Ace Frehley

Anomaly

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When all four original members of Kiss released solo albums in 1978, critics and fans alike hailed lead guitarist Ace Frehley's disc as the best of the bunch. Additionally, Frehley was the only one to score a genuine hit (an energetic cover of Hello's "Back in the New York Groove"). Though the Bronx-born guitarist/singer found limited post-Kiss chart success with his band Frehley's Comet, he seemed to have trouble following through on the creative promise of Ace Frehley or classic Frehley-penned Kiss tracks such as "Shock Me" and "Hard Times." 2009's Anomaly, however, surprised even longtime supporters with its forceful, confident performances and sharp songwriting. Mixing Kiss' tight '70s hard rock sound with a bit of '80s pop-metal tunefulness and aughts-style bone-crushing stoner metal-esque guitars, the album remade a case for Frehley as one of rock's most potent, soulful axe slingers. The hard-grooving "Pain in the Neck" and opening track "Foxy & Free" (which briefly references Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady") are both classic "Spaceman", matching thick power chords with blistering, slightly sloppy solos, blunt yet emotionally direct lyrics, and vocals as quintessentially New York City-sounding as the rumbling of the subway. Elsewhere, Frehley branches out a bit, going for a Middle Eastern-by-way-of-Led Zeppelin flavor on the throbbing "Genghis Kahn," and showing off his surprisingly dexterous acoustic guitar chops on the six-minute-plus, prog-ish instrumental epic "Fractured Quantum." For all of Anomaly's ambition and exciting hard rock though, the album's most poignant moment is the simple ballad "A Little Below the Angels," a soul-searching look at Frehley's history of drug and alcohol addiction and his subsequent path to recovery. In the hands of a lesser artist, the song's frank lyrics and spoken word interlude might be unbearably cheesy, but Frehley's disarming honesty and relaxed feel make it just one highlight of an astonishing return to form.

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