I was standing in a puddle of vomit in the nose-bleed seats when Kiss launched into “Cold Gin.” This was late 80’s, back when I frequented more than a few Kiss shows. At ten second intervals, the drunken chap in front of me (perhaps responsible for the puddle) would scream atop of his lungs “Ace wrote it!!”
Did he like to imbibe adult beverages and an opiate or two? Mos def, holmes.
Regardless, as a child, I was as mesmerized by the Spaceman Ace Frehley as any other kid on my block. Once again, thank Paul Lynde for that. Ace had a fantastical look and the musical chops of some of the greats. Was he kooky? You know it. Maybe even eccentric? You betcha. Did he like to imbibe adult beverages and an opiate or two? Mos def, holmes. Maybe that made him the most interesting writer in the group, who knows. He definitely made some of the best music released by that band. Here are five tracks that bolster his place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Gene and Paul are not your typical rock stars and famously eschewed alcohol and drugs for supplemental helpings of anonymous sex. Ace and Peter? They embraced the whole enchilada. Ace wasn’t involved in multiple car crashes due to sobriety, I can assure you. So it’s mildly ironic (don’t you think?) that Gene takes lead vocals on this ode to juniper-flavored spirits written by Ace.
Ace’s voice is an acquired taste. It reeks of New Yawk Fuggedaboutit. Maybe that’s why Gene sang “Cold Gin” all those years ago. In 1978 each member of the band released a solo record and Ace’s was the best hands-down. So much so that a few tracks from it appear on this list – even though he also wrote Kiss staples like “Strange Ways,” “Talk to Me,” “Shock Me,” “Rocket Ride, “Dark Light,” and others.
I’m in Need of Love
Ace had a killer backing band on his first solo record that included Anton Fig on drums and Will Lee on bass. The band tears through killer tracks like “Rip It Out,” “Speedin’ Back to My Baby,” “Ozone,” and “Wiped-Out.” Ace delivered in ways Paul and Gene probably thought were impossible.
Fan favorite “Parasite” makes it to the top of the very best Kiss songs for good reason. It’s heavy and hooky in ways Kiss often forgets to re-embrace. Ace re-recorded the track on his latest record Origins Vol 1. This time, he handled vocals, too.
There is no better composition in the Kiss repertoire than “Fractured Mirror.” Hands down it’s the most sophisticated thing any member has put to tape. While Ace has recorded more than a few sequels on subsequent solo records, none of them replicate the magic in a bottle captured here. The instrumental “Fractured Mirror” points to a Kiss that could have been.
Janita’s New Song “Bliss I Once Had This”
Fresh from her residency at NYC’s Mercury Lounge, ECR Music Group recording artist Janita releases the new single “Bliss I Once Had This” on October 18, and we have the premiere.
The guitar-forward track, which you can hear below, is a notable change from Janita’s last record, Didn’t You, My Dear?, also produced and recorded by label owner and musician Blake Morgan.
Janita describes the song as “a declaration of joyful defiance in darkening times.” The track taps into the moment when empathy meets apathy, when we’re as likely to question “Who am I to feel happy now?” as we are to throw up our hands and say “Never mind.”
Janita and Blake share guitar duties on the track, rounded out by Miles East on drums and percussion and Justin Goldner on bass.
Janita’s last show this year is in her hometown of Helsinki at the legendary Tavastia-klubi on November 10.
Pixies Straighten Up and Fly Right
The Pixies demoed over 20 originals and some covers in their upstate NY sessions with producer Tom Dalgety last year, whittling them down to 12 tracks for the new gothic record Beneath the Eyrie. Much of the warts-and-all recording process was captured in the excellent 12-part lead-up It’s a Pixies Podcast. You’ll find no other iconic band pulling the curtain back on their process with the same amount of honesty.
Dalgety has a way of smoothing over Pixies’ rough edges to sometimes exquisite effect. Other times you may miss the rust and crunch of producers Steve Albini and Gil Norton. But it’s not 1988, and this is an older, wiser band with adult aches and pains – and a sudden interest in being less obtuse. Some fans may not be ready to hear Black Francis sing straight-forward lines like “I’m ready for love” and “Last night I was driving around, nothing to do, thinking of you.” Fans of Frank Black, however, may be better prepared. Personas are a bitch. So are rigid expectations.
Folks like to talk about a Pixies “sound,” and there is something certainly recognizable as that, but the sonic arcs between albums only extend a record or two. Surfa Rosa and Doolittle share a sound, but there’s less in common between Doolittle and Bossanova, or between Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. Indie Cindy (made 23 years later) does pick up where Trompe left off, but the next two records, Head Carrier and Beneath the Eyrie, find the band moving beyond that entirely, even though the DNA is most assuredly Pixies.
Eyrie kicks off with the bubbling “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain,” a track with no real precedent in their catalog, but another that proves drummer David Lovering is the skeleton holding the body up. Things get a little more traditionally Pixies with “On Graveyard Hill,” even if the lyrics are less esoteric than fans have grown to expect. This rolls into “Catfish Kate,” a downright story song with Black playing narrator Blackjack Hooligan. The track is one of the few on Eyrie to employ that tried-and-true loud/quiet/loud aesthetic.
Guitarist Joey Santiago lets it rip on “Ready for Love,” bringing his new-found sobriety into focus. Perhaps in deference to Joey, the band’s upcoming tour will be dry – no drugs or alcohol. I know it’s not as simple as that, and perhaps Black’s marital woes have something to do with cleaning up for the tour. But wine is all over this record (and the podcast), especially in the tipsy chorus of the Tom Waits-ish “This Is My Fate” and in the poetic refrain of “Silver Bullet.”
“The shade is drawn with stem and vine
Burned in the flame of a man condemned
With venom wine and golden dawn
A silver bullet in the chamber turning”
Bassist extraordinaire Paz Lenchantin gets writing credit on the ’90s-sounding “Long Rider” and sister track “Los Surfers Muertos,” which pay homage to a fellow surfer that lost her life carving the waves. “St. Nazaire” throws a raucous bone to fans, with a story steeped in the type of seaweed-covered mythology Pixies die-hards know well. It’s not as delightfully unhinged as “Planet of Sound” or “Blue Eyed Hexe,” but it’s a welcome bit of aggro.
Inspired by Black nearly driving into a deer on the way to the studio, the sprawling “Daniel Boone” slowly swells into a version of Pixies that fans have yet to meet. There’s a slow beauty to the track that resembles some of the quieter moments on Indie Cindy, but not hardly as compressed.
Eyrie ends with another ‘tranquilizing drink,’ “Death Horizon,” a mid-tempo ditty that puts the finishing touches on what may very well be a break-up record for Black Francis. In that way, it feels like Black has shed his personas and fronted the band as his true self, Charles Thompson, for the first time. It’s who he was all along.
RAPSODY – EVE
Eve must’ve bit into an apple off of the LYRICAL tree with the type of seeds Rapsody is spitting on this album! Each of the 16 branches from this sequoia is worth your time and attention. She’s praising, reflective, educating and entertaining at the same damn time!
The words that constantly sprout from the soil of her nurturing production team lets us know the work has been put in. The fruits of her labor are abundantly clear when you grasp the content of her art musically and visually. A perfect example of this combination is on full display in Ibithaj feat. D’Angelo and GZA.
But her cameos don’t end there! The features in this forest make sense and keeps the proper balance within this ecosystem. The biggest challenge you’ll find when camping out in these woods will be choosing the best collaboration.
Oprah feat Leikeili47 is the type of the track that will keep your necks nodding from beginning to end. But I can easily say the same thing about Maya feat K. Roosevelt which is also a certified banger!
There’s more than a handful to mention here, but I want you to do yourself a favor and find those other gems after you cop the album. Here’s a hint…Rapsody also trades bars upon bars on a couple of other standout tracks with J. Cole and the Queen herself…Latifah!
Despite Rapsody’s last outing (Laila’s Wisdom) being great in itself, she managed to raise the bar yet again with Eve. Her words are inspiring, refreshing and unapologetically poignant. EXACTLY what we need to hear right now!
Keep your ears and eyes open for BIG KRIT’s “From The South With Love Tour” with special guests Rapsody & Domani Harris. It’s sure to be as memorable as the first offering below from her gift basket of treats.
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