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

2018 – Legends Will Rise – Part 1

It’s time to start the year in review.

Here is the playlist for all the songs.

I have over 150 songs saved, and I’ve broken my comments on each song over a few posts.

When Legends Rise
Godsmack

It’s the title track. Generic nu-Metal in the music, but those vocal melodies from Sully Erna are addictive.

Legs are tired
These hands are broken
Alone I tried
With words unspoken
A silent cry
My breath is frozen
With blinded eyes
I fear myself

It’s the mindset that makes it happen. If the mind believes it’s possible, you will find a way to make it possible, even when your body screams stop.

It’s burning down
It’s burning high
When ashes fall
Legends rise

When your backs against the wall, when you have that last play, that last punch, that last kick, that last run left to do, the ones who succeed are the ones who have failed before.

I played it to my kids and they immediately connected with the lyrics.

Eye Of The Storm
Godsmack

In the eye of the storm I make my stand
But I’m not waiting for the walls to close in
I just brace myself for the winds to change their ways

Great analogy about the chaos of life we face everyday.

Forever And A Day
Gathering of Kings

The song is written by Victor Olsson. Actually all of the songs are written by Victor on this album and there is hardly a mention of him in the news, sort of like how Alessandro Delvecchio is the silent partner in Frontiers project.

This project is like a Steely Dan project in Swedish Melodic Rock circles with musicians from The Night Flight Orchestra, Spiritual Beggars, Treat, Eclipse, Corroded, Saffire and Pretty Maids all involved.

What can I say I’m a sucker for tunes like this.

Through
Remember Me
Gioeli Castronovo

Another Frontiers Records project of getting certain people together to deliver a melodic rock album written by Alessandro Delvecchio.

And how cool does the “Heavens On Fire” vocal melody sound over different chords on “Through”.

Sorry
Stryper

One thing about Stryper is they are still in the game, releasing albums and each one has a classic song or two on them with some killer guitar playing.

Like the lead break on this song.

Check it out.

Monolith
Thirty Seconds To Mars

It’s only a minute and thirty seven seconds instrumental, but it’s enough. It couldnt be any longer as it sets a feel and emotion of something big to come.

Great Wide Open
Thirty Seconds To Mars

Into the great wide open
Across a land of blood and dreams

I remember when Dad and my older brother got our first family car, which was a shitty Mitsubishi L300 Van. It just felt like all the borders and city limits evaporated and suddenly we were traveling into the great wide open.

Live Like A Dream
Thirty Seconds To Mars

Live like a dream
Broken but free

Life is tough. It tries to break us, make us obey and it tries to make us fit a mold made by someone else.

Burn
W.E.T

Get ready to be sent back to the mid 80s in another Frontiers Melodic Rock Project.

Calm Before The Storm
Light The Torch

Howard Jones delivers a stellar vocal performance that deals with addiction.

The nights are getting colder
The days are growing long
And you do not know what you’re fighting for
Come back to where you started
Come back where you belong
And I won’t be your calm before the storm

How good is the Chorus vocal melody?

This Is War
Audrevolution
Blackout

Audrey Horne

From Norway.

I’m fuel to the fire
Flame rising higher
This is war
We we’ll never be silent
Or divided
This is war

When I turn to the news pages on the web, there is so much abuse of power.

Bankers are abusing their position, getting rich by selling debt. Politicians are abusing their positions to cater for corporations instead of the people who voted them in. People in power abusing their positions for sexual gratitude and if the victim doesn’t comply, they railroad their career.

So what can the rest of us do?

Do we just stand divided, so focused on our ones and zeroes in our bank accounts or do we get together and make change.

It’s up to us.

Welcome to the Audrevolution
666 our own constitution

I sing the 6-6-6 with drink-drink-drink.

A Love Unreal
Black Label Society

My review of this song is here and that guitar solo.

Luminary
Juno

Tesseract

Progressive rock has come a long way from its 70s explosion. To me a song can be in 4/4 and still be progressive. TesseracT sit someone in between with their off beat polyrhythms, atmospheric guitars or jarring guitars with melodic vocals.

Are you alone, locked inside
That prison in your head?
You walk through the crowd
Lost in the sound
Invisible to every passing eye

It’s a symptom of the times. We are connected socially by digital means but when in public, we put our headphones on, keep to ourselves and get lost in the crowd, with our thoughts to keep us company.

Walls Come Down
Pink Cream 69

A German act.

You never tried to soften your words
Twisted your terms, took us for fools
And all you know is what you’ve been told

Upbringing, family and the social class you keep as you grow are all pivotal in how you understand the world.

If there is a racist in your circle, you will have racist views. If their is a climate change denier in the group, you will have denial views as well.

And when you come across people with views that differ, how do you respond. Do you yell back with your own views?

The Peace
WASP

Blackie can sure write a kick arse ballad. You can read my review here.

Behind A Mask
Machine Head

Another song which I have covered in a separate blog post.

Right Left Wrong
Strange Days

Three Days Grace

So here I go
Left right left
Right left wrong
I don’t know where I’m going
But I just keep moving on
Moving on

So true. Wandering aimlessly without a thought. You know you need to get away but to where.

Raise a glass to the end of it all
Who’s to blame when it’s everyone’s fault?
And we celebrate our way through dangerous times
Strange days are comin’ for us
Say goodbye to the way that it was
And we celebrate our way through dangerous times

The times in a nutshell. We are comfortable and oblivious to all the shit we allow people in positions of power get away with. To raise our voice, to demonstrate, means to be uncomfortable and the majority just want comfort.

No Surrender
Judas Priest

The riff hooks me and then the chorus lyrics seal the deal.

Chasing a dream as I go higher
Playing it mean, my heart’s on fire
Living my life, ain’t no pretender
Ready to fight with no surrender

Yeah it all rhymes and it’s simple and it’s dumb and i fucking dig it.

Next Few Steps
Surrender The Crown

From Germany.

I know for a fact that duty always bounds to love

Duty means a responsibility or a task of action that one is required to perform as part of ones job.

So when Love gets in the way, get ready for duty.

Transition
CrashCarBurn

From South Africa and they’ve been rocking since 2006. They came into my listening headspace back in 2014 because of piracy.

And since then I’ve been a fan on Spotify. This is from the new album “Headlights” and no one even knows about it.

Love Can Only Heal
Myles Kennedy

The feel of this song and the outro is what hooks me.

Nevermind the pain
‘Cause love can only heal
If only you could trade the dark for light it might reveal
That there’s a place inside
Don’t be afraid to feel
‘Cause love can only heal

Sometimes love is not enough especially when you don’t have it around you.

Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone
RSO

Orianthi kills it on this track. Her vocal line delivery is outstanding and her leads on the track is what legends are made off.

On Spotify it’s totally forgotten at 35K streams and on YouTube it’s sitting at 217K views. Still anemic for the quality in this song.

Creatures
Monsters

Shinedown

As they chase the charts with songs that don’t sound like Shinedown, let’s hope they don’t forget why they made the charts in the first place, by playing kick ass rock.

These two songs are how I like Shinedown to sound.

The Void
Chronos
Prey

Parkway Drive

From Australia.

This is the album that connected with me and it’s album number 6 from them.

Musically the riffs are there, bone crushing when they need to be and melodic when they need to be.

No Masters
Bad Wolves

This is a great song with lyrics that connect.

Back on that chain gang, strumming along
Hammering nails so I can sing my song
The devil done this to me
I drive the spikes down, profound
Building the cages that all broke us down
Boy get back down on your knees

As Sebastian Bach from Skid Row belted out, “how can I be king of the world if I’m a slave to the grind”.

So why are we spending our time building someone else’s dream instead of ours?

So take these chains from me
We’ll break these bastards
There’s no masters here

Sounds great on paper but reality is so much different. As much as we said we’re not gonna take it, we did take it and became slaves in the process.

A thousand boots down on the ground
Beating a drum under a marching sound
You better fucking believe
They’re screaming left right, left right
Fist in the air you better pick a side
Against the plutocracy

Plutocracy means government by the wealthy. And god damn it, it’s true. If the politicians are not wealthy, their faceless sponsors are.

Because even though politicians are voted in by the people, they refuse to serve the people, while the bend over for the corporation and their lobbyists.

Stay tuned for the other parts to come..

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

Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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

It’s A Singles World

All of the “billions lost” post Napster can all be tracked back to the SoundScan era. According to Wikipedia, on May 25, 1991, Billboard started to use SoundScan data to work out the Billboard 200 Top Albums. Finally the music industry had a proper sales metric to gauge what was popular.

Prior to the SoundScan era, the charts were formulated by an honesty system from every record shop in the land. This meant that the manager of the record store had the power to decide what was popular. So the record labels swooped in and started corrupting the process.

But when it all went to SoundScan data, the record labels saw a lot of people were buying metal, rock and country than the old corrupted honesty system claimed.

Metallica had a large audience before the “Black” album came out, however their “sales” just didn’t match the concert attendances. Why would a record store manager tell Billboard that a band who had no MTV presence was moving product out especially when the same record store manager is encouraged by record label executives to report something different.

And like everything else in music, the record labels were dragged kicking and screaming into the new SoundScan era. SoundScan actually presented their proposal to the record labels in 1990 and of course the labels rejected their proposal. The MP3 technology was also presented to the record labels once upon a time before Napster and it was also rejected. But when Billboard made the deal with Soundscan a year later, the labels had no choice but to comply, although with much complaining. Gone was the “fixing” of the system by record label executives and “in” was the “people power” of the system, which put the careers of artists in the hands of consumers.

If this sounds familiar, Steve Jobs and Apple did the exact same thing to the record labels with the iTunes store.

Suddenly, the labels and the press had no idea what was happening.

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In the first month of the SoundScan era, Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” skyrocketed to number 1. In the space of two months, it was purchased over a million times. Trackable purchases, not inflated ones based on a store manager opinion.

For comparison, the self-titled debut album was listed to have sold “3 million” records under the good old honesty system. Really.

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And popularity is a monolith that dominates. If the album is selling and doing well, more people will turn to it. And in the internet era, this is so true. The chaos era means we return to what we know. Sure, we might listen to some obscure acts or certain scenes. Like for me, Swedish Hard/Heavy Rock has me hooked at this point in time. But that’s via my choice and not by some flash marketing campaign or by some feature in a magazine.

And the reason those acts are not getting rich is because just a few people are. It’s always been that the one percent of acts that become global underpin the whole industry. And SoundScan showed the recording industry just how global Metallica really is.

“Enter Sandman” comes out two weeks before the album release and it gets added to radio. Metallica have a listening party in Madison Square Garden. The song and the pending album release is building a buzz like never before. MTV takes notice and suddenly mainstream radio stations that play “pop” music have the single in rotation. The album comes out and it debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Suddenly, the “Black” album is selling by the hundreds of thousands. It’s trackable. And then, the back catalogue of Metallica started selling. Normal rock music lovers couldn’t avoid it. Pop fans couldn’t avoid it. Skater fans couldn’t avoid it. Suddenly fans of all genres are embracing Metallica.

I recently had a look at the recent RIAA certifications and it more or less confirms we are living in a “singles” world.

Check out all of the certifications that Shinedown received recently.

There is a platinum certification for “Simple Man”, a song released in 2004. This is what music is about. The longevity. 12 years later, people are still listening to the song and are still purchasing it. However, the record labels and a lot of misguided artists believe it’s about the instant payday. It’s not.

Next up is a Platinum certification for “The Sound Of Madness” single. Again, it’s been a long time between certifications but this song is a monster and as classic as anything from the classic rock era. Like “Simple Man” before, it’s about the longevity. 7 years later, it’s still listened to and it has close to 26 million streams on Spotify.

It’s just a matter of time before “Call Me” gets a certification and it was never even released as a single, however it has been streamed close to 33 million times on Spotify.

Then you have a few Gold certifications for the songs “Bully”, “The Crow And The Butterfly” and “Diamond Eyes”. “Bully” is a favourite of mine. It’s message is powerful.

 

Speaking of singles, Disturbed is killing it on the back of “The Sound Of Silence” and their album is moving units on the backs of their cover.

And Muse are now moving into album certification territory on the backs of some very large singles. “Absolution” gets a platinum gong, 12 years after it was released. Again, the longevity is more important than the payday.

So again, on the strength of a few songs here and there, artists are seeing an interest in their back catalogue. It happened to Metallica with “Enter Sandman”. It’s happening to Disturbed with “The Sound Of Silence”. It’s continually happening to Muse and Shinedown. This is music and music is for the lifers.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Certifications, Recorded Music and That Spotify/Sony Contract

I always have a decent laugh when I read music news. It’s always interesting to see how a news item gets copied across from website to website in my Google Alerts with no changes and no critical analysis.

Remember back in the day when all the rage was about how artists are struggling to achieve platinum certifications. All the commentary focused on the moment or within a 12 month period. It was like a platinum certification was the be all and end all.

Now, back in the Eighties, MTV made every act that got rotation into a platinum act. But that was not always the case.

“Ride The Lightning” was released in 1984 and it is my favourite Metallica album. It took five years to achieve a platinum certification. 28 years later, “Ride The Lightning” was certified 6x Platinum. Music simmers away and it just keeps on connecting. It’s not about corporate deals, or mega marketing campaigns. Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” album is proof. It competed with piracy and it still sold.

Anyway, the RIAA recently re-classed a “sale unit” to be a paid download or 100 audio/visual streams. Based on this new re-classification, did you know that Shinedown’s “Second Chance” was just certified triple platinum?

Not bad for a song that is 7 years old.

So what does this say about recorded music?

If a song connects with an audience, expect it to sell and be streamed. The facts are out there. It doesn’t happen overnight or in a year. In happens over decades.

“Second Chance” on YouTube has 9,766,633 views on the official Atlantic Records channel. Another YouTube user called “McDrinkable” has a lyric video up of the song and it has 2,749,110 views, while another unofficial YouTube user called “Dushan Galappaththi” also has their own lyric video and they have 957,103 views.

“Second Chance” on Spotify has 21,845,406 streams.

So what do we know?

We know that music is not about the instant payola. Great music that connects with an audience will be listened too and purchased for a long time.

The beauty of Shinedown is that a song that wasn’t a single has more streams than the hit radio songs. That song is “Call Me”.

But the record labels still push an agenda that piracy is killing their business, while they make millions upon millions in licence fees from the streaming music services.

If you don’t believe me, read this article on “The Verge”. The advances paid to the record labels do not filter back to the artists at all. But hang on a sec, the record labels have this power to negotiate with the techies because of the artists. And the artists get nothing in return. That, my friends is the recording business.

Which leads me to the dumb journalists and artists that rallied behind artists who spoke out against streaming services. Let me say it again, the streaming services are not the enemy here. The record labels still are.

Looks like Roger Waters never got the memo. Even APRA’s Brett Cottle doesn’t get it. He wants the government to fight against pirates, however it is the labels that are holding back royalties.

Times are a changing people, but the record labels refuse to change.

 

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

The New World

The new world is hard. I don’t know about you, but I just cant figure it out. We all complain that no one is asking hard questions for fear of being left outside alone and then when we get into a similar position we also succumb to those vices. It’s like we sell out our ideals to go mainstream.

But is anybody paying attention?

Did you see that Sixx AM put out a new album? They did something with iHeart Radio and the usual press interviews. But is anyone really paying attention. The youngsters have so much going on, they sit out unless it crosses over. And for the old Motley Crue fans, well albums require so much dedication of our time that unless it’s great and everyone is talking about it, we all just move along. “Modern Vintage” is a good album. For the record if I had to rate them, then the order the albums came out in is the way I would rate them.

And the tour will be a success, because the Crue fans have shown that they love to watch a live show more than buying an album. So expect Sixx AM to do well on the live circuit.

And just when you think that no one is paying attention, you hear that Shinedown chalked up another certification to their arsenal. While debates can be had on sales and certifications, what is impressive is that they kept on selling while out of the mainstream press. What is impressive is that they kept on selling while all of their music was available on Spotify, The Pirate Bay, Pandora, YouTube and so on.

Which goes to support what I have been saying all along?

The fans are the ones that make or break you.

For some artists, a thousand hard core fans is enough incentive to keep on making music, while for others it’s not. But you need to know where they are and you need to connect with them. In Shinedown’s example that connection happened when they asked their fans what songs they would like to see the band cover acoustically.

While no one seems to be paying attention to all the music coming out, it looks like streaming services are in a league of their own. Each day brings about another story on streaming services. In my view streaming services are the solution, not the enemy.

Spotify was always designed to compete with piracy, to monetise those users that pirated and it’s doing a pretty good job at it. They have put some serious money back into the recording industry. Prior to Spotify, the recording labels got nothing. It’s just a shame that those same labels don’t feed those monies back to their artists. Because if wasn’t for the artists the recording labels would not be in the position of power they are in right now.

But, as with everything, there are still misguided artists and labels who keep blaming theft and all kinds of bogeymen for their reduced sales. Take Spotify, YouTube and Pandora out of the industry and then what kind of state will we have. If they think that everyone is going to start buying CD’s again then they must think that the telegram will return.

But they fail to notice that we the fans have a) other interests, b) don’t like what they put out or only want the best, which means we cherry pick, c) don’t care about what they’re talking about or d) like to exercise choice.

It looks like people know “Shepherd Of Fire” and “Hail To The King” and don’t care much about the rest of Avenged Sevenfold’s album. And Five Finger Death Punch released a double album, but it looks like the fans care about a few select songs like “Lift Me Up”, “The Wrong Side Of Heaven”, “Watch It Bleed” and “Battleborn”. Which is a shame as those albums do have a lot of other good songs that deserve attention.

But that is the new world.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

If Money Is Not Filtering Down To The Artist, Whose Fault Is That?

There are still a lot of misguided people/entities in the recording industry that believe that they are immune to the changing times. Our world is constantly evolving. When will the recording industry accept that the landscape has changed.

Napster showed the recording industry what the fans of music want. The recording industry responded by shutting the service down. However, CD sales didn’t pick up as the recording industry would have hoped and what did happen was that the fans of music just went elsewhere. Suddenly there was Audiogalaxy, Limewire and KaZaA. Then came BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay.

In the end the customers just wanted free music. And even though Spotify and YouTube might give the illusion to the fan that music is free on their service, it is not. Spotify and YouTube do pay a large portion of their incomes to the rights holders.

Young people don’t purchase music the same way their parents and grandparents did. Access is more important than ownership. The car makers are being challenged at the moment as purchasing a car is no longer a rite of passage. The new housing market is being propped up by the older people, as young people are happy to rent or stay at home until their late thirties.

Spotify is a business based around access. This gives the fans greater choice whereas a purchase model takes away the choice of the fan and it makes them commit to which artist they would like to support. I remember walking into record stores, looking into my wallet to see how much cash I have and making decisions to maximise my cash with my purchases.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. More choice means confusion and the fan just doesn’t commit to anything or they revert to trusted filters or playlists.

It is in the best interest of the recording industry and artists that streaming services gain traction. Otherwise the fans will just go elsewhere and if you take away the free tier of Spotify or YouTube, then what.

Once Napster went to a paying service, did fans start paying for music again?

Of course not.

What about Rhapsody? It has been trading for at least ten years and it has failed to get mass appeal.

The struggles that the recording industries are facing today were already quite clear in 1997 to people paying attention. The focus of sales as a success metric had to be tweaked and worked together with a smart business model. What we have here is an inability to adapt to a changing market.

Today’s world is much better for bands starting out today than in the past because they don’t need to win over the gatekeepers. They can find their own audience. They can create their own business models and make a living — unlike under the old system, where you either hit it big or you gave up and went back to your day job.

Can someone please explain how getting people to stop listening to free music magically makes them start buying music again?

What will do that, however, are smarter business models and Spotify is one link in the NEW MUSIC ECONOMY.

Shinedown just received a gold certification for their album “Amaryllis”. That means their album has moved over 500,000 units in the U.S. They moved that many units while their music was available on Spotify, YouTube, P2P and other services that offer free-tier models. They toured for over 12 months on the backs of that album. Their business model isn’t just about sales as a metric of success.

I seriously struggle to understand the long-standing debate between Spotify and artists. The debate should be between artists and the Record Labels. The debate should be between artists and the Publishers. Spotify pays the rights holders (labels and publishers) 70% of their income. From the other 30% they make, a certain percentage goes to the record labels who are shareholders of the company. The record labels had the power to negotiate a shareholding stake because of the amount of copyrights they have amassed from the artists on their rosters.

Quincy Jones posted on Facebook that “Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy”. Daniel Ek put that into dollar terms. Piracy could lead to higher concert attendances and merchandise sales, however in relation to the recording industry, piracy yields a ZERO return. Spotify at the moment has paid TWO BILLION dollars to labels, publishers and collecting societies for distribution to songwriters and recording artists.

As I have mentioned before, if that money is not flowing to the artists in a clear transparent way, then whose fault is that. The streaming services or the record labels.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Songs Based On Inspiration Rather Than Logic

That is the difference between everlasting music and throwaway crap. You wanna know why Shinedown had a lot of success with “The Sound of Madness” in 2008. It’s because the songs were inspired and genuine. The audience loved the throwbacks to the classic rock of the Seventies. The fan base connected with the lyrical themes. Look at Spotify and YouTube and you will see that one of the most streamed/viewed songs from the album is “Call Me” and it wasn’t even a single.

You see, when fans get behind a band there are so many reasons why they do it. It could be a lifestyle choice. It could be a song connection. There is no exact formula, however the labels will still try to re-create those successes by signing many other bands in an attempt to emulate what Shinedown achieved with “The Sound Of Madness”.

Sort of like how Daughtry and James Durbin went off into the sunset to chase the pop trends of Coldplay, Casting Crowns and Train. Logic will tell you that if you write a song that is of similar calibre it will connect with an audience. But for both of those artists, it failed to pay off. “Baptism” and “Celebrate” both took a long time to complete and they more or less disappeared from the conversation within a week.

Why is “The End Of Heartache” from Killswitch Engage seen as an important album?

The reason why this album is seen as an important album and a classic is that it gave every guitar player hope for a future. The guitar playing on the album is phenomenal and it brought back metal to the masses in a major way. And with anything that is successful, people copy it and try to emulate that same success with other bands. The record labels saturated the market with copycat acts which more or less ensures that the metalcore movement suffers the same fate as the glam/rock movement. The media labelled it as metalcore. For Adam Dutkiewicz and crew, “The End Of Heartache” is basically a band that was refusing to dance to someone else’s tune.

“It’s almost like today’s songs are all written with the same formula – they have the same snare sound, the same bass sound and that generic heavy rock guitar tone.”
Jake E Lee said the above in an interview with Guitar World September 1991 issue.

Why do I mention it?

Because it is TRUTH.

Anyway remember the bands at the forefront of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Bands like Bleeding Through, Shadows Fall and Chimaira. All gone. God Forbid is also gone. After 15 years plus in the game, they couldn’t work out how to stay relevant, how to find new fans, how to maintain existing fans and how to create new music that cuts through the noise.

On a personal level, I supported Chimaira and Shadows Fall. On their last couple of releases I was getting the feel that their songs started to focus on a more logical structure. Robb Flynn recently referred to this situation as “samey”.

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Music

While My Depression Gently Weeps – Part 1 of The Music My Savior Chronicles

I gave up smoking in 2010. My last cigarette was at Thessaloniki Airport, Greece in August, 2010. I had the last drag, coughed and gagged like I was choking and said with determination that I quit.

I haven’t had a smoke since then. You see back in November 2008, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. For a 32 year old, this came as a big surprise. When I went into the doctors surgery complaining of migraines, my blood pressure was 170/120. This was on a Tuesday and the doctor said to come back on a Friday to see if it was just an off-spike. So what did I do after hearing this news.

I started drinking straight whiskey, three shots a day, believing that whiskey will ease the pressure readings. I walk into the Doctor’s office on Friday and proceed to sit down while the doctor puts the arm band on, presses start on the machine and I am confident that all will be well.

210/130. The Doctor’s eyes popped out of his head. He wrote referreals for echograms, cardio tests and blood tests for blockages, along with scripts for blood pressure meds. He asked me if I was a smoker and I said yes. He said to me to STOP immediately if I want to watch my kids grow up. He asked me to lose weight and to start taking the medication and to come back on Monday morning.

So of course, I started taking the medication however I didn’t stop smoking. On Monday, my blood pressure was at 150/110. Another type of tablet was added to my dose that involved two tablets in the morning and one at night. I went back on Friday and it was all better. 140/90.

I was still smoking and every month when I went for a check up the blood pressure was still up but “controlled” in my own twisted way. I was spending $90 on Blood Pressure medication a month, along with a $200 smoking habit. The good deeds of the medication was getting undone by the smoking habit.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I started coughing and gagging every time I had a smoke and eventually that year I stopped smoking. Apart from the blood pressure problem, I was in between houses, selling one house and building another house, while the Global Financial Crisis was happening all around me. On top of that, one of my boys was hospitalised on two occasions for urinary tract infections and had to undergo two procedures. I swear I couldn’t see the light at the end of this journey. To top it all off the band I created was splintering and I had so much money invested in it, I couldn’t walk away from it without the guys paying me back. So during this period 2008 to 2010, I started listening to music with sad and depressing lyrics.

Breaking Benjamin entered my life around this time. The “Phobia” and “Dear Agony” albums got played constantly.

Machine Head’s “Descend The Shades Of Night”, “Goodbye To Romance” from the Blizzard Of Ozz band (yep, every time I refer to the Randy Rhoads era it will be via the name Blizzard Of Ozz) and Megadeth’s “A Tout Le Monde” came back in my life.

And as depressing as some of the songs are they helped me through my own depressive period.

The reason why I started thinking about smoking is because I was at a party on the weekend and everyone smoked, making it very difficult to interact with the people.

20. Give Me A Sign

It is from the album “Dear Agony” by Breaking Benjamin released in 2009. On YouTube it has 7,088,460 views and on Spotify it has 1,229,610 plays. The song is a superstar in the modern metal and rock circles.

Daylight dies
Blackout the sky
Does anyone care?
Is anybody there?
Take this life
Empty inside
I’m already dead
I’ll rise to fall again

Benjamin Burnley sings the above over a slow haunting riff about losing his way and screaming for help, looking for the sign. My advice to myself from listening to this song is that “when it comes to the end, you have to let go”.

19. Break Away

It is from the album “The Illusion Of Progress” by Staind released in 2008. One YouTube channel has the song up to stream and it has been viewed 382,520 times.

Like a wheel
That keeps turning
If I could break away
From this moment
Break away
What is real
Break away
Never showing
Break away
How I feel
If I could break away

Apathy
The ignorance it brings
The tragedy
Of all these things
We keep repeating

I felt like the song was about me when I heard it in 2008. It is about repeating the same actions everyday, looking for a change and not having the guts to make it happen, believing that some deity in the sky will do it all for me.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that it was time to make the change and break away. By the end of 2010, the band was over (at a large financial loss to me), the house was finished and I had quit smoking. I made the change/s.

18. What A Shame

It is from the album “The Sound Of Madness” by Shinedown released in 2008. On YouTube, 4 channels have it up with a combined view count over 2.5 million.

Two packs of cigarettes a day
The strongest whiskey
Kentucky can make
That’s a recipe to put a vagabond
On his hands and knees

When I heard the opening verse, I said to myself, damn, that is me. That is exactly what I am doing. Brent Smith nails the emotion in this song. It is about his uncle and a beautiful song. So many of us are judged from everyone around us. It is wrong. Even I do it. Sometimes we all need some help and what we get is criticism instead.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is the chorus line; “What a shame, to judge a life that you can’t change.”

17. Broken Bones

“The Rev Theory” is a very underrated hard rock band. “Broken Bones” is from their 2008 release “Light Me Up.”

Caught in the confines of the simple life
And I am
Holding my head high in the rising tide
And I can’t win
And I can’t fight
I keep holding on too tight
Running away from the world outside

It’s the denial principle within us all. We run away from the problems we are facing by putting on a smile when all we want to do is cry. And when we have problems, the person that we need the most isn’t there to help or is there and doesn’t understand what the hell is going on, which is a shame.

I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
So far from home
I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
I’m so far away

This part is emotional. I know that the song is about a band member that they lost along the way, however when i was in hospital with a shattered foot waiting surgery to reconstruct it, this song got me through the days. Coming into 2010, I was in a dark place that I didn’t think I would survive to see the end of the year. “Broken Bones” helped me through it.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that I needed to get back home and realise that everything that loves me and everything that I love is right in front of me. Like the Three Doors Down song “Heaven” released in 2011 on the “Time Of My Life” album, “I didn’t have to let myself get so far gone, I didn’t have to make the ones I love feel so alone, I didn’t have to die to go to heaven, i Just had to go home.”

16. Let Me Be Myself

Three Doors Down nailed what I was feeling in this song. It was released in 2008, on their self-titled debut. To me it is all about doing what society and my family wants me to do, instead of doing what I want to do. You only get one chance at life, so why waste it living someone else’s life.

I guess I just got lost
Being someone else.
I tried to kill the pain,
But nothing ever helped.
I left myself behind,
Somewhere along the way
Hoping to come back around
To find myself someday

Life has its highs and lows, however I made the choices that got me in these situations. So when I made the choice to get married, the part of the word “me”, I should have left behind and focused on the word “we”. However for years, I focused on the ME and the I. Even after I had kids. Listening to this song when it came out, I said to myself, damn, this song nails my feelings.

Then listening to it at the end of 2010, my view was different. When the lyric states “I guess I just got lost being someone else”, I saw that as me being lost on how to be a dad, thinking I had to do things in a certain way because hey, everyone is a judge in life.

15. Alias

Released in 2009 by In Flames on the “A Sense Of Purpose” album.

Don’t tell me,
Tell my ghost,
Cause I blame him
For all I don’t want to know

In Flames are a great band. I love this song and the title and the Freudian lyrics.

We all keep the real part of us hidden. That is why we are able to adapt to different situations. The ghost is the face that the people all see. It is the mask that we all wear to keep ourselves protected from the truth.

Life’s wrapped in a riddle,
Easier said than done,
Hate to play the victim,
Rather run and hide.

It was time that I acknowledged that I was in fact my own victim. Only I could make the decision to change.

14. Wake Up

Story Of The Year are very underrated in the metal community. From the outset the band got labelled as Emo. However, to me I always saw them as a metal band. It took an album about “The Black Swan Theory”, released in 2008 that got my hooked.

So what is “The Black Swan Theory”. It is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight;

Wake up!
To the sound of this time bomb
Wake up!
To it’s deafening song
Wake up!
Cause you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone
Until it’s gone

With all the chaos in my life at that point in time, this song made me feel alive, calm and confident. It was like it understood me. The message was simple. Wake Up.

13. That Was Just Your Life

Call it the “Enter Sandman” riff backwards. Call the harmony guitars at about the 5.50 minute mark Thin Lizzy rip offs. Call it that they plagiarised “Jump In The Fire”. Call it a great song, to open up the “Death Magnetic”.

“Like a release from a prison that i didn’t know i was in”

What a brilliant lyric. That is what music is on the days where the blues kick in. A release from the prison we are in.

“I blind my eyes and try and force it all into place,
I stitch them up, see not my fall from grace.
I blind my eyes, I hide and feel it passing me by
I open just in time to say goodbye.”

Denial and acceptance of what I believe the version of the truth is. You can easily combine verses from so many different songs and come up with a new Buddhist mantra that is a hundred pages long.

12. The Forgotten

The last album of the Howard Jones Killswitch Engage era released in 2009 and what an album it is.

What have you given up will never return again
Now you’re dead inside I hope it was worth the cost

This is like looking in the mirror at your own reflection and asking yourself “was it worth it”. Sometimes it is better to be the forgotten.

11. The Unforgiven III

Set sail to sea, but pulled off course

A welcome return from Metallica. By 2009, I thought I was doing what I wanted to do and that I was going out to be the best that I could be in my own way, however, I started to see that I was getting side-tracked, following paths that I never should have walked on. By the end of 2009, I was frustrated and I got even more frustrated when I realised that the position I was in, was all of my doing. There was no one to blame except me.

These days drift on inside a fog
It’s thick and suffocating
This seeking life outside its hell
Inside intoxicating

Alcohol and tobacco. It’s easy to numb the feelings when you are intoxicated. The funny thing is that even the songs mentioned deal with dark subject matters, I saw a sense of hope in them and when Robb Flynn screamed “Music My Savior – Save Me” in “Darkness Within” two years later, I knew exactly what he meant.

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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

Randy Jackson from Zebra

No, not the American Idol judge. Randy Jackson from the band Zebra. He does Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!

It was Dream Theater’s cover of their song “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” in 2009 that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche. Something that Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the foresight for, as he thought tooth and nail to stop Shinedown covering “Wanted Dead or Alive”, believing that Shinedown’s cover song would take away income from the Bon Jovi original.

In an interview with The Great Southern Brainfart Randy Jackson was asked how did he feel about Dream Theater’s version and has Zebra seen a new horde of young fans because of it.

“Certainly. A lot of people who were unaware of Zebra were definitely made aware of us by Dream Theater doing that cover. We were really flattered that they did it. They stuck to the original version but added their own touch to it so I thought they did a great job with the song. I really liked it.”

Jackson founded Zebra in 1975. They had a very large following before their first record ever came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Like most bands in the later part of the Seventies and the early part of their Eighties, most of their fan base had been developed from their live shows.

In addition, the majority of the bands had been slugging it out for a decent time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. Look at Twisted Sister. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen. They might do it that for a few years and when nothing happens 90% of those artists would walk away. The 10% that continue are the ones that become lifers.

The follow-up album “No Tellin Lies” in 1984 stalled in the U.S and by 1986, their 3.V album wasn’t even noticed and Atlantic dropped them.

Zebra should have toured Europe after the second record got released, instead they stayed in the U.S and as Randy has said in a few interviews, it was probably their worst decision ever made. Maybe they never should have released the second album. As with all things in the music business, once a band has an unexpected hit, they are put under serious pressure to release a follow-up.

Zebra fell into this category, pressured and rushed to get album number 2 out. The label also didn’t ball in the promotion game. The fan base of Zebra was still in New York and Louisiana and that is where the promotion efforts should have been focused on. A lot of Zebra’s hard core fans didn’t even know that they had album number 2 out. .

As history would have it, they put out their second album and went on tour with “REO Speedwagon” and “Sammy Hagar” during 1984. Air play for the new album was not a lot compared to the self-titled album, so after the US tours, the band had to go back in and record album number 3.

This was February 1985. As Randy Jackson was writing the third album they also looked for a producer. The band couldn’t come up with anybody. For five months the band was in limbo. It wasn’t until December 1985 that the band hit the studio for album number 3. That was a false start and the band went back into pre-production to work on the material. Finally in February 1986 they went into the studio and stayed there until August of the same year. By then it was all over.

If Atlantic was hanging out Twisted Sister to dry, what did that mean for a band like Zebra?

The album “3.V” just died. Radio ignored it. The week that it was released was the same week that Bruce Springsteen released his live box set. Three months earlier, Bon Jovi released “Slippery When Wet” and that album was picking up some serious momentum by November 1986, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had broken world-wide as well. Radio put them in constant circulation.

The press didn’t want to give Zebra the time of day as “The Boss”, Bon Jovi and Europe became the darlings at that time. At this time as well, a lot of the radio program directors weren’t in charge of the play lists anymore and this really Zebra because back in 1986, bands really need airplay in order to get record sales. In addition, another program called MTV also ignored the band.

While most people would know Zebra by the songs “Tell Me What You Want” which Randy wrote it 1978 at 6:30 am after a gig at “Speaks” (New York) and “Who’s Behind the Door” that deal with the big questions about life there are other songs to sink your teeth into. There is the “Yes” inspired “The La-La Song”, “Take Your Fingers From My Hair”, “Lullaby”, “Time”, “Hard Living Without You”, “But No More” and “One More Chance”.

Then it was over. China Rain never got a fair shake. Randy Jackson finished the China Rain record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project.

From 1992 to 1996, Randy was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called “The Key”. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.

“Zebra IV” started recording in 1996. The drums were done in a week in 1996 and the rest of the album was done sporadically after that. In a MelodicRock.com interview, Randy said it was “a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years”.

The album didn’t see the light of day until 2003.

Throughout the Nineties, Randy built up his acoustic shows. Nobody wanted to book him in the beginning, even his trusted agents in New Orleans who had booked Zebra for 20 years rejected him. Now he is playing places like Japan and criss crossing the US and he hasn’t even put out a recording of the acoustic project. Yep, while labels and artist still believe it is about the album, here is Randy Jackson delivering a show that is spreading via word of mouth.

The same major labels who have been scared to search out and develop new music and bands. The rock that kids listen to today is the rock that we listened to growing up. Record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn’t think of trying something new. All they want is for their profits to sustain or get better, because in the corporate world that we live in today, everyone is replaceable.

In between Randy did “The Sign”, a melodic rock supergroup. He also handles the vocals for the wildly successful Symphonic Music shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eagles performing to packed houses across the country (from 1996).

He is a lifer in the music business. Prepared to do what he needs to do to get. He is 38 years deep in his music career. He didn’t get the fame that other bands did, however it didn’t mean he didn’t have success.

http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/randy_jackson.htm
http://thegreatsouthernbrainfart.com/?p=7752

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