I think it was circa 1980 that I pestered my mum for my first Kiss record. I don’t remember much about the day when she eventually walked me into the record store except for the fact that I couldn’t decide between Kiss Alive and another compilation called Kiss: The Best of the Solo Albums. I was already familiar with Kiss’ credibility as hard rockers, by way of my older cousins, but nothing had prepared me for the excitement of their monster live record. I still think to this day Kiss Alive ignited my excitement for power chords. While I thought Paul Stanley was pretty cool especially his role as rhythm guitarist in Kiss, it was always Ace ‘Space Ace’ Frehley whom I loved the best.
I always like the story how at his audition he pretty much pissed off Gene Simmons while waiting for his turn to audition for the chance to join the band. Finally, when it was time for his audition, Gene Simmons apparently told Ace that they would play the first verse and chorus of Deuce, before they wanted Ace to join in. Eventually when he did plug-in his guitar, he blew their socks off with his solo. Then and there, Kiss became Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Paul Stanley once said that audition was one of the band’s most defining moments. Ace was the missing puzzle piece to their sound.
At the risk of this article turning into a Kiss tribute, I’d like to briefly move on to the real point of this guitar heroes feature. In a nutshell, Ace brought forth their killer sound. He pretty much shouldered the responsibility of coming up with all the solos in Kiss. He had, as many commentators have said over the last four decades, a fascinating technique that made great use of melody and rhythm during his solos. Importantly he was also a master at string bends and vibrato. Furthermore, when fans and critics alike have come together to name Ace Frehley’s best songs or solos, Kiss songs such as Strutter, Deuce, Got To Choose, Shock Me and Love Gun are all mentioned without fail.
Although, I love and appreciate all aspects of Frehley’s lead guitar handiwork, I am always drawn to one song in particular as my favourite – New York Groove. It’s probably a sentimental favourite of mine because it featured on that Kiss: Best of the Solo Albums record that I mentioned earlier and got soon after as a surprise gift from my mum. I think she saw how much I enjoyed listening to music especially to Kiss, even though she hated them. Thanks mum.
Anyway, New York Groove was originally on Ace Frehley’s solo Kiss album, a project that saw all four Kiss members release individual albums in 1978. While Paul, Gene and Peter all experimented with different styles and genres on their albums, Ace Frehely’s contribution remained faithful to his love of rock ‘n’ roll especially his Bronx roots. Despite it being a cover from a lesser known English group called Hello, Frehley truly makes it his own. Interestingly, it is somewhat of a departure to the usual guitar licks he produced for Kiss, but it was nonetheless most welcome back in 1978, as it is still today. Enjoy!
Photo credits:The header image is of Ace Frehley in 1977 performing his signature smoke effect during the Love Gun Tour. It is in the public domain. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip embedded here.