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

2000 – Part 8

Fuel – Something Like Human

Like Matchbox 20, Fuel became my fix for hard rock music. I don’t know why they still aren’t around. Listening to this album I just assumed they would be doing the rounds 20 years later.

“Something Like Human” is the second album, released on Epic Records. It did great business in sales, double platinum in the U.S and Gold in Canada. In case you don’t know who Fuel are, its Carl Bell on guitar. Brett Scallions on vocals, Jeff Abercrombie on bass and Kevin Millar on drums.

On this album, 9 of the songs are just written by Carl Bell and two of em are Bell and Scallions co-writes.

The “Last Time” kicks it off with a memorable Chorus melody and guitar riff. “Haemorrhage (In My Hands)” is an 80’s rock song all dolled up for the 2000’s. Just listen to the verse arpeggios and you’ll know what I mean.

“Empty Spaces” is a metal like cut with a grunge like Chorus. And its cuts like this that bridged the gap between the 80’s hard rock scene and the 90’s grunge scene. Then “Scar” kicks in and the “Scar” intro riff has got groove and sleaze. Listen to it, it wouldn’t be out of place on a GnR record.

“Bad Day” is a favourite. It’s a ballad, with that C-Am-F-G chord progression (in a different key for this song). Its memorable and hooky.

“Slammed the door and said, sorry, I’ve had a bad day again”

And after 5 Carl Bell penned tracks, I’m on the floor. He is one hell of a songwriter.

The song “Prove” feels like it came from a Gunners album and it gave the album its title with its lyrics and “Easy” is probably the best song that Stone Temple Pilots didn’t write. It’s got that “Plush” vibe.

“Innocent” is my favourite cut. That sombre clean tone electric strumming gets me interested and the lyrics.

Satan, you know where I lie
Gently I go into that good night

All of us sinners are reporting for duty Mr Satan, because our innocent smiles from young are replaced with lies and hidden truths and some backstabbing along the way, because that kind of shit happened to us before, so we need to pay those people back.

All our lives get complicated / search for pleasures overrated

Status became a thing. Reagan and other leaders in the 80’s told our parents they need two cars in the driveway and investment properties and suddenly, people started to outdo each other with possessions.

Never armed our souls for what the future would hold / when we were innocent

Truth in these words. Youth doesn’t bring wisdom and we rarely practiced what we wanted our future selves to be like. And as we got older, we got smacked down by life, society and the rat race and the grind of making a living to keep the lights on.

Never were we told we’d be bought and sold, when we were innocent

More so today. Hell, we didn’t even get bought out to hand over our online activities to Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest. We are giving it all away for free, while these companies make billions selling it to advertisers.

On the special edition, there are two cover tracks in “Going To California” from Led Zep, which Fuel nails and “Daniel” from Elton John and I can hear how the acoustic riffs for “Patience” came about.

Spineshank – The Height Of Callousness

A bass player from the band I was in, recommended Spineshank to me. And they got me out of rut.

A lot of the songs have that hard core style of vocals that Slipknot and Mudvayne brought to the table, with some of the electronics that Disturbed brought and some good ole head banging.

Tracks 1 and 2 lost me, and then the intro to track 3, “Synthetic” exploded out of the speakers. And I was hooked with the intro riff which reappears in the Chorus. The song is delivered with a clean tone like vocal which is probably why it stuck with me.

And that clean tone vocal trend continues with “New Disease” and its these two songs that got me interested in the band.

The rest of the album while great for others was lost on me melodically, but each song had little riffs here and there that proved interesting.

Pearl Jam – Binaural

After the first couple of albums and their project with Neil Young, Pearl Jam had enough goodwill in my book to warrant listens of all subsequent albums after.

“Nothing As It Seems” is the song here that gets me interested, with its strummed acoustic guitar riff, some distorted guitar embellishments and Vedder delivering a hypnotic vocal.

Halford – Resurrection

“Reeeeeeeee-surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-rectionnnnnnnnnnnnnnn” screams Rob Halford and then it’s all guns blazing again once the music kicks in. And just like that, heavy metal was back in my life, exactly the way I knew it.

This is the best way to re-announce your return to the fold which by this time the metal I grew up with was known as traditional heavy metal as heavy metal in 2000 proved unrecognisable to me.

Then “Made In Hell” kicks off with its harmony guitars, and lyrics about 1968 and how metal came to be from foundries and coalmines.

The head banging continues with “Locked and Loaded” and “Night Fall”. Even though it’s a Halford album, it’s the best Judas Priest song that JP never released.

“Silent Screams” starts off with acoustic guitar arpeggios and a vocal line about “tempting fate, losing friends along the way, but still standing tall with no regrets” and then that Chorus kicks in for Halford to deliver a classic heavy metal track. The song morphs into a metal cut around the 3 minute mark before returning to its melancholy.

“The One You Love To Hate” continues the head banging with a riff that reminds me of “Lightning Strikes Again” from Dokken. It can be interchanged with the next track “Cyberworld” with Halford referencing his “Electric Eye” lyrics as inspiration.

How good is that harmony solo?

And to make it better, Halford sings a vocal melody which acts like an extra guitar lead over the harmony lead. I skip “Slow Down” and then we are into “Hell’s Last Survivor” which is another cut you can interchange with “The One You Love To Hate” and “Cyberworld”.

“Temptation” is one of those more mainstream cuts that Judas Priest has been known to do. “God Bringer Of Death” has this “Gates Of Babylon” feel from Rainbow.

The Wallflowers – Breach

Their 96 album, “Bringing Down The Horse” was everywhere in Australia and their cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” kept em in the news.

Then they dropped “Breach” and I was on the fence with it. “Sleepwalker” has some Springsteen like influences which I liked. “I’ve Been Delivered” has a synth lick which is memorable. “Mourning Train” has a drum pattern with handclaps and foot stomps with an acoustic guitar and a vocal line which I like, but that’s it.

The Offspring – Conspiracy Of One

They had momentum coming into this album with the “Smash”, “Ixnay On The Hombre” and “Americana” albums. I was in various bands that covered “Pretty Fly”, “Gone Away” and “Come Out And Play”.

So coming into this album, it was no surprise that some of the songs sounded like part 2 of previous successful songs.

For example, “Original Prankster” sounds like part 2 of “Pretty Fly”. But opening track “Come Out Swinging” is fast as punk can be with metal like riffs and picking.

“Want You Bad” sounds like those major key 80’s hard rock songs, which work so well with the power punk rock of The Offspring. “Million Miles Away” is another singalong anthem.

How good is that intro riff to “Dammit, I Changed Again”?

John Petrucci used it for “Happy Song” on his recent “Terminal Velocity” album.

And if the album could had ended after this track and I would have been okay with it as the next few tracks proved skipable.

Then “Denial, Revisited” started and it had my attention again. “Vultures” then kicks off with a riff that reminds of BoC, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. And the title track, “Conspiracy Of One” closes the album with its “Blitzkrieg” style riff.

Zebrahead – Playmate Of The Year

It’s not on Spotify Australia, which irks me, but hey, we still have YouTube, even though the labels are fighting hard to kill off the free ad supported version of it.

That clean tone digital riff to kick off “I Am” is excellent. Then there is a bit of hip hop in the verses as that same clean tone riff plays.

“Playmate Of The Year” is now a go to song for all things to do with “Playmate” even replacing “Centrefold”.

“Go” is a hard rock cut. “Now Or Never” has an intro riff which is heavy, a hip hop verse and an anthemic melodic chorus. “Wasted” has that riff which John Petrucci brought back into our lives via “Happy Song”. A similar riff appeared on The Offspring album.

“What’s Goin On?” is one of those cuts that sums up the pop punk movement between 1998 and 2004. “All I Need” is a sneaky derivative version of “Run To The Hills” in the intro. Check it out. Then it morphs into a Nu-Metal cut.

And now we move to 1985 for part 8.

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

The Pirate Vault #5

The Pirate Vault box keeps on producing some great memories.

Richie Kotzen – Fever Dream and Cacophony – Metal Symphony

I was in a shred mindset between 1989 and 1992 and I was buying CD’s and albums from Shrapnel artists. And I got these albums dubbed a few years after they came out and i picked em up on CD and LP not soon after.

I heard about Cacophony from interviews I read about Jason Becker and Marty Friedman, who of course at the time had gigs with David Lee Roth and Megadeth. And the music world only got to see a brief appearance of an unbelievable musician in Jason Becker, who still writes music via his eye movements and a system his dad has set up for him due to Lou Gehrig’s disease otherwise known as ALS.  

And of course, Richie Kotzen had the Poison guitar slot, in which he co-write a brilliant blues, rock and soul album called “Native Tongue” (which could have been his solo album) and the busy man he was, he also took Ricki Rockett’s fiancé mid tour. “Layla” from Eric Clapton comes to mind right now.

Dinosaur Jr – Without A Sound and Hand It Over

I was in a hard rock band with a drummer who was into grungy sounding bands, so while I exposed him to Dream Theater, he told me to sink my teeth into Dinosaur Jr.

I was hooked from the opening arpeggios and single note lines in “Feel The Pain” from the “Without A Sound” album released in 1994. And the heaviness of opening track “I Don’t Think” from the “Hand It Over” album released in 1997.

Fuel – Sunburn and Santana – 3

Fuel had significant chart success in Australia with “Shimmer”, however I didn’t commit financially until the second album came out. Another band member did commit, so it was a no brainer to copy this album from them, while another band member really enjoyed the jam aspects of Santana – 3, so in order to understand what they meant at band practice, I had to dub this album.

And it’s funny how in the early 2000’s, I was experiencing a new release and a release more than 30 years old. The beauty of music is that everyone forms a connection at different times.

And the songs “Taboo” and “Toussaint L’Overture” have some of the best and emotive guitar solo work Carlos has recorded on tape. They still make the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

AC/DC – Bon Scott compilation

My mate, Mick is a mad ACCA fan. When he lived in NY for about 12 years, he saw them on every tour, every night. When they come to Australia, he sees the Sydney shows.

One day in a suburban street in Australia, at a time far away sometime in the 80s, I asked him if he was keen to make our own Best Off compilation of Bon Scott material while we polished off a box of beer.

So off to work we went, debating which song should make it and which song shouldn’t. And a few hours later the holy grail of Bon Scott material that we classified as essential was ready to be blasted in the car stereo.

And I still hold that view to this day.

We were meant to meet and eventually do a Brian Johnson compilation, but life got in the way and we never did.

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

If You Want To Succeed In 2014

I was listening to Fuel’s new album “Puppet Strings” today.

Fuel was one of those rock bands I latched onto in the late nineties, early two thousands.

Why call it Fuel without Carl Bell?

Why did Carl Bell call it Fuel without Brett Scallions for the “Angels and Demons” album cycle?

Keeping a band together is a job in itself. No one tells you how hard it is. Read about the making of “The Wall” from Pink Floyd. Watch, “The History Of The Eagles” documentary. Read, “The Dirt” or “Face The Music” or “Lifting Shadows” or “Enter Night” and you will see countless examples of bands trying to hold it together.

Listening to the Fuel album got me thinking about the current state of the music business.

We live in an age where only blockbuster albums make serious money.

The income gap divide between the bands that release blockbuster albums and the ones that don’t is growing wider and wider.

The days of paying your dues and breaking through are over.

Now it is all about being great 24/7.

The internet noise has made it almost impossible for messages to rise above it and new releases come out one week and if they are not great, they are forgotten the next.

It’s a cold hard truth. In 2014, you have to be great.

Five Finger Death Punch. Great.

Volbeat. Great.

Avenged Sevenfold. Great.

Skillet. Great.

Gemini Syndrome. Great.

Halestorm. Great.

In This Moment. Great.

All of the bands mentioned above have had albums out for at least 10 months and more, and they are still part of the social conversation.

If you are one of those people who uses sales as a metric of success then all of the above bands are still moving units. However sales are not the only measures of success these days.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, understand how streaming royalties work.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, stop bitching about streaming royalties and re-negotiate with the record label.

Ever heard the story of Loreena McKennitt, who is a Canadian Folk/Celtic/World music artist.

She couldn’t get a record deal. She spent a long time networking and building a connection with her audience. Eventually she created a substantial fan base that started to purchase her music and she was getting 70% of it. When Warner Bros. came knocking, she showed the label what she was making and the “crap contract” that the label came with got torn up and she negotiated a new deal with the label that benefited her as well as the label.

In the end a harp playing harpist had enough bargaining chips on her side that she was able to negotiate a real deal. And then you have people like Scott Ian and other metal heads complaining about piracy and the state of the industry.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that it is a relationships business with the fans first and foremost.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that the press doesn’t matter. It might make you feel great and it might please your vanity, however it is the fans that break acts.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you only get ONE SHOT to make a first impression.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to know how to write, play and sing.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, take a note from the Dave Matthews band. They are huge because they have fostered an audience that is more or less a cultural movement.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to keep creating hits. The biggest songs of a band’s career are the ones that didn’t rise up the charts. The fans made them hits in their cultural universe. Seen a recent set list of Metallica or Megadeth. None of the songs ended up as Chart Hits, but they are still hits.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that streaming revenue is just going to keep on rising. If you are on a label and an old contract start re-negotiating right now. Otherwise you will be left behind.

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