Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Violectric (2.23.14)

VIOLECTRIC
@ Dexter's
Winter Park, FL
(2.23.14)
________________________

What could be more 
musically appealing 
than chicks in black
corsets, wearing 8" 
stilettos while playing 
violins? Not much.
________________________

Any rock band that soundchecks with Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" instantly projects a definite cool factor. But this wasn't just any rock band. In fact, the string ensemble known as Violectric  is hands-down the best rock band in Central Florida — a bold claim that was substantiated during the group's recent  Winter Park concert performance.

The three keys to a successful business (even the rock and roll business) are location, location, location. And with loaded wooden wine racks and endless works of fine art gracing practically every square inch of wall space, Dexter's atmosphere and geographically appealing locale made for the perfect setting in which Violectric would unveil its debut CD, One — not only at the merch table, but also live onstage.

Elizabeth Chaconas performing with
Violectric at Dexter's in Winter Park, FL.
Cellist, Yamilet Trujillo,
of Violectric (2.23.14).
It was standing room only at the super-chic hot spot, as the band kicked off their first set at 6:30PM.

Led by founding frontchick and accomplished violinist, Michelle Jones, the band carved up and served slices of their debut record in short order. Featuring an array of well-known pop / rock favorites from The Who, The Police, The Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Maroon 5 and many others, Violectric meticulously recreated One — "live on stage, song for song, note for note."

But be sure that despite the classical strings aspect, Violectric oozes authentic rock cred. And from their big and boomy live concert sound to their high-energy onstage presentation, the band packs plenty-o-punch (and crunch).

Violinist Brandy Moulden with 
special new friend, following 
Violectric's recent CD release party.
Following a brief intermission, set #2 ensued, kicking off with Jones' heartfelt message to fans. "We practice these songs and we memorize these songs," she confessed, "and we play them ALL totally — LIVE." A young woman who clearly exudes her love of music, Jones' unbridled passion seemingly is shared by the entire Violectric ensemble, as there never once was a moment when beaming smiles were absent from the faces of the talented troupe.

Boasting powerful classics that could make for an even mightier sophomore album, the second set offered more high-octane highlights — including unique show-stopping renditions of such epic tunes as Van Halen's "Jump," Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" from Guns N' Roses.

Violectric's founding violinist, 
Michelle Jones, with a young fan 
during the Dexter's meet-and-greet.
Another noteworthy second set triumph was the remake of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." After 45 years, Violectric succeeded in breathing fresh, new life into this oft covered standard. Chills.

However, THE musical highlight of the evening was the jaw-dropping interpretation of Metallica's heavy metal anthem, "Nothing Else Matters." As I've said before, the only problem with Metallica is, Metallica. But once the band itself is removed from the equation, many of their songs are pretty darn tasty. And Violectric captured the true essence of this one — making it uniquely their own. "Metal Horns" extended in total approval, dude.

In sum, on record and on stage, Violectric is a supreme rock band of the highest order. Hmm, I'd sure be psyched to hear what they'd do with  "Blitzkrieg Bop."

-Christopher Long
(February 2014)


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Monday, February 24, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: The Edge Effect "Alphabet Radio"

THE EDGE EFFECT
Alphabet Radio
Ultrasound Music Group
_______________________

Simply put, think
Bruno Mars
-meets-
Earth, Wind & Fire
at an all-night
Smokey Robinson
house party.
And it sounds so
fresh, you can
actually smell it.
_______________________ 

All six members of the Orlando-based vocal act, The Edge Effect, already had achieved significant success in their respective music careers prior to forming as a group in 2011. Yet, despite having performed individually alongside such industry giants as Stevie Wonder, Prince and David Foster, they still were seeking greater "artistic fulfillment." And the realization of that "fulfillment" is embodied in the recent release of their 2014 debut record, Alphabet Radio.

Produced by Jamey Tate and The Edge Effect at various Central Florida and Southern California recording studios, the record offers ten high-energy tracks, the majority of which are original compositions written by group members, Karl Hudson, John Gibson II, Solomon Jaye, Troy Dolendo, Sean Gerrity and Daniel Alan.

Touting "Who's Who" résumés, the Edge Effect backing band is comprised of keyboardist Jeff Babko (Frank Ocean, Jason Mraz), guitarist Andrew Synowiec (Michael Bublé, Marc Anthony), drummer Jamey Tate (Al Jarreau, David Benoit) and Jonathan Bradley on trumpet. All bass tracks were performed vocally by The Edge Effect's Karl Hudson.
________________________

"We wanted to write songs 
that you could sing along
to after the very first time
you heard them."
-John Gibson II (The Edge Effect)

"We all have many interests 
and influences, and we 
wanted this album to 
reflect that."
-Troy Dolendo (The Edge Effect)
_______________________

Highlights include "All Night" and "Get on Down" — both of which ooze a super-charged party vibe, while acclaimed R&B singer / songwriter, Marc Broussard delivers a guest lead vocal on his tune, "Biggest Fan" — a track that is beautifully reminiscent of old school, 70's-style vocal soul.

Written by Solomon Jaye, "Monsters" is a smooth-groovin' duet between Jaye and singer / stage actress, Shoshana Bean. Lyrically similar to a recent hit of a similar name by Eminem and Rihanna, I'm not sure which is the "chicken" or the "egg." However, Jaye's is an overall better written and more enjoyable song.

Another shiny gem is the infectious, soulful track, "Get Right." The record's only cover tune, it was written by Mindi Abair and appeared originally on her 2010 album, "In Hi-Fi Stereo." And the Edge Effect remake even features a sassy sax contribution from the renown jazz / pop artist.

Alphabet Radio ends strong with the super-groovy and catchy, Beach Boys-flavored ditty, "Come Get a Taste" — rounding out an impressive debut record that's well-worth seeking.

Operator, get me the NFL — I've got a great idea for next year's Super Bowl "Half Time" show!

OFFICAL EDGE EFFECT WEBSITE

-Christopher Long
(February 2014)

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

TOP 10 WORST KISS ALBUMS

 TOP TEN WORST
KISS ALBUMS
_________________________

The iconic rock band
KISS just celebrated a 
milestone. 40 years
ago last week, their 
debut album first
arrived in stores
officially launching
the band's epic, yet
often dubious career.
_________________________

During the 1970s, they were trailblazers — producing some of rock's all-time greatest records, including Dressed to Kill, Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over and 1975's landmark double-live concert set, ALIVE! — not to mention their historic 1978 solo albums. However, by the '80s, KISS had become followers — consistently creating horrendously un-listenable, and mind-numbing pabulum. So, in honor of the band's recent 40th anniversary, I thought that it might be fun to shed light on their ten most heinous musical crimes.

10
The Elder
(1981)

This stinker was born when somebody
in KISS actually suggested, "Hey,
let's become the Moody Blues."
Misguided and embarrassing.


9
Hot in the Shade
(1989)

We used to be dangerous, 
then we were disco. But now, 
we're blues-based rockers,
 just like, um, Bon JoviNo, 
really — we swear we are!


8
Animalize
(1984)

Crunchy guitars. Big drums.
Wailing vocals. Weak songs.


7
Crazy Nights
(1987)

KISS masquerading as a 
hair band.Yeah, it seemed 
dumb then too.


6
You Wanted the Best...
(1996)

"Big" Gene: We gotta cash in on 
the reunion, but we're out of material.

"Little" Gene: No sweat. We've 
still got some crappy old live 
tracks that we haven't used yet.


5
Sonic Boom
(2009)

Uninspired cock rock created 
by guys in their 70s.


4
ALIVE III
(1993)

You actually can hear 
Nigel Tufnel in the 
background on Side Two 
asking,"Is this joke?
Excuse me, is this a joke?"


3
Psycho Circus
(1998)

This was touted as an awesome 
studio album that reunited the 
original four members.
It wasn't.


2
Carnival of Souls
(1997)

KISS masquerading as a grunge 
band.Bruce Kulick's facial hair 
wasn't even convincing. The 
band's silliest album ever.


1
Monster
(2012) 

Lyrically, the band's dopiest 
effort to date. And by now,
"Big" Gene and  "Little" Gene
should be setting the bar
much higher than this.

*This feature is intended as a source of lighthearted entertainment. It is in no way meant to malign the dignity or tarnish the reputation of artists whose impeccable body of work includes such timeless pop standards as "Plaster Caster," "Burn Bitch Burn" and "Bang Bang You."

-Christopher Long

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: The Beach Boys (2.16.14)

Photos: Christopher Long
CONCERT REVIEW
The Beach Boys
King Center / Melbourne, FL
(2.16.14)
_________________________

My first live rock
concert experience
was The Beach Boys
back in 1977 — I was
just 14 years old.
37 years later, I
checked in for
another dose of 
"Good Vibrations."
_________________________

I've always said that there are only two kinds of people in the world — "Beach Boys" people and "Beatles" people. For the record, I am 100% unequivocally, a "Beach Boys" person. I certainly mean no disrespect to the Fab Four — bless their hearts, they did the best that they could.

The story of The Beach Boys is an epic tale. Initially the vision of singer / songwriter and producer, Brian Wilson, the five-piece combo from sunny southern California first rose to international pop prominence in 1962 — just prior to the "British Invasion."

Beach Boys co-founding
frontman, Mike Love.
50+ years and countless gold records later, they've endured more than probably any other pop group — hits and misses, deaths, divorces and addictions, intra band conflicts and splintered line-ups. So, given all the hoo-ha, two questions seem logical: 1) Is the group performing tonight really The Beach Boys? 2) Is there any "fun, fun, fun" factor in only one original member and one nearly-original member celebrating the group's much-loved music? Hmm, let's see.

The King Center was packed to the rafters as the Mike Love-fronted, 2014 incarnation of The Beach Boys took center stage — kicking off the show with the 1968 Top 20 single, "Do it Again." And in short order, a marathon, cavalcade of classics ensued.

Bruce Johnston
Like visiting old friends, Love and longtime vocalist / keyboardist / bassist, Bruce Johnston, both were personable and engaging. "After that we'll be taking an intermission, followed by a nap," Love joked at the conclusion of their 1962 hit, "Surfin' Safari" — a mere 12 minutes into the show.

Despite the noticeable absence of surviving original members, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine  — drummer John Cowsill, guitarist Scott Totten, keyboardist Tim Bonhomme, guitarist Christian Love, and bassist Randell Kirsch, successfully rekindled the Beach Boys magic.

John Cowsill
The first set brought back many great memories and  included such iconic staples as "Catch a Wave," "Surf City," "Be True to Your School," "Little  Deuce Coup," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around." One particularly noteworthy moment occurred during the 1963 chart-buster, "Surfer Girl," when Love prompted the legions of Baby Boomers to break out their cell phones — instantly, the venue became a sea of blue light and blue hair — take that, Bieber!

Following an intermission, the band revved up for Set Two with a rousing remake of the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'."  Packed with equal pop power as the first half, the second also featured such must-play biggies as "Kokomo," "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "Barbara Ann" and the audience sing-along, "Help Me Rhonda." 


The highlight of the evening was the triple-shot tribute to Brian Wilson's 1966 production masterpiece, Pet Sounds,  that included "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Sloop John B." and "God Only Knows" — the latter was a chilling duet between the live band and the late Carl Wilson via archived footage projected across the huge onstage video screen. And it was the classic clips and stills shown throughout the night that truly enhanced the overall fun factor and added extra zing to the band's story and music. Plus, giant images of the late Dennis Wilson always should grace any Beach Boys stage. Just sayin'.

Two and half hours, and nearly 40 songs later, the band wrapped up the show by bringing the crowd to its feet with the signature Beach Boys anthem, "Surfin' USA" — only to return to the stage in short order for the high-octane encore of "Wild Honey" and "Fun, Fun, Fun."

Okay, so was this really The Beach Boys? Well, that question continues to fuel considerable debate among fans. However, two things are for sure — the current configuration is a tremendous band that delivers an incredible show — one that complements The Beach Boys' legacy.

-Christopher Long
(February 2014)


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

HOW THE OLYMPICS TAUGHT ME TO BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN (Guest Post)

HOW THE OLYMPICS TAUGHT 
ME TO BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN
_________________________

I’m delighted today
to welcome a new
“Guest Writer” 
Gisele Altman.
FYI, I am a fan!
_________________________

While watching figure skating during the current Olympics, I was taken by one of the crowd favorites. Standing 5'10" tall, this Russian-born athlete appears magnanimous among his peers — possibly because of his incredibly gaunt physique. Although his skating ability fascinated  me, what I later learned impressed me even more. Born in 1982, and having skated since the age of four, Evgeni Plushenko is 31 years old, making him one of the ‘old timers’ in Sochi. Even more remarkable…. this is his 4th Olympic games. He has medaled in all three previous Olympics, (2002 silver, 2006 gold, 2010 silver), and this one was no different. Despite 12 recent back surgeries, Plushenko still won the gold in this year's team figure skating. Unfortunately, he later had to drop out of the men's single skate because of his previous back injuries.


Plushenko wasn't the only one to make an impression. Chinese figure skaters,  Pang Qing and Tong Jian, have been skating together for over 20 years, where ultimately a romance ensued. They have been engaged for two and a half years — putting off their wedding until after these Olympics. Sadly they did not place in Sochi, and are now retiring. On a bright note, they can begin their wedding plans and start a new chapter of their lives.

In actuality, every athlete I saw, I found amazing. The stories were recurrent — one NBC  video after another — athletes who have met some sort of adversity yet persevered. And while not all of them have had hardships, be assured that all of the them share the same attributes: they have all sacrificed to get where they are; they are all the best at what they do; they are all here to win; and they are all consistently persistent and diligent in their training. All of them remain consistently dedicated. That commitment showed me what I was lacking in my spiritual walk — consistent  dedication.

 

I have been a "practicing" Christian for just over five years now. I have a deep passion for the Lord, and an insatiable thirst to grow as a Christian. I spend time with God daily, I try to attend church continually, serve regularly on the church's production team and I’m actively enrolled at East Coast Christian University. Still, something was missing.

Of all the things that I was doing, I was not consistently dedicating time to God's word. I talk with God every day, but there seemed to always be a reason why I didn't have time to get into the Word. Even with Bibles (NKJ, NLT and The Message) stacked around me, I often found myself too hurried in the morning, then too tired in the evening. John 10:10 states that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." and until recently, I had not realized that Satan was "stealing" my time.


Don't get me wrong, I would still get the word in me daily, whether through a television or radio program while getting ready for work, or from a learning CD while in my car, yet I was not consistently opening my bible and reading. Ironically, on the days that I did spend time in the word — even if for only fifteen minutes — my day would be so much more enhanced. Good days were great and full of favor; bad days, not so bad.

I am aware now and cautious. Just because Satan, in this instance, didn't manifest in obvious ways such as adversity, heartache or pain, he was still being a thief. Not anymore!  Like the Olympians, I'm now remaining consistently dedicated to reading God's precious, life-giving words every day. 

-Gisele Altman
(February 2014) 

____________________________

BE MY "GUEST"
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.

-Chris
AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com
_____________________________


Monday, February 17, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Jonny Lang (2.15.14)

JONNY LANG
Maxwell C. King Center
Melbourne, FL (2.15.14)
_____________________________

By Florida standards,
the 40° temperatures
outdoors were arctic.
However, Jonny Lang's
brand of red-hot, rockin' 
blues kept the sold-out
King Center crowd
nice and toasty indoors.
_____________________________

Currently criss-crossing the country promoting his latest record, Fight for My Soul, the veteran singer / songwriter / guitarist journeyed to the "Sunshine State" this past weekend for the second time in just three months.

Along with his four-piece band, Jonny Lang took the King Center stage at 8pm and immediately kicked 'em where it counts with "Blew up the House," the opening track from his latest release.

JONNY LANG - 2.15.14
(Photo: Michelle Wilson)
Although on paper, Lang's eight-song set list was a Xerox of his recent West Palm Beach concert, tonight's show felt fresh. And the undeniable sweet fragrance of bona fide blues stank permeated the theater.

Switching up throughout the show between an amber-colored Gibson Les Paul and a smoked-finish Fender Telecaster, the 33-year-old guitar ace rocked the crowd of 2,000 with a mighty 75-minute, career spanning set.

Akil Thompson
(Photo: Christopher Long)
A master of dynamics, Lang brought fans to their feet during "Don't Stop (For Anything)," only to elicit near deafening silence during  the Bob Marley-inspired "everything is gonna be alright"  interlude in "Red Light."

"A Quitter Never Wins," from Lang's 1997 Lie to Me record, as well as the title track from his 2006 Turn Around album provided just a few of the show's other countless highlights.

As for his band, the cast of seasoned pros included a couple of new faces. Guitarist Akil Thompson and drummer Barry Alexander were both with Lang during his last romp through Florida. But this time around, the troupe was rounded out by bassist Sonny Thompson and keyboardist Charles Jones.

Barry Alexander
(Photo: Christopher Long)
Lang's cover of Stevie Wonder's "Livin' For the City" always is a concert favorite. However, the addition of Jones' extended spirited, funky solo, made the 1973 classic particularly memorable.

But beyond his impressive chops, soulful voice and super-charged songs, what sets Lang apart from the blues pack is his message — one that's far greater than the typical "sex, booze & F-bombs" mantra offered by his contemporaries.


Clearly a young man of tremendous faith, Lang is a beacon of shining light onstage — not only through his positive music, but also by how he connects with his audience. And there is perhaps no better example of that light than in the lyrics of the concert staple, "That Great  Day," a choice track from Turn Around.

"And when He appears 
to wipe all our tears 
forever away, then 
we'll be together in 
Heaven forever.
On that great day.
On that great day."
-Jonny Lang 
(from "That Great Day")

As the set began winding down, Lang was still revving up, and he once again brought the audience to their feet with 1998's down and dirty "Angel of Mercy."

-Christopher Long
(February 2014)


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