Monday, February 27, 2017

ASIA "Symfonia: Live in Bulgaria 2013"

Live in Bulgaria 2013
Frontiers Music (2.24.17)

The latest offering from
classic rock combo ASIA
has finally arrived. How
does it stack up against
the band's 30+ previous
live recordings? Let's see.

What separates ASIA from its pack of pretentious prog contemporaries is they actually have songs — you know, tunes that make ya snap your fingers, tap your toes, bop your head, and maybe even steal a little sugar from your best gal as you both sing along outside the ol' Tastee-Freez. And in that sense, this 2-CD / DVD package will likely be a tremendous treat for enthusiasts, old and new.

Recorded back on September 21, 2013 during the Sounds of the Ages festival at the II Century Roman Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Symfonia boasts (most) of the band's original line-up — late frontman / bassist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer and keyboardist Geoff Downes, along with more recent recruit, guitarist Sam Coulson.

Culled from five of the band's 13 studio albums, this engaging 14-song set oozes such U.S. chart-busters as "Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell," "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes." However, it's deeper cuts, including "An Extraordinary Life," "Days Like These" and "Wildest Dreams" that often deliver the most satisfying payoff.

Having been archived originally for European TV, the recording quality is absolutely superb, and the fistful of tracks accompanied by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra make for particularly shiny highlights.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017



Boasting hundreds of
titles, KISS' catalog is
iconic and impressive.
However, calculating
this checklist actually
proved a much easier
task than I'd expected.

KISS has masqueraded quite convincingly as a heavy metal band for much of the last 40-some years. But truth be told, despite the cosmetic distraction, sky-high amplifiers and exploding stage sets, KISS has always been, at the core, an honest and pure, song-based pop / rock band sharing more common fabric with "Go All the Way" than "Dazed and Confused." Hence, this concise countdown doesn't reflect the band's most awesome anthems or most rocking riffs. It doesn't even represent their hottest hits. It merely points to KISS' all-time crispiest, crunchiest and most well-crafted songs. BTW, the fact that they all were either written or co-written by Paul Stanley is purely coincidental. No, really.

"Comin' Home"
(Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley)
From Hotter Than Hell - 1974

A super-catchy, squeaky-clean,
sing-along love song from an
otherwise dark and heavy album.

(Paul Stanley, Vini Poncia)
From Unmasked - 1980

By 1980, KISS cred had become
so compromised, not even this bona
fide Bubblegum gem could break
onto Casey's Countdown. However,
I would wager a bet that had it been
covered by Journey and appeared
on the Escape album, it certainly
would have been a Top 10 smash.

"Lick it Up"
(Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)
From Lick it Up - 1983

The song that saved the sinking ship.
Sometimes, a single note, a sweet hook,
and a few silly lyrics are all ya need.

"Tears Are Falling"
(Paul Stanley)
From Asylum - 1985

In terms of quality songwriting, Asylum
is KISS' all-time finest work. And along
with "Who Wants to Be Lonely," this
song shines the brightest of the bunch.

"Tomorrow and Tonight"
(Paul Stanley)
From Love Gun - 1977

A super-charged "party ev-er-ee-day"
anthem — one in which the Starchild
wrote and delivered (in his signature
style), the Shakespeare-inspired lyric,
Oh yeah. Uh-huh. Alright!

"Hard Luck Woman"
(Paul Stanley)
From Rock and Roll Over - 1976

Another rock solid example of why
KISS was so undeserving of being
dismissed by critics. The songwriting
displayed here stands nose-to-nose
with any "acclaimed" chart-buster.

"Flaming Youth"
(Paul Stanley,  Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Bob Ezrin)
From Destroyer - 1976

Of KISS' many teen-targeted anthems,
this is the most authentic and hard-hitting.
And to this day, my flag is (still) flying,
higher and higher and higher and higher!

"Reason to Live"
(Paul Stanley, Desmond Child)
From Crazy Nights - 1987

Arguably the all-time greatest power
ballad. Had the song been recorded
by Bon Jovi, it would have likely
earned a greater distinction than
Dial MTV's "Darling of the Week."

"Let Me Know"
(Paul Stanley)
From KISS - 1974

The original line-up, recording one of
their earliest treasures on a $9 budget.
And it's brilliant. This one proves that
from the get-go, KISS absolutely was
in the same songwriting league as any
of the era's other "big boys." 43 years
later, it still sounds as fresh as ever

"I Still Love You"
(Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)

Only TWO types of people in this world...

1) Super-humans who recognize this 
IS the all-time best KISS song.

2) Troglodytes who molest Collies.

Incredibly powerful and beautifully
transparent. The ultimate rib-cracking
break-up song. A "crème de la crème"
concert staple for 35 years. Arguably
Paul Stanley's finest work to date.

Okay, fellow KISS Freaks, I encourage you all to play along and chime in with your personal picks in the "Comment" section below. Although your results may vary from mine, be sure, there are NO wrong answers. So, have fun, and let me know. 'Cuz after all, you got nothin' to lose.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)


Don't miss my other
KISS-related features.
(Find 'em all HERE)



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Thursday, February 16, 2017

WORDS HURT (They Also Leave Scars!)

(They Also Leave Scars!)

I first addressed this timely
topic in a 2012 feature story.
However, I believe that it
still warrants discussion.

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." FYI, this age-old saying is an absolute lie...

I awoke early one chilly morning about a week ago. Per my typical 6am routine, I let the dogs out, poured myself a cup of hot, fresh, caramel-flavor-enhanced coffee and then cozied-up to the screen illuminating my home office. As I sat at my desk, perusing the avalanche of emails from the night before, I was amped to discover a message notifying me of my latest 5-Star Amazon customer / reader book review. HOORAY!

But when I checked my email again, after I'd returned home from driving my teenage buddy to school, I'd received a contrasting sentiment from a seemingly random source — someone who felt compelled to reach out from behind a shroud of cyber anonymity and convey to me that I'm a "cheap D-list faggot" and a "slimy fake." Hmm, anybody care to guess which of these two emails has affected me most?

(That one's gonna leave a scar!)
Look, I'm certainly no stranger to unkind words. In fact, I remember it like it was yesterday — the first time I was called "stupid" at age five. And the memory of being called "fat" at age eight still stings as much as the first time I was called a "faggot" at age ten. Yep, words DO hurt — they also leave scars.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll confess that in the past, I've also been guilty of speaking unkind words against others — hateful and hurtful words that can't be un-spoken. And if I (now) feel sick, disgusted, ashamed and heartbroken for having spoken such words, I can only imagine the hurt and scars I've put on the ones to whom I was speaking.

Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) tells us that, "the tongue can bring death or life." Hence, I choose my words more wisely these days — using them to now offer others the same kindness, comfort and compassion as I'd like to receive myself. #WordsHurt #SpeakLife

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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(Coming April 7, 2019)

Monday, February 13, 2017

BUTCH TRUCKS: A Personal Tribute to a Rock Legend

A Personal Tribute
to a Rock Legend

Rock and blues, jazz and R&B,
folk and country — the music
created by Butch Trucks knew
few boundaries. And his legacy
will endure for years to come.

As a tweenage pop / rock junkie growing up in Missouri's Ozark Mountains during the early '70s, I got my first Allman Brothers Band fix via such radio-friendly singles as "Melissa," "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." But by the late '70s, I'd been introduced to and hooked by such down and dirty album tracks as "Stormy Monday," "Trouble No More" and "Jelly Jelly."

An aspiring teenage musician at the time, I was inspired particularly by the versatile drum work of Butch Trucks. In fact, I'd argue that Trucks' signature-style pressed snare / tom fill / kick drum combo was every bit as key to the iconic ABB sound as any of the band's other more acknowledged ingredients. And to this day, the dual drum / percussion work between Trucks and Jaimoe on such heart-stoppers as "You Don't Love Me," (At Fillmore East) and "Pegasus" (Enlightened Rogues) remains magical.

Ruled as a suicide, Trucks tragic death at age 69 on January 24th came as a shock to fans, as well to music biz insiders who knew him best. In a related interview, co-founding Black Crowes drummer, Steve Gorman, referred to Trucks stylistically as "the eye of the storm — the center of all the swirling magic of The Allman Brothers." Well put, indeed.

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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(Coming April 7, 2019)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Jack Russell's Great White "He Saw it Comin'"

Jack Russell's
Great White
He Saw it Comin'
Frontiers Music

With so many splintered and
contentious incarnations of
former chart-busters parked
in "sludge purgatory" these
days, it's been tough for me
to muster much enthusiasm
for any of them. Until now.

Although the iconic logo points to the past, the debut record from Jack Russell's Great White sounds surprisingly fresh.

Propelled by the power, precision and finesse of the record's MVP, drummer Dicki Fliszar, He Saw it Comin' kicks off mightily with "Sign of the Times." Combining a healthy portion of classic Great White gusto with a splash of new millennium vim, it's one of the crown jewels of this 11-song set, and it makes for an enticing lead video.

Other highlights include the catchy, groove-laden "Love Don't Live Here" and "My Addiction," as well as the sweet-n-simple  "Anything for You" and the "D'yer Mak'er"-tinged "Don't Let Me Go."

The record does, however, suffer from a misstep or two (or three). "She Moves Me" proves to be an over all pop-flavored delight, but its crispety, crunchety cred is compromised by Russell's less than legit rap effort. And with its authentic, circa '91, bluesy cock rock vibe, "Crazy" feels like a comfy fit initially, but it falls victim quickly to Tufnel / St. Hubbins-inspired lyrical dopiness — She's gonna blow ya. Aw, she wants to blow ya. Yeah, she's gonna blow your mind. Oy vey.

But all in all, the news is quite good for Russell and company. He Saw it Comin' oozes delicious, razor-sharp guitar work from Tony Montana and Robby Lochner, while Russell's signature-style vocals remain in top form. The record also touts several super-highlights, including the classic Queen-caliber songwriting of the title track, the straight-up, fist-pumping "Spy vs Spy" and the musically light, yet lyrically dark, biographical "Blame it on the Night."

In sum, He Saw it Comin' boasts some of Russell's strongest work to date — making for what just might be THE feel-good rock record of the new year. (A-)

-Christopher Long
(February 2017)

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Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!


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(Coming April 7, 2019)