Return Of The Comet
Like other "Tribute" projects that have spawned since the Reunion was announced ROC presents a diverse range of subject material. In this case ROC surpasses many of the efforts of other tribute projects previously released (though I do believe that KAOL II, when issued, will rate on a similar level). But what makes ROC so extraordinary? Well it's rather simple: The quality of the album, both in terms of packaging and content, is out standing! Impressed was I when the mailman knocked on my door and handed unto me a package marked "from Shock Records". The "drool" factor had built up over the two week wait - and my inability to get the album while living in the UK caused much annoyment while I heard other people's opinions about the album! But I digress...
The packaging (one's first impression) shows a clear dedication and attention to details. The cover graphic is awsome and the whole package exudes an aura of professionalism. You get two sets of introductary notes, one from Executive Producer Doug Snazel, and one from Frehley's Comet "Guru" John Regan. Both drip with the positive excitement that both felt about the project, and their messages are thoughtfully constructed. And I did chuckle upon reading the Ace Frehley quote: "Well, if I had known in the 70's that I was going to be such an influence to so many musicians, I probably would have practiced a lot more"... Ack!! The linear notes are extensive and explain the philosophy of each artist's contribution. Again, these are very well written and informative especially to historian FAQ types like myself. And the music? Well, that's a whole other story...
The selection of tracks is outstanding for a tribute dedicated to our beloved "Spaceman". It hits upon many eras of his career while also offering a couple of bonus gems in the form of Bruce and Tod's solo contributions. The use of the intro to "Rock Bottom" is most apt, as this piece surely did show another side to Ace which proved that he was more than just a "meat & potatoes" guitarist, and artist with a tremendous amount of creativity. Bruiz, in this case, perform an excellent version of this song vignette. Brian Tichy then rips through a killer version of "Rip It Out". What makes this version all the more amazing is that Brian performs all of the instruments, which obviously shows him to be an incredibally talented musician. Love the track! For me, the LA Guns version of "Cold Gin" was a real treat. I'd been a fan around the time of their debut album, and of some of their previous individual projects, so hearing this incarnation of the band was something of an experience. They certainly lived up to expectation and performed a great version of the song while also giving something to the track rather than just "play" it. Naturally taking former members of KISS and the Ace Frehley band for "Strange Ways" was an awsome prospect! And Eric and Karl provide! Though the track begs more questions, such as why did KISS never really take advantage of Eric's obvious vocal skill? A shame, but it's nice to finally get a proper studio version of him on vocals. "Getaway" by Tubetop brings something new to that track with their original rendition of the song. Love the intro, then it get's normal, almost having a slightly faster tempo than the original. A very tight version of the song which reminds me of my appreciation of the original. Great piano!
The album then heads in to overdrive with the President's Of The USA's version of "Shout It Out Loud". In line with the linear notes the track is fun, but I would not class this version as being on of my favorites on the album. It just sort of lacks the energy that the song requires IMO. But it certainly is not terrible and the inclusion of such a band can only be a positive selling point for the album. Dimebag Darrell blasts through "Snowblind" with an energy which really pays homage to the original. This, for me, is one of the stand-out tribute tracks on the album. Things get special with Tod Howarth's redo of "Dancing With Danger" which was one of the better tracks on Ace's second studio effort. This is a great track to include on the album! "Love Her All I Can" performed by Karl Cochran and Eric Singer is another real treat. This is another killer version which is, in itself, nearly a good enough reason to get the album! Karl shows off his vocal talents with Eric providing a solid backbone on one of the oldest of all KISS tracks (one which started out life on the unreleased Wicked Lester in a funk Jethro Tull'ish guise)! Man, that riff still kills me... gotta go for my guitar! "Speedin' Back To My Baby" by Lee & Dallas is given the "Detroit Rock City Touch" with the engine intro. And then it get's weird! Love this one, it's got some country overtones, and Dallas... damn, she's a Hell of a singer. Classic version! And them geetars? Wow! "Rocket Ride" is faitfully to the original but that guitar riff is still central. Again, this Gilby Clarke version reminds me why I love that song so much. Another one of my favorite Ace tracks, "Remember Me", is covered by Mitch Weissman and Richie Scarlett. This one brings a new guitar twist to the track, and to say the least.. it's impressive, and the solo... it's sonthin' else! The previously released section of the album is concluded with a "Happy Trails Mix" of Ace's signature tune, "New York Groove". How can I put it... This is "different", and it features an all-star cast! It's absolutely hilarious and totally fun!
The final four tracks are special contributions to the album. If anything they also provide what could be describes as being a key reason for buying Return Of The Comet. Indeed two of these tracks are the reason behind the titling of the album. "Back On The Streets" and "Animal" were performed by Frehley's Comet in it's earliest days as a band, and have never made it onto a studio release. Historically, the first of these songs is a Vinnie Vincent track. More importantly, these songs feature a reunion of that early Frehley's Comet band, featuring Richie Scarlet, John Regan, and Arthur Stead. Ace Frehley band member Steve Werner provides drums. While many collectors have heard both of these tracks as demos and on some concert bootlegs, to finally have them on an album is a real treat. Some things are worth waiting for! "Back On The Streets" has all of the emotion and energy of the original, and can be appreciated as the great song which it is, without the overplaying noticable on the Vinnie Vincent version. And the keyboards... great touch! "Animal" was another powerful rock track which was ignored by the band on studio releases. Which is a shame as it is a great track built around a killer riff. As a tribute to Tod's contribution to the band one of his new solo album's tracks, "California Burns" is included. This song is totally performed by Tod and displays his skill as an all-around musician. Dark and moody the song is pretty cool. The final track is a killer Bruce Kulick instrumental, a track which is alleged to date from the Carnival Of Souls studio sessions, which has been rerecorded for this tribute. It also is the first released track featuring his Union drummer Brent Fitz. Another reason to buy the album! Let's see if I can get away with this opinion: Bruce Kulick in "Gary Moore" mode! Pure Class!
All in all... there are too many reasons to buy this album. Everything about it is quality. It's a real gem!
I rate this tribute 10/10.