BLACKJACK – Worlds Apart (1980 Polydor, Universal Japan reissue)
Blackjack (Bruce Kulick, Jimmy Haslip, Sandy Gennero and some unknown guy named Michael Bolton) made a grand total of two albums before splitting. Michael went on to a fairly successful solo career (two Grammy awards), and a few years later Bruce joined Kiss. Neither guy is really sweating the fact that Blackjack had no impact. The albums are long out of print, except in Japan.
Their second album, unfortunately, lacks the memorable hooks of the first one. Starting off with a cover is rarely a good sign. The Supremes’ “My World is Empty Without You” is as ham-fisted as you can imagine, with heavy handed bass forced into what is usually a fine soul song. Bolton oversings. It’s a misstep from the get-go, and it’s not a good sign that this is one of the better tracks on the album which is otherwise mostly written by Bolton and Kulick.
“Love is Hard to Find” works well as an early-80’s Bon Jovi blueprint. The ballad “Stay” certainly sounds like Michael Bolton, or more accurately, it sounds like Michael covering an over-dramatic Rod Stewart ballad. “Airwaves” passes as a rock song, but it certainly is a weak one even compared to similar bands from the era such as Journey. Ironically what it needs is Michael to let loose with those pipes, the way he does on the ballads. Even a title like “Maybe It’s the Power of Love” lacks the kind of vocal power you want (though Bruce does get a tasty little solo with a dual harmony part).
The hardest rocker of the album is the side two opener, “Welcome to the World”, which bizarrely opens with an actual recorded baby birth. That aside, it’s a pretty solid rocker with more of those Kulick harmony licks. Strangely, Kulick had nothing to do with its writing. This works into the very 80’s sounding “Breakaway” with its programmed keyboards and soft-rockisms, and among the worst tracks on the album. “Really Wanna Know” is almost as bad, so cheesy you can smell it coming by the opening synths. “Sooner or Later” works better, again perhaps a precursor to early Bon Jovi. Good track, and Michael lets the voice rip like you want to hear it. And then the album craps its own pants with the closer, “She Wants You Back”, lighter than light rock. There’s a lick that borrows from Steve Miller’s “Swingtown”, but the Miller song is better.
The second Blackjack album has no surprises, no progression and little impact Even though the second LP is a soundalike to the first, it’s weak. And so they split. Bruce Kulick’s brief foray into “moustache rock” ended and he was on to other things. Blackjack and Worlds Apart are interesting mostly to Kiss fans and collectors. As for Bolton fans, I know he still has many, but I think only these two fellas would buy Worlds Apart (they celebrate the guy’s entire catalogue).