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Here are a few things you probably know about Ace Frehley: He’s the original lead guitarist for KISS (which he co-founded in 1973). He was also their best—his song-within-the-song guitar solos are as much a part of KISS as the band’s seven-inch platform boots. And he’s always been the coolest member of KISS—rock ’n’ roll swagger, laid-back, mysterious—just ask Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, or Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife, or Abbath of Immortal. Hell, even people who don’t like KISS still love Ace.
What you may not know is that Ace Frehley has not been a member of KISS since 2002, when he left his second tenure with the band (there’s a “spaceman” currently playing leads for the band, but it ain’t Ace). In his time away from KISS (1983-1996, and 2002-present), Frehley has put together the most successful solo career of any member—current or former.
And Ace is on a roll. He’s ready to embark on his next musical journey with Spaceman, his third solo outing in four years. Of all 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”.
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.
His reconnection with Simmons and fellow KISS vocalist-guitarist Paul Stanley 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; and continues with Spaceman.
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.
Along with writing and recording new material, Ace has also been tirelessly hitting the road, playing festivals, as well as dates stateside and in Australia and Japan. As always, Ace is traveling at an altitude us mere mortals will never understand—a life lived to the fullest, and one that has defied… well, everything. That said, if you ever see the Space Ace in the cosmos, there’s only one proper reaction: “Hey look, it’s rock ’n’ roll!”