10,000 VOLTS Ace Frehley (MNRK Records) ***

This is Ace’s 8th solo album, if you include his 1978 masterpiece while still a member of Kiss.  I’ve seen him in print comparing 10,000 Volts to that 1978 solo disc, but that’s a stretch- the only one to come close was 1989’s Trouble Walkin’.  That said, the new album is head and shoulders above the 5 albums between here and there.  Ace claims to be channeling the spirit of Kiss’s Rock & Roll Over (1976), but I don’t feel it.

I’ve been an Ace Frehley fan since first seeing Kiss on TV in 1974.  10,000 Volts feels more focused than his last few discs, no doubt thanks to the presence of Trixter’s Steve Brown as producer and co-writer.  It’s good that Frehley brought in somebody to creatively spar with as his music tends to suffer when he’s left to his own devices- a common problem, being too close to the music to be objective.  While Ace will never be Pavarotti his vocals are better this time out, but a guy in his 70’s singing about typical rock & roll subjects comes across a little skeevy.  The album is as good as it is thanks to Steve Brown’s presence- he may not be another Desmond Child, but the quality of the tunes is markedly better.

10,000 Volts is riff-heavy hard rock and the production is terrific; big and meaty.  The lyrics get cheesy (so what else is new?) as in this line from the catchy Cherry Medicine;  “you make me feel better/ when you’re in your black leather”.  I think Geoff Barton of got it right in his review when he said “Frehley’s goofiness is muted and past glories merely hinted at.”  I’m entertained, but not enthralled… some decent stuff here, but classics?  Time will tell.  Will anybody but a diehard Kiss fan be interested in 10,000 Volts?  Probably not… a sad thing to say about a guy that once inspired an entire generation to pick up the guitar.

HOT TRACKS:  Cherry Medicine, Fightin’ For Life, Stratosphere

THE OTHER SIDE OF MARS Mick Mars (1313) ****

Grunge for the modern era? Sure sounds like it.  Unfettered by the pop/metal constraints of his old band, the former Motley Crue guitarist is swinging the heavy bats on The Other Side of Mars.  He had lots of help in the studio of course, but Mick shows a knack for choosing the right musicians.  He’s made a confident declaration of independence.

The Other Side Of Mars has an impressive guest list, including Paul Taylor (Winger, ex-Alice Cooper) who helped Mick with the songwriting, producer/ engineer Michael Wagener, Ray Luzier (Korn) on drums, and Chris Collier (he’s worked with Prong, Metal Church & Fear Factory) played bass and also mixed and mastered the record. We also get two singers here; Jacob Bunton (ex-Steve Riley’s LA Guns) and Brion Gamboa.  I saw Motley live in Calgary in the early 00’s and got to meet most of the band before the show.  Mick was shy, looked about 50 pounds soaking wet, but when they got up on stage he played like a motherfucker.  Still, I didn’t know he had this level of heaviness in him.

While Ace says his new album will embarrass his old band with its awesomeness, Mick Mars has actually pulled it off with respect to Motley.  The Other Side Of Mars, which really shows a side of the guitarist we’ve never heard before, has the heft of an old Alice In Chains record.  With the hard rock stuff I always check what has to say, and boy did they ever get it right with this one; “unencumbered by the Crue’s kooky cabaret, (he) has magicked up a full-scale solo stormer; a 90’s grunge record made by a marauding hoard of evil mutants.” If that sentence (thanks Geoff Barton) tickles your fancy, then you’re going to love this.

Though he’s now 72 Mick Mars sounds fresh, vital and full of beans.  I’ve always enjoyed his playing with you-know-who, but The Other Side Of Mars kicks things up several notches.  The piano ballad Memories aside, this is delicious heaviosity on a grand scale, a nuclear blast of guitar powered nastiness you should not be without.

HOT TRACKS: Loyal to The Lie, Broken on The Inside, LA Noir (instrumental)

TWO SHOTS AT GLORY Crazy Lixx (Frontiers Records) ***+

Despite having a 20+ year career I know nothing about this band, but when their name came up on my list of downloads to consider for review, visions of the Sunset Strip danced in my head and I said “what the hell”.  Two Shots At Glory is a compilation of re-imagined tracks from their catalog, giving them- ahem- a second chance.  Very LA, this thing is.

Crazy Lixx are actually a Swedish hard rock outfit and this stuff is remarkably catchy… from riffs and hooks to choruses and guitar solos, this is what I wanted the hard rock of my youth to be.  Remember when rock & roll was fun?  These guys sure do as the 11 tracks here come across like Def Leppard meets Whitesnake.  With song titles like Church Of Rock, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Ain’t No Rest In Rock n Roll, these guys are after nothin’ but a good time.

As I get to know this band thru Two Shots At Glory the musicianship is quite impressive, from the driving rhythm section to the catchy-as-hell guitar work.  Very 80’s sounding sure but that’s not a bad thing a-tall, not in this case.  Here we have Danny Rexon on vocals, Joel Cirera on drums, Jens Anderson on bass, with Chrisse Olson and Jens Lundgren on guitars.  Together they’re forceful and tight, tight, tight.  No production notes here but the sound is excellent, well balanced and mixed for impressive results.  If you were to hear this stuff on your radio today you’d be wanting to reach over and turn it up to 11, maybe even 12.

Crazy Lixx are a good hard rock band; solid vocals and pounding rhythms, but the guitars of Olson and Lundgren are the real stars.  While the band name has a cheesy LA feel to it make no mistake; when these guys light it up they lean into it hard.  Nobody is reinventing the wheel here…. Two Shots At Glory is good ol’ good times rock & roll.

HOT TRACKS: Ain’t No Rest In Rock & Roll, Fire It Up, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

BEAUTIFUL SIN Paul Black (independent) *****

Good things come to he who waits, or so the old saying goes.  Beautiful Sin is this west coast blues rocker’s third album, his first in 14 years.  It’s greasy, nasty, soulful, beautiful… some fine, fine blues in the grooves of these 11 tracks that will blow you away.  Really.

Black comes by his blues honestly. ”I grew up in a religious household so there was always gospel, but I was more into Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and AC/DC” Paul says. “Then someone gave me a copy of Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix and after seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan in concert, I went through musical history and dove into everything from Albert King, Buddy Guy and Gary Moore to Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker and T-Bone Walker.”  You can really feel the depth of that exploration as you listen to Beautiful Sin.

Beautiful Sin is an incredibly affecting blend of blues-based rock and acoustic soul with a smattering of funk.  With this amount of talent and juice, the question most ask is ‘why so long between records’?  “The last album was some timer ago due to a severed tendon in my left hand and life just getting crazy” Paul explains. “This time around I had much more involvement in the overall sound on individual performances from every musician.” 

Going through the creative process during Covid also allowed him ample time to fine tune performances as well as write some new stuff. “Live It Like Ur Never Gonna Die was written in under an hour with a coffee and my acoustic then straight into the studio” he says. The track Better Man is a holdover from the last record… Paul felt it didn’t sound right at the time but feels it found its rightful place on the new album.

Beautiful Sin is rife with tasty, bold guitar playing as well as an uncommon depth of soul.  This isn’t just a good record it’s really, really exciting.


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