frehley's '78 solo album.

Incidentally, this trilogy was voted "Best Ace Frehley Song(s) to Make Love To" on a recent Internet survey — most likely originating from www.acefrehley.com, one of the most insanely detailed unofficial fansites on the World Wide Web.

Figures. I've just discovered that the Ace Frehley action toy I got for Christmas vibrates to the tune of "Shock Me" ...

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