Friday, October 12, 2018

RECORD REVIEW: Steve Perry - "Traces"

Steve Perry
(Fantasy Records)

Welcome back, Steve.
You've been missed.

For many dedicated longtime fans, the eagerly-anticipated 2018 release from iconic singer / songwriter and former Journey frontman, Steve Perry, might feel like a comforting hug from a long-lost friend.

Produced by Perry, Traces marks his third solo effort — his first since 1994's Top 20, gold-selling For the Love of Strange Medicine. Pointing to Perry's personal passion for smooth-sounding, adult contemporary-style pop, this sparkling ten-song set is brimming with noteworthy highlights.

Reflecting fondly on a love from the past, the record's lead-off single, "No Erasin'" is engaging and upbeat  a radio-friendly track in a stylistic vein similar to Perry's much-loved hits from Journey's 1986 smash, Raised on Radio.

Bursting with bluesy allure, "No More Cryin'" is an irresistible, pop-flavored seduction, while "Sun Shines Gray" buzzes with rock-ribbed energy provided by an unlikely guest contribution from legendary Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie guitarist, John 5. The delicate Fender Rhodes-driven remake of the George Harrison-penned 1965 Beatles classic, "I Need You" makes for another golden moment. However, it's Perry's signature-style ballad, "You Belong to Me" that may deliver the record's most heartfelt payoff.

In sum, with Traces, Steve Perry offers his legions of worldwide admirers a beautiful treasure — at a time it likely is needed most. Welcome back, Steve. You've been missed, indeed.

-Christopher Long
(October 2018)

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW: A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born
Warner Bros. Pictures
R | 2 hr 15 min

Of all the trailers I screened
last summer, this is the film
that piqued my interest most.
One senior's discount ticket
for "A Star Is Born," please!

It's the movie everyone seems to be buzzing about right now. And you can believe the hype. Simply put, acclaimed Oscar-nominated actor, Bradley Cooper, has succeeded in delivering a solid slam dunk with his directorial debut.

Starring Cooper as fast-living rock star, Jackson Maine, and pop superstar, Lady Gaga, as aspiring singer / songwriter, Ally, A Star Is Born 4.0 is the latest incarnation of the 1937 silver screen classic.

Written by Cooper, the 2018 edition of this iconic saga drips with irresistible appeal. A tortured soul wrestling with his personal demons, Maine discovers Ally while she's performing a late-night set at a popular drag club. Their undeniable, immediate connection rings true — riveting and real. And as their fiery relationship ensues, moviegoers experience the heart-breaking tension between the two, while also being awash in the heart-stopping music created by the unlikely couple.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper delivering one of several
chilling, authentic live performances in A Star Is Born.
Truth be told, Lady Gaga lost me way back at the meat dress. However, her acting chops and musical performances in the film are both superb — proving her to be an even mightier talent than I could ever have imagined — a world-class artist in a league of her own. As for Cooper, his portrayal of Maine can be described best as gripping and authentic.

The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is nothing short of magical. The onscreen passion between their characters feels honest and pure — the romantic tension often is almost too painful to watch. In fact, at times, you might lose sight that you're watching a movie, and actually have become a "fly on the wall," witnessing real life conflict — You're just fucking ugly.

Cooper and Gaga sizzle in A Star Is Born.
Despite the storyline suggesting they have different mothers, the 30-year age gap between Cooper and celebrated actor, Sam Elliott, makes buying their characters' brotherhood a bit of a tough sell. But he's Sam Elliot, so whatever he's selling, I'm buying. Additional props also are due to Andrew Dice Clay, as Ally's father, Lorenzo, Rafi Gavron as Ally's abrasive music producer / manager, Rez, and  Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real who appear throughout the film as Maine's band.

It's a tale we've heard a few times before. However, the 2018 edition zings with freshness. The story is crisp and compelling. The cast is incredible. And the film's soundtrack album is a musical treasure. In sum, A Star Is Born ranks as one of the most exciting, engaging and entertaining films I've seen in a VERY long time.

-Christopher Long
(October 2018)

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Monday, October 8, 2018



As an admitted 40-year
KISS junkie, I still enjoy
the personal analysis and
open (fun) 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. If you can let go of any personal baggage you might be carrying — hangups over rock vs. pop, metal vs. rock, make-up vs. non-make-up or the Spaceman vs. the Impostor and focus on the songs, you might have some fun with this little feature. I sure did.


Asylum is one of the most song-based records in the KISS catalog, and one the strongest of the band's post-make-up era. 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 in September 1985. "King of the Mountain," "Who Wants to be Lonely," "Tears are Falling" and "Uh! All Night" all are Rock and Roll Over-worthy. After 30 years, the songs still hold up.

Lick it Up

Packing more punch than a heavy-weight prizefighter, Lick it Up oozes 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" still are all top shelf skull-crushers, and the title track remains a Classic-Rock radio staple.

Alive II

The fact that the three live sides of this platinum-selling smash possess all the authentic spontaneity and sincerity of a Hilary Clinton press conference is irrelevant. It's the studio cuts on Side Four that make Alive II a standout in the KISS catalog. Despite the continued debate regarding who exactly played what on the tracks, "All American Man," "Rockin' in the U.S.A.," "Larger Than Life" and "Rocket Ride" are still regarded by many as crème de la crème classics.

Love Gun

Bursting with late '70s-era super rock star swagger, this anthem-packed, teen-targeted set captured KISS at its creative apex. 40+ years later, Love Gun remains a timeless, heart-stopping treasure. Gloriously raw and in-your-face  BANG!

Hotter Than Hell

Despite arguably being compromised by less than stellar production, Hotter Than Hell is a hard-rocking, ten-song collection  an incredible, timeless showcase for a hungry, hard-working band that soon would rule the world. In sum, each track is a bona fide classic.


KISS' 1974 debut is 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 will forever rank among the band's all-time best.

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 are 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. 

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's one of the last KISS records where you knew for certain that the four guys on the cover actually were the same four guys cutting the tracks. Had Neil Bogart also produced the first two KISS albums, the band might have broken out sooner.


Arguably the definitive KISS record, Alive! proved to be both a band and industry game-changer. It likely would 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" is so authentic, that as a kid, I actually could (sorta) smell the sulfur from the detonating stage pyro permeating from my 8-Track H-Fi set. And the personal hand-written notes printed inside the LP's gate fold sleeve and the souvenir, concert-style program insert were absolutely epic.


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! 

Rock and Roll Over

The look, the image, the songs, the sound  the KISS "machine" now had become perfected by the fall of 1976. Paul Stanley's "I Want You" is a magically delicious opener to what 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 still 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
(October 2018)

More KISS-related
features from
Christopher Long

Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!


C'MON! -

(Coming April 7, 2019)