Saturday, March 25, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Doll Skin "In Your Face (Again)"

RECORD REVIEW
Doll Skin
In Your Face (Again)
2016 EMP Label Group
_________________________

Crisp and crunchy  fresh,
fun and totally irresistible.
The full-length debut slab
from Doll Skin makes me
super-happy I'm not dead.
__________________________

There I was — covering the recent Vans Warped Tour official kick-off party at Full Sail Live in Orlando. From my primary perch near the production booth at the back of the auditorium, I stood taking in a fast-paced video montage spotlighting this summer's bumper-crop of big names. One by one, the barrage of various cookie cutter "core" collectives flashed by. Then, suddenly, images of four brightly-colored slices of delicious-looking punk-flavored birthday cake popped out from the venue's two jumbo-sized video screens and captured my attention completely. Hmm. Note to self  seek out Doll Skin and buy their record  ASAP!

Produced by record label mogul and co-founding Megadeth bassist, Dave Ellefson, In Your Face (Again) delivers where so many records by similar bands have fallen short. Simply put, this scrappy Phoenix-based combo possesses ferocious musicianship — and they've got songs to back it up. 

DOLL SKIN
(Meghan Herring, Alex Snowden, Sydney Dolezal, Nicole Rich)
Capturing glorious "Queens of Noise"-caliber vocal attitude while creating authentic "Seether"-style guitar buzz, "Family of Strangers" is the perfect opening track for this sensational 9-gem treasure chest. Other noteworthy highlights include the guitar-driven dysfunctional love song, "Wring Me Out" and the riff-laden show-stopper,"Furious Fixation" — I live and I die, indeed! On the lighter side, the moody, romance-on-the-skids ballad, "Blind," seemed initially like the set's "square peg." But after a couple of spins, this one sneaked up, crawled into bed with me, and broke off a piece of my good sweet lovin'. Your experience might differ.

Despite the lavish songwriting praise the band so richly deserves, the record's two cover tunes also make for extra-exciting moments. The super-charged remake of "Weatherman," the 2012 staple from Dead Sara is a spot-on recreation, while the updated version of "Woman," the hard-hitting 2006 classic from Wolfmother is absolutely blistering — BRAVO!

In sum, everything here works. Everything pops. And be sure, age and gender are irrelevant. Doll Skin is simply a monstrous band — one with an amazing record and a seemingly limitless future. That is, as long as they don't do anything stupid and "F"-it all up.

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: The Shack

MOVIE REVIEW
The Shack
_________________________

It's warm and fuzzy. It's
colorful and entertaining.
It's a bona fide family-
friendly feel-good. Then,
why on earth is The Shack
such a dangerous film?
_________________________

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, the film adaptation of The Shackauthor William Paul Young's 2007 bestseller, arrived in cineplexes nationwide just a few days ago. And it's causing quite a stir.

At first glance, this big-budget blockbuster is spot-on. Despite involving the tragic and painful death of a child, the story succeeds in presenting a bigger picture — one that's a bold, entertaining and biblically accurate message of peace, love, hope, kindness, patience and forgiveness — everything Jesus stood for. Bravo!

"A great story. But I doubt
anyone is getting saved
as a result of seeing it."
-Bryan Dumas
(Co-author of Shout it Out Loud)

Don't get me wrong — I love a family-friendly feature as much as the next guy. But, contrary to the underlying feel-good theme, "everything" is not, in fact,"gonna be alright." Not necessarily, anyway. Personally, I became so awash with the film's "snot-bubble" emotion-factor, that it didn't hit me 'til the next day how The Shack rather cleverly omits the Cross — as if filmmakers didn't want to offend folks with too much truth. But, truth be told — no Cross = no Crucifixion. No Crucifixion = no Resurrection. No Resurrection = no Salvation. No Salvation = everything is not gonna be alright.

Oh sure, the human manifestation of God, played (beautifully) by Octavia Spencer, does reveal holes in her wrists — suggesting Christ's crucifixion. And main character, Mack Phillips, played (less convincingly) by Sam Worthington, is seen falling asleep while reading a King James Bible —  pointing further in Christ's direction. And while I'm TOTALLY on board with how Jesus is portrayed (superbly) by Aviv Alush — especially the scenes when he's downing religion and sitting in the living room, laughing and drinking coffee — the film stops short of "closing" the deal.

As a public service, here's what the film sidestepped — Jesus Christ IS the Son of God. He was crucified on the cross. He rose again, three days later. His blood paid the FULL price for ALL the transgressions of the world — but we MUST accept Him as our personal Savior. He said so, himself...

“I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one can come to the
Father except through me."
-Jesus Christ
John 14:6 (NLT)

If the intention was merely for The Shack to be entertaining, then I applaud the effort. We need more family-friendly, fantasy-type feel-goods. But I would have dressed the cast all in mouse ears, or as wacky sea creatures or something. Now THAT'S really fun! But if the intention was truly to advance the Kingdom of God, then The Shack is, for me — a heartbreaking, epic fail.

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

LIVING SOBER: Lucky 13 Addition

LIVING SOBER
Lucky 13 Addition
_________________________

Most of us are familiar
with that old expression,
"the luck of the Irish." Yet,
despite not being Irish, this
St. Patrick's Day, I'm the
one who's feeling "lucky."
_________________________

As a little old man, navigating through my golden years, I can now look back and recognize with 20/20 hindsight, how my life's bad decisions — my losses, failures, set backs and disappointments can all be attributed directly to either my own alcohol-related stupidity or the related drooling of others.

St. Patrick's Day 2017 marks my 13th year anniversary of living sober. As I've said many times before, my sobriety doesn't make me a better person. However, it ABSOLUTELY has enhanced the quality of my life.

I've written extensively in recent years about getting sober, as well as my ever-increasing utter disdain for alcohol and the distasteful and dishonest way in which this poison is peddled. I've posted links (below) to many of my related feature stories. If you can possibly manage the time, I invite and encourage all my readers to check them out.

Finally, should you be dealing with your own alcohol-related demon, and you need someone to "lean on," I welcome you to reach out and contact me anytime at my personal email address. Just remember, I’m NOT a licensed counselor, but I am a nightclub DJ, which is kinda the same thing.
(AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)
_________________________

Don't miss any of
my sobriety features:

_________________________


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Friday, March 10, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: John 5 and the Creatures "Season of the Witch"

RECORD REVIEW
John 5 and the Creatures
Season of the Witch
(60 Cycle Hum)
_________________________

Imagine a bakery case beaming
brightly, brimming with an array
of colorful, tasty, aural treats 
all prepared to perfection with an
industrial-tinged metallic glaze. 
_________________________

The latest solo slab from John 5 is, in reality, an irresistible ensemble endeavor. In fact, I'm not so sure who's the bigger badass — the renown guitar guru gracing the album's front cover, or his two equally impressive "Creatures."

Now, I'm no muzo (myo͞oz-ō). I don't know a pentatonic from a gin and tonic. But I do know that Telecasters are cool, Marshalls are cool, and shredding can be cool. And in that regard, Season of the Witch is exactly what a great guitar record should be — oozing ferociously crisp and clean, blister-inducing, non-stop shredding — but without any embarrassing sticky discharge. And the record's noteworthy highlights are seemingly infinite.

Powerful and throaty, "Guitars, Tits and Monsters" is all nuts and guts. And while "Now Fear This" and "Making Monsters" are both straight-up, foot-through-the-floor, Camaro-style rockers, “Triple D” is a stripped-down, cigarette-worthy seduction — showcasing 5 shredding completely on his own.

John 5 onstage w/ Rob Zombie - 2013
(Photo: Rob Fenn)
As for the record's super-highlights, “Black Grass Plague” is a bona fide, no-holds-barred, metal-meets-bluegrass juggernaut. Yet, despite the titillating, go for the throat factor of the track's first three minutes, it's the last 60 seconds that provide the true payoff with 5 blazing on banjo, bassist Ian Ross channeling Jerry Peek, and Rodger Carter detonating an arena-sized drum grenade. Conversely, “Behind the Nut Love” rings honest and pure — in an organic Zeppelin III vein. Lusciously laid back, this country-tinged gem is undeniably one of the record's brightest moments.

Another super-exciting track, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” is, as they say, "the whole enchilada." Turbo-charged metal guitar riffage pinned to Tony Levin-caliber bass work, and carried masterfully into a Kansas-style climax. Doggonit, man! But by simply applying an old fashioned Chet Atkins-style shellac finish to a George and Ira Gershwin classic, “Hell Haw” is perhaps the surprise secret toy buried at the bottom of this sweet and crunchy box of Cracker Jack. (A+)

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Vinny Marcone "Antietam Sunrise"

RECORD REVIEW
Vinny Marcone
Antietam Sunrise
_________________________

This intriguing new indie
release has been simmering
on my "back burner" since
arriving at my home office
during a particularly hectic
personal time few months
ago. Better late than never?
_________________________

Florida-based singer / songwriter / guitarist, Vinny Marcone, has created an interesting premise — a concept album boasting all-original material — an engaging mix of guitar-driven vintage-style rock and vocal-driven country-style ballads — all based on the experiences and viewpoints of soldiers during the Civil War. Hmm. Not very "David Lee Roth," but I'm all in.

Whether you get the conceptual angle or not, the songs here stand up nicely on their own — making for a solid, nine-song, roots-flavored collection. In fact, despite my own personal passion for U.S. history, I found myself drifting quickly into the individual songs, and focusing less on the story line.

Oozing maximum riffage, the title track kicks the record off with a bang. Other highlights include the Stillwater-flavored "Deep River Soul," the super-stripped-down "Ballad of Hezekiah Daniels" and the snappy-sounding, "Sadie the Goat."

Bringing his musical story to life required a "village." As a result, Marcone assembled an impressive ensemble of session players — an A-List cast that includes co-founding Foghat bassist Tony Stevens and world-renown concert violinist Michelle Jones.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the record can be discovered fully by visiting the Official Website.

-Christopher Long
(March 2017)

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Monday, February 27, 2017

ASIA "Symfonia: Live in Bulgaria 2013"

ASIA
Symfonia:
Live in Bulgaria 2013
Frontiers Music (2.24.17)
________________________

The latest offering from
classic rock combo ASIA
has finally arrived. How
does it stack up against
the band's 30+ previous
live recordings? Let's see.
________________________

What separates ASIA from its pack of pretentious prog contemporaries is they actually have songs — you know, tunes that make ya snap your fingers, tap your toes, bop your head, and maybe even steal a little sugar from your best gal as you both sing along outside the ol' Tastee-Freez. And in that sense, this 2-CD / DVD package will likely be a tremendous treat for enthusiasts, old and new.

Recorded back on September 21, 2013 during the Sounds of the Ages festival at the II Century Roman Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Symfonia boasts (most) of the band's original line-up — late frontman / bassist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer and keyboardist Geoff Downes, along with more recent recruit, guitarist Sam Coulson.

Culled from five of the band's 13 studio albums, this engaging 14-song set oozes such U.S. chart-busters as "Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell," "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes." However, it's deeper cuts, including "An Extraordinary Life," "Days Like These" and "Wildest Dreams" that often deliver the most satisfying payoff.

Having been archived originally for European TV, the recording quality is absolutely superb, and the fistful of tracks accompanied by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra make for particularly shiny highlights.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TOP TEN BEST KISS SONGS

TOP TEN BEST
KISS SONGS
_________________________

Boasting hundreds of
titles, KISS' catalog is
iconic and impressive.
However, calculating
this checklist actually
proved a much easier
task than I'd expected.
_________________________

KISS has masqueraded quite convincingly as a heavy metal band for much of the last 40-some years. But truth be told, despite the cosmetic distraction, sky-high amplifiers and exploding stage sets, KISS has always been, at the core, an honest and pure, song-based pop / rock band sharing more common fabric with "Go All the Way" than "Dazed and Confused." Hence, this concise countdown doesn't reflect the band's most awesome anthems or most rocking riffs. It doesn't even represent their hottest hits. It merely points to KISS' all-time crispiest, crunchiest and most well-crafted songs. BTW, the fact that they all were either written or co-written by Paul Stanley is purely coincidental. No, really.

10
"Comin' Home"
(Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley)
From Hotter Than Hell - 1974

A super-catchy, squeaky-clean,
sing-along love song from an
otherwise dark and heavy album.

9
"Shandi"
(Paul Stanley, Vini Poncia)
From Unmasked - 1980

By 1980, KISS cred had become
so compromised, not even this bona
fide Bubblegum gem could break
onto Casey's Countdown. However,
I would wager a bet that had it been
covered by Journey and appeared
on the Escape album, it certainly
would have been a Top 10 smash.

8
"Lick it Up"
(Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)
From Lick it Up - 1983

The song that saved the sinking ship.
Sometimes, a single note, a sweet hook,
and a few silly lyrics are all ya need.

7
"Tears Are Falling"
(Paul Stanley)
From Asylum - 1985

In terms of quality songwriting, Asylum
is KISS' all-time finest work. And along
with "Who Wants to Be Lonely," this
song shines the brightest of the bunch.

6
"Tomorrow and Tonight"
(Paul Stanley)
From Love Gun - 1977

A super-charged "party ev-er-ee-day"
anthem — one in which the Starchild
wrote and delivered (in his signature
style), the Shakespeare-inspired lyric,
Oh yeah. Uh-huh. Alright!

5
"Hard Luck Woman"
(Paul Stanley)
From Rock and Roll Over - 1976

Another rock solid example of why
KISS was so undeserving of being
dismissed by critics. The songwriting
displayed here stands nose-to-nose
with any "acclaimed" chart-buster.

4
"Flaming Youth"
(Paul Stanley,  Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Bob Ezrin)
From Destroyer - 1976

Of KISS' many teen-targeted anthems,
this is the most authentic and hard-hitting.
And to this day, my flag is (still) flying,
higher and higher and higher and higher!

3
"Reason to Live"
(Paul Stanley, Desmond Child)
From Crazy Nights - 1987

Arguably the all-time greatest power
ballad. Had the song been recorded
by Bon Jovi, it would have likely
earned a greater distinction than
Dial MTV's "Darling of the Week."

2
"Let Me Know"
(Paul Stanley)
From KISS - 1974

The original line-up, recording one of
their earliest treasures on a $9 budget.
And it's brilliant. This one proves that
from the get-go, KISS absolutely was
in the same songwriting league as any
of the era's other "big boys." 43 years
later, it still sounds as fresh as ever

1
"I Still Love You"
(Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)

Only TWO types of people in this world...

1) Super-humans who recognize this 
IS the all-time best KISS song.

2) Troglodytes who molest Collies.

Incredibly powerful and beautifully
transparent. The ultimate rib-cracking
break-up song. A "crème de la crème"
concert staple for 35 years. Arguably
Paul Stanley's finest work to date.

Okay, fellow KISS Freaks, I encourage you all to play along and chime in with your personal picks in the "Comment" section below. Although your results may vary from mine, be sure, there are NO wrong answers. So, have fun, and let me know. 'Cuz after all, you got nothin' to lose.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

_________________________

Don't miss my other
KISS-related features.
(Find 'em all HERE)
_________________________


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is available NOW on Amazon.

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