Thursday, July 26, 2012

FLASHBACK RECORD REVIEW: Stryper - "Murder by Pride"

Murder by Pride
(Big 3 Records)

I wrote this review originally
for the popular arts and culture
magazine, Ink19.comback in
the fall of 2009. I rediscovered
it recently and thought I would
share. Dig, if you will.

Falling stylistically somewhere between 1988's over-produced titanic, In God We Trust, and 2005's awkwardly grungey, 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 up 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 never has 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 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 25 years. However, in 2009, Murder by Pride proves Stryper to be as relevant and important as ever.

-Christopher Long
(October 2009)



C'MON! -

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE PRESENTS: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"

Pink Floyd's 
Dark Side of the Moon
Hard Rock Live / Orlando, FL 

 "The world's greatest classic
rock albums (recreated) live
onstage, note for note, cut for
cut" — tall order, for sure. 

But that precisely was the vision of Canadian concert promoter Craig Martin when he debuted the Classic Albums Live 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, pretty gosh darn accurate.

More than 1,000 spirited classic rock enthusiasts piled into the Hard Rock Live on July 21st 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.

Okay, so Rob Phillips isn't playing a
Strat in this pic, but you get the idea.
(Photo: Classic Albums Live)
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."

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 catalog. 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 (23-minute) encore, "Echoes."

I was delighted to meet rock powerhouse 
Carlia Alderman following the Orlando
Dark Side of the Moon performance.
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)



C'MON! -

Monday, July 23, 2012



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."

Led Zeppelin IV 
(Guest Post)

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)

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.


Friday, July 20, 2012

STAGE REVIEW: "Oklahoma!" - Melbourne, FL (July 13-15, 2012)

King Center / Melbourne, FL
July 13-15, 2012

This first annual Summer Musical Theatre Project presented local aspiring actors and actresses (ages ranging from 15 to 18) 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 consummate 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. 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.

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.

Claudia Camp (L) as Aunt Eller and Alexander Edwards (R)
as Andrew Carnes, surrounded by Oklahoma! supporting cast.
(Photo courtesy of The King Center)
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 20-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 100 other hard-working professionals on a simply fabulous job. I'm already psyched for next year!

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)



C'MON! -

Saturday, July 7, 2012

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

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 now was compelled to share with readers a truly powerful message. Oh sure, hocking a tell-all about a famous rock band 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! already has outsold my first book. Crazy, right?


"Long's story may make
you feel like you are
looking at yourself
in the mirror."
-Greg Van Vorhis

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

"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!"
"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

"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

"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 check out C'MON! on Amazon, and 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 Bch, 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)

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!

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)



C'MON! -