KISS was huge in '78. To keep the KISS pipeline stuffed Casablanca Records simultaneously issued a solo album from each member (Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley). Led by the pop hit "Back In The New York Groove," Frehley's self-titled effort did the best but it did little to mitigate Casablanca's unfathomable losses on the project. The expected big score turned into a major bust.
Eventually, the four sets were distilled to a single album - which probably should have happened in the first place. So, it was on that inauspicious note Frehley began his checkered solo career.
Two years later, drummer Criss left the band and Frehley found himself losing, 2-1, in band decisions (Criss' replacement, Eric Carr, didn't have a vote).
If that wasn't troubling enough, Frehley had drug problems, which would take the better part of the decade to overcome, and got his license suspended for six-months after leading New York police on a high speed car chase. Things had to be better in the studio. Right? Guess again.
Recording '81 album "Music From The Elder" didn't help matters. Frehley didn't want to do a concept album and had little repertoire with producer Bob Ezrin. As a result, much of the guitarist's work was not included.
Even though Frehley had walked (replaced by Vinnie Vincent) his likeness appeared on the covers of the U.K. compilation "Killers" and studio album "Creatures In The Night."
Frehley's solo career was initially stalled in the demo stage. It wasn't until '87 that "Frehley's Comet" arrived. Containing the tune "Rock Soldiers," the set did well selling 500,000 copies.
However, the follow-up "Second Sighting" barely cracked the Billboard 100. And supporting tours with Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden ended badly (there were claims of non-payment).
The situation was so dire that Frehley dropped 'Comet' and issued '89's "Trouble Walkin'," under his own name. Despite contributions from Criss and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, the album failed to reach the Billboard Top 100.
Criss and Frehley did a joint trek (Bad Boys Tour) with their respective bands in '95 and ended the show performing together. That jaunt was a prelude to a KISS reunion and a world tour. Presumably, that put Frehley into a higher tax bracket.
Over a decade later, Frehley issued another solo album, the 12-track "Anomaly."
Moving from recording to print, Frehley's "No Regrets" landed in bookstores. In the '11 tome he called the current version of KISS 'a bunch of dirty rotten whores'. "I soon realized their lust for money outweighed any sense of fairness or logic on their part," wrote Frehley.
Finally, KISS entered the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. But the '14 ceremony had its fair share of rancor. When Simmons and Stanley, mostly Stanley, weren't bashing the Hall for letting so many years pass before inducting KISS, Stanley and Simmons, mostly Simmons, was blasting Criss and Frehley for being "unworthy" of performing with KISS at the induction.
Bad blood - still after all these years. Maybe Simmons and Stanley read Frehley's book.
In the end, the Hall wanted the original members. Simmons and Stanley found that unacceptable, so KISS didn't perform. However, the original members did appear onstage together to accept the honor and managed to be fairly civil.
On a more positive note, Frehley returned a few months later with his first solo set in five years, "Space Invader." It was his first Top 10 album (#9) selling 19,000 copies in its first week.
1978 Ace Frehley
1987 Frehley's Comet
1988 Second Sighting
1989 Trouble Walkin'
2014 Space Invader
The thing that made KISS work was playing anthems with undeniable swagger. Maybe Frehley didn't want to go there on his own or maybe he couldn't. Either way, it's too bad because his post-KISS work is inevitably compared with his old band. That may not be fair but it's the way that it is. As such, he really can't win.
Frehley is a talented guitarist and a better than average singer. The songwriting can be hit or miss and the arrangements are pretty much standard fare - ironically, he had a hand in creating those cliches way back when.
"Frehley's Comet" is the best of his '80s material. His band is tight and he's as good as he gets.