Thursday, July 26, 2012

STRYPER: Retro Rewind Record Review

 
Me and Jason getting ready to rock!


At this moment I am en route with my BFF Jason and a crew from East Coast Christian Center in Merritt Island, Florida to cover tonight's Stryper concert at the House of Blues in Orlando. And as I'm amping up, preparing to see one of my all-time favorite bands, I recalled a nearly-forgotten review of the band's Murder By Pride record that I wrote for the popular online arts and culture magazine, Ink19.com back in the fall of 2009. I did a little Google searching and there it was, my long lost gem. For those of you who may have missed it the first time around, here's an instant replay, submitted for your approval and enjoyment. FYI, my official review of tonight's show will post on Ink 19 in the next few days.

__________________________________
 

Stryper
Murder by Pride
Big 3 Records

Stylistically falling somewhere between 1988's over-produced, titanic In God We Trust and 2005's awkwardly grunge-y Reborn lies Stryper's latest, Murder by Pride. Produced by frontman/guitarist Michael Sweet and Danny Bernini, this chunk of solid rock combines the band's longtime Christian message with loads of signature ear-splitting riffs and offers another dozen bold, hard-hitting, soon-to-be classics.

In-your-face skull crushers such as "4 Leaf Clover" and "The Plan" perfectly exemplify a band that's musically in tune with today's ever-changing rock scene while remaining true to its old school roots. However, despite a penchant for creating high-octane nut busters, Stryper has never been a musical one trick pony. In fact, the two real Cracker Jack prizes found inside of Murder by Pride, "Alive" and "Run in You," are true-blue, bonafide power ballads -- only this time without a saccharine after-taste.

Another record highlight is the remake of Boston's 1976 hit "Peace of Mind." Featuring a cameo performance by the song's creator, guitar legend Tom Scholz, Stryper takes this rock staple and uniquely makes it their own.

From their platinum-selling glory days of the late 1980s to their heartbreaking meltdown in the early 1990s, these reunited soldiers have experienced their fair share of career highs and lows over the last twenty-five years. However, in 2009, Murder by Pride proves Stryper to be as relevant and important as ever.

-Christopher Long
(October 2009)


Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE (Returns to the "Dark Side")

 
 "The world's greatest classic
rock albums (recreated) live
on stage, note for note, cut for
cut" — hmm, a tall order, to
be sure. But that precisely
was the vision of Canadian 
concert promoter Craig
Martin when he debuted 
series in 2003. And although
the "note for note" claim
may be somewhat debatable,
Martin's assertion that he
presents "the world's best
musicians" is, in my view,
pretty gosh darn accurate.

 

_______________________________________________________________________


Okay, so Rob Phillips isn't
playing a Strat in this pic,
but you get the idea.
(Photo: Classic Albums Live)
CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE:
Pink Floyd's 
Dark Side of the Moon
Hard Rock Live / Orlando, FL / 7.21.12
 
More than 1,000  high-spirited classic rock enthusiasts piled into the Hard Rock Live to witness the concert recreation of Pink Floyd's landmark 1973 concept record, Dark Side of the Moon — courtesy of Classic Albums Live.
 
To say that "Dark Side" is musically a complex record would  be like  saying that  Justin Bieber is merely  popular. Hence, it required no less than ten top notch musicians to take on this timeless masterpiece — and the ensemble delivered — in spades!

With his long straight hair and twanging a classic Fender Strat, the tall and lanky Rob Phillips channeled David Gilmore "note for note, cut for cut" throughout and brought a unique level of  authenticity to the production.  Additionally, the sax work on such stand-out tracks as "Money" and "Us and Them" was absolutely superb.

But "Dark Side"  is an equally intricate vocal recording. And  aside from the powerful male performances,  female singers Carlia Alderman and Michelle Jones delivered impeccable vocal recreations. In fact, the petite Alderman received a thunderous response, bringing fans to their feet as she passionately nailed the iconic vocal on "Great Gig in the Sky."
 
I was delighted to meet rock powerhouse 
Carlia Alderman following the Orlando
Dark Side of the Moon performance.
As is the Classic Albums Live tradition, following intermission, the show takes a "Greatest Hits" Live approach — offering additional fan favorites from the particular group's catalogue. This night's second-half featured a mini set from the 1979 multi platinum-selling album The Wall, including "Young Lust" (w/ "Collect call to Mr. Floyd from Mrs. Floyd" back-up vocal), "Mother" (w/ roaring crowd sing-along) and the show-stopping  "Comfortably Numb." Also included in the second-half  was 1975's Wish You Were Here and  1971's (twenty-three-minute) encore, "Echoes."

A Classic Albums Live performance is an all 'round, rip roarin' rock show. And possessing state-of-the-art sight and sound production, this event looked as spectacular as it sounded. In sum, it was an amazing concert experience and a heckuva lot of fun!

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)

 
Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Monday, July 23, 2012

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE: Led Zeppelin "IV" (Guest Post)

Classic Albums Live recreates Led Zeppelin IV.
I'm pleased to launch my new 
"Guest Blogger"
series. My debut guest is New
York native and rock and
roll aficionado, Michelle Wilson,
who recently "got
the Led out."
 
__________________________________________________

Sitting in the fifth row aisle seat at Melbourne, Florida’s premier concert venue, the Maxwell C. King Centerfor the Performing Arts on Friday, June 22, awaiting the sold-out performance of Led Zeppelin IV, also known as ZoSo, I reflected upon the many live concerts I’ve experienced during my lifetime. While I was too young to attend a Led Zeppelin concert, I grew up, like many, basking in the poetic lyrics and iconic guitar riffs of the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page combo that comprised half of this powerhouse band along with bass player John Paul Jones and legendary drummer John Bonham. It was their ground-breaking sound that would set the stage for all things metal to come.

In 2003, Classic Albums Live founder, Canadian Craig Martin, decided to bring together musicians who faithfully could recreate full albums, note for note, cut for cut, and he stumbled onto something pretty amazing. A friend of his was interviewing John Paul Jones and when he mentioned Martin’s idea to the renowned bass player, Jones incredulously replied, “Zeppelin IV — note for note? Good luck! Good bloody luck!”  Nine years and multiple album performances later including Led Zeppelin I and II, Martin’s Classic Albums Live ensemble returned to Melbourne to rock the audience with a phenomenal rendition of Led Zeppelin IV, one of the world’s top-selling albums of all time, plus material from other Zep albums.

Photo: Thomas Gerding
Fronted by singer extraordinaire Nick Hildyard, this talented troupe of musicians also included Rick Vatour on drums, who adeptly clutched double drumsticks while channeling John Bonham during his spot-on version of “Four Sticks.” Dom Polito, on lead guitar and mandolin, evoked visions of Jimmy Page, long, curly dark hair and all, and if you closed your eyes, it was like Page was right there on the stage. Other musicians included Merritt Island, Florida's musical talents Shain Honkonen (guitar) and Carlia Alderman (vocals), rounding out this cast of seasoned musicians to offer a local connection. Carlia’s vocals on “Battle of Evermore,” along with Hildyard’s, sent shivers up my spine. Because I was sitting in the fifth row, I was close enough to appreciate the look of sheer euphoria on Shain’s face while he thrashed out the ever-recognizable guitar chords to so many of these songs.

Suffice it to say that ALL of these musicians were unbelievable in their own right, but without a strong “Robert Plant,” the authentic feel would have been lacking. While Hildyard does not resemble Plant physically, he certainly possesses plenty of Plant-like swagger and sex appeal with the chops to match. To say that I enjoyed this performance would be an understatement, as all the songs were incredible, but for me, the real highlights were “Rain Song,” “Ten Years Gone,” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” And yes, “Stairway to Heaven” was awesome, but this band’s music and message is about so much more than one song or album.

-Michelle Wilson
(July 2012)
 
__________________________________________________________

BECOME A GUEST BLOGGER!
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 blog 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
__________________________________________________________ 

Friday, July 20, 2012

OKLAHOMA! (Florida Teens Recreate a Broadway Classic)


OKLAHOMA!
Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts
Melbourne, Florida
July 13-15, 2012
 

____________________________________________________
 

Simply put,  I'm passionate about  the arts particularly theater and  music. I'm equally passionate about what I consider to be a true cultural treasure, The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, located in my hometown of (sunny) Melbourne, Florida. I'm also passionate about young people. In fact, for the last year, I've been involved with the youth music ministry at nearby East Coast Christian Center. So when I heard recently that The King Center was partnering with The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse to recreate one of my all-time favorite musicals, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!  with an all-teenage cast, I became as amped as a twelve-year-old girl at a Bieber gig.

This first annual Summer Musical Theatre Project presented local aspiring actors and actresses (ages ranging from fifteen to eighteen) with an incredible opportunity  to learn the ropes by working with experienced professionals in a theatrical environment and ultimately deliver a Broadway-worthy production to the legendary King Center stage. I've personally experienced numerous theatre productions over the years from coast to coast, and these talented young people proved to be consumate professionals. 

Lawrence M. Mazza II delivered a spot-on performance as the dashing Curly McClain. Mazza's diction and enunciation alone were clear indicators that this young actor has been well-trained and certainly has done his homework  proving to be an engaging leading man.

With a girl-next-door charm and believability, Michaela Vine offered an equally compelling performance in the female lead role of Laurey Williams. Seemingly possessing the instincts of an experienced veteran, Vine's  acting chops are matched only by her incredible singing and dancing skills.

Mazza and Vine had great chemistry and as a result, the pairing made such duets as "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" come across as honest, pure and a heck of a lot of fun.

Secondary love interests Hayley VerValin as the boy-crazy Ado Annie Carnes and Evan Jones as her would-be fiance Will Parker truly shined as well  both giving fabulous "lead-caliber" performances. VerValin's comedic timing and delivery are impeccable.

Claudia Camp (L) as Aunt Eller and Alexander Edwards (R)
as Andrew Carnes, surrounded by Oklahoma! supporting cast.
(Photo courtesy of The King Center)
Mega kudos are in order for Claudia Camp as the spunky Aunt Eller, John Dudley as the Persian "ladies man," peddler Ali Hakim, Tyreek Greene as obsessive hired hand Jud Fry and Alexander Edwards as Annie's over-protective father Andrew Carnes.

However, it was the animated, high-energy performance of Jonathon Adler as Ike Skidmore that stood out for me as the show's most memorable. Knock, knock. Who's there? It's Broadway, looking for Jonathon Adler! (Get to New York FAST, kid.)

Hey, what's a musical without music? Pretty darn lame (and quiet) if you ask me. And it's difficult to sum up in a few words just how much I enjoyed the absolutely outstanding performance by Conductor J. Thomas Black Jr. and his fabulous twenty-piece orchestra  well-done indeed.

BTW, the original dances created by Agnes de Mille were epic and I'd also like to present special "gold stars" to King Center house engineers, Richard Tater and Jimmy Cox.

Finally, congratulations to Executive Producer Steve Janicki, Director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith, Associate Director Pamela Larson, Theatre for Youth Program Director Karen Wilson, Marketing Director Nance Burroughs and what seems to be a staff of nearly one hundred other hard-working professionals on a simply fabulous job. I'm already psyched for next year!

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)


Author Christopher Long's latest book
is available NOW on Amazon.

Monday, July 16, 2012

CAMPAIGN 2012: The Burn-Out Factor

This once-perky gal-on-the-go is not the
only one who has become bored with
the 2012 presidential campaign.
One needs merely to 
spend a moment or two
perusing the Internet,
tuning in to television 
news programs or
just listening in on conversations at the
local Starbucks to
 recognize a sense of
voter fatigue and the
waning political interest sweeping the nation. It’s
only August and the
electorate clearly is 
burnt out already from the
 current presidential race.

_______________________________________________________
 

But this should come as no surprise to anyone who follows “the game.” We have an incumbent President and Vice President who have been running for re-election since January 2009, while challenger Mitt Romney has been ramping up to November 2012 since he was “encouraged” to bail out of the primaries early in 2008.

I recently discovered a website that even has predicted the complete red vs. blue state breakdown and exactly how the Electoral College “chips” likely will fall. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and other acknowledged political pundits also have all weighed in with their various predictions.

Yet despite the screaming, yelling and name-calling that we’ve witnessed thus far this season, I doubt that there is much personal connection between voters and either major party candidate. The state of the nation is “screwed” – people are hurting and they're downright mad as hell. And for whatever reason, I believe that most of the support being thrown to either Obama or Romney simply is based on the “D” or “R” next to their names – while many others have given up on our political process all together.

I believe that people already know darn well who they’re going to vote for in November and they’ve known it since the last election cycle. In short, this campaign seemingly has been underway for four years now, hence the burn-out factor.

In recent days, speculation (and inter-party elation) has been building regarding the likelihood  of former Secretary of State  Condoleezza Rice being tapped as Romney's runningmate – but don't get your hopes up, kids. Romney likely will play it safe by choosing a “vanilla” white guy – a senator or governor from the Midwest named “Smith” or “Connor” or whoever as his VP. In fact, everything on both sides of the aisle will play out real slick and real safe. And in the end, we gleefully will once again overdose on Obama’s “Kool-Aid” and he will be re-elected in a “squeaker" – 50.2% to 49.8%.

So, there ya go. It's sad but true. We now all can return to our PlayStation, Xbox and/or  iGadget devices. Yikes – heaven help us, everyone.

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)

Author Christopher Long's latest book
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Friday, July 13, 2012

THRIFT STORE ADVENTURES - Pt. VIII (The "Creepy" Edition)

Michelle and I don't really have a problem.
We can quit thrifting any time we want!
________________________________

Hello. My name is Chris.
I'm a thriftaholic. I'm a
bona fide, die hard, call-
in-sick, no-sleep-for-three-
days, I-really-need-a-
shower-and-a-hot-meal 
thrift store addict —
and I don't deny it. My
girlfriend Michelle
also suffers from TSA
(Thrift Store Addiction).
 
________________________________


All I ever desired was flippin' awesome
hot pants at an affordable price.
Soon, my life was coming apart at the seams.

I first realized that WE potentially had developed a "problem"  when store clerks  began greeting us by name. And just this past week I received a personal email from a local store owner who  expressed  concern that I had not been in for a while.  She further "encouraged" me to stop by and see her, ASAP.

Oh sure, my story started out innocently enough, but now things are getting a little creepy.

The year was 2003. I was a fresh-faced forty-year-old divorcee with a bright future ahead of me. It was my first experience — a harmless experiment. Ah yes, I remember my very first thrift store purchase fondly  — a pair of plaid capris, a slightly stained "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt and a "like new" cassette tape of Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits. It all felt so good, and I knew that I could handle it. But the "monkey" knew better. Before long, my life was spiraling out of control. I soon became a frequent "client" at various thrift store locations, eagerly taking advantage of weekly half-price and bag-for-a-buck specials. This quickly was becoming a major "dirty little secret" — one that I've only recently been able to share openly with others.

Thrift store marionettes
are plain creepy.

However, I also have noticed lately an alarming creepy-factor associated with the thrifting experience. Just yesterday, Michelle and I paid a visit to one of our favorite hometown destinations. I won't reveal the shop's name, as I'd never drop a dime on a reliable "connection." Furthermore, I hope that what I have been observing recently is  simply  a figment of my imagination and not a dark reality of the thrifting lifestyle. FYI, here's what I observed during yesterday's outing.

As always, the place was packed — standing-room only. But everwhere I looked, everywhere  I walked, I felt as if I was being watched and followed by the various creepy artifacts displayed throughout  the store. From clown paintings to marionettes to china-type dolls, there was no escaping "them."


However, thrift store mannequin heads are perfectly normal. And like most normal people, I like to feel the skin — oh so gently. Oooh, I like the soft and pretty skin.

Am I being paranoid? Do I have a problem? Should I be concerned? Should I seek professional help? What does it all mean? Does Ann Coulter really love me? Should I switch to decaf? Should I simply walk away and abandon this lifestyle? I'm SO confused!

Please feel free to weigh in on this and offer me your guidance, advice or any other personal insight.

-Chris
 

 
Author Christopher Long's latest book
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

C'MON! (The Skinny on My Latest Book)

Based on my personal experiences with a legendary rock band, my first book arrived in stores on April 1, 2010. Seemingly over night I'd graduated from writing music-related columns and reviews for various print and online publications to having a popular book on Amazon. And before I knew it, I was traveling  from coast to coast,  doing newspaper, Internet, radio and TV interviews while on my first national book signing tour.  To say the least, the experience was surreal.

By the time I began developing my next project, I had undergone a life-changing spiritual transformation and had become focused entirely on a different message. I no longer was interested in recounting salacious backstage stories of sex, drugs & rock and roll. I was now compelled to share with readers a truly powerful message. Oh sure, hocking a tell-all about Poison was a piece of cake, but I had no idea whether or not my audience would embrace a story regarding the "good news" of Jesus Christ.


I put nearly two years into the development of my second book and on January 17, 2012 C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation finally was released. Simply put, I love telling people about my relationship with Jesus, and there are many who are apparently eager to listen. Who knew? In fact, in just six months, C'MON! has already outsold my first book. Crazy!


REVIEWS:
Long's story may make you feel like you are looking at yourself in the mirror.
-Greg Van Vorhis (GoodReads.com)

"C’MON!" is well-written with a dose of self-deprecating humor.
-Beth Lynne (BZHercules.com)

I gave this one a 5 out of 5 books because the author could have been my neighbor, my brother's friend or a relative. Thanks Chris!
-Melanie (HaveYouHeardBookReview.blogspot.com)

This book rocks!
-Lisa Snyder (Rock Thiz Magazine)

I recommend this book to anyone who thinks their life is shit and can't ever change.
-Angela Hupp (AngelsCove.blogspot.com)

It really hits home.
-Jeff "Blando" Bland (Guitarist for the rock band Slaughter and Vince Neil)

A bold testimony.
-Chris Johnson (Worship Pastor / East Coast Christian Center - Merritt Island, Florida)

Long has dished up something akin to the rock 'n' roll version of 'The Cross and the Switchblade!'
-Gail Worley (Rock Critic at Large / WorleyGig.com)

A great story that will open your eyes in more ways than one.
-Bryan Dumas (Band Director / Word of Life Center - Shreveport, Louisiana)


I encourage readers to visit the book's Amazon listing and "Like" it – or if you're feeling extra chipper, you're welcome to leave a reader review. This type of customer feedback is essential to a  successful book promotion and your support is appreciated tremendously! Here are just a few reader comments to recently have come my way:


-So good, so inspiring. Loved it! Jen (Minook, IL)
-Got it, read it, loved it! Emma (Palm Bay, FL)
-The author has an interesting life story to tell and he tells it well.Ruby (USA)
-I was blown away. – Jerry (Springfield, MO)
-Read this book and let God speak to you through it. – Candy (Melbourne, FL)
-It will make you simply go "Wow"!!! Kelly (Jackson, TN)
-An uplifting story. A really solid piece of writing. Annette (West Palm Beach, FL)
-This is a must read book.Michelle (Cocoa, FL)
-I am enthralled! This is even better than Chris' last!Jamie (Oklahoma City, OK)
-Chris has a way of 'speaking' from the printed page right to your heart. Pam (Melbourne, FL)
-It took a lot of "guts" to write this book. Fred (Missouri City, TX)
-What Long has overcome is truly inspirational. – Michelle (Melbourne, FL)
-An incredible testimony. Vince (Wichita, KS)
-I highly recommend it. Bob (Indialantic, FL)
-I enjoyed it. Nick (Los Angeles, CA)
-A total feel-good. Dorothy (Orlando, FL)
-I didn't expect to be so entertained. Robyn (Atlanta, GA)
-It's everything I was hoping for. Yvette (Melbourne, FL)
-I liked it a lot! Roberta (Rockwell, NC)

C'MON! YOUTUBE TRAILER
Also special thanks to video director, Cole Alcock for creating such a fabulous and eye-catching promotional clip for C'MON! I also encourage readers to "Like" this, as well as to offer personal comments.


Much thanks to everyone for the continued incredible support and encouragement. And yes, my third book currently IS in development. STAY TUNED!

-Chris

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: "Ted"

___________________________

Excessive, over-the-top,
gratuitous, lowbrow,
insensitive, vulgar and
anti-Semitic are just a
few adjectives that first
come to (my) mind when
describing Family Guy
creator Seth Macfarlane's
debut feature film. Oddly,
however, Ted is the
funniest movie of 2012 
— so far.
___________________________


On the surface, Ted appears merely to be another lowest common denominator summer comedy. But instead of an unlikable foreign journalist, a "flamboyant" fashion guru or a trampish middle-aged school teacher, the perceived "hero" in 2012 is a cantankerous stuffed bear.

I live just south of Cocoa Beach, on Florida's east coast. And if a child's teddy bear came to life in my hood, it most certainly would grow up to be an irresponsible, beer-guzzling, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, horny, couch potato like Peter Griffin, uh, I mean,  Ted.  Hence, I wasn't personally shocked or offended by the film's rather repulsive main character or its overall trash-type content — however, I probably should have been. Shame on me.

Ted boldly offers two hours worth of non-stop filth and envelope-pushing, but it's very clever and well-written filth and envelope-pushing. And I nearly was rolling in the aisle from start to finish — an endorsement that I'm not all together proud to offer. You see, in the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that in spite of my spiritual awareness, I occasionally still can be a bit of a moronic, juvenile bonehead.

However, Ted doesn't offer trash merely for trash sake — entirely.  There actually are two very compelling stories playing out here, which is why I'm (kinda) glad that I didn't walk out of the theater immediately following the initial Jew and Christian bashings.


Mila Kunis is the
seventh hottest
chick ever!
A) Ted is a lighthearted coming-of-age story. The odd (and very funny) thing is, the "age" that the two lead male  buddies (Ted and John) are "coming of" is thirty-five and one of them is an animated teddy bear, played convincingly by Seth Macfarlane.

B) Ted is also  an engaging  love story between John Bennett, played by the ever-hunky Mark Wahlberg and  his girlfriend  Lori Collins, played by the always-steamy Mila Kunis.  Wahlberg and Kunis are  süper-hotties and have  powerful chemistry. And despite John's constant irresponsible behavior  and Lori's  justifiable reasons  for leaving him, she pretty much remains a cool chick throught the film and ultimately saves the day.  In short, John and Lori are both beautiful and quite likable characters.

Overall, Ted   makes  for  a  lively  refuse receptacle. In one scene a coke-junkie prostitute defecates on the living room floor during one of Ted's parties. In another scene, Ted attempts to seduce a co-worker by squirting a milky white, creamy lotion-like  substance on his face.  And then there's the obligatory pro-gay message, which as usual,  is jammed awkwardly into  the story for no apparent rhyme or reason. But it's Ryan Reynolds kissing a dude, so I guess it must be "relevant."

Look, even some of us right-wing Jesus-believing wackos have a sense of humor, but c'mon! Sometimes less  IS more. I mean, where can we go after witnessing an animated toy teddy bear boasting about "effing" his human girlfriend with a vegetable? 


A boy and his bear!
So, was there anything really that wrong with Ted? After all, it was rated "R" — no kiddies allowed. Well, uh, in that context, I guess not. But Seth Macfarlane  is a modern-day comedic genius and as a fan, I believe that he's capable of creating higher quality content. Perhaps his next film will be truly epic.


-Christopher Long
(July 2012)

 



Author Christopher Long's latest book
is available NOW on Amazon.