Sunday, 20 January 2019

Ace - Five-A-Side (1974)

Well, if friends with their fancy persuasion....


Released in 1974

Ace had a reputation as being a "pub rock" band, which was true to an extent, in that they had that average blokes from the pub image (compared to the peacock finery of the glam rock artists all around them). Musically, however, they were a bit difficult to pin down. They certainly weren't pub-style heads-down full-on bluesy r'n'b. They were also often pigeonholed as "blue-eyed soul", largely because of their superb, soulful only chart hit in How Long, and singer Paul Carrack's "white soul" voice.  The rest of the album isn't really like that track, though, ploughing more of a rocky, piano-driven Americana-influenced slightly bluesy rock style that was actually somewhat unique and certainly didn't fit into the country rock genre that was so popular among other "serious" bands at the time. Anyway, this was their debut album and probably the best of the three they put out.


1. Sniffin' About
2. Rock 'n' Roll Runaway
3. How Long
4. The Real Feeling
5. 24 Hours
6. Why
7. Time Ain't Long
8. Know How It Feels
9. Satellite
10. So Sorry Baby                                    

Sniffin' About is a lively, rocking opener with a bit of a hint of The Eagles here and there and The Doobie Brothers too. For me, there is some Steely Dan floating around as well, airs of My Old School in places. It certainly builds the feeling that this is far more of a rock album than a soul one. Rock 'n' Roll Runaway has some driving piano and country style slide guitar contributing to an upbeat number. It comes to a somewhat abrupt end, rather as if it were a studio alternative take, which is a shame.

How Long is a classic seventies single, with superb atmosphere, hooks and bass line. The Real Feeling is a mid-pace boogie-ish rocking number, which again suffers from a sudden ending, before its time.

24 Hours is a deep, bassy, almost funky workout, featuring some excellent organ and saxophone, and Why attempts to re-create How Long to an extent, although it is far more rocking, with a killer guitar solo. It is an excellent track. Perfect laid-back soulful rock. It is all very "adult", particularly in comparison to the contemporary output from artists like David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music who were far more ebullient and chart-orientated in their approach than this brand of thoughtful rock. Time Ain't Long is a grinding, bluesy rock groove with a bit of an Allman Brothers feel for me, just here and there. A sort of Southern states feel.

Know How It Feels is a mournful, somewhat under-cooked, unremarkable slow ballad. The vocal is a little muffled and undercooked. Satellite, however, is a jaunty, piano-powered number that sounds like something Bruce Hornsby may put on Harbor Lights with its rolling piano riff. There is nice swirling saxophone on here too. So Sorry Baby ends the album on a solid muscular note with an organ-driven rocking, riffy track. Overall, this a highly credible, listenable album that would have appealed more in America in 1974 than in the UK. It is worth a listen, but it is nothing ground-breaking.