"The Blue Room" (Spitfire; 2000)
Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton
One of the things that pissed me off most about
the reunion of the original KISS was that a guitarist and songwriter as talented
as Bruce Kulick was basically tossed aside. But Bruce will have his revenge.
With the release of "The Blue Room," Union, which consists of Kulick, John Corabi, Jamie Hunting and Brent Fitz, will have completed and released three full-length albums. The first, self-titled CD, was a marvel of 80s rock blended with modern rock. The second CD was an ill-conceived live album (reviewed below) that did little to further the band. However, with "The Blue Room," Union has done it again.
"The Blue Room" opens with "Do Your Own Thing," a driving guitar-heavy tune that benefits from Kulick's razor-sharp guitars and more than a little attitude from Corabi. "Dead" is next, and could easily be a tune off of the first CD. "Everything's Alright" follows with a terrific vocal by Corabi and growling guitars.
Before I go any further, it might be appropriate to say that "The Blue Room" succeeds so well because of its focus on guitar. Kulick says of the CD, "Ultimately, I always bring my bag of tricks and we try everything. One funny thing was that I probably brought 25 guitars and our goal was to use every one of them and I think we did."
The next track, "Shine," is a
mild little ditty with a great chorus and lyrics of which Corabi is especially
proud. "Who Do You Think You Are" starts with a crunching guitar that
morphs into another attitude-tinged song. "Dear Friend" is special
because it's sung by Kulick and was written about his friend, late KISS drummer
Eric Carr. Kulick is an adequate vocalist (he's better than Ace Frehley) but
the sincerity in his voice and lyrics here are exceptional.
"Do You Know My Name" is a wall of guitar sound that plays into Kulick's idea that "The Blue Room" should sound big. It's a slow, heavy bulldozer of a tune that works really well. "Hypnotized" is a poignant Beatles-esque number. "I Wanna Be" is as close to a ballad as anything on this CD comes and it's not bad but not really a hit. And the final track, "No More," is a peppy little near-boogie number that closes out the CD with a nice pop kick.
Please keep in mind that bassist Jamie
Hunting and drummer Brent Fitz are also excellent musicians and are an important
part of Union. Unfortunately, it's sometimes easy and erroneous to overlook
their contributions with Kulick at the lead guitar and Corabi at the microphone.
The production on "The Blue Room" is simply exquisite, courtesy of Bob Marlette. The guitars (all 25 of them!), the vocals, the drums, bass - everything is clear and well-mixed and -balanced.
Fans of the Kulick-heavy KISS CDs (such as "Revenge" and "Carnival of Souls") will love "The Blue Room." And anyone who enjoyed Union's first CD will find "The Blue Room" a worthy follow-up. The songwriting is stronger here and the musicianship freer and yet more focused.
Union: Bruce Kulick, guitars/vocals; John Corabi, vocals/guitars; Jamie Hunting, bass; Brent Fitz, drums.
"Live in the Galaxy" (Deadline)
Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton
It seemed strange - after their excellent self-titled debut CD - that Union would release a live CD. Why so early in the game? Why not get a couple more studio albums under their belts?
After listening to "Live in the Galaxy," that question comes back tenfold. Why?
Union, in case you don't know, is the band formed by ex-KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick and ex-Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi, along with Brent Fitz on drums and Jamie Hunting on bass. Their debut CD release was a hard-rocking yet modern-sounding collection of heavy melodic tunes that included the hit "Old Man Wise."
Unfortunately, "Live in the Galaxy" can only be described as a resounding disappointment. The CD contains 13 tracks, ranging from Kulick's days in KISS through Corabi's days in Motley Crue through the previous Union CD and beyond. Sadly, the performances that these particular recordings were drawn from are far from inspired and the CD's production is too often muddy and blurred. Hell, even the cover photo of the band live in concert is out of focus.
The CD opens with the aforementioned "Old Man Wise," and, so far, things seem okay. Next up is "Around Again," a song that sounded great on the debut CD, but is surprisingly flat here. "Heavy D...", also from the debut CD, is up next and - although it fares better than "Around Again," it still lacks any real charisma. The band delivers "Jungle" from KISS' "Carnival of Souls" next and, yet again, the delivery is flat and uninspired. In addition, Corabi simply can't match the vocal mastery of KISS co-founder Paul Stanley.
Without belaboring each and every song, the remaining tracks succeed alternately from the fairly strong (the cover version of Cheap Trick's "Surrender") to the surprisingly successful ("Power to the Music" from Motley Crue's "Motley Crue") to the totally unnecessary (a cover of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away").
Please don't let this review of "Live in the Galaxy" steer you away from Union. The band and its music are better than this CD would lead you to believe. Take a listen to their debut studio CD instead and see if you don't agree.
Union: John Corabi, vocals/guitar; Bruce Kulick, guitar/vocals; Brent Fitz, drums/vocals; Jamie Hunting, bass/vocals.
A classic. This record will kick your ass.
Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.
So-so. You've heard better.
Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.
Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.
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