Saturday, August 31, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Big Country (Guest Post)

Big Country
Captain Hiram's
Sebastian, FL  (8.28.13)

Frequent guest contributor
Michelle Wilson returns
with her latest up close and
personal concert review.

Being a total ‘80s chick from Long Island, New York and growing up listening to the now-defunct 92.7 WLIR, I’m all about ‘80s alternative music. This was the radio station that gave airplay to alterno acts, many British, when no other local stations would play their music. U2, Gene Loves Jezebel, Depeche Mode, Yaz, The Cure, The Smiths, Simple Minds, The Alarm and Big Country, just to name a few, got their humble starts on WLIR and stations like it all across the country. The radio station supported these bands as they played shows at local small venues. (WLIR does still broadcast an internet alternative radio show.)  I never got to see Big Country back in the day, but I did see The Alarm twice, including a show at the also now-defunct Malibu Nightclub in Lido Beach, New York. The beauty of those shows was the intimate setting. So when I got the text that Big Country was playing a gig at Captain Hiram’s in Sebastian, Florida, followed by the question, was I interested in going, my immediate response was, “Uh, yeah.” 

(Concert photos: Michelle Wilson)

The weather was perfect for the outdoor venue, and even though the crowd was a bit thin, the band performed as if it were a sold-out arena. We literally were up against the stage and had room to breathe. Camped out in front of the bass player with camera in hand, I felt like a teenager again as the band took the stage at 9:10 p.m. and played a full 75-minute set of their high-energy Scottish brand of alternative rock and roll. 

Today’s Big Country is really a conglomerate of three of the aforementioned bands; original Big Country members include only drummer Mark Brzezicki and guitarist Bruce Watson, whose son, guitarist Jamie Watson, joined the band on this tour. In 2001, original lead singer, Stuart Adamson, tragically took his own life, after which original bass player Tony Butler assumed lead vocals. When Butler retired, former bassist for Simple Minds, Derek Forbes, assumed the role, and Mike Peters, frontman for The Alarm, became the new lead singer/acoustic guitar player of Big Country as well as remaining with The Alarm.

The band opened the lively show with “Return,” “1000 Stars” and “In a Broken Promised Land,” the first and third cuts off The Journey, their 2013 release, and the second off their 1983 debut, The Crossing. Mike Peters certainly has held up well both visually and vocally, and he wasted no time paying homage to the late Stuart Adamson. Four songs in, he dedicated  The Crossing’s first single, “Harvest Home,” to Adamson and stressed that there are really six members of the band and that Stuart’s spirit lives on and his presence always is felt on stage. 

From my vantage point, I was smack in front of bass player Derek Forbes, adorned in full kilt and ankle-strap knife holder. I’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series enough times to appreciate the traditional Scottish garb, and Forbes was quick to remind the audience just exactly what was (or was not) going on under that kilt.

After “Look Away” from The Seer and another two tracks from the new album called “Home of the Brave” and “Another Country,” the band segued into “Wonder- land,” which never was on an official album but was released as a single. Then the focus returned to the first album with fan faves “Chance,” and “Fields of Fire,” followed by the encore of “Inwards” and of course, “In a Big Country” with the tremendous drum sounds of Mark Brzezicki to close out the show. For me, this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. They sounded as fresh today as they did back in the day, and Mike Peters could not have been a more perfect and credible replacement. Amazing musicianship, great stage presence, audience interaction, and all-around fun, lively antics made for a top-notch show. Each band member commandeered the mic at the end of the show and thanked the crowd, and a nicer, more gracious bunch of guys you couldn’t hope to meet. I can’t wait for them to come around again.

-Michelle Wilson
(August 2013)

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Friday, August 30, 2013



I had such a blast with my 
'80s post earlier in the week,
I thought I would switch it
up with something really fun.

From ridiculous white rappers to disposable divas to nĂ¼-metal nuisances to grunge gods and former hair band heroes, clinging shamelessly to their last shred of cred, the ’90s music scene completely sucked — plain and simple. And compiling a list of the worst of the worst certainly would be a painstaking challenge — but one I accepted boldly. These types of lists typically whip up quite a bit of fan emotion. But be sure, this post was created only in the spirit of good-natured fun. Heck, even 1999 was a very long time ago. However, I apologize right from the gate if I happen to tip over one of your sacred cows. 


This Columbia, South Carolina quartet sold 
16 million copies of their major label debut
and it now ranks as one of rock’s all-time most
successful records. But truth be told, they could
have sold 30 million copies and it still would
have been lame. Nice guys. Bad music.


The long-awaited follow-up to the
multi-billion-selling 1991 “Black”
album made it official — Metallica
had become the band that Cliff Burton
would've beat up if he still was alive.


In their heyday, KISS didn’t have to try 
to be cool — they just were. But by the
'90s, they were trying — way too hard. As
a result, they created some embarrassing
records — this one is their worst. “The
Final Sessions” — Really? Promise?


So ridiculously horrendous 
that it borders on criminal.


While I realize that Tool is considered a 
god-like icon by many modern-day rock
hipsters, I just never “got” them. In fact,
when I reflect on what I detested most 
about the changing music tide back in
the early ‘90s, this is always the first
record that comes to mind. Sounds
just like dizzy people vomiting.


An unnecessary album of 
disconnected cover tunes. 
The sound of a great band 
floundering and imploding.


Although the lead single, “Midnight in 
Chelsea,” was a reasonably snappy, catchy
tune, the rest of the record comes nowhere
near measuring up to JBJ’s otherwise
impeccable legacy. Nowhere near.


Frighteningly unlistenable. Although I 
won’t say that Van Halen III is the worst
rock record ever, I do liken my one-time
spin to that of accidentally copping a peak 
at the guy’s “stuff” standing at the next 
urinal in the men’s room — I simply looked
quickly (and awkwardly) the other way and
 tried to pretend that it never happened.


Proving that one man does not a band 
make, founder Tom Scholz leads the
charge, sans all of the original members
who were responsible for creating the
original Boston magic. A textbook
example of how far a once great band
can fall. A dreadful listening experience.


Few bands possess the ability to
make me literally want (and need)
to vomit — Creed is one of them.
Released in September 1999,
Human Clay just barely made it
under the deadline, However, it
certainly earns the distinction as
the decade’s worst — I don't
care how many copies it’s sold.
Pearl Jam without a soul.

Okay, so there ya go. Thanks for stopping by and tagging along on this traumatic trip down memory lane. Feel free to share, discuss and comment.

-Christopher Long
(August 2013)



C'MON! -

Thursday, August 29, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Sara Groves "The Collection"

Sara Groves
The Collection

Sara Groves is an alien. She doesn't
even possess human DNA. In fact,
she once cut herself on an iceberg
while feeding the disenfranchised
in Antarctica  and she bled honey.
Her music is mighty sweet too.

There's no shortage of  flowery online adjectives used to describe the music of singer and songwriter, Sara Groves — "soothing," "gentle," "searing," "poignant," "thought-provoking" and my personal favorite endorsement, "an immense flow of emotion." While all of these well-deserved glowing words of praise are certainly warm and fuzzy, they're hardly compelling pitches — that is, unless you're hocking feminine hygiene products. So allow me to step up to the mic and cut to the chase: Attention K-Mart shoppers — Sara Groves kicks ass!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll also confess that I don't know for sure that I'd even be alive today had I not accidentally discovered Sara Groves back in 2010. I recount how I connected to her music and the subsequent impact that it has had on my life in my book, C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation. Suffice to say — I am a fan.

Often referred to (by me) as the female Brian Wilson, my fellow Springfield, Missouri native currently is revving up to commemorate her spectacular 15-year career with a monstrous retrospective entitled, The Collection.

Culled from her first ten studio albums, The Collection features 23 Groves classics including, "The Word" (Conversations / 2000), "When the Saints" (Tell Me What You Know / 2007), "Fireflies and Songs" (Fireflies and Songs / 2009) and "Eyes on the Prize" (Invisible Empire / 2011). In addition to the slew of much-loved gems, this two-disc set also features four previously unreleased tracks: "Strangely Ready," "Blessed be the Tie," "Kindness of Strangers" and "Lay it Down" — a folksy, heartfelt, violin-drenched ditty that stands up nicely among her all-time best songs.

SARA GROVES The Collection - Coming 9.17.13
(Buy it HERE NOW from Sara's official website)
As a writer, I've learned that the most effective means of communicating is not "telling" your audience, but rather "showing" them. This also holds true in music and ministry. And in that regard,  Groves "shows" Jesus better than anyone.

Through riveting stories of compelling characters combined with personal lyrics and infectious melodies, Groves skillfully and eloquently addresses everyone's cornerstone passions — life, love, family and faith. And although I personally would have rounded up this bag of aural treasures to an even 30 by including "Less Like Scars," "Conversations" and "Love is Still a Worthy Cause," The Collection serves as a compelling and comprehensive time capsule for a prolific artist whose music truly is out of this world.

-Christopher Long
(August 2013)



C'MON! -

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


OF THE '80s

Only a few of these gems were
top-selling blockbusters. And
many of the artists are far from
iconic, household names. This
list merely reflects the coolest
records of the '80s — a rather
ambiguous classification for.
sure. However, it's one that I'm
uniquely qualified to define.

I recently contributed several features to a popular entertainment site. Upon submitting my first piece, I was apprised by the publication's staff that, "people love 'lists.'" I certainly have found this to be true over the last year or so, as Top Ten-type content has made for some of my most popular blog posts. Just last week, I submitted two "lists" to the aforementioned site — "The Top Ten Greatest Albums of the '90s" and "The Top Ten Suckiest Albums of the '90s." This got me to thinking — if I could dredge up that much dish regarding a sucky decade like the '90s, I could really whack out a golden nugget by waxing nostalgic about a cool decade. Art school grads be advised — this list reflects the coolest records of the '80s. Hence, REM, U2, Joy Division, New Order and Bauhaus are noticeably absent.


Seemingly without effort, KISS was 
cool — from their self-titled 1974 
debut 'til their 1977 Love Gun record. 
Then they began to flounder. They  
became followers — creating 
some truly crappy records in the 
process — a grand KISS tradition  
that continues to this day. However, 
even with a half-scab line-up, and 
sans their trademark make-up and
costumes, the group did manage 
to muster three truly cool records
during the '80s — this is one of them.


The title track has become one of
the era's most iconic tunes. However, 
the debut record from this Boston-
based band offers a treasure trove 
of well-crafted, brilliantly executed 
pop gems. Frontchick Aimee Mann 
possesses the voice of an angel 
and was the epitome of cool.


Combining Sabbath-like guitar riffs 
with eerie keyboards, monster drum 
work, animated vocals,  and compelling
 lyrics, the third album from this San 
Francisco-based band was a breath 
of fresh air when it arrived in stores in 
1989. The Top Ten hit, "Epic," as well
 as additional singles, "From Out of 
Nowhere" and "Falling to Pieces," 
propelled this one to platinum status.
 Its cool factor will NEVER fade.


The Ramones wasn't a punk band. 
It was a brilliantly created, beautifully 
disguised, guitar-driven pop band. 
This was the group's fifth and most
successful effort — and at 17, it was 
the first Ramones record that I ever 
bought. The classic tracks, "I'm 
Affected," "Chinese Rock" and 
"Do You Remember Rock and
Roll Radio?" were but a few key
 ingredients that made this such
cool and timeless record. 


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, 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 hear or 
understand. I'm one of them.


A living, breathing, musical Revlon ad. 
If The Cure had been cool, they could 
have been Gene Loves Jezebel. 
There's nothing about this band that 
I didn't love — at least until 1990 
when frontmen brothers Jay and 
Michael Aston's creative, self-inflicted 
gunshot brought it all to a crashing end.
 An amazing live band too. This record 
remains as fresh-sounding as ever.


C'mon — you know that you 
love(d) this one too. Although 
the movie now seems a bit 
dopey in retrospect, the 
music has stood up nicely 
over the years. "Take Me 
with You" — 'nuff said.


Good ol' Dee-Troit rock AND roll in all 
of its pompadour, leather-clad, zebra-
striped glory. From the opening track,
 "Rock You Up," through the closing, 
"Shake a Tail Feather," this one is 
start-to-finish classic. "Talking in 
Your Sleep" was a Top Five smash, 
but the lesser known follow-up 
single, "One in a Million" was 
the real gem. Drummer Jimmy 
Marinos was (is) my hero!


The Philly-based combo quickly 
shed its hair band skin with its 
sophomore record. Funky, gritty, 
bluesy and — completely cool. 
Via LCW, even most haters
recognized Cinderella's cred,
 as the title track and "Gypsy 
Road" both were closer akin to
 the Stones and Aerosmith than 
to its contemporaries. This 
record will always be cool.


Even during the "anything goes" '80s, 
this quirky Brooklyn-based duo stood 
out as unique and groundbreaking. I
lost my mind when I first heard "Don't 
Let's Start." And although I was playing 
in a hardcore, metal-type band at the 
time, this record had a far greater 
creative effect on me than anything 
being produced by the "Big Four." 
Put your hand inside the puppet head!


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 a million units still 
escapes me. However, frontman 
Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana 
Strum did go on to achieve multi 
platinum success in the '90s with 
their post-Invasion project, Slaughter.


Frank Zappa alumni united to create a 
band and a record that was fun, fresh 
and VERY cool! If Duran Duran had a 
spine, they could have been Missing 
Persons. Drummer Terry Bozzio and 
guitarist Warren Cuccurullo are simply 
badass and frontchick Dale  Bozzio 
was the hottest thing known to man
at the time. But it's all about the
music, right? And in that regard,
 "Notice Me," "Words" and "Walking
 in L.A." (as well as vintage im-
ages of Dale) still get me chubby.


Theatrical, macho cock rock at its 
very best. This bona fide metal 
classic captures frontman / bassist 
Blackie Lawless and crew at their 
creative apex. "Wild Child" and
"Blind in Texas" — That is all!

Backward Principle 

By the early '80s, this San Francisco-
based group had evolved from glam 
cult status to a world-class rock act. 
Yet despite their newfound commercial 
success, the band managed to 
maintain the street cred recently lost 
by such contemporaries as Styx
Journey and Foreigner. Although "Talk 
to Ya Later" was the hit, "Amnesia" 
and "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" 
are far more compelling.


I may or may not have skipped 
school to buy this one the first 
day of release. Arguably the 
last truly cool Van Halen record. 
still like the way the line runs 
up the back of your stocking.


Smart, snappy, hooky and quite cool. 
This was a life-changing record that 
thwacked me on many levels. Edgy, 
with a new wave flavor, this treasure
 offered powerful social and spiritual 
messages without being pompous or 
preachy. One of my ALL-TIME faves!


Hailing from Chicago, Enuff Z 'Nuff
got lumped in with the disposable 
hair bands of the day and as a result 
was essentially exterminated during 
the great rock revolt of the '90s — 
which is particularly sad since (I 
think) all they really wanted was to
be Cheap  Trick — a lofty endeavor 
in which they succeededFYI, "For 
Now" would make The Beatles 
envious. Cool band. Cool songs. 
Cool record.


Produced by Todd Rundgren,  
the debut from this Canadian 
combo is one of the finest 
pop / rock records EVER! 
"I'm an Adult Now" and "Hard 
to Laugh" were the MTV 
video singles, serving as tasty 
appetizers for the main course.


The message was clear. 
There was a new sheriff 
in town. He was pissed. 
He was taking over. And 
he was here to stay! For 
whom the bell tolls, indeed. 


Four motley-looking dudes
from the east coast who were 
transformed into the hottest-
looking chicks on the west
coast. Although the band's 
subsequent efforts would pale 
in comparison, Poison's debut 
was honest and pure — 
masterpiece — the perfect 
soundtrack to the decade 
of decadence.


The record that 
will NEVER die! 
"None more black."


Four L.A.-based rock dudes who 
all looked hotter than my girlfriend, 
with sky-high coifs, skin-tight leather 
stage outfits and platforms, creating 
blasting metal anthems praising 
Jesus. What's not to love? The lo-fi 
production only added to the record's 
cred. Beware — a remixed version 
was released with two new cheesy
 tracks in '86 — demand the original!


Jett lives, breathes and bleeds 
rock and roll. And this low-fi, low-
budget platinum nugget is one of 
rock's all-time coolest records.


They struggled. Then they conquered. 
They created one of the most important 
rock records in history. Then they 
choked. 27 years later, even the 
hippest, tramp-stamped 22-year 
old club chicks, grinding to the 
latest Lil Wayne track, know 
"Paradise City." That's pretty cool!  

Things You've
Never Done Before

So arrogant, so stupid 
and so sleazy that each
copy should have come 
with its own penicillin 
script. Undeniably, 
THE coolest record EVER!

So, there you go. Love 'em or leave 'em, these are the definitive coolest albums of the 1980s. Feel free to reflect, discuss and comment.

-Christopher Long
(August 2013)

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C'MON! -