A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1985 – Part 4

Kiss – Asylum

My son asked me yesterday, “what decade of Kiss do I like for new music released?”

I grew up on the 80’s Kiss, with the exception of the “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” albums. So my go to albums from Kiss are the 80’s albums, along with “Revenge”.

My first proper “Alive” experience was “Alive III”, then “IV” and then I went back to listen to “I” and “II”. But I like “III” better.

In the last 20 years, Kiss haven’t really set the world alight with new music (“Hell Or Hallelujah” will beg to differ and it’s up there as one of the best tracks for me), nor have they really dug into the vaults. Then again, Gene Simmons did raid his vault and from the reviews I read over at 2Loud2OldMusic, Simmons did a pretty good job at it.

Now in Australia, Kiss was larger than life. They always had an interview on TV or a music video clip on TV or a song played on radio. And they had their loyal following, plus any fly by nighters who would fall in and out of fandom with the band.

This album has Paul Stanley pulling quadruple duty on song writing, guitar playing, production duties (which even though Gene is listed as co-producer, Stanley did 90% of it) and bass playing. And I gravitated to the Stanley tracks, because they were just better.

This album also sticks out because it’s part of the era of bad jackets. Like very bad glam like jackets. If you’ve seen posters or press photos of bands during this era, you would know what I mean.

And it needs to be said, that Bruce Kulick is a guitar hero. He doesn’t get the “shred cred” he derserves, maybe because he played with Kiss. But his solos, from “Animalize” to “Revenge” are nothing short of guitar hero shred.

“King Of The Mountain” is written by Stanley, Kulick and Desmond Child and it gets the album off to a good start.

“Tears Are Falling” is a Stanley cut and although generic, it proved very popular for Kiss on MTV. “Who Wants To Be Lonely” is another cut that sticks around, this one being a co-write with Stanley, Child and Jean Beauvoir who would become well-known with the song, “Feel The Heat” from the Cobra soundtrack.

And let’s not talk about “Uh! All Night” even though some brain dead label rep thought it was a good idea to also release it as a single.

White Lion – Fight To Survive

I didn’t hear this until the 2000’s post Napster era was happening.

It wasn’t available at all in Australia and I didn’t know anyone who had a copy of it.

And it’s a forgotten album but it shouldn’t be, because it showcases Vito Bratta. While Bratta didn’t get back into the music business once White Lion broke up, his recorded output and musical legacy is down to the four White Lion albums and the backroom label dealings and stabbings which would affect Bratta.

They got signed to Elektra in 1984 and they record the album. Elektra refuses to release the album and terminates the bands contract. So now they have an album recorded, which they can’t access as its owned by Elektra and they have no deal.

Then a Japanese label releases it in Japan, and another label in the US release it under license to Elektra and the band tours on it, but the label in the U.S goes bankrupt. And the band is going through changes in the bass and drum department.

They did get singed to Atlantic in 1987, but that’s another story for another year.

Stand Outs with Great Bratta Moments

“Fight To Survive” is brilliant musically. Lyrically it’s about street life and fighting to be alive each day.

Great tapping intro that breaks down into the bass groove for the verse, with the volume swells and then it picks up for the big chorus and I love the delay in the solo section.

“All The Fallen Men” is influenced by “Rocking in the Free World” in the verses. Then again this came before Neil Young, and it’s a pretty generic chord progression, so..

“El Salvador” is the best song on this first album. The flamenco intro moving into the distortion riff is brilliant. You can hear Al DiMeola’s “Mediterranean Sundance”. And once the song kicks it’s all Thin Lizzy. Phil Lynott would be proud.

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

“Broken Heart” has typical 80’s lyrics from Mike Tramp. Bratta shreds in the solo section with finger tapping and tap bends.

“All Burn In Hell” reminded me of Twisted Sister’s “Burn in Hell”. Musically it is typical of the 80’s. But the syncopated interlude before the solo. Brilliant.

There is a modern alternative rock metal vibe. And the solo section to me is a song within a song. A great Bratta moment.

Bad Songs with Great Bratta Moments

“Where Do We Run” – reminds of a 100th rate AC/DC song in the verse. Tramps lyrics and melodies are lame. It’s a shame because it has a killer solo, very much in the vein of Randy Rhoads – “Flying High Again” and George Lynch – “Tooth and Nail”.

“In The City” – up until the interlude and solo section, where Bratta wails, the song sounds like a Y&T rip off lyrically.

Firehouse also did a song, where the vocal melody was similar.

Does anyone remember “The Dream”?

Actually does anyone remember Firehouse the band?

Filler Songs

“Cherokee” – The lyrics are tacky, “Cherokee, riding free”. Maybe because I heard it after Europe’s “Cherokee”, which I also didn’t like.

“Kid of a 1000 Faces” – the less said about this song the better.

“The Road To Valhalla” – with that title I was expecting something epic.

AC/DC – Fly On The Wall

I love the cover art. I drawed it in Art Class. I wish I still have my art journals. The teacher hated it, as he was anti-rock/metal.

Malcolm tried really hard to remove AC/DC from the overproduced and super focused Lange albums. And although their worldwide sales especially in the U.S market didn’t set the world on fire post Lange, in the land of Oz, they couldn’t do no wrong.

We lapped up the 7 inch singles, their songs got played on radio and the music video clips for “Shake Your Foundations” and “Sink The Pink” got played relentlessly.

See me leaning, on the bar
I got my head in a whiskey jar

It’s the Australian way of life to be leaning on the bar, intoxicated. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And maybe it’s a big reason why the music videos resonated with Australian fans. They are both filmed in a bar/pub and people are playing pool while drinking. It’s the Australian way of life.

ZZ Top – Afterburner

How do you follow up “Eliminator”?

By continuing on with using synths, sequenced beats and midi samples with their blues boogie riffs.

A new take on an old sound.

I called it “New Wave Blues” (NWB). And I meant it as a compliment.

How good is the cover?

It was enough to hook me in.

And while “Sleeping Bag” kept in that NWB department, “Stages” is a melodic rock gem that I didn’t see coming.

“Rough Boy” has some of Billy Gibbons most melodic and emotive lead breaks. Check out the intro lead break and the outro lead break. He brought long guitar solos to the mainstream.

“Can’t Stop Rockin’” is “Got Me Under Pressure” a 12 bar blues boogie with sequenced drum beats. “Planet Of Women” rocks out of the gate, and man, this song has Gibbons putting in some serious playing in the riffage department.

The album is a product of its time and era, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gary Moore – Run For Cover

It was the mid 90’s when I heard this album. And it’s one of his best albums.

“Empty Rooms” and that lead break is one of his best lead breaks, better than “Parisienne Walkways” and “Still Got The Blues”. “Military Man” has Phil Lynott singing, while “Out In The Fields” is a duet between Lynott and Moore.

The mighty Glen Hughes sings on “Reach For The Sky”, “Nothing To Lose” and “All Messed Up”, while Moore sings on “Run For Cover”, “Empty Rooms”, “Once In A Lifetime” and “Listen To Your Heartbeat”.

And Moore also has Lynott, Hughes and Bob Daisley playing bass on the album. Four different producers in Andy Johns, Peter Collins, Beau Hill and Mike Stone. In other words it’s an expensive album, but it did nothing sales wise in the U.S, while in Europe, it did a lot better.

But the piece d’resistance is “Empty Rooms”. The lead break from Moore was talked about a lot in guitar circles. And it’s a re-recording. He released it on “Victims Of The Future”. A longer version of 6 plus minutes. This one is more concise at 4 minutes.

And the way “Run For Cover” starts off, you know that Moore means business,. There isn’t a bad song on this album. The cuts that Hughes does vocals on are favourites and I need to do a playlist of songs Hughes has done over his career, like how I did with Ronnie James Dio, covering Rainbow, Sabbath and his solo career. The only album missing on that list is the “Heaven And Hell” band album from the two thousands because it’s not on Spotify Australia.

Phil Collins – No Jacket Required

His voice is one of the best.

It’s like Soul Rock and I like Collins when his also bluesy with a touch of rock.

The “hit songs” on this album are not my favourites. The brass instruments are just too much for me on those. But with any Collins release, there is always something to sink your ears into.

“Long Long Way To Go” is a favourite. It’s the mood and the repeating guitar/synth lick.

Then there is “I Don’t Wanna Know” which is a melodic rock masterpiece, with a great outro guitar solo.

“Don’t Lose My Number” reminds me of Marillion for some reason. It has a feel that Marillion would explore later on when they changed vocalists.

“Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” has this driving beat to kick it off before it subdues in the verses, but the drums still roll on.

And there’s so much more music to get through for 1985, but that will be for other posts.

So into the time machine we go and I’ll see ya at 1977 for Part 4.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

1981 – Part IV – Took The Midnight Train Goin’ Anywhere

 

Journey – Escape
It’s Journey’s first album with keyboardist Jonathan Cain and what a way to make your Journey debut. The album was certified 9x platinum by the RIAA and the single “Don’t Stop Believin” has moved over 7.5 million units (digital and physical combined) in the U.S alone.

The album was co-produced by former Lynyrd Skynyrd soundman Kevin Elson and one-time Queen engineer Mike Stone, who also engineered the album. But the main driver/decorator of the album is Neal Schon. His playing by 1981 was an amalgamation of so many styles and his phrasing and note selection was spot on.

“Escape”
This is my favourite on the album. You can hear the origins of the melodic rock movement (that gained momentum many years later), right here in this song. Like most of the album, it’s a Cain, Perry and Schon composition.

“He’s just a young boy out of school
Livin’ his world like he wants to
They’re makin’ laws, but they don’t understand
Turns a boy in to a fightin’ man”

This song is buried away. In 2015, any new fan will need to dig deep into their catalogue to hear “Escape”.

“They won’t take me
They won’t break me”

No one wanted to give in to the establishments like the schools, the governments and the corporations. We all wanted to go our own way and do our own things the way we wanted to do them.

“Who’s Crying Now”
This one is a Cain and Perry composition. When Neal Schon breaks out that little lead line from the 3.30 minute mark, the song starts kicking for me. Schon is at the peak of his powers and the Escape album is evidence of those powers.

“Don’t Stop Believin'”
The big one. 158 million streams on Spotify.

As good as the piano riff is, check out what Schon does with it. The palm muted legato pull of lick at the intro, whammy bend is enough to stop the intro from getting boring. The whole song has Schon complimenting and adding to the original piano riff. By doing that, the song becomes a bonafide classic rock song.

“Took the midnight train goin’ anywhere”

Everyone dreams of leaving their city behind for bigger and better things, thinking that if they do, they will be happy, because they see happiness is some attainable goal. Although this song has been played to death in my household because it has been licensed to nearly every movie or TV commercial, the message is still crystal clear. Don’t stop trying, regardless of your age.

And the piece d’resistance of the song is when Schon actually plays the vocal line “Don’t Stop Believin” as a lead break before it even comes in at the end. Brilliant.

“Stone In Love”
If you persist with the song and get the 2.30 minute mark, it transitions into a melodic lead outro, which for a band with so much commercial appeal, it was excellent to hear, Schon break out some chops.

“Mother, Father”
This song is interesting and very progressive like Genesis. It’s written by Jonathan Cain, Joe Perry, Steve Perry, Matt Schon and Neal Schon.

AC/DC – For Those About to Rock We Salute You
The follow-up to “Back in Black” and Mutt Lange completes his trilogy of career defining albums with the band, that began with “Highway To Hell”. The labels, as usual started to flood the market with AC/DC music. First, Atlantic Records in the United States released the Australian version of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” to the U.S market, while another label released Geordie recordings, from Brian Johnson’s old band.

With any success, more money gets thrown into the recordings and what you get is an album that is over-produced. Still, it gave the world the title track, which more or less closes every AC/DC gig with the stage prop canons firing away. The song and the name of the album was inspired by a book Angus Young read, entitled “For Those About to Die, We Salute You”, about Roman gladiators.

And the certification armies came forth and bestowed upon the band many sales certifications. 4x Platinum in the U.S, 5 x Platinum in Australia and Platinum certifications in most of Europe.

“Stand up and be counted
For what you are about to receive
We are the dealers
We’ll give you everything you need” ….. from “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

Phil Collins – Face Value
One song sums up this album; the 50 million plus streamed “In The Air Tonight”. If 1981 proved one thing, it was the year of the big hit song.  Eric Clapton is also on hand to play some guitar on “The Roof Is Leaking” which is a cult fave of mine.

Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog
A lot of people don’t know that Rick Springfield started getting in the music business officially in 1969 via pop rock group “Zoot” and from 1972 as a solo artist. Keeping with the 1981  theme, one song sums up this album, and that is “Jessie’s Girl”. It’s a shame that the album has been withheld from Spotify.

King Crimson – Discipline
The birth of “Tool”, “Between The Buried And Me” and “djent” is heard on this classic album. Like “Tool”, King Crimson does not participate in Spotify streaming, so the album is not available for streaming.

However, YouTube has it.

Yep folks, that’s the world we live in.

Now, if you are looking for big arena rock choruses than King Crimson is not the band for you. However, if you are looking for a band that pushed musical boundaries and inspired a whole new generation of progressive, math and technical rock/metal bands, then King Crimson is the band to sink your teeth into.

Check out the instrumental title track “Discipline” and the similar sounding “Frame By Frame” and you’ll hear what I mean. “Elephant Talk” lyrically is garbage, however the bass playing from Tony Levin on his Chapman Stick is worth a listen.

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Music

Black – Some Songs Just Cannot Be Covered

I had a pretty crazy 36 hours that involved a three-hour drive (with toilet stops and breakfast stops) to Canberra, the Australian National Museum, some shopping, dinner and then the next morning, we took in Questacon, some more shopping and another three-hour drive home (this time I made sure that I laid down the law on the toilet breaks).

I have three boys, aged 8, 7 and 2. I love em to death, but they drive me mad. Especially on holidays. For example, today, we had breakfast at the hotel. My eldest and me were the last ones to leave and from the looks of it, he looked pretty full. So we go back to the room and we start packing. I open the fridge to grab the few items we had in there and he asks me, “Can I have a coke?”

I am thinking to myself “WTF”. Didn’t he just tell me, two minutes ago that he is so full he cannot breathe. Now he wants to drink a bottle of coke and it’s not even 10am. I turn to look at him, with an upset angry face and reply a stern, “NO”. I hate doing that, however I am seeing that the kids have no self-control when it comes to soft drink.

Quick getaway’s are stressful. I don’t even call them getaways. I call them stressaways. Sometimes going back to work is more of a holiday than the actual holiday. Especially when kids are involved, however I wouldn’t even dream of going somewhere without them. The room we stayed in at the Grand Mercure had two levels. I don’t know what the hell my wife and I were thinking when we booked the room. For the short time that we actually stayed in the room, all we did was walk the 2 year old up and down the freaking stairs. Then towards the end of the stay, he started screaming the room down to go solo on the stairs. Fun and games. Fun and games.

So in all of the craziness of today, I had a small window, a small opportunity, a small chance to read some emails and one of them was an email from YouTube, telling me that the song “Black” is up for viewing from the Smith and Myers acoustic project.

For those that don’t know, Brent Smith and Zach Myers are from Shinedown. In order to pass time between albums, the band asked fans to vote and recommend songs that they would like to see the guys cover. The final agreed list was finalised and in April 2013, Smith and Myers went in and recorded the final ten songs acoustically.

We are finally seeing the songs starting to filter through on YouTube. What a 9 month build up to the release? Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, Pearl Jam and Adele didn’t approve the YouTube releases because that meant that Smith and Myers are effectively giving the performances away. For the original artist (or whoever owns the rights at this point in time), this means no income.

So the original 10 song release is down to six for the time being. “Acoustic Sessions” will be released digitally on Jan. 28, and the list of songs are as follows;

“London Calling” by the Clash
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallic
“She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes
“Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum
“Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shephard

The other 4 songs that will be released at another time are;
“Black” by Pearl Jam
“Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bob Jovi
“In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
“Someone Like You” by Adele

So I was very surprised to see the email that “Black” from Pearl Jam was up. Thinking that it was a mistake and that the song would get taken down, I suddenly made sure I found some time on my holiday to check it out.

First, let me tell you a story about Pearl Jam and “Black”. I really didn’t like “Even Flow” or “Alive” when they hit the air waves back in 1991. They just didn’t connect with me at that point in time. In addition, I was really anti-grunge because all of the rock bands that I was into started to disappear. So I was staying loyal to my team. The hard rock team.

Then in 1993, I saw an live performance of the band doing “Jeremy” going into “Rockin In The Free World” with Neil Young at the MTV Awards and I was suddenly interested. Loyalty to hard/glam rock was still strong, however in the end I am a fan of music and if there is great music to hear from other genre’s I will dig deep and hear it. So I asked a previous hard rock friend of mine who switched to the grunge side to copy the album onto a cassette for me.

Oh, the shame of admitting defeat. My mate made sure that he dug in the hooks, while twisting the knife. On my way home, I pressed play on the Sony Walkman and there it was, hidden away at track 5. “Black” had entered my life. “Her legs spread out before me”. What a hard rock lyric, however it doesn’t sound cliche or derivative of the hard rock genre. It is original and fresh.

By the time “Black” finished, I wanted to hear the whole song again, just to hear that unbelievable outro this time around. And when it finished for the second time, I rewinded the tape again and heard it again. I did that non stop for about two weeks, until the tape got tangled up (or chewed up – the people that had tapes would totally understand what I mean by this) and then I was off to the record shop to purchase the CD. I paid $27, just to hear the song “Black” over and over again, almost 2 years after it was released.

“Black” was the car that put me on the road to Seattle.

So now I am listening to the Brent Smith and Zach Myers cover of that song. It takes a lot of guts taking on a song that was a hit, however it was never released as an official single. The fans made this song go viral back in the early nineties, by spamming radio stations to play it and since the Billboard charts have some funny connection with radio plays, the song hit number 3 on the Billboard Rock Charts, beating out songs that had actual single sales on the board.

So Smith and Myers have shown a lot of guts taking on a song that has over 50 million YouTube views from all the various channels that host it. One channel from Nothingman54 has the song at 33,717,347 views.

Aaron Lewis from Staind has also taken the song on. He slowed it down a little bit and his version would have been a definite keeper if the ad lib Eddie Vedder outro was nailed. Again it was a good version, but the pure raw emotion that the original version invokes is not achieved.

For Brent Smith to cover the song and to do it justice he needed to have lived the song before covering it. I always say that some songs cannot be covered. And I have always said that Pearl Jam’s “Black” is such a song.

While the Smith and Myers version is good, it leaves me feeling a bit empty. Maybe I expected a lot more. Maybe they should have included a piano into their acoustic version, as the piano is an integral part of the song. Maybe Brent should have strummed some chords while Myers took the song on in the outro with the piano that wasn’t there.

I really really like Shinedown, so to be critical of Brent Smith (who to me is Shinedown) is painful. I actually went back to hear the original Pearl Jam version after this. Spotify has the “Ten Redux” album up and I was transported back to the same day in 1993, pressing repeat over and over again to hear the song. Then I went to the 2004 remixed version that appeared on “rearview mirror” and set it to repeat.

So even though the Smith and Myers version didn’t connect with me, they did make me go back and listen to the original version, over and over and over again. And that is the power of music. Du Du Duu D Du Du Duu

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Music, My Stories, Review in 40 Words

Review In 40 Words – Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut (2013)

The vocalist is Simon Collins, the son of Phil Collins, who also formed the band with David Kerzner. This is great prog without all the technical mastery wrapped around a concept story about a traveller of dimensions and galaxies.

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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

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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Music

Teaser

Teaser

I first heard Teaser when Motley Crue covered it for the Stairway to Heaven/Highway To Hell  compilation album for the Moscow Peace Festival.  This was back in 1989, and I saw the writer was a T.Bolin.  Pre Internet era, meant I had to go to the record shop (which in my case was Rings Music World) and ask them if they have anything on T.Bolin?

The lady knew me well  as I was a chronic asker of music that she never had in stock and she knew very well, that she was going to spend time looking through massive folders from different distributers.

Lo and behold, she told me that she can import it in and it was going to cost $40 to get it in on LP.  I said import in.  Think about that for a second.  I spent $40 on an album that I only one song on it.  That is the power of music and the need to have that one song.  And it was the last song on Side A.  It was written by Tommy Bolin and Jeff Cook who was in the band American Standard and Energy  with Bolin in the late sixties.

The first thing that grabs you is that funky sleazy riff and the wolf whistle slide guitar.

That woman’s got a smile
Puts you in a trance
And just one look at her
Makes you wanna dance
Those dark and those red ruby lips
Only a fool would pass them by
With just a hint of ruthlessness
Sparklin’ in her eye

After hearing that first verse I was reminded how similar Bon Jovi got to it with You Give Love A Bad Name.   And then the chorus comes in.

She’s a teaser and she’s got no heart at all
She’s a teaser and she’ll tempt you ’till you fall.
Yeah she’ll tempt ya ’till ya fall.

Who hasn’t come across a woman like that?

She sips gin from a teacup, wears those fancy clothes
And somebody always knows her no matter where she goes
She’ll talk to you in riddles that have no sense or rhyme
And if you ask her what she means, says she don’t got no time

The second verse reminds me of T-Rex’s Get It On,

Well you’re dirty and sweet
Clad in black, don’t look back and I love you
You’re dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you dance when you walk
So let’s dance, take a chance, understand me
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Then the solo breakdown section kicks in where it’s just the bass and drums simulating an excited heartbeat at the beginning and it moves into a free form jazz fusion lead break.  Jeff Porcaro from Steely Dan and Toto fame played drums and Stanley Sheldon from Peter Frampton’s band played bass.

As I listened to the album over and over again, I found other gems in the instrumental Homeward Strut, with its James Gang Funk inspired verses and its unbelievable harmony lick that acts as a Chorus.

The piano ballad Dreamer with Glen Hughes singing the last verse (even though he is uncredited) and piano played by David Foster, the same David Foster that would go on to produce and compose songs for Whitney Houston, Michael Buble and many others.

You have the blues funk of Savannah Woman with Phil Collins even providing percussion.

Side 2 doesn’t have the same impact as Side 1.  People People is lacklustre, while Marching Powder is a jazz fusion instrumental, reminiscent of Return to Forever. Wild Dogs is so so, but the closer Lotus makes up for it with its fusion of hard rock, blues, jazz, funk  and synth orientated pop.

Similar in structure to Teaser, it has that unbelievable breakdown solo section, which closes the album.

In 1975, he released Teaser and Come Taste the Band with Deep Purple, and in 1976 he released Private Eyes in September.  By December he was dead.  His music forever lives.

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