Audio Dog Review
Before you even get to the music, there's a lot of symbolism in the cover of Bruce Kulick's "Audio Dog" album. The follow-up to his successful taster EP, of the same name which was released in February, which did well via mail order and KISS Expo sales, the album is more of the same: A blend of instrumentals and vocal songs which show off Bruce's development, as a singer, a song-writer, a guitarist, a human-being, etc, etc, ect. What is clear is that Kulick sets himself apart from "other" instrumentalists with melodic layered highly polished songs. As a producer, Kulick has definite skill, and assisted by song-writer Curt Cuomo the finished product is of high quality.
The first three tracks, "Pair Of Dice", "Strange To Me", and "Change Is Coming" were originally released on the "Audio Dog" EP previously. In some ways "Pair Of Dice" could be the bastard brother of "495", another instrumental that dates back to Bruce's days with Goodrats in the early 1980's. Cyclic and rocking, it better demonstrates Bruce bass skills and has a very "Vai" feel to it, or at least it would be at home on Satriani's "Flying In A Blue Dream" album. The rhythm section is further boosted by Union buddy Brent Fitz who drums on the first nine tracks on the album. "Strange To Me" gives the listener the first Bruce vocal attempt on the album. I would doubt that Bruce would describe himself as a natural vocalist. Duh! He was always a guitarist, but since his "Breakout" on KISS' "Carnival Of Souls" he was progressed from awkward to adequate. His style will not please some, but on this album Bruce shows vocal growth - or at least his comfort level with singing has reached a point where the singing doesn't seem as forced as on "I Walk Alone". "Strange To Me" is a great blend of melodic rock music and Bruce's vocals. Lyrically, the song, written by Bruce and Curt, is fun, but there is a KISS feel to the tune, after a few listens I could swear I could hear what Ron Nevison would love to do to the song!! Closing out the EP trio is "Change Is Coming", another vocal song, which takes the "Carnival Of Souls" chord crunching, the "For You" vocal style and blends the Union-esqe harmonies into one of the best tracks on the album. The attitude conjures images of Bruce Revenge-era, leather clad, and guitar six-gunning and string bending. This one would be most worthy of being played live. While it is understandable that the final track from the EP "495" was a special bonus to help market the EP it is a shame that it was not included on the full release. Ever since hearing Bruce and Eric Singer rip that track at Expos it's been a personal favorite. Oh well, it's on the EP, on numerous bootlegs, and was released on the bonus disc of Eric Carr's "Rockheads" album.
With "Need Me" we're into new material. This song has a strange feel, almost quiet Soundgarden in style. Bruce's singing is the most relaxed, perhaps helped by the subject matter of the song which has some excellent lyrics. Once again we have a pulsing rhythm section an mellow background guitars for atmosphere, until the introduction of a wonderful dueling guitar solo which has segments fighting for your attention. "I Don't Mind" sees Bruce slip into Gary Moore reflective mood with a mellow ballard, which again shows what a tool Bruce's voice has become. The song also doesn't stay too mellow for its' entirety with energetic chorus' which keep the listeners attention from slipping away with a very poignant chorus lyric. "Monster Island" is a ripping instrumental, as the title would suggest, with some of the most frenetic pace on the album. There's a subtle "Middle Eastern" feel to parts of the song, though not as prominent as on Mark St. John's "Baghdad". There's a tempest heading for Monster Island with Bruce using the song to flex his fingers up and down the fret board with some powerful overdubs! The song also provides a great workout for Brent who presents some excellent drumming for the track. Unlike some instrumentals, it doesn't go on too long, nor do the others on the album with Bruce finding a balance not to bore the listener with any fret board histrionics. "Please Don't Wait" is the most current sounding piece on the album. As such it could easily be a single by one of the few rock acts currently having success on the radio. It's different enough, has enough attitude, but isn't too heavy for the virginal ears of modern radio listeners who've forgotten what real rock is (damn, 70's, with Nuge, Trick, Aerosmith, etc). "Liar" was a left-over from "Carnival Of Souls", at least is was first recorded around that time. It eventually was one of the first recording Bruce did with Brent Fitz for the excellent, but seemingly forgotten, Doug Snazel "Return Of The Comet" project, which showed the level unofficial tributes could reach before the whole tribute 'thing' went comical. This recording has little new to offer, but is at least better homed on a Bruce Kulick solo album than on an Ace Frehley Tribute which the instrumental remains a powerful piece of work raising images of Bruce thrusting his guitar and attacking the strings! "I Can't Take It" is the final track on the album on which Brent Fitz drums, the remainder are handled by Kenny Aronoff who's drummed for John Mellencamp, Meatloaf, and numerous other artists of all genres. Lyrically, musically, and vocally, this song is the weakest link... Goodbye! But, even by that standard, the song simply shows how strong the rest of the album is. Must have been a result of the keyboards being the most prominent on this track! "Dogs Of Morrison" is an oddity, the most Union, from the first album, sounding song. It is also an excellent piece of lyrical work which shows the powerful partnership Curt and Bruce have built. The down side is that the chorus is rather weaker than the verse. As is the norm, the music is wonderful and haunting in places with a plethora of effects worked in on different levels. "Skydome" provides a fitting conclusion to Bruce's first solo outing with an outro-styled instrumental. There is little to say about it apart from the fact that it feels that it is closing the album...
What is clear about Audio Dog is that while the album has touches of KISS, Union, and older Bruce related material it is very much it's own beast with a character of determination that simply seems to state: Take it or leave it, I'm playing on... My way... Go Bruce!!