Molimo (1971) and Tomorrow Morning (1974)

Before Ace Frehley met Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons in 1972 and became the original lead guitarist for Kiss, Ace was a member of an unsigned band called Molimo. This six-piece band, named after an obscure African musical instrument, bore more musical resemblance to the Jefferson Airplane than to anyone else. They had a Grace Slick-like singer in Christine Murphy, and a male vocalist (Tom Ellis) who interacted with her in the Airplane's style. Molimo recorded a three-song demo acetate for RCA in 1971. This demo recording disappeared from RCA's vault, but was unexpectedly discovered in a barn full of vinyl records in upstate New York four decades later in 2014. It then sold for over $4,000 on eBay. Although the acetate recordings do show some good musicianship, particularly from Frehley and keyboardist Roy Singer, the three short demo tracks -- which are quite distorted due to the age and condition of the acetate -- are not very prepossessing. The California-style hippie rock filtered through the band's New York sensibilities does not work very well. The first of the three tracks is the best one, in part because it allows Frehley to strut his stuff at the end.

After Frehley left and joined Kiss, the core of Molimo -- Murphy, Ellis, and Singer -- formed a new band called Tomorrow Morning, and recorded one 7-inch single in 1974 (the same year that Kiss' debut album was released) on the Casablanca label (which also was the home of Kiss). The single was produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, the producers of the first two Kiss albums.

The single's A-side, "Freewheeling", is an upbeat pop song in the Mamas And The Papas mold, free from any psych or prog pretensions suggested by the Molimo demos. Murphy still sounds quite a bit like Grace Slick, but this song is more comparable to Jefferson Starship than Airplane. The guitar sound gives the song a slight edge, but it's a less flashy edge than Frehley would likely have provided. As if the band's influences could be any more obvious, the B-side is titled "I Wished I Was In California", and it is exactly the type of "California Dreamin'" variation that the title would lead you to believe. It's a pleasant enough song, but it suffers in comparison to the classic that seemingly inspired it. Would this band have found commercial success with a full-length album? Something tells me their time had probably already passed.

Note: Some promo copies of the single contained the mono version of "Freewheeling" on one side, and the stereo version of that same song on the other side.

Molimo - Molimo

Molimo (untitled acetate) (RCA 0265-2) 1971

This acetate disc contained three untitled demo tracks.

Tomorrow Morning "Freewheeling" (b/w "I Wished I Was In California") (Casablanca NEB 0014) 1974

Track Listing:

a. Freewheeling
b. I Wished I Was In California