There have been some instances where the cover version of a song was more memorable than the original. Hendrix doing Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”, Quiet Riot’s version of the Slade song “Cum on Feel The Noize” and of course who can forget Kanye’s killer version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Ok, maybe that’s memorable for a different reason. But even Ace’s version of the Rolling Stones “2,000 Man” is one of the great covers in Rock N Roll. Those are exceptions. Covers are typically uninspired and quickly forgotten space fillers. And entire albums of covers are the musical equivalent to toilet paper. Use once and flush.
As much as I love Ace Frehley he’s never been a particularly ambitious musician. When I heard he was doing an album of covers I worried his past success with “New York Groove” and the previously mentioned “2,000 Man” may give him a distorted view on the purposefulness of him doing a whole record of covers. And I while I doubt he’d admit it, it’s a lot easier than writing new music. Still I must confess when I saw the track list I was intrigued. While I largely have disdain for covers, I have nothing but love for Ace. And he’s got a pretty respectable track record with covers so I’m holding out hope he can deliver. It’s officialy the battle of my hate for covers vs. my adoration for Ace. Who’s going to win?
“White Room”. The classic Cream song shows Ace splitting lead vocals with Scot Coogan which pretty much means this will soon be a staple in his set list. I’m not the biggest Cream fan and I don’t like this song. Gun to head I like this version better. Needless to say, this wasn’t one of the tracks I looked forward to. The guitar work is pretty much spot on with the original which works here. Plus the recording sounds much cleaner than Space Invader. Which is encouraging for the opening track.
“Street Fighting Man”. Well, “2,000 Man” worked right? Pretty sure that was at least, part of the thought process that lead to this selection. I like the original. This sounds like it may have been fun for Ace but I don’t think I’ll be looking forward to hearing it again. Sorry Ace. 0 for 2 so far.
“Spanish Castle Magic”. This one should be interesting. Ace has always copped to having been influenced by Hendrix and I always thought they had similar singing styles. So vocals shouldn’t be a hurdle. But the guitars on this song are no slouch. Ace nails it. My boy can play. The only part I didn’t like was the solo. When it comes to leads it seems Ace has run out anything fresh. While the diehards will probably love it because it sounds like Ace, in reality, it sounds like Ace chopping out parts of 5 other Ace solos. It’s not cohesive. But honestly, it’s a blip. The track is quite good.
“Fire And Water”. When word of this record was made official this was the track that got the KISS Army all aflutter. Ace and Paul back together! While that may seem tantalizing Paul’s appearance on here really just means Ace knows someone who knows how to use dropbox. It’s a fairly cool and little-known song by Free. And with all the talk about Paul’s voice the last few tours, I was eager to hear how he sounds. Good news. He sounds great. And it’s the best track so far.
“Emerald”. A lesser known Thin Lizzy song. Another artist that seems right in Ace’s vocal comfort zone. Ace trades leads with Slash on this track. It bores me. There’s actually part of the solo from “Rip It Out” on here. The whole song sounds sloppy and hackneyed. Next.
“Bring It On Home.” I wasn’t surprised to see Zeppelin represented, but when I saw what song, it was another ‘oh boy’ moment. Not sure this was a good choice. The intro is pretty cool. The vocal at the beginning may be the first example here of Ace making a song his own. Obviously, he’s not going to approach anything close to 1969 Robert Plant. Maybe that should be his method when picking songs to cover. Once the song kicks in lead vocals are once again handled by Scot Coogan. Who’s a fine but I’m not buying an Ace Frehley album to hear Scot Coogan sing.
“Wild Thing”. I’m guessing after learning “Spanish Castle Magic” Ace needed a break as you don’t get more mundane guitar work than this song. And Lita Ford doesn’t make it better. Whatever.
“Parasite”. John 5 joins Ace on this KISS classic. It’s pretty damn beefy. Listening to it I almost wish he would’ve done “Strange Ways” instead but this is pretty cool. Especially with the extended solo with John 5. One of Ace’s better vocal tracks on here as well. KISS fans will dig it.
“Magic Carpet Ride.” Did Steppenwolf have more than two songs? The intro nonsense sucks but once the song kicks in this ain’t bad. Again it’s almost like Ace was forced to sing it making it sound like a truer rendition. And the best solo to this point. Fits the song and flows all while sounding like Ace. I knew you could do it, Spaceman.
“Cold Gin”. Why?
“Till The End Of The Day”. I’m not exactly a Kinks historian so I don’t know that I’ve heard the original. But I like Ace’s version. Another strong vocal performance. I’m not sure I like the song that much but it’s not bad. I prefer deep tracks over AOR staples so I’m going to rubber stamp this one.
“Rock And Roll Hell”. While fans got their collective half chubs at the idea of Ace working with Paul again, it was when I saw this on the track listing for Origins Vol. 1 that caught my eye. All the speculation about whether Ace played a note on Creatures of the Night or not. Plus it’s fairly well-cemented status in the obscure category got the blood flowing to my extremities. What a cool choice for so many reasons. It’s a song from his old band from after his involvement. No one outside the KISS Army knows it. He really seems to gain nothing from doing it. Almost like he just likes the song. But it sucks. I never want to hear this again. I find myself missing the original.
I’m not sure if Ace is slowing down as he gets older or if he just doesn’t have anyone willing to push him. And modern technology has made it so people don’t have to be in the same city to record together. I think it results in recordings that seem incoherent. Rock music is about emotion as much as technique. And you can’t connect on that level when you’re not in the same county.
I don’t see the end game here. I’d prefer to believe it’s not a cash grab but I’m probably wrong. Maybe Ace just felt like having some fun and making a little money at the same time. At this stage of his career he’s entitled. And it does sound like he’s having fun. While I know I’ll buy it once it comes out I don’t know that I’ll bother opening it. After listening to it there wasn’t one song I want to go back to. If you’re a completionist then you’ll need it. If you’re a diehard you’ll want to hear it. But if you enjoy music or the original versions of any of these songs, this record offers nothing more than morbid curiosity. Toss this on the pile of forgettable cover albums. Let’s hope there’s not a Vol. 2 coming soon.