Music Review: Origin Goes Back to Roots

Best known as “The Spaceman,” original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley has released his seventh solo album, Origins Vol. 1. The album consists of covers from various bands, such as Cream and The Rolling Stones.

When I began listening to the album, I wasn’t expecting much. While Frehley is a good guitarist, I always felt that guitarist Bruce Kulick outplayed Frehley during his time in KISS. This record certainly has its flaws. However, it is a reminder that Frehley should not be overlooked as a solo musician.

To be fair, the best songs on the album are collaborations with other musicians. Lita Ford, Slash, John 5 and Paul Stanley all make appearances on the record.

“Fire and Water,” which features Paul Stanley, marks the first time since 1998’s Psycho Circus that the KISS frontman and original guitarist have recorded together. This Free cover showcases both musician’s strengths. The sound is reminiscent of early KISS. Heavy guitar mixed with Stanley’s familiar vocals has a vintage vibe, without sounding dated. The track is, without a doubt, the highlight of the album.

Frehley’s renditions of Cream’s “White Room” and Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” showcased his talent on the guitar. Along with that, “Emerald,” which featured Slash, was jam-packed with an amazing guitar duel.

Frehley put his own spin on Led Zeppelin’s cover of Willie Dixon’s “Bring it on Home.” Wayne Perry of the Associated Press argues that Frehley “out-guitars Jimmy Page.” While I wouldn’t go that far, I was impressed by not only the guitar track, but Frehley’s vocals on the song as well.

While Lita Ford adds an interesting sound to the tracks she on, “Wild Thing,” a cover of The Troggs’ 1965 hit, is unneeded. While the song is well known, nothing in the track showcases Frehley’s musical ability, either on guitar or vocals.  While Frehley’s cover of “Bring it on Home” adds new elements to the album, “Wild Thing” seemed to simply be a filler.

Along with the Troggs’ cover, Frehley covered three KISS songs: “Parasite,” “Rock and Roll Hell” and “Cold Gin.” Revisiting KISS songs did nothing to show Frehley’s growth. While these three songs are great examples of Frehley’s ability, there was no need to add them to Origins. Audiences who have heard the original records already get the point.

I was hoping for original content from Frehley. Out of the four original members, Frehley’s solo album in 1978 was the best selling, proving that he has the ability to make his own music that people want to hear.

Some conspiracy theorists have come out of the woodwork, claiming that all of the KISS covers on the album suggests that Frehley will return to his spot onstage next to Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons.

Frehley told Loudwire in March that he isn’t ruling out a return to KISS. However, if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014 is any indication, the riffs between the four original members may be enough to halt any reunion in the near future. Which, based off of Frehley’s latest album, is a shame.

Origins Vol. 1 proves Frehley is more than capable of still shredding lengthy solos and handling difficult tracks. While Frehley has a decent voice, I feel that he truly belongs playing guitar in a band. In this position, he would still be able to expand upon his songwriting ability, while doing what he does best: playing guitar. 

While I would have preferred to hear Frehley experimenting with original work, I wasn’t entirely disappointed with this album. In many instances, I was pleasantly surprised with Frehley’s vocal ability, and the guitar solos prove Frehley to be a force to be reckoned with.