Bronx Born Records
The good news for former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley is that it isn’t all bad news regarding his current solo record, Anomaly — but it’s close.
When Kiss released their infamous set of four solo records in 1978, Frehley’s was the surprise hit. Peaking at #26 on the Billboard chart, it sold one million copies and spawned the Top Twenty single “New York Groove.” However, his subsequent solo records after leaving Kiss in 1982 have each fared worse than the one before. His 1987 post-Kiss solo debut, Frehley’s Comet, hit #43. His next offering, 1988’s Second Sighting, only reached #84. And in 1989, his Trouble Walking record stalled at a dismal #102. So it’s no wonder that Frehley has publicly touted Anomaly as recapturing the “vibe” of his platinum-selling 1978 record. Oh Ace, if only that were true.
I will say the 1978 vibe is recaptured on the record’s opening track, “Foxy & Free.” In fact, it would fit seamlessly on his Kiss-era solo effort somewhere between “Rip It Out” and “Speeding Back to My Baby.” However, Anomaly quickly heads south from there, despite the participation of his longtime drummer, Anton Fig.
Musically, the record holds up to some extent throughout the 54-minute running time. However, the monolithic “Genghis Khan” meanders for a mind-numbing 2:09 before getting to the vocal. Additionally, “Space Bear” and “Fractured Quantum” fall short of matching the caliber of previous Frehley instrumentals like “The Acorn is Spinning,” “Fractured Mirror,” and “Fractured Too.”
Anomaly shows its greatest weakness in the lyrics. I won’t say that Frehley is completely drowning in a sea of bad, juvenile poetry, but I swear I could actually feel my IQ dropping, track by track. In the song “Change the World,” Frehley suggests, “Nothing happens if you don’t try/ When nothing happens, that’s the reason why.” In “It’s a Great Life” he offers the thoughtful commentary, “Times have changed so don’t be fooled/ You got to remember you gotta be cool.” Gems like these actually make his infamous 1977 cock-rock lyric, “Shock me, make me feel better/ Shock me, put on your black leather” seem almost Shakespearean by comparison.
Over the years Frehley has displayed a penchant for recording powerful versions of other people’s tunes. “New York Groove,” written by Argent alumni Russ Ballard, was originally recorded in 1975 by the British glam band Hello. Frehley also re-vamped Mega Force’s (minor) 1982 hit, “Mega Force,” ultimately releasing it with altered lyrics under the title “Calling to You” on his 1987 offering, Frehley’s Comet. And in 1989 he recorded “Hide Your Heart” for his Trouble Walking record, which ironically was written by Kiss frontman Paul Stanley. Trouble Walking also featured Frehley’s energized version of the 1977 ELO hit, “Do Ya.” In 2009, the strongest track on Anomaly just happens to be a re-make of The Sweet’s 1975 Top Ten classic, “Fox on the Run.”
I could have possibly (maybe) given Anomaly a pass, had it come out in 1990. But Frehley has reportedly been slaving on this record for an unbelievable 20 years. I realize he was sidetracked with the Kiss reunion for a few years, but c’mon, the Beatles produced a career’s worth of music and affected the entire world in only seven years, and believe me, Anomaly ain’t Sgt. Pepper. But then again, (fortunately) it ain’t The Elder either.
Ace Frehley: www.acefrehley.com