Top 10 Ace Frehley Kiss Songs
At first content just to play guitar and contribute a song or so per album, Frehley’s role in the group expanded to include more and more lead vocal work. Near the end of his first stint with Kiss, he was the one largely responsible for maintaining ties to their original rock sound, while his bandmates wandered from the path in search of an even larger audience.
Along the way, the Spaceman’s made some lasting guitar, songwriting and vocal contributions to (groan) Kisstory. So let’s leave planet Earth behind with our list of the Top 10 Ace Frehley Kiss Songs:
It would be several years into Kiss’s career before Frehley was comfortable enough to sing lead vocals (see No. 1 on our list of the Top Ace Frehley Kiss Songs), but he was writing important tracks for their albums right from the beginning. This snotty, metallic little brush-off to a clinging ex-girlfriend from their sophomore album — sung by Gene Simmons — is a live favorite and a fine example of how much Frehley contributed to the band’s early success.
‘Into the Void’
Nearly two decades after his last studio work with the group, Frehley (reportedly with uncredited arrangement help from Paul Stanley) contributed the most authentically Kiss-sounding song on ‘Psycho Circus,’ their otherwise schizophrenic, mixed bag of a reunion album. His always partially-spoken vocals retain all their old charm as he lags perfectly behind a monstrous, lurching guitar riff and sings about — what else — space travel. Sadly, this would turn out to be a tantalizing last glimpse of what Ace could contribute to Kiss, as he would soon leave the group again, seemingly for good this time.
There’s a reason Frehley chose a spaceman as his alter ego in Kiss. By all accounts including his own, he’s one of rock’s most “out there” personalities, more prone to partying or perpetrating practical jokes than sharing serious thoughts in his lyrics. But he revealed surprising depth on the instrumental closing track of his 1978 solo album. As church bells give way to a melancholy, chiming guitar figure and then soaring melodic passages, we’re forced to break out a cheesy music cliche. We just can’t decide between “his playing says more than any words ever could,” or something about “painting pictures in the listener’s mind.”
Already frustrated by the pop- and disco-friendly sound of Kiss’s previous two records (‘Dynasty‘ and ‘Unmasked‘), Frehley was eager to exit Kiss as the ’80s began. When their next project evolved from its original back-to-basics statement into a bizarre concept album about a mythical medieval quest, it was the last straw. Ace said goodbye with this hard-charging song featuring a particularly strong chorus and — perhaps to show Paul and Gene what they’d be missing — a ridiculously extended guitar solo. Unfortunately, addiction problems and a pair of car crashes kept him from releasing his true solo debut for another six years.
If there’s one choice we expect to catch flack for on our list of the Top 10 Ace Frehley Kiss Songs, this is it. (“Where’s ‘Rocket Ride?,’ we know, we know.) But hear us out: while the rest of Kiss were losing their footing around this time, Frehley was just hitting his stride as a songwriter and vocalist. He largely ignored the trend-chasing his bandmates were doing and instead simply delivered charmingly loose rock songs. If you can somehow resist the gorgeous “ooooh-wahhhh-ooooh” refrain of this goofy nautical adventure, you’re made of heartier stock than us.
Frehley wrote or co-wrote three great songs on ‘Hotter Than Hell’ — the aforementioned ‘Parasite,’ the Beatles-on-uppers road anthem ‘Comin’ Home’ and perhaps most impressively, this churning bit of heavy psychedelia. Once again, he shyly handed over the lead vocals — to Peter Criss this time. Not to worry. Ace instead makes himself heard over the band’s sinister rumble with the trippiest, most otherworldly (and effects-heavy) solo of his career.
‘Rip It Out’
After a frantic first five years that saw the band conquer the world, release six records and tour almost endlessly, the members of Kiss were all pretty sick of each other. So they decided to take a semi-break, go to their respective corners and each release their own band-branded solo albums on the same day. Ace’s was by far the best of the bunch, filled with songs that showed more texture, humor and dexterity than much of Kiss’s own material. This song is one of the more direct of the bunch, as Ace unleashes a blistering riff and angrily tells an ex-lover to take her pound of flesh and get out of his life.
Ace Frehley’s sole songwriting contribution to Kiss’s debut album turned out to be a big one. With a central riff that resembles the Rolling Stones on cough syrup, ‘Cold Gin’ tells the sad tale of an alcoholic looking for the cheapest daily fix possible. Despite this depressing subject matter, the song became one of the band’s most beloved concert anthems. Ironically, drinking (and drug) problems contributed to Frehley’s departure from Kiss several years later. Even more ironically, the song’s enduring popularity means noted teetotaller Gene Simmons still has to sing it at just about every Kiss concert.
‘New York Groove’
Three small things keep this infectious ode to the Big Apple out of the peak spot on our list of the Top Ace Frehley Kiss Songs. First off, it’s a straight-ahead cover of a 1975 song by a group named Hello. Second, it appeared on Ace’s solo record, as opposed to a Kiss album. But mostly, it’s just a tad too disco-friendly to be the one song we’d put in his time capsule. Regardless, ‘New York Groove’ is a total blast — a perfect fit for both his vocal delivery and guitar styles — and more than likely, is in fact the track for which he is most known to the world at large.
“We got a little surrr-prizzze for you tonight! We’re gonna turn the microphone over to Ace Frehley…” It took six albums and an on-stage near-death experience for the Spaceman to sing his first lead on a Kiss song. Of course, the tale of his near-electrocution somehow became one of sexual conquest by the time it got to vinyl. Still, Ace’s loopy, out-of-sync vocal style has rarely been showcased better than on top of the lazy, grinding guitar riff of ‘Shock Me,’ and the song served for years as his showcase piece during the band’s concerts.
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