In early November 1993 Ace Frehley did a short 5 date tour of Japan, with the tour Title Just For Fun, is summarized to mood and sometimes the playing of the band. Since they were not promoting an album they could essentially play whatever they want. This new set from Zodiac features the last two dates of the tour culled from excellent soundboard sources, there are very few Ace solo silvers so this title came as a surprise to me, and certainly had me chomping at the bit to give it a listen.
Diamond Hall, Nagoya, Japan – November 7, 1993
Disc 1 (74:50) Introduction, Shock Me, Parasite, Trouble Walkin’, Breakout, Shot Full Of Rock, New York Groove, Strange Ways, 2 Young 2 Die, Ritchie Scarlet Guitar solo, Cold Gin, 2000 Man, Rock Soldiers, Ace Frehley Guitar Solo, Strutter, Steve Warner Drum Solo, Rip It Out, Rocket Ride
The source is an excellent soundboard. The guitars are a bit lower in the mix but still retains the power of the performance and the audience is very low in the mix, almost non existent. AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock serves as a prelude to Ace hitting the stage, he does so with a “How ya doing Nagoya?” prior to plowing into ShockMe. A straight forward version that is quickly followed by Parasite, the loose nature of the playing makes for a perfect version of the song as it certainly benefits from it. Breakout is dedicated to the late Eric Carr, KISS fans know that the music was originally written by Ace and Eric around the time of The Elder record and eventually was finished by Ace for his first Frehley’s Comet record while an early Demo was released by KISS on the Revenge record as Carr Jam.
Another set highlight is Strange Ways from the Hotter Than Hell album, bass player Mark Nomand does the vocals chores and the song is really heavy, always a favorite from the record. 2 Young 2 Die sounds a little disjointed but does feature an interesting Ritchie Scarlet guitar solo. Ace gets his solo during Rock Soldiers, he fills the song with a lot of licks as if summoning the troops, I love the part when the band just stops and Ace does his devil gonna play without an Ace…”, you can just barley hear the audience. Ace plays an interesting solo and the first part finds him playing something a bit different before moving into the retro KISS era territory. He toots his own horn midway by asking “Who F***ing Rules?” A powerful Strutter follows and the evening comes to a close with Rip It Out and a great Rocket Ride.
W’Ohol, Osaka, Japan – November 8, 1993
Disc 2 (79:03) Introduction, Shock Me, Parasite, Trouble Walkin’, Breakout, Shot Full Of Rock, New York Groove, Strange Ways, Cold Gin, 2000 Man, Rock Soldiers / MC, Rock Soldiers (reprise), Ace Frehley Guitar Solo, Strutter, Steve Warner Drum Solo, Rip It Out, Rocket Ride, MC, Detroit Rock City, Deuce
The recording for the last night of the tour is much better than the previous one, the balance is virtually perfect with the instruments being loud and full making for a more powerful experience. The audience is a bit more audible but not by much. Ace gets the ball rolling with dedicating the show to his friend Takeshi just prior before electrifying the audience with Shock Me and a potent Parasite. Again Breakout is dedicated to Eric Carr, it is followed by Shot Full Of Rock and the two songs are most certainly the highlight of the Comet era material. When Steve Warner starts the familiar drum beat of the next track you can hear the audience chearing before Ace introduces the incomparably New York Groove. There is some equipment problem that delays Ace’s vocal but it is quickly rectified and the band play a loose but jamming version of the song and is a perfect vehicle for Ace to lead the audience in a sing along.
Ace speaks from the heart when he asks the audience about being thirsty, they respond loudly and let him know they love Cold Gin also. Ace wrings out some Hendrixian sounds before starting the iconic riff. It’s nice to hear him sing the first big song he wrote as it is certainly a crowd pleaser, as is all good “drinking music”. Ace introduces a song written by two good friends of his and plays the song they wrote for him, 2,000 Man. It starts off a little sloppy but he plays the song with an almost punk vibe that is totally New York City Swagger.
The drum intro to Rock Soldiers is reminiscent of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and I wonder where the hell did that thought come from. Ace improvises during the Devil section and slows the momentum down, thankfully he gets his solo spot and he lays waste to his fret board. The encore section is a bit special as the band play DetroitRockCity, but not before Ace and the band do some end of the tour thank you’s, who is the Dragon Lady? The audience knows their trivia and their reward is a blistering version of the song, albeit a bit out of tune but who cares, this is rock and roll. The classic Deuce closes out the evening in fine fashion.
The packaging is full color inserts with live shots of mostly Ace as well as a tour poster, as with all Zodiac releases. There is also a numbered sticker and the whole package is housed in a slim line jewel case. Just For Fun is an apt title for this release, great recordings coupled with the band playing rock and roll and having a great time doing it. This rare solo Ace release is most welcomed and recommended for KISS fanatics.