A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Falling Into Infinity

The “A Change of Seasons” EP from 1995, closed a chapter for Dream Theater that went back to those dark days without a deal.

After a short tour to promote the EP, they started writing songs in early 1996 for the follow up album to “Awake”. Derek Sherinian was a full-fledged member and was an extra addition to the song writing team.

Their label East West Records had folded into Elektra. Sylvia Rhone was now the President. Her interest in hard rock music was minimal. Nikki Sixx was also very anti-Sylvia, calling her from the stage on her mobile during Motley Crue concerts and getting the fans to scream “F U Sylvia Rhone.”

As written in the book, “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, Rhone wanted to drop Dream Theater or to transfer the contract to Warner International, however their success in Europe and Japan was bringing enough dollars to the label, so Elektra decided to keep them. However, they had to come up with more shorter tracks that radio could get behind.

Little did they know, that they would be in development hell for almost a year. Most of the songs they submitted to the label for approval, were met with the request to write more songs. Progressive songs like “Lines In The Sand” and “Trial Of Tears” got a muted response from the label, while songs like “Hollow Years” and “You Not Me” got the label excited.

On top of this was the dissolution of their management team, which had the band divided. Petrucci picked one manager and Portnoy picked the other. Eventually, Petrucci’s choice Rob Shore was selected as the manager and Portnoy’s choice Jim Pitulski went to court to recoup some of his losses.

Further to this, their friend in label hell, A&R Rep Derek Oliver left and his replacement, Josh Deutsch was already fed up with the band. As far as he was concerned, the band was selling enough to not be a liability to the label, so as long as he could get the new record out, they would make numbers.

12 plus months passed before Deutsch gave the go-ahead to record the new album, in March 1997. The list of producers the band submitted was ignored and Kevin Shirley who just did Aerosmith’s “Nine Lives” was hired. Shirley also recommended that the band work with Desmond Child to re-write “You or Me”, resulting in Petrucci being flown down to Florida to work on the song with Child. Following the sessions, the song became “You Not Me”. This infuriated Mike Portnoy as he didn’t like how Desmond Child would re-write one of the songs with just one band member.

Originally, Petrucci and Portnoy wanted to call it “Stream of Consciousness”, but the rest of the band rejected the name although the phrase “Stream of Consciousness” is found in the song “Lines in the Sand” and would later become the title of an instrumental song on “Train of Thought”. Its eventual title was proposed by Petrucci, and its cover art was designed by Storm Thorgerson.

When you write for that long, there is enough material for a double album, but Elektra said the approved budget is for a single album.

As a side note, Portnoy released the double album, when he did the Ytse Jam Records Demo series for the “Falling Into Infinity” demos release. It also got a re-release with Dream Theater’s “Lost Not Forgotten” Archives releases.

If you are a fan of the band, the demo releases are must haves, as you get to hear songs like “Raise the Knife”, “Where are You Now”, “Cover My Eyes”, “Speak to Me”, “The Way It Used to Be”, and “Metropolis Pt. 2”, which was later expanded into its own album and the rest being included on the 1999 fan club CD “Cleaning Out the Closet”.

New Millennium

As soon as the King Crimson inspired intro kicks in with the keys and guitars in harmony, I was hooked. John Myung comes in with a bass riff which is very Tool like and I like the way John Petrucci decorates, very Adam Jones/Tool like.

Mike Portnoy is the lyrical writer here, as he looks at the music industry.

Press play for the Verse Riff. Its heavy, its melodic and its influenced by the times, but it doesn’t sound dated as there is funk and there is groove.

James Labrie cops a lot of flak from fans and I am one of them, but he shows his versatility moving between Peter Gabriel like vocals, to Maynard James Keenan vocals, to Bluesy Paul Rodgers style vocals and yet he makes it all sound hard rock in his own LaBrie way.

Derek Sherinian on the keys is more like Kevin Moore in style.

For an opening track it got my attention.

You Not Me

Musically it’s written by Dream Theater and lyrically it’s done by John Petrucci with small additions from Desmond Child. After hearing the demo of this song, I think Child’s additions are more like Holly Knight’s addition to change the title of “Rag Time” to “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith. The original demo is called “You Or Me”. After Child was involved, it changed to “You Not Me”. The vocal melodies are there on the demo.

The riff is nu-metal before nu-metal was even a thing.

And I like its big Chorus and simple Verse/Chorus structure. I am a hard rock fan first who likes progressive music, so this song is right up my alley.

Peruvian Skies

When they play this song live they go into “Enter Sandman” from Metallica as there a bits in the song that sound like they came from “Sandman”. If you get a chance to check out one of their live performances of this song, do it

Lyrics are written by John Petrucci. He is trying to tell an abuse story of person called Vanessa.

Musically, it’s got the dreamy arpeggios of Pink Floyd, with the metal crunch of Metallica. It’s a potent mix. And I like it.

Hollow Years

The “Live At Budokan” version is “the” version to listen to. This is where the solo is extended to include some shredding from Petrucci and the outro is also extended. One thing that is guaranteed when you watch DT live, is you don’t just get the studio version of the song. Which is a good thing. It irks me when bands play the studio version of a song live. There are no musical conversations happening on stage. For some bands it works, like Metallica and Iron Maiden, as their song structures are very rigid.

It was released as a single and you can tell why. It moves between flamenco-classical style acoustic guitars to a melodic soft rock Chorus. Petrucci wrote the lyrics to the song.

Burning My Soul

Mike Portnoy’s lyrics were inspired by his frustration at their A&R man, Derek Oliver. Once seen as a supporter who got them signed was now seen as a roadblock, a gear in the label machine pushing the label “sign em and drop em” agenda.

Overall, it’s a great song. It’s metallic, with a lot of groove. Metallica wasn’t this heavy during this time.

It also marks the beginning of an excellent middle section of the album, that involves “Burning My Soul”, “Hell’s Kitchen”, and “Lines in the Sand”.

Hell’s Kitchen

Producer Kevin Shirley made the decision to take out the middle section from “Burning My Soul” and turn it into a separate instrumental track.

Which I thank him for as “Hell’s Kitchen” is a 3 minute rollercoaster of emotions. Press play to hear John Petrucci at his melodic best.

Lines in the Sand

Lyrics are written by John Petrucci and press play to hear his guitar lead along with the verse/bridge section after the solo break.

King’s X’s Doug Pinnick also appears but James LaBrie stars here, twisting and morphing his voice across many different musical styles and genres.

At 12 minutes long, it didn’t feel boring at all.

Take Away My Pain

This is Dream Theater doing U2 while U2 was doing electro-techno rock.

Lyrically, John Petrucci writes about the death of his father and he decorates the song like “The Edge”.

And for people who said they sold out by writing a song like this, well they seem to forget that “Another Day”, “To Live Forever” and “Lifting Shadows Of A Dream” are very similar to this. So it was nothing new for Dream Theater to have songs like this on the album.

Just Let Me Breathe

Portnoy is throwing missiles at the music industry with his lyrics here. It deals with the media and how they purely exist to over report and sensationalise tragedy, like the deaths of Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain.

The drum and bass intro segues into the guitar riff kicking in. It’s heavy and groovy. Very “Liquid Tension Experiment” like which would come after this album.

Derek Sherinian solos here with Petrucci kicking in some harmonies. Then they trade off each other. Overall, I like the song musically but the vocal melodies didn’t resonate with me, although I do like how Portnoy wanted to try something different with the melodies.

Anna Lee

James LaBrie has a lyrical contribution to a Dream Theater album. The song is a ballad, with a nice piano riff as its centrepiece but it wasn’t a favourite back then nor is it a favourite write now.

Petrucci does deliver a nice solo.

Trial of Tears

I wrote a whole blog post on this song. You can read it here. It’s in three sections but played as one complete 13 minute song. Bassist John Myung is the lyrical writer.

Section I is called “It’s Raining”, Section II is called “Deep in Heaven” and Section III is called “The Wasteland”.

James LaBrie again steals the show with the various vocal styles he exhibits here. And Petrucci is on hand to deliver some nice emotive lead breaks.

As mentioned in the book, “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, the album was considered a commercial failure, failing to break any new ground for Dream Theater or increase their sales despite its more commercial direction. As a result of the creative and personal tensions experienced during the album’s production phase, it has been described as the band’s “most difficult album”, and eventually led to their demanding to be free from record label interference for all future albums.

Regardless of commercial expectations, I go back to this album on a regular basis. Crank it.

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

The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Images and Words

“When Dream And Day Unite” came out in 1989, the label Mechanix did nothing with it.

The band didn’t tour and compared to the sale numbers that other bands achieved in 1989, the album was classed a failure. But it’s pretty hard to sell something if no one knows it exists or if it can’t be found in record stores. A little bit of promo during this time would have gotten the album at least 200K sales worldwide. There was a market for the kind of music that Dream Theater was writing. But the market needs to know about it.

It also didn’t help when the A&R Rep who signed the band, left Mechanix to go to a competitor. And when that normally happens in label land, the label in spite, tries to kill off the acts the Rep had signed. Further to that, Mechanix was being taken over by a larger label in MCA and when that normally happens, labels consolidate and focus on winning projects.

Apart from the label issues, the band decided that in order to be successful, they had to change something that was not working.

Vocalist, Charlie Domicini was let go. He was a decade older than the rest of the guys and his image didn’t fit with the band. But they got their manager to break the news to him.

Even a newly inked tattoo of the Dream Theater logo on his shoulder wasn’t enough to save him. According to the band, his vocal style just didn’t suit. While Portnoy and Petrucci wanted a cross between Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, they knew that finding such a vocalist was not going to be an easy task.

Dominici’s lyrics on the first album, a co-write with John Petrucci on “Status Seeker” and the sole lyricist for “Afterlife” resonated more than all of the other lyrics penned by Petrucci and Kevin Moore.

Being a bit older, meant he had a bit more experience with words and story-telling. But his voice is an acquired taste and he did cop some criticism for sounding like a bad imitation of Geddy Lee. But his vocals on “The Killing Hand” are my go to vocals for this song.

But as soon as Dominici was gone, he was back in for a gig, opening for Marillion, who wanted to unveil their new singer Steve Hogarth for his U.S debut. Portnoy was a massive fan of Marillion, so the opening slot was a dream come true. The band was on fire, but it was too little too late for Dominici who was let go again after it.

At first the band focused on trying to find a new singer as they still had six albums to deliver on the Mechanix deal. This process would take 14 months to happen. The book “Lifting Shadows” from Rich Wilson goes into great detail about the “search for a singer”.

John Arch was the first vocalist the band approached. He was out of Fates Warning after the release of “Awaken The Guardian” album in 1986. They rehearsed “The Killing Hand”, “Only A Matter Of Time” and a cover of Fates Warning “The Apparition”. Arch felt uncomfortable about how the band members wanted the vocals to sound. He felt it was too rigid. But the reason Arch left was family circumstances. He was about to become a Dad, he had a long commute to rehearse and he wasn’t comfortable spending so much time away from his family.

John Hendricks was the second vocalist the band rehearsed with after he sent the band a demo from an ad the band put out.

His appearance was more New Kids On The Block and the live audition in December 1989 didn’t go down well. But they kept him around to do vocals on some new demos called “Metropolis”, “To Live Forever” and “Don’t Look Past Me”. When they went back to live rehearsals, Hendricks still didn’t cut it, but his studio work was exceptional. The band wanted to move forward with Hendricks but label and management weren’t convinced. While Petrucci and Portnoy wanted a Tate/Dickinson style of a singer, Hendricks was none of that, more Pete Gabriel than anything and his image was New Wave compared to the Hard Rock and Metal image of Dream Theater.

Next was Steve Stone.

Stone was from Seattle and he had replaced Geoff Tate in the band “Myth”, Tate’s pre Queensryche band. Stone’s manager at the time was journalist Paul Suter, who sent demo tapes of Stone to George Lynch for the Lynch Mob project, to Steve Stevens for his Atomic Playboys project and to Dream Theater. Portnoy liked Stone’s voice, a cross between Tate and Steve Perry. Stone enjoyed the audition but conversations afterwards with the band made him feel that his creativity would be stifled.

However, they did get Stone to do studio vocal versions on “Metropolis” and “To Live Forever” as Mechanix wanted to hear product.

And then they played live. As soon as Stone yelled” Scream For Me Long Beach” and then kept on yelling it throughout the show, he sealed his axing.

By September 1990, the band was still without a singer and with a label that was losing interest in the band (as if they hadn’t lost it already) but wouldn’t release them from their contract.

Enter Chris Cintron. His demo tape was rejected at first but after Hendricks and Stone didn’t work out, Portnoy called Cintron to an audition.

Cintron’s voice was more Steve Walsh from Kansas and he was also the first singer to sing on a new song called “A Change Of Seasons”. The fact that everything was written and Cintron just had to perform what was written, didn’t sit well with him as well. Image and a few other disagreements with Kevin Moore, sealed his fate.

During this time, they also focused on writing better songs. Most bands normally have 3 months to come out with album number 2. Dream Theater in this case had close to 2 years. Furthermore, their sound evolved from the technical derivative metal sound on “When Dream and Day Unite”, to a more warmer sound, rooted in classic progressive rock with nods to Heavy Metal.

As the singer search took time, the seven album deal with Mechanix fizzled out.

But they had an ally in journalist Derek Oliver. Oliver wrote for Kerrang and he was a fan of the band. As fate would have it, Oliver moved into an A&R role at the same time that Dream Theater found themselves searching for a label who would support them.

Enter Kevin James LaBrie. He was part of Canadian glam metal band Winter Rose during this time and he sent the band an audition tape. After a short jam session, he was named Dream Theater’s new lead singer, and has remained with them ever since.

The band was then signed to a seven-album contract by Atco Records, and shortly thereafter, they began recording their new album in late 1991. The album’s production was marred with tensions, as the band clashed with producer David Prater who was chosen by Derek Oliver.

Enter Dream Theater with “Images and Words”. Released in 1992.

The album was unique and innovative to remain rooted to the prog rock niche that Derek Oliver spoke about in 1989 and it was familiar enough to cross over to the hard rock audience, looking for something new and exciting.

Dream Theater originally intended to release a double album, but that plan was rejected by ATCO, causing several songs to be omitted from the album. One of these songs, “A Change of Seasons”, would later be re-recorded by the band and released on an EP of the same name in 1995.

A Billboard review didn’t have great things to say about it;

“Power rock band’s Atco debut shows its members did plenty of listening to Yes, Boston and even Black Sabbath while growing up.

While the material is all well delivered, lead vocalist James LaBrie has a voice that stretches to fit the many different styles represented here, the main problem is the music, which sounds like it was written in the 70’s.

However given that the bands potential fans probably weren’t born until the end of that decade, it shouldn’t serve as any great detriment.”

Pull Me Under

Music composed by the band and lyrics written by Kevin Moore.

The lead single, “Pull Me Under”, gained the band a lot of commercial success with its airplay on MTV and radio, garnering them a top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. When the album was released, it sold at a steady pace, helped by an extensive world tour.

Its original working title was “Oliver’s Twist” as it was a last minute song written at the request of Derek Oliver. The original version also had the unbelievable solo section from “Erotomania” in it.

“Pull Me Under” was so good, that John Petrucci used the 1st verse riff of “Pull Me Under” in “The Count Of Tuscany” 1st Verse from the album, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” released in 2009.

He also used the structure and dynamics for the song “On The Backs Of Angels” from the album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” released in 2011.

As soon as the first three notes of the acoustic arpeggio are played, I was hooked. Then Portnoy started with his drum build. Metallica used an approach like this on “Enter Sandman”.

Another Day

Music is by the band with lyrics written by John Petrucci.

It’s like a hard rock ballad, but the guitar playing and the choice of chords by Petrucci is excellent. And the Soprano Sax solos are just perfect.

But press play to hear Petrucci on the lead break. It’s well worked out, it flows brilliantly, its melodic and cruisy and then he steps on the pedal and then brings it back to cruisy.

Take the Time

It’s a team effort on the lyrical front with Moore, Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and John Myung contributing.

How good is that start? The fast riffing is a cross between Van Halen and Metallica.

Then the verses go into a Rock Funk groove.

And the Chorus, its melodic hard rock.

As a guitar player, this song is like a Chord Book on complex chords.

Surrounded

It’s listed as words and music by Kevin Moore.

It starts off as a piano ballad, before it builds up to a funky blues rock tune.

But press play to hear the digital delay lead break from John Petrucci. It feels like The Edge from U2, but a lot better.

Metropolis—Part I: ‘The Miracle and the Sleeper’

It’s a monster of a song that every Metal and Rock fan would enjoy.

The pulsing intro alone is head banging material.

But those verses. Petrucci plays fast palm muted chords like the “Darkness, imprisoning me” part in “One” and keyboardist Moore outlines the chord progression with his riffs, while Portnoy plays a “Kashmir” like beat.

Perfection to my ears.

Under a Glass Moon

What an intro, pushing the envelope of what metal and rock should sound like.

But press play for the groove in the Verses from Petrucci and Myung, while Moore outlines the Chord progression with his keyboards.

And then wait to hear Petrucci on the solo.

Wait for Sleep

A brilliant piano piece from Kevin Moore. It’s like a haunting soundtrack. The main piano idea from here appears in “Learning To Live” and when it comes in, its brilliant.

Learning to Live

At 11.30 it’s the longest song on the album. The music is written by the band and lyrics are written by John Myung.

If I had to recommend one song to a new Dream Theater fan that typified the progressive rock leanings of the band, then this song would be it.

The song is that good, that Dream Theater rewrote it and called it “Breaking All Illusions” for the “A Dramatic Turn of Events” album in 2011.

The Kevin Moore keyboard intro kicks things off with a wicked 15/8 time signature. This same passage re-appears and this time it is played over alternating time signatures, starting off with 14/8 for 2 bars, then 13/8 for one bar and back to 14/8 for another bar. Then it goes back to 13/8, 14/8, 13/8, 7/8.

In between you get a very metal like passage in the vein of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin, that moves between 7/4,6/4,4/4 and 5/8 time signatures over F#m, C#m and Em root notes. It doesn’t sound forced. It is very fluent like.

The verse is unbelievable. Myung holds it all together with an unbelievable groove over a 7/4 and 6/4 time signature, that is supplemented by Kevin Moore’s choir like voicing’s outlining the Em9, Cmaj9, Amadd9 and Em9 chords. Myung paraphrases the novel “Atlas Shrugged” from Ayn Rand.

There was no time for pain, no energy for anger
The sightlessness of hatred slips away
Walking through winter streets alone, He stops and take a breath
With confidence and self-control

I look at the world and see no understanding
I’m waiting to find some sense of strength
I’m begging you from the bottom of my heart to show me understanding

Petrucci and Portnoy build the song nicely into the chorus. Petrucci begins with normal volume swells, while Portnoy locks in with Myung. As Petrucci’s guitar gets busier with harmonics, chords and arpeggios, Portnoy’s drumming becomes busier.

The second verse has a great progressive groove that keeps within the 7/4 and 6/4 time signature of the first verse. This time it’s all power chords and its heavy as hell. Chugging along on an E5 power cord, Petrucci enhances the riffs by chucking in B5, Bflat5 and F power chords, utilising the devil triton to maximum effect.

The 90s bring new questions
New solutions to be found
I fell in love to be let down

Then when you think they are going to go into the Chorus again, they go into a bridge part with a simple 4/4 groove and then the instrumental break starts. Petrucci is now playing what Moore played in the intro.

The flamenco passage at 5.30 kicks things off. From 6.30 it gets progressive and then the woo ohh ohhs kick in and Petrucci takes over at 7.10 in one of the most heartfelt solos Petrucci has laid to tape. Those bends remind me of Dave Gilmour in “Comfortably Numb”.

The whole “Wait For Sleep” segment that begins at 7.30 and ends at 9.35 includes brilliant jazz bluesy solos from both Moore and Petrucci and the main piano riff from “Wait For Sleep”. It then segues back in to the Chorus.

The way that your heart beats
Makes all the difference in learning to live

Just when you think the song is over, the outro kicks in, again led by an unbelievably groovy and very funky Myung bass line. Then Petrucci joins in with the Natural Harmonics and then the monk style voices take over. As a listener I just sit back with the head phones and allow myself to be taken away. A brilliant song and a brilliant piece of work.

Mike Portnoy has gone on record saying how much he hated working with producer David Prater and the use of drum midi triggers. Portnoy feared that the triggers would make the album sound dated and seen as another generic hard rock album.

One thing is certain.

The album still sounds fresh and current in 2022 as it did back in 1992. As Rush’s “2112” laid the groundwork for what was to come for Rush, “Images and Words” did the same for Dream Theater.

The tour finished in November, 1993. Overall they played 194 shows in 17 countries. “Images And Words” was certified Gold in the U.S. Everything they worked hard and persevered with, had finally happened.

The pressure for a successor was intensified.

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1976 – Part 4.8: Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail

It’s their seventh studio album, released in February 1976 on Charisma Records. But Genesis didn’t exist for me until the 80s version of the band had mainstream success at the same time that Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel had super successful solo careers.

Who hasn’t played air drums to “In The Air Tonight”?

This album was the first to feature then drummer Phil Collins as the lead vocalist following Peter Gabriel’s departure in late 1974, midway through the tour for the album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”. Management and Gabriel’s bandmates wanted him to stay. It was more of a business decision as they were in debt to their label and his departure could jeopardise their chances at getting funding for future recordings.

Following the end of the tour, guitarist Steve Hackett recorded a solo album, “Voyage of the Acolyte”. And the other members weren’t sure if the band would continue. But they reconvened in July 1975.

While some members contemplated calling it quits, keyboardist Tony Banks had other ideas. He took the songs he had written for a possible solo project and decided they should be used on the new Genesis album. They started writing for a new album, however without a lead singer. An anonymous ad in the music paper Melody Maker for a “Genesis type singer” received 400 plus replies. But nothing came of it and they entered the studio without any idea as to who would sing the songs on the album.

Eventually, Collins was persuaded to sing “Squonk”. The performance was so strong, that the lead singer position in the band was put to bed, with Collins singing lead on the rest of the of the album.

Phil Collins is on drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals. Steve Hackett is on all things guitar related. Mike Rutherford is on bass guitar and Tony Banks is on all things keys related.

Dance On A Volcano

Written by the band.

I like the intro, a fusion of rock and blues and it’s a touch progressive as it moves between the verse and chorus. It was also the first song written for the album.

Entangled

Written by Hackett and Banks.

It’s got this chord in the song, in which they play the G# as the root note on the low E string, and an then an F# and A# on the 4th and 3rd strings with the open B and open E strings ringing out.

The first time I heard a chord like that was in the song “Another Day” from Dream Theater on their 1992 “Images and Words” album, but then when I started to go back and listen to the influences of Dream Theater, I started to hear that chord in the music of Rush and then Genesis, to name a few.

Squonk

Written by Rutherford and Banks.

I like the music feel on this. It was pretty obvious the band was trying hard to write their own “Kashmir”.

Lyrically it is based on the North American tale of the Squonk which, when captured, dissolves in a pool of tears.

Mad Man Moon

Written by Banks, it sounds like it could be interchanged with an ELP album. Its indulgent with the piano and if that is your thing, then this song is perfect for you.

Robbery, Assault and Battery

It’s like a theatre song, mostly written by Banks, while Collins, who also contributed to the writing, sang the song in character, inspired by his earlier role as the “Artful Dodger” in “Oliver!” before he became a professional musician.

If you like theatre music, then you will like this song.

Ripples…

It’s a combination of a 12-string guitar piece composed by Rutherford and a piano-led middle section written by Banks. “Tears” from Rush comes to mind, which is more superior.

A Trick of the Tail

Written by Banks it’s the best song on the record. It took form as a song many years before the band recorded it.

He was inspired from reading the novel “The Inheritors” by William Golding and “Getting Better” by the Beatles, and wrote about an alien visiting Earth. The pop rock of what Genesis would become in the 80’s is all here, albeit a bit more quirky than the 80’s polish.

Los Endos

The closer written by the band. It pays homage to the progressive past of Genesis while bringing in enough influences of where the band would go in the later years.

Collins came up with the basic rhythmic structure, inspired by his work in the side project Brand X and the song “Promise of a Fisherman” by Santana.

Banks and Hackett wrote the main themes, including reprises of “Dance on a Volcano” and “Squonk”, and Collins sang a few lines from “Supper’s Ready” (from the 1972 album “Foxtrot”) on the fade-out, as a tribute to Gabriel. The opening piece was actually recorded for a completely different song called “It’s Yourself”, which was later released as a B-side.

The track became a live favourite, and it continued to be played throughout.

Post album release, the group went out on tour with Collins as the front man and Bill Bruford as the additional drummer, and the resulting performances in the US raised Genesis’ profile there.

Chart wise, it charted high in both the U.S and U.K markets.

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1976 – Part 4.5: The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inner Worlds

The Mahavishnu Orchestra were a jazz fusion band formed in New York City in 1971, led by English guitarist John McLaughlin.

The group underwent several line-up changes throughout its history across two stints from 1971 to 1976 and 1984 to 1987.

The first line-up which consisted of musicians Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird, the band received its initial acclaim for its complex, intense music consisting of a blend of Indian classical music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and its dynamic live performances between 1971 and 1973.

After the original group dissolved, it reformed in 1974 with a new cast of musicians behind McLaughlin:

“Inner Worlds” came out in 1976. It’s the group’s sixth album release and it would be the last album by them for nearly ten years, when leader and guitarist John McLaughlin re-formed the group in 1984.

All in the Family

The song is written by John McLaughlin who also plays guitar and guitar synth. Stu Goldberg is on all things keys related.

Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and the star of the song is Narada Michael Walden on Drums, congas, bass marimba and shaker.

And the reason why Walden is the star is because the song opens with a drum solo before it moves into a fast jazz like beat. Its chaotic as all the instruments come in and somehow it all makes sense. Progressive rock is the best way to describe it.

There is this section between 3.25 and 3.45 in which McLaughlin and Goldberg play this fast unison lead line and I like it.

Miles Out

It’s written by John McLaughlin who plays all things guitar and a special instrument called the “360” systems frequency shifter. It’s actually not an instrument, but an effect. These days, it would be in a stomp box, but back then it was a pretty large unit.

You hear it in action in the Intro and throughout the song. Stu Goldberg is on the Mini-Moog and Steiner-Parker synthesizers, Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and Narada Michael Walden on drums.

I like the bass intro from Goldberg, it’s creepy like, and funky. McLaughlin plays a staccato like guitar riff, which is more funk and reggae like. When he activates the frequency shifter, it sounds chaotic but the drumming of Walden is super-fast, technical and on point. Somehow it makes sense.

In My Life

Written by John McLaughlin and Narada Michael Walden.

John McLaughlin is on 12-string acoustic guitar, Stu Goldberg is on backing vocals, Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and Narada Michael Walden is on the piano and drums, along with the lead vocals.

It’s a poor song and the lyrics are very childish, like seriously, they sing “thank you for the fish in the sea”. A skip for me.

Gita

Written by John McLaughlin and it’s another song with vocals that doesn’t connect with me.

Morning Calls

A short one minute piece, written by John McLaughlin who plays guitar synthesizer and Narada Michael Walden who plays organ.

It sounds Oriental and Celtic like but it’s another skip for me.

The Way of the Pilgrim

Written by Narada Michael Walden and it’s got some intricate instrument sections, but this far in, these kind of passages are starting to sound same same.

River of My Heart

Written by Kanchan Cynthia Anderson and Narada Michael Walden.

There is no guitar on this, with Ralphe Armstrong on double bass and Narada Michael Walden on Piano, Lead Vocals and Percussion.

But it’s a skip for me.

Planetary Citizen

Written by Ralphe Armstrong, this song could have been on a Stevie Wonder album. It’s got that blues, jazz funk fusion happening.

And are you ready to be a planetary citizen?

Lotus Feet

Written by John McLaughlin. I like this instrumental.

There is a guitar that plays arpeggios and a MiniMoog playing a lead break with percussion as the foundation.I

It sort of reminds me of “Albatross” from Fleetwood Mac, the Peter Green version of the band.

Inner Worlds

The title track. Part 1 is written by John McLaughlin and Part 2 by Stu Goldberg. But it’s a bit of mess and that Frequency shifter gadget is just noise to me, however it would have been cool to have that whooshing effect back in the day.

In the end, there are better Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, which we will get to as I work my way back through history.

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Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Australian Method Series: Karnivool – Asymmetry

Atonal. It means not written in any key or mode.

It’s one way to describe this album musically.

But it’s not the correct word either as the album is full of melody and atmospheric melodic passages.

The voice even acts as an extra instrument in some songs with the Ohhhs and ahhs.

Karnivool are pushing boundaries here. There are no genres you can use except the word progressive.

But progressive in the sense of how the songs are stuctured and arranged. Because when people think of progressive rock, they think of virtuosos playing super fast passages over complex time changes.

Even progressive is not the correct word.

The band was burnt after a massive worldwide tour in support of their second album, “Sound Awake”, so they took a break in 2010.

Vocalist Ian Kenny started work on his, Birds of Tokyo project.

The band would get together on occasions over a two year period and write the album.

“Asymmetry” is the third studio album by Karnivool released in 2013.

Produced by Nick DiDia, he got the band of Ian Kenny (Vocals), Drew Goddard (Guitar), Mark Hosking (Guitar), Jon Stockman (Bass) and Steve Judd (Drums) to fire on all cylinders and record the album in 3 months.

It divided people.

One review I read said that the band needed someone to tell them “No”. Another review said to “listen to this album with headphones to fully appreciate the album”.

Aum

It’s a short atmospheric ambient introduction that’s hard to even hear.

Nachash

The words “Hash” and “Nac” is backwards for Can and it sounds like they used hash writing this.

A.M.War

The drumming is dominant, the bass is distorted and progressive while the guitars feel jagged and grey.

Vocally, Kenny is channeling his love of Maynard from Tool.

At some stages it’s hard to keep track of the beat as the tempo competes with the other instruments.

There is a lot happening so press play.

We Are

The single.

If you like funk and the kind of funk that Omar Rodriguez is known for, then you will like this.

Stockman rumbles throughout on the bass and Kenny is singing with passion.

Goddard and Hosking are going nuts decorating on guitars.

Like all albums that are classed as progressive, this song is like the commercial song. If you want to call it that.

The Refusal

Bass guitarist Jon Stockman does the screaming vocals. It feels dystopian and industrial. Almost like early Tool.

Aeons

It’s atmospheric and echoey with fast picked guitar notes in the beginning.

The song moves between full heavy sounds and clean tone sounds. And by the time the 6th minute rolls around and Kenny is singing about chemical fires signaling our death, you can only press repeat.

Eidolon

It’s like Muse but like the other songs, there is so much going on.

Sky Machine

This is how the live child of Tool and U2 would sound like.

Amusia

A little interlude that sets up the next song.

The Last Few

The love child of Tool and The Mars Volta.

It feels frantic yet restrained.

Float

Psychedelics are back. Kenny’s vocal is like an instrument throughout the song.

Alpha Omega

Tool and Led Zeppelin this time get together and out comes “Alpha Omega”.

Om

A weird way to finish the album with a spacey instrumental

In Australia it went to number 1 and a Gold certification.

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Music, My Stories

2021 – Not As Good As I Expected

It’s always unpopular to have an opinion on an album that isn’t favorable.

Liquid Tension Experiment – III

John Petrucci delivered a great solo album in 2020, but when LTE reformed with Petrucci, Portnoy, Ruddess and Levin, the “III” album didn’t have the same impact as the first two LTE albums which I saw as ground breaking instrumental albums.

The first two albums were released in the late 90s and they came out at a time when most instrumental artists brought in an industrial sound to their albums because that sound is what was popular however LTE didn’t conform to what was popular.

Songs like “Acid Rain”, “Paradigm Shift” and my favourite “Universal Mind” which Petrucci borrowed from for “Happy Song” are instrumental masterpieces.

And the deeper you dig into the first two albums you’ll hear other awesome tracks like “Kindred Spirits”, “Freedom Of Speech” and “When The Water Breaks”.

But if you do want to press play on a track from this album, then “Blink Of An Eye” is the one. It’s got this groove that it’s intoxicating and it sets the foundation.

Trivium – In The Court of The Dragon

I’m a big fan of Trivium and in April 2020 just when lockdowns started around the world, they dropped the excellent “What The Dead Men Say”.

And they couldn’t tour behind it. Matt Heafy did a side project and the band got together and wrote another album.

Which didn’t have the same impact as “What The Dead Men Say”.

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

I will buy it as a Dream Theater fan so I can have it in my collection but it didn’t connect with me.

But like previous releases there are some nice instrumental sections.

I’m also not a fan of riffs created on the super heavy gauge of an 8 string guitar. It’s too low and muddled for my ears.

Black Veil Brides – The Phantom Tomorrow

It’s their third rock opera.

I really want to like it, but I couldn’t wait for each song to finish.

Bullet For My Valentine – Bullet For My Valentine

We fall in and out with our favorite artists.

At the moment I’m out with BFMV who I think are suffering an identity crisis.

George Lynch – Seamless

I purchased it as I have all of his recordings and while it was okay, I was expecting something else.

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

Top 10 – 2021: Part 2

And we continue the journey of 2021 releases.

Daughtry – Dearly Beloved

In 2012 Chris Daughtry had a decision to make after “Break The Spell”.

Should he stay with the same sound?

Should he change the sound completely?

Should he stay with the same sound but experiment with a few songs by bringing in different sounds?

“Baptized” came out in in November 2013 on RCA Records and it was an electro synth pop sounding album, a significant departure from the hard rock sound on their first three albums.

Like the previous albums, RCA farmed Chris Daughtry out to work with different writers. But while the writers previously had some rock pedigree, the writers on “Baptized” album specialized in other styles.

There is a song called “Long Live Rock N Roll” and it doesn’t even rock, as it’s more in the vein of “I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker”, an acoustic folk song which tells a story of growing up with a certain type of music.

Then came a “Greatest Hits” album in 2016 with two new songs called “Torches” and “Go Down.

“Torches” is actually a good bridge between the old sound and the “Baptized” sound,

The song “Go Down” has your typical catchy Daughtry vocal melody but it’s instrument sounds are routed in synth pop and electronica. Think of the band “Garbage”.

“Cage To Rattle” came out in 2018. 10 songs that total 38 minutes. RCA again was spending a lot of money for Chris Daughtry to write with so many outside writers in the quest to find hits.

But the record executives failed to understand is that Daughtry’s audience is predominantly made up of rockers. And there is a saying, when you’re chasing hits it don’t mean the hits would come.

Then Daughtry and RCA parted ways.

And Daughtry was back, louder and meaner.

“Dearly Beloved” is a return to form which shows the world that Daughtry still knows how to rock!!

Machine Head – Arrows In Words From The Sky

In October, Machine “Fucking” Head made 30 years! It’s a long time in the business. Music is a lifers game.

In the early 90s, Robb Flynn decided to quit the band he was in, to start Machine “Fucking” Head, so he could call the shots and not have to answer to anyone.

Throughout the years he’s had different versions of the band with “The Blackening” line up being the most favored and then the “Burn My Eyes” line up.

Over the last three years, Robb’s motto is simple. If he has a song, or two, he’s going to get it recorded and released.

In 2019, “Do Or Die” was released.

In February 2020, “Circle The Drain” came out.

In June 2020, the “Civil Unrest” single, featuring the tracks “Bulletproof” and the Jesse Leach collaboration “Stop The Bleeding” came out.

In November 2020, the stand alone “My Hands Are Empty” was released.

And on 11 June 2021, the 3-Song digital single, “Arrows In Words From The Sky” dropped.

In total 8 songs have been released. They could represent an album that came out today, but we all got to spend time with these songs when they came out and make em special at that particular point in time.

Centuries of pain, under a paper sword
Arrows in words from the sky

Check it out.

Joel Hoekstras 13 – Running Games

I am a Russell Allen fan. I knew of Allen long before I heard of Joel Hoekstra. Allen has a voice which can suit power symphonic bands, metal bands, melodic rock bands, hard rock bands, nu-metal bands and blues rock bands.

And I’m also a Jeff Watson fan, so I wasn’t too thrilled with any Night Ranger version without Watson. Then again Watson hasn’t done much being away from the band and I still want to hear new Night Ranger music.

So I still listened to Night Ranger and Hoekstra impressed but I felt he was restrained within that band as Blades and Keagy are the alphas.

And with Whitesnake, Coverdale has two great guitarists to write tunes with but they need to comply with what Coverdale desires.

Which means that Hoekstra 13 is the true Joel Hoekstra.

“Running Games” is album number 2 for his Frontiers label contract.

The band for the album is a supergroup are Russell Allen on vocals, Tony Franklin on bass, Vinny Appice on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards with Jeff Scott Soto doing backing vocals. Yep, you read that right, the great JSS is doing backing vocals.

Overall Hoekstra’s songwriting is top level and the performances from the guys are excellent.

Check it out.

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

Top 10 – 2021: Part 1

2021 Top Ten

I suppose it’s that time to start providing some EOY lists.

I’ll start with what I see as my favourite ten albums, EP’s or Singles released for the year. And then there will be another posts on my Spotify listening habits for the year.

So here it goes.

Here is Part 1, which features my go to artists with 2021 releases and it’s not an numerical order.

The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II

“80’s Miami Vice Pop”.

Two of my favourite Kiss albums are “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” because they brought in other styles of music into the Kiss rock sound and somehow Kiss still made it sound like hard rock.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear that “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” are also the favourite albums for the guys in TNFO and how they see the song “Easy As It Seems” as the blueprint for a TNFO song.

And how can you knock back a song called “How Long” which has been described as “90s Deep Purple on cocaine”.

So if you grew up in the 80’s listening to hard rock and melodic rock, then you need to listen to this.

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Tom Englund is the mainstay, the founder, the main writer, the vocalist and also one of the guitarists.

Opener and first pre-release single, “Forever Outsider” showcases the power of the band at its metal best, while the second pre-release single “Eternal Nocturnal” showcases the power of the band at its hard rock best with sing-along Choruses and Henrik Danhage stealing the spotlight with his unbelievable, shredalicious and memorable solo spotlight.

“In Absence Of Sun” is heartfelt, melancholic, mournful and emotive while “You From You” has this Michael Schenker ballad like vibe in the intro.

Check it out.

Dee Snider – Leave A Scar

Dee Snider has a voice for heavy metal.

A simple dare from Jamey Jasta, brought forth “For The Love Of Metal” and it caught a lot of people by surprise.

“Leave A Scar” carries forth the metal torch.

With tracks like “I Gotta Rock (Again)” the intro riff from Bellmore is excellent and the drum groove smashes you awake.

Be a lifer til I’m done

But “Silent Battles” is my favorite track on the album.

The guitar riff to kick off the song reminds me of all the good things I like about the 80’s. I’m hearing George Lynch, EVH, a bit of Vito Bratta and Nuno Bettencourt.

Don’t leave your mark, leave a scar

There aren’t a lot of artists in their mid-60’s producing quality music like this. Dee Snider is doing it and he’s making it look very easy.

The Bellmore brothers are underrated talents as songwriters and instrumetalists, on the guitar and drums.

Check em out.

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1996 – Part 4.6: Steve Vai – Fire Garden

I sort of lost track of Steve Vai in the mid 90’s along with all the other instrumental guitarists I was into.

“Fire Garden” is his fourth studio album, released on September 17, 1996 through Epic Records.

As described by Vai in the liner notes, Fire Garden is a concept album divided into two “phases”.

“Phase 1” comprises tracks 1–9 and is entirely instrumental while “Phase 2”, features Vai on vocals on every song except the instrumental “Warm Regards”.

There’s a Fire in the House

The start of Phase 1.

This feels like it could have come from a Whitesnake album. David Coverdale would have had a nice time coming up with lyrics to the riffs here as it’s got that heavy rock feel from the “Slip Of The Tongue” album which although Steve Vai didn’t co-write, he recorded all the guitars for.

The Crying Machine

I like the funky rock on this and Vai’s lead for what I call the “verses” is excellent.

Then it moves into a Blues and Funk Rock fusion solo section.

Dyin’ Day

This song is listed as a co-write with Ozzy Osbourne as it was written during the writing sessions for Osbourne’s 1995 album “Ozzmosis”.

Another song from those sessions, “My Little Man”, made its way onto the “Ozzmosis” record and is credited on that album as being co-written by Vai.

I don’t know what Osbourne could have written on an instrumental song, however I am pretty sure contractually Vai had to add him as a co-writer.

How good is the acoustic guitar riff to start it off?

Whookam

Useless track of backward vocals.

Blowfish

Great track, with a groovey riff which wouldn’t be out of place on a Joe Satriani album.

The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tiera’s Lover

A minute of Steve Vai doodling and it’s somehow a track. More like a solo section spot light.

Hand on Heart

It’s a romantic power ballad instrumental. Press play on it.

Bangkok

Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. Yep it’s those Abba dudes. The sound of flies starts it all off and the flies get louder and louder and louder and then the music comes in, more soundtrack like with a classical exotic feel.

It’s a great track which segues into the best track on the album.

Fire Garden Suite

It clocks in at 9.56 and it has four parts in “Bull Whip”, “Pusa Road”, “Angel Food” and “Taurus Bulba”.

It reminds me of the progressive rock fusion of Al DiMeola and Dream Theater. It’s some of his best music.

Definitely press play on this.

This song also has Mike Mangini playing drums on it.

And Phase 1 ends here.

Deepness

Phase 2 begins here.

A 47 second song that features some vocals from Devin Townsend, actually more yeahs and ahhs then vocals.

Little Alligator

Vai’s take on the Blues is very Mixolydian and Lydian like instead of Pentatonic.

All About Eve

Vocally, Vai sounds very Alternative Rock like. But musically, it feels like I am listening to a Dream Theater album.

Aching Hunger

It sounds like a Prince song, like “When Doves Cry”.

Brother

Emotional song, with Vai’s attempt on Southern Country Rock sounding modern and great.

Damn You

I like the riff that starts it, and before bands like Stone Temple Pilots blew us away, I guess Steve Vai was already doing it.

When I Was a Little Boy

It’s a skip for me.

Genocide

It’s a weird title for a song which sounds like a stadium rock song.

Warm Regards

A relaxed ballad instrumental jam to end the album.

And the personnel for the album is extensive. Steve Vai plays a lot of instruments plus he produced it and engineered it and wrote it. He had five drummers come in. The bulk of the drums are done by Deen Castronovo, with Mike Mangini playing a couple of tracks and Chris Frazier, Greg Bissonette and Robin DiMaggio providing drums on a track each. Steve Vai plays most of the bass, but that funky bass on “The Crying Machine” is played by John Avila and Stuart Hamm appears on “Dyin’ Day”.

Phase 1 is exceptional.

Phase 2 is Vai trying to do things a bit different and add vocals to his solo career which didn’t connect.

In the end, the album is a fusion of so many different styles that it almost can be labelled a prog rock record.

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2001 – Part 4.6: Within Temptation – Mother Earth

Within Temptation is a Metal band from Holland.

Their style of Metal has symphonic influences.

It was “The Heart Of Everything” album released in 2007 that made me a fan especially the song “What Have You Done”. And I wanted to hear more.

“Mother Earth” is the second studio album released on 24 December 2000 in the Netherlands, and 21 August 2001 in other parts of Europe.

It was a sleeper hit in Holland, reaching the number 3 spot, two years after it’s release and in the backs of the second single “Ice Queen”.

Wikipedia tells me how the band was enthralled by a movie at that time called “Braveheart” and the Celtic influences are very evident.

The band is Sharon den Adel on vocals, Robert Westerholt on rhythm guitar and vocals on “Mother Earth” and spoken words on “The Promise”. Michiel Papenhove is on lead guitar, Jeroen van Veen on bass, Martijn Westerholt on keyboards and Ivar de Graaf on drums.

Mother Earth

It’s soundtrack music. Medieval like “Braveheart”.

Ice Queen

It’s a hard rock song, with the symphonic elements. Vocally Sharon den Adel is very Kate Bush like and early Pat Benatar.

Our Farewell

It’s a piano piece. Evanescence would become famous on their “My Immortal” ballad, but Within Temptation was doing it earlier.

Caged

The start reminds me of “The Last Samurai”.

The Promise

When the distorted guitar riff kicks in with the Symphony, I am reminded of S&M from Metallica.

Never-ending Story

A piano riff that keeps reminding me of movies.

Deceiver of Fools

The symphonic choir starts it off. When the vocals come in, they are operatic.

But Press play on this to hear how the guitars kick in at the 2 minute mark. Powerful and emotive.

Intro

It’s like a horror/thriller soundtrack.

Dark Wings

This song is excellent. A mixture of progressive Metal with the symphonic

Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon plays the guitar solo.

But press play to hear Sharon den Adel do these exotic like ohs and ahs vocals between 1.50 and 2.20.

In Perfect Harmony

The song is in a Major key so it has that happy vibe to end the album. You know those end scenes in movies when the goodies have won and the end credits roll.

By the end of it, I felt like I was at the movies. The music is cinematic and grand.

And the rise was starting. Austria, Belgium, Holland, German, Norway and Switzerland were on board. This is how artists did it. A few places at a time.

In relation to certifications, the album was certified Platinum in Holland and Gold in Belgium and Germany.

Check em out.

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