A Union of Minds: John Corabi and Bruce Kulick set to "Let It Flow"

Union, formed by Bruce Kulick and John Corabi, might nearly be more appropriately named "The Rejects" following both of their "departures" from their respective bands, KISS and Mötley Crüe, due to much vaunted Reunions with those bands original members: in the case of KISS original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley returned for the highly successful Alive/Worldwide Reunion Tour; while vocalist Vince Neil returned to Mötley Crüe. Such biographies fail to mention the musical backgrounds of either performer adequately. Bruce Kulick cut his teeth in the music business in a band with Michael Bolotin (with whom he co-wrote the majority of the bands material), Blackjack, who released two albums (1979 & 1980), before going on to work with Good Rats and Michael Bolton solo while providing guitar for the likes of Billy Squire on his excellent "Tale Of The Tape" album, and most recently appearing (with Paul Stanley) on Lenita Erickson's album and joining her on tour. In September 1984 Bruce joined KISS to replace the ailing Mark St. John, initially only a temporary move while Mark recovered from Reiters Syndrome. After completing all of the European Animalize Tour and all but two half shows in the States Mark made a quiet departure and Bruce joined the band full time. He brought 12 years of stability to the band who had been suffering from musical-guitarists with the rapid succession of Frehely, Vincent, and St. John. During his time with KISS Bruce cut 5 studio albums (and saw the release of numerous compilations) and developed tremendously as a performer and guitarist, his ultimate work being the recently released Carnival Of Souls, an album which he dominates (noted by the vast songwriting credits attributed to him, the amount of music he performed for the album, and his vocal debut). The younger brother of Bob Kulick (Balance, Skull, Blackthorne, WASP, etc), the ultimate session guitarist, and KISS's unofficial 5th member providing emergency services to the band at times during 1977-82 (and the band's second choice for a guitarist in 1973, just behind Ace), Bruce is a quiet mild mannered performer with a tremendous range of styles and great skill. John Corabi, on the other hand, really only got noticed after forming The Scream with former members of Shark Island and Racer X. After releasing an album in the early 1990's John ended up in Motley Crue following the inauspicious departure of vocalist Vince Neil in early 1992. During his time with the Crue his talent as a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter resulted in the release of the Crue's self-titled 6th studio album which was a departure from their old style. Fans had mixed emotions about the replacing of Vince and the album didn't perform as well as other Motley efforts. He also appears on the Crue's limited release, Quarternary, and was heavily involved in the writing of material for the Crue's planned studio album, then known as Personality #9, before being dropped in favor of Vince Neil. Initially, Bruce Kulick (and drummer Eric Singer) were reasonably (probably not, but they didn't have much choice) content to sit out while the rest of KISS went on tour. An alleged softener for this was an alleged six-figure sum. However, it soon became apparent that the Reunion was going to last indefinately, and both men quit the band on August 16th, 1996. In some ways it was the sad end of an era, Bruce had been with KISS for the longest period of any of their guitarists, yet it was also an interesting birth of new opportunities, especially with the taster (COS) of where Bruce's musical direction was heading. Throughout the Autumn Eric and Bruce continued to work together on-and-off, both completing a "clinic" tour of Australia, and participating in the Queen Tribute album, Dragon Attack. Bruce also toured with Lenita Ericson. John Corabi, on the other hand, had a less acceptable departure from Mötley Crüe in September 1996 following the decision of Vince's return (being possibly one of the worst kept secrets of 1996). By Novemeber 1996 both had "hooked-up" and were working together.

When the first announcement came that the Corabi/Kulick collaboration was more than rumour (Dec. 10, 1996), there was a great deal of excitement about what musical direction such a project would take. John's style on the last Mötley Crüe album, and Bruce's performance on the last studio KISS album, the then unreleased Carnival Of Souls, made it quite clear that any material coming from these guys was going to be outstanding, especially with the song-writing talents of both men. Another benefit of Bruce's album's with KISS was his introduction to Curt Cuomo who was initially working with Corabi/Kulick in the studio as producer and drummer on their early demos. Both Bruce and John were playing guitar while also performing their regular duties, while Bruce provided bass for the tracks. By late December there were around 5 demo tracks in varying stages of completion encompassing a wide range of styles from the acoustic to the "in-your-face" total metal experience. According to Gerri Miller of Metal Edge who heard this early material and met with the guys, "They're both really happy to have no limits placed on them now, after being replacement members in bands that confined them to specific styles". Very true, both had been replacements operating under a defined set of parameters (especially Bruce). One of the first song titles to be named was the acoustic "Do You Think About Me", others were still very much "under construction" at the time. By January work was continuing at a reasonable pace, with the main plan being to develop new material as much as possible before getting additional musicians into the band on a full-time basis. Around this time, Bruce went online through AOL, and was very keen about the prospects for the future. He was very excited about his current situation, and when given a chance to talk about something other than KISS, he'd happily give all the information about his new project which I could.

Little else appeared to be happening with Corabi/Kulick during early 1997, though undoubtedly they were working on material in the background, while Bruce participated in guitar clinics and the setting of a world-record in Vancouver, Canada leading the most guitarists playing simultaneously. In April the band started mixing what Bruce referred to as "the first half of the CD". They also added a drummer to their lineup, Brent Fitz, who had worked with the Canadian band Streetheart. They hoped to add a bassist to the lineup in May, however that month John and Bruce recorded "Maggie May" for the Rod Stewart Tribute album. During the next month or so work started on the second half of the album, while Bruce continued to attend KISS related Konventions (where he even sang I Walk Alone and performed Liar, one of the tracks written for Carnival Of Souls, amoungst other things!), even playing some of the demos for fans at the Detroit Expo on July 13. His whole attitude at this time was excitement about the future and his enjoyment at working with John. Once the first half of the album was in a finished format they started "shopping" it around to record labels. Former-KISS and former-Motley Crue members, sure has a nice ring to it when presenting material. A certain amount of clout! Four of these songs, "Heavy D", "Try", "Around Again", and another track, were played for fans in Detroit, and the response was excellent. Bruce again did a promotional visit at Splash Sound where he launched his signature range ESP guitar, while perfoming material similar to that he'd done at the Detroit Expo. Shortly before this John Corabi launched a law suit against his former band members in Mötley Crüe. Throughout the summer Bruce continued to make arrangements to appear at Konventions while working on material with the band which had acquired a bass player, James Hunting, in August. News that Carnival Of Souls was finally going to be released was met with a really pleased response by Bruce who felt that it represented some of his best work to date. He was also concerned that the fans be able to hear it properly rather than on a substandard bootleg copy. By late summer the band had attracted the attention of a major record label, though final details were not available for some time, nor did the band yet have a name. In late August Bruce was again in the studios, this time not with John Corabi, but with Eric Singer, where he recorded a solo instrumental track, Liar, for inclusion on an Ace Frehley Tribute album. In late September it was finally announced that Corabi/Kulick had signed with Mayhem Records, and that the band were hoping for an early 1998 studio album release. Corabi/Kulick planned to enter Rumbo Studios to record the album in the middle of October, with "Old Man Wise," "Try," "Around Again," "Heavy D," "October Morning Wind," "Do You Think About Me," and "Tangerine", plus other tracks, slated for release on the album. Finally, on October 22 fans received word that the band had a name, Union, and that recording was fully underway for a February release... According to Gerri Miller, the music "is soulful, heavy, groove-oriented, rocking, excellent. I can't wait to see these guyslive, but they won't be doing gigs till early next year." By early November, the recording is complete with only the mixing left to do, and the anticipated release date of the album has be set for February 24th in the US. When Bruce said, "We have a lot to prove to our fans with this band", he wasn't kidding, and by all accounts from those who have heard the material, Union has delivered!

Old Man Wise
Full-force rock with a brilliant riff, alomst "Master & Slave" in style, but more complex. Absolutely killer and an awsome lead off track. Love the whole feel of this tune and the guitar work is outstanding. I'd almost love to say this song is a "Kashmir" for the 1990's... 'cept it's not epic in duration, just epic in presentation, and more a "Seduction Of The Innocent Part II" lyrically!

Around Again
Built on a killer riff (But would we expect anything less from BK!), "Around Again" is a mid-tempo rocker. While not being a full force In-Your-Face sonic attack, it has an underlying attitude, and dare I say it... subtle agression. John's vox is never over-stretched, and the song, to me, is almost a meld of Misunderstood and Rain. Killer. Great lyrics, "Everytime you think you're right, you're wrong", and a very cool chorus. The Union take on Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Coming", so watch out, Karma's gonna get ya!

Pain Behind Your Eyes
I love the time changes on this one. Very moody. Alternating between mellodic rock and aggression, this track really exhibits the skills of James and Brent. Very solid rhythm sections and a tremendous solo by Bruce, which almost seems like it'd be right at home in a COS track, notably with the style of the drum fills. Great vocal structure and effects. I'd love to see this one as a single. Should also be killer live! Can I get away with a grunge comparrison? Well I'll try, the chorus is kinda Nirvana"ish" in style. I love it. It kicks!

Love (I Don't Need It Any More)
Funk-o-rama introdction. Welcome to wah-wah land. I'll stick my neck out and say that this is what a song would sound like if Pearl Jam and Aerosmith had a baby, stylistically, for a while. Great Bruce licks. Great rocker, with loadz of ge-tarz, and tremendously vivid lyrics.

Heavy D
Very cool ballady type thingy. Subtle for a while and then it brings strange tunings into flow which bring across the dark message of the subject matter. Very cool. The sort of song you just have to sit back in a deep easy-chair with a pair of shades on. Extremely cool, almost psychadelia for the 90's. Feed the addiction. And there I was thinking that with a title like "Heavy D" it was gonna be about the tuning. Not! Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" plus Lou Reed's "Heroin", but I guess it could apply to all sorts of addiction, like the addiction I'm feeling towards this album... well Union.. do what ya say and "never set me free"!

Let It Flow
Killer retrostyle tune with aspects of Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and the Eagles (there's even a touch of the Crazy Nights guitar style)! Outstanding drumming and guitars and numerous style/time changes built together to create an excellent package. Does what the title says! Possibly... another "Kashmir" for the 90's! I think this will be a classic track. This possibly has the best lyrics on the whole album. and the layering is amazing. Awsome drums. Total winner.

Empty Soul
Bluesy with Beatlesque drums. Relaxed and mellow and poignant. Love the guitar effects! This song was know in early reports from the studio as "Try". Anthemic about the "No" generation.

October Morning Wind
Very Zeppelin"ish". And that pretty much sums it up! Well, OK, that's kinda terse! This song is planned to be the second single from the album. "Gallows Pole" for the 1990's. If you swapped John's vox with Plant's then this track would be right at home on Zeppelin III or Physical Graffiti, but why anyone would want to do that... Again the guitar work is awsome, and the rhythm backbone created by the drums and bass really makes the song, as does the harmonizing by the band members in the background vocals. Maybe it's just me, but I spot a bit of Delta blues in this one!

Get Off My Cloud
Attitude, "trade me and degrade me..."! More sublte COS-style guitars. Possible rock anthem? Definately the most COS-ish song on the album. Love the lyrics! "I'll be fine without ya"... damn right you will be! This song is the John versus Motley Crue therapy song. Or perhaps also the Bruce versus KISS therapy song. And judging by this song, and the others, John and Bruce will be fine!

Great intro akin to "No, No, No", only better... "life ain't always black and white", the whole time I was listening to this I was thinking... Eat a Peach... ya know... Allman Brothers... great 70's feel to me. I think this will be another favorite off the album.

Robin's Song
I think that this one used to be refered to as "Do You Think About Me". It's a cool acoustic ballad. Very touching in its' simplicity (probably wasn't for them to record..). You can feel the emotion surging from this song, it's really heart felt, and similar to John's "Friends" on Quaternary. The acoustic feel song is nicely augemented by the solo, which is one of the best that I've heard from Bruce, and the harmonizing. Nice final track polishing off a great package.

Over-all Impressions...

Wow. The excitement has been well justified. I can't wait for Feb. 24 to buy the album - and at least I'll be back in the States so there shouldn't be any problems finding it. There isn't a song which I don't love and none are weak. They're all so well crafted and they lyrics are exquisite, in fact it is difficult to verbalize just how good the lyrics are with the awsome imagry. While I have named a lot of styles and bands don't get me wrong, Union doesn't copy or imitate, it's its' own beast. Unique. Individual. And definately some of the best music I've heard in the 1990s. They are neither over or under produced, and there are many noticable features which emphasize what a labour of love the album is, with touches like 1950's style microphone vocals, vinyl scratch effects, etc. Stylistically, the album encompasses a broad range of influences, but it is definately its' own creature. It doesn't "borrow" from either John or Bruce's past band associations - while there are definate touches of MC94 and COS it simply emphasizes their input in those albums. John definately outdoes his work with Motley Crue, and Bruce's guitar and song-writing... why didn't KISS take advantage of this man's skills more than they did. I desperately hope this album does well commercially, it deserves to. Union comes across as a band.. a whole.. much more than its individual components, a Union! No member seems to feature in an over-bearing manner, John, Bruce, Brent, and James are all represented and you can hear the individuality. Congrats guys, you've made a KILLER (!!again, damn I've used that word alot!!)!

Did I use enough superlatives??? =) Rating... 9/10 (just finishes too soon.. I Want More!!!)