Saturday, April 25, 2015

TOP 10 GREATEST KISS ALBUMS

TOP 10 GREATEST
KISS ALBUMS
_________________________

As an admitted 40-year
KISS junkie, I still enjoy
the private analysis and
open discussion of the
"Hottest Band in the Land."
__________________________

Strip away the cosmetic trappings, and at the core, KISS is simply an honest and pure, song-based rock and roll band. So if you can let go of any personal, rock vs. pop, metal vs. rock, make-up vs. non-make-up, old vs. new, or "Spaceman" vs. "Impostor" baggage that you might be carrying, and focus on the songs, you might have some fun with this little feature. I sure did.

10
Alive II

October 1977 — the height of the KISS Empire — just before the fall. Packed with plenty-o-post-Alive! standards, the band's second double-record set perfectly projected KISS' (now) well-crafted image and bombastic grandeur. But what Alive II lacked was the perceived authenticity of its live predecessor. In fact, it possessed all the genuine sincerity of a Hillary Clinton press op. However, where Alive II did succeed was in the newly-recorded Side Four studio tracks. Despite the near-40-year debate over who actually played what on these tracks, "All American Man," "Rockin' in the USA," "Larger Than Life," and "Rocket Ride" remain classic keepsakes from the band's golden, cock-rock glory days.

9
Lick it Up

Packing more punch than a heavy-weight prizefighter, Lick it Up oozed as much cred as any previous KISS collection, and it returned the band to a rightful place of rock prominence — after a three-year dry spell. Even sans make-up, the band members' look was as legit as the music. "Exciter," "Young and Wasted," "Gimme More," and "Fits Like a Glove" are still bona fide skull-crushers, and the title track remains a Classic-Rock radio staple.

8
KISS

KISS' 1974 debut was a reasonably hard-hitting showcase for such enduring fan favorites as "Deuce," "Strutter," "Firehouse," "Cold Gin," "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond." It may have been flawed somewhat by its rather sterile-sounding production, but you never forget your first "kiss," and this one always will rank among the band's all-time best.

7
Unmasked

By early 1980, KISS had clearly become splintered and rather misguided. If the pre-school-ish, cartoon-style album cover didn't compel the last remaining members of the KISS Army to all seek immediate "Honorable Discharges," the undeniable Top 40 poppiness did. Yet, despite not knowing with absolute certainty exactly who played on the record, and its overall local studio-like production, what makes Unmasked such a treat is the songs. Sure, they may feel like they were culled from three separate solo projects, but the fact is, the songs were (for the most part) all top-shelf. "Is That You?," "Tomorrow," "Two Sides of the Coin," "Torpedo Girl" — even the should-a-been-a-monster, "Shandi" was simply superb. One of the least shameful of KISS guilty pleasures.

6
Asylum

Asylum is one of the most song-based records in the KISS catalog, and the strongest of the band's post-make-up era — bar none. I remember vividly, crawling through my local shopping mall to the record store, on my hands and knees (with a broken foot) to buy this record on the day it was released. "King of the Mountain," "Who Wants to be Lonely," "Tears are Falling" and "Uh! All Night" all were Rock and Roll Over-worthy. After 30 years, the songs still hold up. 

5
Creatures of the Night

At the time of its release in late 1982, Creatures of the Night was the most exciting and authentic-sounding album to don the iconic crest in several years. Marking the end of the band's glorious original make-up era, the bone-crunching songs were as ferocious as the production. Even if whittled-down to just the title track and the arena-sized power ballad, "I Still Love You," this album would still stand up as one of the mightiest KISS albums ever. 

4
Dressed to Kill

Simply put, Dressed to Kill is a Simmons-driven classic. So crisp. So clean. So punchy. A superb, cohesive collection of concise, super-tight, get-to-the-hook, golden nuggets. Along with Rock and Roll Over, it was one of the two last KISS records that you knew for certain that the four guys on the cover were actually the same four guys cutting the tracks. Had Neil Bogart also produced the first  two KISS albums, the band might have broken sooner.

3
Alive!

Arguably the definitive KISS record, Alive! proved to be both a band and industry game-changer. It would likely have clinched the #1 spot here had it not become such common knowledge in recent years that it's more or less a fabricated live album. But you still can't deny the concert vibe. The "live" energy of "Firehouse," "Parasite," "100,000 Years," "Rock Bottom" and "Let Me Go Rock and Roll" was so authentic, that as a kid, I could actually (sorta) smell the sulfur from the detonating stage pyro permeating from my 8-Track H-Fi set (I think). And the personal hand-written notes printed inside the LP's gate fold sleeve and the souvenir, concert-style program insert were absolutely epic.

2
Destroyer

Over the course of the last 39 years, I've worn out three copies of Destroyer on 8-Track  I've also bought two different vinyl versions (one black, one red), two different CD versions (one original pressing, one remastered) and I destroyed one cassette copy. Destroyer was a must-have treasure trove of youth-oriented rock anthems targeted at teens (like me) who felt misunderstood and out of place at home, at church and at school. Paul Stanley understood me. And although (at the time) I didn't personally own "7-inch leather heels," I felt like I understood him, too. Despite achieving icon status, "Detroit Rock City," "God of Thunder" and "Beth" are NOT the true gems of this set. As an awkward 7th grader, I personally connected best with "King of the Night Time World," "Shout it Out Loud" and "Flaming Youth." Even at 13, I "got" the strip show vibe of Peter Criss' sexy-sounding drum track on "Do You Love Me?" — but I was kinda uncertain as to why Gene Simmons always had a whip beside him, and how on earth, pain could be sweet. Lessons learned. Looks like we're gonna have ourselves a rawk and roll pawty! 

1
Rock and Roll Over

The look, the image, the songs, the sound  the KISS "machine" had now become perfected by the fall of 1976. Paul Stanley's "I Want You" was a magically delicious opener to what was (and is) THE perfect KISS album. I remember first hearing "Calling Dr. Love" — the dirty guitar distortion along with driving cowbell, and thinking that it was the crunchiest sound ever. But as a naive 13-year-old church boy, I was sorta perplexed by exactly what kinda "stuff" the gal was showing Gene Simmons in the "Ladies Room." Ace Frehley shined throughout as rock's newly-minted golden guitar god, while Peter Criss' Rod Stewart-like vocal charm helped propel "Hard Luck Woman" into the Top 20 — and his seemingly 18-minute-long drum fill on "Makin' Love" still gets me a bit "chubby." But for my money, it's hard to beat "Take Me" and "Mr. Speed."

Alrighty, Privates, Corporals, Sergeants, Generals and all other ranking members of the KISS Army I hope you all enjoyed my retrospective analysis. As always, I welcome and encourage everyone to share your own comments, insights and personal experiences. And most of all — thanks for stopping by!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

_________________________

MORE KISS-RELATED
FEATURES FROM
CHRISTOPHER LONG

_________________________



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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Larry Ollison "The Paradise of God"

BOOK REVIEW
The Paradise of God
- Larry Ollison -
__________________________

I've woken up and had
morning coffee with
Larry Ollison more
times in the last six
months than I did with
my ex-wife during our
entire 13-year marriage.
Simply put, I am a fan!
__________________________

As an avid reader, I gravitate towards the non-fiction genre. I've always connected best with personal stories based on the author's unique, real-life experiences and perspectives. But in recent years, I've become attracted less to the "Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll" sagas that I once consumed during my pig-like past, (e.g., KISS, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin) and drawn more to riveting, faith-based "tell-alls" (e.g., Andrew Wommack, Kenneth Hagin, Dr. Larry Ollison).

I first discovered author / pastor / teacher (and pilot) Larry Ollison last fall when his book, Life Is In The Blood (LOM / 2011), was part of my Bible College class curriculum. I was hooked immediately by Ollison's engaging, no-nonsense, conversational style. Well-written and Biblically on-point, I found his message to be a beautiful blessing, and a snap to grasp. And his work now has become the second-most essential part of my daily Starbucks devotions. Morning, Larry! How ya doin'?

"We need to know the Word, but we also
need to understand that it takes the blood
of the Lamb and the Word to overcome."
-Larry Ollison (2011)

Through the pages of Life Is In The Blood, Ollison breaks down that wall-o-religious "stuff," and reveals honest and simple Gospel truths. He nails down his key points — the power in the name of Jesus, the power of His blood and the power of the Word in a way that even an admitted Nugent-nut like me can relate to easily.

In The Power of Grace (Harrison House / 2013), Ollison encourages believers effectively to pursue holiness and to remain rooted deeply in the Word. He describes Grace as "the ultimate power," and he further describes Grace, combined with Faith, as "Power Partners."

"God teaches through his Word,
not through pain and suffering."
-Larry Ollison (2013)


"You CAN'T change your past,
but you CAN overcome your past."
-Larry Ollison (2013)

Ollison's latest, The Paradise of God (Harrison House Inc / 2014), carves out some of his most compelling content to date. Hence, readers may want to first purchase a comfy pair of spiritual "big boy" pants before diving in. But be sure, Ollison still connects — and without pretense.

"You are never more righteous than the
day of your salvation. Righteous is what
you are. Holy is what you become."
-Larry Ollison (2014)

Are we, in fact, living in the last days? Is there really a Heaven and Hell? When will we see Heaven? What will it look like and what will we look like when we get there? And what's the 411 on this whole Rapture dealio? These all are very legitimate questions asked often by believers and non-believers alike — all of which Ollison addresses through his trustworthy breakdown of relevant scriptures and personal anecdotes.

Other topics Ollison tackles include; Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, free will and accepting responsibility for the choices we make, the false religious myth of purgatory and an in-depth discussion of angels.

"Angels are messengers in most cases.
They bring a message from God to
the born-again saints and usually
these messengers are spiritual
angelic beings of great power."
-Larry Ollison (2014)

Simply put, I am a huge Larry Ollison fan. His books actually serve as mighty, individual beach bag-sized Bible College crash-courses. And his voice offers me consistent insight, encouragement and inspiration regarding THE most important aspect of my life enhancing my personal relationship and walk with Jesus Christ. Thanks dude — tomorrow, the coffee is on me!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)



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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GLENN EVANS: Nuclear Assault's "Pot Head" Drums-Up New Solo Album

GLENN EVANS:
 Nuclear Assault's "Pot Head"
Drums-Up New Solo Album
_________________________

Simply put, Glenn Evans
is a bona fide workaholic,
and a (likely) raving lunatic.
_________________________

Longtime Nuclear Assault drummer Glenn Evans currently is not only in the midst of gearing up for his band's upcoming 2015 summer "Final Assault" world tour, he's also released an impressive, two solo EPs — in just the last eight months.

Produced and performed entirely by Evans last February at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas, Beatitude is set to arrive on May 1st via Sidipus Records. "I played and produced everything in less than 20 hours," Evans revealed, during our recent interview.
_________________________

FEBRUARY 3, 2015:
"I woke up at 3am with a bit of
anxiety about the upcoming tour
with Nuclear Assault, and I smoked
a bowl of marijuana to relax. The
melody for "Pot Head" just came to
me. The next day, I booked a flight
to El Paso and I wrote the song on
the spot at Sonic Ranch Studios."
-Glenn Evans
_________________________

Glenn Evans at Sonic Ranch Studios.
(February 2015)
_________________________

"I went into the studio with just an
idea. I locked myself in there for
two days — all alone, except for my
engineer Jerry Ordonez. And I
came out with a finished product."
-Glenn Evans
_________________________

Evans' follow-up to his 2014 Overload record comes straight out of left field, stylistically — placing the veteran musician far outside his perceived comfort zone — resulting in perhaps his freshest-sounding and most engaging work to date.

Beatitude's controversial single, "Pot Head (I Smoke Marijuana)," already is generating a global Internet buzz. Lacquered with Evans' "Everyman" vocal style and from-the-heart narrative, the song hits hard with a wall-o-brash guitars and pounding drums. A straight-up rock track with a straight-up street message, it'll hook ya, in short order. Would I recommend a download of this ditty, or even share the YouTube link with any of the kids in my church youth group? Not a chance! However, it is a pretty darn catchy tune and it makes for a compelling, wallet-size aural snapshot of the thrash metal kingpin. In fact, in the last 30 years, I can't personally recall a time ever encountering Evans when he hasn't seemed pleasantly "glazed" — so I gotta give him major points for projecting such bold transparency.

The oddest thing about "Pot Head" is that it's actually the record's stylistic "square peg," as the balance of the songs on Beatitude all are super-charged covers of rockabilly classics. Evans' remake of the 1957 Buddy Holly chart-buster, "Maybe Baby," oozes Dave Edmunds-like authenticity, while the suped-up version of Ritchie Valens' 1959 hit, "Ooh My Head," likely will cure whatever ails ya. But it's the Sonny Curtis-penned, 1956 Buddy Holly gem, "Rock Around with Ollie Vee," that shines brightest among the four-song set.
_________________________

"I filled the rest of the EP with
a few songs in honor of Buddy
Holly (from Lubbock, TX) and
Ritchie Valens — being that their
chartered plane went down on that
exact same day and time in 1959."
-Glenn Evans
_________________________

Glenn Evans cutting drum
tracks for Beatitude.
_________________________

"For some reason, I enjoy putting
myself under pressure when it
comes to making a record."
-Glenn Evans
_________________________

Through Overload, Evans offered a revealing glimpse of his musical DNA that many of his most ardent fans might have found surprising. On Beatitude, that microscope-type view is further magnified. And following the June 1st release of the new Nuclear Assault record, Pounder, and the subsequent six-week world tour, he'll quite likely be headed back to the studio, in short order. But one thing's for sure, when it comes to Glenn Evans' solo work  expect the unexpected.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

_________________________

Glenn Evans 
Beatitude
(Get it NOW)


"Pot Head" single
available on iTunes

Mail Orders:
$12.00
(U.S. S&H included worldwide)
Sidipus Records Worldwide
P.O. Box 97
West Union, SC 29696 USA
_________________________


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS (Pt. V) - Nazareth "2XS"

GOLDEN ROCK BOMBS
(Pt. V)
Nazareth
2XS
(A&M)
_________________________

Even the biggest, most
iconic names in rock
can detonate a "bomb."
However, some of these
sleepers and sinkers are
actually the gemstones
of the artist's otherwise
platinum-selling catalog.
_________________________

Safer than Sabbath, yet punchier than PurpleNazareth rocked every bit as hard as Zeppelin — but without the pretentious aftertaste. The band unleashed an impressive string of nut-busting slabs throughout the '70, and in the process, also established a large and loyal worldwide concert audience. However, this gang of wild-eyed, whisky-drinking Scotsmen somehow missed being issued VIP credentials to rock's "Champagne Room." As a result, by the early '80s, the band had to fight for survival  yet rolled famously with the changing times. And it was during this super-corporate, "Don't Stop Believin'" / "Keep on Loving You" / "Mr. Roboto" era that Nazareth created, arguably, some of their finest work.

But even during its loudest and proudest, "Messin' with a Son of a Bitch" '70s glory days, Nazareth possessed a proclivity for producing guitar-driven power pop (e.g., "Broken Down Angel," "Carry Out Feelings," "My White Bicycle," "Place in Your Heart"). In fact, the band's global Top Ten mega hit, "Love Hurts," was a bona fide power ballad. And by the decade's end, Nazareth was clearly making a seemingly calculated move towards pursuing an overall more "polished" sound. Following the radio-friendly, Malice in Wonderland in 1980 and the melodic, The Fool Circle in 1981, the band released 2XS (To Excess), in early 1982. Produced by John Punter (Roxy Music, Slade, Japan), the album boasted an array of fabulously well-written rock / pop treasures — all performed with precision, and produced to perfection. It tanked. Stalling at a disappointing #122 on the Billboard 200.

2XS was innovative and fresh-sounding more so than even it's two predecessors. Laced with reggae-inspired riffs, Phil Collins-style electronic drum programs and hooky, sing-along choruses, 2XS was light-years beyond what many at the time perceived as the band's previous "dinosaur-like" recordings. Much of the credit for this exciting new musical direction (aside from the likely label pressure) can be attributed to the arrival of former Spirit keyboardist, John Locke, who had come on board during the Fool Circle sessions, plus the recent addition of then 22-year-old guitarist, Billy Rankin, who brought a much-needed youthful vitality to the veteran collective.

Me and my "ex," backstage with Nazareth
at Florida's Fort Pierce Civic Center
during the 2XS tour in September 1982.
Among the record's 11 tracks were highlights galore. The infectious, mid-tempo debut single, "Love Leads to Madness," combined maximum era-appropriate poppiness with a healthy dose of lead guitarist, Manny Charlton's signature rock edge — making for what should have been a snappy, slam-dunk winner. Yet, despite becoming a modest hit in a few smaller countries, the song missed making the U.S. charts.

The follow-up single, "Dream On," was every bit as compelling as that other "Dream On" from the '70s and should have become THE power ballad of the '80s. It didn't. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess that Dan McCafferty's iconic, sweet yet raspy vocal was so on-point, so heartfelt, so honest and pure, that even today, I can't listen to this song without balling up in a corner and sobbing like a silly schoolgirl left out of a Bobby Sherman meet-and-greet. Above any other from Nazareth's entire catalog, "Dream On" proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that along with Cheap Trick's Robin Zander, McCafferty's was one of the two all-time greatest voices in rock.

New millennium 2XS re-issue
back cover with bonus tracks.
Additional highlights included "You Love Another," "Games" and "Preservation" — all of which oozed glorious, early '80s synth-pop charm — quality material that sadly, many fans will likely never know.

But, be sure that even during the golden Members Only era, Nazareth was not about to surrender all of its well-earned street cred. Hence, propelled by the ace rhythm section of bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet, the energized "Boys in the Band," the boogie-based "Gatecrash" and the blistering "Take the Rap" all were Expect No Mercy-caliber, high-octane rockers — the likes of which simply couldn't be matched (or even touched) by any of the day's reigning "Roboto"-type poster boys.

In sum, despite lackluster sales, 2XS remains an epic piece of work, and an essential title for any dedicated rock fan's Nazareth library.

This concludes my five-part Golden Rock Bombs series. And if you enjoyed discovering, or re-discovering these gems half as much as I did, then the objective was accomplished successfully.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

____________________

Check out the entire
Golden Rock Bombs series:

PART ONE
Peter Criss
Out of Control

PART TWO
Cheap Trick 
The Doctor

PART THREE
REO Speedwagon
Building the Bridge

PART FOUR
Fleetwood Mac
Time

PART FIVE
Nazareth
2XS
____________________


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Iconic Rock Band, Poison Performs Miami Concert — Without Bret Michaels!

BREAKING NEWS: 
Iconic Rock Band, Poison
Performs Miami Concert
— Without Bret Michaels!

For some reason, Poison-related stories and rumors continue coming my way. Late Friday, I received an anonymous message, accompanied by an anonymous photo (below) indicating that the platinum-selling arena rock poster boys had performed a concert in Miami, Florida earlier in the evening — without their infamous, co-founding frontman, Bret Michaels. Leading the charge last night, go-to vocalist, Brandon Gibbs — as confirmed on his personal Facebook page.

Nothin' but a good time - without Bret Michaels!
(Poison, live in Miami - 4.17.15)
What it all means, I can't say  as I no longer maintain much contact with the band — but the possibilities are certainly intriguing. I just thought I'd pass this along to those who have interest. However, I am personally fascinated by the "?" on Rikki Rockett's kick drum.

-Christopher Long
(April 2015)

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