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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Thursday, February 16, 2017

WORDS HURT (They Also Leave Scars!)

WORDS HURT
(They Also Leave Scars!)
________________________

I first addressed this timely
topic in a 2012 feature story.
However, I believe that it
still warrants discussion.
________________________

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." FYI, this age-old saying is an absolute lie...

I awoke early one chilly morning about a week ago. Per my typical 6am routine, I let the dogs out, poured myself a cup of hot, fresh, caramel-flavor-enhanced coffee and then cozied-up to the screen illuminating my home office. As I sat at my desk, perusing the avalanche of emails from the night before, I was amped to discover a message notifying me of my latest 5-Star Amazon customer / reader book review. HOORAY!

But when I checked my email again, after I'd returned home from driving my teenage buddy to school, I'd received a contrasting sentiment from a seemingly random source — someone who felt compelled to reach out from behind a shroud of cyber anonymity and convey to me that I'm a "cheap D-list faggot" and a "slimy fake." Hmm, anybody care to guess which of these two emails has affected me most?

OUCH!
(That one's gonna leave a scar!)
Look, I'm certainly no stranger to unkind words. In fact, I remember it like it was yesterday — the first time I was called "stupid" at age five. And the memory of being called "fat" at age eight still stings as much as the first time I was called a "faggot" at age ten. Yep, words DO hurt — they also leave scars.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll confess that in the past, I've also been guilty of speaking unkind words against others — hateful and hurtful words that can't be un-spoken. And if I (now) feel sick, disgusted, ashamed and heartbroken for having spoken such words, I can only imagine the hurt and scars I've put on the ones to whom I was speaking.

Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) tells us that, "the tongue can bring death or life." Hence, I choose my words more wisely these days — using them to now offer others the same kindness, comfort and compassion as I'd like to receive myself. #WordsHurt #SpeakLife

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)
_________________________

Don't miss my original
2012 installment of
_________________________


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Monday, February 13, 2017

BUTCH TRUCKS: A True American Treasure

BUTCH TRUCKS
A True American Treasure
________________________

Rock and blues, jazz and R&B,
folk and country — the music
created by Butch Trucks knew
few boundaries. And his legacy
will endure for years to come.
________________________

As a tweenage pop / rock junkie growing up in Missouri's Ozark Mountains during the early '70s, I got my first Allman Brothers Band fix via such radio-friendly singles as "Melissa," "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." But by the late '70s, I'd been introduced to and hooked by such down and dirty album tracks as "Stormy Monday," "Trouble No More" and "Jelly Jelly."

An aspiring teenage musician at the time, I was inspired particularly by the versatile drum work of Butch Trucks. In fact, I'd argue that Trucks' signature-style pressed snare / tom fill / kick drum combo was every bit as key to the iconic ABB sound as any of the band's other more acknowledged ingredients. And to this day, the dual drum / percussion work between Trucks and Jaimoe on such heart-stoppers as "You Don't Love Me," (At Fillmore East) and "Pegasus" (Enlightened Rogues) remains magical.

Ruled as a suicide, Trucks tragic death at age 69 on January 24th came as a shock to fans, as well to music biz insiders who knew him best. In a related interview, co-founding Black Crowes drummer, Steve Gorman, referred to Trucks stylistically as "the eye of the storm — the center of all the swirling magic of The Allman Brothers." Well put, indeed.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Jack Russell's Great White "He Saw it Comin'"

RECORD REVIEW
Jack Russell's
Great White
He Saw it Comin'
Frontiers Music
_________________________

With so many splintered and
contentious incarnations of
former chart-busters parked
in "sludge purgatory" these
days, it's been tough for me
to muster much enthusiasm
for any of them. Until now.
_________________________

Although the iconic logo points to the past, the debut record from Jack Russell's Great White sounds surprisingly fresh.

Propelled by the power, precision and finesse of the record's MVP, drummer Dicki Fliszar, He Saw it Comin' kicks off mightily with "Sign of the Times." Combining a healthy portion of classic Great White gusto with a splash of new millennium vim, it's one of the crown jewels of this 11-song set, and it makes for an enticing lead video.

Other highlights include the catchy, groove-laden "Love Don't Live Here" and "My Addiction," as well as the sweet-n-simple  "Anything for You" and the "D'yer Mak'er"-tinged "Don't Let Me Go."

JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE
The record does, however, suffer from a misstep or two (or three). "She Moves Me" proves to be an over all pop-flavored delight, but its crispety, crunchety cred is compromised by Russell's less than legit rap effort. And with its authentic, circa '91, bluesy cock rock vibe, "Crazy" feels like a comfy fit initially, but it falls victim quickly to Tufnel / St. Hubbins-inspired lyrical dopiness — She's gonna blow ya. Aw, she wants to blow ya. Yeah, she's gonna blow your mind. Oy vey.

But all in all, the news is quite good for Russell and company. He Saw it Comin' oozes delicious, razor-sharp guitar work from Tony Montana and Robby Lochner, while Russell's signature-style vocals remain in top form. The record also touts several super-highlights, including the classic Queen-caliber songwriting of the title track, the straight-up, fist-pumping "Spy vs Spy" and the musically light, yet lyrically dark, biographical "Blame it on the Night."

In sum, He Saw it Comin' boasts some of Russell's strongest work to date — making for what just might be THE feel-good rock record of the new year. (A-)

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)


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Monday, January 30, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Good Luck Audrey "Miss Understood, The EP"

RECORD REVIEW
Good Luck Audrey
Miss Understood, The EP
_________________________

What? A crunchy collection
of sweat-soaked songs from
a gang of angst-filled teens?
WELL, COUNT ME IN!
_________________________

Produced by David Mikeal, the debut record from Central Florida's alterno-punk poster chicks, Good Luck Audrey arrived at the usual online outlets on January 9th. Let's dive in and have a looksie.

Simply put, Miss Understood proves to be a gloriously seductive lo-fi treat. Kicking off with the Evanescence-flavored "Machine," this six-song set sounds and smells authentic from start to finish — raw and seemingly honest rock tunes, all likely cooked-up in a sweaty garage by hungry, disenfranchised teenagers chasing their dreams.

While "Judgment Day" and "Paranoia" both succeed in recreating Veruca Salt's '90s-tinged vibe and energy, "Miss Understood" stands out lyrically as arguably the most important track on the record providing a passionate, tongue-in-cheek message, fired straight at the their teenage target audience You better get in line. Don’t stand out. Don’t speak your mind. Fit in with everybody else. Never draw attention to yourself.

Good Luck Audrey
However, for my money, the most powerful track is the record-closing, "Still Alive." Although I'm way too old and out of touch to grasp the secret "youth gone wild" meaning behind the complicated poetry, this song somehow moves me. Consisting of what sounds like a duet between co-vocalist / guitarists Landin Krewe and Jordan Greaves, pinned delicately to a gorgeous piano backdrop and peppered lightly with ambient acoustic guitar, this is the kinda song that separates the "big girls" from the "wannabes." BRAVO!

In sum, if the "powers that be" were to get a hold of this record, Good Luck Audrey would be a well-deserved shoo-in for this year's Vans Warped Tour. Just sayin'.

-Christopher Long
(January 2017)
______________________________

GOOD LUCK AUDREY
______________________________


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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

CHRIS DILLON: Aspiring Artist Launches GoFundMe Campaign

CHRIS DILLON
 Aspiring Artist Launches
GoFundMe Campaign 
________________________

Ever hear of patina art?
Prepare to be amazed! 
________________________

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll confess to being quite frightened by Chris Dillon when we first met at New Jersey's PNC Center back in 2006. I was on tour working for a legendary rock group, and as an acknowledged music biz insider, Dillon had been invited to the band's backstage after-show party. He stood six-feet-tall — arms crossed, with a slight scowl. Sporting a shaved head and boasting biceps the size of HoneyBaked Hams, the fitness guru was an intimidating presence — similar to the genie in The Thief of Bagdad. But in the years following our initial encounter, I've actually come to know Chris Dillon as a kind, compassionate and caring man. He's also an incredible artist.

When I discovered online photos last fall of Dillon's patina (shoe) art, I was intrigued immediately. I'd never heard of patina before, but I found the art form to be fascinating. So, I called Dillon up to get the lowdown.

The amazing patina art of Chris Dillon.
“I’ve always had a passion for fine shoes,” he revealed in short order. “And when I was in need of a new creative outlet a few years back, I discovered the art of shoe patina. I was quickly inspired to learn how to transform shoes. And through years of trial and error, and with continual practice, I started to understand the techniques needed to take shoe patina to the next level.”

Recently, Dillon was accepted by Landry Lacour (the world’s leading patina artist) to participate in an intensive training course set for the spring of 2017 — an opportunity which will place Dillon in a rather precarious financial position. “I will have to leave my job in the U.S. and move temporarily to Brussels, Belgium,” he explains. “The course is not cheap. Plus flights and living expenses have to also be included into the equation.”

Chris Dillon's patina art.
(BEFORE and AFTER)
Upon completing the course, Dillon will bring his newly-honed skills back to the States, where there currently are no other patina artists creating work at this level.

In sum, Dillon's recently launched GoFundMe effort will help him to finance this golden opportunity — a fantastic, once in a lifetime experience. A completely worthwhile cause, to be sure.

-Christopher Long
(January 2017)

_________________________

Support Chris' cause:
 _________

View Chris' work:
_________________________



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Thursday, January 19, 2017

WELCOME TO THE SHOW: VIP Tent, Stage Left

WELCOME TO THE SHOW
VIP Tent, Stage Left
_________________________

In the old days, you'd simply walk
into your local record store, give
the ponytail guy behind the counter
$8.50 and he'd hand you a crisp and
sparkley General Admission ticket
to see your favorite band. That was
it — transaction complete! And VIPs
were exactly that — they didn't pay
$1,000 for a photo and an autograph
 and they weren't corralled like cattle.
_________________________

Truth be told, I'm filled with a sense of such inflated self-importance, unless I'm comped tickets in true VIP fashion, I'm not likely to venture out to see any concert these days. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess to going online once in a blue moon in order to purchase tickets under "special circumstances" (e.g. my GF really loves the band).

I've watched the concert ticket business spiral slowly out of control ever since I was "forced" to fork over a whopping $16.50 (via mail order) to see The Rolling Stones back in 1981. Ten years later, Guns N' Roses took the art of "creative pricing" to the next level by charging in excess of $25 per ticket on their Use Your Illusion world tour. I recall reading a related Billboard feature story at the time, suggesting GNR had opened an industry floodgate that would lead to inevitable $100+ ticket prices in the future. Back then, I thought that notion was completely insane.

In ensuing years, ticketing giant, Ticketmaster implemented extra "convenience" fees, conditioning the public further and further to pay more and more. And by the early 2000s, mega music brands such as KISS and Aerosmith were offering fans nightly "VIP Experiences" — pricey pre-show personal meet-and-greet packages that were gobbled-up gleefully by faithful followers.

Today, offering fans some type of "VIP Experience" has become the norm for most touring acts / and or promoters looking to enhance their bottom line. In fact, when my award-winning band, Dead Serios, played our 30th Anniversary Concert at Melbourne Florida's prestigious King Center for the Performing Arts in 2015, the show's promoter designated several prime rows as part of a special premium-priced package. FYI, for many reasons, my band was against that decision.

There I am, holding court, during the 2015
Dead Serios pre-show meet-and-greet.
I'm fascinated by how America's enlightened hipster coalition can be so disgusted and so offended by the country's filthy affluent faction, yet they have no problem embracing U2 in a collective hot-n-horny lip lock while plunking down $300+ per ticket for the band's upcoming summer tour. Psst — hey there my little corrupted college cronies — don't be conned. You can "Feel the Bern" all day long, but there's absolutely NO diff between the dude with awesome hair and great pecks, plucking a sweet twanger while standing center stage at a sold-out "Mega Dome" show and one of the vile, money-grubbing Wall Street-types who you spit on. Just so ya know, they ALL "bow" to the same "little g." But I digress.

Clearly, the Internet has decimated the record industry. And as a result, it also has effected the concert biz. One of the last remaining things a music artist has to hock (and that the Internet can't steal) is the personal fan experience (e.g. live performances, meet-and-greets, etc). And as a true blue capitalist pig, I believe ALL Americans should go out there and grab every dollar they can, when they can, while they can. But at some point, this ticket thing became obscene. From the various secret on-sale dates to the menagerie of VIP Club Member, Platinum Club Member, Fan Club Member, Deluxe Fan Club Member and Deluxe Platinum Fan Club Member statuses, the "average Joe" has gotta either know somebody or have some seriously stupid cash on-hand in order to secure even mediocre seats to see top-selling social justice advocates crooning their chart-busting classics.

And I'll suggest further that (in the concert biz) the term "VIP" no longer stands for Very Important Person — 'cuz if it did, the folks chillin' backstage, sipping Perrier and sitting "ringside" would have paid, NADA! Today, fans are pandered to by being called "VIPs" simply for purchasing absurdly over-priced tickets and packages. I propose that these consumers be referred to as "VIPs" — Very Intensely Passionate. 

But while plenty of hard-working fans WILL continue mortgaging their farms and pony-up whatever in order to score "spittin' distance" seats for Kenny Chesney or for the privilege of touching the hem of Justin Bieber's sweat-soaked cloak, some "VIPs" have voiced disappointment regarding what they received, based on the price they paid. Now, I must confess to having witnessed first-hand (for one reason or another) a couple of these "VIP Experiences" — Aerosmith in West Palm Beach (2006) and Mick Fleetwood in Orlando (2015). By comparison, I felt the Fleetwood promotion was a warmer and fuzzier experience. The co-founding Fleetwood Mac drummer offered fans an engaging Q&A / storytelling session, as well as a personal ONSTAGE photo op, PLUS a bag-o-groovy swag. As for the Aerosmith promotion, I found frontman Steven Tyler to be absolutely charming, while guitarist Joe Perry seemed, well um, less than enthusiastic.

Onstage with Mick Fleetwood
(Orlando, FL - 2015)
Just last week, my GF and I partnered in purchasing four tickets to take her two teenage sons to see Green Day in West Palm Beach, FL coming up on September 3rd. The base price for ONE ticket to see the anti-establishment punk band led by the America-hating, Bush-bashing, platinum-selling poster boy, Billy Joe Whatshisname — $81.50. Multiply that by four, then add an appalling $120 in convenience / service charges, and the total came to $440. That's obscene, Billy. Oh well, guess I really am an American idiot.

Having worked on a few national concert tours in recent years, I suggest that if "VIPs" only knew just how little their glorious music idols thought of fans, they'd be less eager to plunk down such absurd amounts of cash to get close to them or to even see them perform. Yet we keep on paying.

Loretta Lynn - a TRUE icon. And at "just"
$50 and change (including service charge),
it will be worth every penny, I'm sure.
I find it interesting that these high-priced "VIP Experiences" are what Loretta Lynn offered for FREE after every show for years  out of a sense of dedication to her fans who she felt had already spent enough of their hard-earned money on her records, tickets and T-shirts. Wow, the times, they certainly are a-changin', that's for sure!

-Christopher Long
(January 2017)

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is available NOW on Amazon.

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