Union: The Blue Room
Corrr, there's freakin' keyboards on this thing! Well, that might, or not, have been true about Union's debut in 1998, but frankly, with the lyrical content of that album I really didn't notice. "The Blue Room", however, is a completely different story, perhaps I can get away with Sgt. Pepper's, Magical Mystery Tour, or Their Satanic Majesties comparisons, or perhaps that'd be an insult to Union. This album is almost: "Union and the amazing multi-textured tapestry". Since first listen, I have continuously been impressed by the growth demonstrated by the band, which is a remarkable blend of diversity and pure talent. John Corabi, with the smoky "Joe Cocker in tune" vocals, to the pulsating rhythm section of Jamie Hunting and Brent Fitz, to the downright cojones of Bruce Kulick's steam-rollin' guitars. I guess he wasn't kidding about the number of guitars he took to the recording sessions, and hell, producer Bob Marlett and the boys sure as Hell managed to create one really fat sound for the album! From the opening notes of "Do Your Own Thing", the bands lead off single from the album, you know you're in for an experience!
"Do Your Own Thing" opens with a "Carnival Of Souls"-esque introduction section before letting go into a bass heavy power riff laden rocker. Crunching chords it may have, but Union are a band able to blend melody and energy, and this song is a perfect example of that. The chorus is very catchy, and the song almost has an Aerosmith (toxic era, not pussy MTV era), or perhaps more Joe Perry solo '80, feel. I shut my eyes and all I see is a drummers arms flailing, guitar groin thrusts and singer in the shadows with cigarette dangling from mouth.. Marvelous chorus riff! "Dead" has a similarly COS feel, but replacing the grunginess with keyboards. Oh, and better lyrics! For me, this was one of John's best vocals on the album during to bridges and time-changes. Simply awesome, plus the great backing harmonies that give this song a retro-70's feel. I really hope that this one becomes a single. "Everything's Alright" is the one song which seems to blend the most from the style of the first album. In some ways the lyrics are the most important part of the song, rather than the whole thing. Basically, it's intense. However, at this point I was still waiting for Bruce to really let rip on a solo..
"Shine", is described by John as being one of the best lyrics he has written. I'd have to agree, though with the quality of his other output it is rather difficult to measure. All that's missing is a dulcimer on this Zeppelin-esque mid-tempo mind trip. The fantastic style of this song and the plethora of textures ranks it as one of the best songs on the album. "Who Do You Think You Are" is a grinding "Get Off My Cloud" attitude song, that bubbles into an excellent chorus... Mother-fucker.. Oh, and BK finally kinda let rip on the solo, for a bit anyway! By far the most touching song on the album, also (again) turns out to be one of the album's best, in the form of the Bruce-vocaled "Dear Friend", written about the late (great) Eric Carr. Perhaps Bruce is becoming more comfortable singing, but I really feel his vocal style on this song is well suited. Perhaps it was the subject matter, which is presented in excellent way. John's chorus vocals are excellent, as is the somewhat depressing, or at least introspective, tone of the verses. Almost a requiem and celebration in one, with a great solo section that evokes emotion from the most hardened heart.
"Do You Know My Name", a question posed by the Rolling Stone's "Sympathy For The Devil" is still looking for an answer thirty years later.. This is a really weird song. There's something about the feel, that I just can't pin down. Sure, it's dark and brooding, but there's something else. Something in the shadows I can't see. However, "Hypnotized", compared to the strangeness of the previous song, is pure cool. Almost metal-Floyd (yeah, the Pink one, or maybe I was thinking Weezer) with an old-time radio feel. No thrills, no fuss, but this should be a crowd pleaser, if the crowds will sing along with the outro-vocal section before the last chorus. Should be fun too! With the penultimate song on the album, "I Wanna Be", from the start you know the band is building up to something. Like a race-horse straining at the bit at the starting gate, the song makes you feel the band are about to let loose with something frantic. The chorus's tease the listener, but the song remains mostly a ballad. In closing, the band end as they began the album.. ROCKIN'. "No More" feels to me very Coverdale/Page, very Poe (the raven). Great funky guitars with Neil Young like lyrics and the full works in terms of sound and intensity.. And Bruce let's rip!
Where does this album leave the band? It's not an improvement on the debut, but is equally strong. I hope this album give the band the success they deserve, because otherwise I can't see what they can do in the current musical environment. It's better than anything I've heard in a while. The judges are unanimous, 10's across the board, a clear winner.