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

1985 – Part 8

UFO – Misdemeanor

I was always on the fence when it came to UFO in the 80’s without Schenker, however I always tried to get access to their music.

It’s studio album number 12 and no one really expected the band to return after they called it quits during the disastrous tour supporting “Making Contact”.

But music is a lifers game and Phil Mogg is a lifer. He spent some time in LA and through his association with Shrapnel boss Mike Varney, he came across guitarist Atomik Tommy M. His real name is Tommy McClendon and after UFO he spent time with Brian Wheat and his band Soulmotor plus a few other LA bands.

So Mogg decided to form a NEW band, with Atomik Tommy M and bassist Paul Gray, who played on the “Making Contact” tour. Another UFO bandmate in Paul Raymond joined on keys and drummer Robbie France completed the line-up.

They started writing and Chrysalis Records was interested to sign them. But the catch was, they wanted to sign them as UFO and not as a new group.

Experienced producer Nick Tauber was tapped to produce. Thin Lizzy and Marillion are two bands that come to mind when Tauber’s name is mentioned. And of course problems came about during the recording process over contracts and payments. Drummer Robbie France left before the recording started and was replaced by former Magnum drummer Jim Simpson. And Paul Raymond quit the band during their US tour in support of this album.

One thing that really stands out is the synths in the songs, which makes this sound like a modern album, more in the vein of a couple of Canadian acts like Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite. And that’s not a bad thing. Also each lead break from Atomik Tommy M reminds me of Bruce Kulick and how he got a lead spotlight on the synth heavy Kiss songs in the mid to late 80’s and totally nailed each spotlight.

I remember the website Ultimate Classic Rock rating this as the second worst UFO album. This is what they said;

“By 1985’s ‘Misdemeanor,’ UFO, like many of their classic-rock peers, had been tragically infected by ‘80s studio disease: a grotesque but common affliction that covered its victim in sonic warts like synthesizers, triggered snare drums and squeaky guitars. At the time, UFO’s prognosis was bleak (unless you were a Starship fan!) but the band recovered from these ailments in due time.”

A Mogg and Gray cut called “This Time” starts the album with a memorable synth riff and a solo section which reminds me of Boston at the start and then some shred kicks in.

“One Heart” and “Night Run” are written by Gray, Mogg and Tommy McClendon. They are your typical AOR style of songs. So far removed from UFO’s 70’s sound and output, but artists do grow and change and sometimes they change because they are trying to fit in and remain relevant and sometimes they change because the members change.

“Mean Streets” is a song in which the guitar takes centre stage and its totally worth the wait. That riff is nasty, there’s a sense of danger to it. And it’s a co-write with Tommy McClendon.

“Name Of Love” is another co-write with McClendon, so it’s no surprise that it kicks off with a hard rock guitar riff, before it morphs into a Honeymoon Suite style of song. And how good is the lead break?

“Blue” and that outro with the finger tapped solo. It’s the shining light for me on a Mogg and Gray cut.

“Heaven’s Gate” has a crazy intro (which is brought back into the song in the outro) and a guitar solo which is guitar hero worthy. It has melody and it has speed and Bruce Kulick comes to mind. It’s also written by McClendon and Mogg.

This album is often ignored or despised or it’s a cult favourite. I enjoyed the mainstream AOR rock approach and even though it was meant to be a NEW band, there are still some classic sounding riffs in here.

The Alan Parsons Project – Stereotomy

Named after a word from an Edgar Allan Poe book, which means “the cutting of existing solid shapes into different forms”, and on this track its used as a metaphor for fame and how artists are shaped and cut to meet the demands of fame.

I like TAPP because AP uses different singers and his albums have a playlist/mixtape feel.

And how good is the title track?

It’s a cross between The Police, Journey and Loverboy. Lead vocals are handled by John Miles, who already had a successful progressive rock career up to this point.

“Beaujolais” is basically The Police with vocals by Chris Rainbow nailing that Sting vibe.

“In The Real World” has John Miles on vocals again and musically it could have come from an Autograph album.

“Where’s The Walrus?” is an instrumental that could have come from a Beverly Hills Cop movie.

“Light Of The World” reminds me of Marillion, like those synth led ballads. It has Graham Dye on vocals, from the English progressive rock band Scarlet Party.

And the album closes with “Stereotomy Two” with John Miles on vocals again.

Molly Hatchett – The Deed Is Done

This album is way to underrated.

Like the UFO or Phil Mogg solo album, this is a band bringing in contemporary and modern sounds of the time into their music. It would have upset the hard core fans but that doesn’t mean it didn’t rock. And one band comes to mind listening to this album, ZZ Top and their albums, “Afterburner” and “Eliminator”.

“Satisfied Man” sounds like it came from those ZZ Top albums and a certain song called “Sharp Dressed Man”. Regardless, I like it.

“Backstabber” could have been written by Gene Simmons for a Kiss album.

“She Does She Does” has the riffs, the brass sections and it’s party time, about a baby who has the looks and the moves.

I feel like “Stone In Your Heart” might have influenced Desmond Child or Desmond Child might have influenced Molly Hatchett, as I hear his song writing style with Bon Jovi.

“Good Smoke And Whiskey” is another track that could have come from the “Eliminator” album. It’s perfect.

“Heartbreak Radio” is back to their traditional Southern Rock and Blues sound but it’s a Frankie Miller cover who is one of the best soul rock blues singers ever.

“Straight Shooter” is dripping in blues rock attitude and a favourite. And album closer “Song For The Children” is probably one of the best Led Zep III instrumental cuts that Jimmy Page didn’t write, with its acoustic arpeggios, strumming and delicate medieval like lead.

Tear For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

I hated the album cover. It’s a picture of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. My metal and rock brain couldn’t compute how I could like the tunes made by these dudes. Talk about a bias, hey. I didn’t even want to hold it in my hand at the record store because it was gonna lose me some street cred with my mates.

But the songs.

Man, they could write songs. And that’s what is important to me.

“Shout” kicks it all off and then it’s followed by “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. The lyrics touch on everything that is real and topics that are still relevant today.

Nikki Sixx even took inspiration from “Shout” for “Primal Scream”.

There is some fluff on here, but “Head Over Heels” redeems the album, which makes up the holy trinity of songs to push this album into the stratosphere.

All up, 8 songs and most of em don’t follow your average pop formulas, with extended intros or interludes or outros.

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

There was no escape from this album.

Mark Knofler delivered on this one, staying true to his bluesy rock and roll pop influences to satisfy his core and bringing in some contemporary and modern sounds and riffs to pull in a whole new generation of fans.

“So Far Away” doesn’t really forecast the monster that would invade the airwaves and MTV. That track is called “Money For Nothing”.

Did he write it as a sledge to Motley Crue and he even called em, Yo-Yo’s?

That riff, the only way to play it is with your fingers. Don’t even attempt to use a pick, because it doesn’t even come close to capturing the feel, sort of like “Smoke On The Water”. Blackmore plays that intro with his fingers.

And if “Money For Nothing” didn’t grab ya, the sweet sounds of the 60’s boardwalks would with “Walk Of Life”. But that’s not all, the sweet notes of the saxophone kick off “Your Latest Trick” and I couldn’t turn it off. If the album ended here, I would have been happy.

Then “Ride Across The River” begins and the groove just hooks me in. Hearing this song again today, reminds of the songs that Gotye created. It has these kind of grooves. Just listen to all of the midi key riffs.

The closer and title track, “Brothers In Arms”, how good is it?

The feel, the guitar licks, the folky feel and the way it percolates. This is writing to please oneself and not to please a chart. And when this kind of writing happens, it crosses over and translates to many.

Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors

According to legend, this album did huge numbers in Thunder Bay. In Australia we didn’t even know it existed as Aerosmith’s comeback was tied with “Permanent Vacation”.

“Let The Music Do The Talking” kicks off and it’s loud, it has groove, it has slide guitar and Steve Tyler is bringing out his rock and roll blues. Plus it’s a re-recording from Joe Perry’s solo album released a few years before.

“My Fist Your Face” has an intro that sounds like it belongs on a 70’s Sabbath album, but from the verses it’s your typical Aerosmith song.

“She’s On Fire” is my favourite. That slide acoustic guitar riff is excellent, and while Kramer and Perry and everyone else claim the record is uninspired and terrible, there is no denying the quality of the riffs here. Then again, when you a have history of guitar store riffs in your discography, these ones might seem like off cuts.

And since Led Zeppelin wasn’t making any new music, then its Zep sounding cuts on albums from other artists that would satisfy the Led Zep fans. Like this one.

Well that’s a wrap for another 85 post and over to 77 we go for Part 8.

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

1978 – Part 1

Quiet Riot – II

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this in a second hand record shop in the early 90’s for $10.

It’s part of Randy Rhoads origin story.

And what a strange cover, with the guys in the band, dressed up in glam outfits in a locker room with American Football jocks.

What the !!

“Slick Black Cadillac” kicks it off, a song which QR would redo with Carlos Cavazo and release it on “Metal Health”. But you need to hear the RR version.

The piece d’resistance is the solo sections of “Trouble” and “Face To Face” which reminds me of bits and pieces from “Mr Crowley”, “Over The Mountain” and “Flying High Again”.

And my other favourite is “We’ve Got The Magic”.

Listen to the little melodic leads RR plays in the Chorus.

And who said that RR couldn’t be bluesy. Check out the lead break in this song.

Boston – Don’t Look Back

How good is that melodic lead break during the Chorus of “Don’t Look Back”?

“A Man I’ll Never Be” has a similar lead break like “Don’t Look Back” just before the Chorus.

“Party” sounds like they just turned up, plugged in, had a party and jammed.

And that’s it for me. Boston has always been a two to three song band per album.

Van Halen – Van Halen

So many good songs for a debut.

It’s the same old saying, you have a lifetime to write your first album and a few months for the second.

But Van Halen in their early days were very prolific writers, so even though the first album is full of good moments, a lot of other songs from these days appeared on albums afterwards, all the way up to the reunion with Roth in the two thousands.

“Running With The Devil” kicks it all off with the iconic riff and in the Chorus, Michael Anthony’s backing vocals take centre stage. “Eruption” is now set in stone as one of “the instrumentals” on the Ten Commandments and The Kinks introduced “You Really Got Me” as a Van Halen cover after Van Halen rockified it.

Then the Am to F to G palm muted arpeggiated intro begins for “Aint Talking Bout Love” and another iconic riff is born.

“I’m The One” is the embryo of songs like “House Of Pain” and “Get Up”. “Jamie’s Cryin” was a hit twice, once with Van Halen and once with Tone Loc who sampled the riff and beat for “Wild Thing”.

“Atomic Punk” has that slashing like intro that inspired Slash for the “Mr Brownstone” intro. “Feel Your Love Tonight” could have come from an ELO record and Michael Anthony’s backing vocals are so precise and powerful. “Little Dreamer” has got this rumbling like riff that is cool to play. “Ice Cream Man” didn’t satisfy, but “On Fire” is full of good riffs to enjoy.

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town

I always have time for Bruce Springsteen and this album rates as one of his best.

I love the way “Badlands” starts off. The riff is so rock and roll and pop rock all in one. Bands like “ELO” and “Styx” built careers on riffs like these. Then that bluesy sleazy rhythm kicks off “Adam Raised A Cain”.  “Something In The Night” was written in 78, but the intro riff would become a number 1 chart topper in 84, when it became “I’m On Fire”.

The intro piano riff of “Racing In The Street” must have influenced Jonathan Cain as he would write many songs that went to platinum levels of success with a similar vibe and feel. “Promised Land” is about Springsteen’s beliefs in the life he is living, in the country he is born in.

And “Streets Of Fire” is still relevant today as it was back in the Seventies. “Prove It All Night” or “Because The Night”, as there is no difference between them really, especially in the music around the Chorus.

Rainbow – Long Live Rock N Roll

The drum roll snare, the words “All Right” and off we go, into the mystic lands of Rock and Roll, screaming deep into the night, “Long Live Rock And Roll”.

And Richie Blackmore is all over this album, with guitar riffs gifted to him from the “Lady Of The Lake”. If you don’t believe me, check out the verse riff and then that vocal melody in the Pre-Chorus/Chorus from Ronnie James Dio.

And we caught the “L.A Connection” to the “Gates Of Babylon” just to “Kill The King”, hiding out in “The Shed” because our “Rainbow Eyes” are “Sensitive To Light”.

Queen – Jazz

Some of the best riffs from Brian May are on this album.

The guitar riff in “Fat Bottomed Girls” makes the world go around. “If You Can’t Beat Them” has this pop like riff which reminds me of other acts, but Brian May makes it his own.

Listen to “Dead On Time”, it’s basically got a speed rock riff. “Dreamer’s Ball” kicks off with a harmony solo, before it morphs into an acoustic 12 bar blues. Listen to “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy”, with its acoustic riffs which sound full of power.

The drum beat in “More Of That Jazz” is perfect and once Brian May starts with the syncopated riff, it was time to pick up the guitar and learn it. And the Chorus at first sounds metal before it morphs into something like cabaret.

Dire Straits – Dire Straits

Mark Knofler’s guitar tone is brilliant. “Down To The Waterline” is a perfect example of it as he decorates the track with licks and riffs.

By the time I had heard this album, I had already overdosed on “Sultans Of Swings”. It’s one of those tracks like “The Final Countdown”, “Were Not Gonna Take It” and “Livin On A Prayer”. They have been played so many times, so while they are great tracks, you tend to ignore them. Still the finger picked lead break from Knofler is brilliant.

The Cars – The Cars

As I was writing The Car’s section, news hit Twitter that Ric Ocask was found dead in Manhattan at 75 years of age. I was very late getting into “The Cars” but I am glad I did. And what a debut album.

“Good Times Roll” kicks it off with its iconic riff, lyrics and synth lines. Let the good times roll in deed. And they continue with “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed”.

So many songs in the 70’s about their best friends partners. Eric Clapton wrote Layla because he was in love with George Harrison’s wife, which he eventually married. Rick Springfield topped the charts with “Jessie’s Girl” and so did The Cars. And neither song took away from the other. These days, everyone will be suing each other for copying their feels.

“Moving In Stereo” has a metal like riff in the vein of Judas Priest. No one will believe me, but they need to check it out. And the synth lead is perfect.

Well that’s it for the first post. More to come in Part 2.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Shifting Thoughts with Evergrey, Dream Theater and Five Finger Death Punch – Are Corporate Deals the New Music Business?

The internet is flush with information about artists needing to do what is valuable to them. However what is valuable to them doesn’t always mean that it is valuable to everyone else.

So artists are always going back to square one. This is when artists will start to compromise their artistic vision and produce cookie cutter crap. However what an artist should be doing is to keep on writing. In the end, that valuable song will be written and it will translate to your audience. This is when the thing that you love to do, translates to an audience that loves what you do.

Evergrey is a Swedish progressive metal band. They are eight albums in so far. Their first album The Dark Discovery came out in 1998 and the most recent one Glorious Collision came out in 2011. The mainstay of the band is guitarist/vocalist Tom Englund, who also functions as the main songwriter in the band. Around him, band members come and go, with the most recent change happening in 2010.

Englund is remaining true to his artistic vision. He is not compromising on it and he is not changing his vision to chase any current trends. Drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage left Evergrey in 2010 to form a metal core outfit called Death Destruction with the lead singer from another Swedish band called Dead By April. Chasing trends.

It all comes down to what the artist wants to achieve from their career. Englund is all about the art and to me it seems like he is happy with the level of success he has. Would he like to be bigger? I am sure the answer would be YES to that, however would he complain about his lot in life. I think not. Englund is doing the thing that he loves to do and he has found an audience that loves what he does.

Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Digital Summer and Protest The Hero all get it.

Digital Summer is all fan funded. They have been around since 2006. They have toured strategically since inception as all the band members hold down full time jobs. They are three albums and one EP in so far and based on their business model, they will be around for a long time.

Protest The Hero is also fan funded. Their recent Indiegogo campaign more than tripled their goal (and YES I am one of those fans that donated). They have even rewarded the super fans that have shared the contribution link and gotten other people to contribute with additional perks.

Coheed and Cambria are a very fan centric band. The way they have packaged The Afterman releases with the digital downloads available on the day of release, along with demos and back stories of each song, as well as an 80 odd page hard cover book is just brilliant. They did it their way and with a price that was just right.

Dream Theater is one band that is sitting on the fringe here. They are still doing it the old way as they know their fan base will lap up the new self-titled album. Their recent co-promotion with mainstream entity USA Today to launch their new single The Enemy Within is just another corporate deal in the same vein as Jay Z partnering with Samsung.

USA Today offer a certain amount of dollars so that they are the exclusive and first on line website to premier the new song. By doing this, Dream Theater, their label, their manager and whoever else has a stake in the band will get paid up front and USA Today will get traffic to their website which they can then use to get a higher ad revenue from their advertisers’.

Before all the DT Forum Elitists start jumping up in arms and start calling me an idiot, every band is entitled to earn money in any way they see fit. This is no different to Dire Straits and Phillips teaming up in the Eighties, to push the new CD format onto consumers. If that what Dream Theater’s business model needs them to do, good on them. In the end the fans will decide the fate of the band, as they have done for every band that came before and that will come after.

Five Finger Death Punch did something similar were they teamed/partnered with Loudwire to produce a track by track webisode series. The Five Finger Death Punch co-promotion was super cool as it focused on delivering back stories to each of the songs. As a fan, it is those little extra details that I really like. That could be the reason why Five Finger Death Punch have reached Gold status with each album release. Those little things, like a track by track webisode.

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