A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1991 Goodies Lost In The Noise

1991 was a monumental year for music. Shifts in musical tastes aside, career defining albums by Nirvana with “Nevermind”, Metallica with their self-titled “Black” album and Pearl Jam with “Ten” came out.

Guns N Roses released “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2”, the long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite For Destruction” and Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his solo career with “No More Tears”.

U2 had “Achtung Baby”, Van Halen went back to heavy guitars with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers came out with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.

Competing against these mega selling albums with massive marketing budgets to scorch the Earth, was the rest of the music industry. And while I am on my European holiday, I have been listening to hard rock music released in 1991. And man, there are some goodies in the list.

Rock and Roll Nights – Roxus
A band like Roxus from Australia, never had a chance to break through on the international melodic rock scene in 1991. A lot of hard work went into building the band, from standalone singles to an EP to the debut album; the whole journey took 4 plus years.

And they started getting some traction in 1991 but they came up against some stiff opposition for the attention of listeners. With all of that against them, Roxus did chart well in Australia.

But they had to compete against the changing of the guard. When U.S record labels started signing up Seattle acts, it was no surprise when the Aussie labels started to sign up Australian bands that suddenly started to sound like Seattle bands. To my amazement, hard rock, thrash metal and glam rock bands on the scene down tuned, stop playing solos, changed their look and their sound. All in the quest for a recording contract.

A chance is all that we’ve got
Without a moment to choose
We’ve got to take it
Young hearts in the night
With nothing to lose
We can make it

It’s nothing original but the message was the same throughout the decade. Chances are far and few, so when opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to take the chance. Like Tommy and Gina. Like the small town kid in Detroit.

I’m glad to be around in Rock ‘n’ Roll nights
You and me

It was a moment in time, a period of almost 10 years when the 80’s version of Rock and Roll became a commercial force.

Stand Back – Roxus

The synth intro is addictive and once the guitars kick in from Dragan Stanic, it’s all systems go. “Stand Back” came out as a standalone single in July 1989 and it was also on their debut album “Nightstreet”, which came out in September 1991.

Taking a chance on a night flight
Knowing just where we ought to be

A lot of times in my youth I knew where I should be, but I couldn’t take that chance to get there. That midnight train out of my hometown was missed. That night flight never happened.

I’ve been on this road now for so long
It’s making me harder now

Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.

Stand back, human racing
There’s no change, we’re all facing
Stand back, time is racing now

And that is all we seem to do. Just standing back and watching the world go by.

Pretty Maids – Savage Heart

It’s from the “Jump the Gun” album released in 1990. Actually in the U.S it was released as “Lethal Heroes”. Produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple, it was told that the album was one of the most expensive albums in Danish history. And after it failed commercially, three fifths of the band would leave.

But it wasn’t the music which let the band down. It was the band name. Many times I avoided purchasing this album because of the band name. One time it was down to Bonfire and Pretty Maids and my money went on Bonfire.

The song reminds me of “Is This Love” from Whitesnake.

Whenever we lose someone
Whenever we say goodbye
And after the fire’s gone
When every flame has died
There will beat a savage heart

After so many loses and failures, a savage heart is all that is left.

Another soldier falls
Dies for God and country
When there’s no time for talking
It’s time for the guns

A symptom of our society is the use of guns. If talking cannot prevent it, our leaders believe violence and force is the next solution.

 

And that massive ending, with the gospel backing vocals is excellent. 

AC/DC – The Razors Edge

The title track written by Malcolm and Angus Young got lost behind the behemoth known as “Thunderstruck”. It’s a killer track. One of their best.

How good is that open string riff that drives the song? It’s a simple A to B to C on the G-string progression with the open strings of B and E just droning along. Angus pulls of this lick while Malcolm just thunders along with the E5 power chord.

There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright
Here comes the razors edge

AC/DC have never been known to be a political/social conscience band, however if you look at a lot of the lyrics that Bon Scott wrote in the 70’s, you will see a certain social awareness. You will notice that quiet a few of the songs mentioned in this list talk about war.

Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away

Both tracks are from the self-titled debut album, the music in both songs rocks.

It wasn’t until well into the 2000’s that I got a hold of some music from Harem Scarem. While the first album is very AOR, the second album “Mood Swings” packs some serious metal overtones and some wicked guitar playing.

The band name doesn’t do the music and the songs justice. Like Pretty Maids I bypassed this album because of the band name.

Badlands – The Last Time

Jake E Lee revs it up again for the follow-up “Voodoo Highway” album to the self-titled debut. And what an opening track, where Lee weaves blues based riffs with his metal pedigree to come up with this heavy boogie riff to kick off the track. Rooted in the key of A minor, the track rocks from the outset.

Lyrically the song is about a broken heart (nothing really earth shattering) however the vocal performance by Ray Gillen is also top-notch. Not long after, the band splintered and “The Last Time” is forgotten in the history of times. The song was resurrected by the Red Dragon Cartel, however Lee is not having much luck with his singers.

Stryper – All For One

From the commercially disappointing “Against The Law” that was released on Enigma Records, a label going thru merger talks.

But there is no denying the song, written by Michael Sweet and produced by Tom Werman.

United we will stand up tall
United we will never fall
If it’s all for one and one for all

The chorus is huge and the message is strong.

United we will never fall. Even Dee Snider mentioned recently that metal heads need to unite again, in the same way we did between the years of 1982 to 1987. We made hard rock and heavy metal a commercial force. After that we fragmented into so many different metal genres, it was ridiculous.

Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame

The opening riff from Warren DeMartini is speed boogie metal. It’s full on Ratt and Roll and DeMartini even drops the E string down to D, something he did to great effect in “Lay It Down”.

But terrible lyrics again let the song down and the overall power of the music is lost. But this song is all about the music to me and it gets constant spins because of it.

Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive

It’s written by guitarist Danny Clarke, from their 1991 debut album released on Virgin Records who at the time had no interest in marketing bands as they were in negotiation talks with EMI. That merger happened in June 1992 and a lot of bands lost their deals because of it.

I’ve seen the system fall apart from the rules
And all our Presidents lie
I’ve seen the needle and the damage it’s done
The wreckage left behind

These are social conscience lyrics that a lot of rock bands just didn’t do at the turn of the century. Or if they did do songs like this, the record label wouldn’t release them as singles. How good is that verse riff?

My soul survives
Forever doing time on a dead-end street
My soul survives
Blood like wine running down to my feet, yeah-yeah, yeah!

And for the majority of us, that is how we live our days, doing time in the same old place with the same old faces.

Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus

Written by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, it’s from the gigantic “Slave To The Grind” album, but for some reason this song went under the radar but it’s a masterpiece.

Quicksand Jesus I need you
Quicksand Jesus I believe you
Quicksand I’m so far away

The song is about trying not to lose faith in God with all the crap that goes on in the world. The music is brilliant and Sebastian’s vocals from the “Where do we go” section are sublime.

Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town

Written by Richie Sambora and his Bon Jovi cohort Dave Bryan, you cannot escape this addictive track that is heavily influenced by “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Everybody loves a winner
Till the winners lose
And then it’s front page news
Nobody loves a loser
When you’re down and out
You know there ain’t no doubt

This is Richie, unsure of his future. He just finished two gruelling album and world tour cycles with Bon Jovi. He was a winner. Then, the uncertainty came as the band went on a break. He had no record deal, no management, nothing.

“Song And Emotion” from Tesla has a similar message. Where are all the “friends” when you are down and out? Dee Snider’s bio tells a similar story. When he had nothing, he had no one except his family.

Tesla – Song and Emotion
Tesla – Freedom Slaves
Tesla – Had Enough

Even though the “Psychotic Supper” album was eventually certified platinum, on release it didn’t have a chance to break through to the masses. Within 30 days of its release it had to contend with “Ten” from Pearl Jam, “Nevermind” from Nirvana, “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2” from Guns N Roses and the self-titled “Black” album from Metallica.

Tesla is a legendary band in my book. Each album has songs that have remained with me to this day. “Psychotic Supper” gave me these three beauties. All of them are so different, yet so infectious.

“Song and Emotion” is killer. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Michael Barbiero (producer) and Tom Skeoch.

All alone on his way to the top
Somehow, somewhere, something was lost
Through it all he knew his only friend was
Song and emotion
Know he’s got to his dying day

Read all of the bios of the artists you like and there is a common theme of loneliness. They turn to drugs, booze and other vices to cope with the loneliness especially when they are on the road for long periods of time.

Where are they now?
Where are those people who promised him his dreams?
Where are they now for this lonely creature on the streets?
Broken, humbled by the cold reality?

The song is dedicated to Steve Clark from Def Leppard. The bigger Def Leppard got, the more isolated their lives became. The price of stardom meant they couldn’t leave their house without an entourage.

Life at the top ain’t always what it seems

It’s a common critique of artists when they’ve made it.

“Freedom Slaves” is a foot stomper with another killer mid-section and solo. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.

I pledge no allegiance to your flag
I feel I got me some damn good reasons for feelin’ bad
If you want freedom now, it’s got to be won
It’s only bullets. It’s just a gun

1991 had songs about war, especially with the Gulf War looming over our heads.

Can’t ya see that we’re all freedom slaves?

Freedom comes at a human cost, but then when our freedoms are hijacked by corporations and leaders in the pocket of lobbyists, we become capitalist slaves.

Welcome to freedom. Now, there’s work to be done.

There is work for the ones that have no alternative. They don’t have the degrees, the fortune 500 jobs or some other helping hand.

I don’t know what next they’ll be killin’,
Rapin’ the land with pollution and spillin’.
Here’s to the tired, to the hungry, to the helpless and the poor.
Is there no glory for blisters and sores?

The world was in GFC turmoil, six years ago. The perpetrators got out without any losses, while the working class, lost houses and their jobs. As the lyric states, there is no glory in blisters and sores.

“Had Enough” opens up with a beer can opening and then the riff kicks in. It’s a head banger about downing a few and smoking some weed.  It’s written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.

Me and the boys are gonna rock tonite.
Drinkin’ double shots, feelin fine. Mmmm, I like it!
I like the way, the way it makes me feel.
Now, I’m in love witcha, Lady Mary Jane.
You put my mind at ease, make me feel no pain.
Keep takin’ me; keep takin’ me higher, well, and higher.
Light my fire!

The song is all about the high at the start and by the end the character in the song has passed the point of no return and is now addicted.

Have I reached the point, the point of no return?
When will I learn?

White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over

Almost five months after “Mane Attraction” came out, White Lion split up and one of the most melodic and expressive guitarists was lost to us.

Mike Tramp wrote good social consciousness lyrics but his take on clichéd rock and roll themes fell short and failed to compliment the outstanding musicianship of Vito Bratta.

In all of this craziness, two songs stand out to this day.

“Warsong” shows the metal side of Bratta, while “It’s Over” shows the classic blues rock side of Bratta.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

When you look at the wars our homelands have been in and for what purpose, you start to question, why.

I know that I was wrong to treat you like I did
But don’t you think our love deserves a second chance 

The above is from “It’s Over”. The blues 12/8 boogie lays the foundations for Bratta to showcase his prowess.

Once the mirror breaks it’s never the same. Same deal with a relationship. Once you break apart once, it’s over. White Lion fragmented without even arguing. It was just time to say “It’s Over”.

Europe – Seventh Sign

“Prisoners In Paradise” album cycle was a lesson in record label politics. Europe wrote 20 songs and the record label rejected a lot of them. Outside writers got the call and Europe kept on writing songs. Eventually after 12 months, the album was done.

It cost a lot and once it was released it was left to fend on its own, without any record label support.

We could all come together
And gather all around
What good is war when we
All go down

Another song with a reference to war.

Savatage – If I Go Away

The whole rock opera from Savatage was an ode to making it, the vices that come with success and the loneliness once the crowds are gone.

Somewhere on that long lonely road
We all stand alone
Looking for clues
From our different views

That’s why we turn to music and the messages in our favourite songs. We are looking for clues from our artists. Maybe they’ve experienced the same.

If I go away
What would still remain of me?

What memories will people carry forward if they go away?

Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt

Screaming Jets is an Australian band that basically has legendary pub status within our shores.

They said you’d never get anywhere,
Well they don’t care and it’s just not fair
That you know, and I know better.

“Better” became like a national anthem in Australia. The whole groove of the song is infectious.

Fat Rich Cunt

It’s one of my favourites on the album. The message in the song, is even more relevant in 2016.

You drive your fast car,
All over the town,
You got your offices up 50 floors from the ground.
You hire your slaves to bid for you,
You’ve got a couple of wives and a mistress or two.
And I can’t wait to see you tumble and fall.

When I worked as an insurance broker, all of the people around me had second or third marriages, mistresses on the side and a cocaine habit to match.

You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.

The war cry.

Standard
Music

White Lion – Mane Attraction

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Mane Attraction Review

Back Story

After the success of Pride and Big Game, Bratta and Tramp took time out to demo songs for Mane Attraction. All up the writing and recording process took two years. To me this is the most mature White Lion album. Mane Attraction was more thought out compared to Big Game, which was an album that was recorded and released in a very quick fashion as the label wanted to cash in on the band.

1991 – The Year of Change

1991 was a funny year. It has been written that all the labels and radio stations jumped on the grunge explosion and totally ignored the rock audiences during this time. That may be true; however other factors also played a part in the fall of hard rock, glam rock, glam metal, etc. The Metal Evolution series and its episodes on glam more cover this area in depth. Even Mike Tramp summed it up in an interview during one of his solo tours.

“Grunge didn’t kill commercial metal. Rather, commercial metal committed harakiri by copying itself so much that there was nothing original left. The eighties killed the eighties. In the end, every band cloned each other and copied each other so many times and there was no originality left at the end of the eighties and people just wanted an alternative. “

It happens with every scene. It starts off as a niche scene, one artist breaks out to the masses and then the labels are all chasing similar artists so that they can cash in. The market then becomes over saturated. Seriously how many bands started with the term White. Whitesnake was the original and then you had the rest. White Lion, White Tiger, White Cross, White Heart, White Diamond, White Eagle, White Russian, White Sister, White Trash, White Vision, White Widow and Whitefoxx.

The Competition

Mane Attraction was released in April 1991 as well as Temple Of The Dog’s tribute album to the Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood who died of a heroin overdose. In March Mr Big released Lean into It with the number 1 hit To Be with You. Skid Row released Slave To The Grind in June and Lollapalooza is launched in July. Metallica releases the Black Album and Pearl Jam releases Ten in August. Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion I and II and Nirvana’s Nevermind are released in September.

You can see that the album was already up against some stiff competition in the rock circles with Skid Row, Metallica (the biggest selling album of the SoundScan era), Mr Big and the GNR circus releasing big career defining albums and the rise of the Alternative Seattle Scene.

The Album

I remember borrowing the CD from a school mate as I was short on cash. Back in those days, people in my area where not sharing their music as the people that purchased the music felt cheated as to why they forked out $30 for a CD (yes that is how much we paid for CD’s in Australia) and the copier would fork out $3 for a blank cassette and dub it.

Regardless after much persuasion and promises that my mate could copy my Motley Crue collection, he coughed up the CD and I took it home. I remember putting it on my Sony CD Player, plugging in the headphones and just laying back.

Stand Outs

Lights and Thunder – It kicked things off. This was written as a fuck you to the label that was pushing the band to write hit songs. Coming in at 8 minutes long it’s far from a charting song. The album is produced by Richie Zito who is a guitarist himself, and in my view is the reason why Lights and Thunder sounds so heavy.

Let me take you to a place
Where everybody knows your face
There¹s no King and there¹s no Queen
And everything is like a dream
You can live in harmony
With those who were your enemy
You can do just what you want to
No one here will ever hurt you

No one bothered telling the above to all war mongers that kicked off the Gulf War and the Balkan War.

War Song – Again this is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your Civil War; it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”.

It’s Over – It blasts out all sleazy and bluesy from the speakers with its 12/8 feel. Fans of Ready N Willing and Saints n Sinners era Whitesnake would be happy with this song. To me it shows Bratta at his blues pop best if there can be such a term.

Blue Monday – gives Vito a chance to show off his Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/Gary Moore blues muscles by paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan who died in a helicopter crash while the writing process was happening.

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Broken Heart – Maybe they saw how Whitesnake got traction by reinventing Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving and Crying In The Rain, maybe they thought the same thing would happen with this song. Maybe the record company thought the band handed in a weak record and wanted a single for it. Either way, the song is catchy, I just wish that Mike Tramp re did the lyrics.

Leave Me Alone – One thing that captures you is the Rocket Queen meets ZZ Top meets Van Halen groove. The whole intro goes for 1min and 10 seconds. The label would have been pulling their hair out with that whole minute intro. It’s a shame that Tramp had to ruin the song with crap lyrics and crap melodies. Like many White Lion songs the lead breaks from Vito are songs within a song, and this is no different. The 7#9 chords also work well.

In a Guitar World issue for September 1989 after Big Game came out, Vito was giving a lesson and had the following to say;

‘In my early years as a guitarist, another thing I found helpful was making up a chord book. I wrote down every chord, from triads to thirteenth chords. Then I sat down and worked out every possible fingering and inversion. It took me a year and a half to do – there must have been about six to seven thousand handwritten chords. Then I played through each one of them and removed the chords that sounded like shit. It would have been easier to buy a Mel Bay Chord Book or something similar, but I didn’t believe in that because I was really learning a lot in the process.’

Originality is summed up there. He could have just purchased a Mel Bay book, and learnt from that, but he did it his own way and that is how an artist can find their true voice. Books could give you the guide or the tools; however you need to take what is out there and apply it in your own unique way. I especially like the part where he played through each chord and crossed out the ones he didn’t like, keeping the ones he liked until those chords became a part of his style.

Love Don’t Come Easy – The song is a good progression from Wait. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord. In the second verse he plays an arpeggiated part.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro where Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

‘Do you want it, do you need it, because love don’t come easy’.

You’re All I Need – This is Love Don’t Come Easy part 2 as the chords are identical except in a ballad format. It could have been left off the album in my view and then that magical classical trill a thon lead break appears from Vito.

She’s Got Everything – The song itself is pretty weak, until the Peter Gunn blues boogie kicks in to close the song, and then it goes into an Air on G String style guitar solo unaccompanied.

Till Death Do Us Part – the Phil Collins I Wish It Would Rain Down for pop metal. They did a good job with it. This is the full blown wedding waltz song.

Out with the Boys – ‘Out with the boys, to make some noise’. The song is average, again killer Bratta lead break. I like the bass and drum groove after the lead break.

Farewell To You – closes the album and the lyrics tell me that Vito and Mike knew that Mane Attraction was going to be their last album together.

Vito Bratta is easily the most overlooked songwriter/guitarist of the 80’s. Brad Tolinski in a Guitar World issue from September 1989, described Vito as a guitar player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense after commenting on his leads in Wait and Don’t Give Up.

Since White Lion called it a day, Vito has stayed away from the music business and as a fan of his style, I wish that he will be back to create music the way he likes it.

 

Standard