Ace Frehley is on a roll, and he’s ready to embark on his next musical journey with Spaceman, his third solo outing in four years, and eighth overall. Amongst Ace’s post-KISS recorded output, Spaceman might be the closest link to his widely acclaimed 1978 solo record, both in spirit and execution. First off, Frehley played all of the guitar parts on Spaceman, as well as bass on all but two songs. Longtime drummer Anton Fig, whose friendship with Ace began in that 1978 record, also appears on “Off My Back” and “Pursuit of Rock and Roll” (longtime collaborators Scot Coogan and Matt Starr also play drums on Spaceman). There’s also a thematic, almost biographical, thread running through the album of a long life in rock ’n’ roll, although Ace admits it wasn’t intentional. The first single “Bronx Boy” lays out Ace’s pre-KISS roots, running wild with an Irish street gang called the Ducky Boys. It might be his grittiest song to date, with an opening riff that lashes out like a switchblade. “Pursuit of Rock and Roll” ticks off a list of rockers that made Ace who he is, including Little Richard and the Stones. Frehley also makes it clear that rock is truly all he needs: “So sick of looking at reality TV / and like the Beatles said, you gotta ‘Let It Be.’” “No need to worry, I’ll be home soon, ’cause I’m rockin’ with the boys,” Frehley sings on “Rockin’ With the Boys,” which tells the tales of life on the road. Ace says he wrote the original version of the song back in KISS’s heyday in the ’70s—if you listen closely, it could almost be seen as a rockin’ counterpart to the Peter Criss-penned KISS classic “Beth.” Speaking of KISS brethren, let’s get back to those two songs on Spaceman that Ace didn’t play bass on. One listen of opener “Without You I’m Nothing” should be a dead giveaway. That mighty dinosaur growl of a bass tone belongs to Gene Simmons, who co-wrote that song, along with “Your Wish Is My Command,” with the Space Ace at Frehley’s home studio in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Frehley's reconnection with Simmons and fellow KISS vocalist-guitarist Paul Stanley (who joined Ace on a cover of Free’s “Fire and Water” for 2016’s covers LP Origins, Vol. 1) might be chalked up to the fact that Frehley has been sober for more than a decade (he celebrated 12 years of sobriety in September). Ace’s clean living no doubt has a lot to do with his productive streak, which began with the release of his top 20 Anomaly album in 2009, his top 10 Space Invader LP in 2014 (a first for any KISS member); and continues with Spaceman (a title suggested by Gene Simmons himself). Spaceman is a lean-and-mean nine tracks, and includes what has become a trademark for any Ace joint, a cosmic instrumental. “Quantum Flux” is a classic prog ’n’ roll song from Frehley, with lush acoustics and twin-leads. Fans might also notice the song’s doomy outro, which nods to “Black Diamond” on KISS’s 1974 debut. Kiss would have really sucked without this Alien!
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