Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009, Bronx Born Records)
- Foxy & Free
- Outer Space
- Pain In The Neck
- Fox On The Run
- Genghis Khan
- Too Many Faces
- Change The World
- Space Bear
- A Little Below The Angels
- It’s A Great Life
- Fractured Quantum
Ace Frehley – Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Anton Fig – Drums
Anthony Esposito – Bass
Derrek Hawkins – Rhythm Guitar (track 2)
Scot Coogan – Background Vocals (track 3)
Marti Frederiksen – Bass, Keyboards, Hammond Organ, Drums, Percussion, Strings & Background Vocals (tracks 4, 9 & 12)
Brian Tichy – Drums (tracks 4 & 10)
Pearl Aday – Background Vocals (track 5)
Karl Kimmel – Background Vocals (track 5)
Jay Messina – Tracking (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6,7,8,11)
Rich Tozzoli – Overdubs (tracks 1,3,5,6,7,8,10, 11)
Alex Salzman – Tracking & Overdubs (tracks 2, 5, 9, 12)
Producers: Ace Frehley, Frank Munoz, & Marti Frederiksen (track 4)
Total Time = 54:46
It’s been 20 long years since we had a new Ace Frehley album, October of 1989 was when TROUBLE WALKIN’ hit record store racks and KISS fans like myself bought their copy. Ace Frehley had been my favorite member of KISS for years so anytime Ace was in the spotlight after his departure from KISS I paid full attention. I was a big fan of Frehley’s Comet and I tracked Ace the best I could from Rock mags, KISS newsletters and, of course, KISS conventions. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the last new Ace record but now we finally have ANOMALY! So what was the delay? Sobriety…..Ace has been sober now for three years. KISS…..the Reunion extended into a 6+ year odyssey that included 3 world tours and an album. Doesn’t matter now, it’s 2009 and Ace is back again!
Keep in mind that Ace Frehley has a very distinctive guitar tone and singing voice so a lot of the songs might sound the same in some parts and they are going to definitely sound very KISS-like. Ace is part of a big Hard Rock legacy with KISS so the sound will be familiar. ANOMALY starts off with the modern sounding ‘Foxy & Free’ that is chock full of thick Ace riffs and a heavy solo…..I’m impressed already. Sometimes you can tell how good an album will be by the first song and Ace rips right into the album with ‘Foxy & Free’, it’s got a solid groove that definitely could fit on KISS latest album. Moving into ‘Outer Space’, the album’s resident “spaceman persona” song, is another trip into familiar KISS territory a la ‘Rocket Ride’ & ‘Into the Void’. Definitely a good swirling guitar trackwith solid lyrics that pair up with the Space Ace’s image, the chorus had me singing right along. Third big guitar track in a row with ‘Pain In The Neck’ (written about his former bandmates perhaps?) and it has that smooth groove that Ace always pulls out with ease as well as a solid solo. ‘Pain In The Neck’ sounds a little dated but in a good way, the song could easily fit into any of his Frehley’s Comet/Ace Frehley records from the ’80s.
Ace is no stranger to doing a cover tune, his version of The Move/E.L.O.’s ‘Do Ya’ is very good and got some radio and MTV exposure back in ’89 and he also put his own version of KISS’ ‘Hide Your Heart’ to vinyl the same year. Considering that I like Ace’s versions of those two songs better, I had high hopes for The Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’. Not many people remember Sweet so it’s good to hear Ace pay some homage to a real classic Glam Rock act. Normally I can’t stand covers but this really is a good one and fits Ace’s personality to a tee. ‘Genghis Khan’ is mostly an instrumental that showcases Ace’s six-string prowess, but it has a few vocal lines. The song has this varied, trippy, loose groove to it that just sounds like a cool jam with a few words thrown in where the chorus might be. I’m not sure there’s any meaning to the lyrics, they’re more of an afterthought I think than an actual part of the song. Maybe Ace didn’t want to confuse people with more than one instrumental? You know an Ace album is going to have a ‘Fractured’ on it so maybe the lyrics were thrown onto ‘Genghis Khan’ to separate them? Either way it’s a solid instrumental and Ace’s playing is superb, the guy is a talented guitarist and that gets overlooked because he played some very basic guitar during KISS’ ’70s career. ‘Too Many Faces’ is another rocker that seems autobiographical, maybe talking about Ace’s battle with substance abuse. There’s some solid layered guitar here but the song sounds similar to ‘Pain In The Neck’ in some spots.
ANOMALY slows down a little with the ballad ‘Change the World’, a song that’s very melodic and acoustically driven. There’s definitely a Beatles influence here and it definitely sounds like Ace has taken a new outlook on life with his newfound sobriety. Listen to the solo, there’s a lot of emotion wrapped in there and it has a great tone. Another long instrumental comes in ‘Space Bear’…..I’m not sure we needed another one with ‘Genghis Khan’ before it and ‘Fractured Quantum’ on it’s way. ‘Space Bear’ is definitely heavier than ‘Genghis Khan’, it’s more deliberate in it’s heavy Hard Rock sound, and it sounds like it could have fit in on earlier Ace efforts, but it also sounds like an unfinished song idea. Another autobiographical ballad about Ace’s battle with his addictions follows in ‘A Little Below The Angels’…..the mellower version of ‘Rock Soldiers’? Melodic sincere lyrics over a simple acoustic guitar and then the band kicks in with a classic rock sounding rhythm and organ. There are some cool guitar fills mixed right in and the song features Ace’s daughter Monique on background vocals as part of the choir. The song has a grand feel to it and it fits in well with Ace’s current life. Heavy Rock is back again with ‘Sister’, a very thick guitar track with a rolling main riff and driving drums. This is straightforward power chords and basic rhythm with a great guitar solo mixed in, I’ll bet this is put in the live set because it’s real heavy and loud.
‘It’s A Great Life’ fits in again with Ace’s new found sober attitude lyrically. It’s a melodic acoustic driven song that sounds a little funky Pop Rock thing in some spots, it’s a decent song but not nearly as great as the other songs on the album. Would it be an Ace Frehley album without a ‘Fractured’ insturmental? The fourth installment is ‘Fractured Quantum’ and it is definitely a highlight of the album, the best instrumental of the album! Technically, that is the end of the proper album but those of you who bought ANOMALY on iTunes get a bonus track…..’The Return Of Space Bear’. I’ve only heard the 30 second sample iTunes gives you but, from what I’ve read online, it’s the ‘Space Bear’ instrumental with some effects and vocal lines re-done from the infamous Tom Snyder interview with KISS in 1980. I can’t really say whether the track is good or not but I think the fact that you can only get the track as part of the FULL album download and not as a single track stinks! If the song were available on the vinyl version, I’d pick it up…..maybe a Japanese pressing on CD will have it as a bonus track?
A great comeback for Ace Frehley! His new lease on life with his sobriety has certainly brought out his creativity and ANOMALY is definitely a solid album. The album is mainly electric guitar driven rockers mixed with a couple acoustic ballads that show off Ace’s melodic side, it’s definitely a solid mix with enough emotion and introspection lyrically. For me the best songs are the hard rockers (‘Sister’, ‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, etc.) but the slower acoustical ballads (‘Change The World’, ‘A Little Below The Angels’) show that Ace can branch out and do more melodic pieces. I even like the cover of ‘Fox On The Run’! The only drawback to the album is that there are three instrumentals, four if you get it from iTunes! ‘Space Bear’ seems to be the odd one out. Overall ANOMALY is a great album and I’ve been enjoying it since it came out mid-September. Just like the new KISS album, I wanted to give ANOMALY a lot of listening time not only to enjoy it but so my critical side wouldn’t be influenced by my diehard KISS fandom. I’ve been looking forward to a new Ace Frehley album for 20 years…..it’s finally here and I’m happy!
‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Fox On The Run’, ‘Sister’, ‘Change The World’, ‘Genghis Khan’