Covers collections are a dime a dozen. From one genre within the bigger musical universe to the next, they are overly abundant offerings. There is no denying that in the bigger picture of things, covers collections are little more than space fillers used by acts for the purpose of fulfilling contractual obligations between new albums. Many of those albums are that and little more. However, every now and then at least one rarity rises above the rest to do at least a little more, and actually show some value. Ace Frehley’s latest covers compilation is one of those rarities. Released Friday through eOne, the 12-song record stands out in part because of its featured covers. This will be discussed shortly. The performances of the songs play their own part in the album’s presentation and will be discussed a little later. The production that went into the record rounds out its most important elements and will be addressed later, too. Each noted item is important in its own right to the whole of the collection. All things considered, they make Frehley’s latest space filler a work that will appeal to plenty of classic rock fans.
Ace Frehley’s latest covers compilation, released Friday through eOne, is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new space fillers. That is because unlike its counterparts, it actually proves itself to actually be worth at least some value. That is due in part to the record’s featured songs. While there are some notable works featured in the record from some very well-known bands, there are also some lesser-known deep cuts from those bands, too. Mountain’s ‘Never in my Life’ is an example of one of those deep cuts. The band is well-known, and while Climbing!, the album in which the song is featured, is considered a hit for Mountain, the song itself was never considered to be one of the album’s biggest hits. ‘I’m Down,’ which was a b-side to The Beatles’ hit song ‘Help!,’ is another example of Frehley including a lesser-known work from a big name band in this record. Cream’s ‘Politician’ is yet another example of the noted lesser-known songs featuring in this record. While the album in which the song is featured – Wheels of Fire – is the world’s first platinum-selling double album, the song was never used as a single. To that end, it is more of a deep cut.
On the other end of the spectrum, works, such as The Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s ‘Manic Depression’ and Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’’ (whose lyrics Frehley changes slightly here when he sings, “we’re space ace truckin’) are examples of the more well-known works featured in the album. Between these songs and the lesser-known pieces is in reality a little bit of a rock music history lesson. Audiences get to learn about some big name bands (I.E. The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin) and those who were more mid-level (Mountain, Paul Revere & The Raiders) while also getting a starting point on discussions on the acts and their catalogs. What’s more, being that those lesser-known works are rarely if ever played on corporate terrestrial radio and are just as rarely presented in other acts’ covers compilations, their inclusion adds to their importance. Keeping all of this in mind, the compilation’s featured songs actually prove at least some value to its presentation.
While the songs featured in Frehley’s new covers set present at least some value, the performances of said songs plays just as much importance if not more. That is because while Frehley and his fellow musicians do stay at least somewhat true to their source material throughout the record, they also give the songs a new updated sound. Case in point is the group’s performance of The Rolling Stones’ hit song ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’ The Rolling Stones’ original composition is energetic in its own right, and the band’s live performances of the song step things up in the song even more. Frehley and company’s version here however really amps things up. Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards’ guitars are replaced in this case by that of Frehley and guitar goddess Lita Ford. The duo also takes on Mick Jagger’s vocals jointly and definitely take things collectively in a whole new direction. It should be noted that Ford does drop some f-bombs here, so some listener discretion is advised. Honestly, its disappointing that Ford would work blue here since the original song did not need any foul language in order to be enjoyable. Charlie Watts’ steady, subtle time keeping has even been replaced by an equally heavy drum line here. Simply put, the performance in whole does stay true to the source material in terms of sound, but in terms of style it is a completely different song. So that is certain to generate its own share of interest and discussion among listeners.
The group’s take on The Animals’ ‘We Gotta Get Outta Here’ is another example of the importance of the performances of the featured songs here. The Animals’ original rendition of the song was grounded in its bass line and vocals. In the case of Frehley and company’s take on the song, Frehley takes on the bass line, using the guitar instead for that famous line. Between that, the semi-operatic vocal delivery and the bombastic drumming, the whole of the song takes on a distinctly 80s hair metal vibe that echoe the sounds of KISS (no surprise there) instead of presenting the song in its more subdued original presentation. At the same time, considering that the song’s lyrical content focuses on a relationship matter and “needing to get out of this place,” the song’s energy in this presentation does seem to work in its own right. To that end, it is sure to generate its own share of interest and engagement.
On another hand, the performance of The Beatles’ I’m Down’ stays almost true stylistically to its source material. Yes, it’s amped up compared to the original, but compared to let’s say The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, this performance actually echoes that performance relatively well, even despite being so amped up. As a matter of fact, this performance is actually a step up from the Beatles’ original song. That is not to say that The Beatles’ original is bad by any means. That should not be misconstrued. Rather, Frehley and company took a song that was great to begin with and stepped it up, improving upon it even more. Between this performance, the others noted here and the rest of the collection’s performances, it can be said that the performances pose their own importance to the record’s presentation just as much as the songs themselves. The performances are just one more part of what makes the collection worth hearing, too. Its production rounds out its most important elements.
The production of Origins Volume 2 is important to note for the very reason that has already been raised in examining the performance of the record’s featured songs: the performances take the original songs from decades ago and really amp them up. This is important because in so many of the songs, there is a lot more going on than in these works than the originals. In other words, there is more need to balance all of the elements to ensure each song presents the fullest performance. Those behind the record’s production are to be applauded for their efforts, too. For all that is going on in each song, the guitars, bass, vocals, and drums are quite well balanced. The energy is transmitted just as well because of that expert work that went into balancing each element within each song. The end result is an album that works just as well for its aesthetics as for its content. When this is considered along with the record’s content and the performances therein, the result is a covers collection that while it is a covers set, actually proves itself worth hearing at least once if not more.
Ace Frehley’s new covers compilation Origins Volume 2 is an interesting follow-up to his 2016 set Origins Volume 1. That is due in part to its featured songs. The songs are a balance of well-known works and deep cuts. They and the bands that performed them can actually serve as a starting point on discussions about rock’s modern history. That is actually a positive in its own right. The performances of the featured songs is important to this record because they stay true to their source material in terms of sound, but stylistically, they clearly show Frehley’s own influence, what with the overly bombastic nature of each performance. That is certain to generate its own share of discussion among audiences. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation. That is because it ensures for all of the elements going on in each song, those elements are well-balanced, making the record just as worth hearing for this aesthetic element as for its content. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make the compilation a presentation that is the exception to the rule for covers compilations. It is available now. More information on the set is available along with all of Ace Frehley’s latest news at:
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