Bruce Kulick's 5 Essential Guitar Albums

Bruce Kulick
Bruce Kulick (Image credit: Joe Nett)

Grand Funk Railroad axeman Bruce Kulick certainly knows a thing or two about serving up a lick or two. As Kiss’s lead guitarist from 1984-1996, he was responsible for supplying the solos on such non-make-up classics as Tears Are Falling, Crazy Crazy Nights, Forever, and Unholy. Here, he thinks back to the albums that helped shape the guitarist he is.

Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland (1968)

Any Hendrix release is a lesson of guitar playing full of passion, with Jimi’s powerful emotional connection to the fingerboard. Hendrix can command his guitar to speak for him… and bring out the most intense feelings for the listener. His experimentation on this release is truly out of this world. For me, this is his Sgt. Pepper, showing how the masters do magic. It’s a broad double album filled with funky tracks, spacey songs and pop gems, and shows why he was - and always will be - my top guitarist.

Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow (1975)

All guitarists know the unique ability of this man. Beck can play any guitar, but there was something about his range and ability on this disc that made me study every song, every riff, and every pickup change of his Strat. His use of effects and his unique speed and ability to phase with such sensitively — and then blow the walls out — makes him a legend. I felt I needed theory lessons and to learn new jazz chords after listening to this release. This way I could unlock some of the fusion styles he was experimenting with. Highly recommended.

Led Zeppelin - IV (1971)

Just like Hendrix, all the Zeppelin discs show the power of Jimmy Page’s ability to layer guitars, produce, write and make the listener feel like you’re “in the club” with the band. From tricky time signature riffs to solos that every guitarist will try play in their local music shop (Stairway to Heaven), Jimmy compelled everyone to become an air guitarist, if not get a real guitar and become a star! (Think: Paul Stanley). Page is a guitarist’s guitarist. He’s versatile, melodic, and knows how to create a sonic assault with an army of tracks to show you he means business. His stock is paramount.

Cream - Wheels of Fire (1968)

The walls in rainy England had graffiti saying “Clapton is God.” With his searing riffs, woman-like tones, super speed, and phrasing that made him The Beatles’ number one guest guitarist proves that point! This double LP release has live tracks that are simply spine-tingling, the way Clapton converses with the late Jack Bruce, with Ginger Baker on the skins driving them on. It’s perfect rock improvisation. Add in a radio smash hit like White Room, with Eric’s solos being so musical and filled with tone to die for, phrased so magically. He shows the world his wizardry on the guitar with wah tones that would put that effect on every players’ pedal board. A master of tone, pure rock’n’roll royalty.

Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)

Like a super-charged Camaro that screams by you on the road, here’s a musician that took lead guitar to another level. You can hear the influences of the British players I love so much, but it’s all done with power and grace, with flash and fireworks off his hand built stripped guitars. EVH is a brand, an icon of modern lead guitar with attitude and tone with a super command of his instrument. His riffs on the debut release turned the rock world on in new directions that made my head spin. There were new licks on the horizon that I needed to understand and learn from this great American guitarist.

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Greg Prato

Contributing writer at Classic Rock magazine since 2004. He has written for other outlets over the years, and has interviewed some of his favourite rock artists: Black Sabbath, Rush, Kiss, The Police, Devo, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Soundgarden, Meat Puppets, Blind Melon, Primus, King’s X… heck, even William Shatner! He is also the author of quite a few books, including Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder And An Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon And Blind Melon, and MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video, among others.