A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Is Guitar World Still Relevant?

Once upon a time getting on the cover of a magazine was a sign of success or of dreams coming true. For the musical fan, the magazine was the only way that we could get any information from our favourite artists. The heyday for the metal and rock movements was the Eighties. Hundreds of different magazines appeared that covered certain genres and information was plentiful.

I started purchasing Guitar World magazines from January 1986. Any magazine that had content of bands/artists that I liked I devoured. Circus, Faces, Metal Maniacs, Rip, Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Hot Metal, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Guitar School, Guitar One, Total Guitar, Guitar Player and Guitar.

So when I saw my favourite artists or guitarists on the cover of magazines I saw it as a sign of them making it. In all of the interviews, most of the guitarists said it was a dream come true to be on the cover of a Guitar magazine.

So how important is it to an artist to be on the cover of Guitar World today? I still subscribe to this magazine and I had all the issues for the year mapped out in front of me.

This is the cover roll for 2013.
December – Nirvana – In Utero Anniversary
November – John Petrucci
October – Synester Gates / Zacky Vengeance
September – Ultimate Prog Roundtable/Asking Alexandria
August – Jeff Hanneman Tribute
July – Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne
June – Dave Mustaine / Chris Broderick
May – Brad Paisley
April – Orianthi
March – SRV “Texas Flood” Anniversary
February – The Who / Pete Townsend
January – Led Zeppelin Rides Again

Looking at the covers, I started to realise something.

Guitar World likes to play it safe. Sort of like a record label in the current environment. They are going for the sure bets, going where the money is. There is no onus on going out there and taking risks. They are looking for the hits, so that they can sell advertising.

If the “legends” have something happening or an anniversary of an album, it is a good bet that they will get a cover. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tony Iommi with Ozzy Osbourne and Nirvana. 5 issues out of 12 devoted to “legends”.

Then you have the tribute piece, which in this case it the Jeff Hanneman issue. Expect one to come out for Lou Reed soon.

Then it is focusing on the stars that have been proven successful previously in the magazine, like John Petrucci, Dave Mustaine and Avenged Sevenfold, who of course wouldn’t even be considered unless they have new releases coming out.

Then it has the obligatory issue with a woman on the cover. I actually liked how they covered Orianthi however the interview was a mish mash of information found on Wikipedia and PR rewrites. There was nothing there that couldn’t be found on the web.

The only issue that involved some ‘originality’ and some risk taking was the Brad Paisley issue however again after reading the interview piece, I was left wondering if the final printed version was re-written by a PR person of the artist.

Robb Flynn’s recent journal about the Through The Ashes of Empires anniversary, mentions the following in relation to mainstream media;
“The American metal media blacklisted us, magazines like Revolver told us, “we can’t cover you, but if you get to 50,000 copies we’ll give you an article.” When we got to 50,000 they said, “Well, when you get to 70,000 we’ll give you an article”. When we got to 70,000 they said, “well, the record is too old now.” The metal media of the time continued that blacklist well into “The Blackening” album cycle, when after that, they just didn’t matter anymore.”

So taking Robb Flynn’s comments and putting them up against the Brad Paisley cover issue, the originality comment I mentioned earlier doesn’t seem to fit. Brad Paisley has four pages of certifications on the RIAA Gold and Platinum database. His sales are well over the 50,000 and 70,000 ranges quoted, hence a cover.

Don’t get me wrong, each issue is still enjoyable and the lessons, plus the tabs are the reason why I still subscribe to it. However, with user posted tabs on the rise in greater numbers on the internet (along with peer reviews and edits), plus YouTube videos of guitarists covering their favourite songs, in addition to the artists themselves delving deep into the “how to play” department, does a magazine like Guitar World still have a relevance in today’s market?

It all depends on what Guitar World wants to achieve. People still like to read a nice interview however over the last decade all the interviews seem like they have been written by a PR team for the artist. Furthermore, artists can go straight to their audience today. The journals that Robb Flynn is producing are pure GOLD. So why would artists wait for the chance to appear in a magazine which could or could not happen.

Guitar World is in the business of selling advertising. It is using music and artists as it’s tool to sell advertising.

So if you are an artist, what does the mainstream press mean to your career?

In my point of view, no artist should equate mainstream press with success. Artists are on the front page for a day, and in most cases they are gone.

Has anyone read anything on Dream Theater’s or Black Sabbath’s new record the last few weeks? Dream Theater and Sabbath made a mistake. Their marketing campaign was better and larger than the music on the album. At the end of the day it’s what goes into our ears that matters. No one cares about the interviews or the press.

The publicity campaign worked once upon a time, however it doesn’t work any longer. If artists want to be around forever they need to understand that they need to grow slowly. If you peak, you should want it to happen deep into your career.

The only press that Megadeth is getting about their new album recently is that the Metallica Black album is outselling it on a weekly basis.

So what have we learned?

A cover on a magazine does nothing for your career. If you want to last in the music business, you need to earn it.

A scorched earth publicity campaign could see an increase in sales NOW. However, fans don’t want to be beaten upon the head every time you release music. In the end, great music will find its way to an audience.

The recording business is about listenability and repeatability. People could say that a track is good or bad. However will they play that track over and over again. That’s the reaction you want. If you plan to record, you need that track.

The goal of an artist is to write great songs otherwise say hello to obscurity. That is what gets people interested. Great music, great songs.

If you are not passionate about what you do you’re never going to make it. You need to be more into it than we are. You need to live for it.

For comparisons here is the list from 2012.

Holiday – Joe Perry (Legend)
December – The Beatles (Legends)
November – Billie Joe Armstrong (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
October – Billy Gibbons (Legend)
September – Steve Vai & Tosin Abasi (Legend and Newcomer)
August – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
July – Slash (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
June – Slipknot (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
May – Joe Walsh (Legend)
April – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
March – Lamb of God (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
February – Pink Floyd (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
January – Billy Gibbons (Legend)

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

The Good Way and The Bad Way

So if I pay $120 for a Spotify Premium account, it means that i can listen to a lot of songs. If I pay $120 worth of songs from iTunes in Australia, I can only listen to 70 songs. In Australia, we are charged $1.69 for a track. As a fan of music what is the better option.

However, for the artists that were doing well under the old record label controlled system, then Spotify and iTunes is probably not for them and they should retire.

For the larger group of artists that didn’t have the six winning lotto numbers in the record label lottery, then Spotify is the leveller. Spotify is changing the distribution of wealth within the music business. 

For the artists that don’t like the new way they can then go back to releasing their albums with the following advertising from the Nineties;

 

photo (6) photo (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Ian from Anthrax can get his fans to go to all of the stores mentioned above. I trust that none of them are around anymore. It wasn’t piracy that killed them off, it was new technologies and bad business models.

The major chains all could have innovated, however they didn’t. Steve Jobs and Apple did. Daniel Ek and Spotify did.

In relation to the record labels. Imagine all the poor artists that were on Geffen Records in 1992. Talk about Geffen hedging their bets. That flyer is promoting Guns N Roses and Roxy Blue (Hard Rock) vs Nirvana (Grunge) vs White Zombie (Industrial Groove Metal). Guess we know who was the loser overall. Hard Rock.

The internet has enabled artists to reach out to wider and different communities than they could in the past. Previously, artists had to connect with people nearby and wait on the record label to spread the word.

However in 2013, many more artists are able to connect and build a fan base by finding and bringing together a unique fan base that is right for them and them alone.

Protest The Hero just did it with “Volition” and their Indiegogo campaign.

Coheed and Cambria did a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

Digital Summer is doing a great job at it as a DIY artist.

Marillion started it off in 2001. With everything there has to be a leader and for fan funding, that leader was Marillion.

The purpose of music is not to make people rich. It was always about the social bonding. If an artist can accomplish the bonding part, then the artist is giving the fan a reason to buy. It is human nature to reciprocate, to acknowledge value.

All those artists complaining, that they are losing, is because they are obsessed with the money they are losing. They have no one to blame but themselves. They are losing money because they no longer are making connections. They are just offering a piece of music up for sale without any connections and relationships. That is the bad way.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times

Influences/Inspiration

Nobody exists in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from what you read, watch and experience.  Inspiration is the merging of these experiences and influences into something new. When Metallica came on the scene they were inspired and influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were influenced by Punk. They were inspired and influenced by Classic Rock. They were excited and this made them nervous. Nerves made them play faster.

When Black Sabbath came on the scene they were originally influenced by the Blues. Just another blues band among the many blues bands doing the rounds at that time. Then they applied their gloomy industrial upbringing and the rest is history.

Experience

Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing.

Could Nikki Sixx have written Kick Start My Heart if he didn’t experience death and life? Could James Hetfield have written The Unforgiven if he was brought up in a wealthy household that didn’t have Christian Science beliefs? Could Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have written Wanted Dead Or Alive if they never toured? Could Dee Snider have written We’re Not Gonna Take It, if he was rich?

If you think you can write a hit song with no prior experience, you’re dreaming.  Our whole life is information. Be ready to reference it.  Trust your first initial feeling.

Sign Of The Times

Don’t get caught up in doing things in the old way. Today’s medium is the Internet. No one wants to hear new music from their favourite artist every two years. We surf the net each day, looking for new music and information.  If there is a demand for your music, you should create and distribute constantly.

The days when we used to have very little music are over. The days of saving up to buy an album and the playing the same album over and over again are also gone.  Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips. YouTube has everything that you want, Spotify has almost everything that you could want and if all of that fails cyber lockers and The Pirate Bay fill the void.

Product Of The Times

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times. Keep innovating.  Embrace the new reality that is being born. Stop playing by the rules of the Classic Rock artists.

Look at the band Heartist. When they formed, they decided that they would not play by the old rules of playing as many gigs as possible just to get noticed.  They decided to not play by the old rules of guaranteeing promoters 50 presales for each gig (which more or less meant, the band either had to beg people to come to their show that didn’t want to be there or they basically paid to play).  They decided to write songs.  They decided to keep on writing. They started posting demos on YouTube. They started building a buzz. The songs had quality. People started to spread them, share them, talk about them. They played ONE gig and got signed by Roadrunner and management.

What Does Music and Success Mean These Days?

Music is for the fans. Music is for the people. Music is not for a record executive to make billions so that they can compete with the Forbes 100 Rich List.  If you want to be in the music business, you need to focus on what music means. Be inspired! Create!  You have to practice, be original and wait for your moment, when you have to deliver.

Def Leppard’s Hysteria was out for over a year before it exploded on the back of the Love Bites single. A sleeper hit that no one saw coming. If the song is really damn good it will get people’s attention.

If you want success, you need to get people’s attention. If you want success you need to work hard and don’t plan for it. If you want success, practice and be ready to turn that inspiration into a product.  If you want success, you need to know that you have no control over what spreads and what doesn’t. Don’t judge the success of your project straight away. Success is always ten steps behind. It takes a while for it to happen.  Don’t just the success of your project in dollar terms. Success is about laying a solid foundation and building on it.

Your music has to be accessible. It needs to make an instant impact. Fans do not have the time to spend on letting an album sink into our brain like the old ways. These days there are so many options and people don’t endure that which is not pleasing to them, They move on. Repetition is not an artist’s friend in the current times. The life span of a song is different these days.

Most of the time you get one shot for each new fan. It is that one time when people will hear what you have created. One time where you need to satisfy them, so that they can respond and share.

Today, you need to have that one unbelievable cut, that makes the people need to hear it over and over again. That one cut that makes the people want to go and find out more about you.

Whether it be Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”, Kiss “Lick It Up”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance” or Metallica’s’ “One”. It works in every genre of music.

Connections

Artists can go straight to their audience, there are no restrictions. Artists by now should know that their career depends on building a loyal relationship with as many fans as possible. In order to build relationships, you need to get people’s attention. You need to find a way to be heard over all the noise.

Standing Out – Visuals and Music

You want to be remembered. You want to be talked about. How can you achieve that? Society is a visual culture. That is why we watch TV shows, movies, take pictures and film ourselves.

Why do you think, when you see a preview for a new movie coming out, the studio marketeers have music with it? Why do you think TV shows and movies have soundtracks? They are re-enforcing the visuals with music, as people take more notice when that happens. If people notice they will talk about.

Putting your music with visuals is a big step forward to getting people’s attention. How many times have you walked out of a movie, thinking, what a tough score. I just watched World War Z and I loved the track that Muse did for it.  Man Of Steel had an unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, that captured the emotion in each scene. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I still remember the preview to the Captain America movie, where they had the music (46&2) from Tool playing and that was almost three years ago.

Standing Out – Opinions

No artist can please everyone. So don’t try. All artists stand for something. If you write a song that is anti-(insert topic here), you will alienate some, and connect more with others. When people get fired up (via positive or negative feelings) they pay attention.

Standing Out – Different = Success

If you look at all of your heroes, they are there for a reason. They are different. When they came on the scene, they were different. Twisted Sister was different to all the other bands in the Eighties in how they dressed and looked. Their style was a combination of AC/DC style rock, mixed with Judas Priest metal, with a dose of punk chucked in. Metallica was different to all the metal and rock bands when they came onto the scene. Motley Crue was different to all the new wave music that was popular at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were all different to the Eighties Glam Rock movement. Black Sabbath was different to all the hippie folk music at the time.

Different also includes doing cover versions of popular songs. Take jazz songs and turn them into rock songs. Take pop songs and make them into rock songs.  The original artist’s fans will be curious to hear these versions.  Led Zeppelin did a lot of covers, Metallica the same. Van Halen had cover songs on their first five albums. Motley Crue did Smokin In The Boys Room and Helter Skelter.

What Does It Mean to be an Artist Today?

You don’t want to be an artist that becomes who others want them to be. You don’t want to be an artist that whores themselves out to make money. You don’t want to be an artist that does what they have to do to keep the status quo.

It’s okay to not be liked by everybody.

Real artists don’t believe in conforming. Real artists stay true to who they are. Real artists play to their fans and allow the fans to talk about them. Do not change for all the new people that could tag along to your success train, that’s death. You need to keep playing to the hard core fan base. A great artist is someone who leads us into the unknown who we can’t help but follow.

Dream Theater is one artist that comes to mind, that did it their way or the hard way. Signed as a progressive band, they released When Dream and Day Unite, which the label ignored and then went on a long search for a vocalist. When Pull Me Under got traction on MTV and Radio, the band was then a commercial prospect for the label. So the label now wants more crossover songs, and this lead to the issues with the label around the Falling Into Infinity project. After that the band stayed true to who they are and they have grown with each album and are more successful now than ever.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music My Companion

I watched Australia beat Iraq last night, with my family. I watched 80,000 people celebrate as the 2014 theme song, Bellini – Samba De Janeiro started to play on the loudspeakers. It got me thinking about the role music plays in defining moments. If there is a celebration to be had, music is at the forefront.

After the 2014 World Cup theme song finished, the famous A chord groove from Malcolm Young started, introducing Long Way To The Top from AC/DC. The crowd responds. We know the words. Long Way To The Top is slowly becoming another unofficial Australian anthem. It is the video clip that pushed Long Way To The Top into the stratosphere. It’s the band, on a back of a truck, riding down the CBD of Melbourne. It’s raw, it’s honest. More importantly, it captures the band at what they do best. Perform.

So I am driving home, and the family is asleep. I notice that my wife had put the radio on. It’s 104.9. Triple M. Once upon a time, Triple M was on the bleeding edge. It played music that the DJ’s wanted. It broke new bands. Then like all the radio stations, it started to please advertisers and board members. The playlists became the same regurgitated garbage over and over again. However at 10.30pm it was different. Kick Start My Heart is playing. I haven’t heard Motley Crue on the radio since the late eighties.

Then Bush came on. It was the song Comedown. That bass riff in Comedown, is the same as the verse guitar riff in You Give Love A Bad Name. It’s basic, it’s within the Pentatonic scale and it has authority. It screams PAY ATTENTION.

I had forgotten what a great song Comedown is. I really liked Bush when they came out. I still can’t work that one out. I didn’t like Nirvana a lot, but I liked Bush and after hearing Nirvana and then hearing Bush, you can pick up a lot of vocal similarities. Puddle of Mudd is another band that had a large Nirvana influence.

Pearl Jam was up next with Better Man, however after Bush, I already made up my mind to switch to the iPod. The football game finished with music and then I had music on the 90 minute drive home to keep me company.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

The KISS that rocks

Revenge made Kiss relevant again.  1982’s Creatures of The Night and 1983’s Lick It Up, re-established Kiss as a force to be reckoned with in the Eighties.

MTV was the outlet, and every time Lick it Up came on, it made me stop and watch.  This was all about the music.  The band had removed their make-up and they needed to make a statement.  Lick It Up was that statement.   That crunchy and distorted guitar from Vinnie Vincent is what makes the song roll.  Of course, it wouldn’t be long before Vincent was shifted. It’s like Gene Simmons can’t handle having talented people around me for a long period of time. Gene likes to rewrite history that Vinnie Vincent’s contribution to KISS was as a salary paid employee, however the music doesn’t lie.

Life’s such a treat and it’s time you taste it
There ain’t a reason on earth to waste it

We all know what Paul is saying in the lyrics to the women in the world.  Make sure that no mess is left ladies.

By the time the keyboard heavy Crazy Nights (1987) and the pop metal Hot In The Shade (1989) came out, fans started to accuse the band of following whatever MTV trend was popular at the time. 

Crazy Crazy Nights to me was so hooky and it was as good as anything else that was in the Charts at that time. I personally love the song, and this is in the era, post the Slippery When Wet explosion.  It just reminds me of good times and crazy days, sort of like how Tesla’s Lazy Days and Crazy Nights song does.  Listening to the Crazy Crazy Nights song today (I did an Eighties’ CD for my wife and this song was one of the songs I put on it) it just reminds me of how busy my life has come to be, where most of the time I am running on empty or caffeine.  It would good to be able to kick back and relax. 

They try to tell us we don’t belong,
That’s alright, we’re millions strong
This is my music, it makes me proud,
These are my people and this is my crowd

A song for the rock show, making the people believe that they belong here. Crazy Crazy Nights was co-written by Paul Stanley and Adam Mitchell who he used on the Creatures of the Night album as well.  Going back to the well that gave birth to quality previously, is a good thing.   

Going back to the Revenge album. The Nineties had a massive paradigm shift in the music business.  Kiss, now had to compete with bands that released game changing albums.  Nirvana released Nevermind and Pearl Jam released Ten bringing Grunge and Alternative Rock to the masses.  U2 released Achtung Baby, Red Hot Chilli Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Metallica released the Black album, The Cult release Ceremony, Guns N Roses released the Use Your Illusion I and II albums, Ozzy Osbourne released No More Tears, Skid Row released Slave To The Grind, Pantera released A Vulgar Display of Power and Van Halen released For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  The majority of the albums had a heavy rock feel and in the case of Van Halen it was return to the brown sound. 

Coming into the recording process of Revenge, Kiss already had some momentum going with God Gave Rock N Roll To You, which appeared in the movie, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991. The song is an Russ Ballard composition for the band Argent, however additional credit is given to Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin.  Argent at that time was trying to follow up their mega hit, Hold Your head Up, so when God Gave Rock And Roll To You came out, it bombed.  However the song is a great song, and it is a good thing that Kiss rescued it and turned it into a hit.

For Kiss to be relevant in the Nineties, they had to do something different, so they hired a marketing consultant firm to find out what the fans wanted. The answers came back.  The fans wanted more Demon, more heaviness, more rock and an album to rival 1976’s Destroyer. It was time to get the team together.  Bob Ezrin who produced the epic Destroyer and the terrible Music From The Elder was hired to produce.

The biggest decision made was to use the fantastic, talented and egotistical Vinnie Vincent as a songwriter.  Simmons and Stanley realised that Vincent’s contributions to the Creatures of The Night and Lick It Up albums, had produced songs that have become some of the best and well known Kiss songs in recent memory.  The sinister single opener Unholy was written by Simmons and Vincent.  It is heavy, it is evil and it fit perfectly in the current music climate at the time. 

You send your children to war
To serve bastards and whores

It’s a tough lyric line.  There is that devilish theme throughout the song.   

Other classic Vincent penned songs that appear on Revenge are Heart of Chrome is written by Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent and Bob Ezrin, while I Just Wanna is written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent.

It is a shame that this song writing partnership went sour so quickly again, and they haven’t collaborated since. 

Revenge is Kiss being themselves and by doing that, they made a record that satisfied the hard core fan bases and somehow also fitted in with the times,

Of course, the album is also in memory to drummer Eric Carr, who passed away due to cancer, before the recording process started.  Eric Singer took his place in the band and he has been with Kiss, since then.  How good was the Badlands project that Eric Singer was in, with Jake E.Lee, Ray Gillen and Greg Chaisson?  However that is for another day.

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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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