Monday, February 8, 2016

CARL CAZESSUS: Introducing My Latest Guest Contributor

CARL CAZESSUS
Introducing My Latest
Guest Contributor
_________________________

Carl Cazessus is a super-swell
guy with a really cool story.
He possesses an honest, pure
passion for people, pro golf
and Deep Purple. I also find
his personal faith testimony
to be particularly fascinating.
I hope you agree. And I look
forward to Carl sharing more
of his personal stories and
insights throughout 2016.
_________________________

It's my heartfelt desire to help others find some meaning from life. It has been a rewarding effort, looking back recently at my life up to this point. Perhaps my story can be of benefit to you as well.

I grew up in Santa Maria, California during the 1960s with my parents and four brothers. I'm the second youngest. Those were certainly exciting times for my family. The beach scene was beginning to explode with the sounds of The Beach Boys, along with Frankie Avalon and his cast of on-screen characters. Our household was alive and well. My dad worked in the new field of aerospace at Vandenberg Air Force Base, while my mom was in charge of overseeing the home front. Baseball was my main sport at the time. I also minored in tether ball and pickin' on the girls during recess. Sitting in the classroom proved challenging for me.

On Sunday mornings, my mom endured the fun task of gathering me and my brothers into the green and white 1957 Pontiac family station wagon for the weekly commute to the local Lutheran Church. My heart was "opened" early on, as I was interested in the things that I could grasp in Sunday school and in the church service. I recall my mom's efforts to keep her crew in line during the services. Something about her glaring eyes said, "Wait till I get you out in the Pontiac." That look tended to keep our normal mischief to a minimum.

My heart as a little boy was beginning to lean towards the heart of Jesus. One overcast afternoon, I observed the sun's rays breaking through the clouds. "That must be God!" I spoke out loud, as I was moved by this powerful demonstration  this "divine expression." I'd often read my mom's Bible examining and absorbing the Ten Commandments with my young scholarly mind.

Another pivotal event also took place while we were living in California. One evening, after dinner, my mom and dad shared with us the news of my dad's impending job transfer, and we soon loaded up the Pontiac and headed east. As best as I remember, we made that move to Florida in 1966. A few years later, I entered Kennedy Jr. High School. I recall that life was becoming confusing to me and I began questioning authority figures my parents, teachers, and the church. Their influence was being compromised slowly by cultural influences music, Vietnam War protests, and the nation's exploding drug craze.

BRRR! Am I actually in Florida?
(Feels like I'm back in North Dakota!)
My brothers and I soon began taking up the sport of surfing. Our local beach scene was a haven for drug use. Drugs had begun to gain popularity among the students in my school as well. I was of the opinion that the "cool kids" were the ones doing drugs. Wanting to be "cool" AND popular, I also began to experiment with pot. Looking back at my early teens, I can now see that I was a follower, and not a leader. But as I graduated into high school, my desire to experiment with other drugs grew stronger. As a senior, I began using psychedelics (LSD). Fortunately, my parents made efforts to help turn my life around. Yet, despite receiving their loving discipline, I remained "hell bent" on doing my own thing.

Mom continued to press for her boys to attend the local Lutheran church. We argued strongly with my mom at times about going to church — especially when the surf was up. We somehow changed her position, and soon, we rarely darkened church doorways.

After barely graduating from Rockledge High School, my dad received another job offer. This time we moved to North Dakota. My older brothers were out of the nest at that time, so along with my parents and younger brother, I moved north. Talk about a culture shock! Until we moved North Dakota, I'd never seen snow or experienced such arctic temperatures.

While living in North Dakota, my dad helped me land my first big job, working for the Boeing Company at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Boeing had received a contract from the U.S. government in our national defense system. My job was in the field of logistics, as a store keeper (parts were my business). I liked my job at the time, and I was making really good money. I bought a new car paying that baby off shortly after driving it off the lot. But I didn't fit in well with my new winter wonderland surroundings. I began drinking beer frequently — adding 30 pounds to my frame in less than two years!

As my job at Grand Forks was nearing completion, I received an offer from Boeing to transfer to Montana. I thanked Boeing for their offer, but I chose instead to head back to Florida — a decision based solely on a personal need to thaw-out and a desire to party with old friends. Little did I know that it was God directing me back to the "Sunshine State." After months of primarily partying and surfing, I began working at Kennedy Space Center. The nation's space shuttle program had just begun, and I was working in the logistic field for the program's ground support crews.

Just another day at "the office!"
First as a store keeper, and then as a logistics section delivery driver, I began meeting many new people. One who stood out among the crowd was a man named Morris Lewis. Morris was a simple, easy-going kind of man who was rarely ever down or mad. I saw Morris frequently, as he supplied me with some of the parts I needed to pick up and deliver.

Year by year, my personal outlook on life had become increasingly more depressing. I was confused because, by Hollywood and Madison Avenue standards, I had obtained pretty much all that I needed in order to secure happiness in life. But my money, girlfriends, sports, and other interests were clearly not the answer to my heart's issue. I began sharing my feelings of unhappiness with Morris, and he seemed genuinely interested in my well-being. As our friendship grew, I began noticing the peace that Morris enjoyed in his life.

I asked him one day why his life seemed different from my own, as well as others. He told me simply, "Carl, I have Jesus in my life!" His answer penetrated the deepest part of my soul. Growing ever-weary of the way my life was going, I knelt beside my bed one evening. Feeling desperate and alone. I prayed sincerely to God. I recall saying the words, " Father God, I am so sick and tired of my life. Please take control! I meant business and I sensed God doing work in my heart immediately. I slept very well that night and I awoke the next morning knowing that a divine transformation had taken place. I suddenly felt joy and peace in my heart. Furthermore, the gnawing hunger and emptiness had now disappeared.

Today, I marvel at how Jesus has met me through life's twists and turns. I'm thankful for how He lovingly challenged me to surrender control of my life. And He didn't force me into making that decision. I wish that I could write how since that defining moment in November 1979, I have never failed Jesus and that my life has always been a bed of roses. Nope. I've made many mistakes, and I truly regret the decisions that have hurt myself and the ones I love. But I will NEVER regret the decision to surrender my heart and life to Jesus. I'm ever-amazed by how Jesus brings purpose into life's most challenging and trying issues.

As I wrap up my story, I would like to ask, is there a "gnawing" in your heart? Is what you are living for bringing you joy and peace? Well, I ask you to prayerfully consider what I have shared. And if I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me. If you can't find me out on the golf course, I encourage you to reach out via my personal e-mail address. (carlosmcaz@aol.com)

Jesus' Best 2U!

-Carl
(February 2016)
_______________________________

BE MY "GUEST!"
Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my site is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.

-Chris
AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com 
_______________________________


Thursday, February 4, 2016

PAUL KANTNER: One of My True Rock Heroes

PAUL KANTNER
One of My True Rock Heroes
___________________________

When it came to social and
political perspectives, there
was very little on which we
agreed. In fact, if trapped
in a room with the man for
more than 15 minutes, he'd
have likely chewed my face
off. However, when it came
to music, I was on board
with Paul Kantner, 100%.
___________________________

The summer of 1975 brought about a personal season of tremendous musical discovery. I was a young, wide-eyed church boy, transplanted recently from the Midwest to Central Florida. I'd also been moving further away that summer from many of my longtime pop music favorites, including John Denver, The Carpenters and Olivia Newton-John, while gravitating more towards such edgier rock artists as KISS, David Bowie, and Alice Cooper. I can still recall that day in July, when I walked into the record department of my local Sears store. I couldn't help but notice the row of vibrant red album covers positioned prominently in the "New Release" display — the words, JEFFERSON STARSHIP: RED OCTOPUS blazoned across the front in huge gold print.

Sweeter than honey, indeed.
As a twelve-year-old kid who also was enthralled by such R&B acts as Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder, the name Paul Kantner meant nothing. I also had little knowledge of, and even less interest in, the Woodstock-era, hippy-dippy proverbs preached by his previous project. In fact, in 1975, I'd never even heard of Jefferson Airplane. All I knew was that everything about this "new" rock band seemed cool. The name was cool, the album cover was cool, the title was cool, the photo of the band on the back cover was cool  and that girl singer was really pretty.

Before long, my favorite Orlando Top 40 radio station, BJ 105, had placed the band's infectious feel-good, "Miracles," into heavy rotation. I immediately begged (and I do mean begged) my mom to PLEASE buy me a copy of the single — she did. And in short order, I'd lost my mind completely. Simply put, Elton John was OUT   my world now was ALL about ONE band — Jefferson Starship.

I still own my original "Miracles" 45.
(Thanks, Mom!)
Once I'd finally saved up enough lunch money to buy the entire Red Octopus album, my (now) teenage obsession with Jefferson Starship quickly ramped up even further. The sweet screeching of Papa John Creach's fiery fiddle pinned against Kantner and Craig Chaquico's delightfully organic electric and acoustic guitar work on the opening track, "Fast Buck Freddie," was unlike anything I'd heard before  making for a warm, seductive bed on which to gently place Grace Slick's enchanting vocals. Other album highlights that got me reeling included "Git Fiddler," "Sweeter Than Honey" and "There Will Be Love," as well as arguably one of the band's all-time strongest tunes, the Slick / Pete Sears-penned gem, "Play On Love."  40+ years later, Red Octopus still sounds fresh to me, and it remains one of my absolute favorite rock records.

Jefferson Starship, circa 1976.
(Balin, Kantner, Freiberg, Slick,
Sears, Barbata and Chaquico)
The next two Jefferson Starship records, Spitfire (1976) and Earth (1978) both brought me near-Red Octopus-caliber joy. And I remained "on board" fully with Kantner and his flight crew  even through the band's initial splintering — right up until the moment Kantner himself jumped ship, mid-way through the 1984 Nuclear Furniture tour the tour on which I'd finally gotten to see him perform live.

Still representin' after 40+ years.
I was extremely saddened last week, upon receiving a text message from a buddy with whom I'd attended that 1984 Jefferson Starship concert, apprising me of Paul Kantner's death at age 74. But, as I reflected on the news (now at age 53), I was transported immediately back to that Sears record department where I first discovered Kantner and his music in the summer of 1975 — and it made my heart happy, again. Great artists and great music can do wonderful, magical stuff like that. And fortunately, for fans around the world, Paul Kantner has left us with plenty of wonderful, magical, and timeless music. Well done, Captain!

-Christopher Long
(February 2016)


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Who Was I - "What I've Become"

RECORD REVIEW
Who Was I
What I've Become
_________________________

I realize that it's still way
too early to get caught up
in a "Record of the Year"
scenario. But speaking
to the nü-metal genre
specifically (for now), this
record is gonna be a hard
one to beat. Really hard.
_________________________

Since first popping up on the U.S. underground metal radar in 2007, their story has been a raucous roller-coaster ride — one that's seen numerous successes, along with a fair share of heartbreaking setbacks peppered with dashes of old fashioned intra-band turmoil — all pinned against a blood-stained, whiskey-soaked backdrop that reads: WHO WAS I. However, founding frontman Darin Faux (Fox) and guitarist Steve Harvey are bona fide survivors — having now pulled their often dysfunctional family through the rock and roll muck and mire successfully for nearly a decade. And the pay off? The band's newly-released sophomore record, What I've Become.

Who Was I headquarters, located
near the east Florida swamps.
(I see blood stains!)
Who Was I is, fundamentally, a hard rock street band — albeit an extremely pissed-off hard rock street band. And that's what makes this record work. These guys have been in the game long enough to know exactly how to create a brand of high-octane metal that's both authentic and innovative. From start-to-finish, What I've Become delivers heaping helpings of good ol' lung-bursting screamin', mixed with melodic Dickinson-caliber vocals, combined with Russian machine factory-style drum work and non-stop whiplash-inducing bass riffs. And while I certainly don't mean to pigeon hole Harvey's chunkin'-and-gunkin', I will wager a bet that he's still got a half-melted cassette copy of Cowboys from Hell buried at the bottom of the glove compartment in his '78 Camaro — just beneath the expired registration. But the really cool thing about the record (for me) is that all of this metal mayhem revolves around well-crafted songs. GASP! As a result, even a seemingly "square peg" like the remake of the Doobie Brothers' classic, "Long Train Runnin'," makes for a perfect, and very clever fit. Other noteworthy golden highlights include, "Inside of You," "Over and Over," "Undertow" and "Falling Fast."

Who Was I co-founder, guitarist Steve Harvey,
pulled up in his '78 Camaro and personally
delivered my press copy of What I've Become.
In sum, with What I've Become, Who Was I has produced a world-class record  one that stands easily nose-to-nose with any other contenders cemented currently in the "Nü Release" section of any global neighborhood music joint.

But for now, I really gotta get a move on — after experiencing this nut-crusher in one sitting, I feel compelled to go out tonight and break stuff!

-Christopher Long
(January 2016)
_________________________

WHO WAS I
_________________________


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is available NOW on Amazon.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

DAVID BOWIE: The Musical Legacy of a Aladdin Sane

DAVID BOWIE
The Musical Legacy
of a Aladdin Sane
_________________________

I was totally shocked and
super-bummed yesterday
morning to learn of the
passing of David Bowie
 the "Picasso of Pop."
_________________________

As a Midwestern church boy coming of age during the mid '70s, my personal introduction to the music of David Bowie occurred during his chart-busting post-Ziggy Stardust, pre-Low era. In fact, as a geeky tween who "praised and worshiped" all too frequently at the alter of rock and roll (i.e. the record department) located within my local Sears and Kmart stores, the first Bowie album that I can recall ever seeing was his 1974 classic, Diamond Dogs. Yet, despite my undeniable naivete, even I could recognize that the "person" on the Diamond Dogs album cover was pretty darn cool-looking. The first Bowie song that I remember hearing on the radio remains my all-time favorite from his impressive and seemingly endless catalog — 1975's "Young Americans." Okay, you've really gotta cut me some slack on this. I was a 12-year-old kid, growing up in an extremely conservative home in Springfield, Missouri — a region where sex before Sunday wasn't even legal until 1981. As a result, I remained completely behind the pop culture "eight ball" throughout my formative years. However, to this day, I still rank such "plastic soul" treasures as "Young Americans," "Fame" and "Golden Years" among Bowie's absolute best.

Diamond Dogs served as my personal formal
introduction to Bowie's music back in 1974.
The one aspect of Bowie's artistry that I admired most over the years was his uncanny ability to always remain in front of the pop culture "eight ball"  reinventing his image and redefining his music constantly. And since I first began fronting my own Florida-based bands in the mid '80s, I've always looked to Bowie's impeccable example as the blueprint for creating my own ever-changing rock personas and musical styles.

In recent years, I've been going back frequently and revisiting Bowie's extensive back catalog, only to rediscover time and again that his most brilliant gemstones are actually the songs lodged in between the iconic hits. Yes, the older I get, the even greater appreciation I have for Bowie's greatest contribution to pop culture — his well-crafted songwriting. In fact, at age 53, I've written the best songs of my life in just the last year or so. I continue to have David Bowie's music to point to as a primary source of personal inspiration.

-Christopher Long
(January 2016)


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Thursday, December 31, 2015

JULE VERA: 2015 Band of the Year

JULE VERA
2015 Band of the Year
_________________________

This was such a clear-cut
no-brainer that I almost
feel sorry for all of the
other bands in the world.
_________________________

The mission was clear as I fought my way tooth and nail through the turnstile, entering last summer's Orlando, Florida Vans Warped Tour date. In fact, there were only TWO simple objectives. 1) See Ariel Bloomer perform live with Icon for Hire. 2) Stalk, and then propose to Ariel Bloomer, immediately after seeing her perform with Icon for Hire. Unfortunately, said mission would be thwarted, as a torrential downpour brought the daylong festival to a screeching halt, just before Ariel was set to take the stage. But for me, oddly, the real Warped Tour story actually revved-up before the clouds ever rolled in.

I thought that my 2015 Warped Tour
experience was going to be all about
Icon for Hire. I thought wrong.
12:45pm — I'd already been up for hours, and after sweltering in the scorching Florida summer sun since 9am, I was famished and parched. With my super-tough guy survival instincts now melting away at warp speed, all I really wanted at that moment was a tasty fresh concert corn dog and an icy cold $10 lemonade. But just as a concession stand popped into view, I was stopped suddenly, dead in my tracks by a supernatural force that began drawing me physically to the Hard Rock Kevin Says stage. As I was pulled closer to the stage, I began to recognize the sounds. I'd heard them before, in the past — long, long ago. Electric guitar riffs that actually sounded as if they were being created by — electric guitars. The glorious thunder of bass guitar, stuck together with sonic crazy-glue to power-drumming that didn't sound like synchronized drill presses. And angelic vocals draped around glorious melodies. Oh, now I remember those sounds. Those are the sounds of a real rock band! From the merch booths, all I could see onstage were skinny jeans airbrushed onto railroad spike bodies, flailing guitars and hair — lots and lots of hair. At a distance, I struggled to decipher the band's logo banner. Hmm. Looks like it says Julie Ever.

I didn't have a clue about any impending ominous weather conditions, or about this particular little-known up-start called JULE VERA when I awoke that morning and headed off to Orlando. But by day's end, I'd been affected profoundly by both.

Jule Vera, doin' the deed
in Orlando, FL - 7.5.15
The first thing that thwacked me, upon arriving at my final destination — pinned against the security barricade directly in front of the Kevin Says stage, was the unique-sounding effect of guitarist Jake Roland screaming into the pickups of his tour-beaten, classic Gibson SG. Wow, this kid's got style. By the end of their set, I'd made five other professional observations: 1) That girl up there sings and performs like a God-sent angel. 2) I wanna be in a band with that drummer. 3) That bass player is a freaking rock star. 4) I gotta get their record  today! 5) Jule Vera should AND could be the BIGGEST band — in the world.

The story of Jule Vera is a bona fide rock and roll fantasy dream come true — a prime example of how the biz can work, if you get it ALL "right." A couple of high school kids from a small town in Alabama form a rock band, somewhere around 2012. They play the right song, at the right show, in front of the right industry guy. That right industry guy falls in love with the band, makes a line-up adjustment, helps to further polish their songs, then produces their record. In short order, the band lands a record deal. In shorter order, the band subsequently scores a slot on the 2015 summer Warped Tour. And by mid-summer, their epic debut record is released. BAM!

Ansley Newman is a God-sent angel.
I said it. I meant it. And I'll stand by it.
Although they've been compared stylistically to many of their contemporaries, what sets Jule Vera apart from the rest of the Hot Topic pack is that they deliver substance over style, which equates into impeccably well-written songs. Life is often tough enough already. Hence, I don't personally embrace music that only further amplifies the world's darkness. I want, need, and demand music with a crunch that's gonna crack my ribs and a thump that knees me in the nards, all wrapped in a vocal that kisses me gently on the cheek. That's Jule Vera! And their debut record, Friendly Enemies, hasn't left my car hi-fi for more than a few minutes at a time since last July. I even named it, "Record of the Year," in my recent 2015 wrap-up feature. You can find my official review of Friendly Enemies HERE

Possessing second-to-none drive, dedication and determination, Jule Vera embarked on their second U.S. tour last fall, supporting Against the Current. Like a crazy kid ripping open a package on Christmas morning, I tore through the tour itinerary the moment that it was posted on social media. Orlando — November 15th. BINGO!

In an effort to arrange a one-on-one press op, I reached out to the band's handlers immediately. I didn't hear back. Didn't hear back. Still didn't hear back. Then, just a couple of days before the show, I heard back. YIPPY — IT'S ON! Then, I didn't hear back. Oh well. Better luck next time.

In true creeper-like fashion, I stalked Jule Vera
bassist William Stacey after their July 2015 Orlando
show and paid him $7 to pretend that he liked me.
So there I was, watching Fox News and enjoying a delicious roast beef sandwich at 1:38pm on Sunday, November 15th. With no Jule Vera pre-show interview ever being confirmed formally, I could enjoy that night's concert as a "civilian," and I wouldn't have to leave my house for another three hours. Ah, chillaxin! Suddenly, my phone pinged — a text from Alex, Jule Vera's tour manager confirming that my interview with the band WAS in fact, "ON," and that they'd be waiting to meet with me — in ONE hour. Yikes! There was NO way that I was going get from my house, just south of Cocoa Beach to The Social in downtown Orlando by 3pm. I still gotta shower. I still gotta get ready. ROCK-AND-ROLL-BABY! So I flew like a bat out of hell — racing, weaving in and out of traffic on I-95, at 90mph — while following-up with text messages to Alex — apologizing, and trying to stall him, while still saving face. "No worries," he reassured me. "Take your time. And be safe." With my stress level now diminished (ever so slightly), I backed-off the accelerator — bringing my in-flight speed down to only 85mph. Somehow, I'd arrived in Orlando, parked the car, and was at the Will Call window at 3:06pm. Thanks for the protection, Jesus!

Alex greeted me at the venue's back gate, and I could immediately see them  my guys  bassist William Stacey and drummer Kyle Horvath, standing near the club's rear loading entrance. In the distance, sitting on the curb behind the tour buses was Jake Roland — "noodling" on his aforementioned prized 1980s Gibson SG — a cherished gift from his guitar teacher in 2013. Seemingly all still shellacked with authentic stage shmeg from the previous night's show in Atlanta, the three guys welcomed me warmly. As we all sat cross-legged, "talkin' shop" on the greasy asphalt, I heard Alex announce that Ansley was getting her make-up done and that she'd be joining us, shortly. And within a matter of minutes, I had a pair of black leather boots and skin-tight black leggings planted in my immediate peripheral. She had arrived on the scene.

Jule Vera, live at The Social
in Orlando, FL - 11.15.15
I'm not saying that Ansley Newman has a halo. That would be unrealistic, and a bit silly. However, I will say that when I stood up and shook her hand, I may or may not have noticed that a rainbow had appeared suddenly above her head and that she was sprinkled with magical fairy dust — I think. But just like "one of the guys," she took up a space on the ground, along with the rest of us, and joined in on the conversation.

I went into this very informal Jule Vera interview as an acknowledged super-fanboy. Which was kinda dangerous, given that per my lifelong industry experiences, I've learned that the closer you get to your music heroes, the greater the disappointment — greed, egos, arrogance, intra-band turmoil, and other brutal rock and roll realities inevitably rear their ugly heads. That was NOT the case with Jule Vera. Prior to our meeting, I was impressed by the band professionally — their music and their apparent work ethic. However, following our little chat, I'd become wowed personally by their individual character. In fact, I'd never met such a decent, down-to-earth, and — humble group of artists.

Third-greatest day ever.
(Doggonit, I love this band!)
Jule Vera took the stage early that night — 6pm sharp. They performed a Xerox set list from when I'd first seen them live back in the summer. However, this show was different. There was only ONE stage — unlike the Warped Tour, where there are 73. The club was packed and hundreds of fans were jammed in nut-to-butt. Also, this was an indoor show. Crank up those crazy stage lights, please! I'd informed the band earlier in the day that The Social was well-known for it's state-of-the-art sound system, and I guaranteed them that they'd sound absolutely amazing. All of these ingredients made up a sure-fire recipe for a rip-roaring set. Simply put, Jule Vera delivered in spades — commanding the stage (as always) with confidence and undeniable arena caliber rock star power!

I shot this live clip of Jule Vera
at The Social in Orlando. Dig it!

Jule Vera is currently in the studio, developing songs for their second record. And in January 2016, they'll be heading out on their third US. tour, supporting Never Shout NeverOrlando  February 23rd. BINGO!

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)




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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: The Year In Review

2015
The Year In Review
_________________________

Christmas gifts — delivered
and enjoyed. Holiday meals
— prepared and consumed.
The perfect time to pause
for a moment or two and
reflect on the year gone by.
_________________________

Who could have predicted six months ago that Donald Trump would even still be in the presidential race at Christmastime, let alone be crushing his competition so handily in all the major polls? Yes, in a word, 2015 was "unpredictable," indeed.

The last 12 months also brought about enormous cultural breakthroughs. It was the year when us poor ol' naive Americans finally got a bit more "educated" becoming (almost) as "enlightened" as the super-savvy Europeans. We got taught (i.e. shamed) to embrace exciting and "sophisticated" new social perspectives. Marriage was given a more "open-minded," universally acceptable definition, while a macho dude who still possesses a full set of cockenballs enjoyed the lavished praise of "thinkers" worldwide for being a brave — woman. It was revealed that a white chick can actually be a black chick, if she just sticks to her story long enough, and more than ever before, modern-day Libs became acknowledged for being wiser than our forefathers — further determining that escalating global terror attacks are merely the result of climate changes. The harvesting and selling of human baby parts was apparently no big deal in 2015 — but if it was, it would have certainly (somehow) been Bush's fault. The words, "vet," "vetting" and "vetted" — three words that had previously only ever been used 14 times in recorded history, suddenly became the go-to words of choice for intellectual talking heads everywhere. We also learned this year that only some lives matter. But we never could quite agree on the color of that dress. I still believe that it was green. Suffice it to say, 2015 offered all of us bigoted, phobic, sexist old dudes a clear enough glimpse into the future that we now have ample reasons to celebrate our impending mortality. Check please!

Chillin' with my old pal, Harvey Geezer in 2015.
(Just hang in there, Harv - it won't be long, now.)
But guess what? No, really, guess what? Having said all that, 2015 wasn't entirely dumb. To be perfectly honest, I personally enjoyed a pretty darn good year. I made many great new friends of all ages in 2015. I was blessed to connect with an incredible crew of kids through my role as an adult leader at Central Life Church — particularly during last summer's Forever Young youth camp. These are kind, compassionate, loving, street-smart young people who actually give me hope for the future. And I'm honored to now claim them among my closest besties.

The Central Life kids helped to keep
me feeling "forever young" in 2015.
Last spring, I was "dismissed" early from my first jury duty experience following a pre-selection grilling from prosecution and defense attorneys. What had happened was, I openly maintained that, if after ALL evidence had been presented, there was still some "gray" area regarding the case, and it came down to a "tie-breaker" of sorts, I'd likely always side with law enforcement. That comment led the judge to immediately blow a gasket and to unleash a heated tirade about martians, my limited understanding of the law, and what he viewed as my lack of respect for his courtroom. An extraordinary, personal, birds-eye view of the American legal system.

Fulfilling my civic duty to
the best of my ability in 2015 .
In a completely random turn of events (despite trying my best to finally put it to rest this year), my longtime, award-winning band, Dead Serios, was confirmed in late 2015 as one of the many acts, along with the likes of KISS, Def Leppard, Slash, Korn, Scorpions and Boston that will be appearing at the Moonstone Music Festival in Orlando, FL — April 30th and May 1st, 2016. Had anyone told my 13-year-old self back in 1976 that I'd someday be in a rock band and that (at age 53) I'd actually be performing with KISS, I definitely would have wet my plaid polyester high-waters. ATTENTION EVERYONE: Never give up on your dreams — EVER!

My band, Dead Serios, will be performing at the
2016 Moonstone Music Festival in Orlando, FL.
Finally, I discovered several sensational new books and incredible new bands this year. I also experienced a few epic concerts and other live events in 2015 — discoveries and experiences that prompt me to now revisit some of my fave features from the last 12 months — just in case you missed 'em the first time around. So, let's take a look back together at "The Best of 2015."

BEST IN BOOKS
Romantic Violence
-Christian Picciolini-

As a carefree kid growing up during the '70s,
and then as a rock music / chick-crazed teen
in the '80s, I wasn't much of a reader. That's
certainly changed in recent years. These
days, I can be found at my local beachside
Starbucks every morning, devouring another
page-turner along with my coffee and sweet
treat. Not only did I find Christian Picciolini's 
debut memoir, Romantic Violenceto be the
year's most compelling, I consider it (along
with Brian Welch's Save Me From Myself
and Brent Jensen's No Sleep 'Til Sudbury)
to be one of the three most riveting of the
last decade. You can read my official
review of Romantic Violence HERE.
_________________________

RECORD OF THE YEAR
Jule Vera
Friendly Enemies

Listen to our demo. Check out our YouTube
clip. "Like" our fan page. "Favor" our tweet.
Review our latest release. To be perfectly
honest, despite being buried beneath an
avalanche of bands reaching out to me in
2015, choosing "Record of the Year" was a
total no-brainer. Intrigued? Read my review
of Jule Vera's epic debut release HERE.
____________________

HOTTEST TICKET
Fleetwood Mac
(Orlando, FL / 3.23.15)

From such personal old school favorites as
America and Black Oak Arkansas to the sea
of modern-day chart-busters performing on
this year's Vans Warped Tour, I must have
seen a gazillion live bands in 2015. But, my
ultimate concert experience was seeing the
iconic rock powerhouse, Fleetwood Mac 
oddly (at age 52), for the very first time. Oh
yeah, hugging drummer Mick Fleetwood
during the private pre-show meet-and-great
completed my personal "bucket list."And
BTW, at age 72, Christine McVie is still
a smoldering, red hot fox. She still sings
pretty darn good too. Read my official
Fleetwood Mac concert review HERE.
_________________________

TV TIME
Modern Family

Given my narrow-minded, Christian
world view, Modern Family is a show
that some folks would expect me to hate.
And I'll be honest, based on what I had
read about this highly-rated award-winner,
I'd avoided it like the plague since its ABC
debut back in 2009. However, by 2015, I
could no longer contain my burning obsession
with co-star Julie Bowen. Hence, I buckled,
and I finally gave the show a fair shake.
Hmm, come to find out, it is (in my
aforementioned, narrow-minded Christian
world view), the smartest and funniest,
best-cast, best-written show on the ol'
tube. Simply put, I'm now a super-fan.
Hey Lilly, bring on season eight!
_________________________

FAVE FLICK
Joy

It's a bona fide Christmas miracle! A new
Jennifer Lawrence film that's NOT part of
that gawdawful Hunger Games franchise 
just in time for the holidays. Director David
 O. Russell assembled several of his go-to
all-stars (Lawrence, De Niro, Cooper) to
create his latest Oscar-worthy feature, Joy.
Ever mindful of casting spoilers, I'll simply
say that Lawrence carries the film famously,
portraying inventor and businesswoman,
 Joy Mangano. Compelling from start to
finish, Joy tells the semi-biographical
tale of Mangano, a gutsy and ingenious
dreamer, who beat the odds (and more
than a few nemeses) to become a multi
million-dollar American success. The
split-second Donna Mills mini cameo
alone makes this an extra-special "joy."

In my make believe mind I've been married
to Jennifer Lawrence for more than a year.
What? The Olsen twins dig dudes even older
than me. So, it could TOTALLY happen. Right?
_________________________

SUPER CHICK - 2015
Dana Loesch

2015 was the year in which I became
a Dana Loesch fan-boy. Known as
"The Conservative Alternative," I
tune in to her wildly popular radio
program, The Dana Show daily and
nightly on Orlando's 96.5 WDBO.
And in 2016, I plan to have an iChip
inserted in my brain so that I can
receive unlimited, non-stop Dana
Show podcasts — 24/7.
________________________

BEST MAN
Larry Ollison

Author Larry Ollison knows a lot about
cool cars, classic rock and dirty socks.
He also knows the Word of God and
how to convey the message of Jesus
Christ in an engaging, no-nonsense,
conversational style. I read all of Larry's
books this past year. And as a result, I
feel like I've connected personally with
a new best friend — although I'd not
likely recognize him, even if he shanked
me while standing in line at Walmart.
Simply put, Larry's books are valuable,
relevant and HIGHLY recommended
life guides — regardless of whether or
not you subscribe to the Jesus factor.
________________________

DOG OF THE YEAR
Alan

Of all the great new friends that I
made this year, Alan just might
be my fave. Read his story HERE.
_________________________

BIGGEST BUMMER
Lemmy Kilmister
(December 24, 1945 - December 28, 2015)

I was rocked (and NOT in a good way)
by the recent death of Motörhead
frontman / bassist,Lemmy Kilmister,
Read my personal tribute HERE.
_________________________

LIFE-CHANGER
All-Day Breakfast
at McDonald's

Simply put, we can ALL now devour
Egg McMuffins anytime, day or night,
from coast-to-coast. Yes, 2015 was
a pretty darn good year after all!

Thanks to Micky D's, I can now
enjoy quality cuisine, 24/7.
________________________

So there you have it — the highs and the not-so highs of the year gone by. And as we rev-up for 2016, I want encourage everyone to roll boldly into the new year. Love, forgive and make it the best ever! Can we do that? Yep, of course we can.

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)


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