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1986 – Part 3.3: Savatage – Fight For The Rock

My journey began with “Gutter Ballet” and moved forward with “Streets: A Rock Opera” before going back to the earlier albums.

So even though “Fight For The Rock” was released in 1986, it wasn’t until the early 90’s that I heard it.

I studied WW2 in History a fair bit and the cover is instantly recognisable recreating the “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photo and cancel culture today has found this recreation to be offensive or insensitive.

Who would have thought?

The band for the album is “the classic line-up” in Jon Oliva on vocals and piano, Criss Oliva (RIP) on guitars, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass and Steve Doc Wacholz on drums.

The Paul O’Neill co-writes and production credits was still an album away, so this album is produced by Stephan Galfas, who had had worked with Stryper on “To Hell With The Devil”, Meatloaf’s ignored “Dead Ringer” album and a few John Waite albums before he worked with Savatage. Post Savatage he worked on Saxon’s much maligned but a favourite to me, “Destiny” album.

The band members have voiced their displeasure with the album.

You will read the usual “record label wanted us to make it” or “pressured us to make it” phrases mentioned but if the album did well commercially, then the narrative from the band members might be very different.

For the record, I hate the power the labels had back then. They could make or break a career.

But in the end, they are in the money making business and they would do whatever it takes to make money.

If Savatage said “NO” to the record label demands, it would be career suicide. So caught between a rock and a hard place, I suppose they really had to “fight for the rock” on this one, so they could get another chance at making an album.

Musically, its Savatage as I know em. Lyrically, they are a bit different.

The Fight For The Rock

A Criss Oliva riff starts the album, rooted in the sound of heavy metal that I like.

“Warriors of the fight, you are in force tonight”, says Jon Oliva, about rock being here to stay. By 1986, it was all overused cliches.

At 2.04, it goes into a synth lick before it builds up into the solo section, which is essential listening for any guitarist.

Out On The Streets

It feels like a 70’s cut, with its acoustic guitar arpeggios and weird synth sounds.

By the time the Chorus rolls around, the major chords make it sound happy, while the lyrics are about feeling sad due to a romance falling apart.

Press play for the brief acoustic guitar melodic lick after the Chorus.

And I like the solo from Criss Oliva, it’s got blues and fast melodic legato lines with inventive phrasing.

Crying For Love

The intro with violins and fingerpicked clean tone guitars is a great listen but misleading when it comes to the song because it’s a rocker, with a classic Savatage riff from Criss Oliva in the verses.

The Chorus is Hard AOR Rock. It’s an obvious attempt.

Criss Oliva knows how to create a lead. He starts off with some fast open string pull off licks before going into his usual fast legato lines.

Day After Day

A Badfinger cover and that 70’s “Leader Of The Pack” vibe comes through.

The Edge Of Midnight

An Andrew Lloyd Webber “Phantom Of The Opera” organ begins the song, which brings in some classical elements. Lyrically it’s not the best, but musically the riffs are an amalgamation of hard rock and heavy metal.

Check out the verse riff, Skid Row would use riffs like this on two multi-platinum albums.

Hyde

There’s some good progressive metal like riffs here.

How good is it the way Jon Oliva sings “Hy-I-ide” and then Criss Oliva mimics the vocal melody the next repeat?

Lady In Disguise

A riff similar to “Wishing Well” is the centrepiece of this song. It’s almost Queen like in its musical composition.

She’s Only Rock N Roll

The main riff (which is also the verse riff) is classic Savatage, which also reminds me of Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

Check out the lead break.

Wishing Well

A Free cover and I think this was my first exposure to this song. The slight increase in tempo makes the track sound more metal than rock.

Musically, it’s a great song and the vocal melodies from Paul Rodgers, delivered by Jon Oliva are excellent

Red Light Paradise

It sounds like soundtrack music and for some reason, the “Cobra” movie with Stallone comes to mind.

To repeat, musically its good, lyrically it could be better but the sound is still Savatage.

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12 thoughts on “1986 – Part 3.3: Savatage – Fight For The Rock

      • Henrik says:

        Indeed, Savatage is like JP with a mix and match of classical vibes (Hall of the Mountain King) and progressive metal (Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera and Edge of Thorns). Compared to them Fight For The Rock was an odd release, especially after Power of the Night, which is pure metal.

        Anyway, I have always considered Savatage as one of the greatest “unknown” metal bands and somehow cheesy and disappointing Fight For The Rock underlines their greatness. Hall of the Mountain King was an impressive comeback, a true masterpiece, and later albums are almost as good.

      • Got it. Judas Priest was too hard for me back then and I was wrong as they wouldn’t have been if I would have listened to an album. So maybe it would’ve been the same with Savatage.

      • I think so.

        Their main influences include bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Van Halen, Rainbow, UFO, Rush, Queen, Scorpions, Accept and Jethro Tull.

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