Saturday, March 30, 2013

HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY 1988!

HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY
1988! 
___________

For those old enough to
remember the glorious
pre-iGadget era of big
hair and big rock, it seems
like just yesterday. Do
you remember 1988?
__________

I was a blond 25-year-old aspiring rocker dude in 1988. I worked in a record store by day and played the Florida club circuit by night. My band, Dead Serios was geared up to take over the world. We were young, loud, obnoxious and going places — or so we thought. I had hardly a care in the world — blasting White LionStryper and Faster Pussycat cassettes on the ol' boom box as I spent my off time soaking up the rays by my apartment complex pool. Life was good. Everybody looked like Lita Ford — even some of the chicks. Man, I loved 1988.

Popular TV programs such as The Cosby ShowFull House and LA Law all remained ratings champs in 1988. For my crew, we lived by Headbangers Ball. And soon-to-be hit shows such as Murphy BrownThe Wonder Years, and Yo! MTV Raps all made their debut in 1988.

This is NOT Lita Ford! It's me circa 1988.  
Now quit laughing. No, really. Stop it!
Movie theaters were also abuzz, with such flicks as BeetlejuiceWho Framed Roger Rabbit and Rain Man all becoming box office winners in 1988.

At the bookstores (Remember those?) in 1988, The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy

In politics, Republican Presidential nominee George H.W. Bush beat out his Democrat challenger, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the November general election.


And it was on February 20, 1988 that Robyn Fenty was born in Barbados. 17 years later, in 2005, Fenty would enjoy breakthrough success as a budding pop star under her stage name, Rihanna.

For me, and probably at least a few others, it was the music that made 1988 such an exciting and memorable year. Bon Jovi completed the mission of achieving total global domination with the release of the mammoth, New Jersey record. San Francisco speed kings, Metallica cemented its reputation as a force to be reckoned with —  riding the ...And Justice for All record straight to the Top Ten, while arena rockers, CinderellaPoison and Guns N' Roses all released platinum-selling sophomore sets.

A rock and roll game-changer!
It was a year of rock comebacks with Joan Jett and Cheap Trick both returning to the Top 20. Additionally, bankable acts scored big with the release of such best-sellers as Van Halen's OU812, Robert Plant's Now and Zen and U2's Rattle and Hum.

On the pop side, The Bangles enjoyed two Top Five singles from their million-seller, Everything. Newcomer Paula Adul racked up four #1 singles from her seven x platinum debut, Forever Your Girl. And although it was one of his poorest-selling records of the '80s, Prince's Lovesexy was simply amazing — one of my all-time favorites.

I'm talkin' 'bout DOUG!
But in my world, it wasn't the blockbusters from acknowledged biggies in 1988 that made the greatest impact. It was the "little" records that sold only about 38 copies each that truly thwacked me. Produced by the legendary Todd RundgrenLove Junk from the Canadian combo, The Pursuit of Happiness, is one of  the finest power pop / rock records EVER! All Systems Go, the sophomore album from one-time KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent and his Invasion exemplifies what arena rock was supposed to be. Why it didn't sell ten million units escapes me still. However, frontman Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum did go on to platinum success in the '90s with their post-Invasion project, Slaughter. And then there's Doug, from the Atlanta, Georgia-based band, The Coolies. I don't even know how to begin describing this epic rock opera masterpiece. If The Who's Tommy told a more compelling story, had better songs, was scaled down to a single album and was about a paranoid, schizophrenic, drug-addicted, homophobe, skinhead with an unquenchable thirst for power and success, instead of a deaf, dumb and blind wannabe religious guru, it could have been Doug — a powerful record indeed — one that probably only nine people on the planet will ever understand. And I'm one of them.

So, here's to ya, 1988 — thanks for the memories. Happy Birthday, and may you enjoy many more. FYI, after 25 years, you still don't look a day older than 1993!

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)




SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Stryper "Second Coming"

RECORD REVIEW
Stryper
Second Coming 
Frontiers Records
___________________

Mightier than Mötley and prettier
than Poison, God's own glam
band, Stryperwas perhaps the
most important act of the arena
rock era. And if you missed 'em
the first time around, stand by
for the "second coming."
___________________

It's a peculiar predicament indeed. Established music artists still produce new product, but for an audience that is buying fewer and fewer (and fewer) records. We now live in an iWorld where Martha Quinn is in her 50s and The Breakfast Club generation has become the parents, and in some cases, even grandparents! And they face a host of life issues far more challenging than merely "wanting their MTV." Yes, dealing with the PTA, the IRS and the AARP now presents a greater sense of urgency than running out to the local record shop to score U2's latest. Yikes, did I just say, "record shop?"

There's a reason why classic rock radio stations everywhere still play "Sweet Home Alabama" every hour, on the hour. The typical over 35 "John Q. music fan" clings to his comfort zone with white knuckles. Plus, for the most part, even the "John Q.s" have discovered the convenience of buying and stealing music digitally. So, what's a seasoned artist to do in the wake of this ever-changing iWorld? Simply appeal to that audience's comfort zone — even if it means producing only tribute releases, "Greatest Hits" and live packages, as said artist rides off into the rock and roll sunset.

STRYPER: Orlando, FL - July 2012 
(Photo: Jason Radlein)
Embracing this new industry standard, the original, platinum-selling Stryper line-up of lead guitarist Oz Fox, drummer Robert Sweet, bassist Tim Gaines and frontman / guitarist Michael Sweet return in 2013 with their latest offering, Second Coming. Simply put, Second Coming is what it is — a re-recorded collection of the band's 14 beefiest early classics, along with two new bonus tracks added for good measure.

The revamped nuggets maintain maximum skull-crushing freshness, while the musicianship remains as superb as ever. However, Second Coming is less polished-sounding than many of the band's previous records — feeling more like a live album with no crowd — an awesome board tape from a really good and rather lengthy soundcheck.

Drummer Robert Sweet's chops 
remain as impressive as ever.
But Lo-Fi isn't necessarily a bad thing. Overall, the raw production works. 1984's "Loving You," 1985's "Soldiers Under Command" and 1986's "The Way" represent some of the record's stronger efforts.

However, a few tunes seem to fall flat.   Although "Loud 'N' Clear" certainly still rocks musically, the re-recorded vocals pack less punch and conviction than the original. Additionally, "Reach Out" feels sluggish, and the signature Stryper back-up vocals sound as if they've been replaced with tracks recorded by NFL linebackers.

As for the new tunes, "Bleeding From Inside Out" and "Blackened" both possess elements of the band's trademark style while also pointing to what a full-length new Stryper record might look like.


For recent and casual followers, Second Coming serves as an appealing "Stryper 101" showcase. However, longtime diehards may find greater satisfaction in the comfort zone of the band's original recordings.

In sum, the biggest, best and brightest news here is that Second Coming once again brings Stryper's "Good News" message of Jesus Christ back into focus. And for that, I offer the band heartfelt kudos and I give the record an enthusiastic "thumbs-up." C'mon Rock!

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)





SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)

Friday, March 22, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Green River Ordinance "Under Fire"

RECORD REVIEW
Green River
Ordinance
Under Fire
(Good Times Records)
________________

Yes Virginia, there are still
a few living, breathing
musicians on our planet
who aspire to create well-
crafted songs and produce
quality records —  and who
wear proper-fitting trousers.
_______________

Their 2009 Capitol Records debut, Out of Our Hands, met with international acclaim and put them on stages along with some of the biggest rock acts of the day, including, Bon Jovi, Counting Crows and Gavin DeGraw. And after taking an extended break, the Texas-based combo, Green River Ordinance (AKA GRO), has returned with the recent release of their sophomore record, Under Fire.

Producers Jordan Critz, Chad Copelin and Jared Evan were brought on board to assist GRO in creating an eclectic 15-song set that merges elements of hard rock with rootsy Americana  (Marshalls meet mandolins at an Internet cafe) — making for a unique and riveting backdrop to powerful and positive messages.

Clearly firing on all cylinders, GRO kicks off Under Fire with the ferocious "Dark Night." Combining modern rock power with a crunchy, yet catchy hook, "Dark Night" also possesses Eagles-like vocal tightness and compelling lyrics — Where do we run to when everything turns to dust? If everything is losing touch, will I find you? Even in the dark night, I can feel it come over me. No way we're going to part this sea if I can't find you.

GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE
Other highlights include the soulful, organ-soaked, gospel-flavored "Resting Hour" — Oh when we're broken, we're not forgotten. You will be strong and even though the fight that you're facing leaves you burned out and shaking, you're not alone. In the vein of Train, "Healing Touch" is a mighty love song — Honey, ease my restless mind. I cannot get to sleep. With your healing touch, healing love, you bring back the life in me.

Although  Under Fire  offers plenty of spiritual inspiration, one of the brightest gems is the record's closer, "Dancing Shoes." Through this simple and delicate organic love song, GRO seemingly channels Music from Big Pink  — We don't need nowhere to go, we don't need a tune. In a world that gets lost in making plans, just be my woman, yeah, and I will be your man. "Put on a little Emmylou," indeed. Hey Virginia — this one's a winner. Cue it up for another spin, darlin'!

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)

ORDINANCE
WEBSITE


 


SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: JJ Heller "Loved"

 
RECORD REVIEW
JJ Heller
Loved
(Stone Table Records)
______________

I recently conveyed to a friend
my disdain for current popular
music, and if suddenly became
deaf and never heard another 
song again, it would be okay.
I'm glad that didn't happen before
got to hear this record. 
______________

We live in such an angry, hostile world today. And in this abrasive age that's over-saturated with Rap and Screamo "music," JJ Heller offers an oh-so welcome breath of fresh air.

In the grand tradition of such singer / songwriters as Joni Mitchell, Sara Groves and James Taylor, Heller's latest release, Loved is a well-crafted record, filled with catchy and inspiring pop tunes. Produced by Ben Shive and Cason Cooley, this ten-song collection is a collaboration between JJ Heller and her writing partner / husband, David Heller.

"LOVED is a collection of 
songs that belong together; 
there's a common thread 
connecting all of them."
-JJ Heller 

The songs contained in Loved are sweet and delicate — captivating and uniquely personal. And in Heller's signature fashion, her angelic vocals are combined with engaging melodies — making for a perfect vessel in which to project honest and pure messages of love, hope and faith.

Loved kicks off with "If You Fall" — a compelling statement of true love... If you fall, I fall with you. If you hurt, I feel it too. Even if my heart turns black and blue, I will love you.

A true highlight, "For You" offers a bold testament... If I can talk, then I will sing for you. If I can walk, then I will dance for you. As long as I can breathe, my heart will beat for you.

"Our challenge for LOVED
was to create something 
beautiful and new."
-JJ Heller

Reminiscent of Alison Krauss, "Redemption" is a delightful treat. It's an amazing, uplifting song of promise and encouragement... Someday we will remember how to fly. Then we will rise like embers burning bright. Everything broken will be whole again.

The title track, as well as "Create in Me" and "Stay" are all beautiful and delightful gems in the vein of Sara Groves — offering wonderful words of inspiration.

"Better Things" is another record highlight...  I have a mission that is only mine to fill. Fear may try to blind my eyes, but it can never break my will. Hey, is that a fiddle I hear in the background? If so, kudos! This one sounds simply amazing.

"The way this record 
came together completely 
exceeded my expectations!"
-JJ Heller 

An edgier-sounding track, "Come Back to Me," reaches out to someone who is clearly in need of love and compassion... I hate to see you all alone. You won’t find what you’re looking for. Your home is never far away. I’ll be here when you come back to me.

The notion of losing a child is simply unimaginable to any parent. But JJ and Dave tackle this issue eloquently in the record's debut video single, "Who You Are."

Loved comes to a powerful end with Heller's beautiful and personal love letter to God — "I Believe"... The truest things I know are those I cannot see. From my birth to my dying day, I believe.

Yes, at a time when I find myself growing increasingly disenchanted with current pop culture, JJ Heller's new record certainly gives me something to cheer about.

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)



SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)

Monday, March 18, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Plumb "Need You Now"

RECORD REVIEW
Plumb
Need You Now
(Curb Records)
______________

2013 thus far has been a banner
year for new music. Offering an
array of delightful aural flavors,
the latest from Plumb is a record 
I simply can't stop listening too.
______________

Tiffany Arbuckle Lee first emerged onto the international music scene in the late '90s, fronting the alternative Christian rock band, Plumb. After two studio records, the singer / songwriter parted with her band and assumed the name Plumb as her own, and in 2003, she released her first solo record, Beautiful Lumps of Coal. Over the years, Plumb's music has been featured in such movie and television soundtracks as Bruce AlmightyDawson's Creek, and Just Married. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Michelle BranchMandy Moore and Jaci Velasquez. And as a driving force in the thriving Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre, Plumb also scored a huge #1 Billboard dance hit in 2010 with the single, "Hang On."

After taking an extended break from the biz to focus on family, Plumb has returned with her fourth studio album, Need You Now. And along with producer and songwriting partner, Matt Bronleewe, she has created a riveting 12-song collection. 

PLUMB
"Invisible" is haunting and edgy. Given her reputation and success in the Christian music market, the lyrics, I cannot see you, but I can feel you — I just wanna be with you, could indicate a relational God-type message. However, when the eerie-sounding guitar work and vocals are combined with the lyrics, recollections of Glenn Close boiling that bunny are conjured up immediately. Good stuff, to be sure. A chilling opener.

Featuring Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine, "Drifting" is a positive, high energy song, filled with hope and encouragement. An amazing message indeed.

Offering a fly-on-the-wall look into a marriage that stays together despite the realities of life, "Beautiful" possesses a musical feel that's reminiscent of John Waite's 1984 hit, "Missing You" — making for a love song that's honest and pure.

"I Want You Here" is an epic piece of work. Plumb delivers these powerful lyrics with incredible passion. And in concert with the brilliant orchestral arrangement, this one will rip your heart out...
______________

"'I Want You Here' was inspired by the many
little lives that departed this world much
sooner than hoped. It is a prayer for strength
in the midst of heartbreak, and I hope you'll
feel free to share with anyone you know who
has suffered such a loss. My dream is that
these will know that they are not alone and
may even yet find joy in their grief by
believing that God is in control."
-Plumb 
___________

An über infectious earworm, "Say Your Name" is a catchy break-up sing-along — a personal favorite of mine from the record.

Speaking to Christian hypocrisy, "Unlovable" is perhaps the most important song of the set. From alternative lifestyles (You don't understand me so you push me away. And you claim Jesus lets you live that way) to unwed mothers (She's got a child and no place to live. But all we can think about is our politics) to our Saviour (So we say we love Jesus. But didn't we kill him 'cuz we thought he was different), Plumb addresses the un-Christ-like way in which so many Christians treat those who are "different."

A moving, modern song of faith, the title track recently spent six weeks at #1 on Billboard's Christian Music chart...
_________

"'Need You Now' was born out of anxiety
and panic attacks I had as a teenager. I've
learned over the years that no matter how
many times I've cried out to God, for
whatever reason, He never grows tired.
He never leaves us alone or gives us
 more than we can carry because he
loves us. No matter what we've done.
 I'm so thankful this song that has helped
me, can give hope to others as well."
-Plumb 
__________


"I Don't Deserve You" delivers another fabulous and beautiful message of faith...

You never give up when I'm falling apart. 
Your arms are always open wide.
And you're quick to forgive when I make a
 mistake. You love me in the blink of an eye.
 (From "I Don't Deserve You") 

Oddly, after nine consecutive, reasonably coherent and lucid tunes that convey positive messages of faith, love, hope and encouragement, Plumb once again goes "bunny boiler" on "Cage." But honestly, I kinda dig it...

I've got issues, that's for sure. 
But it's why you kinda like me,
 I know it boy.
(From "Cage") 

The record wraps with a real gem — the Leslie-laced, "At Arm's Length." It's so warm, ambient and engaging that it doesn't really matter that it's seemingly about a once bitten twice shy, dysfunctional, love on the rocks relationship.

Plumb travels all over the map on this one — making it virtually impossible to pin her down musically. And although that often can prove to be a bit jarring with some artists, it works for Plumb. In sum, Need You Now is a colossal treat, not unlike getting an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. And it likely won't be coming out of my hi-fi deck any time soon.

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)





SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

SOBER: Nine Years and Counting

SOBER
Nine Years and Counting
______________

FYI, you too can
beat the bottle...
______________

I turned 38 back in 2000. The fast-paced, happy-go-lucky rock and roll life that I'd known for so long had recently come to a crashing end. My mom’s death in 1999 combined with my 1998 divorce had created the first layers of darkness that now hovered over me.

I turned to alcohol as a means of numbing my pain. After my introduction to an elixir called Jägermeister during my tenure with the band Glitterhick in 1998, I was guzzling the stuff at an alarming rate by 2000. At the time, I was DJ-ing at a local nightclub. A shrewd businessman, the club owner, Scott Kimple, surmised that it would make sound economic sense for both of us if he offered me an unlimited bar tab as part of my nightly wage. However, after noticing the unbelievable amount of Jägermeister he soon had to restock continually, he opted to pay me in straight cash.

A "beast" indeed.
I also developed a similar reputation at another lvenue where I DJ-d frequently — a local hot spot called Siggy’s. In 2000 I had become quite tight with one of Siggy’s nighttime bartenders, a crackerjack pro named Pattie. Siggy’s entire storefront is glass, and from her position behind the bar, Pattie could see my van coming through the parking lot as I arrived at work each night. By the time I could drive around back, park my vehicle and make my way into the club, she’d have a monstrous-size shot of Jägermeister with a Coke chaser and an ice-cold Heineken on the side, already waiting for me in the DJ booth. Hence, I’d begin my night of drinking before even powering up my DJ amplifiers. By the end of the night I’d be stumbling through the bar and screaming profanities over the microphone. On several occasions, I don’t know how I even made it home. But I do recall regaining consciousness one night, sitting at the wheel of my car, which was facing the wrong direction on a major thoroughfare. That’s right, I was now driving drunk on a near-nightly basis.

I was clearly out of control and I had to get sober. But I worked fulltime in the bar business. I really loved to drink. I needed to drink. Plus, I reveled in being the life of the party. I would continue drinking for another four years.

March 17, 2004: I was DJ-ing a St. Patty's day event at Siggy's. Greg & Brian was the house band that night — a piano / drum / vocal duo known more for their drunken onstage shenanigans than for recreating classic frat house party anthems. Still wrestling with my personal alcohol demon, I was an easy target for the marksmanship of the duo's drummer, Brian Arnold who encouraged me successfully to join him in a holiday shot. As I felt the burn of the unknown, green concoction sliding down my throat, I noticed that I was surrounded by a host of drunken characters whose behavior I now found to suddenly be offensive. The "light" finally had come on. "This is stupid," I said to myself. I'd somehow been miraculously freed from the bondage of alcohol — and I was never turning back. In fact, I've not had a drink since. It was that simple. I don't believe that getting sober makes me a better person than someone who drinks, but it has certainly enhanced my quality of life — ten fold! 

Getting sober doesn't make me a 
better person. But at least I don't 
wake up like this guy anymore!
Alcohol is “soul poison” — plain and simple. And be sure that alcohol-related advertisements are nothing more than crafty lies sent straight from the pit of Hell. Don't be conned! But if anyone currently is struggling with this demon and desires encouragement regarding sober living, feel free to reach out to me anytime through my personal email address. 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 2013)
_______________

Don't miss my other
sobriety features: 

- Lucky 13 Edition (2017) -
- A Decade of Sobriety (2014) -
______________




SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
(2012)