Monday, November 12, 2018

TOP TEN BEST ALBUMS OF 2018

TOP TEN BEST
ALBUMS OF 2018
__________

It's quite a mixed bag — my
personal "Best Of" album
picks for 2018. Simply put,
it's all about the songs, man.
__________

It's an impossible task, to be sure. I mean, c'mon now, is anybody truly qualified to determine the "best" music of any particular anything? And even if that person did exist, with thousands and thousands and thousands of new records dropping each year, who's got the time to listen to 'em all? Truth be told, I don't want to invest that much effort into analyzing anything that doesn't involve Skittles or Jesus. However, as the self-proclaimed "Show Biz Guru," buttloads of records find their way onto my radar each year. And 2018 was no exception. So, based on my personal myriad musical discoveries, these are the records that spoke to me most profoundly over the last 12 months. Disclaimer — genres mean nothing to me. I'm ALL about songs.

10
BELMONT
Belmont

This brash Chicago-based combo is
blowing up. And their full-length debut
was a rib-cracking highlight of 2018.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

9
THE STRUTS
Young & Dangerous

The sophomore set from this British
brigade was well-worth the wait.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

8
GRETA VAN FLEET
Anthem of the Peaceful Army

Anointed by many as modern-day
music messiahs, this Michigan-bred
band proved to be the real deal with
their rock-ribbed, sophomore set.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

7
BLUE OCTOBER
I Hope You're Happy

With the release of their ninth
record, this Texas troupe remains
at the top of their creative game.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

6
KEN SHARP
Beauty in the Backseat

Acclaimed pop singer / songwriter,
Ken Sharp, returned in 2018 with
arguably his strongest effort to date.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

5
LINUS OF HOLLYWOOD
Cabin Life

To quote the celebrated late British
poet, Robert Palmer, the latest
from Linus is "simply irresistible."

Read my official review HERE.
__________

4
BRADLEY COOPER / LADY GAGA
A Star Is Born
(Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Believe the hype. This
set is straight-up legit.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

3
YYNOT
YYNOT

Apparently, rock ain't "dead" after
all. Neither is masterful musicianship
and well-crafted songwriting.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

2
DON BROCO
Technology

Two words  heart-stopping.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

1
LAUREN DAIGLE
Look Up Child

Warm and rich. Honest and pure.
This record is a breath of fresh air.

Read my official review HERE.
__________

Okay, there ya go — a slew of solid, sonic slabs you may or may not be familiar with, but certainly are worthy of checking out. Now it's your turn to share with the class. Which records thwacked you most in 2018? Please find the "Comment" section below and let us know!

-Christopher Long
(November 2018)
__________


Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

THE BEST OF KANYE WEST (Guest Feature by Jesse Tanner Long)

THE BEST OF
KANYE WEST
Guest Feature by
Jesse Tanner Long
__________

Outspoken guest contributor
and acclaimed ice cream
architect, Jesse Tanner Long
returns today with more of his
signature-style commentary.
__________

Although he's achieved astronomical acclaim, some would say there are no two words in the English language more harmful than “Kanye West” — Yeezus, Yandhi, Ye. The man. The myth. The legend.

His behavior (y’know the kind involving skillfully contrived publicity stunts / marketing strategies) has polarized the masses, but similar to this toothache of mine, I choose to ignore it.

“Kanye West is the most important artist, in any art form, any genre, of the 21st Century,” said the late journalist Dave Bry. For me, that’s pushing it a bit. While I'm not a big fan, I can appreciate a handful of tracks from the self-proclaimed genius — “the being formally known as Kanye West.”

Here are my Top 10 favorite “Ye” songs:

10
Graduation - 2007

9
Yeezus - 2013

8
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - 2010

7
Yeezus - 2013

6
(feat. Beyoncé, Charlie Wilson & Big Sean)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - 2010
*iTunes Bonus Track

5
(feat. Ludacris)
The College Dropout - 2004

4
(feat. Lupe Fiasco)
Late Registration - 2005

3
(feat. Kanye West & Jamie Foxx)
The College Dropout - 2004

2
Yeezus - 2013

1
(feat. Syleena Johnson)
The College Dropout - 2004


(November 2018)

________________

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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 website 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
________________



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

CHRISTOPHER LONG FOR PRESIDENT 2020: Making America Purple Again!

CHRISTOPHER LONG
FOR PRESIDENT 2020
Making America Purple Again!
__________

In the immortal words of
that great elder American
statesman, Billy Joel 
"You may be right. I may
be crazy. But it just may be
lunatic you're looking for."
__________

Now that another spirited campaign season has come and gone, I'm revved-up and prepped already for the next battle. And this time, it's personal. One thing we've learned over the last several election cycles is that experience no longer is criteria for running for, being elected to, or holding any public office. Clearly, qualifications no longer matter. As as result, I'm announcing my official candidacy for President in 2020 — yes, of the United States — yes, of America.

I've been chosen as the official nominee of the People's Purple Party for a More United Nation. Although the party consists of only about 17 people, I'm humbled to receive, and honored to accept their nomination. And I will take on the upcoming two-year race for the White House with 100% gusto and sincerity. Why? Simply put, America needs me.

As both a father and a son, I will endeavor to
reinforce the fabric of the American family.
Society has become so mean-spirited, intolerant and polarized by politics, it's gonna take a compassionate leader and a bold visionary — one armed only with hugs, chiseled good looks and an eye-catching fashion sense to bring us all back together — like a real life episode of Full House. My sole purpose for seeking the presidency is to blur social and political lines — no more "red" states or "blue" states. We will become a united nation of "purple" states — all 47 of 'em. It will be no easy task, but together, we WILL "make America purple again!"

The biggest misconception among politicians and voters is that there is someone out there with an absolute agenda — a magical prescription by which everyone will be protected and pleased across the board. Truth be told, neither that guy, nor that plan exists. As a nightclub DJ, I've learned that making everybody happy simply is an unrealistic and unattainable goal. Hence, as president, I merely will endeavor to disappoint ALL Americans equally. And that's a promise!

I love dogs. And that totally
makes me worthy of your vote.
It's become a popular catchphrase in recent campaigns, but in my case, it happens to be true — I'm NOT a "career politician." However, I have achieved numerous impressive accomplishments that clearly will distinguish me from my "qualified" opponents.

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS
- Teen Ministry summer camp leader (Brevard County, FL / 2012-2017)
- Hugged Mick Fleetwood (Orlando, FL / 2015)
- Detained by Nicaraguan Customs agents for suspicion of drug smuggling (2012)
- Procured groupies for world famous rock stars while traveling as a personal assistant (2006-2009)
- Hung out with Lemmy at the Rainbow on Sunset (1998)
- Attended a live audience taping of Wheel of Fortune (1990)
- Named "Best Thrash Vocalist" (JAM! magazine / 1990)
-Threatened physically by Gene Simmons (1983)
- Elected Junior Class President (Satellite High School / 1979)
- Homecoming King nominee (Satellite High School / 1979)
- Slept with Brad Pitt twice (1974 and 1975). *Not even Oprah can say that.
- Winner of the coveted "Participation" Little League trophy (Springfield, MO / 1974)
- 16-time recipient of the "Buddy Good Citizen" award (Horace Mann Elementary / 1969)

I possess a personal passion for young
people and for protecting their futures.
GENERAL POSITIONS
- Less Government: I want Uncle Sam AND Big Brother to both keep their noses out of my business affairs and also to butt-out of my bedroom. How I choose to "balance the books" in my office and what I do with battery-operated devices behind closed doors are personal, private matters.
- Border Protection: Our national borders will be set up like an obstacle course-type reality TV show  if you can navigate through the maze, clear the hurdles and dodge the gators — YOU'RE IN! Or, there's always Option #2 — going through established legal channels. Either way, I wanna hug ya!
- Supreme Court Appointments: This now has become such a partisan-driven issue. I believe the best and most fair way to vet prospective Supreme Court justices is through a grueling 13-week televised process similar to American Idol. I mean, who's better equipped to qualify a judicial candidate than Paula Abdul and Nicki Minaj?
- Taxes: Simply put, I will endeavor to abolish the IRS. #FlatTaxIsTheFuture
- Entitlements: Free KISS tickets for EVERYBODY!

I'm currently polling quite high
among registered infant voters.
PERSONAL AGENDA
During my first day in office, I will propose legislation criminalizing the 1978 Eric Clapton hit, "Wonderful Tonight." It will become a felony, punishable by 89 years in prison, to play, perform, sing, hum or even talk about this horrendous crime against humanity.

I also will sign into law, a policy that will reward private businesses with oodles of valuable government-issued Walmart gift cards and lifetime supplies of FREE smoothies just for shaking off personal differences and embracing the opportunity to "bake the cake" — or whatever service your business provides. It will be called the "Shake 'N Bake Act of 2021."

My first month in office will produce a whirlwind of advancements. I will meet with the head of the U.S. Postal Service and order that a Bea Arthur commemorative stamp be produced and issued posthaste. And I also will make the birthdays of Evel Knievel, Jon HammSam Elliott, Chuck Norris and Carly Simon ALL federal holidays — 'cuz they ALL kick ass!

After working as a nightclub DJ for the last
25 years, I have a unique understanding of
the issues that most concern real Americans.
AND FINALLY...
 It's very early in the campaign. In fact, I may be the first to announce my candidacy officially. Hence, it's way to soon to name my running mate. However, I'm leaning heavily towards choosing that one guy from Hee Haw — after all, he does know the mayor of Kornfield Kounty. Tabitha, the barista at my neighborhood Starbucks goes to college, so I might consider her too. Betty White also would be an excellent running mate 'cuz she's super-hot.

Moving forward in my bid for the White House, tapping an experienced political adviser (in short order) to manage my campaign also will be crucial. And although I've never met Dana Loesch, George Clinton or Ron Howard personally, they're all super-smart and extremely attractive people. And I'm open to having coffee with any one of them to discuss possibilities.

I already have booked The Fantastic Plastics
to perform at my official Inaugural party.
Too soon?
As the nominee of an admitted (very) small political party, I'm uniquely unqualified to interpret campaign finance laws. However, if bags of loot happen to fall off the the back of a truck in front of my house, I'm equally unqualified to ask questions.

Yes, I've got a long way to go. And there certainly is a lot of time in which to discuss the unlimited issues and challenges that we Americans all face. In fact, over the next two years, I look forward to addressing all aspects of my vision for our great nation. I'll admit openly to not having all the answers — heck, I barely can dress myself. However, I'm a good listener, and I surround myself with qualified advisers and concerned citizens who do have many valuable insights and viable solutions. And I further welcome everyone to join me in my mission, and to become part of this exciting new social and political revolution. Together, we WILL "make America purple again!"

#ChristopherLongForPresident2020
#ChristopherLongMakingAmericaPurpleAgain
#DebbieGibsonRocks

-Christopher Long
(November 2018)
__________

The People's Purple Party
for a More United Nation

Believing in, and standing for...

Kindness - Compassion - Patience
Forgiveness - Love - Understanding

Pro Family - Pro Faith - Pro Football

More Freedom - Less Government
Lower Taxes - Strong Defense

Free KISS tickets for EVERYBODY!
__________


Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
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Monday, November 5, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody

MOVIE REVIEW
Bohemian Rhapsody
 20th Century Fox 
(PG-13 / 2 hrs and 14 min)
__________

Years in development, this
well-publicized project faced
numerous reported production
challenges, setbacks and creative
conflicts while en route to the
silver screen. Now, one of the
year's most anticipated films
finally has arrived in theaters.
__________

Meeting with mixed reviews, the long-awaited, oft troubled Queen bio pic, Bohemian Rhapsody, was released in U.S. theaters on November 2, 2018. A patchwork-type directorial tag team effort between Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher, the film focuses primarily on the life of the iconic band's flamboyant late frontman, Freddie Mercury.

The initial consensus suggests that while moviegoers seem to love the film, critics are less enthusiastic — and understandably so. The story is rather fast-paced and compelling. The high-energy live concert recreations are riveting. The soundtrack's non-stop, fist-pumping anthems no doubt will shake the rafters of even the most modern cineplex. And the band members all come across as engaging characters throughout the 2-hour presentation. For that, audiences will applaud passionately.

Gwilym Lee (L) as co-founding Queen guitarist Brian May
and Rami Malek (R) as frontman Freddie Mercury.
However, for those who possess even a casual knowledge of, or interest in the incredible Queen story, the fast-forward glossing and glaring gaffes might compromise the film's credibility. Music released by the band in late 1978 is depicted during performances that would have taken place in early 1975. And given the involvement of founding members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, it's peculiar how the chronological order of various recording sessions are noticeably out of sync.

On the upside, Rami Malek delivers a superb, Oscar-worthy portrayal of Mercury, while Lucy Boynton also deserves kudos for her performance as Mercury's one-time girlfriend and long-time confidante, Mary Austin. However, despite the film's admirable level of authenticity and overall entertainment factor, the sanitized version of the early Queen saga as well as band member interactions drips frequently with all the sincerity of a Monkees rerun.

 (From L-R)
Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, Ben Hardy as
Roger Taylor, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee.  
Yet even with the acknowledged involvement of his aforementioned bandmates, Mercury, while outlined generally as a sensitive, tortured soul, also is painted vividly within the lines as a less than considerate, egomaniacal drug addict typically self-centered, occasionally insensitive and not terribly likable. But his is the face plastered across the movie poster, and the band's most notorious member, and the one associated best with "writing the songs that make the whole world sing." As a result, Mercury certainly will receive audience sympathy, and continued public praise and worship.

Whether or not the film presents a faithful account or a convenient historical whitewash is open for debate. However, the story of Queen's meteoric ascent to rock royalty and Mercury's headline-stealing personal life and untimely death remains riveting. In sum, Bohemian Rhapsody succeeds in delivering sufficient entertainment "bang" for the buck. (3.0 / 4.0)

-Christopher Long
(November 2018)
__________

Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
(Coming April 7, 2019)

Monday, October 29, 2018

FRANK ZAPPA: The "Muffin Man" Lives On

FRANK ZAPPA
The "Muffin Man" Lives On
___________

Summertime, 1980. A breathtaking
sunrise was just peeking out atop the
rugged Ozark mountains when my
wily crew finally rolled in after a
long night of teenage exploits. And
as our car raced up to my buddy's
parents' house — tires and engine
smoldering, the prophetic words
of the Central Scrutinizer blasted
from the Jensen Triaxial speakers.
___________

One of the coolest aspects of growing up during the simpler, pre-Internet era of the 1970s was living in a world seemingly free of musical borders. From such popular TV shows as The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert to Casey's weekly Top 40 radio countdown, young enthusiasts like myself were exposed to a constant, eclectic array of music artists. As a result, to this day I still can't hear genres — I simply hear music as my personal iGadget shuffles randomly from Carly Simon and Motörhead to Loretta Lynn and Buddy Guy to King Crimson and Debbie Gibson. And that's probably what spoke to me the loudest when I first discovered the music of Frank Zappa — his artistry knew no boundaries.


I recall first seeing Zappa performing on Saturday Night Live in late 1976. I was only 14 at the time, but I took note, for sure. However, it wasn't until we received a promotional, in-store copy of Sheik Yerbouti at the Florida record shop where I worked in 1979 that I truly became obsessed.

Clearly, the compositions contained within the two-record set were orchestrated meticulously. Yet to me, the music felt dangerously spontaneous. The blistering urgency of Zappa's guitar playing on "I'm So Cute," "Rat Tomago," "The Sheik Yerbouti" and "Yo Mama" was unlike anything I'd heard before. As an aspiring drummer, Terry Bozzio's heart-stopping tracks also made a profound impact on me — they still do. And it was Sheik Yerboouti that first introduced me to a young up-and-coming guitar phenom, Adrian Belew, and bassist, Patrick O'Hearn. All of these components added up to a magical musical statement. And I can't even count the hours I spent holed up in my bedroom during the summer of '79, processing, analyzing and savoring every delicious lick. Why don't you take it down to C-sharp, Ernie?


By the fall of 1979, Joe's Garage Acts I, II & III had arrived. Telling the compelling tale of troubled wannabe rock star, Joe and his groupie-in-training girlfriend, Lucille, Zappa's three-record rock opera also educated me about the correlation between music, heartbreak and (unpronounceable) diseases. Assuming the role of the story's prophetic narrator, "the Central Scrutinizer," Zappa cautioned listeners how the government ultimately would criminalize music, while also explaining in graphic detail everything a kid needed (or didn't need) to know about "alternative lifestyles." Hey man, what the heck is a "golden shower," anyway?

Joe's Garage further introduced me to several of my future all-time favorite musicians, including guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, vocalist / guitarist Ike Willis, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and an exciting new blond bombshell vocalist by the name of Dale Bozzio.


Subsequent Zappa records, such as Tinsel Town RebellionYou Are What You IsShip Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch and Broadway the Hard Way all would find loving homes in my ever-expanding music library over the next few years.

Simply put, I've always been fascinated by language — spoken words, written words, brave words, well-crafted words. As a result, it's Zappa's words that have captivated me most since my youth. From poking at politics and religion to addressing the sexual revolution, popular drug culture and beyond, no subject was taboo for Zappa. Although my personal perspectives often are 180° from Zappa's, I've never perceived his lyrics as "dirty" or "offensive." I found his brutally honest lyrics to be articulate, intelligent and inspiring. And it still annoys me when Zappa's work is described (dismissed) by some as "novelty" songs. In fact, as an established Christian author, now in my 50s, I can't imagine how my communication skill level would be sagging, had I not had Frank Zappa's influence to "challenge" me along the way.


I've found myself reflecting recently on Zappa's work and his life, as the 25th anniversary of his death will arrive in just a few weeks. Truth be told, I can't imagine we'd be living in such a sissified, hypersensitive, politically correct world if he still was around to keep society in check.

Of his many career highlights, I'd point to Joe's Garage Act I as his grandest album achievement. My favorite Zappa song — I'm torn between "I'm the Slime" from Over-Nite Sensation and "Jones Crusher" from Sheik Yerboouti — or maybe "Watermelon in Easter Hay" from Joe's Garage Act II & III. His most powerful moment — taking on the PMRC in 1985. My all-time favorite Zappa quote is one I defer to still on an almost daily basis — There's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.

The "Muffin Man" lives on, indeed!

-Christopher Long
(October 2018)
__________

Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

RECORD REVIEW: Lady Gaga - "Joanne"

RECORD REVIEW
Lady Gaga
Joanne
(Interscope Records)
__________

Okay, I get it — really. Reviewing
this record, a full two years after
its original release is kinda like
showing up to a house party, six
hours late  and without a bottle.
But if all the "little monsters" will
offer me a bit of grace here, I'd
still like to join the party. And if
they're super-cool to me, I might
even order us a couple of pizzas.
Domino's delivers!
__________

As a longtime nightclub DJ, I remember spinning all the early Lady Gaga hits ad nauseam —  infectious chart-busters, such as "Just Dance," "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance." However, it was just part of the job, and like so many millennial "Pop Tarts," she just never landed fully on my personal radar. Truth be told, for the longest time, I didn't even realize Lady Gaga was a real person — I merely thought she was just some sort of computer-generated cartoon image — kinda like a souped-up version of Hello Kitty with a Bowie-flavored pop soundtrack.

I'm not sure exactly how my newfound passion for Lady Gaga was fueled. Perhaps it stemmed from my friend turning me on recently to the Cheek to Cheek record — Gaga's dazzling 2014 collaboration with iconic crooner, Tony Bennett. Maybe it's due to Gaga's current world-class performance in the blockbuster film, A Star Is Born. Or, it might be the result of my discovering her riveting 2017 Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two.

In my defense, I must confess that I never was sent a press copy of Joanne when it first arrived back in October 2016 — and I get promo copies of just about EVERYBODY'S new releases. So, when I have to discover and then actually go out and purchase an artist's new record myself  well, sometimes it can take a (long) while to get around to sharing a critique with my faithful followers. But I did finally discover Joanne. And what a delightful treasure it is. Better late than never, for sure.

Produced by Lady Gaga and acclaimed songwriter / musician, Mark Ronson, Joanne was recorded in various studio locales from 2015 through 2016. More magical than a fabulous aural bowl of Skittles, Gaga and Ronson use an enormous palette to paint this vivid musical portrait. 


Bathed in the warmth of Ronson's Fender Rhodes piano track, "Diamond Heart" is brimming with passion — honest and pure, while "A-Yo" is a libido-drenched, high-octane slice of guitar-driven go-go pop enhanced by snappy horns (and mirrors on the ceiling). The pulsating dance beat of "Perfect Illusion," along with its familiar-feeling chorus melody, makes this lead-off single particularly contagious. Dripping with authentic Americana allure, "Sinner's Prayer" is one of the record's most interesting standouts — a tune that sounds as if it fell crashing from the soundtrack of the latest Tarantino epic. A genuine call for social kindness, compassion and understanding, "Come to Mama" is another irresistible treat.

What I find most appealing about Lady Gaga is NOT her outrageous, fashion-forward, rock star persona, her undeniable, razor-sharp ability to shock and enthrall the masses, or even her hypnotic, techno-style pop sound (definitely not that one). What thwacks me hardest is when Gaga strips away all the synthetic distractions and leans entirely on her heart-stopping songwriting. And to that, Joanne owns a couple of particularly powerful cuts. Beautifully delicate and transparent, the title track is a brutally personal tribute to Gaga's late aunt  a heartfelt gift to her grandmother. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll reveal openly that this song transforms me instantly into a blubbering fool every time. And the chorus is so infectious, it took a couple of cinder blocks and a beefy dude named Randy to knock this gorgeous earworm out of my consciousness. 

Another golden highlight, "Million Reasons" offers a passionate plea for a dysfunctional romance on the skids — a song that would have made for a comfy fit on a certain current movie soundtrack that everybody's raving about. Equally powerful, "Angel Down" delivers a compelling social commentary and serves as a strong record closer.

In sum, I'm thrilled to finally have "discovered" Lady Gaga. So, am I gonna now go rush out to Walmart and gobble up copies of The Fame Monster and Artpop? Eh, we'll see. But holy cow, Joanne truly is a refreshing and satisfying record. And I don't see it falling off my preferred iTunes personal playlist any time soon. (8 / 10)

-Christopher Long
(October 2018)
__________


Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

(2014)

C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
(Coming April 7, 2019)