Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 26: Bruce Kulick

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

American guitarist Bruce Kulick is best known as the former lead guitarist for KISS. But Bruce is much more than that. For the past two decades he’s been a member of Grand Funk Railroad and he has also played with his brother Bob Kulick, Meatloaf, Union, Eric Singer Project, Michael Bolton, Paul Stanley, Avantasia and many others. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson asked Bruce about the five albums that really shook his world.

Cream “Fresh Cream” (1966)

“This LP when it arrived in the US, got me very excited about what a power trio could be. Eric Clapton’s tone and vibrato, Jack Bruce’s voice and creative bass playing, on top of the thunderous drumming by Ginger Baker, was a lethal combination of talent. I remember driving on the freeway in NYC singing ‘I Feel Free’ feeling like I could conquer the world. Cream was so influential for me and my brother Bob, and my first electric instrument was a Gibson EB-3 bass guitar, so I could be Jack Bruce to my brother’s ‘Eric Clapton’! The LP had bluesy songs, with a pop approach and psychedelic lyrics. Everything this young teenager could hope for!”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” (1967)

“This black American guitarist from Seattle took guitar playing to another level. He played with such fire and passion that he became my biggest guitar hero. His entire vibe, from clothing, to performing to songwriting and recording was visionary. He created elements of music, no one dreamed of, and he owned them all. From feedback to stereo panning, to making a guitar sound like a spaceship, no one can ‘out-Jimi’ Jimi Hendrix. My first stereo, wimpy by today’s standards, in my parents’ home had this LP cranked, and I actually cried when I heard the guitar tones panning from left to right. It was mind blowing! Jimi’s influence on rock music and pop culture is undeniable. This LP made a huge impact on my desire to play guitar with emotion. Every song is incredible, every note perfection.”

Yes “The Yes Album” (1971)

“This British band and this LP was like a kaleidoscope of colours in my mind. Songs like ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ and ‘Starship Trooper’ felt like a magical journey of sounds and space. Undeniable talent from every member, making music that was so creative and beautiful. Steve Howe approached the guitar very differently than my other heroes like Clapton and Hendrix. His clean tones and unique jazzy approach opened my mind up to new techniques and tones. Chris Squire’s bass lines interweaving with Bill Bruford’s tight drumming, topped with the majestic keyboards of Rick Wakeman and angelic voice of Jon Anderson, all created a fantastic world of wonder to my ears. This LP was played often, and the black light posters glowed!”

The Beatles “Revolver” (1966)

“The Fab Four changed the world in 1964. From the moment that America saw them on the Ed Sullivan show, the magic of their music would create a powerful new level of entertainment for the world to enjoy. ‘Revolver’ was very visionary in how they developed as musicians and songwriters. Even with their influence with the youth in America, it was the pure talent of these young men to write songs that connected to my generation. They led the British Invasion with their powerful passion and vision, expanding sonics by breaking all the barriers of music that came before them. They took my heart and soul with this LP, and I was ‘Beatle Bruce’ owning every bit of music they put out, collecting everything related. From ‘Taxman’ to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to the trippy ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, this group created music that was unstoppable and they will never be matched in talent from another band. Always a part of my life, ‘Revolver’ represents a level of creativity that was pure imagination.”

Frank Sinatra “In the Wee Small Hours” (1955)

“I discovered Frank Sinatra much later in my life. But his impact, especially with this Capitol era LP is very important to me. Never before did I hear a singer’s voice that completely overwhelms me, as if I am sitting in front of this man called ‘The Voice’. His tone, phrasing, and vocal techniques are all beyond what I can imagine can be created by anyone. Perfect vibrato, pitch and emotion from every word, every syllable he sings. He owns the song, he is the song, he takes every word and makes you not only hear what he is singing, he makes you feel every emotion he is conveying. The recording of ‘In the Wee Small Hours’, created in the mid-50s, is astonishing from every angle. Everything is recorded perfectly, boldly balanced and never brash. Powerful emotions emit from every instrument no matter how softly and carefully they are performed. All led by the greatest singer of all time. Arranged by Nelson Riddle, every note is perfection, every song precious and it leaves me devastatingly pleased. An emotional roller coaster of mood songs carefully picked by Frank, in an order he directed, since the 12” LP was new to the world. From the delicate opening title track to the haunting ‘Mood Indigo’, you know there’s something special going on in Frank’s world. He is sarcastic in Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ and laments in ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’. ‘Last Night When We Were Young’ is so emotional with Frank’s perfect phrasing leading the band. It’s powerfully expressive and touching. The LP’s last song, ‘This Love of Mine’ with its gentle strings leave you satisfied, and I always wonder how he could create a great sequence of such incredible songs. All of them represent a masterpiece of music, truly a momentous creation that I always enjoy and will till my very last day. I think you can tell I love it, so check it out!”

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