Despite having a long and reasonably successful career as a solo artist, Ace Frehley will always be best known as the original Spaceman or Space Ace in KISS. Although a number of popular guitarists like Dimebag Darrell (Pantera), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), and CC Deville (Poison) have named Frehley as one of their biggest influences, I've always felt that Frehley was pushed to the back of the line when it came to listing great guitarists in rock history.
Why? Conspiracy theorists would say that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley executed a plan to wipe Ace's influence off the face of the earth. Personally, I think it's because Frehley comes across as a laid back guy who just wants to play his music. He seems to be one of the few artists out there who could say the phrase, "Money doesn't matter to me. It's the music that matters," and actually mean it. Whether he has said that or not, I do not know. Still, he seems like a very genuine guy who loves what he's doing.
As far as the whole KISS debacle goes, it all depends on who you believe as to why Frehley left KISS. Some believe that Frehley had become detached from the "ideal" of KISS. Others believe that despite his growth as a singer and songwriter, Frehley was going in an entirely different direction than the Stanley/Simmons machine. Then of course, there's his alcohol abuse problems that surely did come into play. Whatever happened, all I know is that KISS lost a great guitarist.
Frehley has released five solo albums, the first being the KISS album Ace Frehley and the latest being his own album, Anomaly. From just these albums, one can quickly pick up the fact that Frehley knows how to play a guitar. In fact, he's downright monstrous on the axe. He's also not afraid to use sound effects in his music either.
Listening to the KISS albums that he performs on, particularly Hotter Than Hell and Love Gun, it's easy to see how he blended his solos into the whole of the song. In other words, when listening to a KISS song with Frehley on the strings it isn't a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, big guitar solo, back to the song, it's more like verse, chorus, verse, chorus, melody strung out over lightning, back to chorus. I can't really explain it, but Frehley's style of playing made the entire song and not just his solos sound great.
In my opinion, Frehley's best songs are Snowblind and Rip It Out from his KISS solo project, Shock Me from Love Gun, Mainline and Hotter Than Hell from Hotter Than Hell and a number of tracks from his solo albums, particularly Trouble Walkin'.
As a fan of both KISS and Frehley, I try to stay out of arguments over the importance of each in both of their careers. While KISS has soldiered on without Frehley with a number of guitarists (although current stringman, Tommy Thayer, appears to have stuck with the band), Frehley has done much the same without the band. Both are worthy of listening to, so don't let the "Who's wearing the Spaceman paint?" fan battle deny you the opportunity to listen to some great music.
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