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

Learning To Live – Dream Theater – Classic Song To Be Re-Discovered

It’s the music that makes Learning To Live a classic.

If I had to recommend one song to a new Dream Theater fan that typified the progressive rock leanings of the band, then that song would be Learning To Live. Learning To Live was released on the 1992, Images and Words album. The song is that good, that Dream Theater even rewrote it and called it Breaking All Illusions. That version was released on A Dramatic Turn of Events 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 an unbelievable 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 the 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 2013 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.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Undeniable Greatness with Metallica and Dream Theater

You are a teenager and starting a band. What do you have that could bring you untold fame and riches?

Life is your art right. It forms the basis of the songs that you write. The personal experiences from your life form the themes. So the saying goes, you need to have lived to create everlasting art. So if your definition of success depends upon becoming a household name in the quickest time possible, you’re going to waste a lot of time being frustrated.

The winners that win, do so because they outlast the competition. Metallica isn’t on top at the moment because they were better than everybody else. The same goes for Motley Crue. Both bands outlasted their competition.

What happened to Raven, the band that Metallica opened up for before Kill Em All was released? Even though bands like Slayer, Exodus and Anthrax are still around, they have never done the numbers that Metallica has done.

Anthrax had too many changes and they didn’t have that singer in Belladonna and Bush that could relate to the audience. Exodus didn’t really rate, while Slayer and Megadeth forged out a sustainable career on the back of the Metallica steam train.

Metallica
The best work for me is Ride The Lightning. For others it is Master of Puppets. For others it is the Black album. For this case study, let’s use the sales statistic, so that would mean the Black album is their best work.

The Black album was written in 1990 and released in 1991. James Hetfield, the main song writing force in the band was 27 years old in 1990. Lars Ulrich was also 27. Bob Rock, the producer was 36. The point here is that the people involved in the creation of this masterpiece have lived and experienced.

James, Lars and Kirk Hammet lived through a bus crash, which claimed the life of their band mate and main musical muse Cliff Burton.

Bob Rock by 1991 had worked on numerous big sellers, so he knew what it took to get the best out of the band. Watch the Classic Albums documentary and see how Bob Rock pushed Kirk Hammet to record that classic guitar solo in The Unforgiven.

Some say that Metallica sold out with the Black album, however it is as brutal as all the other Metallica albums that came before it. For all the haters, I dare them to point to any other album as heavy as the Black album that was riding high on the charts.

Forget about the single cuts like Enter Sandman, Sad But True, Wherever I May Roam and Nothing Else Matters. You need to dig deeper to hear the quality. Through The Never is a classic cut from the Master of Puppets era, as well as My Friend of Misery (that has similarities to the Orion breakdown). The best songs by far on the Black album is Holier Than Thou and The God That Failed. While one is classic speed metal in the Judas Priest vein, The God That Failed is the mainstreams introduction to groove metal, a term that Pantera would make famous with A Vulgar Display of Power.

The Black album desensitised everyone and set a standard of heaviness for bands like Korn, White Zombie, Disturbed, Alice In Chains, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry to step in and desensitise us some more. It opened the door to bands like Pantera to enter the mainstream.

Dream Theater
The breakthrough album for Dream Theater is Images and Words. Petrucci, Myung and Moore wrote it between the ages of 22 and 24 during the dark days of the vocalist search. The album came out when they were 25 years old. Another Day was written about John Petrucci’s father, who was diagnosed with cancer. Take The Time was written as their struggle at finding a new vocalist and always having to start from scratch when they failed. The music was more mature and better orchestrated. Personality sells. When Dream Theater released Images and Words, they didn’t bland their material to make it more relatable.

Then just when you thought that Dream Theater would go all mainstream, they shook things up again with Metropolis II. In the same way that 2112 from Rush laid the groundwork for what was to come for Rush, Metropolis II did the same thing for Dream Theater. It returned their core Images and Words audience and introduced the band to a large seventies era progressive rock fan base.

The next breakthrough album for Dream Theater was the heavy Train Of Thought. If there was any casual metal fan that was sitting on the sideline, this album made them commit. Of course Dream Theater always had metal styles in their music, however Train of Thought was all metal.

The recent promotion on the new Dream Theater album has the usual spin about Grammy nominated band and so on. Yep getting nominated is cool, however it doesn’t ensure long term success. Dream Theater built themselves away from the mainstream. They figured out what worked for them and what didn’t away from the mainstream, until they became so good it was undeniable. That is what will sell the band over and over again. That undeniable greatness.

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

Where are the new Classic Rock heroes?

The main classic rock bands were all about individuality. The Eagles, Boston, Styx, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Rush, Bad Company, Foreigner, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick all had a unique sound. 

The Eighties gave us Metallica, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, U2, Duran Duran, AC/DC, Journey, Whitesnake, Van Halen (and yes i know that some of these bands formed in the seventies), Aerosmith again and Foreigner.

Look at the list, Metallica played fast speed metal that was labelled thrash, Motley Crue played a hybrid version of pop, punk, rock and metal. Van Halen wrote the book on the nuclear band, Guns N Roses rewrote the seventies classic rock period with a dash of punk and Def Leppard merged Queen, with Bowie with Mott The Hoople with their NWOBM leanings into a pop rock format. Each band spawned thousands of imitators.

Today, all the young bands want to be a member of the same club. Metalcore is one club that is completing suicide on itself. Each year, thousands of bands come out that sound the same as the original bands that came before it.

Modern Rock is another genre that is suffering from over saturation. Where is the uniqueness. The reason why Imagine Dragons are at the top of the food chain is that they had that uniqueness that separated them from the pack.

What is the difference between Pop Evil, Young Guns, You Me At Six, The New Black, The Maine, Tango Down, Smile Empty Soul, Red Line Chemistry, Redlight King, Pillar, Plan Three, Projected, Nonpoint, Three Doors Down, My Darkest Days, Rev Theory, Three Days Grace, Eye Empire, Egypt Central, Emphatic and so on? Absolutely nothing is the answer.

All the young uns want is to be a member of the club however individuality is the key to creating everlasting art. Don’t shun your individuality. Dream Theater stayed true to themselves at a time when grunge, industrial and nu metal ruled the mainstream. Tool came through on their terms and in the words of Frank Sinatra, they did it their way.

Today’s world has everybody Tweeting and Facebooking just to be liked. Where is the edge of the Classic Rock era?

Dave Mustaine and Ted Nugent have an opinion and everyone has a knee-jerk reaction to it.

Rolling Stone is coping a lot of flak for their cover of the Boston Bomber. What did the outburst of David Draiman or Nikki Sixx or any other celebrity that wanted to join the anti-Rolling Stone club do to change the matter? Nothing.

If anything they brought more attention to the Rolling Stone article. It’s the Streisand Effect all over again. However at least they are going out there and stating an opinion. Did anyone come out and say that the Rolling Stone cover was cool?

Magazines like artists live in the culture of being paid right now. Do the people that work for Rolling Stone magazine care if the magazine is still around in 12 months’ time? Of course not. They will dust themselves off and get another job.

Everybody’s got their own agenda. When I read a tweet or a post from a celebrity, I evaluate where they are coming from as opposed to accepting it as truth. Has anyone seen a news story that says piracy doesn’t hurt sales?

A lot of research has come out from various Universities that support this argument. Instead we get the RIAA/MPAA piracy stats banded about on major television, with no information as to where those numbers come from. Why? The major televisions are owned by the giant copyright monopoly organisations.

Another important distinction from today’s artists and the Classic Rock era artists is that no one can say no to the money. Rush could have recorded a mainstream radio friendly album in 1976 just to please the record label. Instead they recorded 2112, an album that set up a very lucrative future for Rush and an album that made the record label very nervous when they heard it. As guitarist Alex Lifeson has stated in numerous interviews, 2112 set up a career for Rush.

Egypt Central wanted to be a member of the Modern Rock club and have disbanded. Three Days Grace were a member of the Modern Rock club and lost their vocalist with the parting words that the recording industry just want hits and push artists to write songs in that vein. My Darkest Days and Rev Theory are all modern rockers and they have lost their lead guitarists, which are normally significant songwriters.

Remember, individuality is the key. How good is Machine Head, since they broke away from following the trends that the label used to push on them. Since 2003, they have gone from strength to strength. 

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Stories of Perseverance – From Quiet Riot, George Lynch, Digital Summer, Ronnie James Dio to Dream Theater and Rush.

Don’t try to be everywhere

We live in an internet era. Each day is information overload day. The more that artists try to appeal to everybody, the less people actually care.

Does anyone care that Bon Jovi released Because We Can? Jon Bon Jovi wanted to get all the 12 to 16 year olds onto his side, which in turn alienated the core. How can a band get twenty thousand people at a show and struggle to sell more than 200,000 units of their most recent album? Quality counts.

Once upon a time Bon Jovi had the quality. That is why they have longevity. Slippery When Wet is the album that Bon Jovi is still doing victory laps on. Since then it has been hit and miss. Jon Bon Jovi should stop trying to win over the young ‘uns and just focus on serving his core audience. We will spread the word if the quality is there. Don’t chase trends because what is here today will be gone tomorrow.

Don’t Depend on Record Labels

Artists don’t need a record label deal anymore. The old gatekeepers are not as powerful anymore. That is why bands like Megadeth, Metallica, Motley Crue and maybe Machine Head are going their own way. Releasing albums on their own labels. Screw playing to the old way.

Of course it’s more difficult going your own way, however that is the future. Break the rules so you don’t get left behind. Digital Summer is one of my favourite bands, and they have been doing it themselves for the last 10 years, as well as holding down normal careers as fire fighters, paramedics, accountants, teachers and so forth.

Without the artist, there is no profit from music. The major labels want radio hits so they find artists that are easy to sell and easily expendable.

Perseverance – Success happens when you contemplate giving up

Never quit. Greatness comes from frustration. Don’t be upset about failing. If you are upset about failing, it just means that you haven’t failed enough. Dream Theater almost called it a day, during the period between 1988 and 1991, when months rolled by and no suitable singer appeared.

Perseverance is a skill. It keeps you estranged from the conventions of society. You know the conventions that tell you to get a real job.

Quiet Riot during the Randy Rhoads years, used to compete with Van Halen on the L.A circuit. Van Halen got picked up and Quiet Riot struggled. Randy left to join Ozzy and the band more or less ended, however lead singer Kevin Dubrow persevered under his own surname, and resurrected the Quiet Riot band name after the death of Randy Rhoads.

George Lynch is one of my guitar influences and his story is one of rejection and perseverance. He auditioned for Ozzy’s band on two occasions, losing out to Randy Rhoads once and then to Jake E. Lee. After Randy got the Ozzy gig, Lynch got Randy’s teaching gig at Randy’s mother school. In relation to the Jake E. Lee situation, Lynch got the guitar slot and then Ozzy (aka Sharon) changed their mind. One of his earlier bands The Boyz had a showcase gig organised for Gene Simmons to attend. Van Halen opened the show and the rest is history. Gene even said to George Lynch, that with a name like his, he will never make it, unless he thinks about changing it.

Ronnie James Dio spent 18 years paying his dues before finding success with Rainbow in 1976. Will musicians starting out today, put in 18 years of service to music.

The band Rush is a perfect example in perseverance. Back in 1976, before 2112 came out, success was far from guaranteed. In 1974, Rush had released their self-titled debut, which was a standard hard-rock album in the view of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Free. Fly By Night came next and it was Rush’s first with drummer Neil Peart. It featured the Ayn Rand-influenced “Anthem” and the progressive multipart “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”.

For 1975’s Caress of Steel, Rush went even more progressive to diminishing returns. On the verge of being dropped by Mercury Records, and under pressure to deliver a radio-friendly product, Rush did what was expected. They went even further away from the mainstream, more into the world of progressive music and delivered 2112, a concept album about a futuristic society, ruled by a class of people known as the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. This future does not allow people to create or to be stimulated. In the story the main character finds an old guitar and learns to play it. The Priests punish him and destroy the instrument. From perseverance, the album 2112 was born and it laid the groundwork for all of Rush’s future success.

Don’t Worry About What People Say

Rush blazed their own path and the rest is history. They delivered an album that satisfied their muses and the label got a band with a career. If they delivered what the label wanted, a radio friendly album, the label may have made some money, however they wouldn’t have had a band with a career on their roster. Ignore people’s advice unless you are asking for it. Breakthrough work is usually rejected at first. Success is slow. There is plenty of money to be made in the long run if you don’t make money your number one priority. Rush could have been a leader or a follower in 1976. Leading is much more difficult so that is why so many bands are following. How many bands came out and sounded like Motley Crue, Metallica, Guns N Rose, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dream Theater and Korn? A lot. So where are they.

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