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

September 2020 – Part 2

Sevendust

I purchased my first Sevendust record back in 99 because I read the reviews about crashing guitars and melodic vocals, so I was keen to check em out. I took the CD home, unwrapped it, and looked at the album credits and the thank you credits before hearing a note. And I saw a name I was familiar with.

Jay Jay French was their manager. The same Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister.

Their first three albums (the self-titled debut released in 97, “Home” released in 99 and “Animosity” released in 2001) all went Gold in the U.S. and they got some traction in Australia as well.

I have been on and off the Sevendust train over the last 20 plus years and “Blood From A Stone” the lead single from their upcoming album is good enough to get me back on the train.

Starset

Their most streamed song, “Trials” has been reimagined.

And I didn’t like the original cut of the song, but I like the reimagined one. Which could be strange for fans of the original cut, because when George Lynch reimagined the “Wicked Sensation” album, I hated it, but other people could hear that reimagined version first and like it.

I guess like me with this band.

Khemmis

From Denver, Colorado, USA.

They took their name from an Ancient Egyptian city and more or less their whole Spotify collection is on this list as I really got into em over the month of September.

It was the blog “The Great Southern Brainfart” that got me interested.

The “Absolution” album was released in 2015.

That down-tuned, sludge like, fuzzed out, doom is all over this album but it’s the last track, the sombre “The Bereaved” which grabs me. It starts off with clean tone arpeggios before moving to a doom riff conjured from the darkest places a person could find.

And there is shred over the intro, so I wasn’t sure if this song is an 8 minute instrumental or if this was just one super long intro, because at 3 minutes in, no vocals had been heard.

And then they start at 3.11.

The “Hunted” album was released in 2016.

“Beyond The Door” and “Hunted” are the standout tracks. At 9 minutes and 12 minutes long, they roll along as an amalgamation of the “IV” album from Black Sabbath merged with the Gothenburg metal scene.

Especially the title track.

The “Desolation” album was released in 2018.

“Bloodletting” gets things off to a nice start but it’s the second track “Isolation” which gets me interested.

But “From Ruin” is the star of the album. That intro is so depressingly heavy it feels like lead on my shoulders.

Out of the darkest night / no one could help me find a way / but in the new spring dawn / I find the strength to carry on

Each new day is a new way to do things. To be seen, to learn, to own what you do and to do it better next time.

Then the song picks up with a 12/8 style riff that reminds me of “Phantom Of The Opera” with some killer leads.

“Doomed Heavy Metal” was released in 2020.

It’s a six song EP, with two originals, an awesome cover of “Rainbow In The Dark” (which sounds like how Ghost would cover it) and three live tracks.

And 2020 also gave us a doomy cover version of “Down In A Hole” from Alice In Chains as well.

They are a band on my radar. I’m interested, let’s see what comes next.

Andy James

From England.

One of my favourite instrumental guitarists going around at the moment.

He started off in the heavy metal band “Sacred Mother Tongue” between the years of 2004 and 2013. In between he also did some solo albums, instructional videos and classes and once he went solo, he also set up his Andy James Guitar Academy.

“Lock N’ Load” has this aggressive Five Finger Death Punch riff, with impressive leads, especially that sing along lead which appears in what I call the Chorus section.

Arctic Rain

From Sweden.

The album is very derivative which is okay for my taste, but “Night After Night” is a melodic rock song that really stands out.

Another act on Frontiers.

I’m also interested, let’s see what comes next.

Shiraz Lane

From Finland and another release on Frontiers.

“Broken Into Pieces” is the lead-off single from the soon to be released third album and I think this could be the album that makes me a fan.

Part 3 for September music coming up soon.

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

August 2020 – Part 4

Use My Voice – Evanescence

Amy Lee is a musician I would want around for a long time. The sound of her voice (which can be mournful, aggressive, rageful and happy) always gets me interested and the messages in the songs are genuine.

Relationships are difficult and they become even more difficult when one side tries to force their personality onto the other, speaking for them and even questioning them in a negative way in front of others.

Use your voice people, don’t suppress it. Its special and unique to you. This applies to everything in life and not just to relationships. Because no one is entitled to speak for you except you.

Space – Biffy Clyro

This band is hit and miss for me. They have me interested, then they lose me and then they get me again.

And this song has me back again about having a space in your heart for the special someone who is in and out of your life.

Maybe It’s Time – Sixx AM with guests

I liked this song when it appeared on their 2016 album “Prayers For The Blessed”.

It’s been redone now with a lot of guest vocalists to raise awareness of addiction and recovery.

“When I was young, I was dumb”

Indestructible. 

Getting old was never in my thoughts. 

Jumping out of moving cars, getting drunk and generally mucking around, sometimes dangerously, was bred out of pure boredom.

And not of all of us got out alive. People committed suicide and others got addicted to drugs, living a hard life right now with shakes and aliens in the fridge. 

“Maybe it’s time to deal with the pieces in my life”

There has to be a reawakening, a turning point. Some people believe they need to help you see it, but I believe you need to get to that point yourself.

For me, it was lying in a hospital bed with my foot broken and my face bruised and bleeding because I was drunk and jumped out of a moving car. I just had surgery to insert screws and a long road to recovery.

Cruel Hands Of Time – Tygers Of Pan Tang

It’s a crazy world we live in when “Tygers Of Pan Tang” are putting out some of their best music. Guitarist Robb Weir is the only original member left from the 80s.

The riffage on this song is straight from the Sunset strip and I’m pretty sure it’s from the fingers of Michael Crystal who has been in the band since 2013 and vocalist Jacopo Meille has some nice pipes, so the melodies are infectious.

Talk To Me – Apocalyptica with Lzzy Hale

These dudes from Finland have been on my radar since they covered Metallica songs on the cellos. And they have done everything, from the covers, the instrumental originals and the vocal originals.

This time they have Lzzy Hale, the best rock voice.

Satellites – Andy James

That chorus lead melody that kicks in at about the minute mark is emotive and the harmonies just add a nice complexity to it.

One of the best instrumental guitarists right now.

World On Fire – Daughtry

It’s so good to have Daughtry knocking on the door of hard rock again. He’s angry and the addictive melody is perfect over the aggressive guitar riffs.

Stressed out, head trauma, took a beating

Life is already difficult from our own doing and the trauma we inflict on ourselves with our thoughts and feelings So when society gets a hold of us, we are even more beaten down, shaped and moulded.

But we find ways to survive, to move on.

The final part to August 2020 is coming up.

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

June 2020 – Part 1

Beautiful
Bodies For The Bones
Die Trying featuring Shaun Morgan
Sweet Forgiveness
Art of Dying

These songs are from their “Demos and Rarities” lockdown release. I’ve been in and out of love with this band.

“Beautiful” is in the similar vein to their “Vices And Virtues” album in sound and theme. It’s the style I like.

“Bodies For The Bones” is super down tuned for heaviness. I don’t like this style. While the music sits super low which I’m not a fan of, the vocal melodies sit in the upper registry and drive the song.

“Die Trying” is one of my favourite cuts. This one features Shaun Morgan from Seether. Remember them. Seether came onto my radar almost 15 plus year ago when they did a song with Amy from Evanescence for “The Punisher” movie. A ballad called “Broken”.

“If it takes forever I would die trying”

The ethos of a lifer trying to make something from their life, to meet their definition of success and happiness.

And that’s the important element here, it’s your definition, that defines you. Don’t try to fit in to other people’s definitions.

“Sweet Forgiveness” has a haunting acoustic riff.

“Come take me out of here, I’m at the end of my rope, there’s nowhere to go”

There is always somewhere to go. Pick up the phone, talk to someone, catch up for a coffee and keep talking. There is always someone who wants to listen.

Darker Thoughts
Ghosts
Ending Days
Paradise Lost

This one-way street you’re on
You’ll never be fulfilled
And this one way street you’re on
Is gonna get you killed

That vocal melody. It’s haunting.

With inner peace gone, you pray
All those darker thoughts are coming back to stay
With inner peace gone you’ve paid
All those darker thoughts are coming back to stay

And then the violins kick in, over a grinding dirgey riff, while the “Godless are sworn to kill, Annihilation” is barked out.

Let’s chuck in an emotive pentatonic minor lead to finish it off.

On The Run Again
Chrome Division

The way this song starts off with the acoustic delta like blues riff, which morphs into a head banging distortion riff. It’s been played before, it’s been heard before, but I still like it.

Dual (featuring Matt Guillory)
Ultra City
Andy James

Instrumental music at its best.

In the 80’s, it got to a stage where the instrumental songs would be just a power chord and a million notes in the bar. Then another power chord and then another million notes. There was hardly any riffs and it became pretty bland. Because once you’ve heard one artist doing it from Shrapnel, you would have heard em all.

But these days, the instrumental players, write a song first, with awesome riffage and then decorate it with great melodic lead breaks.

Andy James is up there for me, with players like John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, George Lynch, John Sykes, Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman.

Leave It Alone
Signals Gone
Blacktop Mojo

This band deserves more attention. One of the best hard rock bands out there at the moment.

Far Enough Away
Trapt

They are doing Daughtry better than what Daughtry is doing right now. There is something special about an acoustic guitar, drums, bass and a good vocal melody, with some synth strings thrown in.

Death Diviner
Soilwork

The riff.

A cross between “Schism” from Tool and Soilwork’s signature groove.

Bjorn Strid takes the clean melodic highway on vocals and a classic Soilwork song is born.

That Chorus.

The riff again.

Press play and enjoy.

When All Is Said And Done
Aldo Nova

I didn’t expect this kind of cut from Aldo Nova.

And I like how artists can still surprise me.

This is bluesy, groovy and heavy. If you like the work that Glenn Hughes did with Black Country Communion, then you will like this.

Revelation
Riders Of The Light
Highway To Paradise
Lorelei
From A Whisper To A Scream
Final Hour
Gathering Of Kings

This band’s new take on an old sound is just to my liking. This is album number 2.

“Revelation” sets my mind time machine to 1984/85 and that beautiful melodic rock coming from an excellent band called Y&T.

And if you like tunes like that, then you’ll like this project, a gathering of Nordic musos who want to create.

All Of My Life
The Road
Highway
Between Good And Bad
When She Cries
Mike Tramp

I’ve always enjoyed Mike Tramp’s voice. With the last few solo releases, his lyrics are exceptional and they resonate on this album, “Second Time Around”.

He sold his heart and soul for rock and roll in “All Of My Life”.

He looked ahead on “The Road” that broke him, made him, turned his tears to smiles, brought him home again and the road he never wants to end.

He saw life come and go so fast on a “Highway” as he went for a ride and never looked back, finding love, finding heartache, finding highs and crashing lows.

Loving You Is A Dirty Job
Easy Come Easy Go
Intensity
Lost In The Dark
Back
Victims Of Desire
Built To Please
Passion

Passion covers most of the 80’s/early 90’s sounds and releases from bands.

Kiss. Its covered.

Keel. It’s covered.

Ratt. Its covered.

Steelheart. Its covered.

Skid Row. Its covered.

Hurricane. Its covered.

Winger. It’s covered.

2020
Vandenberg

The whole album is stellar.

It gives me this feeling of when I listened to Bad Company, Rainbow (Dio fronted), Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, Deep Purple (Coverdale/Hughes version), Whitesnake and Black Sabbath (Dio fronted).

Each day is a different favourite.

“Ride Like The Wind” reminds of “Gates Of Babylon” from Rainbow. That’s my favourite today.

Yesterday, it was the Bad Company sounding “Hell and High Water”.

The day before it was the “Bad Boys” sounding “Light Up The Sky”.

Tomorrow it could be “Shout”, which reminds me of “Slow And Easy” on steroids, with a driving beat. Especially that section after the solo, when it’s just drums, and Romero is singing, “Get Up And Shout”. Even “I Love It Loud” comes to mind.

There is the “Fool For Your Loving” inspired “Shitstorm” with a David Coverdale like vocal that has been my go to track.

Or the Richie Blackmore inspired “Shadows Of The Night”.

“Let It Rain” reminds of Bonfire.

And my favourite track “Skyfall” closes the album.

And apart from the excellent riffage and song construction, the lead breaks are superb, song within song moments.

And the band is excellent.

Part 2 coming up.

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

May 2020 – Part 3

December
Highway To Paradise
Gathering Of Kings

I really need to sink my ears into this album and learn more about the project because even though their brand of melodic rock is derivative, I like it.

On their debut album, it had a lot of guest vocalists, and because Bjorn Strid from Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra was involved, I was interested.

These tracks are from the follow up.

The Shift
10 Years

I’ve been a long time fan of 10 Years.

There form of groove rock, which in the beginning, had a nod to Tool but in a concise 4 minute package, got me interested.

And since then, they have kept on morphing into a unique rock band.

Darker Thoughts
Ghosts
Paradise Lost

I became a fan with the “Draconian Times” album and then they lost me with their Depeche Mode style album in the late 90’s.

Since the start of the 2010’s they have started to creep back in. “Darker Thoughts” is sombre, as it percolates with just an acoustic guitar, violins and cellos. Then it kicks in, and that riff from 2.18.

House On Fire
Asking Alexandria

This band did a covers EP once, and they had songs from artists I grew up with.

For example, on the “Life Gone Wild” EP from 2010, they covered “18 And Life” and “Youth Gone Wild” frim Skid Row.

Then in 2012 they dropped another EP called “Under The Influence: A Tribute To The Legends Of Hard Rock” which had, “Separate Ways” from Journey, “Kick Start My Heart” from Motley Crue, “Here I Go Again” from Whitesnake and “Hysteria” from Def Leppard.

This track is from their new album and its different, bordering on the sounds of “Imagine Dragons” in the verses with a massive Chorus, which gets the foot tapping.

Check it out.

Uninvited
Earshot

“Earshot” is another band that found a niche combining the angst of bands like Korn with the progressiveness of Tool, into concise 4 to 5 minute rock songs. This was between 2004 and 2008. Then they disappeared, while similar bands like 10 Years and Chevelle kept on going.

“Uninvited” is a great return.

And I’m interested.

It has this epic, Middle Eastern/Arabic feel as it percolates and rumbles through, with a kicking guitar solo.

The following songs, I have already written about on some of the Release Day Friday playlist posts.

Make It Out Alive
Tell Me How You Really Feel
Trapt

The cover for “Make It Out Alive” is a skull with the American flag painted/engraved into the bone, wearing a gas mask all on a black background. It’s a great piece of art and the song portrays that angst.

Dark Necessities
Luca Stricagnoli

This dude can really play an acoustic guitar.

This is a cover of a RHCP song and what you get, is the guitars, the vocal lines, the bass lines and a percussive beat all played on the guitar.

He also has his own special designed acoustic guitar with three necks which allows him to play these songs live.

Watch his YouTube videos to see him in action.

And it was two of those YouTube videos that made me a fan.

“Thunderstruck” and “Fear Of The Dark”.

Watch em and be in awe.

There is so much talent in the world today, that deserves to be heard and seen, the same way guitarists in the 70’s and 80’s were heard and seen. And Luca Stricagnoli is one of those artists.

Prove Me Wrong
Dee Snider

After 40 years in the business, Dee Snider is still proving people wrong. His recent batch of releases, which takes a stab at modern pop rock with “We Are The Ones” and modern groove metal with “For The Love Of Metal” has returned him to the throne of the black sheep’s, the SMF’s.

And “Prove Me Wrong” has a foot stomping metal riff that could make it on a Metallica album with Dee at his metal best.

Atlas Falls
Shinedown

I am a fan of Shinedown.

Their last two albums moved away from the hard rock sounds that got me into em, but they have enough goodwill in my book, for me to remain a fan, plus they had enough tracks on the last two releases to keep me interested.

So when this track was released, a left over from the “Amaryllis” album released in 2012, I was hooked, because this is the Shinedown I like.

Skyfall
Vandenberg

This tune just smoulders, like those epic 70’s tracks from Rainbow and Deep Purple.

Yep, that’s the vibe I get, a Ritchie Blackmore vibe.

Invasion
Haken

The vocal delivery reminds me of Styx and the sounds in the first minute are like an 80s video game.

Musically, it ticks all the boxes for me.

And just like that, they are back in my life as I became one in 2016, then I was on the fence in 2018 and now I’m back.

Voices
Long Distance Calling

They have no singing, it’s all instrumental, but instrumental music built on a groove or a riff and they just keep building it with derivative versions of the same riff.

You need to listen to it, to understand what I mean.

Change For The Better
FM

I knew about FM from the 90’s but never heard anything from em. And in the 2010’s they started to come into my life.

And then they really came on my radar because of “Shot In The Dark”, the song which is known as an “Ozzy” song.

You see, Phil Soussan wrote that song while he was in a band called Wildlife with the Overland brothers (before FM was created). According to the Overland brothers, they helped develop a lot of the concepts and progressions and lyrical melodies, including the keys for “Shot In The Dark”. But they didn’t get the credit and even questioned what Ozzy Osbourne actually did to the song to get a credit.

So they re-recorded the version they had done with Soussan back in the Wildlife days as a bonus track to their 2016 EP.

Give it a listen on Spotify and or go on YouTube.

And as Wikipedia states, “this authorship issue has become a source of contention over the years, and in spite of its success, the song has rarely appeared on Ozzy Osbourne greatest hits compilations as a result.”

As for “Change For The Better”, it’s a mix of Journey and Toto when they used to rock a little bit.

Blackened 2020
Metallica

It was great to see James Hetfield again on the YouTube video of this.

And what a comeback song for him, with a pretty cool acoustic rewrite in the Ennio Morricone style for one of their most progressive and powerful tracks.

To me, the “Justice” album is an unbelievable record. I don’t care that the bass is missing and that the guitar sound has too many mids or the drums sound too compressed. Because a great song is a great song regardless and the “Justice” album has a lot of great songs.

And man, didn’t “One” really shake up MTV.

For a band that didn’t do any clips, they did two versions, one with the film footage and the other with just the band performing in the warehouse. Suddenly you had a million kids buying a double bass drum kit and off they went to practice the double kick “landmine” section.

But “Blackened” opened the album and it’s 7/4 time signature for the intro riff grabbed me by the throat instantly.

“Termination (termination)”

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

April 2020 – Part 4

The final post for April 2020.

Here is the Spotify link to all of it. Here are posts 1 and 2 and 3 which talk about new music in April.

And here are the songs from the first three months (Jan to Mar) who are still doing the rounds in April.

Circle The Drain
Machine Head

Up until last year, Machine Head had four members. Then drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Phil Demmel left. Actually they already left, but then committed to finishing off the tour as sort of a last farewell. I read some interviews where they said it was like “turning up for the pay check”.

Robb Flynn is the founding member of Machine Head and he continued the band after the departures.

Robb got drummer Chris Kontos and guitarist Logan Mader who played on the MH debut “Burn My Eyes” album (released in 1994) and they (with current Machine Head bassist Jared MacEachern) re-recorded that 94 album live in the studio. This iteration became known as the BME band. Then Robb did an acoustic cover of “Die Young” from Black Sabbath, released it on Spotify and it became my favourite track.

And Machine Head toured. But with two versions of the band. There was the BME band mentioned above and the “Classics” band, with the addition of Waclaw Kieltyka on guitar and Matt Alston on drums.

So the “Classics” band would play all the Machine Head classics, and then the “Classics” band would go off and the “Burn My Eyes” band would come to play that album in its entirety.

From a new song perspective, he dropped two songs with different musicians (yep different from the dudes mentioned above). I couldn’t even keep track of who is who and I like looking at the credits.

I didn’t like “Do Or Die”, but I do like “Circle The Drain” and I enjoyed watching the making of videos. I like how it all came together and how a conversation with a friend about his relationship “circling the drain” finally nailed the title down. The drummer on “Circle The Drain” is Navene Koperweis.

It’s a great song and when Robb Flynn sings melodically, it’s a pretty cool moment. I still remember when I was watching the making of “Through The Ashes of Empires” album in 2003, and Robb Flynn is playing an acoustic guitar and playing Tesla’s “Love Song”. And I was like F yeah”. This dude knows his shit.

Feeling Whitney
Royal Bliss

It’s a cover of a Post Malone song about addictions and looking for that fix. The Post Malone version has more of a “Dust In The Wind” acoustic feel, while Royal Bliss turn it into a modern rock song.

Running Up That Hill
Naked City
Jorn

These two cover songs from Jorn would probably never go out of this playlist. The Kate Bush cover about making a deal with God to swap places is excellent and“Naked City” is one of my favourite cuts from the “Dynasty” album.

Come Clean
H.E.A.T

The Chorus on this song is so catchy.

Lyrically it’s not the best, about moving on to other partners but he can’t stop thinking about his ex. But the melody and the execution is excellent, and it’s melodic rock so who cares about the lyrical message.

Because Of You
Storm Force

I love the keys in the start, the nod to “The Who” as an influence and the major key 70’s feel of the verses.

And when the Chorus rolls around, it seals the deal.

Because of you I will climb a little higher

There is always someone there, who has your back, mentoring and supporting you. Remember that and never feel alone. It could be a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, a mentor.

Aeromantic album
The Night Flight Orchestra

Yep, the whole album is still doing the rounds.

“Transmissions”, “Aeromantic”, “Taurus”, “Carmencita Seven” and “Dead Of Winter” kept getting a lot of listens this month.

That’s not to say that the other tracks like “Divinyls”, “If Tonight Is Our Only Chance”, “Sister Mercurial”, “Servants Of The Air”, “Golden Swansdown”, “This Boy’s Last Summer” or “Curves” are no good. Because based on my mood anyone of them would become my favourite for a day.

Mr Big Shot
Collateral

This song reminds me so much of the songs from Skid Row’s self-titled debut and it just keeps getting spins from me. And it’s also from the debut album of Collateral.

Since this song has been four months in my playlist, I thought I should find out more.

Clicking on their bio on their website, it tells me, “Ripped jeans, cowboy boots, long hair and make-up, Collateral are a band that look and sound like a stadium rock band”. I know most stadium bands didn’t wear ripped jeans and cowboy boots, but hey, who cares, its rock and roll so let’s go with that imagery.

I think I have mentioned before that Collateral are from South East Kent in the U.K.

Remember a time when the UK led the way for rock and roll, with Cream, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Free, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, Slade, Mott The Hoople and David Bowie. And then the U.K did it again in the 80’s with the NWOBHM and New Wave.

Maybe the modern streaming age is seeing another revival. Sweden definitely has something special happening with their many different scenes focusing on different styles of rock and metal, like melodic rock, hard rock, progressive rock/metal, thrash metal and death metal. UK bands have also made their way into my playlists and my headspace as well.

Let’s see where it all goes.

Aftershock
Swallowed By The Machine
The Death Of Me
Harem Scarem

There are a lot of good cuts on Harem Scarem’s album and the guitar playing from Pete Lesperance is excellent. “Swallowed By The Machine” at this point in time and for the mood I am in, is getting a lot of attention.

We’re falling into dystopia
It’s crumbling before our eyes
Black mirror reflecting all our lives

I love technology, I work in technology and I am careful to switch off and not let those black mirror devices take control every single minute of the day.

Days of judgement upon us
Broken and demoralized
March into the vortex single file

It’s like a dystopian movie, where the human race is lined up, like cattle, waiting for their turn to walk into confusion and dizziness.

Because it feels like the world tries to do that.

With so much information at our fingertips, we don’t know what to click on and read sometimes. Every story has a point of view of the writer, and they are laced with some facts, a little bit of lies and a little bit of fiction. And then people try to pass it off as “truth”.

We all have dreams, we all have doubts
Be careful which you feed
And don’t get swallowed by the machine

Feed the correct hunger and walk the road you want to walk.

Watching “The Last Dance” and seeing those years roll by, man, it brings back some crossroads decisions. I can’t dispute the decisions made, because I am here today, with a wife and three kids. And I am content, happy.

I have no doubt that if I made a different decision, I wouldn’t have what I have today and I probably wouldn’t be in the same place mentally. But I still wonder, what if because the machine still rolls on, beckoning me to step inside.

Fake News
Turn The Light On
Shakra

The intro riff on “Fake News” reminds me of that GNR and Skid Row swagger.

And it’s good to hear these kind of influences, because Shakra (from Switzerland) are a band which defines the meaning of perseverance and grit.

Imagine a hard rock band, being formed in 1995, when the Grunge movement was on a decline and Industrial Metal like Ministry and NIN was becoming a thing, Tool was still a relatively unknown band, as “Aenima” was a few years away from being released and Korn was a few years away from their breakthrough and the start of the Nu-Metal movement.

25 years in the business and twelve albums down. Not bad at all.

Bubbles
Framing Hanley

These guys started off in 2005. They got signed and released two albums on a record label in 2007 and 2010. The band left their label and created a Kickstarter campaign for the next album, by asking their fans to donate a dollar.

That album is “The Sum Of Who We Are”, released in 2014.

They went on a break for three years between 2015 and 2018. And finally they have a new album out in 2020 and the song “Bubbles” just refuses to go away.

I Can’t Be The Only One
Killswitch Engage

I like Killswitch Engage.

The riffs are a cross between melodic rock, hard rock, heavy metal and groove metal. On occasions there are thrash and black metal riffs and a nod to Sweden’s metal scene around 1992 to 1998.

The vocals move between screamed and melodic. And screaming the way they do, it takes a toll on the vocal chords.

During the album making, vocalist Jesse Leach had to have throat surgery to remove a polyp and then 3 months of speech, vocal and scream therapy. And no vocalist wants to hear, that there could be a chance they could never sing again.

And you know how much I hate labels. Here is what Jesse Leach said on the issue of being classed as Metalcore in an interview at the excellent Consequence of Sound website.

“You know how genres go. That term has been so bastardized, I don’t even know what it means. When I think of Killswitch, I don’t think metalcore, I think metal, in general. I get people gotta categorize it, I get that, but you ask me, I don’t know, because I don’t even listen to metalcore. We came from the hardcore scene. We were hardcore kids who were into metal. That’s where the ‘metalcore’ came.”

This is an alternate edit from the track released on 2019’s “Atonement” album. And I really like the below lyrics.

Divided we’ve become, this fight has just begun
But I can’t be the only one
Together we overcome with a truth they can’t outrun
But I can’t be the only one

United we overcome

“Habit” by Adelitas Way, “All Eyes On You” by Smash Into Pieces, “The First Time” by Khymera, “Shadowman” by One Desire, “Broken” by FM and “Fly Like An Eagle”, “Legacy” and “Lay Me Down” from In This Moment are also getting spins.

And that’s it for my April listening. It’s only taken me half a month to complete.

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Sign Of The Times

It was a Metal Hammer magazine in 1989 which had a two page interview with a young German guitarist called Axel Rudi Pell.

I thought what a cool name. The interview was all about his debut album, “Wild Obsession” released in 1989

And I had this “buy list” that I kept in my wallet of records to buy, so I added it to the list. But I never found it available and I never ordered it. And he kept releasing albums and he kept appearing in the European magazines. The U.S and Aussie mags gave him no love and neither did any of the Guitar mags, but the Metal Hammers’ and Kerrangs’ did.

And I kept reading of the albums he kept making, like “Nasty Reputation” released in 91 with Rob Rock on vocals and the albums between 1992 and 1997 which had Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. And I kept adding his albums to the “buy list” and then I stopped.

In 1998, Johnny Gioeli joined on vocals and never left. Remember Hardline and its debut album with Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo and the Gioeli brothers. Yep that same dude. He has done 13 studio albums with Axel Rudi Pell, plus Hardline albums and Crush 40 albums for video games. If you want a hard worker in the music business, Johnny Gioeli is one.

Keeping a stable vocalist has made me a fan of ARP’s works, because he’s unlike other hot shot guitarists who just kept changing singers with each album. Actually only two come to mind at the moment, in Malmsteen and Lynch.

So I’m listening to the new album, “Sign Of The Times” and I don’t know if it’s the mood I am in, or the quarantine for the last 10 weeks, but this album is hitting all the spots for me. Every single song has something which connects.

Like in “Gunfire”, the song reminded me of Motorhead in the riffs, and you had Gioeli pulling out some cool metal vocals and then the guitar solo started and it just kept going and I kept banging that head and I was in love with the song.

“Bad Reputation” is all major key and it’s got that summertime love feel. This could have come from an ELO album, or an early Whitesnake, or Bad Company album, or even Sweet. Hell, Kiss covered this style on “Dynasty” and “Unmasked”.

The Choir voices and the violins kick off “Sign Of The Times” but when the distorted riff comes in on its own, it’s like “Heaven And Hell” and Gioeli is singing about “being on our way to better times”, and it’s got Dio all over it.

“Looking down on the ashes, we are moving on to a new world”

If you call this an unprecedented time, a time of ashes, then we hope to be moving to a new world. Time will tell how we navigate these uncharted waters.

And for all the heaviness of the song with its riffage, the guitar solo section is just drums, keyboards and bass. No rhythm guitar. It’s exactly how it will sound live and of course ARP doesn’t disappoint in the lead.

“The End Of The Line” just rolls along at about 140bpm and my foot is tapping and Gioeli is telling us that “we are running out of time”.

Any song with a title like “As Blind As A Fool Can Be” just screams epic. Before the song even started I was already thinking, “All The Fools Sailed Away”, “Blindman”, “Soldier Of Fortune”, “Sailing Ships” and “When A Blindman Cries”. And it rolls along like any ballad should.

On “Wings Of The Storm” (I know, it’s an overused title), the world gets weirder every day, so Gioeli is looking to fly far away on the wings of the storm. And the riffage by ARP is exactly how it should be. It’s got this bluesy feel in the verses, but it’s still metal. And when the Chorus kicks in, the riffs are excellent but Gioeli is the star with the vocal performance.

And no ARP song is complete without a minute and a half guitar solo. There’s actually two of em on this one. In the middle and in the outro.

“Waiting For Your Call” sounds like an awesome Scorpions song that Scorpions didn’t write.

“Into The Fire” (another overused title, I know) has this groove which reminds of “Kashmir” and “Egypt(The Chains Are On)”. And of course, the solo is worthy for a track which closes the album.

Listening to this album and hearing Gioeli on vocals has got me thinking that I really need to go back and listen to the Hardline albums I haven’t heard since the first album, which happens to be a lot albums.

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Dream On

Another artist / songwriter / producer that is represented on Revolution Saints debut album from 2015 is Erik Martensson, who is also the guitarist for the Swedish melodic rock band Eclipse.

“Dream On” is probably not the best title to use since those two words together are associated with a song about looking in the mirror and the lines on your face not getting clearer by a band from Boston called Aerosmith.

Anyway.

“Dream On” is a better derivative version of “Back On My Trail” and it really brings back memories of Night Ranger.

“Dream On” has a committee of songwriters.

Music is written by Erik Martensson (along with Finish-Swedish songwriter Johan Becker and Kristofer Becker. Lyrics are written by Martensson, J. Becker, K. Becker, Alessandro Del Vecchio and Jack Blades.

Man, that intro riff puts me right back into the 80’s. Those dreams of youthful innocence. And it’s got all of the cliches in the lyrics from the 80s and I like it.

For all the young and the innocent
For those who long who you are to catch their falling star
I guess you know who you are

I wonder what kind of dreams the youth have today.

In the 80s it was a rite of passage to get your drivers license and get a car like it’s a badge of honor. Then it morphed to tech devices.

The kids are more than happy to drive their parents car because it’s all about their social media status and the latest tech they have and gaming online. Car markers are challenged trying to get younger buyers who actually care about the environment, something which the car makers don’t care about to actually buy a car.

For all the strong sticking to their guns
For all the ones that wave their flags up high
Comes a time to make it or break it

I was always told that if you don’t make it by a certain age focus on Plan B. It’s the worst advice ever. Because no journey is the same. Every person has a destination in mind, and they need to be flexible with the route.

When times get tough just don’t dare to stop

It’s when a lot of people quit.

Something has steered them away from their goal. It could be a relationship break up or an argument or a rejection for a project they were working on. And it sets something off, like their not good enough. But everyone is good enough, it all depends on how much determination a person has to push through the lulls.

And the lead break from Doug Aldrich is quality. Hear it, experience it and play air guitar to it.

Another song to check out which also has Erik Mårtensson co-writing on this debut is “How to Mend a Broken Heart” (Originally recorded by Eclipse).

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Locked Out Of Heaven

The debut Revolution Saints album was number 5 on my 2015 list. And they just released their 3rd album this year.

Revolution Saints is a supergroup of musicians who have been around for a long time.

Deen Castronovo (was discovered by Neal Schon and was then given a chance to play in Bad English by Schon) is on drums and vocals. It was a shame that a few months after this album was released, he was in the press for all of the wrong reasons. He even lost his Journey drumming gig because of it.

Doug Aldrich can shred and he helped prolong the careers of artists like Dio and Whitesnake, while Jack Blades has a stellar resume with Night Ranger, Damn Yankees and writing songs for other artists with Tommy Shaw. But the star of the album is an Italian songwriter called Allessandro Del Vecchio. He’s like the Desmond Child or Jim Vallance or Max Martin for Frontiers Records president Serafino Perugiono.

And “Locked Out of Paradise” is written solely by Alessandro Del Vecchio. There is a live version of the song on the “Light In The Dark” deluxe version, which shows the power of the song.

The palm muted intro for the first 20 seconds and then the power chords come crashing in with metronome drum rolls precision from Castronovo supplementing the build into the verses.

From about 38 seconds we are into the verse. Its rocking, its melodic and it builds nicely into the pre-chorus and that tasty arena rock chorus.

“We’ve been locked out of paradise, we lost our battle to survive”

Paradise is this elusive utopian refuge we try to get to. But we can’t quantify it or measure how far we need to go to get there, so we keep chasing it. My view to get there, is drip by drip, little steps at a time and trying to make each day, each week, each year, each decade better than the previous.

“Bring your heart to me, what do you touch?, I’m just a man with a hope”

Because in the end all we do is hope. We feel that our expectations and desires for a particular thing to happen are getting closer to the event. So we keep hoping. Some keep praying. And we keep going.

For the debut album, the songs were already written by other writers, so all Aldrich had to do was learn the riffs, put his unique spin on them and then work out what he needed to do for the solos.

Which are quality.

The lead break for this song is well-structured and well thought out, as Aldrich pulls out various techniques from his arsenal. It starts off melodically, builds nicely and ends with a guitar acapella two bar shred fest before moving back into the song.

By the end, I am pressing repeat just to hear that intro again and that guitar solo.

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80’s Forgotten Playlist

Spotify Playlist

A lot of good music came out in the 80’s that is more or less lost or forgotten or known as semi-obscure. Hell, there is no way the Spotify algorithm will be able to find it and pick it up.

Blame MTV. The show became popular because it had “hit video clips”. In order to get onto the show, bands needed a hit single. So even though bands went away and recorded a very solid album without any hit singles, the most commercial sounding song and sometimes with the most clichéd lyrics would end up as the single. And if the song resonated, people would highly likely go and check out the album or the back catalogue. This was good for sales and the record labels made a lot of money.

However, the MTV rules still apply today. We’ve come full circle. If you have a hit single today, you will rack up a billion streams on Spotify, which might get people interested into checking out the whole album or the back catalogue. But in most cases, people will be happy with the “hit” single and a lot of music is not heard. Remember a few years ago when Spotify did a check on their data and found over 20 million songs that haven’t even been heard. Think about the number. 20 million songs not even heard. That’s the competition for any new band. With so many bands/artists creating music, how do you rise above the 20 plus million songs that no one has even heard?

Does your latest release just add to the 20 million never heard pile or does it rise above?

And you need people to push it, talk about it and promote it.

Secret Loser
Killer Of Giants

Both tracks are from Ozzy Osbourne’s forgotten “Ultimate Sin” album released in 1986.

“Shot In the Dark” got the glory as the lead single and is probably the reason why the album is not available on CD anymore depending on who you believe. Overland brothers vs Osbourne, or Soussan vs Osbourne, or Overland vs Soussan.

At one stage in the late 90’s, this album was deleted and you couldn’t get any new copies. One of the Australian mags mentioned it’s because of Sharon Osbourne’s contract disputes with Bob Daisley and Jake E.Lee. Maybe it was the authorship issue of “Shot In The Dark”.

Who remembers the movie “The Wraith”?

Charlie Sheen stars in it, as a person who comes back to life to avenge his death at the hands of a car gang (who got away with the murder). He kills his murderers by racing each gang member to death. Well, “Secret Loser” appears during one such car race and it connected right away with me.

How good is the riff?

Trapped in a lonely body
I’m losing control
Can’t show my emotions
And I’m losing my soul
Could it be that I’m obsessed with feeding my disease
I couldn’t make it known the hidden things no one sees

Daisley was pretty good at writing autobiographical stories of Ozzy. I think this one is no different, especially the line about how Ozzy is obsessed with feeding the disease and in this case, the disease is the persona of Ozzy being constantly intoxicated, drugged out and doing something publicly embarrassing.

I can understand that what you see
You think is real
But underneath the surface is a wound
That cannot heal

It’s almost like being a fly on a wall in a shrink therapy session. Just imagine the big bad rock star with an image of decadence and debauchery breaking down within the confines of four walls and a chair.

“Killer Of Giants” is as good and as classic as “Diary of A Madman” in my view. Musically, it’s excellent. It’s got that acoustic introduction, social and political lyrics courtesy of Bob Daisley, a great chorus and excellent guitar playing from Jake E. Lee

If none of us believe in war
The can you tell me what the weapon’s for
Listen to me everyone
If the button is pushed
There’ll be nowhere left to run

Daisley, grew up with the threat of the button being pushed. For the generation of today, the threat of nuclear war is in the past, forgotten. Then again, my kids asked me recently, what would happen if we go to war with North Korea?

Killer of giants threatens us all
Mountains of madness standing so tall
Rising so proudly it has nowhere to fall
This killer of giants

At the moment our leaders are having a war of words with “rogue nations”. While sticks and stones hurt, a barrage of words can undo all truth. Especially words tainted with lies. Sometimes, people never recover. Say the right words, make a difference and doors can open. Say the wrong words and watch doors shut and a very darker difference will be seen.

Jake E. Lee got really shafted with his time in Ozzy. He has no song writing credits for the “Bark At The Moon” album, which he should. And for “The Ultimate Sin” he has the credits, however the Osbourne camp are doing their best to kill off the album and hide it.

Little Fighter
Cry For Freedom

What can I say about White Lion that I haven’t said before?

With Vito Bratta, the band had one of the best guitarists ever. He knew how to decorate a song and his leads are little masterpieces themselves. The other key ingredient to me was when Mike Tramp wrote lyrics about society, the injustices in society and how if we don’t do something right now to protect our world, there will not be a world to protect.

And maybe these serious themes proved to be the downfall of White Lion. I remember Vito Bratta saying in an interview when White Lion played Castle Donnington. They came on after Skid Row and before AC/DC and while the crowd got into the party lifestyle lyrics of Skid Row and Acca, they just didn’t resonate when White Lion sang about Greenpeace or apartheid in South Africa.

Rise again little fighter
And let the world know the reason why
Shine again little fighter
And don’t let ’em end the things you do

The lyrics are written in a way that it can be about many different situations. It could be an inspirational message to a person who is down on their luck. It could be the words in the head of a boxer after he/she have been knocked to the canvas or words to a child who didn’t make the elite team.

The fire is burning
We lay our weapons down to rest
This war ain’t over
‘Till all the people will be free

“Cry For Freedom” is very Dylan’esque in it’s lyrics. South Africa and it’s apartheid policies always made the news in Australia. And when people have nothing else left except to fight for freedom and equality, then there is a high chance they would do so. The truth is, we are never free. Speak to anyone in debt and ask them if they feel free. Our lives are at the mercy of the banking system. In South Africa, racism was used to imprison people.

Our brothers in prison
But no crime was ever done
I call it racism
Ashamed I face my fellow man

Even in our democratic countries people are jailed for no crimes and unfortunately racism will not go away.

Musically, Vito Bratta kills it. All of those people calling him an EVH clone got no idea. It’s like calling LeBron James the next Jordan. Both can shoot threes, slam dunks and do all of the wonderful things players do. But both are different. Same deal with EVH and Bratta. EVH was technical but more aggressive in his style. Hearing EVH play sometimes, I used to get an image of him punching his guitar. The sense of melody that Bratta exhibits is fluent and theoretical. He worked within the modes most of the time, like Rhoads did which made it very melodic.

Bang Go The Bells
Desperate

Babylon A.D is one of those bands that fall into the “should have made it” category. They even caught the attention of Arista Records president and industry music mogul Clive Davis, who signed them at a live showcase in Los Angeles. Hell, their lyrics suited the era to a tee and the musicianship was/is top-notch. The problem (and not really their fault) is too many bands sounded the same and the music consumers/the fans started to get burned on the scene. “Bang Go The Bells” and “Desperate” are from the debut album, released in 1989.

Here we sit in this smoky bar
Two souls drifting through the world alone
Here we talk about life and love

Loneliness is humanities greatest disease. If someone is there, we wouldn’t be lost in the dangers of our own thoughts.

When your dreams seem far away
Take a moment to look over your shoulder
‘Cause, honey, you know I’m desperate too
Everybody’s desperate just like you

It’s not a sign of weakness to say we don’t want to be alone.

“Bang Go the Bells” is written by vocalist Derek Davis, guitarist Ron Freschi and bassist Robb Reid. “Desperate” is written by Derek Davis and songwriter Jack Ponti. Yes, the same Jack Ponti who co-wrote “Shot Through The Heart” with Jon Bon Jovi and went on to co-write the majority of the “Hey Stoopid” album with Alice Cooper and Vic Pepe.

From a guitar point of view, Dan De La Rosa and Ron Freschi bring all of the hard rock flavourings to both songs.

Speak For Yourself
Blood Of Emeralds

From Gary Moore. The songs are from “After The War” released in 1989. “Speak For Yourself” is written by Neil Carter and Gary Moore.

How good is the riff?

It’s a speed rock song and it’s lyrics are still relevant today.

Look around across the nation
Another league of morons marching,
Banners in hand.
Looking for another scapegoat,
Try to take away the things they don’t understand.

The older I get, the more I realize, I’ve got no idea where it’s all going and neither do the people we vote in, who are all beholden to the corporation which pays the most.

Somewhere in the darkness,
There’s a voice that’s crying to be heard.
You feel it deep inside you,
A voice that just won’t be denied.

Speak for yourself.
Someone will hear you,
Someone will listen.
Speak for yourself.
Who knows, you might change your world.

So true and so relevant today. People have exercised their voices with votes, but our leaders are not the problem. It’s the rich corporations in the background that are the problem. Then again when you get leaders who came from rich corporations, mmm, what does that say about the state of the world?

But in all seriousness, people power stopped bad legislation in SOPA and PIPA. People power started to ramp up to stop the Trans Pacific Agreement legislation because it was negotiated in secret and with the corporations present and then Trumpy came into power and killed it dead. Only to replace it with something worse, which we don’t know about yet.

They try to take away your freedom.
They try to tell you what you can
Or what you can’t hear.
Don’t let this moral suffocation
Make you turn out just like them,
Is that what they fear?

The internet has given people a voice. In the process a new on-demand culture was created. People are connected socially over vast distances instantly. And we love it. But corporations who have business models based on control don’t like it and they go straight to their lobby groups to get laws written to benefit their business models. They use laws promoted to benefit the people to take away the freedoms of the people.

For example, in Australia, the large retailers lobby group didn’t like Australians purchasing products from overseas at a cheaper price, so they lobbied hard to get a tax added to overseas purchases. In the end, this tax just made the overseas companies set up a presence in Australia as a big FU.

Copyright is morphing into a censorship law. Videos and posts get taken down due to copyright complaints, however when it’s investigated why the video or the post got taken down, it’s found that the person complaining didn’t like what was being said so they used copyright as a censorship tool.

“Blood Of Emeralds” is written by Carter and Moore again and its more or less an autobiographical song about his time with Phil Lynott.

I was down and out on Skid Row,
But I held on to my pride.
The darkest son of Ireland,
He was standin’ by my side.
We would sail the stormy seas.
Never looking back,
We were afraid of what we’d see.
Through the thunder and the rain,
The deepest blood of emeralds
Was running through our veins.

He covers his time in “Skid Row” (not the U.S band), moving on to Thin Lizzy with Phil Lynott, the darkest son of Ireland and how they would cross into the U.S.

I was angry, I was sad,
Just thinking about the times we had.
I felt so lost and lonely too,
What could I say, what could I do?
And after all, the time goes by.
No one knows the reasons why.
You lived each day like there was no tomorrow.
You spent those years living on time you borrowed.
And in your eyes, all I could see was sorrow.

Phil’s passing and how it affected him.

Gary Moore in the 90’s went all blues and in interviews after the success of “Still Got The Blues”, he was very hateful to his original (he spoke highly of his covers) 80’s hard rock output. Regardless, Gary Moore (along with John Sykes, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch and Vito Bratta) are big influences to me. My guitar style is basically an amalgamation of those 5 guitarists.

With Spotify these days, I have no idea who plays on the songs, like I did in the past. On this album, Gary Moore had Neil Carter on keyboards, Bob Daisley on bass, Cozy Powell on drums, but Cozy didn’t drum on the two songs mentioned above. That was Simon Phillips, who would do also do work with AC/DC during the “Blow Up Your Video” era and Dio during the “Lock Up The Wolves era plus a tonne of sessions for other artists. Don Airey is also on keys for three songs. Hell, what a supergroup.

I Walk Alone
Badboy Breakout

I must admit I am a sucker for polished hair metal as it became known. “Tear the House Down” was the debut and only release from Hericane Alice and released in 1990 I believe, so I cheated on putting this one in this list. Anyway the band is one of many that got a major label deal late in the 80’s and were largely ignored by the record buying public.

The band was formed in Minneapolis in 1984 and after relocating to LA in 88, they got a deal with Atlantic Records in 1989. After the debut, the band recorded some demos with producer Neal Kernon for album number 2, however the shift in music happened and Atlantic passed on the option.

Sometimes your dreams can come true
You’re in heaven, for so long
Nightmares could happen to you
Just remember, life is long

The above is from “I Walk Alone”.

The career trajectory of Hericane Alice was like a dream come true, getting signed and recording an album with major label backing. However, the heaven of a major label turned into a nightmare.

No one can make it alone. We all need someone to listen to us, someone to speak to when we are down and out. Life is scary. Just google all the studies after studies that talk about suicides. People are killing themselves because they’ve lost all hope.

Meanwhile “Badboy Breakout” while great musically has lyrics about a load that’s ready to explode. Still, I am a fan of hair metal. (what a stupid name for music that’s more or less rock).

Ready Or Not
Sign Of The Times

“Out Of This World” was the follow-up to “The Final Countdown” and Europe needed hits to keep the momentum going.

Released in 1988, “Superstitious” took all the glory right off the bat, while a re-recording of “Open Your heart” failed to inspire the record buying public, except me, who has a 7 inch single of it, along with “Superstitious”. Other singles, “Let The Good Times Rock” and “More Than Meets The Eye” also failed to connect and the album didn’t do as well commercially as the previous album.

But to me, “Ready Or Not” and “Sign Of The Times” are the stand out tracks. But you had to be a fan to hear them as they only appeared on the album.

Rock me till I hit that floor
Rock me till I take no more
Rock this hungry heart of mine
Rock me down right to the ground
Rock me like you never done before
Then rock me just a little more

It more or less sums up the rock and roll show.

“Sign Of The Times” also has a signature keyboard lick that should have been as popular as “The Final Countdown” riff.

It’s the way that we make things right
It’s the way that we hold on tight
I know, it’s the sign of the times
It’s the way that we make things turn
It’s the way that we live and learn
I know, it’s the sign of the times

The sign of the times to me is when all our hope’s run out we just need to love one another to get through the day. It’s the way we live and learn. I guess we need a lot more of it these days.

The World Of You and I

It’s from “In God We Trust” released in 1988. The title track, “Always There For You” and “I Believe In You” might have had the attention and the MTV dial a song codes, but this song is a little melodic rock gem hidden on Side 2. And Stryper didn’t need auto tune to sound so in tune. It was all natural and kudos to Michael Sweet for penning such a gem.

You’re out there all alone
Searching endlessly for a home

There’s nothing like been away from home to actually miss what you have.

We Are Strong

Hurricane had some big name pedigree in it’s ranks. The brothers of Rudy Sarzo (Robert Sarzo) and Carlos Cavazo (Tony Cavazo) took the guitar and bass positions in a role reversal to what their older brothers played. If Rudy played bass, Robert played guitar and if Carlos played guitar, Tony played bass.

“We Are Strong” has got that “You Give Love A Bad Name” vibe and it’s a great piece of melodic arena rock.

Facing hard times
Hold on
Time’s still on our side

It’s easy to walk away and destroy what’s been built. So many walk away for reasons that are important to them and some need to do it to escape a hostile situation.

We’ve got to stick it out

Some might be saying for what. Sometimes people are stronger when they go their own ways, reset and restart.

Cry In Shame

It’s from Johnny Diesel And The Injectors, an Australian guitarist/singer who has this bluesy soul rock vibe that just works. And the problem with Australian artists breaking big in the U.S is the deals they sign with Australian labels, who then make it hard for the U.S labels to get a bigger piece of the contract.

Pickin’ up the pieces
Up off the floor
How was I to know
There was gonna be a war
Words of sorrow
Words of spite
Ringin’ in my head
Right through the night

Who hasn’t been in this situation? For me, it was more in the earlier days. As I get older, certain things that used to bother me don’t even get a blip on my radar.

Up all night
With a conscience fight
Just can’t sleep
So I put on the light

It’s so true after an argument. You can’t sleep as you replay it in your head and you get angry at the missed opportunity to say your piece properly when it mattered.

Time To Surrender

Poor, Kip Winger. His face was on a dart board as Lars Ulrich threw darts at him while Beavis and Butthead created a whole show around him. But man, the dude could sing and along with Reb Beach, they became a pretty good songwriting team, crafting some brilliant AOR/Rock gems. But this song is more in the vein of the hair metal vibe and it works.

The lyrics deal with leaving and someone needing to surrender to keep the relationship going, which at the start it looks like Kip is asking the woman to surrender, but by the end of the song, it’s Kip who has surrendered.

Regardless of the lyrics, the melodies and the music work and it’s a good hidden Winger gem from a pretty excellent debut album.

Rock Me

From Great White’s 1987 album “Once Bitten”.

We’d be so good together if we had the time
‘Cause being alone is a nowhere state of mind

Relationships need time investment. If you are not committed to invest, it normally ends.

I search the world for someone I’ll never find
Someone who ain’t the hurting kind

People get hurt all the time. Physical injuries heal, but our thoughts and feelings also get injured. These hidden injuries never really heal. The anxiety and doubt our thoughts and feelings put forth, amplify if they are not checked.

Rock me, rock me, roll me through the night

When the big chorus comes in, it works to a tee.

Great White in the 80’s and 90’s produced some good output even when the musical climate shifted to Seattle.

Today two versions exist, Jack Russell’s Great White and Mark Kendall’s version of Great White. And unfortunately, they are more remembered recently for the Station nightclub fire in 2003 that killed a lot of their fans when pyrotechnics set off by the tour manager ignited plastic foam used as sound insulation in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage.

Run To Paradise

Choirboys are from Australia. This is from their 1987 album “Big Bad Noise”. The song is a classic in Australia, however in other parts of the world it’s unknown or it doesn’t exist. But it should. The song more or less sums up life for a lot of people. It has the partner you liked and how they sort of liked you, the friend who has an addiction problem, the parent who is losing control of their child as they get older and the other friend who drifts away as they get older.

And Paradise can be a city, a town or a place in time in the past that was just perfect, before the big bad world got in the way.

Baby, you were always gonna be the one
You only ever did it just for fun
But you run to paradise

The immortal opening lines of the song. The chord progression is similar to “Crazy Train” moving from the A to the E to the D.

Jenny, I’ll meet you at the grocery store
You don’t need a friend when you can score
You run to paradise

About the friend who isn’t a friend when they are high.

Jesus say’s it’s gonna be all right
He’s gonna pat my back so I can walk in the light
But it’s not alright sometimes.

The Morning After
Closer To My Heart
Looking For Love

“The Morning After” is from the 3x U.S platinum “Out Of The Cellar” released in 1984. “Closer To My Heart” is from the 2x U.S platinum “Invasion Of Your Privacy” album released in 1985 and “Looking For Love” is from the 1x U.S platinum “Dancing Undercover”.

Let’s start off with “The Morning After”.

How good is that intro riff?

The song is credited to Crosby, DeMartini and Pearcy so I have no idea who wrote the intro riff but as a betting man and after reading Pearcy’s biography, I’ll put money on Crosby as Pearcy described him as the Ratt and Roller Riff Meister.

Also that little harmony lead at the end of the solo is brilliant.

Lyrically, Pearcy talks about going home with someone, lifting skirts and then leaving the morning after, when it’s time.

“Closer To My Heart” is written by Crosby and Pearcy and while it may be classed as a ballad today, it was never viewed as a ballad back in the day.

I listen to you, are you listening to me
The way that you are, it’s easy to see
Feelings for you, now I feel free
I’m lost in time

Love is a two-way street. Both sides have a chance to speak and both sides are meant to listen. In the Ballad of Stephen Pearcy, his partner is not listening to him anymore and he’s fallen out of love.

Indecision, it’s all been heard
No more confusion, the page has turned

Moving on is the hardest thing to do in relationships. Friends pick sides and a sense of familiarity is replaced with the unfamiliar.

“Looking For Love” is written by Crosby, Pearcy and bassist Juan Croucier.

I’m lookin’ for you
You’re lookin’ for me
It’s nothing new
You’re only looking for love
I know it’s true
You know it’s me
I know it’s you
You’re only looking for love

It’s a pop chorus full of clichés and overused rhymes and as good as any pop chorus today. Croucier was also an underrated songwriter within the band, producing a lot of songs and due to whatever politics those songs wouldn’t get considered. So while the singles from the album took all the thunder, the above three tracks should not be seen as poor cousins.

Makin Magic
Flight To Nowhere

Tesla. A massive favourite of mine. Their hard rock vibe mixed with southern rock mixed with Randy Rhoads/Michael Schenker/Angus Young/Eric Clapton guitar playing was huge on my song writing. Hell, I even re-wrote “The Great Radio Controversy” in my own way, meaning I wrote songs similar to all of the songs on this album. And man didn’t this album have some big tunes in “Love Song”, “The Way It Is”, “Heavens Trail”, “Paradise” and “Hang Tough”. But these two songs “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have enough metal in em, to break some teeth and they need more love.

Musically, “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have no filler and are chock full of riffs and great leads and great harmonies. Especially the arpeggiated pull off lick in the “Making Magic” chorus.

Now, I don’t wanna waste your time
I only want to satisfy
So wind me up and watch me go
I’m gettin’ crazy as the night unfolds

Men don’t need much winding up to get going.

I got you, now you got me
Feels so good to be
Makin’ magic, makin’ magic
It ain’t no mystery, come on

Bring on the clichés with heaps of melody. Love it. Moving on to “Flight To Nowhere” .

Look at me, I’m young and bold
Even though I may be growin’ old
I’m never slowin’ down

Life is fleeting. Enjoy it, as you are a long time gone.

Opinion is a piece of mind
Some are good, some are just like
Where the sun don’t shine

So true. Unfortunately, people allow opinions to get the better of them. Treat opinions as just that, opinions, not truth.

Now there’s one more thing I would like to say
This is everybody’s world
And everybody’s gonna live it their own way
No matter what we say, yeah

Be tolerant of all, it’s much better. The sad part is money rules the day and as long as people care more about money, hate will thrive and indifference will not be tolerated.

Troubled minds are full of hate
Willin’ to destroy the human race

The world has vehicles being driven into crowds and bombs going off in crowded market places. What’s next, back to public executions?

(Goin’ down) On a flight to nowhere

Are we too far gone to save ourselves? I don’t believe so.

Midnight/Tornado

From Skid Row’s debut album. After a lot of false starts trying to find the right lead singer that was MTV friendly, Skid Row finally got it going with Sebastian Bach and the recording contract was enacted. But to be honest, I prefer the Brain Fallon demo version found on YouTube. The rawness in Fallon’s voice gave the song what it needed.

Musically and melodically the song is brilliant. Lyrically it talks about a person prowling the streets and coming alive after midnight. Can’t say I am a fan of the words and I would love to hear this song with better lyrics.

Hard As Iron

From the much maligned “Ram It Down” album released in 1988.

I’m blazing on to glory
There’s thunder in my veins
And nothing stands before me
Forever I’ll remain
Hard as iron
Sharp as steel
Stop for no man
You better beg and kneel

Is Halford singing about the metal movement or some mysterious being that’s hard as iron and sharp as steel?

Who cares right?

The song is a five-star speed metal ditty that has all the things in it, people in the 90’s came to hate.

Set The World Afire

From Megadeth’s “So Far, So Good, So What” album released in 1988.

Red flesh cloud’s choking out the morning sky
They said it’d never come, we knew it was a lie

Once upon a time nuclear war was the threat in people’s minds. That 80’s TV movie about a nuclear bomb being dropped on a normal U.S town didn’t help either. Today, global warming is a threat. People either don’t care about it or they do, but they shouldn’t ignore it.

Distorted figures walk the street, it’s 1989
Weeds once underneath your feet have grown to vines

It makes me think of the Will Smith movie “I Am Legend”.

Dig deep piles of rubble and ruins
Towering overhead both far and wide
Einstein said ‘ We’ll use rocks on the other side ‘
No survivors set the world afire

For all of the drugs and alcohol Mustaine consumed, you would think he would be a vegetable. But he isn’t and his lyrics are evidence of a person who has read far and wide and digested information.

The Transformers Theme

From the 1986 “Transformers” cartoon movie. The movie started off with all of the Autobots fans knew getting killed off in the first 15 minutes. And it’s got a wicked soundtrack, along with Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, this remake of the cartoon theme into a hair metal track also works.

Lion was formed when two UK artists, vocalist Kal Swann and guitarist Tony Smith located to the U.S and teamed up with bassist Alex Campbell and drummer Mark Edwards from Steeler. After the demo was recorded, Doug Aldrich (yes the same Doug Aldrich that went on to join Dio, Whitesnake and now plays with Revolution Saints) was recruited to replace Smith on guitar and basses Jerry Best replaced Campbell.

Now check out the connections between Lion and some of the bands above.

Aldrich would replace Robert Sarzo in Hurricane for one album, “Slave To The Thrill”. Swan and Aldrich would get together with former Hericane Alice members Jackie Ramos and Ian Mayo to form Bad Moon Rising. Jerry Best would later re-appear in Freak of Nature, featuring former White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp.

Lioooooon, more than meets the eye…

Hearts On Fire – John Cafferty
No Easy Way Out – Robert Tepper
The Sweetest Victory – Touch

The above three tracks are from the unbelievable and super melodic rock “Rocky IV” soundtrack. Stallone sure knew how to pick a song for his movies. From memory, I believe the movie and soundtrack came out in 1985. I still have the cassette to it and in the 90’s I found the LP in a second-hand record shop. Hell, the Rocky IV soundtrack kick started the melodic rock revolution, especially in Europe.

John Cafferty is the cheaper version of Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams. If a movie needed a song that sounded like a Springsteen or Adams song, Cafferty was your man. I first came across his music with the “Eddie and The Cruisers” movie and what a soundtrack he wrote for it. “On The Dark Side”, “Season In Hell” and “Tender Years” are as good as all of the hits from the 80’s.

“Hearts On Fire” is not written by Cafferty. In this case he’s just the performer. Actual songwriters are Vince DiCola, Ed Fruge and Joe Esposito. Vince DiCola is the person responsible for the excellent training montage and the end fight music between Rocky and Drago.

Silent darkness creeps into your soul
And removes the light of self-control
The cave that holds you captive has no doors
Burnin’ with determination to even up the score

Doubt leads us to the cave with no doors and even though the cave has no doors, we still cannot escape the darkness of it. Because of doubt and how we let our thoughts control our actions.

How many of our heroes took their own lives?

How many of our friends have taken their own lives?

How many people turn to narcotics to deals with situations?

Dealing with doubt, fear, loneliness, anger and shame is part of life. Those same emotions drive us and they separate us.

And things that give deep passions are your sword
Rules and regulations have no meaning anymore
Let the disappointment lead to inspiration.

Another find from Stallone was Robert Tepper who ended up contributing “No Easy Way Out” to “Rocky IV” and “Angel Of The City” to the “Cobra” movie.

There’s no easy way out there’s no shortcut home
There’s no easy way out givin’ in can’t be wrong

I know the song is about a relationship, however the way Stallone used it in Rocky IV is brilliant. This is the part as he is driving his car. Apollo was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago and Rocky just agreed to fight him in Russia. He gets home and Adrianne confronts him, not happy about that he decided to fight Ivan Drago. So he jumps in his car to clear his head, the music comes on and all these flashbacks start coming back.

And the message the song conveys is that to avenge Apollo’s death, there is no easy way out. Rocky must fight and beat Ivan Drago, which at the point in time in the film looked super impossible.

“The Sweetest Victory” from Touch is another melodic rock gem. I have no other music from this band, except for this one song on the soundtrack. The song has an iconic keyboard riff and a vocal melody that hits the mark.

What Does It Take

By Honeymoon Suite and their “Big Prize” album released in 1986.

If I could grow wings I would do anything
Just to keep you with me
Can’t you see
If I could fly high I would give you the sky
Don’t you make that mistake
It’s your love that I need
What does it take

What a Chorus. Big. Anthemic. Melodic. Tick x 3.

And I just realised that each song I have selected above has some very good guitar playing. Guess I’m a biased listener.

Enjoy.

More parts will follow.

I’m having a shitload of fun living in the 80’s.

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

Harem Scarem – The First Three Albums

From Canada. Not the early Eighties Australian band with the same name. And that is all the similarities that there is between the two.

No one even heard of the Canadian version in Australia. The first time I heard them was when I went to a blog that doesn’t exist anymore and that blog had zip files available to be downloaded via the Cyberlocker sites like Megaupload or Rapidshare or Hotfile.

The first three albums have a powerhouse set list. I was a fan of Honeymoon Suite and Loverboy, so Harem Scarem was right up my alley, however I didn’t hear their music until this year.

1991 – Harem Scarem

It is a strong debut with a terrible album cover. Actually all of their albums in the nineties had bad album covers.

Coming out in 1991, it was not out-of-place. Guitarist Pete Lesperance showed what a talent he is, hence the reason why he is still creating music in 2014. Hearing this album in 2014, I was attempting to shift my mindset back to 1991 and how I would have viewed it at that time. Basically it was just another standard melodic rock release in a genre that started to sound the same.

You see, when the classic rock bands sang about love they were breaking down taboo’s. It was a complex subject once upon a time. So when bands started singing about love and sex in the late eighties and early nineties, the barriers were all torn down. The subject wasn’t taboo anymore. The audience had moved on. Sure, some love songs could resonate with an audience, however you couldn’t build a metal and rock career based on love songs.

Artists needed to rock. And when Harem Scarem rocked, they rocked with the best of them.

Hard To Love

Written by songwriter Christopher Ward, vocalist Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance. Ward was already a hit maker, with the song “Black Velvet” from 1989 that he co-write with another Canadian songwriter in Dave Mason and sung by another Canadian, Alannah Myles.

When it comes to Canadian hard rock, it is about two to three degrees of seperation between artists, songwriters and producers. Just to give you an example.

Co-Producer Kevin Doyle was the engineer and mixer on the Alannah Myles album released in 1989. Christopher Ward was one of the main co-writers on the Alannah Myles album and he was also a co-writer on “Hard To Love”. Ward’s long time friend and songwriting partner on occasions, Stephen Stohn was executive producer on the TV show “Degrassi: The Next Generation” which also featured a lot of songs from Harem Scarem.

And for the song, it’s a classic melodic rock song. That Journey meets Bon Jovi vibe and the guitar playing from Pete Lesperance is liquid like.

As soon as the lead guitar kicks in, I am reminded of Boston. Chord wise, it’s got a basic Em to C to D progression in the verses and a G to D to C progression in the Chorus. When it comes to any song ever created these are the progression that artists/songwriters revert too.

White Lion’s “Hungry”, Bon Jovi’s “Livin On A Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name (albeit in a different key), Van Halen
“Aint Talkin’ Bout Love”, every Iron Maiden song, Led Zeppelin’s outro in “Strairway To Heaven” and a lot of others.

The difference is always the vocal melodies. That is what makes each song unique enough to stand on its own two legs.

With A Little Love

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

When Harem Scarem do melodic rock ala Def Leppard, they do it well. “With A Little Love” set the standard for these type of songs however the songs that followed afterwards on subsequent album didn’t match up. For example, “Stranger Than Love” from the follow-up, didn’t cut it.

Like all melodic rock songs in the major key, “With A Little Love” is no different. The movement from G to Em brings back memories of “The Deeper The Love” from Whitesnake.

All Over Again

A major key rocker written by Harry Hess. Reminds me of Journey “Anyway You Want It”. The chord progression of D to A to G is a very common progression. A lot of my favourites have this kind of progression.

From a hard rock perspective, you can’t go past Randy Rhoads “Crazy Train”. It is in the key of A, so the chord progression is A to E to D in the verses.

From a ballad point of view, you can’t go past “Knocking On Heavens Door” moves with this progression in the key of G, so the chord progression is G to D to C.

From a musical theory point of view it is a I to V to IV progression.

How Long

Written by Harry Hess, Pete Lesperance and another Candadian songwriter called Dean McTaggart who also worked with an Australian singer called Tina Arena with great success.

From 3.03 it goes into overdrive. The riff under the solo is not just power chords. It is a riff, structured around a groove first and then a guitar solo tailor-made to fit the riff.

Something To Say

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

The first minute and 25 seconds is a classical/flamenco intro that shows the talents on display. After it’s got this “Mr Bojangles” vibe merged with The Beatles “Yesterday” in the same major key as the mentioned songs.

1993 – Mood Swings

Released at a time when Grunge was taking over the world, it was the definitive album from Harem Scarem. It is by far the fan favourite.

Saviours Never Cry

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

What a song to open the album. By far my favourite. That palm muted hammer-on intro has so much groove its undeniable. And the song just goes into overdrive. The heaviness of the track and the balls to the wall attitude makes this song a contender.

If your lips never move
You’re bound to lose the war

What a lyric. Stay silent and prepare to suffer the consequences versus speaking up and preparing to make changes.

No Justice

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

“No Justice In The World” is the catch cry and ain’t that the truth.

The piece de resistance as a guitar player is that Spanish/Arabic feel in the solo section. It is not clichéd and it fits the song perfectly.

Change Comes Around

Another song written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

It’s like “Ballroom Blitz” merged with Van Halen esque rock. Even the lyrics are spoken in a David Lee Roth baritone style. Unintentional connections are what music is all about. How our minds and ears perceive a song and connect with it.

Empty Promises

One more song written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

Again the groove and the rock attitude resonates. It connects from the opening notes. “Screw the System” is the catch cry here and twenty years later we are still trying to screw the system however on occasion the system is screwing us.

Had Enough

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance and those Eddie Van Halen overtones just keep connecting with me.

1995 – Voice Of Reason

Two years passed and we get a heavier/experimental version of Harem Scarem.

Voice Of Reason

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance. The heaviness, the progressive elements and the harder edge immediately connects with me. And the groove just keeps the head nodding and the foot tapping. That solo/bridge section has this Beatles “She’s So Heavy” vibe. Love it.

Warming A Frozen Rose

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

It’s got this Circus Big Top feel to it and the possibilities that offers in the world of rock and metal are huge. And what about that swing jazz like solo section.

Candle

It’s written by Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance.

Euro Metal. Love the heaviness and that wicked slow groove tempo.

Reminds me of the styles of Axel Rudi Pell and Yngwie Malmsteen.

If you need an introduction into the world of Harem Scarem, then the first three albums are essential listening.

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