Tag: survivor

Never Too Late: Erik Martensson Discusses Jimi Jamison, Eclipse Albums

erik_kramerGuitarist Erik Martensson once aspired to have a career in motocross. But after being involved in a crash and during his subsequent recovery, he began focusing his time on guitar and soon discovered his true calling.

Today, Martensson not only splits his time between his own hard rock band Eclipse and the “super-group” W.E.T; a project which also features Robert Säll (Work of Art) and Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman), but he’s also written and produced songs for a variety of artists.

After providing material for a Jimi Jamison (Survivor) and Bobby Kimball (Toto) project, Martensson was asked to write songs for a Jamison solo album. The result of which, “Never Too Late” has received critical acclaim both here and abroad. With catchy hooks and melodies that not only emphasize Jamison’s vocal prowess, it’s also an album that sounds fresh and new.

I spoke with Martensson from his home in Sweden about “Never Too Late” as well as his guitar laden new Eclipse album, “Bleed and Scream”.

How did this collaboration with Jamison take place?

I had originally written a few songs for the Bobby Kimball / Jimi Jamison duet album. Following the success of that, Frontiers records asked me to work on a solo record with Jimi.

NeverTooLate

When you approach a project with Jimi Jamison, what kind of writing process do you go through?

I had Jimi’s vocal range in mind when we started. I knew the sound that would fit him and also suit the fans. That was something that was really important to me.  I have the Survivor ‘Vital Signs’ and ‘Too Hot To Sleep’ albums so I know the style. But I didn’t want to just re-make an album from the 80’s. I wanted it to sound fresh. I wanted it to have one foot in the 80’s and one foot in the now.

 

Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Erik by clicking here.

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Guest Post: Jimi Jamison’s “Never Too Late” Review

Today we do a little something different on goJimmygo. Jim and I, Kat from Kat’s Theory of Music, thought it would be a kick to both review the same album, but guest post on each other’s blog. We have been anticipating the release and have been pushing each other to do the review. In the end we decided to both do it. The CD to be reviewed is “Never Too Late” by Jimi Jamison.

Jimi Jamison, is best known as the frontman of Survivor, Cobra and Target, as well as a veteran solo artist. This latest album, released through Frontiers Records, was written expressly for him by Swedish wunderkind Erik Martensson. As a member of the European groups Eclipse and W.E.T., Martensson has gained a reputation as the go-to guy when you want your record to be well written, well produced and basically, well done.

Full disclosure: Jim and I are both fans of Jamison and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting him on more than one occasion. If this album was really bad…well I don’t think either of us would be writing the review. But it’s good, real good. I haven’t read a bad review of it. With that being said, it’s still fun to break it down track by track. Since Jim is a musician, his take on it will be different from what I absorb as a writer/music lover only. So read my review, then jump over to my blog and read Jim’s.

Here we go:

Everybody’s Got A Broken Heart: Bang…right out of the gate. Great tempo. Martensson has created a huge wall of sound. After listening to the album a few times, the one word I feel defines his producing technique is precision. Clean, clearly defined producing…it seems every note, every riff is thought through. This opening track is well put together, the vocal suits Jamison to a tee. It would be hard to find a reason not to like this song or why it’s not in the running to be released as a single down the road.

The Great Unknown: The opening notes of this song remind me a bit of Survivor’s “Can’t Give It Up.” But then Jamison voice explodes into all grit and fire…time to catch a ride. I’ve always enjoyed listening to how he interprets a vocal…this is a really nice example. The song itself has a great hook, from start to the real fun ending, it’s all good.

Never Too Late: Ultimate uplifting song. Caution: you will have the chorus in your head all day. Along with a great video, it has a great vocal, great hook, it’s just an overall spot-on balance of vocal and music production. Good choice as a first release, as it’s easily the most commercially viable song on the album. Has everything a hit should have…getting airplay is another thing.

Can’t Turn Back: If this was the 80’s, this song would be blaring out of radio stations non-stop. In this, Martensson has written a song for Jamison that plays to his strong suit…a ballad where he bounces between power vocal and marked restraint. Great haunting fadeout to the song.

Street Survivor: An electronic start into a rock anthem. It’s an interesting insertion to the CD. The rest of the album focuses mainly on the love found/love lost theme, with a few inspirational tracks thrown in, and I guess this might fit into the inspiration group, but it gives me the feel of one of Survivor’s finer songs, “Rebel Son.” The feeling of doing what you need to take on the world. A gutsy and strong rocker.

The Air That I Breathe: More of a traditional ballad, it starts with a easy feel and clear vocal before letting Jimi’s vocal chops shine through. Former Survivor bandmate Jim Peterik once commented about Jamison’s range when he’s really zoned in. He called it the Jamison yodel. As he hits some of the notes in “The Air I Breathe”, you can hear the yodel in full force. A real nice ballad.

Not Tonight: “Someday I might miss you, but not tonight.” Yeah, so who wasn’t felt that way. An underlying infusion of pop, but you can’t beat the chorus. The only issue I have on the album’s production is the backing vocals on this track. And honestly, that’s a little picky. The second half of the song sees the backing vocals become a little heavy handed. That being said, it’s still one of my favorite songs on the album.

Calling the Game: Although I’m sure it was his intent, but the writer in me hears a few too many clichés in Martensson’s lyrics. Musically, the song works. It’s well paced, catchy and Jamison’s vocal brings it all together.

Bullet in the Gun: Beginning with a beautiful piano intro, it quickly jump starts into full rocker mode. Interesting reverb ending creates and eerie fadeout….really well done.

Heaven Call Your Name: Haunting is the only word I can use to describe this. Jamison fully interprets the pain of loss. The stripped down organ intro only fuels the desperation of the lyrics. The kind of song where after you hear it you think…whoa. The use of Jamison’s younger daughter on background vocals adds to the ethereal quality; adding a female voice really provides the perfect sensitivity.

Walk On (Wildest Dreams): No doubt right from the start, this one is gonna punch it out. It finishes off the album repeating the theme of reaching for more in your life. A strong end to what is one fine album. As a whole, there isn’t a bad track on the album. Everything that was promised by having Erik Martensson command the project, was delivered. There is a reason he works non-stop on successful projects, one after another…he’s that good. To write an entire album where the material so acutely matches the singers’ ability is not an easy thing to do. To further produce and play most of the instruments, and not lose sight of the big picture is brilliant.

But aside from having good material and an intuitive producer, you still need the guy to deliver the goods. After all these years, Jimi Jamison is still at the top of his game. The voice has naturally morphed into a richer tone. And while he can still hit the high notes, as a singer he has learned that phrasing and reserve creates a much more solid and interesting vocal. In other words, he still rocks and rocks hard. If melodic rock is your passion, give in to the desire and buy the album. It’s exciting as all hell.

For Jim’s review, go to Kat’s Theory of Music

The Search For Stephan Ellis

My Vital Signs album only needs Stephan Ellis’ signature to make it complete!

I’m looking for someone, and I hope you can help me find him. He’s the last piece of the puzzle I need to complete my musical journey.

Back in 1984, I purchased my very first record album; Survivor’s “Vital Signs”. You know, the one the that has “I Can’t Hold Back”, “High On You” and “The Search if Over” on it, among other great songs.

By now, you all should know about my love of this particular album but if not, you can read about it here.

The music of Jimi Jamison, Frankie Sullivan, Jim Peterik, Stephan Ellis and Marc Droubay quickly became the soundtrack of my life.

Over years of repeated listenings, the album eventually wore out and soon found itself a new home (along with other items of reckless teenage abandon) in a box in the farthest reaches of my basement. Hell, by that time I had already moved on to having a copy of Vital Signs on cassette tape and CD anyway. (I have it on iTunes now, for those keeping score).

When I finally built my own music room/office area seven years ago, I decided to take the album out of the darkness, put it in a nice frame and hang it on a wall. It would become a beacon of youth; a reminder of all of the good times and great music I enjoyed in high school. Nail soon met wall and before I knew it, the music of my teenage years was on full display.

As I stood back to admire my new wall decor, it quickly became apparent that something was missing; and that’s when the idea hit me. I thought, what if I could take the album that meant so much to me nearly thirty years ago and try to get the entire band to autograph it? The only caveat was, five signatures were needed and only two of the guys from the album were still touring with Survivor. It was no small challenge, but one that I was up for.

The search began.

Guitarist Frankie Sullivan and drummer Marc Droubay signed it for me after a Survivor concert at Hershey Park in 2009.

Two Down… Three To Go

In March of this year, singer Jimi Jamison, who was performing with another group, made an appearance at a venue near my home and signed it for me.

Three Down…two to go!

A few weeks ago, after doing an interview with Jim Peterik for Guitar World, I made arrangements to send the album out to Chicago for a signature. An album that had not been out of my possession since 1984 was gone and left in the hands of fate. Yesterday, I received the album back in the mail, signed by Jim.

Four down… ONE to go.

The call now goes out to you, oh faithful reader! If anyone can help me locate and connect with bassist Stephan Ellis, please let me know. Because when Stephan signs Vital Signs…. (as the song says)… the search is over!

Survivor: The Next Generation

It’s been 27 years, 2 months and 15 days. But who’s counting?

Nearly 10,000 days. That’s the duration of time between when I first saw the band Survivor perform at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, PA and the day I took my daughter Jillian to see them for the very first time this past Sunday at Penns Peak.

Oh sure, we went to Hershey Park a few summers ago when the band was there but let’s be honest: when you put an 8-year-old girl in an amusement park surrounded by chocolate it’s damn near impossible to get her to sit still for an audio assault of classic rock.

So, while Mom and child made their way around the park Dad took one for the team. I know, it’s a tough job.

But Sunday night was the ideal night. It had been almost seven years since Jimi Jamison fronted the band and it would be Jillian’s first time to see and hear the band her Dad’s been clamoring about since she first wondered what that “Vital Signs” album was doing hanging on the wall in his office.

If you are a classic rock, hair-metal or country music lover Penns Peak is the absolute best place to see a show. It reminds me so much of the intimacy that Stabler Arena had. A venue that when you first walk in you can literally read the band’s name on the drum header without the need of binoculars. As far as I’m concerned a concert isn’t just a band playing for you. You need to be part of the experience. A concert is when the band is playing WITH you.

As Jillian and I stood in the second row the band ran through a gambit of hits and even a few surprises as well. Truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard them sound this good. And this was only their fourth show together with this new line-up. A sign of good things to come!

We were extremely fortunate to get back stage passes for a quick meet and greet with the band after the show.

Jillian, an aspiring singer herself, asked Jimi (one of the greatest male rock vocalists of all time) if he had any advice for her. This is what he said:

Persistence. Just keep singing. The more you do it, the better you get. That’s the best advice I can give you!

My mind is a bit faded since that Survivor concert two dozen years ago and for the longest time it was hard for me to try to put into words how I felt the night I saw them for the very first time.

That was until a friend showed me a picture she had taken of Jillian and me after the show was over. Then I figured it out.

After the band said goodbye and got into the van to take them back to the hotel Jillian and i stood there for a minute basking in the glow. It was at this point that a simple song lyric came to mind:

We will remember this first night together. After all the songs fade away and the stage fades to gray.

As we were making our way out a stage hand from the band came over and asked Jillian if she had gotten an “official” Survivor Frankie Sullivan guitar pick.

After she told him that she didn’t he took one that he had gotten from the stage and handed it to her as if it might mean something.

Truthfully, it did.

Eye Of The Tiger: Still Surviving After Thirty Years

I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hot summer night back in 1982 when my neighbors took my brother and me to the movies to see the third installment of the Rocky Balboa franchise. An experience I’ll never forget.

Rocky III may have introduced the world to the fool pitying Mr. T but for me, what was even cooler than seeing Rocky lose and then regain his boxing title to Clubber Lang was hearing that now infamous guitar riff for the first time: “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor.

Written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik the theme from Rocky III is still as popular as ever three decades later. Along with winning a Grammy the song was also nominated for an Academy Award, became the #1 song of 1982, has been used to promote everything from sporting events to coffee and ranks as the #3 best song to work out to according to Men’s Health magazine.

Survivor is currently in the midst of a new tour of the US with Jimi Jamison, the first with the “classic” voice of the band since 2006.

I sat down for a quick Q&A with guitarist Frankie Sullivan to get an update on the tour and his thoughts on the milestone anniversary of one of the biggest songs ever.

goJimmygo (gJg): What’s it like for Survivor being back on tour again with Jimi Jamison?

Frankie Sullivan (FS): This whole experience has been good for everyone. I’m really enjoying it.  It’s a cool thing and it’s good to have Jimi back.

gJg:  How do you guys determine which songs you’ll perform on this tour?

FS:  What we’ve done is prepared a bunch of songs from our entire catalog. That way we’re able to change-up the set list every night on the fly. It’s also cool for the fans too. They’ll get to hear something different.

gJg: What’s your favorite song to play live?

FS: I don’t think I have a favorite one. Whatever makes the fans happy makes me happy. I have a lot of songs that I like but it changes. It depends on the gig. Why bother picking one? I enjoy them all!

gJg: What are your thoughts on this being the 30th anniversary of “Eye of The Tiger”?

FS: You know, I can’t believe it’s been that long. Even today, there are still a lot of cool things going on with it. I’m hearing that Sylvester Stallone wants to go LIVE and take it to Broadway among other things.

We’ve recently received a plaque from Sony in recognition of 2.8 million downloads. I don’t have the updated official number but I know it’s the 8th most downloaded song on the Internet right now.

gJg: What’s the story behind how it was written?

FS: Stallone was looking for songs for his new movie and the president of our record company at the time just happened to be friends with him. He had the Queen song “Another One Bites The Dust” but Stallone wasn’t really happy with it. So he said “Well you know, I have this band.. “

I think Jim and I wrote the music for it in about a half an hour and it took us three days to write the lyrics only because we couldn’t come up with the punch line at first. But we kind of had it down in half an hour. That’s what started it all.

People love the song. They can really identify with it.

gJg: What are your plans after the tour is over?

FS: Ideally, I’d love to stay on and off the road for the next few years. Maybe taking enough of a break in between to record and then go right back at it. We’ve got a lot of new material we’re working on.

We’re just taking it a day at a time.

Article first published as Eye Of The Tiger: Still Surviving After Thirty Years on Technorati.

Eye Of The Tiger: My Journey With Survivor

This is a repost of a blog I wrote from last December. I will be seeing the band on Sunday with the classic voice for the first time in many years. It will be a surreal moment. If they come to your town, you NEED to see them.

It was a hot summer night almost thirty years ago when my neighbors drug my brother and I to the movies to see the third installment of the Rocky Balboa franchise. Not that we went kicking and screaming mind you. Any opportunity for teenage boys to get out of the house was most welcome. No, it’s just that we would have much preferred to see “Poltergeist” or better still, sneak into see the R-rated “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”. Looking back now though I’m glad we chose to consume large quantities of popcorn and Coke with Sly Stallone instead of Jeff Spicoli.

Rocky III was the film that first introduced me to Mr. T, the mo-hawked muscle man who would go on to pity fools for the remainder of the 1980′s and beyond. But Rocky III also introduced me to something else: something even more powerful than Mr. T’s gold chains or feathered earrings. It was also the film where I first heard the now infamous guitar riff for a song from a band that would change my life: Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor.

Written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik and sung by Dave Bickler (who would later achieve great fame as the singer on the Real Men Of Genius Bud Lite commercials), the theme from Rocky III is still as popular as ever three decades later. Along with winning a Grammy the song was also nominated for an Academy Award, became the #1 song of 1982, has to date over 2.5 million downloads on iTunes and ranks as the #3 best song to workout to according to Men’s Health magazine.

The band would strike Rocky gold again a few years later when the song “Burning Heart” was released as part of the Rocky IV soundtrack. Although this song didn’t fare quite as well as Tiger, the music from Survivor continues to be both inspirational and motivating to me. As you’ll soon discover, the seed planted with Eye of the Tiger would not only begin my admiration for the band but would ultimately become the spark that would fuel my life and music for years to come.

When I first started playing guitar in 1984 a new Survivor album was already making its way up the charts. Vital Signs was the first album to feature new singer Jimi Jamison on vocals and was the very first record I ever purchased. (Jamison would later go on to sing the infamous theme from the television show Baywatch). Songs like “I Can’t Hold Back“, “High on You” and “The Search is Over” were getting tremendous airplay on both radio and the early days of  MTV (back when they used to play music videos). These were songs with melodies and lyrics that really spoke to me. Words of encouragement in my love less adolescent youth. Songs I wanted to learn how to play.

So while most other aspiring guitarists were locked away in lesson rooms with their guitar teachers learning Van-Halen and Def Leppard solos I was dragging my butt in with a menacing jet black Gibson Explorer asking my teacher to show me how to play “I See You In Everyone“, the final song on the Vital Signs album, note for note.

Now that I think about it I can still recall the puzzled look on my teacher’s face when I brought the album to lesson for the first time. And I can still picture him saying: “What, no RUSH?….No AC/DC?…No Bon Jovi?” and I’d just smile and think to myself, “Nope, even better!” For how could I possibly tell a man who grew up watching artists like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin that the absolute best concert I ever saw in my life was Survivor and REO Speedwagon in 1985? But it was, and quite frankly still is, true.

By 1986 my longing for a new Survivor record was finally appeased. When Seconds Count was released and immediately consumed me. Songs like “How Much Love” and “Rebel Son” inspired a then seventeen year old boy to reach higher and the ballad “Man Against The World” made me want to track down keyboardist Jim Peterik himself and make him show me how to play its beautiful melody. By this point I think most of my friends knew that my whole Eye of The Tiger/Survivor phase wasn’t just a passing fad. In fact, one of my best memories of graduating high school was the post grad party my parents held where me and a bunch of other musician friends all set up our gear and played half of the Vital Signs record.

It wasn’t long before college came calling and once again Survivor was there with me. This time with 1988′s Too Hot To Sleep. I can’t begin to tell you how many trips across the miles of campus I made with “Didn’t Know it Was Love” and “Desperate Dreams” blaring on my Sony Walkman. Although the band themselves consider this to be their best album the fact that it didn’t achieve big commercial success didn’t bother me one bit. For me, much like them, it’s always been about the music and this one delivered the goods.

Once college life was over the job of real “work” began. While playing my part in the 9-5 crowd over the years I’d keep myself busy in the musical groove by writing and performing in various bands. All the while I’d find myself writing songs that were influenced by the amazing songs from those Survivor records. Unfortunately it would be quite a while before I would hear any new music from the band other than from compilation albums. Unless of course you count that hilarious Starbucks commercial.

Finally in 2006 a brand new album, Reach was released and listening to the first song and title track was a much welcomed slap in the face. The blaring guitars and drums told me that at long last the Tiger was back. I immediately proclaimed, to myself anyway, that this song should be the one they start every show with. This record not only featured guitarist Frankie Sullivan singing lead on few tracks but also contains the song “Fire Makes Steel”, yet another inspirational anthem which, go figure, was almost and should have been included in the film “Rocky Balboa”.

As you can see, I’m a huge fan of this band. I also know that the band has gone through several line-up changes over the years. Different singers, bass players and drummers have come and gone. There’s no need for me to know all the reasons why. I can personally attest to there being drama in every band so line-up changes are not at all that surprising. But it was unfortunate that Jimi Jamison, the voice that became synonymous with Survivor for me had left the group shortly after this record was released. Robin McAuley, most known for his work with McAuley Schenker Group would take over on lead vocals for subsequent tours over the next few years.

Flash forward to 2012: A surprise announcement was made that Jimi Jamison, who had released several well received solo albums since his departure five years ago, would once again be rejoining Survivor for a new album and tour. Having suffered for years listening to robotic voices and synthesized loops in what’s being peddled as “music” these days my prayers for real new music and songwriting from my favorite band is about to come true once again! To say that I’m excited is an understatement.

Ironically enough, it all seems to have come full circle for me. This “new” Survivor is going to happen nearly thirty years to the day since I first heard that guitar riff in the darkened movie theater. The summer night that changed everything for me. And the message of the song couldn’t be more true today:

Just a band and it’s will…to survive.

New York Groove (Part 1)

“Back in the New York Groove” was a song written by Russ Ballard that first appeared on the 1975 album “Keep Us Off The Streets” by the British glam band Hello. As a musician I know this because well, I looked it up.

Who would have thought that three years after it first appeared on vinyl that song would indirectly become part of my life?

It was 1978. The year the members of KISS, the biggest band in the world at the time and with enough glitz, makeup and pyrotechnic prowess to make even the great Liberace and his golden candelabra melt, all simultaneously released their own solo albums as a gimmick. “New York Groove” was a song covered by guitarist Ace Frehley on his solo album of the same name.

As a nine-year old boy, KISS was the world to me and Ace was always my favorite member of the band. Not just because he had the coolest face makeup but also for the way his sunburst Les Paul guitars would literally catch fire during his solos. Ace’s antics were one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar with the dream to “Shout it Out Loud” and “Rock and Roll All Nite”. As far as I was concerned Ace Frehley was synonymous with rock and roll and suffice to say, his solo album quickly wore out on my turn table.

So it’s kind of ironic how thirty-three years later that particular song, New York Groove, was selected to be the theme for NY Ink, the reality-based television series on TLC. For those who may not be aware, NY Ink follows the trials and tribulations of famed tattoo artist Ami James as he attempts to make a go of a tattoo studio in the SOHO district of New York City.

What’s even more surprising is the notion that the melody for “New York Groove” kept running through my head as I looked out the window of the bus that was carrying me to New York City to get my first tattoo from Megan Massacre, tell my own musical “story” and have the segment recorded for the second season of NY Ink.

In my family being of age and still a tattoo virgin is frowned upon. The inside joke being: “You can’t consider yourself a “Wood” if you don’t have at least a little ink”. Most of my relatives have been tattooed at some point or another but I never was. Quite frankly, I would have been perfectly content with being the only black sheep in the family.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon NY Ink that I began to give being tattooed serious consideration. The artwork and stories I had heard really had a profound impact on me. More so than any “cool” factor would in me getting needled. And my own story would sure be one for the books.

From an early age I was a guitarist with a dream to be a rock star. You know, right up there in the same league as KISS, Survivor, and Bon Jovi. Yeah, that was going to be me.

I even remember writing  journal entries about “making it” while in high school. At one point I’d pretend my journal was a Rolling Stone magazine interview. I’d write questions that I’d want the interviewer to ask me and then answer them in full ‘rock and roll’ mode. I’d muse about who I’d be collaborating with, the up coming summer tour I was about to embark upon and what I did when throngs of female fans sought my attention. Little did I know at the time that one day the dream was going to come true but in a most unusual way. I couldn’t wait to tell the story and have it memorialized.

Me and Ami James

As the bus slowly rolled into the Port Authority Station a feeling of excitement and anticipation filled me. I slowly departed and made my way into Manhattan not really sure if I was more excited to tell the story, get my first tattoo from an artist I greatly admire or the fact that my experience was going to be filmed and possibly air on a television show.

In any case all I did know was that Ace would have been pleased. Today was going to be an interesting day.

Next: The Thing About Subways