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With KISS now safely enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one would assume every piece of the band’s legacy would have been properly documented. Shockingly, that wasn’t the case. That is… until now.
Record collector Chris Reisman was working his way through an extensive vinyl collection in a barn in upstate New York when, in the last bit of excavating, he found a box full of decades-old acetates and demos. Among them, KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s earliest known major label recordings as part of shelved psychadelic/prog-rock outfit Molimo.
Recorded for RCA in 1971, the record’s existence has been the source of much speculation for KISS over the years, but when a quest to find it in RCA’s vaults proved unfruitful, hope seemed lost. Reisman’s find is the single biggest “lost” music discovery since the Velvet Underground 1966 acetate was found by collector Warren Hill at a Portland garage sale in 2004. Reisman has had the item on eBay since yesterday, and the KISS Army are flocking to get a digital glimpse of it.
We spoke to Reisman, whom you may remember as the chap who uncovered the original full A Tribe Called Quest and DMX demos a few years back, about how this discovery was made. Afterward, exclusive audio from the demo.
How did you find this lost Frehley gem?
Basically, I received a call that this guy in upstate New York had a barn full of 10-to-20,000 records. I went up there every Tuesday for a month straight. I was able to get through everything, and in the last wall unit’s last shelf of records was a corner full of test presses and acetates and it was in there. At the time, I had no clue what it was, but I just bought them all.
Do you know how the upstate gentleman acquired so many records?
He said he was a collector and a blues musician. People in the neighborhood just knew he collected records, so anytime they or anyone they knew wanted to get rid of a batch of records, they would just pass it off to him. To be honest, he didn’t know how he got half the records in there. When I showed him stuff I wanted to buy, he didn’t know how he got them, it was clearly just stuff he accumulated over the years.
Did he have any other gems in the collection?
He had a bunch of great stuff, but nothing of that [Molimo] caliber.
How did you begin to go through the box of acetates to figure out what they were?
Actually, I listened through all of them when I got home and pulled out three or four of the acetates that I thought sounded really cool. I’m not a rock expert or anything, so I handed them off to Mike Davis, who owns Academy Records on Oak Street in Brooklyn. He’s a good friend, so I asked him to listen and figure out if there was anything cool there I might not know of. This was in the middle of [January’s] deep freeze and he didn’t want to bring the acetates back to his house in fear they might mess them up. He had them sitting at his shop in a stack until close to mid-March. He called me one day and said “Hey, I finally listened to those acetates. You should call me.” He said two of the three were interesting but not great, but the other one, after a lot of cross reference, was the acetate the KISS community had been talking about for 30 years.
Were you ever a KISS fan?
I was a KISS fan when I was younger. The best KISS song ever is “Going Blind.”
Had you heard of Molimo?
I had never heard of it. I knew Ace Frehley was in bands before KISS, but I didn’t know it was anything of this caliber. Everything that was pre-KISS from every other member has been unearthed. All the pre-KISS Wicked Lester and Peter Criss solo stuff had been unearthed. There had been documentation, but no hard evidence that stuff had been recorded by Ace Frehley before KISS. It was basically a rumor up until now. Ace had mentioned they had recorded it in interviews, but until now, nobody knew there was an acetate of it.
Has anyone in the KISS Army contacted you?
The highest bidder at the moment has something to do with the online KISS community. I know it’s been spread around that community. I haven’t been sent any direct inquiries about it, but the number of watchers alone within 24 hours of it going up has been pretty crazy. The views outnumber any other of my auctions, and I’ve been selling records since 2002.
The RCA Vaults were searched for this years ago, and it was documented they didn’t turn anything up. After Ace left Molimo and went to Casablanca Records to record with KISS, he brought his old band members [from Molimo] with him to record an album. The band’s called Tomorrow Morning. That’s another acetate that was found inside that same batch. They recorded an album that never came out, and that’s in the auction as well.
Where does this find rank amongst all your crate digging over the years?
I would say, in terms of bands that have a cult followings rumored-to-exist releases, this is the rarest record I’ve ever found. I’ve found some good acetates in my life, but all by bands that were completely unknown. In terms of things KISS fans know about, it’s pretty intense. It’s one step short of finding and unreleased KISS album with KISS songs that never came out. The cool thing about it is you can tell it’s Ace playing guitar. It sounds like he’s playing the same amp, but he’s just very immature about it. His playing is all over the place. But that’s where the charm lies.
From Reisman’s eBay description of Molimo:
TITLE: UNRELEASED RCA DEMO ACETATE
YOU ARE BIDDING ON A ONE OF A KIND 3 SONG DEMO ACETATE BY ACE FREHLEY’S PRE KISS BAND “MOLIMO”! IT IS LONG RUMORED THAT THEY RECORDED HALF AN ALBUM FOR RCA AND IT WAS NEVER COMPLETED. THE RCA VAULTS WERE SEARCHED AND THIS WAS NEVER FOUND! WELL HERE IT IS! A BIG JEFFERSON AIRPLANE VIBE WITH FEMALE VOCALS AND A YOUNG PRE-KISS ACE FREHLEY SHREDDING LEAD GUITAR! THIS IS POSSIBLY THE ONLY COPY IN EXISTENCE AND ONLY RUMORED TO EXIST! HERE IS YOUR CHANCE TO OWN THE ONLY KNOWN COPY! NONE OF THESE SONGS HAVE BEEN RELEASED OR HEARD!!