Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Dream Theater – The Silent Man (CD Single)

Do you know how hard it is to find a Dream Theater single in Australia?

And as soon as I found one, I purchased it straight away. But I haven’t found any singles since and in the 2000’s I just stopped looking for em in the record shops.

“The Silent Man” is the third EP released by Dream Theater in 1994.

The personnel for the band was Mike Portnoy – Drums, John Petrucci – Guitar, John Myung – Bass, Kevin Moore – Keyboard and James LaBrie – Vocals.

John Purdell and Duane Baron are producing the songs “Eve” and “The Silent Man”.

Eve

I actually purchased the single for the song “Eve”. At the time it was an unreleased bonus track.

It’s an instrumental, but it’s not the kind of instrumental you think with a thousand notes per minute. There is emotion and feel. Kevin Moore on the piano lays down most of the music which belongs to a soundtrack in a film.

His keys and piano riffs dominate the song and then there is Petrucci, who knows which notes to wrestle out of his fingers with his melodic leads. Especially that lead from 4.02. Press play on it.

Close you eyes and let the music take you to a peaceful time. It’s soothing, I could use it to meditate to.

Take the Time (demo)

This demo along with a few other songs, are part of “the” demo tape that got them their ATCO deal for the “Images And Words” album.

The Silent Man

It’s an acoustic song, and man can Petrucci write a complicated acoustic song with unique chord voices.

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

Australian Method Series: Cold Chisel – Cold Chisel

1976 saw AC/DC’s first internationally-released album, “High Voltage”. The demand for Oz Rock was already on the up.

Enter Cold Chisel.

After years of hitting every place and pub in Australia and drinking those places dry with their road crew, or getting banned due to fighting, Cold Chisel finally got a record deal and released their first album on WEA/Elektra in 1978.

But.

If you ever caught the band live, the self-titled debut sounded nothing like the band did on stage.

They also had a producer that kept telling em that live is live and the studio is the studio. They cannot intersect. Well tell that to Bob Rock who made it his mission to capture how good a band sounded live, in the studio.

Before the album was even released “Khe San” was already a crowd favourite however it was a lot faster live than the studio version. But there is something special about the slowed down studio version as well.

Juliet

It’s a rocker, more STYX like with a little bit of “Evie” from Stevie Wright and “Mississippi Queen” from Mountain.

Khe Sanh

“Khe Sanh” was released as a 45 rpm single in May 1978. It captures, the despair and the anger of an Australian Vietnam war veteran. There were no parades for these guys. They came back home, hated. And the promises made by the Government to look after them never came to be.

It was banned from commercial radio as the lyrics had references of sex and drugs. Lines like these were scandalous. “And their legs were often open/But their minds were always closed”.

But a great song is never born from marketing. It’s from word of mouth.

And the Battle of Khe Sanh was fought mainly by US Marines but this didn’t matter.

The piano riff is rocking and the best part of the song is when Jimmy Barnes sings, “the last plane out of Sydney is almost gone”.

And maybe all of us were a bit damaged as well so the song resonated with a lot of people who had addictions and couldn’t make meaningful contact with woman, and the need for casual sex with East Asian women.

Home And Broken Hearted

The verse riff reminds me of AC/DC, who were influenced by Chuck Berry.

One Long Day

The bass rumbles while the piano plays a jazzy riff that reminds me of “Long Way To The Top”. And it takes a left turn when it changes to lounge rock.

Northbound

Blues rock at its best

Rosaline

It could be a STYX or Bee Gees cut. It’s almost progressive the way Don Walker plays the piano.

Daskarzine

Its fast and aggressive.

Almost Rose Tattoo like and when “they speak her name in cheap hotels/From Turkey to Marseille” we get an understanding as to who Daskarzine is.

Just How Many Times

Its lounge jazz blues rock, slow and relaxed. The lyrical message is more important than the rest. Barnesy is a crooner on this, an R&B style of crooner.

They never got the big break in North America that they wanted, but it’s pretty hard to sell your act when your lyrics paint a picture of Australia.

And we loved em for it.

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

Al Pitrelli – 1993 to 1996

And we continue with Al Pitrelli’s story.

By 1993, a lot of artists who got their break in the 80’s had nothing doing. Even his band Danger Danger was struggling. Their album “Screw It”, released in 1991 got zero skulls out of 5 in the reviews I came across. The reviewers had enough of song titles like “Slipped Her The Big One” and “Horny S.O.B”.

The million bucks spent on the album would never be recouped, the band got dropped and it took another four years for Danger Danger to resurface with “Dawn” in 1995 on an unknown label.

But before they got dropped by Epic, there was an attempted album called “Cockroach” scheduled for 1993, however vocalist Ted Poley sought legal action to prevent it from being released as Bruno Ravel fired Poley after the album was completed and then got Paul Laine to re-sing it.

Due to the court case, Epic shelved the album but money talks and in 2001, it was finally released with Disc 1 being the Paul Laine version and Disc 2 being the Ted Poley version.

But while old friends had their various issues, Al Pitrelli was steaming ahead.

He was doing studio work with artists like Taylor Dayne. At this point of her career, Dayne was on fire, and a lot of money was thrown her way by the label for her third album. A lot of great songwriters were commissioned to work with Dayne and they bring their own players. Pitrelli on this case, played guitar on two tracks “Dance With A Stranger” and “I Could Be Good For You” on Dayne’s “Soul Dancing” album released in 1993. And like his previous studio work, Pitrelli was asked to perform again on a cut written by Diane Warren (“I Could Be Good For You”). I guess he had the soft rock mojo Warren was looking for.

His “Coven Pitrelli O’Reilly” project released “CPR” in 1993.

His “Morning Wood” project finally saw a self-titled release in 1994 (in Japan only and it wasn’t until 2002 that it saw a European release), along with Asia (“Aria”), Widowmaker (“Stand By For Pain”), the self-titled “Ten Ton Tide” album and “Out Of Control” by TM Stevens.

The “Morning Wood” band was Pitrelli’s old pal, Chuck Bonafante on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitars, Tony Harnell from TNT on vocals and Danny Miranda on bass and keyboards. The album was all acoustic, mainly covers with a few originals.

The “Stand By For Pain” by Widowmaker is an album to be spoken of highly in relation to Hard Rock/Groove Metal. But like the heavy rock Widowmaker debut, it is largely ignored or forgotten. Dee Snider couldn’t catch a break post Twisted Sister, however he has shown his resilience, slowly rising back up year by year, first by a radio show, then as a screenwriter/director and when Twisted Sister reformed in the piracy decades, they were surprised to see that their music was more popular than ever.

Pitrelli also helped an old mate in Derek Sherinian get the keyboard job with Dream Theater after the departure of Kevin Moore. Al Pitrelli and John Petrucci used to teach guitar at a Long Island Guitar store, and Pitrelli put a call in to Petrucci to hire Sherinian who Gene Simmons described as the love child of Paul Stanley and Cher.

Pitrelli was also back in Asia for another album called “Aria” released in 1994. This period is known as the John Payne period. Al Pitrelli played on the previous album “Aqua” but didn’t tour. He played on “Aria” and went on tour this time, however after 4 concerts the tour was cancelled. Pitrelli left the tour early (how early can you leave a 4 show tour) and was replaced by ex-Simply Red guitarist Aziz Ibrahim for the other few shows. The album was also a complete commercial failure.

Another project called Ten Ton Tide released their self-titled debut. The band is listed as “Hard Rock” and “Prog Rock”. If you like Rush, then this band definitely fits the bill. This YouTube video is the only thing I could find on the project but it’s not the album that Pitrelli played on.

The band for the debut album is Jim Toscano on drums, Anthony Tirado is on Bass and Rhythm Guitar, Rob Glick is also on Bass and Guitar, Dan Gibson is on keyboards, Al Pitrelli and Zak Rizvi are on Lead and Rhythm Guitars and Dennes Cynd is on Vocals and Violin. One review mentioned the singer as a cross between Mick Jagger and Kip Winger. But I don’t hear that.

1994 or 1995 also saw a release from “TM Stevens – Out Of Control” called “Boom”, a fusion of hard rock, funk, rhythm and blues and metal.

For those who don’t know, TM Stevens is an American bass guitarist from New York City. He was a go to session guy and if you purchased a Billy Squier album, there is a chance you heard TM playing bass on it. The same goes for Pretenders, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Taylor Dayne, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, Riot, Billy Joel and Steve Vai. And it was James Brown who got TM to sing. You know the track, “Living In America”. One of the voices on it is TM.

Apart from Al Pitrelli playing on the first album “Boom”, Richie Kotzen and Al Pitrelli both play on “Sticky Wicked” released in 1996.

In relation to “Boom”, check out the songs, “Supernatural”, “I’m A Believer” (a totally different song to the one you are probably thinking off), “The Gift”, “Hair”, “What About Love” and “Freedom (Never Gonna Give It Up)”.

Savatage were about to be dropped by Atlantic. They had given the band advances for each album and to the label, they never recouped that advance. Pitrelli was the studio player Paul O’Neill brought in to play lead guitar on their last album, “Dead Winter Dead”, released in 1995.

He went on a European tour with them as a hired gun and was to have no more involvement with the band after that.

But.

Something happened.

The song “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) was a hard rock mash up of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol Of The Bells”. The guitar leads you hear on the track that a violin normally plays are from the fingers of Al Pitrelli. And when Savatage returned to the U.S, this song had crossed over into the Charts and became a holiday favourite.

When there is a hit, expect a new album to come out. Savatage went back into the studio with Paul O’Neill producing again, but this time around, Pitrelli was a fully-fledged member, playing all the guitars and he was known as the “musical director” of the band. But Savatage was seen as a heavy metal band, and some due diligence by the label suggested that they should change the name of the band for this Christmas themed album.

And “Trans-Siberian Orchestra” was born. Otherwise known as “TSO”.

Also in 1995, a few other projects that Pitrelli was involved in got a release. The band “Place Called Rage” released their self-titled debut. Joe Lynn Turner released “Nothing’s Changed” and “Mojo Bros.” released their self-titled debut.

The “Place Called Rage” band had a few friends from the 80’s, like Chuck Bonafante on drums, Danny Miranda on bass and Tommy Farese on vocals. Released in 1995, it’s a great slab of hard rock rooted in the 70’s Rock movement with a lot of Springsteen style “Americana Rock” thrown in.

The Joe Lynn Turner album “Nothing’s Changed” is also rooted in 70’s Rock. Almost Bad Company like. Pitrelli co-wrote 4 tracks with JLT and also Co-Produced the album with JLT. Other musicians to play on it are Greg Smith on bass, John O’Reilly on drums, with keys being provided by Gary Corbet, Derek Sherinian and Al Pitrelli. This is another great slab of hard melodic rock, lost in the noise of 1995.

The Mojo Bros. self-titled debut is hard to find. A few YouTube clips exist and that’s it. Joe Lynn Turner and TM Stevens even appear on their Temptation’s cover “Ball Of Confusion”. The music is mostly instrumental except when they get in a guest singer for a cover song. The band is Danny Miranda on bass, Joe Franco on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitars and Derek Sherinian on keyboards. These three albums released in 1995 are not on Spotify.

1996 brings us to Vertex.

The “A/2” album from Arcade disappeared from stores as soon as it was released. The music that Stephen Pearcy made a living off was out of style. So Vertex was born when Pearcy was asked to be part of an industrial band by Japanese drummer Hiro Kuretani. Al Pitrelli joined on guitar and Juan Croucier from Ratt was meant to be the bassist, however that spot went to Robbie Crane from Vince Neil’s solo band for the tour. Al Pitrelli plays the bass parts on the album except for two songs (“Time And Time” and “Aint Gonna Be”) in which Bob Daisley plays the bass. Fate would have it that Crane would became the Ratt bassist as well afterwards. In a dropping the names moment, the guitarist in Arcade Johnny Angel had a connection with Al Pitrelli from their brief Talas days.

Vertex was way ahead of their time. Musically, Vertex sounded like a cross between Rammstein (before anyone knew of Rammstein globally), the hard rock genre and Megadeth. Pearcy even sounds like Dave Mustaine in the vocal department. I believe critics just saw it as a glam rocker faking his way through the 90’s pretending to be industrial. But Pearcy is really good on this and the album is forgotten. “Industrial RATT” is a term that I came across a fair bit in the YouTube comments section. The bands Orgy, Coal Chamber, Snot, Static X, Powerman 500, Stabbing Westward and early Filter all sounded very similar to what Vertex was doing.

Another release that happened in 1996, was from the “Trans-Siberian Orchestra” (TSO) who dropped the “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” album around the Holiday season and man, it sold. 3 plus million is sales in the U.S for a triple platinum certification. A tour was organised in the U.S and it sold like crazy as well. The fusion of hard rock, progressive rock, classical and Christmas themed music with a bit of blues rock and jazz found itself an audience. A large one at that. And for the audience it was all about the experience.

After a long time as a journey man, a session guru and as a band member/leader trying to get a project up and running, Pitrelli had a project that would provide him with stability and success.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – April 24 to May 1

2018 (4 Years Ago)

THE DIY ROUTE

Vice News at the time had a great 5 minute segment on an artist who built his career off streaming.

He was offered a major record deal and turned it down. The highest offer was a $250K advance and a $300K recording budget. A lot of people would have taken the offer and become slaves to a system designed to favour the record label. But he turned them down, because the terms bothered him.

He looks at the money from a 100% pot. So when the label is offering him an 18% royalty rate, what is happening to the other 82% of monies earned?

So the artist and his manager invested $30K of their own monies to record the debut album.

They then went on a 3 month tour using streaming data to lead the way. In one month, the artist made $25K from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple music. His team mines the data from those streams to find out exactly where and when a show will sell out, spending $18 a day on ads to target those cities.

Super fans are fans of the artist who have streamed the music for 45 days in a row. For example in Philadelphia, the artist had 13,600 listeners and 3,186 super fans. They used this data to target ads in Philadelphia and sold out the venue.

STILL ON SYKES

By 2018, it was over 2 years since Sykes announced a new solo album was in the works. And 18 years since his last studio album.

The new music paradigm is to release music and to keep on releasing music. The listener decides what to listen to.

It’s a scary thought for the artist, especially legacy artists who are used to the comfort metrics of the past, like a large advanced payment.

Funny thing is, Europe and Bon Jovi had bigger recording and marketing budgets for the follow up albums “Out Of This World” and “New Jersey” and they didn’t even get close to the traction and numbers of their breakthrough albums. It doesn’t mean the albums are crap, however it shows a scorched earth marketing policy is not a guarantee of global reach. Both acts had more money thrown at them for “Prisoners In Paradise” and “Keep The Faith” and again, they failed to get the public acceptance that “The Final Countdown” and “Slippery When Wet” got.

8 Years Ago (2014)

CHILL OUT

One thing about the world of heavy metal and hard rock is that we never took ourselves too seriously. It was always a camaraderie, a culture to have “Nothin But A Good Time”.

When Zakk Wylde was playing “In This River” at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in 2014 as a tribute for the fallen rockers and a picture of Jani Lane from Warrant came up, and it stated, “Jani Lane, Motorhead, 1964-2011”, it was just one of those things we had to laugh about.

QUEENSRYCHE vs THE VOICE OF QUEENSRYCHE

It was the gift that kept on giving. Geoff Tate was known as “The Voice Of Queensryche” after the split before he became “Operation Mindcrime” or whatever else he was known as. And Queensryche hired Todd LaTorre who decided to accumulate stuff from the other guys in the band and sell it on eBay.

LIZZARD

A band from France formed in 20016, which is a mixture of alternative rock and metal music on a background of progressive and experimental grooves.

The Tool influence is very prominent but there are overtones of at least four other bands like Chevelle, Earshot, 10 Years and Karnivool.

“Out Of Reach” was released in 2012 and that was the album I was cranking in 2014. Many years later when I became a heavy Spotify user, I reconnected with the bands music and saw that they had a 2014 album called “Majestic”, an album called “Shift” released in 2018 and an album called “Eroded” released in 2021.

Check em out.

NEW MUSIC (circa 2014)

Chevelle – La Gargola

Chevelle blew my mind when they came out with their Tool infused pop stylings.

It was perfect back in 2002 and 2004. Now it is getting old. Still good, but old like AC/DC.

Sebastian Bach – Give Em Hell

Sabo and Bolan couldn’t get signed with all of the previous vocalists and then Sebastian comes on the scene and suddenly the band is hot and dangerous.

With this solo album, Bach is in top form. It is a solid album from start to finish with each song written by a who’s who list of musicians and producers.

James Durbin – Celebrate

The memories of Durbin doing “You Got Another Thing Coming” from Judas Priest on American Idol still live on. And the debut album comes out and the opening track “Higher Than Heaven” blows me away with its heaviness and popiness.

And here we are in 2014. If you want to hear James Durbin try to be like Kate Perry or One Direction then press play on this. Noteworthy tracks are “Louder Than A Loaded Gun”, “Real Love” and “Children Of The Sun”. The rest not so much.

Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican

Zakk was just a skinny little blonde kid when he joined Ozzy and now he is a Viking marauder, ready to take over this town. I like Black Label Society for the same reason I like AC/DC. You know what you are gonna get and it is a good thing. It’s groovy hard rock and metal, with Zakk’s Ozzy meets Layne Staley style vocal phrasing.

“My Dying Day” is a full strength brewski. “Angel Of Mercy” for a ballad is also a full strength brewski with an unbelievable guitar solo. “Damn The Flood” has a Goddam wah-drenched solo section. So another brewski for that. “Empty Promises” is a double full strength brewski.

The Used – Imaginary Enemy

My first exposure to The Used was in the first “Transformers” movie and that car chase scene between Bumblebee and the Decepticon Police Car. I loved the riff, so I tracked down the soundtrack and found out that the song was called “Pretty Handsome Awkward” from a band called The Used.

But I have no idea what The Used is trying to achieve with this album. I’m hearing it and I am thinking about the latest Daughtry album which alienated the hard core fans in its quest for the One Direction and Train pop dollars.

In music, your only as good as the last song you released or the last album you put out or the last show you played.

WORK ETHICS

Music is forever.

Paul Kossoff’s career was short at 25 years of age. As a guitarist he was always looking to “have a jam”.

Randy Rhoads just wanted to play guitar, as he even took classical lessons while on tour with Ozzy and then copping a punch in the face from Ozzy when he told him that he wanted out.

Jimi Hendrix was always booking studio time and running his different bands through jam sessions over and over again.

Chuck Schuldiner was a technical death metaller who just wanted to be a guitarist in a band and he finally achieved that dream with “Voodoocult” and the progressive “Control Denied”.

They all wanted to create.

Paul Kossoff was involved in 10 studio albums and 2 live albums between 1969 to 1976. Talk about jamming up a storm.

Jimi Hendrix was prolific. Apart from the official releases (three within a year), Hendrix created a musical vault so deep, his family members are still making money from his legacy.

Dimebag Darrell had 4 independent releases and close to 10 years of experience under his belt before “Cowboys From Hell” opened the door for a bigger stage to play on.

Chuck Schuldiner was involved in 9 albums between 1987 and 1999.

It’s always been tough for new bands or artists to make it. From the sixties to now, that toughness hasn’t changed.

THE COVER SONG

My first introduction into Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine was from the Kerrang “Master of Puppets” 20 Year Anniversary album.

My initial interest to hear the album was because Machine Head was covering “Battery”. So after they blew me away with their downtuned cover, along came Trivium with their cover of the title track. Bullet For My Valentine didn’t set the world on fire with their cover of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium) however they did enough to get me interested in it.

So I started to seek out the original music of Trivium and BFMV. All because of a cover song.

“Hey Joe” didn’t do much for “The Leaves” in 1965, however it was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first hit single in 1966. “All Along the Watchtower” these days is well-known as a Hendrix psychedelic groove rock song instead of a Dylan folk song.

As good as the VH debut album is/was, they still needed something familiar for the audience and “You Really Got Me” was the song. “Hard To Handle” was the breakthrough hit single for “The Black Crowes” in 1990 and it is a cover song from 1968, originally written by Otis Redding.

Quiet Riot went platinum in 1983, with “Cum On Feel The Noize” and it was a cover song from 1973.

“Black Magic Woman” is known as Carlos Santana’s flagship song, however it is a cover from the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac.

Cover songs are the doorway to the other treasures that lay in waiting for artists. Find a great tune and get cranking on a kick-ass remake/re-imagining of it. You never know how it could connect as music has a way of making peculiar connections.

RECORD LABEL GREED

The major Record Labels own the majority of copyrights and don’t they love to overvalue their content.

The RIAA has never stopped lobbying the Government to pass laws that will protect their business models. Even Irving Azoff still blames technology for diminishing the music business profits instead of blaming the real devil, which is the GREED of the POWER PLAYERS. Someone like Azoff built a career on the backs of the songs that artists created.

Very few artists ever “recouped” even after the labels made back many times what they actually gave the artists.

RATT sold 7.5 million albums in the U.S alone which meant total gross sales of $75 million. Even if the label gave them $1 million dollar advances for each album, that is $5 million the label would have spent on the band and in the process the Label made $70 million. If the financials are ever made available, it would show Ratt as a band that still hasn’t recouped.

In the end, the real copyright abusers are the actual Record Labels.

And that’s a wrap for another week.

Standard
Music, My Stories, Influenced, Unsung Heroes

2001 – Part 5.2: Slipknot – Iowa

“Iowa” is the second studio album by Slipknot, released by Roadrunner Records on August 28, 2001.

Produced by Ross Robinson and Slipknot but it’s Mike Fraser as the Engineer who deserves a special mention here. The guitars are downtuned a lot and somehow they don’t end up sounding muddled. Which gets me thinking that the placement of the microphones to record the guitars was pretty spot on for Andy Wallace in the mix department to give all 8 members space to do their thing.

The 1999 self-titled debut album took the Charts by surprise, so the pressure to deliver a worthy follow-up was at an all-time high.

Production for the album started with drummer Joey Jordison (RIP) and bassist Paul Gray (RIP) in October 2000. Most of the material was written during this time, while other members took a break after the extensive touring that had followed their debut.

By January 17, 2001, the whole band arrived and basically war was declared between each other. Fatigue was killing Jordison and Gray, while alcoholism and drug dependency was affecting Corey Taylor and the other members. On top of that they had management problems and a party culture full of women and narcotics.

Taylor even resorted to cutting himself with broken glass to achieve the desperation and doom in the vocal growls he wanted.

So if you don’t know Slipknot, they wear masks which obscure their faces and they are referenced with numbers.

(#8) is Corey Taylor on vocals, (#7) is Mick Thomson on guitars, (#6) is Shawn Crahan on percussion, backing vocals, editing, (#5) is Craig Jones on samplers, media, (#4) is Jim Root on guitars, (#3) is Chris Fehn on percussion, backing vocals, (#2) is Paul Gray on bass, backing vocals, (#1) is Joey Jordison on drums and (#0) is Sid Wilson on turntables.

Basically the album is a result of guys who hated each other, the world and the world hated them back. Welcome to “Iowa”.

People = Shit

Great title and a great way of the band saying to people “F off and leave us alone”.

Disasterpiece

Press play to hear the head banging intro.

“My Plague” and “Everything Ends” I normally skip.

The Heretic Anthem

The 6-6-6 chant in the song is reminiscent of other songs from notable acts.

Track 7, I skip.

Left Behind

The best song on the album for me, because of the clean tone vocals. Who knew that Corey Taylor could sing that good back in 2001, as Stone Sour was a few years away from releasing their debut.

Tracks 9 to 13, I skip.

Iowa

The closer at 15 minutes. It’s a Tool like dirge through desolation, doom and darkness. At some stages, it feels like the music if a demented soul.

I tried to like this album because of just how popular it became around the world. Gold Certifications in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and Netherlands. Platinum certifications in Canada, the UK and the US.

Apart from “Left Behind” and “Iowa” there was nothing else here for me to grasp onto.

But, I did find the lyrics refreshing and totally different from what I was used to, which is a big reason why I kept giving Slipknot a chance.

If you like hard rock music then you won’t like this, as it borders on death and thrash metal with nu-metal influences.

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

The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Images and Words

“When Dream And Day Unite” came out in 1989, the label Mechanix did nothing with it.

The band didn’t tour and compared to the sale numbers that other bands achieved in 1989, the album was classed a failure. But it’s pretty hard to sell something if no one knows it exists or if it can’t be found in record stores. A little bit of promo during this time would have gotten the album at least 200K sales worldwide. There was a market for the kind of music that Dream Theater was writing. But the market needs to know about it.

It also didn’t help when the A&R Rep who signed the band, left Mechanix to go to a competitor. And when that normally happens in label land, the label in spite, tries to kill off the acts the Rep had signed. Further to that, Mechanix was being taken over by a larger label in MCA and when that normally happens, labels consolidate and focus on winning projects.

Apart from the label issues, the band decided that in order to be successful, they had to change something that was not working.

Vocalist, Charlie Domicini was let go. He was a decade older than the rest of the guys and his image didn’t fit with the band. But they got their manager to break the news to him.

Even a newly inked tattoo of the Dream Theater logo on his shoulder wasn’t enough to save him. According to the band, his vocal style just didn’t suit. While Portnoy and Petrucci wanted a cross between Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, they knew that finding such a vocalist was not going to be an easy task.

Dominici’s lyrics on the first album, a co-write with John Petrucci on “Status Seeker” and the sole lyricist for “Afterlife” resonated more than all of the other lyrics penned by Petrucci and Kevin Moore.

Being a bit older, meant he had a bit more experience with words and story-telling. But his voice is an acquired taste and he did cop some criticism for sounding like a bad imitation of Geddy Lee. But his vocals on “The Killing Hand” are my go to vocals for this song.

But as soon as Dominici was gone, he was back in for a gig, opening for Marillion, who wanted to unveil their new singer Steve Hogarth for his U.S debut. Portnoy was a massive fan of Marillion, so the opening slot was a dream come true. The band was on fire, but it was too little too late for Dominici who was let go again after it.

At first the band focused on trying to find a new singer as they still had six albums to deliver on the Mechanix deal. This process would take 14 months to happen. The book “Lifting Shadows” from Rich Wilson goes into great detail about the “search for a singer”.

John Arch was the first vocalist the band approached. He was out of Fates Warning after the release of “Awaken The Guardian” album in 1986. They rehearsed “The Killing Hand”, “Only A Matter Of Time” and a cover of Fates Warning “The Apparition”. Arch felt uncomfortable about how the band members wanted the vocals to sound. He felt it was too rigid. But the reason Arch left was family circumstances. He was about to become a Dad, he had a long commute to rehearse and he wasn’t comfortable spending so much time away from his family.

John Hendricks was the second vocalist the band rehearsed with after he sent the band a demo from an ad the band put out.

His appearance was more New Kids On The Block and the live audition in December 1989 didn’t go down well. But they kept him around to do vocals on some new demos called “Metropolis”, “To Live Forever” and “Don’t Look Past Me”. When they went back to live rehearsals, Hendricks still didn’t cut it, but his studio work was exceptional. The band wanted to move forward with Hendricks but label and management weren’t convinced. While Petrucci and Portnoy wanted a Tate/Dickinson style of a singer, Hendricks was none of that, more Pete Gabriel than anything and his image was New Wave compared to the Hard Rock and Metal image of Dream Theater.

Next was Steve Stone.

Stone was from Seattle and he had replaced Geoff Tate in the band “Myth”, Tate’s pre Queensryche band. Stone’s manager at the time was journalist Paul Suter, who sent demo tapes of Stone to George Lynch for the Lynch Mob project, to Steve Stevens for his Atomic Playboys project and to Dream Theater. Portnoy liked Stone’s voice, a cross between Tate and Steve Perry. Stone enjoyed the audition but conversations afterwards with the band made him feel that his creativity would be stifled.

However, they did get Stone to do studio vocal versions on “Metropolis” and “To Live Forever” as Mechanix wanted to hear product.

And then they played live. As soon as Stone yelled” Scream For Me Long Beach” and then kept on yelling it throughout the show, he sealed his axing.

By September 1990, the band was still without a singer and with a label that was losing interest in the band (as if they hadn’t lost it already) but wouldn’t release them from their contract.

Enter Chris Cintron. His demo tape was rejected at first but after Hendricks and Stone didn’t work out, Portnoy called Cintron to an audition.

Cintron’s voice was more Steve Walsh from Kansas and he was also the first singer to sing on a new song called “A Change Of Seasons”. The fact that everything was written and Cintron just had to perform what was written, didn’t sit well with him as well. Image and a few other disagreements with Kevin Moore, sealed his fate.

During this time, they also focused on writing better songs. Most bands normally have 3 months to come out with album number 2. Dream Theater in this case had close to 2 years. Furthermore, their sound evolved from the technical derivative metal sound on “When Dream and Day Unite”, to a more warmer sound, rooted in classic progressive rock with nods to Heavy Metal.

As the singer search took time, the seven album deal with Mechanix fizzled out.

But they had an ally in journalist Derek Oliver. Oliver wrote for Kerrang and he was a fan of the band. As fate would have it, Oliver moved into an A&R role at the same time that Dream Theater found themselves searching for a label who would support them.

Enter Kevin James LaBrie. He was part of Canadian glam metal band Winter Rose during this time and he sent the band an audition tape. After a short jam session, he was named Dream Theater’s new lead singer, and has remained with them ever since.

The band was then signed to a seven-album contract by Atco Records, and shortly thereafter, they began recording their new album in late 1991. The album’s production was marred with tensions, as the band clashed with producer David Prater who was chosen by Derek Oliver.

Enter Dream Theater with “Images and Words”. Released in 1992.

The album was unique and innovative to remain rooted to the prog rock niche that Derek Oliver spoke about in 1989 and it was familiar enough to cross over to the hard rock audience, looking for something new and exciting.

Dream Theater originally intended to release a double album, but that plan was rejected by ATCO, causing several songs to be omitted from the album. One of these songs, “A Change of Seasons”, would later be re-recorded by the band and released on an EP of the same name in 1995.

A Billboard review didn’t have great things to say about it;

“Power rock band’s Atco debut shows its members did plenty of listening to Yes, Boston and even Black Sabbath while growing up.

While the material is all well delivered, lead vocalist James LaBrie has a voice that stretches to fit the many different styles represented here, the main problem is the music, which sounds like it was written in the 70’s.

However given that the bands potential fans probably weren’t born until the end of that decade, it shouldn’t serve as any great detriment.”

Pull Me Under

Music composed by the band and lyrics written by Kevin Moore.

The lead single, “Pull Me Under”, gained the band a lot of commercial success with its airplay on MTV and radio, garnering them a top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. When the album was released, it sold at a steady pace, helped by an extensive world tour.

Its original working title was “Oliver’s Twist” as it was a last minute song written at the request of Derek Oliver. The original version also had the unbelievable solo section from “Erotomania” in it.

“Pull Me Under” was so good, that John Petrucci used the 1st verse riff of “Pull Me Under” in “The Count Of Tuscany” 1st Verse from the album, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” released in 2009.

He also used the structure and dynamics for the song “On The Backs Of Angels” from the album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” released in 2011.

As soon as the first three notes of the acoustic arpeggio are played, I was hooked. Then Portnoy started with his drum build. Metallica used an approach like this on “Enter Sandman”.

Another Day

Music is by the band with lyrics written by John Petrucci.

It’s like a hard rock ballad, but the guitar playing and the choice of chords by Petrucci is excellent. And the Soprano Sax solos are just perfect.

But press play to hear Petrucci on the lead break. It’s well worked out, it flows brilliantly, its melodic and cruisy and then he steps on the pedal and then brings it back to cruisy.

Take the Time

It’s a team effort on the lyrical front with Moore, Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and John Myung contributing.

How good is that start? The fast riffing is a cross between Van Halen and Metallica.

Then the verses go into a Rock Funk groove.

And the Chorus, its melodic hard rock.

As a guitar player, this song is like a Chord Book on complex chords.

Surrounded

It’s listed as words and music by Kevin Moore.

It starts off as a piano ballad, before it builds up to a funky blues rock tune.

But press play to hear the digital delay lead break from John Petrucci. It feels like The Edge from U2, but a lot better.

Metropolis—Part I: ‘The Miracle and the Sleeper’

It’s a monster of a song that every Metal and Rock fan would enjoy.

The pulsing intro alone is head banging material.

But those verses. Petrucci plays fast palm muted chords like the “Darkness, imprisoning me” part in “One” and keyboardist Moore outlines the chord progression with his riffs, while Portnoy plays a “Kashmir” like beat.

Perfection to my ears.

Under a Glass Moon

What an intro, pushing the envelope of what metal and rock should sound like.

But press play for the groove in the Verses from Petrucci and Myung, while Moore outlines the Chord progression with his keyboards.

And then wait to hear Petrucci on the solo.

Wait for Sleep

A brilliant piano piece from Kevin Moore. It’s like a haunting soundtrack. The main piano idea from here appears in “Learning To Live” and when it comes in, its brilliant.

Learning to Live

At 11.30 it’s the longest song on the album. The music is written by the band and lyrics are written by John Myung.

If I had to recommend one song to a new Dream Theater fan that typified the progressive rock leanings of the band, then this song would be it.

The song is that good, that Dream Theater rewrote it and called it “Breaking All Illusions” for the “A Dramatic Turn of Events” album in 2011.

The Kevin Moore keyboard intro kicks things off with a wicked 15/8 time signature. This same passage re-appears and this time it is played over alternating time signatures, starting off with 14/8 for 2 bars, then 13/8 for one bar and back to 14/8 for another bar. Then it goes back to 13/8, 14/8, 13/8, 7/8.

In between you get a very metal like passage in the vein of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin, that moves between 7/4,6/4,4/4 and 5/8 time signatures over F#m, C#m and Em root notes. It doesn’t sound forced. It is very fluent like.

The verse is unbelievable. Myung holds it all together with an unbelievable groove over a 7/4 and 6/4 time signature, that is supplemented by Kevin Moore’s choir like voicing’s outlining the Em9, Cmaj9, Amadd9 and Em9 chords. Myung paraphrases the novel “Atlas Shrugged” from Ayn Rand.

There was no time for pain, no energy for anger
The sightlessness of hatred slips away
Walking through winter streets alone, He stops and take a breath
With confidence and self-control

I look at the world and see no understanding
I’m waiting to find some sense of strength
I’m begging you from the bottom of my heart to show me understanding

Petrucci and Portnoy build the song nicely into the chorus. Petrucci begins with normal volume swells, while Portnoy locks in with Myung. As Petrucci’s guitar gets busier with harmonics, chords and arpeggios, Portnoy’s drumming becomes busier.

The second verse has a great progressive groove that keeps within the 7/4 and 6/4 time signature of the first verse. This time it’s all power chords and its heavy as hell. Chugging along on an E5 power cord, Petrucci enhances the riffs by chucking in B5, Bflat5 and F power chords, utilising the devil triton to maximum effect.

The 90s bring new questions
New solutions to be found
I fell in love to be let down

Then when you think they are going to go into the Chorus again, they go into a bridge part with a simple 4/4 groove and then the instrumental break starts. Petrucci is now playing what Moore played in the intro.

The flamenco passage at 5.30 kicks things off. From 6.30 it gets progressive and then the woo ohh ohhs kick in and Petrucci takes over at 7.10 in one of the most heartfelt solos Petrucci has laid to tape. Those bends remind me of Dave Gilmour in “Comfortably Numb”.

The whole “Wait For Sleep” segment that begins at 7.30 and ends at 9.35 includes brilliant jazz bluesy solos from both Moore and Petrucci and the main piano riff from “Wait For Sleep”. It then segues back in to the Chorus.

The way that your heart beats
Makes all the difference in learning to live

Just when you think the song is over, the outro kicks in, again led by an unbelievably groovy and very funky Myung bass line. Then Petrucci joins in with the Natural Harmonics and then the monk style voices take over. As a listener I just sit back with the head phones and allow myself to be taken away. A brilliant song and a brilliant piece of work.

Mike Portnoy has gone on record saying how much he hated working with producer David Prater and the use of drum midi triggers. Portnoy feared that the triggers would make the album sound dated and seen as another generic hard rock album.

One thing is certain.

The album still sounds fresh and current in 2022 as it did back in 1992. As Rush’s “2112” laid the groundwork for what was to come for Rush, “Images and Words” did the same for Dream Theater.

The tour finished in November, 1993. Overall they played 194 shows in 17 countries. “Images And Words” was certified Gold in the U.S. Everything they worked hard and persevered with, had finally happened.

The pressure for a successor was intensified.

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

The Record Vault: Baby Animals – Baby Animals

The debut Baby Animals album was everywhere in Australia. Before the album was released in September 1991, they had some serious momentum over 15 months coming in to the album. The Angels was one of the biggest bands in Australia during this time and the Baby Animals was the opening act between 1990/91.

The album debuted at number six on the ARIA Album Charts and spent six weeks at number one, eventually going eight times platinum and becoming the highest-selling debut Australian rock album of all time (until the release of Jet’s album, “Get Born” 12 years later).

I saw em live at the Revesby Workers Club on the tour. An up and coming band called Judge Mercy was opening for them. They were excellent, but they unfortunately disappeared when the labels started dropping metal and rock acts in a years’ time.

And the Baby Animals rocked. Drummer Frank Celenza was huge behind the kit, laying down the foundations along with bassist Eddie Parise. Dave Leslie on guitar is so underrated, playing a chicken picking style and Suze DeMarchi on guitar rocks hard. Everyone raves about Lzzy Halestorm, but I’m pretty sure she would have been influenced by DeMarchi. And on vocals, DeMarchi is bluesy and soulful.

The album was produced by task master Mike Chapman and engineered by Kevin Shirley. The personnel alone shows the albums intention.

And my favourite track is “Working For The Enemy”, that whole break down section, lead break and build up is excellent. My second favourite is the metal like “Waste Of Time” with its energetic double kick intro and heavy blues boogie rock riffs.

“One Too Many” is “Rock N Roll Noise Pollution” in spirit and influence, while “Aint Gonna Get” is AC/DC on steroids and highway speed tempos with a Chorus that reminds me of “I Love Rock And Roll”.

And I haven’t even gotten into the singles yet.

How good is the intro to “One Word”?

But DeMarchi didn’t like the song after it was finished and asked the label to keep it off the album. The song went through a transformation, from a country-ish rock feel in the demo (which can be heard on the 25th Anniversary Edition) to the melodic rock beast it became, as Chapman kept asking them to work on it.

Guitarist Dave Leslie paid his dues in a Cold Chisel covers band called Swingshift, playing Australian pub rock classics on a nightly basis and he knew what worked with audiences. His chicken finger picked intro to “One Word” is guitar hero worthy.

“Rush You” is the opener as the power chord crashes down and the cymbals ring before it goes into a double time beat and some series riffage and how cool is that “Back in Black” walking chromatic riff just before the verse.

“Early Warning” begins with the drums while a slide guitar plays a rock riff and the music then stops while DeMarchi sings, “Too Young To Know and Too Old To Listen”.

The band kicks in again. Then the verses come and it’s like a Jimi Hendrix song, before it moves into the power of the Chorus.

“Painless” has this funk blues boogie which I like. If you haven’t heard it, today is a great day for it.

They toured hard on this album, playing all the major cities and regional towns in Australia, and once Bryan Adams heard the album, he added them to his European leg.

The Black Crowes added them to their Australian and New Zealand tour, while Eddie Van Halen, asked for them to be the support act on the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” tour after he heard the album via his wife Valerie Bertinelli.

By the time their touring commitments ended for the album in August 1992, they had played over 500 shows.

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

Al Pitrelli – 1990 to 1992

Let’s go back to when Pitrelli got booted or left Danger Danger in 1988.

Bruno Ravel and Steve West held a tight ship on the writing process. It was either written by Ravel/West or Pitrelli/Pont. On occasions Pitrelli and Ravel would write. But once Pont was booted, Pitrelli felt that he was getting squeezed out.

Danger Danger is seen as Bruno Ravel’s band, however it was Al Pitrelli’s to begin with. So he stayed, because like Ravel, he wanted a record deal. With the addition of Ted Poley, the demos the band recorded got the band its Epic deal, however it also got Pitrelli out of the band due to disagreements with the A&R rep.

The Alice Cooper touring gig was a massive opportunity moving from regional nickel and dime gigs to arenas.

Joining Cooper and Pitrelli was his old Berklee friend Derek Sherinian on keys. The other guitarist was Pete Friesen who did multiple stings with Cooper between 1989-91, 1998-2000 and 2002. In between those stints he became the lead guitarist in “The Almighty”, did a stint in Bruce Dickinson’s solo band and prior to joining Alice Cooper he was in VO5 with Sebastian Bach.

The bassist is Tommy Caradonna who did work with Lita Ford before Alice Cooper and the drummer is Jonathan Mover who also did work with Marillion. Although not confirmed, I did read stories that Caradonna was the bassist that Michael Bolton did not like back in 1985 when Pitrelli brought a fully formed band to Bolton to become his touring band.

How Al Pitrelli got the gig with Alice Cooper is told a bit differently in this RAW article. Although Matt Bissonette did recommend Pitrelli, it was Steve Vai again who sealed the deal.

“I called up Steve Vai (ex-Dave Lee Roth guitarist, now with Whitesnake) and said: ‘I know you’re taken, so tell me who the next best is’.

And he said Al Pitrelli (from Long Island, New York). So as soon as I got him Roth calls up and says: ‘Did you take that guy?’ Cos he wanted him, but I had him, ha!”

In a Guitar mag interview, Alice Cooper had this to say about Al Pitrelli’s involvement.

“I particularly picked Pete and Al for two different reasons, even though they look like they could be brothers. Al is a total free spirit.

I called Steve Vai up and said, “I know you’re taken. Tell me the next best guy.” He said, “Al Pitrelli. He’s very fluid. He can play anything. He has a ‘leader’ quality.” That’s what I was looking for.”

For Kiss fans, Mark St. John was also in the running for the Alice Cooper gig.

In relation to the Roth gig, the slot went to Jason Becker, however tragedy was around the corner for Becker, with a disease called Lou Gehrig’s, which would leave Becker paralysed completely and relying on machines and special communication devices based on eye movements and blinking to communicate.

And Roth’s career took a nose dive after Steve Vai’s departure. By the mid 90’s, Roth was out of the music business and working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

A few side notes here.

  • Going back to the Jason Becker and Roth connection, Pitrelli would be replacing Becker’s “Cacophony” guitar mate Marty Friedman in Megadeth at the start of the 2000’s.
  • During the Pitrelli/Alice Cooper audition, his Hotshot bassist, Teddy Cook was also auditioning for Dio as part of the “Lock Up The Wolves” era circa 1989/90. After Dio disbanded, when Ronnie re-joined Black Sabbath, Cook would go on to play with Great White, Virgin Steele and Randy Jackson’s China Rain.
  • Hotshot with new members who replaced Pitrelli and Cook, were still pushing the demo they did with Pitrelli and Cook. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee heard it and wanted to produce the band. At the time, the Toxic Twins were going to start their own label however the departure of Vince Neil changed all that and Hotshot was again without a deal.

Before Pitrelli got the Alice Cooper gig, he needed to make some fast career decisions. He left Danger Danger because he didn’t have proper opportunities to compose songs with Ravel and West. In Alice Cooper he wouldn’t have those opportunities either. But in Hotshot, he had the creative freedom to write what he wanted and Hotshot was getting a lot of attention. Alice Cooper while successful in the past, was also known as having his ups and downs. On top of that, Pitrelli’s home life was doing guitar lessons, earning about $400 a week, married and with a son.

Pitrelli selected Alice Cooper.

In the end, Pitrelli was Alice Cooper’s guitarist and musical director from 1989 until 1991 on the “Trashes The World” tour. Shows from this tour were captured on tape and released on VHS in 1990.

There was a full dress rehearsal gig before the tour started. Steve Vai and Gregg Bissonette attended. Pitrelli was thankful of the two and hugged Bissonette for a long time.

Once the gig with Alice was over or in downtime between Alice shows, Pitrelli re-joined with Randy Coven and drummer John O’Reilly as a formal member of the Randy Coven Band to release “Sammy Says Ouch!” in 1990. On top of that, he also did some session work for Donny Osmond and that album “Eyes Don’t Lie” was also released in 1990. The lesson he learnt from the Michael Bolton days was to play with whoever and wherever.

His session work didn’t end there with albums from Kathy Troccoli called “Pure Attraction” and Henry Lee Summer called “Way Past Midnight” seeing releases. His skills to adapt to various musical styles was on par with Steve Lukather, who was a go to session guru as well. A song he wrote with Jimmy DeGrasso called “City” would also end up on the album “Ten” by Y&T.

Y&T by this time had Stef Burns in the band after Joey Alves left and Alice Cooper history shows that Stef Burns would replace Al Pitrelli within his touring band. And DeGrasso would leave Y&T to join Cooper as well.

In 1992, one my favourite albums was released.

The band was called Widowmaker and the album was “Blood And Bullets”. This was Dee Snider’s post Twisted Sister band 5 years after Twisted Sister broke up and two years after the failed Desperado project with Elektra. The band was aggressive, crunchier and the musicians a step above.

The band name was suggested by producer Ric Wake because he liked the song called “The Widowmaker”.

Snider even contacted bassist Bob Daisley (Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne), who played in the original Widowmaker, about using the name and got a “who cares if you use the name” reply.

Rick Wake as Producer was an interesting choice as his experience at that time was purely pop artists like Taylor Dayne, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross and Sheena Easton.

It’s also worth noting that there are songs on this album from the Desperado project written with Bernie Torme (RIP) which Snider had to buy back the rights to from Elektra. The songs “Calling For You”, “Gone Bad” and “Emaheevull” got re-done in Widowmaker. Other songs like “Hang Em High” and “Cry You A Rainbow”, would be released on other Dee Snider’s solo album “Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down”.

“Reason To Kill” is from the debut album. Snider is angry here and that anger is directed at Bob Krasnow, the head of Elektra Records and the person responsible for killing off the Desperado project and then not allowing Snider to take his songs elsewhere.

So you used me
Then threw me away

That is the slogan of the Label Run Music Business. Actually it still is, especially to the ones who still chase major label gigs.

All my life it seems
Been spent building’ dreams
I knew would be broke by you

Dee left Twisted Sister in 1987 and spent three years writing, demoing and recording the Desperado album, only to have it pulled from release in 1990. The band splintered apart and he was left in no man’s land. Three years out of the public eye in the music business is a life time, and prior to Desperado, Dee spent his whole life building up Twisted Sister only to have that broken as well, by label and management pressure.

Dee was also upset with Atlantic when the label announced it was putting together a best-of Twisted Sister album, which was released a few months before the Widowmaker album. It was typical of the labels. Releasing music as best offs. The maths are simple. Zero Cost = Pure Profit.

Dee Snider wanted to play bigger places with Widowmaker and he wanted similar commercial success to his Twisted Sister days, but it never happened. A loyal core fan base would be there to support the band when it made the trek to play the Clubs it had booked.

Acts like The Black Crowes, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Pantera were selling out larger venues. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana would join them soon. But the biggest thing with Widowmaker was the lack of promo. No one knew that Dee Snider was even in the band.

Pitrelli meanwhile was still in demand as a session player.

The Asia band featured three original members in keyboardist Geoff Downes, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Carl Palmer. It’s debatable how much Howe and Palmer actually played on the album.

Joining them for 1992’s “Aqua” release is Al Pitrelli on guitars and bassist vocalist John Payne. However, Pitrelli and Palmer never toured on this album as per the agreement, with their spots going to Vinny Burns on guitar and Trevor Thornton on drums.

Also in the same year, Coven and Pitrelli did a different project called Coven, Pitrelli, and Reilly (CPR). The album was simply titled “CPR” after the band.

He also was a writer on the “Hey Stoopid” album which came out in 1992. The song “Burning Our Bed” made it to the album (a co-write with Alice Cooper, Bib Pfeifer and his old Hotshot/Danger Danger buddy Steve West, while a few other songs remained in the demo stages.

He also did some session work for the act Expose. Their self-titled third album was released in 1992. The album’s music style has more pop and less Latin than their previous albums. Pitrelli plays guitar on two songs written by Diane Warren called “As Long As I Can Dream” (a co-write with Roy Orbison) and “In Walked Love”.

More to come as the 90s proved to be a big breakout year for Pitrelli.

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

2001 – Part 5.1: The Calling – Camino Palmero

The Calling, was formed by Alex Band (lead vocals) and Aaron Kamin (lead guitar, backing vocals).

They weren’t a modern alternative rock band to start off, with David Matthews Band style influences. But, next door to Alex Band, was Ron Fair, a music business executive.

Imagine that, your neighbour was a Chairman at Geffen Records, then Virgin Records and prior to Geffen, he was President of A&M Records and held Senior Positions at RCA Records, Chrysalis Records and EMI Records.

On top of that he was also known as a “mentor” to unsigned artists. Apart from The Calling, other artists he mentored that made it to major label releases are Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton, Keyshia Cole, The Black Eyed Peas and Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls.

Between 1996 and 1999, the guys kept writing and demoing, and by 1999, Ron Fair was impressed enough to sign them to a deal with RCA.

The name of the band was originally, “Generation Gap”, then “Next Door” and after getting signed, they became “The Calling”.

Their sound through the years morphed to be more influenced by Matchbox Twenty, Third Eye Blind, early Maroon 5, Train and Fastball.

The RCA deal was huge for a band that hadn’t played any shows whatsoever, nor did they have a fan base. I suppose it pays dividends to live in the same suburb as a record label exec.

And Ron Fair, just kept working with em over that two year period until they had the songs ready to record an album.

The players on the album, joining Band and Kamin are Sean Woolstenhulme on rhythm guitar, Billy Mohler on bass and Nate Wood on drums.

The debut album “Camino Palmero” was released in July 2001 and was a commercial success. The cover art of the album represents platforms 5 and 6 of the Santa Maria Novella railway station in Florence, Italy but the name of the album comes from a LA street where the Band and Kamin first met.

All tracks are written by Alex Band and Aaron Kamin, except “Stigmatized” which was co-written with Eric Bazilian.

Unstoppable

As soon as the song starts its recognizable and when I heard the strummed acoustic guitar in the verses, “Alone” from Heart came to mind straight away.

A great opener but it is lost in the world of streaming right now as it doesn’t even rate a mention in their Top 5 streamed songs on Spotify.

Nothing’s Changed

It reminds me of Bush.

Wherever You Will Go

The big hit at 429.6 million streams on Spotify. And the acoustic version of the song has 33.8 million streams.

The vocal melody is catchy and I like the way it moves between acoustic arpeggios, strummed acoustic guitars and then a light distortion in the Chorus.

Could It Be Any Harder

I like the country rock ballad feel on this and the vocal reminds me of Lifehouse. Four songs in, its a 4 punch knockout.

Final Answer

The acoustic alt rock style is evident here, more Tonic and Lifehouse and man, I dig it.

Adrienne

More Matchbox 20 like.

We’re Forgiven

If you are a country then this song would resonate, however it’s a skip for me.

Things Don’t Always Turn Out That Way

It’s got a cool start, with a progression reminiscent to “Glycerine” from Bush and a Fastball “The Way” chorus.

Just That Good

It’s a skip for me.

Thank You

Press play for the Chorus.

Stigmatized

A great closer with a nice vocal. It sounds like a lot of alt rock/soft rock bands, but I don’t care.

In a post Napster world, the album did rack up a few certifications along the way. Brazil is one of the biggest markets when it comes to piracy and the country made the album a Platinum success. So did the UK and Italy. Canada and the US, gave it a Gold certification.

In November 2003, former members Wood and Mohler sued Band, Kamin, and the group’s management, accusing them of mismanagement, fraud, and asking for an audit of the money that was spent during their tenures in The Calling.

They claimed that they were promised a share of the royalties and profits from touring and merchandise. Band and Kamin claimed that the two were not entitled to any records of the royalties.

Their second album “Two”, was released in June 2004.

But the album didn’t perform well commercially compared to the debut. Ron Fair was no longer Executive Producer, replaced by Clive Davis. Davis was all about the hit, right now while Fair was more about career longevity. The record features the original members Alex Band and guitarist Aaron Kamin along with a variety of session musicians.

The band or duo broke up in 2005, but in 2013, The Calling reformed with a new line-up and they still operate today with a new album on the horizon.

But even that was bizarre as Alex Band in that same year, sued Aaron Kamin for “disappearing from the public eye” and Band wanted full rights to “The Calling” name and songs. But the case was dismissed only to resurface later when Band was promoting a “reunion” show which didn’t involve Kamin.

On top of that Band was almost beaten to death after a show that required a jaw bone reconstruction and three implants.

The music business is vicious. But check out the debut. It’s excellent.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Al Pitrelli – The 80’s

It starts with the “Fools Game” album by Michael Bolton released in 1983, back when Bolton was trying to be Sammy Hagar instead of the soul Bolton we came to know.

Actually it goes back a few years to 1981 and a band called Magic and a 7 inch single called “Too Much Too Quickly” that had Al Pitrelli playing guitar.

So before Bolton and Berklee there was MAGIC.

They used to rehearse in the basement of a video arcade in East Meadow.

Back to Bolton.

Bruce Kulick and his brother Bob, play guitar on the studio album. Aldo Nova goes a guest solo. Even Bolton shreds a little bit, who started off as a guitarist first, singer second. While the album is a great slab of melodic rock, it didn’t really do anything commercially.

But it gave Bolton enough momentum for the label to fund a follow up in “Everybody’s Crazy” (released in 1985) with Bruce Kulick doing all the lead guitars this time around in the studio. However Bolton was still trying to imitate David Lee Roth, which was a stupid move, as there is only one DLR and Bolton wasn’t it. The album was a financial loss and it did not chart.

However, the label didn’t want to lose too much money on the album, so they put Bolton on the road. However this meant a new backing band was needed as Bruce Kulick accepted the Kiss gig, something which he held until 1996. As a side note, Kulick did got his mate Bolton to co-write a song with the band called “Forever” which was released in 1989 on “Hot In The Shade”.

The new backing band for Bolton would have keyboardist Mark Mangold, who was also the co-writer on the “Fools Game” and “Everybody’s Crazy” albums with Bolton. He also co-wrote “I Found Someone” with Bolton for Cher.

The rest came like this.

Al Pitrelli read the credits on the “Everybody’s Crazy” album and noticed that the people who played on the album had other gigs. He called up his friends, Tony Rey, Chuck Bonafante and another bassist. They learnt a bunch of Bolton tunes, tracked down Bolton’s manager and then offered themselves as his touring band. However the bassist spot went to Bruno Ravel who was called in by Bonafante as Bolton took a disliking to the original bassist brought in by Pitrelli.

For Ravel, it was a dream gig for the 21 year old that lasted six months. On a side note, he had a failed bass gig for an act called “White Lion” because he didn’t like how Bratta and Tramp wouldn’t allow anyone else to write with them.

And if all the names in Bolton’s touring band sound familiar they should, as bands like Danger Danger and Saraya come to mind. Tony Rey would go on to write and produce songs for a lot of mainstream artists.

Pitrelli and Bonfante would also get together regularly in different projects like “Place Called Rage” with Tommy Farese on vocals, “Morning Wood” with Tony Harnell on vocals and “Flesh And Blood” which also included Mark Mangold.

Al Pitrelli by this time had dropped out of Berklee College Of Music. During his time there he became friends with keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Will Calhoun who would go on and join Living Colour.

After he left, he was studying jazz with John Scofield. This is a by-product of growing up in a household that liked Sinatra. Pitrelli’s first Kiss album was thrown out by his dad.

But you can’t keep a rock head down. One thing about rock music is that it is a lifestyle. From Kiss, Pitrelli started to digest Rush, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, Mahogany Rush and Hendrix. Then came Eddie Van Halen, an accomplished riff meister and revolutionary shredder.

But Pitrelli’s two biggest influences are Gary Moore and Jeff Beck. Both of these players can move a room full of people with just one note. And that one note is more powerful than a hundred notes. But if they wanted to shred, press the pedal to the metal, they could do that as well. The key word here is balance. Balance between chops and feel.

Suddenly, Pitrelli was seen as a rising star. The Bolton tour (although regional) was his first big break which gave him contacts within the industry. But as the tour progressed, ticket sales stalled and after six months the tour was wrapped up and the touring band sent home.

Ravel was less than impressed with Bolton’s antics and treatment of them, and Pitrelli saw him as mean. In Bolton’s defence, he was pushing 30 and felt that this was his last chance of making it as a solo artist, so he took it out on the people trying to help him make it.

On a sidenote, Bolton also recorded a tape full of demos with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. These demos started to do the rounds with the label execs who wondered why Bolton was singing rock music when his voice was better suited for soul and R&B.

For all of the members, the Bolton tour was a learning experiencing about survival in the music business. Pitrelli knew that survival and making a living in music, depended on playing with anybody and everybody.

Ravel wanted to have his own band but he knew that in order to get to that stage he needed to play with others to make a living.

Enter Talas.

This band was founded by bassist Billy Sheehan in 1971. They went through drummers like Spinal Tap did.

By 1986, Talas lost their founder to David Lee Roth but Talas still had a deal with A&M Records to do one more record. Sheehan gave the band his blessing to go on and meet this commitment.

Vocalist Phil Naro enlisted Jimmy Degrasso on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitar, Bruno Ravel on bass and Gary Bivona on keyboards.

But that final album never got out of the demo stages and Talas was dead when Sheehan did an about face on allowing the band to use the name after word got around that Ravel wore a “Billy Who?” t-shirt that a fan had gave him.

And since the band couldn’t use the name, A&M pulled their deal as well.

While the guys couldn’t use the Talas name, the embryo of what would become Danger Danger was there.

Pitrelli meanwhile jammed and played on the “Funk Me Tender” album from Randy Coven released in 1986. He also did a small club regional tour with Coven.

And then Jimmy DeGrasso left to join Y&T replacing Leonard Haze.

In 1987, a song originally penned by Pitrelli and Ravel called “Temptation” made its way to Phil Kennemore (via Jimmy DeGrasso) and it became track three on the Y&T album “Contagious” which was the bands Geffen debut. If you haven’t heard it, press play on it. It’s a great melodic rock cut.

The first proper incarnation of Danger Danger would have Al Pitrelli on guitars, Steve West on drums, Bruno Ravel on bass and Kaesy Smith on keyboards. Phil Naro was the first vocalist and he was quickly replaced by Mike Pont and then Pont was replaced that same year by Ted Poley. The demo this version of the band recorded got the band its recording contract with Epic Records.

But by 1988, Pitrelli left Danger Danger or he got the boot, depending on who you believe due to having disagreements with the labels A&R rep.

As Pitrelli described it, he was in the band for about 18 months, played a lot of nickel and dime gigs and when the band made a left turn in musical direction, he went the other way. And by the end of it, Danger Danger taught him lessons on what to never do again.

Pitrelli was replaced by Tony Rey who would also leave to join “Saraya” with Andy Timmons taking the guitar slot from 1989 to 1993. You can hear Pitrelli’s playing in Danger Danger on the album “Rare Cuts” released in 2003.

After this Pitrelli re-formed an earlier band he had called “Hotshot” with Pont on vocals and after a very promising six song demo called “The Bomb” failed to get them a label deal he disbanded “Hotshot”.

Pitrelli then got call from an old friend, another Long Island kid called Steve Vai.

Yep that Steve Vai.

He told Pitrelli to audition for David Lee Roth’s band as Vai had just left to join Whitesnake. Vai actually said that he “wanted Pitrelli to take his place in Roth’s band”. Vai even took time out to teach Pitrelli all the guitar parts. Pitrelli nailed the gig and Roth was thrilled.

But whatever went down afterwards was never spoken of again. Roth to this day has never mentioned the Pitrelli audition of the Roth band at all.

In between, Pitrelli was jamming and writing songs with Joe Lynn Turner. Turner had a deal with Elektra who he would rename as Neglektra.

The label kept Turner in development hell between 1988 and 1991, only to drop him and keep the songs he wrote during this period. Because in label land, it’s embarrassing if an artist you dropped makes it with another label on the backs of the songs they had with the previous label. The same thing happened to Dee Snider during this period who was also with Elektra.

In order to get by, Pitrelli did some session work and one of those sessions got a full release. It was a funk soul album by “Philip Michael Thomas” called “Somebody” which did nothing commercially. Thomas is known more as an actor who dabbled in music.

Pitrelli was at the crossroads. He didn’t know what to do anymore. He was in and out of bands, filling in spots perfectly but really struggling to get his own project off the ground. The lack of a reliable income weighed heavily on him. Trying to make it in the music industry was proving tougher than he thought. He had all the chops and players of lesser abilities graced the covers of the magazines. To make some extra cash he was teaching guitarists. He was also married and a conversation with his father-in-law was about him going into carpentry.

But that jam session with Roth impressed drummer Gregg Bissonette a lot and a few months down the track Bissonette recommended Pitrelli to Alice Cooper.

In 1989, Pitrelli got an offer he couldn’t refuse; to become Alice Cooper’s musical director and guitarist in the touring band supporting the album “Trash”.

Musical director meant to rethink the older songs to sound more contemporary so they wouldn’t sound out of place next to the current songs from the “Trash” album. He also got his Berklee roommate Derek Sherinian his first major gig.

On another side note, the students that Pitrelli had would move on to another guitarist called John Petrucci. Yep that same Petrucci from Dream Theater.

As the 80s drew to a close, Al Pitrelli survived in the music business without actually being involved in a full length release. Because one of the lessons he learnt touring was that the real money was made on the road.

Standard