Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

Oli Herbert – All That Remains

I remember the first time I heard the band. It was in 2008 and the “Overcome” album just dropped. I believe it was their fourth album.

At the time I had no idea how divisive this album was to their existing fan base. I read comments to reviews and YouTube videos that blasted this album.

One fan mentioned how the album is the mass marketed pop washed version of “The Fall of Ideals” (their much loved previous album). And as I type this, I still haven’t listened to the three albums before “Overcome”.

For me, “Overcome” made All That Remains (ATR) accessible and I’ve been a fan since. And ATR had the balls to go with what they believed was right at the point in time.

Because in music when you have public acceptance of your music/certain songs, you start to write similar songs so that the public acceptance remains. Some bands totally change styles while others do it within their style. ATR did it within their style.

Anyway the first track “Before The Damned” started blasting out of my headphones. It’s also by far the most heaviest track.

From 0 to 22 seconds, the snare and palm muted guitar pattern hooks you in straight away. It’s performed by syncopated military precision. Yeah it might sound generic but so did every pedal point riff on albums in the Eighties. And if you go back to the Seventies, a lot of albums had the same blues pedal point boogie going on.

From 22 to 33 seconds, the whole band is now grooving on the intro pattern, however this time the bass drum sounds out the intro riff and the other instruments play something a bit different, like open string melodic leads and what not.

From 34 to 55 seconds the verse rolls around. The riff again is generic but within the context of the song it works and the way the drums and guitars are synchronized is excellent.

But it‘s the Chorus from 56 seconds to 1.07 that seals the deal. I was hooked by how effortlessly ATR changed from the death metal verses to the hard rock arena chorus.

We will still set in motion
Changing of the time
We have not forgotten
We control our lives

Now every review I read blasted Labonte’s clean vocals and how they lacked depth, balls or there was too much auto tune.

Basically they all said that Labonte should not do clean vocals ever in the same way Bruce Dickinson should never attempt screamo/death metal vocals.

Even James Hetfield copped criticism for his vocals on the self titled Metallica album and the Load LP’s. But every artist needs to grow and try new things. These subjective debates is the reason why I love music. You can talk the whole day and night over differing viewpoints.

When I hear a song, I listen to it from a guitar point of view.

Does the song make me want to put down what I am doing and learn it?

And this song does.

Musically it’s excellent.

At 2.04 we get this head banging metal breakdown and the solo begins at 2.09 over that same head banging breakdown riff. The solo is chromatic and diminished, in the same way Randy Rhoads shreds on “Diary Of A Madman”. This concludes at 2.19. It sounds dissonant and atonal.

After two minutes and fifty seconds the song is done. So I listened again and again and again because it’s a lesson on no filler songwriting. It’s also a great lesson in the “Progress Is Derivative” model because the song takes a lot of their influences and puts it all together in an original way.

And the main man behind the guitar is Oli Herbert. A great guitar player, founding member of All That Remains and songwriter who passed away at 44.

Rest In Peace.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Coheed And Cambria

“Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures” is the new album. The title can turn people away who are not fans and to be honest these long album titles did sound peculiar and they triggered an interest for me back in 2007, however I still needed another recommendation to dive in.

It started with a recommendation that came from a Guitar World interview about the “No World For Tomorrow” album, which also came out in 2007 but I still did nothing with it.

Then a few months later I was given a burnt copy of “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth” by an old band member. I was at work and I couldn’t wait until I got home as I had some after work activities to do so I would have been home late. Anyway I placed the CD into the CD player of the PC, grabbed the shitty e-training headphones from work and pressed play.

The rest is history as I became a fan for life.

So here I am 11 years later and another new Coheed release has hit the streets. Being a fan, I have no problem spending the $172.95AUD for the Deluxe Box Set. I’ve done this same routine for the last four releases.

It’s another concept album.

My first concept experience was “Operation Mindcrime” from Queensryche, then “The Crimson Idol” from WASP and then “Streets: A Rock Opera” from Savatage. But Coheed take it to another level, with more or less each album except one being part of a concept story called “The Amory Wars”.

Here is a quick summary. There are more detailed ones out there.

A scientist called Sirius Amory discovers an energy source called “The Keywork” is actually souls who haven’t transcended. This happens on “The Afterman” album.

Many years later, a person called Wilhelm Ryan starts using the energy of the Keywork to murder and rule. Coheed and Cambria are robots created to destroy him. Along with a person called Inferno, who also is a robot, they attack Ryan’s fortress and manage to destroy it. But Ryan survives. However Coheed and Cambria think he’s dead. Thinking it’s over, their memory is wiped. This happens on “The Year Of The Black Rainbow”.

In “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” Coheed and Cambria get killed and their last surviving son, Claudio, is left to take up the charge. I’m still not sure how humanoid robots have children. But the recent Bladerunner movie also had this story arc.

Claudio finds out that he’s like the chosen one in “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth”.

In “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” there is a character called “The Writer” that starts to fuck up the story because he’s going through a relationship break up. It reminds me of the Matrix characters “The Keymaker” merged with “The Architect”.

In “No World For Tomorrow”, Claudio destroys the Keywork and releases the trapped souls. And the new album takes place after this event.

Now of you want to read reviews of the album I suggest you check out these reviews from Metal Injection and Rock Sins.

I more or less agree with everything they say. In my view, if the album music doesn’t convert new fans the narrative will. It’s a win-win for Coheed and Cambria.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Dynazty

Dynazty came onto my radar in 2016.

Actually I heard of em a few years before but avoided them because of the band name, thinking they would sound like Kiss, and why did they spell it with a ‘Z’.

They are a typical example of what its like to be involved in the music business today for a Swedish band. They exist completely off the mainstream radar screen, doing their thing and building their catalogue of songs. And eventually, people will notice. But it takes time. Hell, I’m a fan of their last three releases and I don’t even know who is in the band.

How is that possible?

It’s so far removed from the label gatekeeper 80’s/90’s model. Anyway I looked em up this time and here are the member’s. Nils Molin on vocals, George Harnsten Egg on drums, Rob Love Magnusson on guitar, Mike Lavér on guitars and Jonathan Olsson on bass. Yep, I can’t say I’ve heard of em.

The new album and number six overall is called “Firesign”. It’s a European sounding album, so it’s fitting that I am listening to it in Europe.

But it was album number four “Renatus” that hooked me in which I heard at the same time as album number five “Titanic Mass” in 2016.

And people are listening. Music is a lifers game. You’re either in it for life or it’s just a passing hobby.

And Dynazty are in it.

A label head would call this pop power rock. But I hate labels, so to me, it’s just a cool rock album with kick ass guitar solos. Actually really good guitar solos.

Breathe With Me

The kick ass intro gets the foot tapping, the vocal melodies gets the head nodding and when the guitar solo comes in, it’s got so many cool licks from sweep picking to legato lines to string skipping to pentatonic lines.

It’ll be cool to sit down and figure it all out.

The Grey

Any track that starts off with just drums and bass hooks me in. When the keys and guitars kick in, it’s melodic heaven.

And that guitar solo. It starts off with a repeating open string lick under changing chords. After that it’s time to tastefully shred.

If the first two songs don’t hook you, then the rest won’t.

In The Arms Of A Devil

One of the heavier tracks on the album and another guitar solo moment which hooks me.

My Darkest Hour

The vocal melodies, the symphonic music and that guitar solo. Brilliant. I scrubbed it back 8 times just to hear the lead again.

Will these songs sustain and penetrate?

Who knows.

I thought Dokken would rule the world and instead it ended up being Metallica.

Firesign

Rammstein riffs merged with In Flames riffs merged with Joey Tempest style vocals.

What’s not to like?

And when you add in another tasty guitar solo.

It’s perfect.

Follow Me

It’s everything that’s great about Euro Metal wrapped up in a 4 minute song.

And again the guitar leads shine.

The Light Inside The Tunnel

Malmsteen influences are all over this album, but by the last song it’s clear that the Dynazty guitarists have surpassed the Fury Master.

And apart from the symphonic nods, this song grooves. It has an addictive chorus on the album and another great guitar solo.

Check it out purely for the guitar heroes.

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Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Upbringings

I finally started reading “No Sleep Til Sudbury” by Brent Jensen. There’s no time like a holiday to catch up on reading. This book came into my radar because of a review and recommendation by Deke over at the Thunder Bay Blog.

If you want to read his review of the book, click here. If you want to read his 10 questions with author Brent Jensen, click here.

I’m half way through it.

If I was a sociologist, I would probably conclude that most hard rock fans probably came from a similar style of childhood/upbringing.

I grew up in a steel city and the plan was the same for all. Finish high school and get an apprenticeship at the local steel mill and eventually you’ll make tradesman and work until retirement with a nice little nest egg and a Government funded pension.

And maybe that worked out okay between the 50s to the mid 70s, but as Dylan said, the times started changing. The steel mill that used to employ 25,000 back in the mid 70s now employs 700. While my Dad worked his whole life there, I haven’t worked not one. I was a misfit falling in and out of jobs. Then again since 2003, I’ve been in the same IT job which I like. Funny how stabilization starts with marriage and debt.

And we fall in and out of love with our heroes/favorite bands as we get older. We are still tuned in to what is happening with the band but in a different way. We still might buy all their albums even if we don’t listen to them, because we are still fans. It makes sense in our minds.

And anyone who grew up in 80s has watched MTV or another music television show to record music film clips and if we didn’t have some clips, we found someone who did and we dubbed these music interviews and music clips between two videos, which normally took place over a weekend. Chuck in some mainstream and dirty movies to that dubbing marathon and suddenly you had a party weekend.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Look What The Copyright Dragged In

It’s sad reading the stories below, because it shows how far removed Copyright Law is from what it was intended to be.

There are copyright battles happening everywhere. Most of the news is on how the record labels and movie studios are calling on governments to pass stronger dictatorship style copyright laws which would give these organisations police like powers.

Because if being creative on the accounting side for the labels isn’t enough, they also need to have police gestapo like powers. And remember that Copyright was originally designed to help the creator of the art. However, it’s assisting the corporations to make billions of dollars while the creators make a lot less.

Remember the movie, “This Is Spinal Tap”. Well, the movie has made over $400 million in profits, however the co- creators have received $81 from merchandise sales and $98 from record sales.

If you think those amounts are pretty low, well the co-creators thought so as well, and off they went to court, for fraudulent accounting and to get the copyright back in the hands of the creators. And lucky for them they got a judge that saw their side, so the case is going to get interesting. Other cases, got judges that had backgrounds in the copyright industry, so guess how those cases turned out. A victory for the copyright corporation.

The “Spinal Tap” case is a perfect example of a large corporation using copyright to benefit the corporation instead of the creators. Unfortunately for UMG/Vivendi, the co-creators in this case, also found fame with “The Simpsons” and they have a voice in the market as powerful as the corporation.

In other copyright news, the creators of TV show “Empire” got sued by another person who claimed that “Empire” is based on his script called “Cream” which he pitched to the show runners 8 years ago. Both shows centred on a black record label executive.

Yep, that was the similarity between the two scripts and the judge basically said, an African-American, male record executive is un-protectable.

Is the creator of the “Cream” script to blame here?

No.

The blame rests solely with the movie studios and the record labels who lobbied hard to get copyright extended to these current terms (life of the creator plus 70 years). Instead of assisting the public domain and giving people an incentive to create, these organisations are intent on destroying the public domain and giving people an incentive to sue, because hey, someone stole their idea. Well think of another idea. Or take that original idea and make it better.

And speaking of long copyright terms, remember all those cases involving streaming company payments over pre-1972 recordings, because those high commercial recordings fall under various state laws in the US. Well, organisations were trying to get remastered editions of those recordings passed as new derivative originals so they could come under the current copyright laws that would only benefit the copyright holder, which as we know is usually the organisation and very rarely the creator.

Meanwhile, Disney made a doco about Michael Jackson and they used some of his music in it without asking the Jackson Estate.

The Estate didn’t like that and thought Disney should have asked for copyright permission, in the same way Disney asks other documentary makers to seek copyright permissions from Disney when they make documentaries on Disney. So Disney cited the principle of fair use, a small section in Copyright law, Disney and other large organisations tried to kill off as their actual defence.

Funny how a large corporation which tried to kill off fair use in various copyright revisions are now using it as their defence.

And the copyright dispute is still going on, but it never should have even been an issue. Both organisations are holding on to intellectual property that should be in the public domain because the creator of the said works is dead.

If the creator dies, then there are no more works from that creator, so their previous works fall out of Copyright and become part of the public domain. It’s exactly how the 60s music explosion happened.

And what about YouTube’s Content ID system taking down works that are copyright free.

Isn’t it funny (a lot of sarcasm here) as to how an algorithm created by YouTube to protect the interests of the copyright holders (mainly the large organisations) is now over protecting them, to the detriment of the public domain.

Read the Torrentfreak article to find out how much time is being wasted to “protect the interests of large corporations”. A Professor uploads copyright free music and YouTube is taking them down. Time wasted. The Professor then counter claims and YouTube then restores. Time wasted again to be back at the start again. And the way the algorithm works, it will pick up these videos again in due time.

Seriously, this is the world that Copyright controlled by Corporations has created and for YouTube to exist they needed to create something for the Corporations. And if users uploading copyright free music isn’t a problem, then allowing websites to stream rip videos from YouTube is a problem to the large copyright organisations.

I think people are forgetting that the “users” of the service are responsible for how they use the service. And if the record labels can’t get the message that the users are sending them, then they will continue to miss business opportunities to monetise these users. These users go to so much effort to find videos and use another third party software to stream rip that video. That is a lot of effort there by a user to own music in a digital form.

And YouTube is still in the firing line for not paying the copyright holders fairly. They seem to make billions in ad-revenue and pay thousands to artists.

The article states:

Artists claim that a song needs to be streamed 51.1 million times before they can make the average UK annual salary of £27,600. Revenue is based on the number of streams a video has received and funded through advertising.

It is claimed that YouTube pays creators 0.00054p per stream of music, meaning a track that is streamed one million times would earn about £540. Artists say that 85% of YouTube’s visitors come to the site for music, contributing £2.33 billion to the website’s revenue in 2017.

It’s a new world we live in. People want to get paid right away, even if they have a hundred thousand views. But be careful what you wish for.

Organisations like YouTube have given artists access to a world-wide market instantly. If you compare now to the past,  for an artist in the record label controlled era up to when Napster hit our internet lines, artists needed a record label and a lot of money behind them to have access to a world-wide market.

And this is the model the record labels want back. The gatekeeper control model. And misguided artists are pushing for it. Scary if you ask me.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Plagiarists or innovators? The Led Zeppelin paradox endures

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here:

(THE CONVERSATION) Fifty years ago – in September 1968 – the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin first performed together, kicking off a Scandinavian tour billed as the New Yardbirds.

The new, better name would come later that fall, while drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980 effectively ended their decade-defining reign. But to this day, the band retains the same iconic status it held back in the 1970s: It ranks as one of the best-selling music acts of all time and continues to shape the sounds of new and emerging groups young enough to be the band members’ grandchildren.

Yet, even after all this time – when every note, riff and growl of Zeppelin’s nine-album catalog has been pored over by fans, cover artists and musicologists – a dark paradox still lurks at the heart of its mystique. How can a band so slavishly derivative – and sometimes downright plagiaristic – be simultaneously considered so innovative and influential?

How, in other words, did it get to have its custard pie and eat it, too?

As a scholar who researches the subtle complexities of musical style and originality as well as the legal mechanisms that police and enforce them, such as copyright law, I find this a particularly devilish conundrum. The fact that I’m also a bassist in a band that fuses multiple styles of music makes it personal.

A pattern of ‘borrowing’

For anyone who quests after the holy grail of creative success, Led Zeppelin has achieved something mythical in stature: a place in the musical firmament, on its own terms, outside of the rules and without compromise.

When Led Zeppelin debuted its eponymous first album in 1969, there’s no question that it sounded new and exciting. My father, a baby boomer and dedicated Beatles fan, remembers his chagrin that year when his middle school math students threw over the Fab Four for Zeppelin, seemingly overnight. Even the stodgy New York Times, which decried the band’s “plastic sexual superficiality,” felt compelled, in the same article, to acknowledge its “enormously successful … electronically intense blending” of musical styles.

Yet, from the very beginning, the band was also dogged with accusations of musical pilfering, plagiarism and copyright infringement – often justifiably.

The band’s first album, “Led Zeppelin,” contained several songs that drew from earlier compositions, arrangements and recordings, sometimes with attribution and often without. It included two Willie Dixon songs, and the band credited both to the influential Chicago blues composer. But it didn’t credit Anne Bredon when it covered her song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”

The hit “Dazed and Confused,” also from that first album, was originally attributed to Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. However in 2010, songwriter Jake Holmes filed a lawsuit claiming that he’d written and recorded it in 1967. After the lawsuit was settled out of court, the song is now credited in the liner notes of re-releases as “inspired by” Holmes.

The band’s second album, “Led Zeppelin II,” picked up where the first left off. Following a series of lawsuits, the band agreed to list Dixon as a previously uncredited author on two of the tracks, including its first hit single, “Whole Lotta Love.” An additional lawsuit established that blues legend Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett was a previously uncredited author on another track called “The Lemon Song.”

Musical copyright infringement is notoriously challenging to establish in court, hence the settlements. But there’s no question the band engaged in what musicologists typically call “borrowing.” Any blues fan, for instance, would have recognized the lyrics of Dixon’s “You Need Love” – as recorded by Muddy Waters – on a first listen of “Whole Lotta Love.”

Dipping into the commons or appropriation?

Should the band be condemned for taking other people’s songs and fusing them into its own style?

Or should this actually be a point of celebration?

The answer is a matter of perspective. In Zeppelin’s defense, the band is hardly alone in the practice. The 1960s folk music revival movement, which was central to the careers of Baez, Holmes, Bredon, Dixon and Burnett, was rooted in an ethic that typically treated musical material as a “commons” – a wellspring of shared culture from which all may draw, and to which all may contribute.

Most performers in the era routinely covered “authorless” traditional and blues songs, and the movement’s shining star, Bob Dylan, used lyrical and musical pastiche as a badge of pride and display of erudition – “Look how many old songs I can cram into this new song!” – rather than as a guilty, secret crutch to hold up his own compositions.

Why shouldn’t Zeppelin be able to do the same?

On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the racial dynamics inherent in Led Zeppelin’s borrowing. Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf were African-Americans, members of a subjugated minority who were – especially back then – excluded from reaping their fair share of the enormous profits they generated for music labels, publishers and other artists.

Like their English countrymen Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin’s attitude toward black culture seems eerily reminiscent of Lord Elgin’s approach to the marble statues of the Parthenon and Queen Victoria’s policy on the Koh-i-Noor diamond: Take what you can and don’t ask permission; if you get caught, apologize without ceding ownership.

Led Zeppelin was also accused of lifting from white artists such as Bredon and the band Spirit, the aggrieved party in a recent lawsuit over the rights to Zeppelin’s signature song “Stairway to Heaven.” Even in these cases, the power dynamics were iffy.

Bredon and Spirit are lesser-known composers with lower profiles and shallower pockets. Neither has benefited from the glow of Zeppelin’s glory, which has only grown over the decades despite the accusations and lawsuits leveled against them.

A matter of motives

So how did the band pull it off, when so many of its contemporaries have been forgotten or diminished?

How did it find and keep the holy grail?

What makes Led Zeppelin so special?

I could speculate about its cultural status as an avatar of trans-Atlantic, post-hippie self-indulgence and “me generation” rebellion. I could wax poetic about its musical fusion of pre-Baroque and non-Western harmonies with blues rhythms and Celtic timbres. I could even accuse it, as many have over the years, of cutting a deal with the devil.

Instead, I’ll simply relate a personal anecdote from almost 20 years ago. I actually met frontman Robert Plant. I was waiting in line at a lower Manhattan bodega around 2 a.m. and suddenly realized Plant was waiting in front of me. A classic Chuck Berry song was playing on the overhead speakers. Plant turned to look at me and mused, “I wonder what he’s up to now?” We chatted about Berry for a few moments, then paid and went our separate ways.

Brief and banal though it was, I think this little interlude – more than the reams of music scholarship and journalism I’ve read and written – might hold the key to solving the paradox.

Maybe Led Zeppelin is worthy because, like Sir Galahad, the knight who finally gets the holy grail, its members’ hearts were pure.

During our brief exchange, it was clear Plant didn’t want to be adulated – he didn’t need his ego stroked by a fawning fan. Furthermore, he and his bandmates were never even in it for the money. In fact, for decades, Zeppelin refused to license its songs for television commercials. In Plant’s own words, “I only wanted to have some fun.”

Maybe the band retained its fame because it lived, loved and embodied rock and roll so absolutely and totally – to the degree that Plant would start a conversation with a total stranger in the middle of the night just to chat about one of his heroes.

This love, this purity of focus, comes out in its music, and for this, we can forgive Led Zeppelin’s many trespasses.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, My Stories, Stupidity

Solo

Full disclosure, I’m a Star Wars fan and I devoured the Expanded Universe content that Disney threw away when they purchased Star Wars.

So, I finally got around to watching “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. I heard the stories of the troubled shoot, the director change and further reshoots.

Eventually the movie is completed and Disney tells every news media it’s expecting a loss on it before it even comes out. Not a good start.

Anyway the movie comes out, in a post “Last Jedi” world, and its basically a heist movie with double crosses, criminal gangs and action scenes. A “Fast And Furious” styled flick set in a galaxy far far away. The concept is good.

But I’m asking myself what is the point of the movie?

I have a similar feeling about the Boba Fett movie in the works.

What is the point of the movie?

If anything the Expanded Universe books which existed before Disney purchased Star Wars told the story better. But those books are not canon.

At least in the Marvel world when the Origin stories come out of certain characters, it feeds the larger Avengers story arc.

We already knew Han did the Kessel Run in record time, did we need to see someone’s version of it?

Actually Lucas and the original trilogy script writers did such a good job explaining the back story of Han that a movie showing his back story wasn’t required.

“Solo” has Lawrence Kasdan and his son, Jonathan Kasdan writing. Lawrence wrote “Empire Strikes Back”, “Return Of The Jedi”, “Indiana Jones” movies and a lot more. Lawrence wrote the first “Solo” draft and then handed it over to his son, when he was given “The Force Awakens” draft to write (which also involved re-writes).

It looks like the original Directors couldn’t bring it too life and Ron Howard tried his best to bring an uninspiring script back to life.

The problem these days is movies have a lot of action scenes and hardly any good dialogue scenes. Meanwhile TV shows are winning the story script war hands down.

And do movies need to cost $300 million plus to make. In my view the higher the cost of the movie, the less story it has. And people are attached to a story.

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