There’s a lot to criticize about Ace Frehley. He doesn’t have a classically impressive singing voice; at times he makes Lou Reed seem like a master of inflection, intonation and expression. Lyrically, he’s hit-and-miss. The subject matter of his songs is predictable, sometimes flat and at worst monotonous (stretching the space metaphors and puns beyond their breaking point). No one has ever looked to Frehley for poetry, though, and his singing has always been more about the attitude as opposed to technical perfection. C’mon, the guy was a founding member of KISS.

Spaceman is the Bronx boy’s fourth album in the past decade and proof that he’s been on a roll since finding sustained sobriety. Consider that between 1989 and 2009 he released no solo records and his output in the ‘80s was limited to a mere three LPs (two of them with the band Frehley’s Comet). He’s outpaced his former bandmates Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons in this regard as they’ve essentially shuttered their commitment to new records and decided to make their living on the road.

There’s some guilt in mentioning the Fearsome Foursome in the presence of the Space Ace as it seems that’s all (almost) ancient history by now. Stanley guested on the 2016 covers collection Origins, Vol.1 via a take on Free’s “Fire and Water.” It not only stood as the record’s unquestionable highlight but also fanned the flames of hope for a Frehley-KISS reunion. Although that seems unlikely, the guitarist seems at peace with it. Simmons co-wrote two tracks on this set and played bass on one.

The opening “Without You I’m Nothing” crackles with rock ‘n’ roll attitude and a little suggestion that our guitar hero was never far removed from the punk rock bands that climbed out of NYC’s Bowery back in the day. Simmons lends some signature bass rumblings while drummer Scot Coogan lays down the thunder and takes us back to rock’s excessive heights of the ‘70s. Moreover, we’re treated to one of Frehley’s best solos in recent memory.

The writing rarely rivals “Shock Me” or “Rocket Ride” in terms of sheer power or audacity but the playing provides enough eyebrow-raising moments that it’s difficult to find much to complain about across the record’s scant 37-minutes. “Rockin’ with the Boys” is a balls-out rewrite of “Beth.” To his (and Simmons’) credit, “Your Wish Is My Command” soars with a vitality lacking from latter-day KISS albums and, frankly, begs for a more prolonged collaboration from the two.

“Bronx Boy” is loaded with fire and fury while Frehley recalls his early days on the mean streets. There’s enough passion in the performance that it could practically melt the first four Anthrax albums all on its own. “Pursuit of Rock and Roll” fares less well. Though it’s easy to identify with the singer’s appreciation of classic rock ‘n’ roll (Presley, Berry, Little Richard), it’s an idea that doesn’t pan out across the verses.

There’s a cover of the Billy Satellite-penned “I Wanna Go Back” (popularized by Eddie Money) that could have overtaken rivet rock radio back in 1990. Here, the song serves as a nice bridge between the aforementioned middling “Pursuit of Rock and Roll,” the above average “Mission to Mars” and the attitude-heavy “Off My Back.” The record closes with the expected acoustic/electric instrumental “Quantum Flux,” which gives us a chance to fully appreciate Frehley’s gifts as an arranger.

Spaceman is a marked step up from Frehley’s 2014 Space Invader and proof that, with the right material and company, Frehley still has at least one more classic album in him somewhere.

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