Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

The KISS that rocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You send your children to war
To serve bastards and whores

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

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

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

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

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

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Music

White Lion – Mane Attraction

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Mane Attraction Review

Back Story

After the success of Pride and Big Game, Bratta and Tramp took time out to demo songs for Mane Attraction. All up the writing and recording process took two years. To me this is the most mature White Lion album. Mane Attraction was more thought out compared to Big Game, which was an album that was recorded and released in a very quick fashion as the label wanted to cash in on the band.

1991 – The Year of Change

1991 was a funny year. It has been written that all the labels and radio stations jumped on the grunge explosion and totally ignored the rock audiences during this time. That may be true; however other factors also played a part in the fall of hard rock, glam rock, glam metal, etc. The Metal Evolution series and its episodes on glam more cover this area in depth. Even Mike Tramp summed it up in an interview during one of his solo tours.

“Grunge didn’t kill commercial metal. Rather, commercial metal committed harakiri by copying itself so much that there was nothing original left. The eighties killed the eighties. In the end, every band cloned each other and copied each other so many times and there was no originality left at the end of the eighties and people just wanted an alternative. “

It happens with every scene. It starts off as a niche scene, one artist breaks out to the masses and then the labels are all chasing similar artists so that they can cash in. The market then becomes over saturated. Seriously how many bands started with the term White. Whitesnake was the original and then you had the rest. White Lion, White Tiger, White Cross, White Heart, White Diamond, White Eagle, White Russian, White Sister, White Trash, White Vision, White Widow and Whitefoxx.

The Competition

Mane Attraction was released in April 1991 as well as Temple Of The Dog’s tribute album to the Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood who died of a heroin overdose. In March Mr Big released Lean into It with the number 1 hit To Be with You. Skid Row released Slave To The Grind in June and Lollapalooza is launched in July. Metallica releases the Black Album and Pearl Jam releases Ten in August. Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion I and II and Nirvana’s Nevermind are released in September.

You can see that the album was already up against some stiff competition in the rock circles with Skid Row, Metallica (the biggest selling album of the SoundScan era), Mr Big and the GNR circus releasing big career defining albums and the rise of the Alternative Seattle Scene.

The Album

I remember borrowing the CD from a school mate as I was short on cash. Back in those days, people in my area where not sharing their music as the people that purchased the music felt cheated as to why they forked out $30 for a CD (yes that is how much we paid for CD’s in Australia) and the copier would fork out $3 for a blank cassette and dub it.

Regardless after much persuasion and promises that my mate could copy my Motley Crue collection, he coughed up the CD and I took it home. I remember putting it on my Sony CD Player, plugging in the headphones and just laying back.

Stand Outs

Lights and Thunder – It kicked things off. This was written as a fuck you to the label that was pushing the band to write hit songs. Coming in at 8 minutes long it’s far from a charting song. The album is produced by Richie Zito who is a guitarist himself, and in my view is the reason why Lights and Thunder sounds so heavy.

Let me take you to a place
Where everybody knows your face
There¹s no King and there¹s no Queen
And everything is like a dream
You can live in harmony
With those who were your enemy
You can do just what you want to
No one here will ever hurt you

No one bothered telling the above to all war mongers that kicked off the Gulf War and the Balkan War.

War Song – Again this is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your Civil War; it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”.

It’s Over – It blasts out all sleazy and bluesy from the speakers with its 12/8 feel. Fans of Ready N Willing and Saints n Sinners era Whitesnake would be happy with this song. To me it shows Bratta at his blues pop best if there can be such a term.

Blue Monday – gives Vito a chance to show off his Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/Gary Moore blues muscles by paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan who died in a helicopter crash while the writing process was happening.

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Broken Heart – Maybe they saw how Whitesnake got traction by reinventing Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving and Crying In The Rain, maybe they thought the same thing would happen with this song. Maybe the record company thought the band handed in a weak record and wanted a single for it. Either way, the song is catchy, I just wish that Mike Tramp re did the lyrics.

Leave Me Alone – One thing that captures you is the Rocket Queen meets ZZ Top meets Van Halen groove. The whole intro goes for 1min and 10 seconds. The label would have been pulling their hair out with that whole minute intro. It’s a shame that Tramp had to ruin the song with crap lyrics and crap melodies. Like many White Lion songs the lead breaks from Vito are songs within a song, and this is no different. The 7#9 chords also work well.

In a Guitar World issue for September 1989 after Big Game came out, Vito was giving a lesson and had the following to say;

‘In my early years as a guitarist, another thing I found helpful was making up a chord book. I wrote down every chord, from triads to thirteenth chords. Then I sat down and worked out every possible fingering and inversion. It took me a year and a half to do – there must have been about six to seven thousand handwritten chords. Then I played through each one of them and removed the chords that sounded like shit. It would have been easier to buy a Mel Bay Chord Book or something similar, but I didn’t believe in that because I was really learning a lot in the process.’

Originality is summed up there. He could have just purchased a Mel Bay book, and learnt from that, but he did it his own way and that is how an artist can find their true voice. Books could give you the guide or the tools; however you need to take what is out there and apply it in your own unique way. I especially like the part where he played through each chord and crossed out the ones he didn’t like, keeping the ones he liked until those chords became a part of his style.

Love Don’t Come Easy – The song is a good progression from Wait. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord. In the second verse he plays an arpeggiated part.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro where Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

‘Do you want it, do you need it, because love don’t come easy’.

You’re All I Need – This is Love Don’t Come Easy part 2 as the chords are identical except in a ballad format. It could have been left off the album in my view and then that magical classical trill a thon lead break appears from Vito.

She’s Got Everything – The song itself is pretty weak, until the Peter Gunn blues boogie kicks in to close the song, and then it goes into an Air on G String style guitar solo unaccompanied.

Till Death Do Us Part – the Phil Collins I Wish It Would Rain Down for pop metal. They did a good job with it. This is the full blown wedding waltz song.

Out with the Boys – ‘Out with the boys, to make some noise’. The song is average, again killer Bratta lead break. I like the bass and drum groove after the lead break.

Farewell To You – closes the album and the lyrics tell me that Vito and Mike knew that Mane Attraction was going to be their last album together.

Vito Bratta is easily the most overlooked songwriter/guitarist of the 80’s. Brad Tolinski in a Guitar World issue from September 1989, described Vito as a guitar player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense after commenting on his leads in Wait and Don’t Give Up.

Since White Lion called it a day, Vito has stayed away from the music business and as a fan of his style, I wish that he will be back to create music the way he likes it.

 

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Music

Guitar World – January 1986 – Part 2 – Dave Meniketti Speaks

Dave Meniketti shoots his mouth off.

That is the title of the segment by Bob Grossweiner.  And boy doesn’t he just do that.  It’s very hard to find anyone these days that is so honest in their views of other contemporary musicians.  You see everyone wants to be loved, so in order to be loved people pretend.  Not Dave Meniketti.

Who is Dave Meniketti I hear people asking?

Basically Dave Meniketti is the lead singer/lead guitarist of Y&T.  Y&T started out as Yesterday and Today in the late seventies where they released two albums that did nothing and then changed their name to Y&T where they started getting some traction with albums like Earthshaker, Black Tiger, Meanstreak, Down For The Count, In Rock We Trust, Contagious and Ten.  My own personal favourites are Meanstreak, In Rock We Trust, Down for the Count and Contagious.

It was due to this article that got me started in seeking out the music by Y&T.

Anyway let’s get to his views;

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden): ‘I don’t like them.  Both are poor to adequate guitarists”. 

Iron Maiden is coming off the mega successful Powerslave World Tour which resulted in the also mega successful Live After Death release and you have DM offering his own true opinion on them.    That’s ballsy.

Mick Mars (Motley Crue): “Not the greatest player but a great guy. He doesn’t play very well.  He’s not inspired and he’s very sloppy.  He sounds like he picked up a guitar two years ago.”

I think the Dirt sums up Mick Mars and where he was at with his life during this period.  DM got it spot on, with Mick not being inspired.  Mick likes the blues and along his path to Blues stardom he ended up in Motley Crue.  To be honest I saw the Crue live and when Mick Mars started doing his guitar solo, I felt like walking up on stage and pulling his guitar lead out.

Chris Holmes (WASP): “I don’t like him.  It’s bullshit guitar playing.”

I totally agree with DM on this one.  Holmes was rubbish; Blackie was the brains and the talent behind that outfit.  When he got rid of him, he created The Crimson Idol.  Enough said.

Matthias Jabs and Rudolph Schenker (Scorpions), K.K Downing and Glen Tipton (Judas Priest): “Guitarists to fill holes where solos are.  I don’t find them inspiring soloists.”

I think he is a bit harsh on the Scorpions and Judas Priest duo, especially when the Scorpions where coming off the success of Love at First Sting and Judas Priest where on a roll that started with British Steel in 1980.  Nevertheless DM was asked on his views and he gave them.

George Lynch (Dokken): “He reminds me a lot of a lot of Los Angeles guitarists.  Good and technical but relying a lot on the bar.  He gets boring after a while.”

Do we get this kind of honesty in 2013?  Hell no.  We only get this kind of honesty if someone breaks up and wants to vent their laundry to the world.  DM and his band Y&T were practically had traction on the West Coast of America, and it wasn’t until 1985 that they toured the Midwest of the U.S.  1976 was when the first Y&T album came out.  In 1972 the band was formed.  13 years later, they finally started to get traction around America and not just the West Coast.  How many musicians starting off these days, will put in this kind of effort?

DM also had kind words to say about other guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot), Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Gary Moore, Angus Young, Neil Schon, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Ted Nugent, Ronnie Montrose, John Sykes, Ritchie Blackmore and Billy Gibbons.

For Neal Schon he mention how he learned a lot from Neal, how Clapton is a master and not a clone, how Hendrix was his biggest influence, how Billy Gibbons is the ultimate in R&B influence in Rock N Roll and how Jeff Beck is an innovator.

 

Finally, Meniketti was respected by other musicians and he was even asked to join Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne’s new solo band before Randy Rhoads came on the scene.

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