SPACE INVADER Ace Frehley (eOne) ****The former Kiss guitarist’s first solo album since 2009’s Anomaly arrives in stores August 19th.  Hey, we should consider ourselves lucky- his previous album before that was in 1989. As much as I enjoyed 2009’s Anomaly, this one is heavier- more of a guitar record, possibly the best thing he’s done since his 1978 solo record while still a member of Kiss, that record being the benchmark to which Space Invader was held.”I decided when I was sixteen years old that I wanted to be a professional musician” notes Ace. “I distinctly remember seeing Led Zeppelin, Cream and The Who, all groups who I admired tremendously, but at the same time there was a little voice in the back of my head going you can do that too.” Indeed, when you listen to these 12 tracks you’ll hear evidence of that early worship, along with attention to work by Hendrix and Beck. Frehley’s approach to the guitar, however, is not precise or mannered- he’s a rock & roll beast who seemingly peels off greasy blues-based licks at will, and it’s a thrill to hear him work.The obvious improvements between Anomaly and Space Invader might have something to do with Ace’s now being clean and sober for 7 years- 8 in September, he said in a recent interview. His playing is heavier and more focused, and he’s singing the best he has in some time. Also, no cringe-worthy moments here as there were on Anomaly- I’m looking at you, Genghis Khan and A Little Below The Angels. Better songs on the new record for sure, but the space shtick is really starting to wear thin, lyrically. The title track is well played but cheesy, and Inside The Vortex is a juicy, bluesy grinder that sound excellent in the PT Cruiser with the stereo cranked up to 35- no pussy “11” for this fan!Space Invader is assuredly a guitar hero album, full of his trademark solos and thick, menacing guitar textures and just flat-out sturdy rock & roll playing, like the Chuck Berry-esque riff that powers Gimme A Feeling. Lyrics have never been Ace’s strong point but as a musical element they fit nicely with the overall rock & roll circus vibe of the record. There’s even a solid cover song, a Frehley tradition that goes back to Fox On The Run on the last record and even New York Groove on the aforementioned 1978 solo set- this time it’s an Ace-centric take on Steve Miller’s The Joker, suggested by someone at the record company. Interesting to note that even while this record has yet to hit the streets, he’s already talking about an album of cover tunes he hopes to have out sometime next year.Ace has never been more clear headed than he is now and that reflects in the songs on Space Invader. In an interview after Kiss’s induction into the rock & roll hall of fame earlier this year he stated somewhat defiantly that he can play rings around current Kiss axeman Tommy Thayer. I thought Ace was just pissed off, but they new album is a compelling statement in his defence. Critical reaction to this record, myself included, is as he predicted months ago; we’re all saying “Ace has done it again.”HIGHLIGHTS: Gimme A Feeling (I prefer the ‘explicit’ i-Tunes version, not the premature fade-out version included here), What Ladies Want, Toys, The JokerODE TO TENNYSON Rebecca Lappa (independent) **** 1/2This past weekend I was privileged to emcee for a few hours at the Come By The Hills Music Festival in Mistahiya, Alberta. We saw and heard some wondeerful music on Saturday, with nobody perhaps more charming than Rebecca Lappa.Rebecca’s sound is modern celtic/ folk/ pop and this album, just released in June, is an unexpected pleasure. Many of her songs are inspried by history and mythology, as you might expect from someone who enjoys Celtic music, and the poetry of Lord Alfred Tennyson. Her voice is crystal clear, beautiful really, and she doesn’t overwhelm the songs on this disc with cluttered arrangements. No, the lyrics wring enough drama and emotion out the songs, thank you very much.I was lucky enough to meet Rebecca, and privileged to introduce her on stage at the Come By The Hills Festival in Mistayhiya, where she told me that Loreena Mckennitt was one of her heroes, whom she’d had a chance to meet. Though they do have some song subejects and a fascination with ancient traditions in common, Lappa’s music is more accessible, more enjoyable and, dare I say, less pretentious than some of McKennitt’s stuff that I have heard. What I’m trying to say is, don’t let the ‘Celtic’ label scare you off- Lappa’s songs are relaxing, melodic, enjoyable, and amazing company on a rainy afternoon.Rebecca was also kind enough to autograph my copy of this CD, and her father (and road manager) let me know that they’ll be having a CD release party at the movie theater in Wainwright in November- hope I got the right month. And by the way- she’s only 17. For more info on this ridiculouysly talented young artist, go to www.rebeccalappa.comHIGHLIGHTS: Gypsy, Queen Of The May, Fields Of DishonourUNFINISHED Ken Stead (independent) *****Though I’ve considered myself a rock & roll guy for most of my life, I have a soft spot for singer/songwriters too- great storytellers, usually with an acoustic guitar, that tell their tales in such a way that you feel as though you were there… such is the magic in Ken Stead’s new album Unfinished.My wife & I saw Ken on stage at the Come By The Hills festival, and I was at the merch table buying this CD before his set was even finished. he almost seemed bashful on stage in between songs, and when he got into one of his songs he just seemed to sail away emotionally, taking the rest of the crowd with him.The songs on Uninished feel very much like real life, packed with emotion and nary a false note to be heard. Instrumentation is sparse- voice & harmonies, bass and drums, the occasional piano, with the acoustic guitar occasionally doubled. Not party album exactly, more of an intimate experience- the sort of thing you’d put on when you’re enjoying a drink with your best friend and maybe talking about the heavy stuff.The musicianship on this disc is positively outstanding and a joy to listen to. The songs are heartfelt and real slices of life. It might seema bit light at just 7 tracks including studio and live versions of Better Days, but it’s a tremendously satisfying musical statement- Unfinished is one of those albums I just can’t seem to get enough of.HIGHLIGHTS: Better Days (either version), No More Tears Will Fall, Blanket For TwoCAN’T EVEN DO WRONG RIGHT Elvin Bishop (Alligator) *****Elvin mau have just made THE album of his career. On top of some fine playing, this is one of the most fun blues albums I’ve heard in the nearly 25 years I’ve been writing reviews.From the album art to the words to the title track (which opens the album) you get the idea that this record doesn’t take tiself too seriously. Bishop has released more than 20 albums over the years and has had only 1 mainstream hit of note, Fooled Around & Fell In Love, but I have to wonder if any of these ten tracks ( like Everybody’s In The Same Boat) might be able to cross that line into mainstream conciousness- I’d like to think so.At the age of 72 Elvin is playing better than ever, and it sounds like he’s having more fun than ever too- guess that how it goes sometimes with the blues. The centerpiece of the album is surely slow blues Let Your Woman Have Her Way, a Bishop original that features Mickey Thomas of Starship on lead vocals, one of those songs that has you reaching for the ‘repeat’ button more than once.Cover songs include the traditional rave-up Bo Weevil, Walter Jacobs’ Blues With A Feeling and Lionel Hampton’s Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop, which ends off the record. I wouldn’t call Can’t Even Do Wrong Right a jump blues record exactly, but there’s lots of good timey uptempo stuff here to enjoy.As blues albums go, this is pretty much the complete blues experience in ten songs and one of the best blues records of the new millennium- no foolin’.HIGHLIGHTS: Let Your Woman Have Her Way, title track, Everybody’s In The Same Boat

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