Ace – Five-A-Side (1974)

FrontCover1Ace were a British rock band, who enjoyed moderate success in the 1970s. Their membership included Paul Carrack, who later became famous as the co-lead vocalist of Mike + The Mechanics and as a solo artist. Ace are best known for their hit single “How Long”, which was a top 20 single in the United Kingdom in 1974, and reached no. 3 in the United States and Canada in 1975.

The band was formed in December 1972 in Sheffield as “Ace Flash and the Dynamos”, but the name was soon abbreviated to “Ace”. The members were assembled from various professional bands. Carrack and Terry Comer had previously played with Warm Dust, and Alan “Bam” King with Mighty Baby, whose antecedents were the 1960s band The Action. Ace were popular on the pub rock circuit. Their music was a fusion of pop and funk .

Before the recording of their debut album, Five-A-Side, the former drummer of Bees Make Honey, Fran Byrne, replaced Steve Witherington. The single “How Long” was taken from this record, and was a significant chart success, achieving a Top 20 place in the UK Singles Chart, and reaching number three in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in the spring of 1975. The Five-A-Side album did well on its own, too, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard 200. Carrack, the band’s keyboardist and chief songwriter, sang lead on “How Long”, but was not the band’s only vocalist. Follow-up singles were sung by other band members.


Ace eventually moved to the United States, and replaced Phil Harris with Jon Woodhead in June 1976, releasing their third and final album No Strings in January 1977. Unlike earlier Ace LPs, this album featured an emphasis on Carrack’s vocals, and the two singles issued from the album both featured Carrack as lead singer. The singles, however, didn’t chart and the group disbanded in July 1977, when Carrack, Comer and Byrne all joined Frankie Miller’s backing band.

In addition to his solo career, Carrack has since played in Eric Clapton’s band, Roger Waters’ The Bleeding Heart Band, Roxy Music for the Manifesto album and tour, Squeeze in the early 1980s, and Mike + The Mechanics, for which he is best known. His solo re-recording of “How Long” became a UK Top 40 hit again in 1996.

Five-A-Side is the debut album by the pop rock band Ace, released by Anchor Records in 1974.

The album landed on the Billboard 200 chart, reaching #11 in 1974.

The single “How Long” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also reached #24 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #3 on the Canadian Singles Chart, and #20 on the UK Singles Chart. The song “Rock & Roll Runaway” peaked at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

The album was recorded at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth in Wales and at Trident Studios in London, England. It was produced by John Anthony. ((by wikipedia)


“How Long,” the song that broke Ace and by many measures defines them, doesn’t necessarily present the most accurate picture of the band or its 1974 debut, Five-A-Side. Sure, Ace had a knack for a soft soulful groove that distinguished them from their pub rock brethren and in Paul Carrack they had perhaps the best blue-eyed soul singer the scene produced (Frankie Miller being a close contender for the title), but neither are the focal point on Five-A-Side, a record evenly balanced between the singer and quintet, as the title implies.


Most of the ten-track record doesn’t ride the same easy rhythm as “How Long”; “The Real Feeling” and “Why” come close, containing some of the same ‘70s polyester sheen, but those bear stronger resemblance to the rest of the record, the songs that are heavily rooted in American roots rock, some of which are not sung by Carrack. Ace deftly mimicked the bluesy country-rock of Delaney & Bonnie, choosing to emphasize R&B over shaggy country-folk, thereby sounding quite different than their Band-loving peers. All this gives Five-A-Side a smooth, relaxed quality even on Ace’s relatively harder-rocking numbers like “Sniffin’ About” and that laid-back groove is appealing, partially because there’s just enough grit in their interplay to keep this from being lazy, partially because the songs — chiefly written by Carrack, who bears eight songwriting credits — are so strong, excellent pieces of straight-ahead rock & roll and blue-eyed soul that make this album something of a minor gem of its time. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)


Fran Byrne (drums, percussion)
Paul Carrack (keyboards, vocals)
Terry “Tex” Comer (bass)
Phil Harris (lead guitar, vocals)
Alan “Bam” King (guitar, vocals)
Bud Beadle (horns on 05.)
Mick Eves (horns on 05.)
Chris Hughes (horns on 05. + 09.)

US  frontcover:

01. Sniffin’ About” (Carrack/King) 4.43
02. Rock & Roll Runaway (Carrack/Comer/Harris/King) 3.10
03. How Long (Carrack) 3.21
04. The Real Feeling (Carrack) 2.27
05. 24 Hours (Carrack) 4.09
06. Why? (Carrack) 3.21
07. Time Ain’t Long (Carrack/Walker) 3.56
08. Know How It Feels (Carrack)
09. Satellite (Carrack) 3.34
10. So Sorry Baby (Harris) 3.57