Warrant. For some, they are one of the worst examples of the Hair Band phenomenon - pretty boys with power ballads and macho bravado, not to mention rumours of studio musicians playing on their albums. I won’t deny any of that, but for my money they had one of the best singers and songwriters of the era in Jani Lane (R.I.P.), and I rate their first three albums very highly.
The band struck gold with their first two albums ”Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” and ”Cherry Pie”, both million sellers and contained 4 hit singles each. The band’s most commercially successful song was ”Heaven” from the debut album, spending two weeks at #2 on Billboard Top100. ”Cherry Pie” and ”I Saw Red” were also Top 10 hit singles.
The band’s third album ”Dog Eat Dog” was released in 1992, and was their most ambitious effort so far. It didn’t fare as well as the first two, but it still sold half a million copies even though the Grunge wave had washed over the world by then. The singles from the album weren’t particularly successful. Many Warrant fans consider the album an underrated classic.
After ”Dog Eat Dog” the band went through several personnel changes and changed their musical style to accommodate the changing musical climate. The albums ”Ultraphobic”, ”Belly To Belly” and ”Under The Influence” were released during these years of revolving doors, and none of them made a big impact.
Jani Lane left the band several times over the years, and in 2006 the band released the album ”Born Again” with Black’n Blue vocalist Jamie St. James.
in 2008, Jani Lane briefly returned to the band and toured with them for a while. In September he was officially out of the band. In August 11, 2011 he died of alcohol poisoning in Los Angeles.
The band is still active, with the four remaining members of the their classic line-up and ex-Lynch Mob vocalist Robert Mason filling the lead vocalist slot. With this line-up they’ve released two albums, the latest being "Louder, Harder, Faster". They are stylewise similar to ”Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” and ”Cherry Pie”, but the songwriting magic of Jani Lane is missing...
My Top Ten Warrant songs:
10. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
7. Sometimes She Cries
6. Mr. Rainmaker
5. Stronger Now
- A bit of a surprise to see this high on my list, but somehow the simplicity, raw emotion and tenderness of this acoustic ballads strikes a nerve. A true testimony of Jani Lane's writing skills.
- The first and the biggest hit. It's very much a textbook example of a hair metal power ballad, yet there's something honest about it, it doesn't sound like it was written under label pressure to create a hit single.
3. The Bitter Pill
- Another balladic song, but completely different to the previous two. This one sees Lane experimenting, yet it's just as melodic as his other ballads. I've always been fascinated by the slightly weird "having a conversation with myself"-verses. I don't know if this song was ever performed live, might have been difficult to recreate. The opera interlude is ridiculously pompous and might sound like it doesn't belong to this song, but after a couple of spins one gets used to it...
2. All My Bridges Are Burning
- This is one of the harder-edged Warrant songs on my list, and lyrically it's one of Lane's darker songs. He struggled with his demons, so it might be somewhat autobiographical too. It's about addiction and how that can ruin one's life. Musically it's catchy melodic hard rock with a hard-hitting chorus.
1. I Saw Red
- For me, the definite Warrant ballad and one of the best ballads of all time. Beautiful melodies and an interesting lyrical structure - the verses are happy and full of love, yet in the chorus all comes crashing down. Great vocal from Jani Lane, with a wide range of emotions covered in a few minutes.
This list by: Kimmo Toivonen
This list as a YouTube playlist
As a new feature, we thought it would be fun to ask a couple of musicians to submit their lists too.
First we've got Paul Stead from The Darker My Horizon, who considers Jani Lane as his biggest influence. Here's his take on this thing...
Warrant will be forever categorised - for those not in the know - as a wafer thin slice of pop metal, with a sprinkling of cheese... And while there are elements to their image, and music, that do nudge people into this conclusion, it's a small part of their overall sound. But image plays a part, and perhaps they were discovered/hit it big just a little too late. Because they had commercial songs that would have been able to rival Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and GnR etc. If only they'd have hit the airwaves a few years earlier they could have been huge! Not though they didn't have chart success - with the two most obvious being Cherry Pie and Heaven - but riding the final waves of the late 80s hard rock hairday... heyday... meant they weren't taken as seriously as they really deserved. They were competent musicians. The rhythm section and twin guitars were talented and consistent - both from a playing and a flair perspective. But in singer - and main songwriter - Jani Lane they had a diamond in the rough. The man had great stage presence, an exceptional vocal range, but man..... could he write a tune! And that is where it's unfair to just think of Warrant as the fruity leather clad Cherry Pie party boys. There is depth to their work, and an emotion to Mr Lane's work - some of his lyrics were wise beyond his years, but on many occasion also deeply personal. I am going to concentrate on their first 3 albums for my song choices. One last comment on Warrant as a footnote, they managed to do something that made me want to write songs like I do: craft melodic, poppy melodies with real unadulterated hard rock. Some of these songs are heavy, but remain catchy. And their ballads... wow, just wow... Check them out and enjoy.
10. The Bitter Pill (Dog Eat Dog) - when a song starts out as a ballad and runs through everything from opera to metal it's either going to be awesome, or seriously shi... rubbish! This works a treat, and is no doubt a nod to Bohemian Rhapsody. It may not well be everyone's cuppa, but after a few listens it's plain to find - or at least acknowledge - what's on offer here. Powerful and melodic. Great song.
9. Love In Stereo (Cherry Pie) - blues rock filled modern jive rock and roll! It has everything! Rolling piano, naughty lyrics, and all the melody you can wedge in - unadulterated fun!
8. Sometimes She Cries (Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich) - most bands would kill to have a "Heaven" but Dirty... has two amazing power ballads. This is more mature, and more technical and tells a story of longing. While massively melodic, it's just a half-step behind the aforementioned softy, and again encompasses a solo you're not expecting and allows the vocals to soar!
7. The Hole In My Wall (Dog Eat Dog) - another track that would surprise people, who think Warrant are all fluff and candy floss! This is heavy, but again manages to oozes melody. Dark, down-tuned aggressive rock, that is as far removed from Cherry Pie as you possibly imagine!
6. Uncle Tom's Cabin (Cherry Pie) - a cracking
story about the bad deeds of a Sheriff in some backwater town. The music catches the "Deliverance" feel, but then turns into some foot-stomping balls out hard rock. Some great guitar work, some serious vocal range, and all the trademark melody one would expect.
5. Big Talk (Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich) - awesome drum and guitar intro! Again, melodious throughout and another that live is extremely heavy. Bouncy and rocky at the same time, with some fun lyrics.
4. All My Bridges Are Burning (Dog Eat Dog) - essentially the album's Mr Rainmaker. A cleverly crafted slice of poppy heavy rock. About substance abuse, perhaps an insight into the mindset of Jani, as this album was influenced by a change of personal circumstances and the onset of grunge. But it is still beautifully catchy and melodic. Another winner of a chorus.¨
3. Heaven (Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich) - it is such a melodious tune, from start to finish. The chorus is huge, and some of the lyrics are just beautiful: "there's a colour deep inside the light, let loose above the skies"... And the solo, incredible! Not some pansy-ass poppy cheese fest, heavy. The consummate lighter in the air song.
2. April 2031 (Dog Eat Dog) - such a sexy, and heavy main riff. Dark lyrics, but still incredibly melodic and catchy. Live, it was magic!
1. Mr Rainmaker (Cherry Pie) - it's intro is utter class. Short build up and then an awesome riff and solo, followed by an incredible vocal melody (and performance), a stunning chorus, and heartfelt and clever lyrics. Without doubt my favourite rock song of all time. Sheer class.
So you may wonder why "the" track is not included? Cherry Pie is a fun, good song - which I thoroughly enjoy. But I was also a huge fan of Europe for many years, and "the" song of theirs has never been my favourite... I would like to thank Kimmo and the team for asking me to be a part of this tribute. And for their continued support of my band, The Darker my Horizon. Thank you Jani, for the entertainment and the inspiration. Paul Stead
The second Warrant top 10 has been put together by songwriter, producer, keyboard player Sören Kronqvist (Crash The System, Sunstorm, Find Me, Issa, One Desire).
Choosing my top 10 Warrant songs is difficult and it will change over time. But, here is my current top 10 list:
10. Thin Disguise (Cherry Pie Extended issue)
- A B-side on the Cherry Pie single. It has also appeared on some "Best of" and "re-issues". Always good to hear a great song as a B-side. I think this song could easily have made it on the real album. Well, as long as I can listen to the song I am happy. "It's a thin disguise, living our lives behind a thin disguise. One of these days if I got the time, I'll show you what I'm like on the inside..."
9. Down Boys (D.R.F.S.R.)
- Great live song. I happened to see Warrant on the "Blood, Sweat and Beers tour" in Los Angeles headlining for Firehouse and Trixter in 1991. I think this was the second song on the setlist and the crowd just went wild. Jani is the most entertaining frontman I have ever seen live and I have seen a few concerts in my life. His captivating talks, stories and humor between the songs were at least half the show. Simply amazing...
8. All My Bridges Are Burning (Dog Eat Dog)
- This is a more straight forward rocker. Simple, catchy melodic rock song. Cool transition between parts in the song. Producer Michael Wagener really got a powerful production together on this album. Underrated album.
7. Sometimes She Cries (D.R.F.S.R.)
- Surprise, another great rock ballad. Cool chord progression in the verse. Another catchy chorus from the mastermind Jani Lane. Interesting instrumental part in the middle and a fitting solo by Mike Slamer. Apparently, Mike played guitar solos on the first two albums.
6. Mr Rainmaker (Cherry Pie)
- Uptempo rocker. Good "drive" throughout the song. Powerful and catchy chorus. Cool key variation in the solo. Another Beau Hill production. A "different" ending of the song, not the typical "heard it all before".
5. I Saw Red (Cherry Pie)
- Another amazing rock ballad. It got to #10 on the US Billboard chart (same as the song "Cherry Pie"). The song is about walking in on one's girlfriend with one's best friend. A rumour is that it actually happened to Jani, but he has stated it did not happen to him personally. Friends have stated however that it might actually have happened. Great song in any case.
4. April 2031 (Dog Eat Dog)
- My favorite track from this album. I listened to this a lot when I was living in Texas 1992-1998. I of course bought it as soon it came out. Heavy and cool track with a nice build up from slow to heavy. What a powerful choru! Futuristic lyrics, we'll see if any of it will be true. Cool variation on the last chorus plus the outro.
3. Cherry Pie (Cherry Pie)
- This was the first Warrant song I heard from the band and it was when it came out in 1990. The song, video and album blew me away and I bought the first album straight away too without listening to it first. Great guitar solo by Mike Slamer on this song. The record company needed "one more song" and it was this one, written in 15 min by Jani. Good move, a little like in Def Leppard's case of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" ("we need one more song...").
2. Uncle Tom's cabin (Cherry Pie)
- Great 3rd single from the album. The song has several different influences: "Southern rock", rock'n roll, melodic rock, etc (including a banjo and a harmonica which is not too common in "Hair Metal"). I like the "stops" here and there in the song even though it moves on like a speeding train when it gets going. The intro has a great acoustic part performed by Jani's brother. Eric Oswald. Some people say the lyrics are inspired by the "Missisippi Burning" events, but it remains unclear what the true story is behind the song.
1. Heaven (D.R.F.S.R.)
- My favorite rock ballad. What can one say, Jani Lane is a master of writing killer ballads and killer songs in general. It feels like the song comes from the very bottom of his heart, so emotional and heartfelt. The song was one of the songs Jani and drummer Steven Sweet played in their old band Plain Jane. The producer for the first album, Beau Hill did not want the song on the album, but the band wanted it so it ended up on the album. As I have understood, producer John Jansen's mix ended up on the album (first 250 000 copies), but Beau Hill made a new mix which ended up on the actual single and the remaining copies of the album. Maybe someone has additional info on this?
What Love Can Do (Rockaholic)
- Cool and catchy song. However, I would have done a few things differently on this track. But, that's me... Luckily, there is no right or wrong in music only taste.
Individual RockUnited staff lists:
Urban Wallström :
9. Uncle Tom's Cabin
8. Machine Gun
7. The Bitter Pill
6. Stronger Now
4. Let It Rain
3. I Saw Red
2. All My Bridges Are Burning
1. Mr Rainmaker
10. Angry Young Man
9. 32 Pennies
8. Blind Faith
7. Machine Gun
6. Sometines She Cries
5. uncle Tom's Cabin
4. Down Boys
3. I Saw Red
1. Cherry Pie
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