Review: Bruce Kulick’s New BK3 Solo Album

December 17, 2009 | By | Reply More

Kulick_Bruce_BK3_artHere’s a tip for web-minded musicians: Do a blog about your recording process. A good one. Detailed, daily, with lots of photos.

That’s what Bruce Kulick did for the recording of his BK3 CD, and if you’re at all a gear head – and what musician isn’t – after reading Bruce’s blog you’ll want to heard the CD because you want to hear what he talks about doing.

Bruce is a self-confessed gear-a-holic, and as you can see from his blog he used an impressive and pretty cool string of guitars on BK3, including: several Les Pauls, notably his ’53 (his #1 guitar); a ’79 Ibanez PS-10 (signature Paul Stanley model – I had one!); a Telecaster; a couple of PRSs; several ESPs including his signature ESP; an ’80s BC Rich koa Mockingbird (sweet!); and even more.

Then there are the amps – notably his favorite Marshall JCM900 – and the effects, some of which I’ve never heard of (always cool with effects) – like a Sears phaser. He even used a much-maligned MXR Distortion+ one one track!

Bottom line: It’s just fun to read. It’s fun to see what he’s into, what he’s got, what he tries, and how it works out. Here’s one example:

Bruce working on the "Hand of the King" solo - click to see it bigger ( photo).

Bruce working on the "Hand of the King" solo - click to see it bigger ( photo).

“Finally got some lead guitar work done on the song that Nick Simmons sang [“Hand of the King,” which IMO has the best solo on the disc]. Guitar solos need to be added later on, when getting a tune finished. This way you compliment the vocals in a better fashion. Knowing this track had Nick [Gene Simmons’ son] made me think of some different guitars. I brought out the KISS army in a way: my old LP Junior from the Revenge tour and the Carnival of Souls disc, my white ESP that is featured on Revenge and KISSology III, my ESP Signature prototype guitar that is on COS and the Union CDs, and my 1979 Ibanez PS-10 Paul Stanley Iceman model that I haven’t had a chance to record with.

“Jeremy [Rubolino, producer] and I set up some pedals and auditioned the various guitars. BTW, I broke out the old MXR distortion plus from Revenge! The wah was my Geek-modified Hendrix pedal. I plugged into my old Marshall [900] head. All of [the guitars] sounded awesome (though the strings on a few were really bad!), but Jeremy really loved the neck pickup sound of the PS-10. I agreed, and within about 30 minutes the solo was born. Then I added some cool riffs at the end of the song as well.

“I really was excited about playing the Iceman. I have owned if for two years, and now it finally has a voice on my BK3 disc.”

Cool, eh? And that’s only one out of 40 or so entries.

The ‘Review’

(Not a fan of that word “review.” Always thought that was for wanna-be wusses, like the ones who write for Rolling Stone. Need a new term. Any suggestions?)

Before getting into the track-by-track review, here are some overall impressions:

> Good variety of tunes, which is nice when it’s a solo album. Surprised that a couple of them are very poppy.

> Best solo on the album: “Hand of the King.”

> Cool that Bruce doesn’t rip through every solo.

> “No Friend of Mine,” sung by former Union bandmate John Corabi, is a hit single – if it was sung by a 20-something band-of-the-month. (Yes I said that to Bruce and he knew what I meant!)

> I think my favorite two tunes are the slower/softer ones sung by Bruce. As a diehard rocker, I’m surprised by that.

> I love the riffs (not fills) he throws in here and there. I miss riffs!

> I’d term his overall guitar tone as a little compressed, certainly not a raw old-school tone.

Now to the track-by-track. All quotes are Bruce’s form his studio blog.

> Heavy tune. Bruce: “The lyrics are fast and furious. The song is fun and aggressive, and that is an interesting combination.”
> A LOT of guitar – always good!
> Cool chord progression under the chorus.

Ain’t Gonna Die
> Sung and I believe co-written by Gene Simmons.
> Sounds like a KISS tune – a good one, meaning one you’d be stoked to hear on a new KISS album.
> Naturally Gene didn’t play bass (that’s tongue in cheek for all you KISS fans!), but the bass part was played on a Simmons Axe bass.

No Friend of Mine
> Bruce said he wanted this to be a great Union tune, and it is. And as I said above, this is a current “radio” (whatever that is anymore) single.
> Darker-sounding tune. Corabi kills on it, as he does on everything. Talented mofo.
> Really digging the harmony and octave lines in the solo.

Hand of the King
> This is going to be the single. Not one of my favorites on the disc, but a good rock tune.
> Nick Simmons sings – he has a low, dark voice with some dad-like growl to it.
> The solo is literally one of the best I’ve heard in a long time – how it’s constructed, tastefully played. Just great.

I’ll Survive
> Bruce: “This song has so much importance to me, as it is about my getting shot in 2003 [remember that?], and the music is very heartfelt.”
> One of my favorites on the album. Bruce sings it, and his vocals are what I’d call soulful. Not polished, not belted out. Just heartfelt.
> Has a Pink Floyd-like vibe.
> Love the break in this tune.

Dirty Girl
> When I first heard this I thought, That sounds like The Knack. Turns out it was sung by Doug Fieger from The Knack!
> Very poppy – sounds like a Rick Springfield tune to me. Didn’t know Bruce dug that stuff!

Final Mile
> I’d call this a poppy-ish tune too. Kind of an mid-’80s vibe to it.
> In parts of this I can hear KISS, for sure. Paul Stanley singing.
> Harmony leads again, which are cool.
> This description doesn’t do it justice: It’s a good tune.

I’m the Animal
> Heavier rock tune.
> Tobias Sammett from the band Edguy (cool band) sings, Eric Singer on drums (one of my favorite drummers). Tobias is a good singer and really gives this track an ’80s hard rock feel.
> Lead starts out Ace-like – or maybe Bob Kulick-like!

And I Know
> Definitely a poppy tune to my ears. Fits well with Dirty Girl.
> Bruce does a good job on vox.

Between the Lines

Yep, Luke's foot is on a Jemini distortion pedal! (click to see it bigger - photo)

Yep, Luke's foot is on a Jemini distortion pedal! (click to see it bigger - photo)

> Instrumental with Steve Lukather.
> I have to say that I had to listen hard to pick out Luke, which is a compliment (intended that way!) to Bruce – he kept up!
> GREAT drumming on this tune. Skins are handled by Kenny Aronoff, who has played with a tone of famous folks.
> Here’s what Bruce wrote about recording it:

“What an amazing day in the studio! I asked Steve Lukather from Toto (anyone who knows guitarists knows he is a guitar legend) to do some dueling guitars…. He is simply hard to watch cause his fingers fly and the tone and ability that he has on the guitar is a wonderful to experience right in front of your own eyes. The song is in Eb tuning and his signature model guitar was in concert tuning so he told me he could play one of mine.

“My trusty red ESP vintage plus from ’96 was the weapon of choice and as I have always told players, the tone is in the guitarist’s hands. Jeremy set up a cool sound from my Marshall head (which I love the most), and with nothing but a distortion pedal he brought along from Steve Vai that he occasionally stepped on, it was straight ahead, guitar into amp. If I play the set up it sounds like me. If he plays the same gear, it sounds like Lukather. So a lesson to all of you.”

> Slow tune, soft tune, as Bruce said an unexpected way to end an album by a guitar-player. But cool in that way.
> Like “I’ll Survive,” soulful vox by Bruce.
> I’m hearing a little Pink Floyd in this tune as well. A little Beatles (Bruce is a big Beatles can).
> I really enjoy the BTO/Jethro Tull-sounding outro.


> If you missed the recent WoodyTone interview with Bruce, click here.

> The BK3 CD is slated for release on Feb. 2.

> The JCM900 has a bad rap and might be an odd head to favor, but here’s more about it, from Bruce’s blog: “That was the first prototype of the popular 900 series…. Much warmer sound then you would expect…I have done lots of recording with this particular head.” That goes into a Marshall 4×12 with Celestion Vintage 30s.

> Bruce’s influences, from this interview: “Jimi Hendrix was definitely my biggest influence I loved of course all the Beatles stuff. But guitar hero wise it was him and Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton with Cream. I mean, I was a huge Cream fan. That’s why I was out of my mind when I got to jam with Jack Bruce and I actually played ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ with Simon Kirke on drums from Bad Company…. It was a thrill, a compete thrill.”

> Rock stars are people too! From Bruce’s studio blog: “Sadly our hard drive was acting up so we wisely took a break, double-checked our back-ups, and then even had a visit to the Apple store to get another drive…. So that took up 3 hours….”

Category: Bruce Kulick, Celestion speakers, ESP, Ibanez, Les Paul, Marshall, MXR, Steve Lukather

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