It’s the opening track, released in 1995 on the “Out of my Tree” Sykes album. No one even knows it. On YouTube, a couple of fan accounts have it and combined, the number of views are less than 10,000. It is on Spotify, however no one is listening to it.
0.00 to 0.09
It’s the simple E note staccato guitar riff that sets up the bluesy groove. I’m talking about “Cowboys From Hell” style staccato where you take bluesy grooves and metal them up. It just grabs you from the outset.
0.10 to 0.16
It quickly transitions into a Motorhead “Ace Of Spades” style riff, however while Ace Of Spades is all speed, this one has more swing and groove.
In “Ace Of Spades”, Fast Eddie Clarke holds an E5 power chord (E,B notes) then a Eflat5 power chord (E, B flat notes) and then A/E chord (E, A notes) over an E pedal point. In “Soul Stealer”, John Sykes plays B flat, B octaves and then B, to B flat to G octaves over an E pedal point.
Those 16 seconds are a lesson in song writing through experiences, influences and time spent in the business. All the excess fat is trimmed away, and in 16 seconds you have a kick-ass lean riff that makes you sit up and take notice.
0.17 to 0.39
It starts off with the Intro B riff and then moves into an Em blues chromatic descending riff (which would become the Chorus riff later) and picked back up by some C to G chords on the first run through on the second run through, Sykes plays ascending power chords, B5, C5, C#5 and D5.
Cold hearted woman
Boy she gonna mess with your mind
Cold hearted woman
Take you to the highest high
Love you till the morning
Shake it through the night
Share your darkest secrets
Make you feel all right
The clichéd lyrics take away from the music. In my book, the lyrical message could make or break a song.
For example, as good as the music was from Randy Rhoads, if Bob Daisley wrote lyrics about getting laid and had “please” rhyming with “knees” and “Crazy Train” was called “Wicked Whore” or something silly, then all of that great music that Rhoads created would be lost in the lyrical message. But the lyric line “Goin off the rails like a crazy train” is universal and it will never sound dated. The lyric line, “Go ahead and Jump” is universal and it will never get dated.
Dokken is one band that had lyrics on certain occasions that didn’t do justice to the music of the song. “Unchain The Night” is a perfect example. Musically, it is brilliant. The vocal melodies are strong. The lyrics, blah. Does anyone know how you can chain up the night, so that you can then write a song about unchaining it?
Regardless of what is said about rock music and grunge, by 1995, rock music was still VERY POPULAR to write and still a big seller, however the lyrical content and the look was very different to the Seventies and Eighties and it needed to be more in the alternative/grunge vein.
Pearl Jam is a bloody good rock band, regardless of which city they came from. Alice In Chains are a good rock band. Both of those bands sold well. Megadeth sold well during this period. Dream Theater sold well during this period. However their lyrics, weren’t derivative of the Seventies classic rock and the Eighties Glam/Hair Metal movement.
Check out the lyrics to the song “Black” from Pearl Jam as an example of writing about a woman/relationship that isn’t clichéd and derivative of the Eighties/Seventies movement.
In saying that, while David Coverdale was probably the most broken-hearted singer out there, John Sykes is the singer that dealt with cold-hearted and black-hearted women. It became a recurring theme that appeared on each release.
0.40 to 0.47
The Chorus riff was introduced in the verses briefly, so when it comes up in the Chorus it is not unknown to the listener. This is a brilliant piece of song writing musically.
Cause she’s a soul stealer
Gonna steal your heart away
Breakdown (which is the Intro A riff again)
1.19 to 1.26
That intro E staccato riff is back again.
1.27 to 1.57
John Sykes first and foremost is a lead guitarist. But in 1995, the lead guitarist was not the focal point of the band. The guitar poses and facial expressions didn’t cut it anymore. However, you can’t take away a person’s ability to shred. It’s like a fast car. You can crank it from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. John Sykes wasn’t about whammy bar theatrics and sweep picking. He was all about the pentatonic scales. First and foremost, the lead had to be melodic and not just a finger exercise.
It’s a simply rock song but musically, a very busy and well-orchestrated song. It wasn’t made for radio airplay. It was made for the fan to enjoy the craftsmanship of an exceptional guitar player and song writer.
“Out of My Tree” was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally. Sykes did not fit into the system, which now wanted industrial and alternative rock. With any album release back in 1995, an artist needed to have the right people behind it, to push and promote it. The mere fact that the album was geo-blocked from worldwide release and only available as an import in a lot of countries is evidence that the wrong record label was behind it.