Saturday, April 18, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Iconic Rock Band, Poison Performs Miami Concert — Without Bret Michaels!

BREAKING NEWS: 
Iconic Rock Band, Poison
Performs Miami Concert
— Without Bret Michaels!

For some reason, Poison-related stories and rumors continue coming my way. Late Friday, I received an anonymous message, accompanied by an anonymous photo (below) indicating that the platinum-selling arena rock poster boys had performed a concert in Miami, Florida earlier in the evening — without their infamous, co-founding frontman, Bret Michaels. Leading the charge last night, go-to vocalist, Brandon Gibbs — as confirmed on his personal Facebook page.

Nothin' but a good time - without Bret Michaels!
(Poison, live in Miami - 4.17.15)
What it all means, I can't say  as I no longer maintain much contact with the band — but the possibilities are certainly intriguing. I just thought I'd pass this along to those who have interest. However, I am personally fascinated by the "?" on Rikki Rockett's kick drum.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt. IV) - Fleetwood Mac "Time"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. IV)
Fleetwood Mac
Time
(Warner Bros)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
_________________________

I bumped into a guy early one morning last week while standing in line at the creamer counter of my neighborhood Starbucks. I recognized the fella immediately as a local blues aficionado and musician (i.e., "muso" / myo͞oz-ō— which, I guess, makes him a "bluso" (blo͞oz-ō). Anyway, since attending the recent Orlando Fleetwood Mac concert, I've had the band "on the brain" — keeping my 10-hour FM iTunes library in almost constant "re-play" mode. Hence, at that moment, I felt compelled to offer "Mr. Bluso" an early bird ice-breaker.

"So, what are your feelings on Fleetwood Mac?" I inquired — as if I couldn't possibly have guessed his certain response. Instantly, "Mr. B" rocked back on his heals, and with an undeniable display of utter indignation, he fired back  "I have ZERO use for Fleetwood Mac in any form, other than the original Peter Green version — I don't care how many records they've sold!" Hmm, noted.

Conversely, on the night of the recent concert, I couldn't help but notice (and overhear) the bevy of nubile babes bouncing about the Amway Center, all absolutely giddy over their golden opportunity to finally see Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham — and their "back-up band." 

Yes, the iconic Fleetwood Mac brand seemingly means all things to all people. And while I have tremendous personal appreciation for all of its various incarnations over the last (nearly) 50 years, I'm particularly fond of the band's early 70s, Bob Welch era, as their 1973 Mystery to Me album remains one of my all-time favorites. But despite the overwhelming majority world opinion, as a result of this infamous revolving door policy, Fleetwood Mac IS founding drummer, Mick Fleetwood and bassist, John McVie. In fact, if the band was a fancy confection, displayed prominently in a bakery case, Fleetwood and McVie would be a delicious red velvet cupcake, and perennial keyboardist, Christine McVie would be the irresistibly sweet icing. Tasty and TOTALLY satisfying. Any additions to that core line-up are (welcomed) colorful sprinkles.

Me and Mick - Orlando, FL
(3.23.15)
The "Alice & the Tool-Fish" era of the '90s was a difficult period for many chart-busters of the '70s and '80s — but it was a particularly tough time for the once "Mighty Mac." After much well-publicized intra-band turmoil, Fleetwood and McVie faced forging ahead on the road during the early and mid '90s without three of the band's longtime, marquee power-players (Buckingham, Nicks and Ms. McVie). And the drastically unfamiliar-looking new version of Fleetwood Mac was relegated to the nostalgia circuit, sandwiched between REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. However, the short-lived line-up featuring vocalist Bekka Bramlett, legendary singer / songwriter / guitarist Dave Mason and FM guitar vet Billy Burnette, made for a splendid rock band. And it was this configuration, plus the studio participation of Ms. McVie, that created one gem of an authentic, roots-style record.

Produced by Richard DashutJohn Jones and the late Ray Kennedy, Fleetwood Mac's 16th studio album, Time, arrived in October 1995. It tanked — immediately and completely. In fact, it didn't even chart. And with worldwide sales of less than 100,000 copies, it ranks as the band's all-time worst-selling effort.

The sad thing is, Time is actually a good record — a really good record. Heck, the "cupcake" was in full effect. Mick Fleetwood — check. John McVie — check. Christine McVie — check. Even the "colorful sprinkles" were incredible. Billy Burnette wasn't new  he'd already been in the band for seven years. Bekka Bramlett is a powerhouse and Dave Mason, well, he's DAVE FREAKING MASON! So, c'mon man, what gives?

Fleetwood, Mason, Burnette, Bramlett and McVie - circa '95
The songs (for the most part) were superb. The opening track, Burnette's "Talkin' to My Heart," delivered an organic warmth that the band hadn't captured in a very long time. Christine McVie's delightful and infectious "Hollywood (Some Other Kind of Town)" and "I Do" both possessed Mirage / Tango in the Night-caliber charm. Fueled by Mason's blues-inspired guitar work, "Blow By Blow" was snappy little nut-buster. And the beautiful vocal marriage between Burnette and Bramlett on the high-energy "I Got It In for You" made for a fantastic highlight. There were a couple of missteps, however — the most glaring of which was Mick Fleetwood's seven-minute, spoken word-meets-new age oddity, "These Strange Times." But overall, Time was as solid as any other title in the impressive Fleetwood Mac catalog.

Okay, so how could a record with this much "mo" fail so famously? Well, like everything else related to arts and culture, it's all about timing. And in the topsy-turvy world of rock and roll, 1995 just wasn't the time for the release of a quality, song-based record created by an establish group of skilled musicians who wore clean, form-fitting jeans. Furthermore, too often, the public listens to music with their hearts. Time could have included Christine McVie's secret unlisted phone number, handwritten on each inner sleeve, and it wouldn't have much mattered. Unfortunately, unless a Fleetwood Mac album features the "Fab Five," its commercial fate is sealed.

In sum, Time is an engaging record, filled with well-crafted, heartfelt songs — and I endorse it personally, 100%. It ain't Rumours — but (thank goodness) it ain't Say You Will either.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

____________________

Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control
Cheap Trick 
The Doctor

PART THREE
REO Speedwagon
Building a Bridge

PART FOUR
Fleetwood Mac
Time

PART FIVE
(Coming Soon)
____________________


The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt. III) - REO Speedwagon "Building the Bridge"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. III)
REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge
(Castle Records)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
_________________________

The '90s was a dark and desperate decade for many of the 70s' and 80s' mightiest chart-busters. Powerhouse acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Styx and Peter Frampton all delivered promising new records during the "Pearl Garden Pilots" era — only to be crushed by "the machine." REO Speedwagon's Building the Bridge was one that got crushed.

Produced by the late Greg Ladanyi and REO frontman / singer / songwriter, Kevin Cronin, Building the Bridge arrived in stores during the summer of '96. Although it's regarded by (too) many as one of the weakest links in the band's impressive musical chain  it is not. In fact Building the Bridge succeeds gloriously in combining the organic, classic rock flavor of REO (1976) with the commercial charm of Wheels are Turnin' (1984).

Packing all the punch of a Red Bull 20-ouncer, the guitar-driven "Can't Stop Rockin'" kicks off the record with a bang. This high-octane lyrical tribute to The Beatles also offers a cool tip of the hat to Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" as well as to the Fab Four's "Day Tripper." Another engaging, upbeat rocker is Cronin's "When I Get Home." Lacquered to perfection by Neal Doughty's signature Hammond B-3 stylings, it's beautifully reminiscent of the Wheels are Turnin' era. Additionally, guitarist Dave Amato splits the uprights on the stadium-worthy "Look the Other Way" and "She's Gonna Love Me."


A powerful and heartfelt songwriting collaboration between Cronin and Stephen Stills, "I Still Love You" possesses a Poco / Eagles-like splendor — making for one of the record's brightest highlights. In a similar vein, the Cronin-penned title track succeeds in recapturing the band's classic, "cow" vibe.

More than a master pop songsmith, Kevin Cronin also is a gifted storyteller  conveying his personal life experiences vividly over the years in the lyrics of such much-loved staples as "Music Man" and "Time for Me to Fly." In that regard, "Ballad of the Illinois Opry" comes incredibly close to his personal best. The poignant story of musical and self-discovery would have complemented the band's Ridin' the Storm Out era and could easily have been featured prominently in the soundtrack to a Cameron CroweElizabethtown-type film. Doughty's Floyd Cramer-flavored piano work makes this one sing, while Amato's blistering country-meets-rock riffs make it zing. Undoubtedly the record's "Cracker Jack prize," it remains one of REO's all-time best-kept secrets.

"Ballad of the Illinois Opry"
(Hear it for yourself.)

So how did a record this good, tank so badly? Well, for starters, the face of REO had changed in recent years and its previous (ill-titled) studio record in 1990 was, to say the least, a disappointment. Once known for producing such party hardy, arena rock anthems as "Roll with the Changes" and "Don't Let Him Go," REO now was best known as adult contemporary poster boys, peddling such pablum as "In My Dreams" and "Here with Me." And by 1996, true blue, good-time rock and roll had been put on temporary life support, as radio and MTV airwaves now were saturated by such media-anointed darlings as Hole, Candlebox and Alanis Morissette. Plus, Castle Records was an indie label — a relatively small fish, treading the waters of a shark-infested ocean. To add insult to injury, Building the Bridge boasted a downright dopey-looking album cover and exuded just enough provolone factor (e.g., "After Tonight" and "Then I Met You") as to compromise its well-deserved street cred.

In sum, I encourage enthusiasts to earnestly seek out Building the Bridge — it's well worth the effort. And if you happen to locate a copy at that last remaining used record shop, don't forget to tell the new clerk, Alanis, that the "Show Biz Guru" says, "hello."

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

____________________

Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control

PART TWO
Cheap Trick 
The Doctor

PART THREE
REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge

Fleetwood Mac
Time

PART FIVE
(Coming Soon)
____________________


The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Monday, April 13, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt. II) - Cheap Trick "The Doctor"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. II)
Cheap Trick
The Doctor
(Epic Records)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
_________________________

Simply put, Cheap Trick is America's greatest rock band — case closed. And I've personally been one of their most passionate and consistent cheerleaders since first discovering the Illinois-based crunchy power-pop combo in the pages of CREEM back in 1977.

Produced by Tony Platt, Cheap Trick's ninth studio album, The Doctor, was released in November 1986. Like a "snitch" wearing cement slippers, it sank — in short order. Stalling at a disappointing #115 on the Billboard 200, The Doctor spawned zero chart singles and is considered almost universally to be the band's worst. It's not. That distinction best belong's to either their dismal 1997 Cheap Trick record or 2003's unpleasant, Special One.

Since it's release, I've been engaged in an ongoing dialog regarding The Doctor with my writing partner, music school instructor and fellow CT enthusiast, Bryan Dumas  a conversation in which we've analyzed nearly every aspect of the record from front-to-back. 30 years later, we continue to reach the same conclusion The Doctor, IS in fact, a darn snappy little record.

Cheap Trick - The Doctor
(CD back cover)
Cheap Trick has never seemed fearful of taking musical risks. And the band forged boldly into the 80s, experimenting stylistically with a multi-record run that included One on One (1982) and Next Position Please (1983). While some of The Doctor's 80s-style electro wizardry is a little excessive, and can become a wee bit grating at times that's far from a deal breaker. In fact, the production on The Doctor isn't really that much more over-the-top than on the band's celebrated previous record, 1985's Standing on the Edge. And be sure, The Doctor packs considerably more punch, and possesses loads more personality than the platinum-selling 1988 follow-up, Lap of Luxury.

Chief songwriter, Rick Nielsen's guitar work cuts to the bone throughout, while frontman, Robin Zander's vocals are as engaging as ever. Additionally, Bun E. Carlos' computer-enhanced drum chops are rock solid and Jon Brant triumphs — delivering 40 minutes worth of signature-sounding, multi-string bass chug.

"It's Only Love"
(My all-time favorite music video!)

But at the end of the day, it's all about the songs. And the ten selections included on The Doctor are, for the most part, all top notch golden nuggets.

The Nielsen / Zander-penned opening track, "It's Up to You," is a turbo-charged winner. In fact, Bryan Dumas commented to me recently that in his view, if the "cheesy" keyboards were swapped out for groovy horns, and Zander's vocals were re-cut by Gwen Stefani, this one could have likely been a huge hit for No Doubt. Hmm, good call, dude! Other noteworthy highlights include the super-catchy "Rearview Mirror Romance," the infectious earworm "Kiss Me Red" and the hypnotic Heaven Tonight-worthy "Take Me to the Top." However, the news here isn't all good  The Doctor does write a few bogus prescriptions  including Nielsen and Zander's provolone-flavored "Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)" and the almost-great-except-for-that-gawdawful-chorus, title track. But the headline for this, or any other review of the album should have been: Cheap Trick Creates Masterpiece with "It's Only Love." Yeah, I said it, and I'll stand by it — Nielsen and Zander's closing track, "It's Only Love" ranks as one of their best — ever.

In sum, I'm certainly not concluding that The Doctor is Cheap Trick's greatest achievement. That distinction best belong's to either their 1977 self-titled debut or the 1977 follow-up, In Color. However, if faced with that "desert island" scenario, The Doctor would most definitely be among the Cheap Trick records that I'd bring along.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

____________________

Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control

PART TWO
Cheap Trick 
The Doctor

REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge

Fleetwood Mac
Time

PART FIVE
(Coming Soon)
____________________


The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt.I) - Peter Criss "Out of Control"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. I)
Peter Criss
Out of Control
(Casablanca Records)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
__________________________

The last time I wrote a review of Peter Criss' work (which BTW, was a generally positive review), I received a personal email from one of his ex-wives, informing me that I write "garbage." OUCH! So with that in mind, as they say, here goes nothin'.

At the risk of having my rock and roll "man card" revoked, I will confess openly that Peter Criss has made two of my all-time favorite records. Out of Control is one of them.

Undeniably the stylistic "square peg" of the original KISS line-up, Peter Criss brought valuable "roots rock" credibility and authenticity to the once "Hottest Band in the Land." The infamous 1978 solo albums served as vivid (and accurate) audio snapshots of each KISS member's individual artistry. And Criss' (much-maligned) old school, R&B-flavored solo album delivered exactly what I (and everyone else should have) expected.

A rock solid rock record!
By the summer of 1980, Criss had departed from the KISS ranks. But while his former band focused on plugging the holes in its now sinking ship, the "Catman" was holed up in an NYC recording studio with famed producer, David Wolfert, putting the finishing touches on his second solo album. And in September, Out of Control had arrived in stores. It tanked, in short order.

Simply put, Out of Control should have at least achieved a respectable level of success. Despite the rather disappointing chart performance of the newly-released Unmasked record, KISS still maintained international prominence and Criss' well-publicized split from the band was garnering considerable media attention — a label, publicist and artist's "wet dream," to be sure.

So what went wrong? The songs, performances and production all were solid really solid. In fact, Out of Control was an even stronger, more cohesive and (slightly) harder-edge record than Criss' '78 debut.

So again, what went wrong? Hmm, well for starters, Out of Control boasted one of the cheesiest-looking album covers of all-time. Heck, even Spinal Tap recognized the potential catastrophic affect of having an album cover that's, "none more black." Other theories have suggested that the record received little-to-no label support from Casablanca as a result of insider "pressure" from Criss' former bandmate(s).

Out of Control also faced another significant issue — that of public perception. Criss' first solo album was viewed by a large faction of the KISS Army as, uh, "light." And in 1980, he needed to distance himself stylistically from his previous release, as well as from KISS' ever-developing cartoon-like, kiddie pop image, and reestablish himself as a rock and roll badass. In other words, a little less "Beth" and a lot more "Baby Driver." But, alas, Out of Control kicked off with the saccharine-sweet ballad, "By Myself." Written by Criss, longtime collaborator Stan Penridge and producer David Wolfert, "By Myself" is an incredible piece of work, however, the album would have been likely better served with a stronger, edgier opening track — for instance the straight-up rocker, "In Trouble Again."

I was so honored to have Peter Criss autograph
my original LP copy of Out of Control that I had
it professionally mounted and framed in glass.
Criss co-wrote nine of the ten tracks included on Out of Control and provided all lead vocals and drum work. Given the era, it was an overall solid rock / pop record one that's packed with highlights galore.

On the rock side, the aforementioned "In Trouble Again" and "There's Nothing Better" are both shiny, guitar-driven gems, while the revved-up remake of the 1966 Rascals hit, You Better Run could very well have been a single, had Pat Benatar not beaten Criss to the punch just a few weeks earlier. The infectious title track falls stylistically some where between the high-octane, Camaro 8-Track vibe of "My Life" and the adult contemporary-sounding "I Found Love" and "Where Will They Run."

Although "Words" earns the distinction of winning the record's "Stinker" award, the super-charged, passion-filled ballad, "Feel Like Letting Go" stands as Criss' all-time greatest musical achievement — bar none.

In sum, BRAVO!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

____________________

Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control

Cheap Trick
The Doctor

REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge

Fleetwood Mac
Time

PART FIVE
(Coming Soon)

__________________________


MORE KISS-RELATED
FEATURES FROM
CHRISTOPHER LONG 

_________________________ 


The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...