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

1980

A lot of my favourite albums from the past are always having some kind of anniversary each year. Since we are in 2015, I am feeling nostalgic, so I am going back to 1980.

Now let me be clear, all of these 1980 albums didn’t end up in my collection until the mid to late Eighties. Finances always proved a problem when it came to deciding what music to purchase.

Coming into 1980, Whitesnake was working a lot. The band was putting out an album a year and touring consistently. Then the Martin Birch produced “Ready an’ Willing” dropped, launching the song “Fool For Your Loving”, a piece written by Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody and David Coverdale. That song brought about a new interest into the band.

To me, “Ready an’ Willing” is the album that started Whitesnake’s rise. It holds a special place in my life as it was the first album I purchased from Whitesnake’s back catalogue after the 1987 album exploded. And I was impressed. While the “1987” album is a classic, I really loved the raw sound on this one and the working bands attitude. You can hear it in the notes.

While the album has songs that deal with relationships, my two favourites are “Blindman” (which is a derivative version of the Coverdale/Blackmore penned “Soldier Of Fortune”) and the very Led Zeppelin sounding, “Aint Gonna Cry No More”. Those songs also nail it lyrically for me. Talk about completely forgotten, no one under forty would know these songs.

“Chasing rainbows that have no end, The road is long without a friend….” from BLINDMAN

“Memories of broken dreams, As distant as the sun, Are drifting like an echo in the wind….” from AIN’T GONNA CRY NO MORE

In that same year, the Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath released their version of “Heaven and Hell”. As with all things record label related, this project was always meant to be a new band.

The first song written by Iommi and Dio for the new band was “Children of the Sea”. Geezer Butler was so set against continuing without Ozzy, so Iommi had Geoff Nicholls on hand to play bass on those initial sessions. It was actually Nicholls that came up with the “Heaven and Hell” bass line.

On board to produce “Heaven And Hell” was Martin Birch. That’s right, the same Martin Birch in charge of Whitesnake’s “Ready an’ Willing’ album.

“The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams…..” from HEAVEN AND HELL

I purchased this album very late. It was actually after “Lock Up The Wolves” from Dio came out in 1990.

At that time, I had the cash and my plan was to get stuck into Dio’s past works starting with Rainbow. However, I also came across the Black Sabbath releases in the second hard record store and purchased all five albums, the three Rainbow albums and the two Sabbath albums.

I was blown away. I couldn’t believe I was that late on hearing this unbelievable music.

Who can forget “British Steel” from Judas Priest?

I purchased it on cassette, which I still have today. It was right after “Painkiller” came out. I knewe of “Breaking The Law” and Livin After Midnight” but man, there are so many other good cuts on this album, I was again blown away.

Produced by Tom Allom, it started a winning campaign for Judas Priest that still sustains them to this day. After “British Steel” came “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Defenders of the Faith”. They are still doing victory laps on the backs of these three albums.

“British Steel” came out at a time when “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal” was starting to gain momentum. Even though Judas Priest was around way before, “British Steel” set up a certain sound for the many bands that would follow.

It was also an album recorded with a tour already booked to promote it. So when the band went into the studio with a handful of ideas, it was up to Glenn, KK and Rob to sit around and bang out the songs. From that pressure, great songs was the outcome.

In relation the tour, it featured a young band by the name of “Iron Maiden”.

“There I was completely wasted, out of work and down…..” from BREAKING THE LAW

“Living after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn…..” from LIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT

“I’ve had enough of being programmed, And told what I ought to do…..” from YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE OLD TO BE WISE

Which brings me to Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut, an album I purchased after “No Prayer For The Dying” came out.

It was recorded in 13 days, aided by the fact that all of the songs had been well-rehearsed live staples. They fired two other producers before settling on the disinterested Will Malone, who basically gave the band free-reign to do whatever they wanted.

I first heard “Running Free”, “Iron Maiden” and “Phantom Of The Opera” on 1985’s “Live After Death” album with Bruce Dickinson singing, so when I first heard the debut I was taken aback by Paul DiAnno’s vocals. I hated them, as I was so used to Bruce Dickinson. But man, like everything, the harsher street style of DiAnno grew on me. And what about that wah riff to kick off “Prowler”.

It was also the album that gave people a glimpse into Iron Maiden and the artwork of Derek Riggs.

“Unchain the colours before my eyes, Yesterday’s sorrows, tomorrow’s white lies…..” from REMEMBER TOMORROW

Just sixteen, a pickup truck, out of money, out of luck, I’ve got nowhere to call my own, hit the gas, and here I go…..” from RUNNING FREE

“You’ve been living so long in hiding in hiding behind that false mask…..” from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

So what do you get when you finish the music for an album in six days and the entire album in eight?

Van Halen’s “Women and Children First” is the answer.

I actually heard “1984” first, then “5150” and “Eat Em And Smile”. So it was only natural that I went deeper into Van Halen’s back catalogue after that. There are a lot of stories about the making of the album, the photo shoot, which can be found here.

“Well, they say it’s kinda fright’nin’ how this younger generation swings…..” from AND THE CRADLE WILL ROCK

“Don’t want no class reunion, this circus just left town, Why behave in public if you’re livin’ on a playground?…” from FOOLS

“I’m takin’ whiskey to the party tonight, and I’m lookin’ for somebody to squeeze….” from ROMEO’S DELIGHT

The album holds a special place for me because of its jam orientated vibe. It’s basically saying to me, this is Van Halen and this is who we are in 1980. As a guitarist learning to shred in 1987, any piece of Van Halen music was seen as a must learn, however I never really sat down to learn anything from “Women And Children First”. I always said, I will learn “And The Cradle Will Rock”, but never did. That is why it is special in a silly way.

It’s actually funny, but the songs that I do play from Van Halen are from the debut album, the “1984” album, the “5150” album and the “Balance” album. Those are the albums I actually sat down and learned. I suppose, subconsciously, that I preferred the more pop orientated structures than the wild jam orientated structures.

What does a band do after releasing two massive science fiction progressive albums in “2112” and “Hemispheres”?

In Rush’s case, and Metallica’s a decade later, they both scaled back the arrangements and veered to shorter track lengths and more personal lyrical topics.  Longtime Rush producer Terry Brown was on hand again to assist. The songs from “Permanent Waves” are all over “Exit Stage Left” which was the only Rush album I had in the Eighties.  “The Spirit Of Radio”, “Freewill” and “Jacobs Ladder” all appear on the live album.

And when I purchased the album, “Natural Science” became a must song to add to my bible of guitar songs to learn.

This album also hold a special place in my life, because it was the first album I purchased based on a Dream Theater interview I read in the Nineties where they talk about their influences and it cemented my love for Rush. After this album, I was all in. It was only a matter of time before I purchased all of their other albums. If I had purchased something like “Hold Your Fire” first, then the love for Rush would have been very different.

So many great lyrics from Peart on this one as well.

“One likes to believe in the freedom of music, but glittering prizes and endless compromises, shatter the illusion of integrity….” from THE SPIRIT OF RADIO

There are those who think that, they’ve been dealt a losing hand, the cards were stacked against them, they weren’t born in Lotus-Land…..” from FREEWILL

You can choose a ready guide, in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…..” from FREEWILL

I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose free will…..” from FREEWILL

‘Freewill’ continues that sprightly pace, navigating a bouncy chorus hook and a theme about mankind’s lack of moral evasion.

 “We’re linked to one another, by such slender threads, we are planets to each other, drifting in our orbits….” from ENTRE NOUS

“Different eyes see different things, Different hearts beat on different strings…..” from DIFFERENT STRINGS

“Time after time we lose sight of the way, our causes can’t see their effects…..” from i. Tide Pools – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Computerized clinic for superior cynics, who dance to a synthetic band, in their own image their world is fashioned, no wonder they don’t understand…..” from ii. HyperSpace – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Science, like nature, must also be tamed, with a view towards its preservation…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“The most endangered species – the honest man , will still survive annihilation, forming a world, a state of integrity, sensitive, open, and strong…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Wave after wave will flow with the tide, and bury the world as it does, Tide after tide will flow and recede, Leaving life to go on as it was…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Blizzard Of Ozz” is what happens when a technically gifted guitarist teams up with a well-travelled and experienced bassist to form a band around a washed up and intoxicated singer. It sounds like a plot line for a movie.

In order to go back to 1980, I need to go forward to 1988.

The “Tribute” album came first for me. The tablature book was my bible. So many nights spent practicing all of the licks and riffs in that book. Eventually in the early Nineties, I got around to purchasing “Blizzard Of Ozz”.  So many iconic songs on the album and the legend of Randy Rhoads will never be forgotten. Credit Bob Daisley, the unsung hero and creative lyricist.

The special part for me on hearing the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album is understanding the work that Randy Rhoads did to blend/merge so many different layers of guitars from the studio album into ONE DEFINITIVE GUITAR TRACK for performing live.

Brilliant.

I was left speechless.

It was an album that you needed to get to hear all the songs. These were not songs that could be purchased as singles and these songs were not promoted heavily on radio. We knew them only if we purchased the albums.

From the start to the end, the album is an experience.

And how good are the lyrics from Bob Daisley. So many brilliant lines.

“Everyone goes through changes, Looking to find the truth, Don’t look at me for answers, Don’t ask me, I don’t know…..” from I DON’T KNOW

“How am I supposed to know, Hidden meanings that will never show, Fools and prophets from the past, Life’s a stage and we’re all in the cast…..” from I DON’T KNOW

“Crazy, But that’s how it goes, Millions of people, Living as foes…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“Maybe, It’s not too late, To learn how to love, And forget how to hate…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“I’ve listened to preachers, I’ve listened to fools, I’ve watched all the dropouts, Who make their own rules…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“One person conditioned, To rule and control, The media sells it, And you live the role…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“I’ve been the king, I’ve been the clown, No broken wings can hold me down, I’m free again…..” from GOODBYE TO ROMANCE

“And the weather’s looking fine, And I think the sun will shine again, And I feel I’ve cleared my mind, All the past is left behind again…..” from GOODBYE TO ROMANCE

“Take a bottle, drown your sorrows, Then it floods away tomorrows…..” from SUICIDE SOLUTION

“Heaven is for heroes, And hell is full of fools, Stupidity, no will to live, They’re breaking God’s own rules…..” from REVELATION MOTHER EARTH

I remember playing pool at the local pub and the jukebox cranking ACCA DACCA’s “Back In Black” constantly. That is how I heard the album from start to finish, by waiting for the older crowd with more disposable incomes to get the jukebox cranking. And people wondered why we started to cherry pick songs from iTunes. We have been doing it since the jukebox.

The Eagles “Hotel California” and Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” are two other albums that I heard via the jukebox.

It was the antidote to New Wave and whatever else was popular at the time. Even in 2015, it still sells over 150,000 units a year.

“If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine….” from HELLS BELLS

“I got nine lives, Cat’s eyes, Abusin’ every one of them and running wild…..” from BACK IN BLACK

“She was a fast machine, She kept her motor clean, She was the best damn woman that I ever seen…..” from YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG

“Hey there, all you middlemen, Throw away your fancy clothes, Way out there, sittin’ on a fence, So get off your ass and come down here…..” from ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION

“We’re just talkin’ about the future, Forget about the past, It’ll always be with us, it’s never gonna die…..” from ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION

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Uncategorized

The State Of Heavy Metal

There it is again. Heavy metal. It doesn’t matter how many times the labels tried to kill it, mainstream it or commercialize it, Heavy Metal has remained consistent from when it began. Whenever pop music becomes pretentious, heavy metal rises up as an alternative answer.

What does the term “heavy metal” mean?

Black Sabbath started something in 1969 in the UK. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin started something on the hard rock front. In the U.S you had Kiss, Styx, Ted Nugent, Journey. In Australia, you had a pub rock band called AC/DC. Progressive Rock became a force to be reckoned with on the backs of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes.

By the mid Seventies, disco, punk and new wave became the darlings of the scene and heavy metal and all forms of rock went underground again, waiting for the day to rise again.

Then came the New Wave of British Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1983. At the same time, hard rock, glam metal and speed metal roared out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco scene. Think Motley Crue, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

When heavy metal and hard rock drops off the mainstream scene, it is never gone for long. Heavy Metal is the answer to all things corrupt. It is the soundtrack.

Typically most metal fans come from working-class homes or changed family dynamics. According to a recent study, all us metal heads must have low self-esteem, because that is why we listen to metal music.

The mainstream always ignored metal music, seeing it as too dumb. Of course, when a band breaks through, the mainstream are the first group of media outlets to jump on the wagon. Remember Metallica. Ignored by the mainstream completely. The only mainstream press they got was the sad and tragic death of Cliff Burton. Then the Black album comes out and it is undeniable. It’s a juggernaut and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

So here is the list of the current state of heavy metal.

CLASSIC EVERYTHING

Rush – enough said. Move on.

AC/DC – enough said times two.

CLASSIC METAL

Iron Maiden – they need another great album like “Brave New World” soon or they will be playing to smaller and smaller audiences with each tour.

Metallica – they need to start making better decisions and they need to release new music. Look at their decision-making process. A project with Lou Reed (RIP) that just didn’t connect with the fan bases of each party involved and an $18 million dud of a movie. In relation to new music, they can only go back to the same market place year after year before the fans get burned on it.

Megadeth – Dave Mustaine said on “The Metal Show” that his top five Megadeth albums are “Countdown To Extinction”, “Rust In Peace”, “Peace Sells”, “So Far So Good So What” and “Killing Is My Business”. He needs to have a current album in that Top 5.

Slayer – are finished in relation to new music without Jeff Hanneman. He was the main songwriter in Slayer, full stop. To hear Kerry King saying that if the Jeff Hanneman music in the archives is not good, it will be not used is a load of B.S. Who made Kerry King the gatekeeper?

Judas Priest – is not Judas Priest anymore. It’s all about the dollars.

Black Sabbath – is all about the last paycheck. Anyone remember the recent album? Name me the whole track list without Googling it. I bet if i asked you to name me the whole track list on “Paranoid” or “Heaven And Hell” I would get an answer.

Pantera – lets hope that no one is stupid enough to reform Pantera with a “guitarist” paying tribute to Dimebag. Stick to your guns Vinnie. Pantera died completely when Dimebag died.

CLASSIC ROCK

Led Zeppelin is still big business in the market place. That is what the mighty Zep has become. A Corporate entity.

Pink Floyd are on hiatus however Roger Waters is still doing the rounds. He is the real deal anyway.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same market places year after year since 2008. The fans are getting burnt on this grab for cash as no new music has been forthcoming expect for the song “Sex”. The movie and the farewell tour are constantly dropped to the public.

Deep Purple should call it a day. They are out of ideas and inspiration.

Styx, Journey, Toto and Night Ranger are shadows of their former selves, doing enough to make a living in the current music business, but out of touch of what the music business fans want from their artists today. Which is a direct line, a connection.

THRASH/GROOVE METAL

Machine Head is the leader in this group. In Robb Flynn, they have a work horse of epic proportions who has the grit to see things through.

Trivium are real contenders. Say what you will about them, one thing is clear; they are not afraid to try new shit out and take risks.

METAL (all styles)

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch lead this group. They are ticking all the boxes. They have the sales on the board and both are part of the public conversation.

Bullet For My Valentine – have a great album in them. Can they write it?

Stone Sour – should have released one album instead of two.

Sevendust – I love them and the new album was a welcomed return to form.

Disturbed – The Device album had the same impact as the last Disturbed album. Do they still have a place in the Metal world?

Heartist – could be the next big thing or they could crash and burn with their next album as now they have a record label A&R department in their house.

ROCK (all styles)

Shinedown are the new ROCK GODS. Volbeat are not that far behind with Black Veil Brides and Skillet as decent contenders.

Eve To Adam – released a great rock album but no one has heard it.

Buckcherry – veterans of the scene and play to a niche.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – took too long to release a good album. If you are going to take 4 years between releases, you need to release a great album.

Airbourne – fill the AC/DC void when AC/DC is on hiatus.

Alter Bridge – are an experienced team that deliver consistently.

One Less Reason – great music, great songs however if people buy a physical product from them, they need to deliver.

10 Years – a great fan funded release in 2012. Now they need to make some hard decisions. Do they go the fan funded route again or do they seek to get a deal or something entirely different.

DO IT YOURSELF ROCK

Digital Summer – they run their band as a company that puts money back into the band and they still hold down jobs that gives them money for living.

Burnside – released a great album that no one has heard.

Vaudeville – another band that released a great album.

SUPER GROUP

The Night Flight Orchestra – If you haven’t heard “Internal Affairs” from 2012 you need to. TNFO is made up of melodic death metal bands playing classic rock and metal.

PROGRESSIVE METAL/ROCK

Tool – it’s going to be an event when the new Tool album comes out. Is it too late? Time will tell.

Coheed and Cambria – can’t do nothing wrong currently. Excellent double releases, plus great fan perks.

Dream Theater – are doing their best to maintain the success they achieved 10 years ago. Need a great album otherwise it’s bye bye.

TesseracT, Protest The Hero and Periphery are the new leaders of Progressive Music.

Today I Caught The Plague, Sound of Contact, Op Shop, Scale The Summit and Lizzard are rookies to take notice off.

METALCORE (MELODIC DEATH METAL)

Killswitch Engage are firing on all guns.

In Flames need to bring out new music.

All That Remains needs to head back to the studio.

The rest of the bands in this movement need a re-think.

SYMPHONIC METAL/ROCK

Within Temptation – enough said

DEATH METAL

Lamb of God – they are angry and they are pissed off. A bullshit murder trial and banned in a South East Asian country by ignorant pricks.

SHOCK

One final mention; “Du, Du Hast, Du Hast mish a fraud.” Rammstein has a dicka, so let’s get together, what is the problem?

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Is Having Mike Portnoy in your band a good thing or a bad thing these days?

Mike Portnoy is a hard worker. There is no doubt about that. However, the question needs to be asked. With so many projects running, where is the quality control?

Of course, I know that quality is in the eye of the beholder and since Portnoy is just a drummer, the quality is in the music.

Music comes from the guitarists/keyboardists he chooses to work with. The guitar player in the band has the same value as a Number 1 draft pick for a losing team. You build a championship winning team around a great guitar player.

In Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy had the Michael Jordan of guitar players in John Petrucci. When Portnoy left the DT team, he committed career suicide in my view.

In Adrenaline Mob, he had the wild card roughie, Mike Orlando, who in my view is getting really close to the greatness of Iommi and I seriously believe this band is capable of producing a classic album like Heaven and Hell from Black Sabbath.

In Transatlantic he has a minor league player in Roine Stolt on guitar and another minor league/division two songwriter in Neal Morse. (Anyone remember Morse, Portnoy, George project, it was a deadest joke). If you want to hear quality spread thin, listen to Neal’s solo albums.

In Flying Colors he has the veteran superstar in Steve Morse, who has done his victory lap already and is now also spreading himself too far and too thin with Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors and the Steve Morse band.

And that brings us to The Winery Dogs. For this project to be special, it needs to bring something different to the table, so that it stands out amongst the noise.

Richie Kotzen is a good guitar player, however there is nothing special about him. If I keep with the sporting analogies, this player wouldn’t win any trophies for you. He wouldn’t be a bad player to have on your team, but he is not the champion that you need. As a draft pick he would be way down the order.

When Kotzen came out with his first self-titled solo album in 1989 and with Fever Dream in 1990, he was just another shredder on the Shrapnel label. I have both of those albums and I can’t really remember much from them. I even purchased the Mr Big album he played on after Paul Gilbert left and that was also forgettable.

Just like Hard Rock and Glam Rock killed itself by cloning itself over and over again, the same thing happened to the Shred Movement.

Kotzen was a clone of the shred heroes that came before him like Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker (who also produced Kotzen’s first album).

There was also a Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughan blues influence, however that part of his playing didn’t really come out until he joined Poison. Maybe he was told to conform to the shred sweep picking style. The point. He is a clone of the shred era. He got his deal, because he could shred. Yes, he had talent. Yes, he practiced. Does he have the songs? No.

Even in his vocal delivery he clones Chris Cornell. There is nothing different or special about what he does and he is the centrepiece of the band as the guitarist and vocalist.

The point I am making is that there is no signature sound from Kotzen and since he is the frontman and the main songwriter, it is a troubling fact.

Which brings me to Mike Portnoy. Dream Theater success is because of the music. The musical instruments in the band are the guitars, keys and bass. Drums are a percussive instrument. If Mike Portnoy had never met John Petrucci, he would be just another talented drummer trying to make it.

Is Portnoy a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to write a great song on his own? My answer is NO.

Billy Sheehan is the bassist, and as good as he is, all good bassists need great guitar players. With Talas, Sheehan was the man, and that band was a product of its time, where it was cool to be a different and a leader and that is what Billy Sheehan was, a leader. However that band never really had success.

Then he found commercial success with two supergroups. First with David Lee Roth and then with Mr Big. In both of those bands, he had two monsters on the guitar. With David Lee Roth, he had Steve Vai (at one stage Yngwie Malmsteen was considered for the DLR slot) and with Mr Big, he had Paul Gilbert.

However is Billy Sheehan a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to great write a song on his own?

In DLR’s band, he had one song writing credit in Shy Boy, which is from his Talas’s days. In Mr Big, his name is over a lot of songs, and they are okay songs, however the main hit songs (which gave Billy Sheehan a career) are not written by him.

James Hetfield once said that he is anti-side projects for a very good reason. It dilutes the quality of the main product.

And in the end it is quality that the people want. That is the reality.

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