Ace Frehley played at our local Memorial Day weekend festival on Friday night. I didn’t go. Didn’t want to stand for a few hours on a staggeringly hot evening. Besides, I’ve seen him twice already. Each time I was pleasantly surprised.
When KISS played in Milwaukee in 2000, Ace was a much better guitarist than I expected. “Astonishingly good,” I told a friend.
Likewise when I saw him at another summer festival in 2012. “Ace Frehley still one of the best guitarists I’ve seen live,” I posted to Facebook back then. That also was the night when Ace urged fans not to drink and drive, then laughed and said “This next song’s about alcohol.” His encore was “Cold Gin.”
A year earlier, in 2011, Rolling Stone put out “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” a so-called “special collectors edition.” I picked it up, probably as vacation reading. It has long since made for excellent bathroom reading.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to see 14 of that group of 100 great guitarists. In order of their ranking on that Rolling Stone list, they are Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Derek Trucks, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, Angus Young, Brian May, Stephen Stills, Joe Walsh, Slash, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and Lindsey Buckingham.
Of that group of 14, Chuck Berry, Angus Young, Brian May, Bonnie Raitt and — believe it or not — Lindsey Buckingham wowed me most.
There are, of course, other guitarists I’ve really enjoyed seeing. Perhaps they’re among the next 100 greatest guitarists. Or not. Here are three.
Ace Frehley is one. David Lindley, who plays a bunch of stringed instruments in his world music-tinged shows, is another. Then there’s Steve Stevens, who’s best known as Billy Idol’s guitarist. But he also plays a mean Spanish and flamenco guitar. That was something to see and hear. Who’d have thought?
However, the only Steve Stevens cut I have is his 1998 version of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” the familiar holiday song. It starts out gently and pleasantly enough, but devolves into shredding. So we’ll pass on that.
We’ll leave you with something in Stevens’ adventurous spirit. I picked up this record at the wonderful Mill City Sound in Hopkins, Minnesota, last summer. It’s a highly recommended digging spot if you’re in the Minneapolis area.
This is the same Sonny Curtis who was in the Crickets. The same Sonny Curtis who wrote “I Fought The Law.” The same Sonny Curtis who wrote “Love Is All Around,” the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
He was 27 when this, his first LP, was released in 1964. It’s a fun listen.