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

Forgotten 80s List Part 3

Here is the playlist.

Forgotten songs from the Eighties are still on my mind. Here is another list of songs that should end up on your playlist one way or another.

The problem with the below songs is they were dwarfed by other “MTV” single songs or just bad promotion from the record label.

Out On The Streets
King Of The Fools

Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister knew which road they needed to take to make it. Now that they made it, what was next? Which road should they take? Bob Ezrin was approached to produce the album and after hearing the demos he didn’t hear a hit, so he passed. Hindsight and the passage of time points to Dee losing his way and anger at the world, but to me, the songs on “Come Out and Play” (except for “Leader” and “Be Cruel”) are as strong as the songs on “Stay Hungry”.

I believe it was poor record label decisions to release “Leader of the Pack” as the opening single. And to be honest “Be Cruel to Your School” is one of the weaker tracks on the album for me and never should have been a single.

“Come Out And Play”, “The Fire Still Burns” and “I Believe In Rock’N’Roll” are favourites of mine from the album and they got played live. “Out On The Streets” and the bonus track “King Of The Fools” do not get any love, hence they are on this list.

I’ve always dug a song that starts off with bass and drums. Then the vocal melody kicks in and then the guitars. “Lost Behind A Wall” from Dokken also comes to mind.

Searching for something in this human zoo
Kaleidoscope of faces, maybe, it might be you

I had to look up “kaleidoscope” in the dictionary. I had no idea what it meant. After I digested the meaning, it made the lyric even better.

Someone listen to my prayers
Can’t help feeling no one cares

The biggest fear is loneliness. We want someone to care for us, even more so for people who reached the top in their chosen field.

You’re out on the streets, living on your own

I’ve always taken this lyric to mean; away from home and the comforts of our loved ones. Look at any lyric from a rocker who spends a lot of time on the road touring and you will see how much it pains them. They turn to drugs as a supplement and sometimes when they are alone in their hotel room, away from everyone, their thoughts get the better of them.

My cousin Mega is a huge Twisted fan. He even tattooed the logo on his shoulder. So Mega had the album upon release, plus the VHS video. So I dubbed the LP on cassette and I also dubbed the VHS video onto a blank video tape until I had enough funds to purchase the original. So a few months after release, I purchased the LP. Many years later, well into the 90’s I came across a CD version of “Come Out And Play” via the second hand record shops. The almost faded sticker of “Bonus Track” was enough incentive. And “King Of the Fools” is that bonus track and man what a track it is.

The harmony guitars to kick it off, remind me of “Bringin On The Heartbreak” by Def Leppard. They sound epic, grand and they set the tone for a monster of a song that for some reason, the guys in the band nor the record label didn’t see fit to put on the normal album release. Sort of like how Bon Jovi left “Edge Of A Broken Heart” off the “Slippery When Wet” album and left “Social Disease” on it.

Look around me all I see
Thousands of faces wanting me
How can I lead?
How can I rule?
When I’m the king of the fools

We strive to make it, to be successful. And when we get there, we suddenly have people waiting to see what our next word will be, our next song and so forth. Suddenly doubt is everywhere. Conflict is everywhere. We turn to addictions to numb the pain. We want to be on the road, we want to be adored, we want to play shows, yet we don’t want to be away from our families.

The outside world can’t understand
Just who we are or what I am
Well, we don’t want their life or rules
I’ll be the king, king of the fools

Again, it’s the us (the SMF’s) vs them (the institutions, the government, the mainstream) mentality. It’s the expectations of society vs the dreams of youth. We have different viewpoints, we have different needs so we are seen as fools by the institutions. If the institutions see us as fools, then our idols are our Kings’.

Fight For Your Rights
Motley Crue

Sometimes it makes you wonder how a band with so many addictive personalities can get it together to churn out an album. “Theater of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” have a certain reputation as the “more filler” albums in Motley Crue’s 80’s output. It comes as no surprise that these “more filler” albums occurred at the height of the bands addictions.

But putting aside people’s viewpoints, each album has a few cult like gems. On a previous “Forgotten” post, I sang the praises of “Dancin On Glass” from the “Girls” album. On this post, “Fight For Your Rights” from the “Theater” album gets some love.

How good is the intro/verse riff?

Who wrote the Bible?
Who set the laws?
Are we left to history’s flaws?

We live in a world created by the religion institutions’ and the ones who control the wealth. And throughout the ages of times, documents got produced on how people should live. Eventually those documents became important to the detriment of any other document that challenged it.

Fight (fight) for your rights

Dee Snider turned up to the hearings against censorship, others wrote songs about it.

Martin Luther
Brought the truth
The color of our blood’s the same

So true. We all bleed red.

So break the chains
And solve the pains
And we all become one race

It’s easier said than done. These days it’s everybody against everybody. People of the same colour are against people of their own colour as well as people of different races. Then you have people against people because of religious beliefs or relationship preference. Then you have people against people because of social status. In my view, money is a bigger evil today.

Waiting For Darkness
Ozzy Osbourne

Even though Ozzy Osbourne is listed as the only songwriter, it’s well known that Bob Daisley wrote the lyrics and Jake E. Lee along with Daisley wrote the music. The guitar playing is what hooked me onto this song. The palm muted staccato lines in the verses from Jake over a syncopated bass/drum groove is just brilliant. So once I unpacked the riffage, I started listening to the lyrics and the vocal melodies.

Waiting for darkness
Why doesn’t anybody see now?
Deafened by silence
Why doesn’t anybody hear?

It’s easy to place this lyric with the lifestyle of Ozzy. Due to his addictions and constant toxic state, you can imagine many days and nights spent in a drug induced darkness. Deafening silence means a lack of response that reveals something significant, such as disapproval or a lack of enthusiasm from those who surround you or love you. So you have Daisley writing about a darkness to come, and everybody is too busy to care. Sort of like how people don’t care how their private data is gathered and sold by the large internet corporations. Sort of like how people don’t care about net neutrality. Until it’s too late.

We’re hardwired to believe and understand the things we experience, so we experience the internet and we like it. But there is a battle happening over the control of the internet and people just don’t care.

I know what they’ll find
It’s in their mind
It’s what they want to see
Spare me from the light
Here comes the night
And here I’ll stay waiting for darkness

This is all about people who don’t care to see the truth. What they’ve been told from birth and from their tribe is what will remain with them forever.

Promise me rebirth
And then you tear me from the womb
Give me my freedom
And then you lock me in a tomb

The way of the world is more pure in books of fiction. The non-fiction reality version is very different. A lot of the songs I like deal with how “we believe we are free but really are not”. It’s not coincidental. The more I get older, the more I realise how free I’m not. Like how Hetfield sang in “The Unforgiven”, “New blood joins this Earth and quickly he’s subdued”.

That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘ N’ Roll
AC/DC

From 1988’s “Blow Up Your Video” album. It was released as a single, however “Heatseeker” was doing a decent job taking all the limelight, this little ditty got ignored.

Party gonna happen at the union hall
Shaking to the rhythm ’til everybody fall
Picking up my woman in my Chevrolet
Glory hallelujah, gonna rock the night away

The scene is set. We have Brian picking up his woman, to take her to a party at Union Hall and rock the night away until they fall.

Told boss man where to go
Turned off my brain control
That’s the way I want my rock and roll

There it is again. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” call to arms. We will not be used and we will not allow the people in power to control us.

Young Lust
Aerosmith

Like “Permanent Vacation” before it, “Pump” had some monster songs that stole all the glory like “Love In The Elevator”, “Janie’s Got A Gun”, “The Other Side” and “What It Takes”. And when that happens, it’s easy for songs to get lost or become forgotten. But “Young Lust” is the opener. In the minds of Tyler and Perry, it was good enough back then to open the god damn “Pump” album and today it gets no listens. To me, it’s just a pure party rock and roll anthem and Joey Kramer again goes to town on the drums, with his double kick underpinning the groove and tempo of the song.

A little bit o’ nasty
You look a little sleazy
But don’t get any on you

Is that what Bill said to Monica?

Young lust
Once you had it you can never go back

It’s totally wrong this lyric.

Checkin’ out the ladies
Who didn’t bring their boyfriends
Who love to get in trouble
I got to say I’ll see you later, meet me in the elevator

Tyler’s elevator fetish gets a prequel.

Young lust
I’m a-pushin’ and a-shovin’ it

Only Tyler can get away with lyrics like these.

One In A Million
Guns N Roses

This one is from the “Lies” EP released I think in 1989. I can Wikipedia it, but screw it, I’m running on fumes at the moment. I remember reading the stories about the “controversial” lyrics, especially the lines around “Immigrants and faggots” and “police and niggers”. But really, are the lyrics that controversial. There is always someone who gets upset at something. Basically, there is just no way one person/artist can make every single person in the world love them. It’s impossible.

Police and Niggers, that’s right
Get out of my way
Don’t need to buy none of your
Gold chains today

Is Axl a racist?

Maybe.

Is he trying to address some social ills with the verse above about a class divide?

Maybe.

You need to remember, this song came out in 1989 and there is a good chance the lyrics were written sometime in the 80’s. The L.A police during this period made a name for themselves as being pretty heavy when it came to dealing with citizens. And from the stories we kept seeing on the news, the police in L.A didn’t do themselves any favours. NWA wrote a cult classic about doing something with the police in LA. All of this bubbled to the surface when a video was released of the police beating Rodney King with clubs. What happened after that? Riots in L.A. A “Hooligan’s Holiday”. The nigger part is playing to a stereotype and a better word could have been used, but Axl was never about conforming.

You’re one in a million
Yeah, that’s what you are
You’re one in a million, babe
You’re a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you
Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high

The Chorus didn’t make much sense due to the extreme nature of the verses, but many years later it does. It’s basically saying, if you want to be a star, you are one of many in this world. And if you want your 15 minutes of fame, you are in competition with all of the problems of the world for people’s attention.

Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some disease
They talk so many goddamn ways
It’s all Greek to me

What a verse?

Talk about moving a conversation forward. I remember reading how ignorant Axl is and what not because of this verse, but in the end he was speaking a truth that he saw.

Isn’t that the artists credo, to knock down doors and be yourself.

I am sure millions will agree with what Axl meant about “starting a mini Iran”. Each race has a small faction of people who are so far removed from the conversation, their ideology is the only way. The problem is when that race has 100 million people worldwide, 10% is a small faction as a percentage, but in people numbers it’s large. And I always wonder. People come to democratic countries to escape the horrors of their own home and then they try their best to turn the streets of the democratic country that took them in, into the war torn streets of their homeland.

Radicals and Racists
Don’t point your finger at me
I’m a small town white boy
Just tryin’ to make ends meet
Don’t need your religion
Don’t watch that much TV
Just makin’ my livin’, baby
Well that’s enough for me

If we want a better future, it helps to be able to see the world as it is. Watching a news program is seeing the world as the news program wants you to see it. Reading a news article is seeing the world as the writer of the news article wants you to see it. Seeing a Travel video is seeing the world as the people who made the travel video want you to see it. You need to get out and see with your own eyes the world. Just don’t get run over by a mad man in a van.

Mine All Mine
Van Halen

I know it was a single, but in all seriousness, a lot of the singles from “5150” were still on the airwaves along with “When It’s Love” and “Finish What Ya Started” from “OU812”. “Jump” and “Panama” also had traction. So “Mine All Mine” just percolated outside the Van Hagar Halen hit factory.

The drumming is frantic, making a clichéd keyboard riff sound heavy as hell.

Oh, you’ve got Allah in the east
You’ve got Jesus in the west
Christ, what’s a man to do?

The problem with the world summed up in three lines. And it all boils down to a belief system.

Stop lookin’ out, start lookin’ in
Be your own best friend
Stand up and say, “Hey! This is mine!”

There it is in a nutshell. Stop looking out and start looking in. Don’t worry about what the person next door does or what they have. Focus on what you have and focus on what you can control. In the end, if you don’t like the state of the world, with the whole world at your fingertips, you will be able to find other voices to stand up with you when the time comes to raise your voice.

How good is the guitar solo from EVH?

Sometimes he goes all crazy and plays leads with reckless abandonment and sometimes he delivers melodic gems within his own theatrical style.

Standing In The Shadow
Guilty Of Love
Kittens Got Claws
Wings Of The Storm

Whitesnake

Is there a more broken hearted person than David Coverdale?

“Standing In The Shadow” is from 1984’s “Slide It In” album and it’s written by Coverdale.

I’m running away from a feeling
Hiding my face in the sand
I’m scared to love and lose again
I don’t know if I can

It’s that moment in time after a relationship has ended. You are hurting and you feel betrayed. Then you come across someone who rekindles the fire. But you are still hurting and after being burned once, you are fearful to jump in, just in case it leads to another broken heart.

Life is short, so you need to live it. And that means, putting the fear away.

Too many people
Standing in the shadow
Standing in the shadow of love

It’s like sitting on the sidelines and assessing the situation for the right time to re-join the game.

“Guilty Of Love” is from the same album and how cool are the guitar harmonies at the start, which again are written by Coverdale.

I believe my love for you
Is a love that will last forever?
And I’m here to testify
I’m a prisoner of your heart

When you fall in love, your heart becomes a captive to the other half. And when the relationship ends, it hurts.

Baby, don’t you believe when I tell you I love you
That I really mean it
Don’t you walk away?
Don’t you turn your back on me?

I guess we don’t really know what we got until it’s gone.

“Kittens Got Claws” is from “Slip Of The Tongue”, the follow-up to the mega 1987 self-titled album. Coverdale selected Adrian Vandenberg as his co-writer for this album. It would have been interesting to see how the songs would have sounded if Coverdale used Vivian Campbell as well, but it was not to be. Regardless, Vandenberg as co-writer is involved in some epic songs. Let’s not forget the title track “Slip Of The Tongue”, “Judgement Day”, “Sailing Ships”, “Now You’re Gone” and “The Deeper The Love”. But to me “Kittens Got Claws” is just a fun track to listen to and tap your foot to.

Walking down the street
You’re the center of my universe
You got the world in your pocket,
My manhood in your purse
You ain’t a bad girl, honey,
No matter what the neighbours say,
It’s just that you were those skin-tight dresses
With your G-string tuned to “A”

How good is the “G-string tuned to A” line?

Brilliant.

“Wings Of The Storm” is another little gem largely forgotten. It’s heavier and speedier and far removed from the blues based Whitesnake but man it’s a pretty good listen. It’s pedal point heaven for a guitarist.

On an’ on, the road goes on,
An’ it’ll go on forever,
Time will show if you and I
Will walk that road together

Almost 6 years later, Coverdale is still in a spot of bother when it comes to his love life.

It’s unfortunate that Geffen Records became a label that focused more on the results, totally ignoring the community and what customers of their artists could like. David Coverdale built a community around Whitesnake and a trust with the fans. And the labels just abandoned the artists at will. To me community and trust is more important than results, hence the reason why Whitesnake still rolls today.

Rock Me To The Top
Before My Eyes

Tesla

“Rock Me To The Top” is written by vocalist Jeff Keith and estranged guitarist Tommy Skeoch. The riff is foot stomping hard rock to a tee.

I’ll take command, take control
Now I see you comin’ back for more
I see you like it, but you don’t need it
Ooh you wanna feel it

Yep, I’m pretty sure Jeff Keith is singing about the original meaning of rock and roll and not the musical form.

“Before My Eyes” is written by guitarist Frank Hannon, along with Jeff Keith, Tommy Skeoch and drummer Troy Luccketta. To me, it’s the feel of the song that captures my attention more so than the lyrics. It reminds me of Y&T and it feels sad and spacey. Lyrically I’m not a fan, but musically I am all in.

Tomorrow
Naked City
Exciter
I’ve Had Enough
King Of The Mountain
My Way
Silver Spoon

Kiss

Kiss didn’t sell a lot of recorded music product compared to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other large 70’s acts. But they are still seen as one of rocks biggest groups in the 70’s and maybe the entertainers of that decade. But by the end of 70’s and the start of the 80’s they got eclipsed by Disco, New Wave Pop, the NWOBHM and the L.A scene. Suddenly it looked like the band was in the rear view mirror. Original band members “officially left” even though they really left recording new music with the band a long time again. But with each album they dropped in the 80’s, they continued their evolution. “Lick It Up”, “Creatures Of The Night”, “I Still Love You”, “I Love It Loud”, “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “War Machine” are concert staples.

Here are a few gems a bit outside of Kiss’s comfort zone which had enough rock in em to keep me satisfied.

“Tomorrow” and “Naked City” come from the “Unmasked” album released in 1980. Both tracks merge the current pop trend with the distorted rock they are known for. I was late to the party on this album, hearing it in its entirety in the early 90’s.

“Tomorrow” is written by Paul Stanley and Vince Poncia and Stanley even plays bass guitar. You need any more evidence of dysfunction, here you have it.

I didn’t know just what to say
When you turned and you looked my way
It doesn’t happen to me every day
Can we talk a while?

I used to think that all of the rock stars had all the lines and moves covered when it came to love. In the end, they are all tongue-tied and error prone like all of us when it comes to love.

You didn’t have to say a word
I tried to tell you, but I lost my nerve
You know I wanted just to slip away
For a little while

An opportunity missed. Who hasn’t been there?

“Naked City” is written by a song writing committee of Gene Simmons, Vince Poncia, Bob Kulick and Pepe Castro. This one is an interesting track. It’s got a super heavy bass riff and that riff continues throughout the song. However the guitars set the vibe. In the Chorus its all “Arena Rock” and in the intro/verses it’s a “reggae shuffle”. And when it comes together it all works.

In the naked city (in the city)
There are ten million stories (naked city)

Once upon a time, stories travelled by word of mouth and the press. Now stories travel via a cable all around the world in a matter of seconds. It each city, millions of people live their lives and a new story is created every second.

Lonely people looking’ for someone
Lonely people going’ their way

It sums up life to a tee. We are all lonely people looking for someone to be with us to the end. We are all lonely people trying to find our way in life. Hopefully with someone.

“Exciter” is the opening track to the “Lick It Up” album in 1983. It’s a speed metal song and Vinnie Vincent brings out the metal and the shred and the delay. Actually what a waste of a great talent the Vinnie Vincent story is. His ego burned so many bridges; eventually people just turned away and refused to work with him. Even his record label turned him down and dropped him.

Passion and fire, lust and desire
Exciter
Pleasure and pain, this is my name
Exciter

Enough said. The lyrics are a waste and fail to deliver justice to the riffage.

“I’ve Had Enough” is also the opening track from “Animalise” released in 1984. It’s written by Desmond Child and Paul Stanley. Stanley was always an underrated guitarist who actually churned out some killer riffage in his 40 plus years creating music. Mark St John (RIP) just copied what Stanley wrote and played it on the album. Or maybe Mark just did the leads, while Paul did all the rhythm, sort of like how James Hetfield does all the harmonies and rhythms, while Kirk does all the solos.

How many times have they lied with the truth in their eyes?
Treat you like dirt, wasting the days of our lives
They try and deny it, ain’t gonna buy it, just look around
Before it’s all over, it’s gonna get rough
I’ve had enough

I always assumed the “they” in the song are people who abuse their power, people who put you down, people who make your life hell, people who you trust the most talking crap about you behind your back and so forth.

(Out of the cold, into the fire)
Nothing and no one is stopping me now

Attitude is the most important choice we have to make every single day. We have the choice to be optimistic, the choice to participate, and the choice to challenge the powers that be and find hope when fear and uncertainty is rampant. We select these attitudes. It’s our choice and when we do, nothing can stop us.

Wishing’ and hoping’ won’t get you nothing’
Praying’ and scheming’, no time for dreaming’
I’ve got the power, this is the hour now

You need to take action. If you don’t take action, nothing will transpire. A small change today leads to a large change in the future. Are you ready to make the change?

“King Of The Mountain” is the opening track from “Asylum” released in 1985 and the first album to feature Bruce Kulick. Kulick actually co-wrote the song with Desmond Child and Paul Stanley and the music is very close to “Creatures Of The Night”. It’s funny how a simple guitar riff sounds so heavy because of the drum groove laid down by Eric Carr.

I’m gonna climb the mountain
I’m gonna hit the top
I wanna go where nobody’s ever been
I’m never gonna stop

Isn’t that the spirit of human adventure? Reach the top, go where nobody’s ever been.

I’m the king of the mountain
And the winner takes it all

The bane of any existence is laziness and fear, the belief that we can’t make it so were better off not trying. We can make excuses because we are surrounded winners doing everything. In reality, nothing in our daily lives is a winner takes all competition. Yeah, there always be someone smarter, faster and more popular than you. And you will be smarter, faster and more popular than others. And those others you are far ahead are far ahead of others and so forth. The difference is how high is each individual mountain?

How good is the lead break from Kulick?

Man he shreds tastefully. Still his moment of guitar hero glory came on the much hated, or tolerated or loved album (depending on which side of the fence you sit) “Crazy Nights” which came two years after “Asylum”.

“My Way” is written by Desmond Child, Paul Stanley and Bruce Turgon (he played bass in Warrior, played bass and co-write most of the songs on Lou Gramm’s solo releases plus Shadow King’s 1991 release and Foreigner’s 1994 album) and it comes from the keyboard heavy “Crazy Nights” released in 1987. Depending on your point of view, this album is hated, tolerated or loved. And this song is also hated, tolerated or loved.

Oh the heat is on
And my back’s against the wall
You know it’s tough to be strong
In a world that makes you crawl

Clichéd. Yes. Original. No. Commercial. Yes. Sounds like Kiss. Umm, it sounds like Kiss in the 80’s. The lyrical message has been done to death about being strong and being yourself in a world that’s controlled by institutions who want you to be something else.

I’m gonna talk like I talk
Walk like I walk my way
I’m gonna go where I go
Ain’t takin’ no, my way

It’s easy to silence your voice. We’ve been battered by all the noise, problems and hassle that come with raising our voice. So sometimes we just sit back because it’s easier. Eventually, we find our voice again and as the Chorus goes, we will talk like we talk and walk like we walk and we will do it on our terms and our way.

What about Stanley’s highs in this one. Do you reckon he had someone in the studio squeezing his balls to hit those highs?

“Silver Spoon” comes from 1989’s “Hot In The Shade” and Paul Stanley had come full circle writing with Vince Poncia again. Like “Crazy Nights” this album is hated, tolerated or loved.

In a city where the buildings rise
I was just another face
But mama told me when somebody dies
No one else can take your place

It’s a really cool verse. I don’t know who came up with those lines but they are pretty solid and full of truth. In cities that have millions of people, we are all just bodies and faces in a sea of faces. But each person is unique and they bring their own light to this world. Our thoughts are all different and when we pass, our light goes out and no one can replicate it.

It’s a shame the rest of the song didn’t follow a similar lyrical thread. Instead it went to a girl, with an attitude because she was born with a silver spoon.

Had Enough
Mr Big

It’s the feel of the song. It’s like a ballad but it’s not a ballad. Having super shredders like Gilbert and Sheehan colouring the song with some great rhythms is great to hear.

Ain’t like any other day
Finally comes a time to decide
I won’t spend another day
Stuck here in the same old bind

The first two verses could be about any life situation and then the song devolves into a relationship situation. Missed opportunity to connect much wider.

What’s It Gonna Be
Ratt

It’s from 1988’s “Reach For The Sky” album and it’s written by Robbin Crosby, Juan Croucier, Warren DeMartini, Beau Hill and Stephen Pearcy.

The promises were empty and your blood runs cold
So tell me
What’s it gonna be, sweet Elena
Just give it to me straight, is it him or me?

I can’t remember if Elena was Peacy’s wife, but the question is simple, what’s it gonna be?

Rock And Roll’s Gonna Save The World
Y&T

Y&T is one of those bands that just hook me with their sense of melody and feel. “Rock and Roll’s Gonna Save The World” is from their 1984 album called “In Rock We Trust”.

Kings and queens and presidents
Are tryin’ to take the world in hand
Jokers and freaks and Arab sheiks
Are fightin’ over chunks of sand

The same problems that exist today existed 30 years ago and way before that. Guess they never really went away.

Rock & Roll’s gonna save the world
Don’t you know that’s the way we’re gonna change it?
Rock & Roll’s gonna save the world
Rock & Roll

We believed we could change the world. Then we got jobs and got loans and became exactly what the institutions wanted us to be. Slaves by choice.

Tin soldiers march around the world
No matter what the people say
One man makes all the policies
While the rest of us get blown away

It’s what our leaders are fighting about right now. Who should make the policies? Who should tell others what to do? And democratically elected leaders want to dictate how people should live and then they take up arms against dictators. Ironic isn’t it.

Gutter Ballet
When The Crowds Are Gone
Hounds
Summer’s Rain

Savatage

All the songs are written by the holy trinity of Criss Oliva (RIP), Jon Oliva and Paul O’Neill (RIP).

Another sleepless night
A concrete paradise
Sirens screaming in the heat
Neon cuts the eye
As the jester sighs
At the world beneath his feet

It’s that click track piano that makes it unique as Jon sings about the way of the streets in a circus setting.

Another death to mourn
Another child is born
Another chapter in the play

The cycle of life, a death, a birth and a new story to tell.

How good is the instrumental lead break section in the song?

“When The Crowds Are Gone” is the song that sealed the deal, the song that made me love the album. It’s the vocal outro, the lyrics and Jon Olvia’s vocal delivery. The outro is that good, Savatage used it for other songs on future albums. It’s easy to get caught up in it.

I don’t know where the years have gone
Memories can only last so long
Like faded photographs, forgotten songs

Artists who have been on the road for a long time, miss out on so much from their personal lives. It’s a sacrifice.

Where’s the light, turn then on again
One more night to believe and then
Another note for my requiem
A memory to carry on
The story’s over when the crowds are gone

When the crowds are gone, the career of an artist is over. When the show is over and the crowds are gone, the night is over and the journey begins to a new city and a new show.

All my friends have been crucified
They made life a long suicide true
Guess we never figured out the rules
But I’m still alive and my fingers feel
I’m gonna play on till the final reel’s through
And read the credits from a different view

It’s about a clarinet player who chooses to retire from playing on his own terms. But in the song, his own terms are too late, because as the song goes, the crowds are no longer there.

I never wanted to know
Never wanted to see
I wasted my time till time wasted me
Never wanted to go
Always wanted to stay
Cause the person I am are the parts that I play
So I play and I plan
And hope and I scheme
To the lure of a night
Filled with unfinished dreams
And I’m holding on tight
To a world gone astray

The big ending and it works so well with the music, the vocal melody and the pain in Jon Oliva’s voice as the clarinet player finally understands it’s all over.

In “Hounds”, Criss Oliva becomes a guitar hero with some wicked riffage and wicked shredding.

Do you hear the hounds they call
Scan the dark eyes aglow
Through the bitter rain and cold
They hunt you down
Hunt you down

The word “hounds” is just another word for the predatory people in our lives. And if we are not too careful, eventually they will hunt us down. Of course the song is about hounds, but it’s very easy to interchange the two.

How good is that melody lead under the chorus vocal melody in “Summers Rain”?

Standing alone in a dream
Where nothing is real
But oh how real it feels
There were times I lost my way
I was alone, lost in a haze
Where are you now
I’ll find you somehow

A song about a relationship that doesn’t sound clichéd and lazy.

And do I stand alone
Like a fool out in the rain
Hanging on somehow
To an ancient vow
Where there’s nothing left to gain
And do you know
How it feels inside
To be all alone
A fool and his pride

When you don’t want to let go, even though the other half has already moved on. But life is more about doors closing, not opening. And when doors close and new opens open we are forced to go in a certain direction.

Metal Heart
Accept

It is 1999
The human race has to face it
They are confronted with the truth
It’s secret — mysterious

For Accept the truth is and always will be heavy metal. But in all seriousness, the human race needs to confront the truth and make some changes. Our planet is warming. There is no way people can deny it. The normal winds we get are more destructive and last longer than ever before. The rain that falls is a lot more destructive than ever before.

Downhearted
Reckless – Don’t Be So
The Boys Light Up

Australian Crawl

I left my heart back in the Orient
Down on Bali bays
It’s not the way that I should feel
But it’s the way I’m gonna stay
Downhearted
Broken dreams that never really started

Holiday romances and the feeling of loneliness when you get back home. Back in the 80’s once you left, the connection was lost. Not like in today’s connected world. And Australian’s always go to Bali for a holiday. It’s seen as a cheap overseas holiday.

In “Reckless”, the band maps out the journey into Sydney from Manly via the ferry via the first verse.

Meet me down by the jetty landing
Where the pontoons bump and sway
I see the others reading, standing
As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay

Anyone who has done the ferry journey can relate to the above.

So, throw down your guns
Don’t be so reckless

The iconic chorus lines. Don’t be so reckless to destroy a relationship that took years to build.

Finally, we have the pub rock classic. In steel city Wollongong, we always assumed “The Boys Light Up” meant lighting up a reefer. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I really unpacked the lyrics and found some brilliant lines.

Silently she opens the drawer
Mother’s little helper is coming out for more
Strategically positioned before the midday show
Her back is arched; those lips are parched, repeated blow by blow

Mmm, I wonder what mothers little helper is. Zzzzzzzzz…

Later at the party
All the MPs rave
About the hummers she’s been givin’
And the money that they save
To her it is skin lotion
Him promotion to
That flat in Surfers’ Paradise with the ocean view

For all of the political scandals that made headline news from the late Nineties onwards, the above verse seemed prophetic to say the least. Seriously, what a creative, tongue in cheek verse. And all Australians know Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.

The boys light up

I guess the boys lighting up is all about getting hard and coming alive.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Rising Above

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Guitarists like Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe and Vinnie Moore are all good guitarists, however they are still relatively unknowns outside of their niche market.

When I saw Steve Vai on the G3 tour, I saw that he had Tony MacAlpine as a backing guitarist. I knew it, however the other guitarists I was with, didn’t know it or know of Tony MacAlpine.

Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore played with Alice Cooper? Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore had Jordan Rudess play on his solo album called Mind Control and that he is currently in UFO?

In the end each artist needed the hits.

Steve Vai had Yankee Rose to launch him. Who can forget the talking at the start song, between Steve Vai’s Ibanez and David Lee Roth’s vocals? It was catchy, it was entrancing and it rippled through the mainstream. The music didn’t fit the format, however back in the Eighties you can say that Yankee Rose went viral.

Yngwie Malmsteen had sweep picking. That was his hit. A simple technique. He followed that up with songs like You Don’t Remember (I’ll Never Forget), On The Run Again and Queen In Love. However it wasn’t until the Joe Lynn Turner fronted Odyssey album that Malmsteen had mainstream hits. Who can forget Heaven Tonight?

Joe Satriani is the surfing alien. Enough said. The Surfing With The Alien song and album is perfection in instrumental circles.

Another piece of perfection is Eric Johnson and his piece d resistance, Cliffs Of Dover. Hear it and the let the goose bumps come.

Alex Skolnick took a big risk back in the Eighties leaving Testament just as they were getting traction on the thrash metal circuit. So what does he do, he goes all instructional and jazzy. He started taking standard rock and metal songs and re-doing them in a jazz format. Brilliant.

John Petrucci shredded when it was uncool to do so. He got popular at a time when it was uncool to be popular for the talent he is. Why? Images and Words. That is the DT victory lap. It is that album that gave them steam in the Nineties. When that victory lap was fading away, Metropolis II came on the scene. That took them into the Two Thousands and with the release of the very metal like Train Of Thought, a new audience was won over.

Paul Gilbert is an enigma. On the Racer X albums he was just another shred clone. Then came Mr Big and he showed what a great songwriter and what a great performer he is. When the world wanted vintage Van Halen in the early nineties, Paul Gilbert stepped up. When the world wanted a shredder of the Malmsteen sense, Gilbert stepped up. I remember John Petrucci referencing a Paul Gilbert instructional video as an important instructional tool for advancing his guitar playing. The quick lead break before the Pull Me Under chorus is all Paul Gilbert played by John Petrucci. Who can forget Technical Difficulties? Paul Gilbert at his best.

All of these artists created something so good that it sold itself. It could have been a song, a technique, an instructional video and instrumental album or re doing metal standards in a jazz format.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Is Having Mike Portnoy in your band a good thing or a bad thing these days?

Mike Portnoy is a hard worker. There is no doubt about that. However, the question needs to be asked. With so many projects running, where is the quality control?

Of course, I know that quality is in the eye of the beholder and since Portnoy is just a drummer, the quality is in the music.

Music comes from the guitarists/keyboardists he chooses to work with. The guitar player in the band has the same value as a Number 1 draft pick for a losing team. You build a championship winning team around a great guitar player.

In Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy had the Michael Jordan of guitar players in John Petrucci. When Portnoy left the DT team, he committed career suicide in my view.

In Adrenaline Mob, he had the wild card roughie, Mike Orlando, who in my view is getting really close to the greatness of Iommi and I seriously believe this band is capable of producing a classic album like Heaven and Hell from Black Sabbath.

In Transatlantic he has a minor league player in Roine Stolt on guitar and another minor league/division two songwriter in Neal Morse. (Anyone remember Morse, Portnoy, George project, it was a deadest joke). If you want to hear quality spread thin, listen to Neal’s solo albums.

In Flying Colors he has the veteran superstar in Steve Morse, who has done his victory lap already and is now also spreading himself too far and too thin with Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors and the Steve Morse band.

And that brings us to The Winery Dogs. For this project to be special, it needs to bring something different to the table, so that it stands out amongst the noise.

Richie Kotzen is a good guitar player, however there is nothing special about him. If I keep with the sporting analogies, this player wouldn’t win any trophies for you. He wouldn’t be a bad player to have on your team, but he is not the champion that you need. As a draft pick he would be way down the order.

When Kotzen came out with his first self-titled solo album in 1989 and with Fever Dream in 1990, he was just another shredder on the Shrapnel label. I have both of those albums and I can’t really remember much from them. I even purchased the Mr Big album he played on after Paul Gilbert left and that was also forgettable.

Just like Hard Rock and Glam Rock killed itself by cloning itself over and over again, the same thing happened to the Shred Movement.

Kotzen was a clone of the shred heroes that came before him like Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker (who also produced Kotzen’s first album).

There was also a Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughan blues influence, however that part of his playing didn’t really come out until he joined Poison. Maybe he was told to conform to the shred sweep picking style. The point. He is a clone of the shred era. He got his deal, because he could shred. Yes, he had talent. Yes, he practiced. Does he have the songs? No.

Even in his vocal delivery he clones Chris Cornell. There is nothing different or special about what he does and he is the centrepiece of the band as the guitarist and vocalist.

The point I am making is that there is no signature sound from Kotzen and since he is the frontman and the main songwriter, it is a troubling fact.

Which brings me to Mike Portnoy. Dream Theater success is because of the music. The musical instruments in the band are the guitars, keys and bass. Drums are a percussive instrument. If Mike Portnoy had never met John Petrucci, he would be just another talented drummer trying to make it.

Is Portnoy a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to write a great song on his own? My answer is NO.

Billy Sheehan is the bassist, and as good as he is, all good bassists need great guitar players. With Talas, Sheehan was the man, and that band was a product of its time, where it was cool to be a different and a leader and that is what Billy Sheehan was, a leader. However that band never really had success.

Then he found commercial success with two supergroups. First with David Lee Roth and then with Mr Big. In both of those bands, he had two monsters on the guitar. With David Lee Roth, he had Steve Vai (at one stage Yngwie Malmsteen was considered for the DLR slot) and with Mr Big, he had Paul Gilbert.

However is Billy Sheehan a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to great write a song on his own?

In DLR’s band, he had one song writing credit in Shy Boy, which is from his Talas’s days. In Mr Big, his name is over a lot of songs, and they are okay songs, however the main hit songs (which gave Billy Sheehan a career) are not written by him.

James Hetfield once said that he is anti-side projects for a very good reason. It dilutes the quality of the main product.

And in the end it is quality that the people want. That is the reality.

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Music

Mike Portnoy

I am a Dream Theater fan. If you look at the original pressing of Lifting Shadows, my name is in that book. I am one of those super fans. If you look at all the bootleg Ytse Jam recordings released, I have them all, the CD’s and DVD’s. I have all of their albums, all of their video releases, DVD releases, as well as single editions. I even purchased their fan club editions from EBAY for $50 a pop. I saw Dream Theater in Australia on the two tours they did and I saw John Petrucci (with Mike Portnoy on drums) on the G3 tour with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

I am a fan of Dream Theater because of the songs. That is why I purchased their products, their merchandise and that is why I paid to watch them live. It is a well-known fact that all the band members have technique and chops. Other bands have come out with greater technical abilities, however if the songs are not there, then no one cares.

It was Pull Me Under that caught my attention. It was the music. Music comes from the guitar, keyboards and the bass. Drums don’t create music. Drums provide a beat. So I have no idea why Mike Portnoy thought he was the star of Dream Theater and bigger than the band. He is just a drummer. That’s it. When is he going to realise that people do not come to watch him drum. People come to the show to hear music. Strip away all the music, all you have is a beat. Dream Theater is a sum of its parts. Together, they created stand out genre defining progressive rock/metal albums.

I don’t really know what part Portnoy could have played in writing the music. I am sure his ideas where more about arranging or approving what riffs made it and what didn’t. His lyrics didn’t hit the mark either. Regardless, he is just a drummer. Even someone as big as Tommy Lee, can’t go out alone. It’s not the same. He tried it and he realised that his home sweet home is Motley Crue. An exception to the rule is Phil Collins and Dave Grohl. They are artists, not just drummers.

I really like what Adrenaline Mob does. It’s just good old heavy metal/rock. It sounds pure, it sounds nostalgic, it sounds fresh and it sounds epic. More importantly, the songs are there. They have the riffs that stand out, and the catchy vocal melodies provided by THE DON. It is a great package. To me Adrenaline Mob is a big thumbs up. Even the recent Coverta EP, had a cover of High Wire from Badlands one of the all-time biggest underrated bands. Badlands featured the talents of Jake E Lee post Ozzy and the masterful voice of Ray Gillen.

However, Flying Colors was complete garbage. Is there any chance I can get my money back on that one? I don’t know how they sat around in the studio, creating that album and looked at each other saying, these songs are great. I understand, Portnoy is trying to sow the seeds on a few different projects, however this one just didn’t grow.

So I get in my inbox the latest news from Mike Portnoy, another band he is kicking off , post his departure from Dream Theater. This one is called The Winery Dogs, featuring Billy Sheehan on bass and Richie Kotzen on guitars/vocals with Portnoy on drums. This is the project that was supposed to feature John Sykes. The song was called Elevate. I checked it out on YouTube. I don’t mind it, but I don’t like it.

First, Richie Kotzen can’t sing. He can mimic other voices made popular by real singers. In this song he sounds like Chris Cornell during the Audioslave era.

Secondly, as a guitarist that writes music Richie Kotzen hasn’t written a good song. Okay I lied. I liked what he did with Poison on Native Tongue, giving Poison a very bluesy soul feel, however his solo albums (the ones with the singing) are lame, and the work he did with Mr Big after Paul Gilbert left was also lame.

Thirdly they are all trying to show that they are skilful, that they can shred, that they can play. Hello, its 2013. Everyone can play these days. The grunge and nu metal days are over. Hell you have a six year old playing Sweet Child O Mine on YouTube, where even the songwriter was blown away.

New bands starting off these days have killer guitar players. Look at the stuff that Synester Gates and Zacky Vengeance come up with, the Trivium guys, the Bullet For My Valentine guys and so on.

Mike thought his career would skyrocket and that he was the man. Guess what Mike. You are just a drummer. You best bet is to go back to Dream Theater however from the press that happened when you left, I don’t think that will happen.

So your next bet, is to focus on Adrenaline Mob and deliver to the world, an album that can rival Black Sabbath’s – Heaven and Hell, Metallica’s – Black, AC/DC’s – Back In Black, Led Zeppelin’s – Physical Graffiti, Whitesnake’s – 1987 and Aerosmith’s – Get A Grip. The musicians are there and the talent is there. Stop spreading yourself too thin. Focus on one and get it right. I know you can. It takes time. Look at how long you persisted with Dream Theater. It’s back to those days again

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Music

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Music

White Lion – Mane Attraction

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Mane Attraction Review

Back Story

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

1991 – The Year of Change

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

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

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

The Competition

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

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

The Album

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

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

Stand Outs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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