steve lukather

REVIEW: Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010)

Scan_20160527BRUCE KULICK – BK3 (2010 Rocket Science)

There is so much more to Kiss than just the original members.  Sure, you may think Ace Frehley rules, and that his solo albums are awesome.  You’d be right — I’ve reviewed every single Ace Frehley album.  But let’s not forget about Bruce Kulick, who humbly held down the fort from 1984-1996.  Today, Kulick’s rocking the house with Grand Funk, and doing a fine job of it.  But just as there is more to Kiss than just the original members, there is more to Bruce than just Kiss or Grand Funk.  Bruce has always treated Kiss with respect, and his solo music shows the same care and love put into it.  BK3 is my favourite of his solo albums, including Audio Dog and Transformer.

Surely one of the draws to this Kulick record has to be the big name guest appearances.  The best of these is the late Doug Fieger (The Knack) on “Dirty Girl”, an incredibly catchy radio rocker.  So good is it, Classic Rock magazine listed it as the 29th best tune of 2010.  Hey, that’s a proud moment!  If I didn’t know it was Fieger singing, I wouldn’t have guessed.  I figured it was some young unknown with a great voice.  As great as this song is, and how hit-worthy it could have been, I don’t think it would have suited Kiss.  It’s too pop for Kiss, I think, but it’s not sell-out in any way, because Kulick makes sure the guitars are sweet, crunchy and loud.  Other guest shots include Steve Lukather, dueling with Bruce on the only instrumental “Between the Lines”.  Tobias Sammet shows up to sing the grinding “I’m an Animal”, and on drums is Kiss drummer Eric Singer.  As if that’s not enough, there are not one but two Simmons on this album.  The old man sings “Ain’t Gonna Die”, a heavy Kiss-like armor plated beast.  Then the Son of Simmons, young Nicholas, sings on the even better “Hand of the King”.  Almost a dead ringer for his old man, Nick lends the song a demon-like aura.

There is one more cool guest shot that needs to be highlighted.  There are 3/4 of Bruce’s old late-90’s band Union, on a great tune called “No Friend of Mine”.  John Corabi lends his unmistable gravel to this melancholy rocker.  With shades of acoustics and ripping lead vocals, this as good as anything in the original Union catalogue.  I still think their debut album was incredible.  Canuck Brent Fitz is on drums, also from the Union days but probably on a break from Slash.  Only bassist Jamie Hunting is missing, but it’s safe to say that this song could easily fall under the Union umbrella.  Kulick’s shredding on this one is insane, used sparingly but effectively.

BK3 is also diverse.  Bruce sings the rest of the material, but the most interesting is the closing ballad “Life”.  It sounds like a King’s X track circa Faith Hope Love, augmented with violins and the flute!  This is truly is an outstanding ballad.  Bruce would be the first one to say “I’m not a singer”, so it takes courage to do the lead vocal on a track like this.  Bruce’s voice has his personality in it:  it sounds like the Bruce Kulick we know and love.  It’s a very human sound, and he does a great job.  His voice is similar to Steve Vai’s, another artist who is not afraid to sing lead.

If you appreciate great rock music, meticulously and lovingly assembled, then give BK3 a shot.  There are so many great songs on here.  If you’re a fan of Kiss, The Knack, Motley Crue, or any of the other guests, then this purchase is somewhat of a no-brainer!

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Trash (1989)

I sure hope I don’t get “trashed” for this review!  Incidentally, this is the first CD I ever bought, in December of 1989.  I still have it.

COOPER TRASH_0001ALICE COOPER – Trash (1989 Epic)

After the strictly heavy metal n’ horror sounds of the previous two albums, Constrictor and Raise Your Fist And Yell, Alice decided it was time to get back to more diverse hard rock sounds. This time, he immersed himself in everything that was cool in the late 80’s, and created a “theme album” about sex. Cooper albums usually have themes — Alice Cooper in school (School’s Out), Alice Cooper in hell (Goes To Hell), or Alice Cooper insane (From The Inside). Sex was a new theme for this character.

Alice teamed up with Desmond Child, champion of many Bon Jovi and Aerosmith discs, as well as Mr. Jovi and Mr. Tyler themselves, among others. The result is unfortunately what I consider to be a weak disc, dated to the times, and with only a few strong songs that have held up over the years. It is certainly a creative low, though it did sell oodles of copies and was a sort of “comeback” album for Alice.

The first track and first single, “Poison”, is by far the best song. It is strong because it is based on the riff, and though it is commercial it is not blatantly so. It has a unique vibe to it, something authentic that other bands couldn’t touch. Sadly it’s mostly downhill from there. “Spark In The Dark” is unremarkable (though it does boast a killer riff), and so is the second single “House of Fire”. “House of Fire” at least has a catchy chorus, but it is simply too cookie-cutter. You could exchange it with virtually any single from any band’s albums in 1989.  Just look at the writing credits: Desmond Child, Joan Jett, and Alice.  Who was this song written for?

“It’s Only Heart Talking”, which was not written by Alice, is a decent ballad made more special with Steven Tyler’s duet. Otherwise, it is forgettable and inferior to later Alice ballads such as “Might As Well Be On Mars” and “Stolen Prayer”. Smash hit, though, so there’s that.

The lyrics to “Trash”, a duet with JBJ himself, are so bad it’s not even funny. “If my love was a lollypop, would you lick it?” Did Jon Bon just say that? “I’m Your Gun” is hardly better.  I just can’t bear to listen to those songs.  If you’re in the mood for some absolute dreck, check out “This Maniacs’ In Love With You”.

COOPER TRASH_0002One of the more interesting songs that didn’t make the album was “The Ballad Of Alice Cooper”, written by Jon Bon Jovi. There is a poor quality demo of Bon Jovi doing it in his best Alice voice out there. I think it might have been better than most of the tracks on the CD. The Japanese version, however, does have great live versions of “Cold Ethyl” and “Dwight Fry” recorded during this era.  (They can be found on the Alice Cooper Extended Versions CD today.)

This album like its sequel Hey Stoopid was loaded chock full of cameos.  Just scanning the credits, besides Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler, I see: Kip Winger, Hugh McDonald, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Steve Lukather, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton.  I think these cameos are very little more than hype.

Cooper’s albums tend to go in similar pairs (Nightmare/Goes To Hell, Constrictor/Raise Your Fist, Brutal Planet/Dragontown). Trash is no exception. Although Cooper realized that Trash was too soft and weak, Hey Stoopid is essentially a brother record to this one. I find it to be much much stronger by comparison.

I would tell casual fans instead of picking up this CD, to pick up something like Cooper’s Classicks. You’ll get the major tracks from this as well as some rare live ones.

2/5 stars

COOPER TRASH_0003

REVIEW: Spinal Tap – Break Like The Wind (1992)

SPINAL TAP – Break Like the Wind (1992)

Almost a decade after the movie, the “black album” (Smell The Glove), and the near-breakup, Spinal Tap returned!  Even Marty DiBergi’s documentary could not keep Tap down, and setting aside their differences, they created this reunion album.  Mostly new material with some oldies sprinkled in, Break Like The Wind was yet another masterpiece by the Tap.

The lineup was:  David St. Hubbins (guitar, vocals), Nigel Tufnel (guitar, vocals) and Derek Smalls (bass, vocals) with new additions Ric (brother of Mick) Shrimpton (drums) and Caucasian Jeffrey Vanston (keys).

It turns out that previous keyboardist Viv Savage was a drummer prior to joining Spinal Tap.  He failed to tell them this, and well, he befell the same fate as countless Tap drummers.

From the beginning, like so many Tap albums past, Break Like The Wind was misunderstood.  The first single “Bitch School” was about a dog, but many chose a sexist interpretation.  This simple rocker is an upbeat catchy single and indicative of the new Tap sound.

The regal “Majesty of Rock” is second.  This track was chosen as second single.  St. Hubbins dares to ask the deep questions within the framework of a 4 minute pop rock single.   “When we die, do we haunt the sky?  Do we lurk in the murk of the seas?  What then?  Are we born again?  Just to sit asking questions like these?”  An excellent question David.

I do not know why Nigel seemed prone to wearing wetsuits during this period.

Tap turn it up a notch on “Diva Fever”, a fast one to give Metallica a run for their money!  A man named Dweezil plays the blistering guitar solo.  What an odd moniker.

Just when you thought you could get none more regal, the queen herself, Cher, turns up to duet with David on the gorgeous ballad “Just Begin Again”.  With strings and horns beside them, Tap deliver another classic.The lyrics are again deep:  never give up, never surrender!  Just begin again!  As David says in the words, “Life is just a meal, And you never say when!”  And if people stand in your way and say enough is enough? “Make the bastards eat their words!” says David!

Derek Smalls takes his first lead vocal on “Cash On Delivery”, a fun rocker advising the listener how Smalls prefers to do business.  It rocks along nice.

This is followed by a remake on an old classic, “The Sun Never Sweats” the title track of course from the album The Sun Never Sweats.   Nigel’s solo is among the highlights of this classic.

And then, a long lost rarity, “Rainy Day Sun”.  It was the B-side to their hit “(Listen to the) Flower People”.  Here it is released on CD for the first time, gloriously swirly, psychedelic, and digitally remastered.  This ends side one of the original album.  If you are listening to a CD, please do not attempt to remove and play the other side.

Side two began with Tap’s first epic since the mighty “Stonehenge”:  “Break Like The Wind” itself.  Melding middle eastern melody with modern instrumental flare, this one is surprisingly beautiful.  Smalls’ bass weaves in and out, as David and Nigel play simple guitar melodies.  But all comes crashing down by the time of the powerful guitar solos, and Tap rock once more!

As a surprise to their friend Nigel, the band erased most of his guitar solos and replaced it with other people playing!  Four of the greatest guitarists of the 90’s stepped in for Nigel:  Slash, Joe Satriani, Steve Lukather, and Jeff Beck.    None more epic.

From there, Tap can only disappoint.  “Stinkin’ Up The Great Outdoors”, a protest song, is worth protesting.

Nigel finally sings his first lead vocal on “Springtime”, a welcome change of pace.  Nigel follows it with “Clam Caravan”, from his solo project.  The title was supposed to be spelled “Calm Caravan”, but Nigel liked the misspelled version.  “Clam Caravan” is another middle-eastern sounding song, and it lulls you off gently…

Only to be awakened by “Christmas With the Devil”!  This is a re-recording of their classic Christmas single from the mid 1980’s.  This sonically superior version is even more evil than the original.  Happy holidays, to all the children!

The hidden track “Now Leaving” follows, questioning what life is worth if you’re on life support?  All three members bring their thoughts to the table, but I think David asks the most eloquent question.  “Shall he lie there forever with a tube up his nose, And his peepee and poopoo slipping out through a hose?”

I do not know David, I do not know.

Thankfully, these mortal thoughts are ended by the beginning of “All the Way Home”.  You may remember from the film that this was the first song that David and Nigel ever wrote.  Finally, their original 1961 demo was found and restored, and mastered for its CD release.   This closes the album.

I do not know if the  general public felt differently about this album than I do, for Tap did not release another album for 17 years!

11/5stars