Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault – Cacophony

“Go Off” is the second album from the Marty Friedman and Jason Becker project known as Cacophony, released in 1989.

The first one, “Speed Metal Symphony” was released in 1987.

It’s basically like Racer X but a bit more on the technical side of thrash, like Watchtower. And like Racer X, the guitarists in the band would go on to explore other outlets. Marty Friedman with Megadeth and Jason Becker with David Lee Roth, which was cut short by a terminal disease which took away all movement.

“X-Ray Eyes” feels like it came from a Testament album. The lead section has Becker and Friedman trading sections for over a minute and raw thrash like vocals.

“E.S.P” starts off with a finger picked intro and lead that resembles Baroque. You feel like you are in a castle watching the jester perform, before it rips into a thrash metal riff which reminds of Annihilator. Listen to the outro (the last minute), and the riffs and the harmony leads.

“Stranger” attempts to be groovy with Van Halen like riffs while “Go Off” is an instrumental, with a lot of fast guitar solos. Not my favourite cuts.

“Black Cat” has this Oriental feel in the first minute, before it moves to a Thin Lizzy style harmony merged with Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills And Far Away”. At 7 minutes long, it’s the first two minutes I like.

“Sword Of The Warrior” is another thrash-a-thon, with symphonic harmony sweeps. But when the steroid infused “Peace Sells” inspired bass riff kicks in, the song gets even faster. This track could have come from “Kill Em All” or the “Peace Sells” album.

“Floating World” is a lot slower, more rock like with Thin Lizzy harmonies. And when it’s at that level I am a fan.

“Images” is a slower tempo song, which sounds like it came from the soundtrack of an Italian Spaghetti Western. This one is an instrumental and at 3 minutes long, it’s perfect.

So if you like guitar playing with flawless technique and songs with a lot of riffs and leads and raw vocals then you should give it a listen. Or if you want to hear a great instrumental track, then just go straight to “Images”. You will not be disappointed.

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

The Record Vault – Jason Becker

He came into my life because of all the ads Shrapnel Records and Mike Varney used to run in the guitar mags. But at that point in time I still didn’t commit to purchasing any music.

Jason Becker and Marty Friedman were in Cacophony together. In 1989 Friedman left to join Megadeth and Becker started to pursue a solo career. Of course by Friedman being in Megadeth, his Cacophony days with Becker were mentioned so it got me interested to check it out. But I still didn’t commit.

Becker then joined the DLR band, replacing Steve Vai and he went to work on new music which would become the “A Little Ain’t Enough” album. This got me interested enough to commit.

While recording the album, Becker began to feel a “lazy limp” in his left leg and numbness in his forearms.

After getting himself checked he was diagnosed with ALS otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and was given three to five years to live.

He managed to finish the DLR album, which was released in 1991, and the ALS gradually crippled his body and speech by 1997 but not his mind. He is still alive today and uses a computer to communicate with people via eye movements and to compose new music.

The “Perpetual Burn” album is a pretty big statement for a young 18 year old but then again, the 80s was the era of the shredders and every new guy on the scene had to have all the tools of a seasoned pro and more. Just look at Zakk Wylde.

“Altitudes” starts off with the keys playing chords and a pretty emotive solo. At the 1.25 mark it moves to a clean tone section which continues the emotion and the melody.

The guitar hero spotlight is from the 2 minute mark with a lot of string skipping, fast alternative picking and sweep picking.

The solo from 3.46 is a like a hard rock Vito Brattain style solo.

The title track “Perpetual Burn” has a lot of classical references. Even though Becker was not influenced by Malmsteen, it sounds like a Malmsteen song.

“Air” is just keys and guitar and then just guitar. It’s based around a classical movement.

“Temple Of The Absurb” is a progressive metal gem. It could have appeared on a thrash metal release from Metallica or Megadeth or Testament or a Fates Warning release or even a Dream Theater release. It has this Mercyful Fate influence which I like, and this modern neo classical Rainbow vibe. It’s no surprise that Friedman guests on this song.

The closer “Opus Pocus” has this major key melody which I like and it remains with me long after the song is finished.

His actual recording career is short because of his illness and it’s more of an instrumental nature with the guitarist is in the spotlight. But if you want to hear how he writes songs for a band setting, check out “Its Showtime” and “Drop In The Bucket” from the DLR album, “A Lil Ain’t Enough”. You will like em. Trust me.

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

A Little Bit More Of A Little Ain’t Enough

A Little Ain’t Enough is the third studio album by David Lee Roth, released in January 1991 through Warner Music Group.

It was certified gold on April 11, 1991 and by 1996, it was out of print. Funny that.

You see, back then, this meant that the only way to get the album was via the second-hand record/Cd store or by finding a brick and mortar store that had a new copy not sold yet from the original print run.

“Out of print” in record label speak means that the album wasn’t selling enough for the record label to keep a master press waiting to produce more copies. When the music industry was controlled by the record labels these kinds of scenarios were real and often. However, in the era of streaming, the music is never out of print. It is available 24/7, at your fingertips.

And if we never had copyright infringement, we never would have had streaming.

Anyway, in the February 1991 issue of Hot Metal (Australia’s Premier Metal Mag) there was a review of the “A Little Aint Enough” album. It was reviewed by Robyn Doreian who at the time was also the Editor of the magazine. She gave it four skulls out of five.

Here it is in italics. The non-italics are my extra comments to the review.

Diamond Dave is one of the TRUE stars left in the music business today.

He’s in a category of his own in that he has re-defined the parameters of music to suit his individual flamboyant tastes and not without a hint of tongue in cheek humour. I mean, who else can resurrect a bargain bin tune like “That’s Life”, and transform it into a glitzy Hollywood-style bump and grind production…

David Lee Roth invented the word “show business!”.

Since departing the near-legendary Van Halen, he’s collaborated with the likes of Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan and Greg Bissonette to produce several fine solo albums, reaching the pinnacle with 1986’s “Eat Em And Smile”.

Gone are the old crew, with only Bissonette remaining, while the rest of the musicians are hired hands. I must admit, at times I find myself pining for the supremo guitarmanship of Steve Vai, as those two egocentric characters truly shone together musically, and Jason Becker must have found it difficult to fill the shows of his predecessor.

The guitar magazines I was purchasing all spoke about Jason Becker and how this album would cement his status as a bonafide guitar hero. By 1990, Becker had already released two Cacophony albums with co-guitarist Marty Friedman, as well as his debut solo album, “Perpetual Burn”. Marty Friedman was already cementing his stature in Megadeth and the guitar community waited for Becker to do the same with a known entity or band.

Little did we know that Becker would be struck down with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Initially, Becker’s life expectancy from the doctors was set to three to five years. He outlived that terminal diagnosis. By 1996, Becker lost the ability to speak. His father along with Jason developed a way to communicate via eye movements.

This time around with his fourth effort, “A Little Aint Enough”, we see Diamond Dave coming up with a more diverse sound incorporating his favourite source of inspiration – the blues – plus his trademark stomping in our face rock and roll.

The first track, “Lil’ Ain’t Enough” is Roth through and through with its rifferama on full overdrive and overabundant vocals filing every conceivable crevice. Along the way we are treated to loads of bluesy-type tunes such as “Hammerhead Shark”, “Sensible Shoes” and “Dogtown Shuffle”. More than apparent on the punchy “Last Call”, one cannot help but notice the obvious similarity in riffs to Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”. A tad blatant perhaps…

All of the trademarks of David Lee Roth are here in full swing. Be warned he’s back – but then again he’s never really been away!

To me it wasn’t an album about favourite tracks. It was an album about moods and a certain section in each song. To me “moods” is the essence of rock music. Typical of the MTV era, the record had three to four quality songs.

So let’s digest the album.

The Good

The opening title track “A Lil’ Ain’t Enough” is written by Robbie Nevil and David Lee Roth and the obvious leadoff single. Actually, what a strange fucking combination in songwriters. Robbie Nevil is the dude that wrote and had a hit with “Cest La Vie”, a song I really disliked.

Was vaccinated with a phonograph needle one summer break

What a line. How many people can relate to the above lyric?

Summer and music go hand in hand.

“Lady Luck” is written by ex Dio guitarist Craig Goldy and Roth. This song deserved to be the second single. I dig the “Dream Evil” sounding riff. It’s even got Dio-esque lyrics. The below is from “Lady Luck”.

I’m off an’ runnin’
Clear off the beaten path
I don’t know where I’m headed
But I know that I ain’t comin’ back

Meanwhile, the Dio song “I Could Have Been A Dreamer has “Running with the wolf pack / Feel like I’m never coming back”.

“Sensible Shoes” is written by another songwriting committee. This time it is Dennis Morgan, David Lee Roth and Preston Sturges. Back in ’91’ I was like, who are these guys?  Regardless, what was the label or Roth thinking about releasing it as a single. I would have released “The Dogtown Shuffle”, a tune written by the band at the time, Steven Hunter, Roth and Brett Tuggle. It’s got a groove that swings and it’s far superior.

“The Dogtown Shuffle”

Ain’t too much distance ‘tween a pat on the back
And a kick in the pants

Brilliant lyrics and so much truth.

Buried deep at the tail end of the album are the Jason Becker and David Lee Roth penned tunes, “It’s Showtime!” and “Drop in the Bucket”. “It’s Showtime” should have a single.

“It’s Showtime!”

We’ll need 10 percent and that’s off the top
Gross, not net to me
Here today, gone late today
And it’s club dates in the sticks

That’s showtime for you.

Just leave your name and number
In the dumpster when you’re through
Oh yeah
Don’t call us, we’ll call you

The Underrated

“Shoot It” is very Rolling Stones sounding, merged with Free “All Right Now”.

“Baby’s on Fire” has this “Immigrant Song” drum groove that I love.

“40 Below” is another rocker that reminds me of “All In The Name Of Rock” from Motley Crue.

The Filler

The single “Tell the Truth” sounds too much like “Black Velvet” for me to like.

“Hammerhead Shark” just didn’t belong on the album. It’s pedestrian at best.

“Last Call” should have been called “Walk This Way”.



VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

It’s a different experience when you open a Guitar World issue from September 1989 and re-read it in 2013.

It’s a who’s who of where are they now.  Marty Friedman and Jason Becker are hot off the press with their Cacophony releases and are endorsing ADA Amps, Jeff LeBar from Cinderella is endorsing Ernie Ball Strings, Richie Kotzen is endorsing Ibanez, Kip Winger is endorsing Peavey and Brian Forsythe is promoting Kix’s fourth album Blow My Fuse, before it exploded with the song Don’t Close Your Eyes.  Johnny Diesel  is well known in Australian circles and he is in there promoting Johnny Diesel and the Injectors that went on to make a big splash on the Australian scene during this period.  To a kid starting out playing guitar it just looked like one big hard rock, metal party was going on in the U.S.  I wanted to be part of it.

Marty Friedman went on to join Megadeth and found success.  Then he left to follow his muse writing Japanese pop music.

Jason Becker’s story is a sad one.  He went on to replace Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band only to be struck down with a rare disease at the age of 20 called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  From recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album in 1989 to being given three to five years to live.  He is still alive now and communicates via eye movements.

Richie Kotzen has had a varied career.  Apart from being a solo artist, he went on to replace CC Deville in Poison.  The album Native Tongue was a brilliant album funk, blues rock album and it is a shame it didn’t get the recognition it did.  He also replaced Paul Gilbert in Mr Big between 1998 and 2004.

However, the reason for this story is Vito Bratta.  He is on the cover.  The hot shot guitarist and songwriter from White Lion, promoting their latest release.   Big Game was the follow up album to the mega successful breakthrough album Pride that spawned the hits Wait and When the Children Cry.

Since then White Lion went on to release Mane Attraction in May 1991 and by September that same year they called it a day.  Vito Bratta hasn’t released anything musical since Mane Attraction in 1991.  Brad Tolinski interviewed Vito.

“Guitarist Vito Bratta’s work is immediately distinctive for its strong sense of melody, thoughtful use of dynamics and pick attack, as well as a graceful near-metronomic sense of time that sounds neither forced nor rigid.  Although he’s definitely not from the Malmsteen School of high baroque, Bratta’s liquid phrasing is in spirit reminiscent of certain passages from Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.  The elegant trills over the A chord in the ninth measure of the solo in “Wait” and the call and response of the alternating legato/dettache phrasing in “Don’t Give Up” suggest a player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense.”

To add to that, Vito’s grasp of melody and modes to me was at a very high level.  Songs written by Vito cover a lot of different musical styles.  His choice of notes, different chord voices and harmonies was a pleasure on the ear palette.

“I’ve been developing a more personalized approach to chord voicings and inversions.  The problem is these voicings don’t always sound good through a distorted amp.  So instead of using more conventional inversions, I’ll arpeggiate the chord.  This allows me to mute certain notes within the chord, eliminating some of the ugly overtones you get when you play close harmonies with distortion.  Al DiMeola once said his muting technique was a result of not wanting to wake anyone when he was practicing late at night!  Sometimes good things come out of compromise and determination.”

Apart from being a guitarist in a successful rock band, he was also an artist.  To Vito it was all about the music.

The mention of Al DiMeola and how he came to have an unbelievable muting technique shows that he knows his stuff, he has listened widely, he has studied what others have offered before him and incorporated it all into what he does.

Vito also talks about the limitations of playing through a distorted amp and how he circumvented those limitations, by changing the way he plays.  Instead of standard power chords, he is arpeggiating inversions of that chord and muting the strings at the same time.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Another unusual aspect of your rhythm technique is the extensive use of fingerpicking, particularly on the new record.   How did that evolve?

Bratta: That was another outgrowth of my song writing.  I usually write songs by myself, then play then for Mike so that he can write lyrics.  Because I want to give Mike the most accurate picture, I’m forced into creating a fairly complete sketch with my guitar alone.  I know an easier way would be to use multi-track tape machines, but I’m not into that.  So when I start thinking of the basic feel, I’ll come up with a bass part and play it on the low strings with my thumb.  Next, I’ll try and create a chord progression and try to coordinate the chordal movement so that I can play the bass line simultaneously.  Finally I’ll add a suggested melody line on the top.  The only way to have all three things happening at once is through some form of fingerpicking. 

Since this approach really excites me, I didn’t want to drop it when we went into the studio.  That’s why my rhythm guitar parts have a lot of movement.  If I was going to use the typical heavy metal approach on something like Little Fighter, I would just chunk away on the low E and A strings.

These days, artists would multi track everything in the demo stages.  Hell, I do, it’s easy.  Vito developed a fingerpicking style that combined what classical, blues, country and bluegrass players do however he applied it in a pop sense.   Imagine being the singer and you get given a demo that has the bass parts, the chords and the melody lines all on one track as an acoustic guitar piece.  To me this is what made Vito different to the other players.  He was a guitar nerd and I mean that in a good way.  He knew his shit, but he wasn’t textbook.  I know that the 90’s served up the argument against players with technical ability not playing with feel.  Bullshit I say.  Just because a technical player can step on the gas when they want to and drive at 200km per hour, it doesn’t mean they have no feel.  I was doing something similar like Vito, however as soon as I got my multi track recorder, I stopped doing it and took up the technological alternative.  Looking back, I do regret it, as it is a skill now that has been relegated to beginner’s level again, instead of remaining at an advanced level.  Technology has made us lazy, and it has made us cover up how bad we really are.  If we can’t sing, we auto tune, if we make mistakes, we fix up the note/s.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Many of these concepts were evident on Pride, but the execution was more rigid.

Bratta: The reason for that is kind of complicated.  I wrote the whole Pride record on acoustic guitar.  Then I went into the studio and started playing all these wonderful chord inversions through a Marshall, and it came out sounding like shit.  So instead of rewriting the whole album I kept the voicings, but did a whole lot of muting.  Big Game on the other hand was written on my Steinberger in dressing rooms across the U.S., so I had a chance to audition all my ideas on an amp way ahead of time.  As a result, I was able to create sympathetic voicings so I didn’t have to mute the strings as much.  The overall sound is more legato and less staccato, and the pre-production made me more at ease in general.

I can totally relate to that.  I write every song on acoustic guitar and when it comes time to electrify it, I end up changing it a lot of it and it loses its soul.  Just by replacing an arpeggiated part with a power chord, it is enough to lose the feel you are trying to convey.  I then try and fix this problem by adding multi guitar lines which could either muddle the song even more or bring clarity.  It’s a hit and miss game, and previously when I have been in studios where time is money, it’s being more miss than hit.

One thing that Vito shows is that he is a persistent artist.  He is prepared to persevere for his art.  Not many artists these days, have those attributes.  To use an analogy, a lot of artists will dig away in the mines for years on end, only to stop a few centimetres dirt short from the gold or diamonds waiting on the other side.  And then you have one artist that just keeps on digging and they reach it.  Never give up on your dreams and walk away.  If there is a lesson to be learned here, persevere and keep on getting better.

GW Brad Tolinski: Your latest work doesn’t sound as heavy as it did in the past, yet it does sound more aggressive.

Bratta: After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive.  Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.

Again the fan in Vito comes to the fore.  He is letting the bands that White Lion is playing shows with influence him.  He is watching what they do, he is seeing what songs and riffs work in a concert atmosphere, because in the end, bands sink or swim based on the live show they deliver.   He is letting their sound, their aggression influence him.  Song writing isn’t just about musical notes and words.  It is about attitude and feeling.  What sound is needed to convey love or hate?  Minor key songs are sadder, major key songs are happier.   Crazy Train from Randy Rhoads is a perfect example, where major and minor combine in a glorious display.  The intro is F#m, the verses are A major and trippy, the chorus is back to F#m as the root.  The song is both pretty and aggressive.   Vito was a master of both.  Like Randy Rhoad’s he was bigger than the band he was in.

Part 2 will be a review of Big Game, plus more from the interview where Vito also talks about Big Game.