The third and final Kulick review from our Kulick week at mikeladano.com!
A mighty Union was formed from the ashes of two classic bands’ lesser-known lineups. First up is Bruce Kulick, formerly of Kiss and now in Grand Funk. Kulick had been taking an increasingly important role within Kiss, leading to the Carnival of Souls LP which Bruce was instrumental in writing and recording. With him was John Corabi who had just been booted from Motley Crue after making (arguably) their best album (or one of). Corabi was in a bit of a state. His confidence in himself was shaken after the Motley experience, who seemed impossible to please when their album tanked. John told Bruce that he didn’t want to sing anymore, he just wanted to play guitar. Bruce’s response was “Dude, you’re fuckin’ high!”
And so it was that Bruce and John teamed up (with Brent Fitz and Jamie Hunting) in the aptly named Union.
You wouldn’t call Union a supergroup, but they did create a fine album. It is in the mold of the last albums these guys made separately (Motley ’94 and Carnival). Union turned out as an angry, dark rock record, very much a child of the 1990’s. With Kulick on guitar, Union was more than a 90’s alt-grunge retread. The 90’s are omnipresent in the droning riffs and staggered rhythms, but then Bruce dumped out his tackle box of guitar tricks. Bruce evolved over the years from a guy who played really fast on 80’s Kiss albums to a serious player interested in pushing his own limits. Where he used to be content to play flurries of notes, on Union he goes for maximum gut impact. It’s less about playing the notes than bending them to his will.
It’s also quite clear how much writing Bruce and John did in their respective bands, judging by the sound of this. “Around Again” bears groovy similarities to tracks like “Jungle” by Kiss and “Uncle Jack” by Motley. There’s a pissed-off attitude, and musicianship that would make Nikki Sixx crap his pants. Thankfully Union have a good batch of songs backing them. Much like the previous Kiss and Crue records, Union is not instant love. It takes about three good listens to penetrate its metal-grunge (with a touch of Beatles) hybrid sound. Union usually seem to go for the guts rather than singalong melodies.
One of the exceptions to this rule is the pure fun “Love (I Don’t Need it Anymore)”. This is the one that hooks you on the first round. With a funky little riff and a chorus that sinks right in, it slays. The ballad “October Morning Wind” is another catchy track, an acoustic number a-la Zeppelin. Think of a track like “Loveshine” from the Motley album for the right ballpark. Stealing a Zeppelin title, Union’s song “Tangerine” is a groove rock tune like a heavier Aerosmith.
On the other side of the spectrum: psychedelic rock. “Let It Flow” is a trippy song broken up into sections called “The Invitation”, “The Journey” and “The Celebration”. I think John was smoking something green when he wrote the lyrics, but Bruce’s sitar-like guitar is the perfect complement. “Empty Soul” has similar scope, being a pretty huge song with musical goodness coming out the wazoo.
Adding the Beatles cover “Oh Darlin'” to a reissued version of the album is a little greedy, but fortunately worth it. As it turned out this band only made two studio albums, so more Union is good Union. If you recall the original song, Paul McCartney gave it his best rasp screams. Up to bat is John Corabi who can sing that way in his sleep. It’s a perfect match and “Oh Darlin'” is a nice little extra on which to end an exceptional album. The only issue I have with “Oh Darlin” is actually its placement as the last song. Previously, the solo-written Corabi acoustic ballad “Robin’s Song” was the closer, much like “Driftaway” was on the Motley album. You become accustomed to “Robin’s Song” as a closer, because it has that quality to it. “Oh Darlin'” is not a closer. It would have worked better earlier in the track list, so feel free to shuffle as you choose.
Whatever version you acquire, any fan of Kulick and/or Corabi would be foolhardy to live without this CD. It ranks as one of the best albums by either.