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

George Lynch and Michael Sweet

George Lynch. As much as he probably despises it, he will always be known as the lead shredder for Dokken. Yep, his greatest claim to fame is under the surname of a person he doesn’t really like.

In guitar circles he is known for losing out to Randy Rhoads for the Ozzy gig, however he was good enough to take over from him at Musonia. Gene Simmons told Lynch once (during the Xciter days) that with a name like George Lynch he would never make it. I guess Simmons didn’t take into account the power of determination and perseverance.

In a roundabout way Lynch ended up with a record deal and recorded “Breaking The Chains” in Europe in 1981. He auditioned again for Ozzy after Randy’s passing however the job went to Jake E.Lee this time around. With nothing to lose, he had one more crack at the big time. With the addition of Jeff Pilson, a new formidable song writing team would be formed in Lynch, Pilson and Mick Brown.

What can’t be taken away from Lynch is that he is a man of many projects. If you want to survive in the music business you need to create. And that is what George Lynch does each year. He creates, plays live and creates some more and plays live again.

But the part that impresses me more is his foresight.

Back in the early two thousands he started “Guitar Dojo” an online guitar instructional course that was way ahead of its time. Hell, Skype and YouTube were not even around at all. Today, every artist has some lessons out there that they conduct via Skype or YouTube. And without knowing it, Lynch was finding different ways to connect with his fan base. The Guitar Dojo became a community that would end up seeing the guitar students turn up at shows, purchase merchandise and recordings.

He self-funded his “Kill All Control” album, which had the song “Son of Scary”. The band agreement in Dokken meant that they split up all the songs equally. “Mr Scary” an instrumental that Lynch wrote by himself was also split four ways. Back in the Eighties it was probably no big deal.

Fast forward to 2008/9 and “Guitar Hero” comes calling, wanting to use “Mr Scary” for the game. According to Lynch, Dokken had a problem with it and he made Guitar Hero’s legal department very uncomfortable. In order to work around this problem, Lynch re-wrote the song on a 7 string and called it “Son Of Scary”. In the end “Guitar Hero” didn’t end up using the track.

He also released “Sun Red Sun” that is a record he started more than two years ago with the last incarnation of the band. On top of that he is also just finishing up the music for another new Lynch Mob record that will be coming out next spring. This version of the band has Jeff Pilson on bass, Brian Tichy on drums along with Oni Logan on vocals. Lynch also has the Shadow Nation documentary and Shadow Train band project to come in 2015.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post!

There is no doubt that George Lynch is a wonderful talent. As good as he is, he doesn’t sing and for that you need a vocalist that is also talented in writing great vocal melodies. And he found that vocalist in Michael Sweet, who is another musician that is also creating and working non-stop.

Check out Michael Sweet’s output since 2005.

2005: Stryper – Reborn
2006: Michael Sweet – Him
2007: Michael Sweet – Touched
2007: Stryper – Live In Puerto Rico
2007: Stryper – The Roxx Regime Demos
2008: Boston Tour
2009: Stryper – Murder By Pride
2011: Stryper – The Covering
2013: Stryper – Second Coming
2013: Stryper – No More Hell To Pay
2014: Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
2014: Stryper – Live At The Whisky
2015: Sweet & Lynch – Only To Rise

And that is what I am doing right now. I am listening to the Sweet and Lynch album “Only To Rise”.

From all of his projects since Lynch Mob’s second album, this is the best one by far. Michael Sweet as always delivers a killer vocal performance and in some cases, his melodies take pedestrian songs into a whole new stratosphere. “Recover” is one example. The intro and verses are okay, but when that chorus crashes down around the ear drums and Sweet’s glass shattering vocals hit the spot, all bets are off. The album has got twelve songs, however nine songs would have made a perfect album.

The Wish
This song is the star of the album. That chorus vocal melody and the guitar melody under it are brilliant.

“Girl I want to love you just like Hollywood
Like a New York Times best-selling fairy tale
A knight in shining armour who’s defending you
The wish within your well”

Dying Rose
Michael Sweet mentioned in an interview that he asked George Lynch to give him music with a Dokken vibe/feel like “The Hunter” (track number 2 from the Under Lock and Key album). That song ended up being “Dying Rose”.

Lynch further stated in a Guitar World interview that “Dying Rose,” has a “country-esque, Nashville element to it. It’s a beautiful melody and chorus with a nice hook.”

Love Stays
Michael Sweet mentioned that “Love Stays” is one of his favourites. He likes the vibe, the feel, the drum groove and just the way it sounds. The funny thing is that they are all the bits I dig as well.

As soon as that guitar riff comes in to start the song, I knew I was listening to something special especially when it transitions into a Beatles/ELO “Mr Blue Sky” bridge. Overall, the song could have come from the Max Martin stable of pop rock songs. Give it to any pop star of the week and watch it rise.

Time Will Tell
It reminds me of a band that is a huge influence on me musically and that band is Y&T.

Rescue Me
I read that Michael Sweet asked Lynch to give him something a little Journey-ish. The reply was a bunch of riffs titled “Bad Journey”. It might have that old-school Journey vibe however it’s got that Led Zep/Bad Company blues rock vibe as well.

Me Without You
The way the guitar transitions between chords reminds me of Michael Schenker for some reason. I really dig this song. The intro and the vocal melody are just brilliant. Haunting even.

Recover
One of the best rock/metal songs I have heard in a while. When that chorus crashes down around the ear drums and Sweet’s glass shattering vocals hit the spot, all bets are off.

September
I’ve read some comments and reviews that mention it’s hard not to think of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” during the intro and choruses of “September”.

Only To Rise
This song is the “Hey, dude. Give me something that’s a little Van Halen-ey.” And it sure is.

The whole album is an example of the progress is derivative model.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Songwriting Issues – Using Examples From Michael Sweet

I just finished reading “Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed”. It’s actually a pretty honest book when it comes to the relationships and dynamics between Michael Sweet and the Stryper guys. For that part I recommend it. I can’t say that I agree with a lot of the “God’s Hand is at work here” paragraphs but what I do agree with in full and can relate to are the sections about songwriting within the band. Check out these paragraphs;

Dissention was brewing within the band over songwriting. There seemed to be a definitive division starting to build between the band and me concerning songwriting and royalties. Songwriters usually make more money and this was starting to cause some friction within the band. I began to feel an obligation to split all the songs with the band in response to indirect comments and criticism.

In an effort to keep the peace, I lined up a meeting with our attorney Stephen Ashley to discuss my proposition. I told him that I wanted all the songwriting to be split equally, regardless of who wrote what songs. Oz wrote two songs on that album (“Come To The Everlife” and “The Reign”). I should never have agreed to those songs making the cut (at least not without undergoing some major changes), but in 1988 I was more interested in keeping the peace than ensuring we had the best songs possible on an album.

Stephen Ashley privately consulted with me after our meeting on splitting the songwriting and strongly advised me against it. He told me that I would be giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing so. But again, I wanted to keep the peace. I could tell that I was becoming the bad guy, or at least that’s how I perceived it. How did that work out by the way? How was I becoming the bad guy? I wrote what I felt—and apparently what the fans felt—were some really good songs that obviously played a major role in our success. Somehow, though, I was feeling like the bad guy.

That’s what being in a band can do sometimes. Somehow spending relentless hours alone refining and re-refining songs to become the greatest they can be for the band can be turned around to be a negative thing. What should have been gratitude appeared to be resentment, at least from my perspective.

I allowed mediocre songs to creep into our repertoire just to make everyone happy. I gave away what probably amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in songwriting royalties just to smooth things over. Everyone seemed happy for now, except me.

Fortunately Stephen had the wisdom to convince me not to allow my idea of splitting songwriting to stand in perpetuity. After a certain number of years, the songwriting credits would revert to the original writers. So short term, the term when the bulk of the money was earned on a song, we all split the money equally. Long term, the term when minimal money rolls in, I retained the songwriting credit for the songs I wrote. We all agreed to this arrangement and moved forward. For seven years I gave 25 percent to each band member and songwriting credit on songs they didn’t write.

Each band that is successful will have ONE major songwriter that does lyrics and music. Then there are other bands that will have ONE major writer on the music and ONE major writer on the lyrics. Motley Crue has Nikki Sixx. Iron Maiden has Steve Harris. Stryper has Michael Sweet. Kix had Donnie Purnell. Metallica has James Hetfield. Megadeth has Dave Mustaine. Kiss has Paul Stanley. For Slayer it was Jeff Hanneman. Get my drift on this.

With the other guys, it was as if it didn’t really matter if the best songs made the album, just as long as everyone was contributing and everyone was equal. Who cares if a sub-par song makes its way on the album, as long as everyone gets a fair shake?

So, I was the bad guy. I was the one saying “Nope, that song’s not good enough for the record.” And, honestly, I said that to myself more than anyone. For every good song that I wrote, there were dozens of ideas that never saw the light of day, all because I knew I could do better. It was somehow okay to say to myself, “Michael, you can do better. You can write a better song than what you’ve got here.” It was just very difficult to say those things to my band mates about their songs.

In all of the bands I was in this is what normally happened.

I would bring in a song complete, with lyrics and music. Before that song is even brought to the table it would have gone through multiple re-iterations with me. The band will jam on it and if the others felt a connection to the song, then it would remain. Otherwise it would disappear to either be re-written by me or torn apart and have the riffs used for other songs.

The singer would bring in a song complete with lyrics and music and I would tweak it and decorate it and by default I would end up re-writing it. In one band I was in, the singer was also the rhythm guitarist (we had a Metallica four piece set up) and we agreed that we would all write songs together in the jam room because that is what we believed that our heroes did. This was a very slow, painful, argumentative and gruelling process, as both the singer and I became the bad guys due to us weeding out the sub-par contributions which of course caused animosity. In the space of 12 months we had four songs and countless arguments. As far as the singer/guitarist was concerned, it was quality over quantity, which differed from my point of view in that quantity breeds quality.

Then in one band I had a bass player that always brought in something and something is as nice a word that I could use to describe what the something was.

Bands are messy but when other people that didn’t write the songs want a share of it, then it gets hostile. And the whole history of music is littered with people owning a percentage in songs that they didn’t write. Which is a shame. Hell, the whole “Bark At The Moon”album has words and music by Ozzy Osbourne, which we all know is bullshit. However it still stands and in 50 years people will most probably believe that Ozzy Osbourne wrote that album with one finger on the piano.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Unexpected Slow Metal Hit

We live in a world that is all about the NOW. Music quickly comes and it quickly goes. Look at all the Top 10 Lists or the Charts for each week and you will see that it is a different list each week. There is just so much new music coming out at the moment and people are just churning it up.

For example, I didn’t get a chance to get into the new Trivium album because a week later, I had the new Protest The Hero album and that has taken all of my attention.

However, there are always songs that sit on the outside. Songs that the artist or the band didn’t believe could be a “hit” (I use that term lightly) or a song that should be used as a promotion tool.

But they didn’t count on the fan choices. The fan that today has the power. The fan that could pick and choose what track they could listen too.

Killswitch Engage released “As Daylight Dies” in 2006 and it is there cover of “Holy Diver” that proved to be the sleeper hit. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. it has 6,136,523 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see it has 9,013,222 views.

Alter Bridge released “One Day Remains” in 2004. “Open Your Eyes”, “Find the Real” and “Broken Wings” followed as promotional singles. However it was the metal heavy “Metalingus” and the moving ballad “In Loving Memory” that the fans selected as the hits. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. “Metalingus” has 3,362,193 streams and “In Loving Memory” has 2,690,909 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see that “Metalingus” has over 5,500,000 views from all the combined channels and “In Loving Memory” has over 6,000,000 combined views.

In 2011 Trivium got blasted for the “In Waves” album, however the title track is their biggest so far. On Spotify “In Waves” the song has 3,038,061 streams. On YouTube, the Official Video on the Roadrunner Records channel has 3,423,215 views and a live version of the song on the Trivium Official channel has 2,767,455 views.

Volbeat broke through in the U.S on the back of “Still Counting”. The song was released in 2008 on the “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood” album and on 21 July 2012 “Still Counting” was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks US chart. Go on Spotify and it has been streamed 19,779,202 times. Go on YouTube and count the views from all the various channels. They add up.

Bullet For My Valentine led the promotional campaign for their “Temper Temper” album with the song “Riot”, however the fans didn’t care about that song as much as they cared about “Breaking Point” and “Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)”.

As much as Dream Theater is trying to promote the current version of the band, they can’t escape their past. The Spotify Top 10 of Dream Theater has the 9 songs from the new self titled album (that proved to be a dud), plus “On The Backs Of Angels” from the previous album. However if you go on YouTube the fans don’t care about the new album currently. “Wither”, “Pull Me Under” and “Another Day” still get the attention.

This is very different to Avenged Sevenfold, who have people very interested in their new album. In addition, all the other media outlets and bands that are talking about the album, all they are doing is adding to the legend of it. Hail To The King I say. “Shepherd Of Fire” is doing the rounds on my iPod.

Protest The Hero have led the promotional campaign of their new album “Volition” with “Clarity”, “Drumhead Trail” and “Underbite” however, it is “Mist” and “Skies” that is getting the conversation.

The market place today isn’t about the hit song now. It is about new songs vs old songs. Metal and rock songs are always late bloomers. There is no formula as to why certain songs resonate more than others with fans.

I like the story about how Dave Mustaine assisted Stryper in selecting their lead off single from the “No More Hell To Pay” album. They had a different song choice for the lead single and changed their minds after they had a chat with the Megadeth front man. Dave told them that his favourite track is “Sympathy”. This made Michael Sweet change his mind for the lead off single. That track is listed as Number 11 on the album and to be honest it is a kick arse song.

Sure, back in the day when the record labels ruled, they would employ a scorched earth policy to market a band and the lead off single and naturally we would bite as we had the time to invest and there was nothing really else out there.

YouTube and Spotify play a big part today in transforming a song into a phenomenon. Television also plays it’s part. Look at all the hit shows and they all have a section where a certain song plays and it conveys the emotion of the scene that no other music can.

Sons Of Anarchy comes to mind here, especially at the end of Season 2, when the song “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” from Straylight Run played in the epic last 5 minutes of the final episode.

Look at what Breaking Bad did for “Baby Blue” by Badfinger.

My wife was a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and because of that show she got into Snow Patrol (“Chasing Cars”) and The Fray (“How to Save a Life”).

In the end all artists need to do is create great music. The fans will latch onto it eventually.

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