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Progress Is Derivative – One Riff To Rule Them All

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Remember “Progress Is Derivative” means to take the best things of what has come before and merge it all together to come up with something new. In some cases it might sound similar to something in the past and in other cases it might sound unique, original and innovative. And the “One Riff To Rule Them All” is a perfect example of how so many songs can have the same riff conceptually and still be able to stand on their own.

One Riff To Rule Them All…
Yep, it’s the A pedal point riff… It all started with a motor city madman called Ted Nugent, and his song “Stranglehold” released in 1975 (actually it’s a bluesy groove that has been around for a lot longer before then). Since then, the riff has morphed to inspire the following songs.

  • “Hell Bent For Leather” by Judas Priest released in 1978.
  • The intro to “Swords and Tequila” from Riot released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Never Surrender” by Saxon released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Riding With Angels” by Samson (with Bruce Dickinson on vocals), released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Hellbound” by Tygers of Pan Tang released in 1981.
  • The main riff for “Flash Rockin’ Man” by Accept released in 1982.
  • The Intro in “Curse Of The Pharaohs” from Mercyful Fate released in 1983.
  • The main riff in “Power And The Glory” from Saxon released in 1983.
  • The main riff to “Stand Up And Shout” from Dio released in 1983.
  • The main riff to “Seek And Destroy” by Raven released in 1983.
  • The intro and main riff in “Two Minutes To Midnight” from Iron Maiden released in 1984.
  • The main riff to “Heavy Metal Breakdown” by Grave Digger released in 1984.
  • The main riff to “Phantoms Of Death” by Helloween released in 1985.
  • The main riff to “Skin O My Teeth” by Megadeth released in 1992.
  • The main riff to “Break The Chains” from Tokyo Blade.
  • A small variation of “the riff to rule them all” morphed into “Welcome To Hell” from Venom released in 1981.
  • And this morphed into “Looks That Kill” from Motley Crue released in 1983 and became known as the Sunset Riff. So it was no surprise that other Sunset guitarists started using it.
  • “Young Girls” from Dokken in 1983 has a riff that’s similar.
  • “Tell The World” from Ratt, released in 1983 also has it.

I guess you can’t keep a good riff down. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Music is derivative. Always has been and always will be.

Ted Nugent’s originality in the 70’s is due to him writing derivative versions of blues grooves. There would be no metal music without rock and roll and there would be no rock and roll without country and blues. In the early blues (circa 30’s), copying and transforming was the norm. The same blues song would be recorded by different artists in different states. Sometimes, the titles would change. No lawyers got involved and especially no courts. In return, this allowed the blues sound to grow.

If you look at the bands above, they all built careers from the same patterned riff without a lawsuit to be seen.

What an amazing concept?

Stone Temple Pilots
Fans of Kiss smiled when they heard “Sex Type Thing” from Stone Temple Pilots. The main riff is influenced by “War Machine”. How strange it is, that one of Kiss’s heaviest songs is co-written by pop rock songwriters, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance with Gene Simmons.

Motley Crue
The Chorus riff to “Ten Seconds to Love” sounds like it was influenced by a certain riff in “Rock & Roll” by The Plasmatics. Actually they sound the same, but who cares. Both are different songs and unique and as you all know, I am a fan of the “progress is derivative” viewpoint.

The Led Zeppelin Effect Again
The impact of “Immigrant Song” cannot be underestimated.

Recently I heard it in “Siberian Queen” (2012) from The Night Flight Orchestra. The drum pattern is Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” (1970) and the guitar riffs reference “Achilles Last Stand” in the intro and verse riff.

Meanwhile, John Sykes re-invented himself as Jimmy Page when he combined “Black Dog” with “Immigrant Song” in “Still Of The Night” (1987). In case you are not sure, it’s the riff that comes in after the intro singing.

Then there are the obvious clones of “Immigrant Song” in “Hold Her Tight” by The Osmonds (1972) and “Burning” by Sweet (1973).

Music is and always will be derivative. Enjoy.

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

Still Of The Night – Progress Is Derivative

It is a well-known fact that Led Zeppelin has borrowed (or stolen depending on how people view this) bits and pieces from other artists. It is also a well-known fact that they are innovators. Their influence and reach was vast and if there was no Led Zeppelin, a lot of bands that we love and like today would have not have existed in the form that we know them.

One such band is Whitesnake. Founding member, David Coverdale had a three album run with Deep Purple before leaving to start a solo career which after two albums ended up morphing into Whitesnake.

Whitesnake is basically a blues-rock band heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. For a lot of people, their first hearing of Whitesnake was in 1987 and a song called “Still of the Night”.

That was my first exposure. After that I went back and started purchasing their back catalogue. On initial listens, it didn’t grab me. By 1988, I was into the over produced and slick sounds of pop metal and if the album didn’t have that tone, I didn’t invest time. Of course, years later I did go back and give those earlier albums a re-listen and I am better musically for it.

So going back to “Still Of The Night”. The song was written by lead singer David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes and it was Produced by Mike Stone and Keith Olsen.

David Coverdale in an interview with Metal Hammer commented on the origins of the song:
“When my mother died I was going through the stuff at her house and found some early demo cassettes. One of them was a song that Ritchie Blackmore and I had been working on which was the basic premise of what would become “Still of the Night”. It was totally unrecognizable, so Ritchie doesn’t have anything to worry about… neither do I! Ha ha ha! I took it as far as I could then I gave it to Sykesy when we were in the south of France, and he put the big guitar hero stuff on there. John hated blues so I had to work within those parameters. I manipulated to be electric blues, but how he performed it was fabulous for his time and relatively unique because of the songs. There were a lot of people doing that widdly stuff but they didn’t have the quality of those songs.”

John Sykes in another interview on the Melodic Rock website had this to state about “Still Of The Night” when he was asked about the famous solo with the cello.

“Yeah, well that was actually the first part of that song I wrote…was the middle section. All that was written on guitar in my mum’s kitchen. It wasn’t till months and months later that I came up with the other stuff and basically got the riffs and the chord for the verses.”

Read the interview for yourself. http://www.melodicrock.com/interviews/johnsykes.html

Somewhere in between is the truth. From listening to the song, the Led Zeppelin influence is unmistakable.

The vocal delivery over the F#5 power chord in the intro is Robert Plant from “Black Dog”.

When the riff kicks in straight after, the ears are treated to a combination riff based on “Black Dog” and “Immigrant Song”.

The whole interlude section resembles the part in “Whole Lotta Love”. Listen to all of the cymbal and hi-hat work, as well as the distorted guitar noise and Coverdale’s moans. While the “Whole Lotta Love” interlude was more of a free form jazz improvisation jam with lots of knob turning, the “Still Of The Night” interlude is more musical and metronomed that builds into the cello solo.

There is only one John Sykes and Whitesnake hasn’t been the same since. The same way that the Sammy Hager fronted Van Halen wasn’t the same as the David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen.

“Still Of The Night” is almost an anthem. Not like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” anthem, more like a get together and remember a glorious time anthem. That’s how good John Sykes is. That is why “Still Of The Night” still exists and is part of the public conversation. Even though it is derivative, it is hard to burn out on it because it doesn’t sound like anything else. I know it is a contradiction and that it is why the song is perfect.

In information starved 1988, Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell got the nods, however John Sykes is the real superstar.

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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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Music

The Night Flight Orchestra – Internal Affairs (2012)

2012 Album released that should not be forgotten.

Wow – what a classic rock album released in June 2012.

Internal Affairs

The Night Flight Orchestra (NFO) is a side project / super group of Bjorn Strid (Soilwork) on vocals, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy) on bass, David Anderson (Meanstreak and Soilwork session player) on guitars, Jonas Kallsback (Meanstreak) on drums and Richard Larsson (Von Benzo) on drums.

Imagine Kiss, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Bee Gees, Boston, Deep Purple, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin and Journey thrown into a blender.  The result is The Night Flight Orchestra.

1. Siberian Queen kicks it off with its combination of Led Zep’s Immigrant Song and Achilles Last Stand.  This icy princess from the Russian wilderness, starts to do the opposite and warm the ear buds for more.

2. California Morning kicks off with a Boston meets Kiss guitar riff to tell the story about  tearful goodbyes on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

3. Glowing City Madness – This has an Elton John style vocal melody to tell the story of an Asian Dancer.

4. West Ruth Ave – Wow, what a catchy hook on this song.  This song is hit potential and it deserves to go viral so that everyone hears Bjorn’s story of fleeing Ft Lauderdale and ending up in Phoenix. It has that Gotye levels of catchy, a Kiss Dynasty / Foreigner / Bee Gees rock disco vibe and a Layla esque outro.

5. Transatlantic Blues – The first part is very Styx like and then it moves into a heavy Deep Purple meets Kiss War Machine style riff.  Even Jake E Lee referenced the same classic rock material for his Badlands project with Ray Gillan on vocals.

I read somewhere on the net that this song is about embarking on an inner journey and ending up in the middle of nowhere, shitfaced and listening to KANSAS.

6. Miami 5:02 – This is what happens when Van Halen meets Deep Purple.  Waking up in Florida in your birthday suit and a pair of Ray Bans.

7. Internal Affairs – Play That Funky Music White Boy meets Stevie Wonder Superstitious.  Nothing more should be said.  This funky ode is to a mysterious women from the age of the Cold War.

8. 1998 – is the 2012 version of Bob Seger’s classic 70’s recordings like Turn The Page and Night Moves crossed with the best of the Michael Stanley Band.  This song tells the story of travelling the endless highways of America.

9. Stella Ain’t no Dove – The threesome party anthem.

10. Montreal Midnight Supply – This is Deep Purple, 38 Special and Kiss Detroit Rock City stomping shuffle.  In the chorus it even sounds like Y&T’s Midnight In Tokyo.  Throughout the whole song you get that classic twin guitar feel of Thin Lizzy.

11. Green Hills of Glumslöv – Glumslöv is the small village in Sweden where Bjorn is from.  When you hear this song, you will get the instant sensation of the Warriors returning to Coney Island and Joe Walsh’s In The City playing in the background.  There is also a large Queen influence in this.

12. American High is the digital bonus track.

Overall its a great album.

What could have NFO done differently with this release?

Since they embraced the 70’s vibe in the music, in my view they should have embraced the 70’s vibe for marketing and released an 8 song album (Tracks 1 to 8) and then released ‘4 singles with a B side’.  Tracks 9 to 12 could have been the B sides.  Single material songs are West Ruth Ave, Internal Affairs, California Morning and Transatlantic Blues.

 

 

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