Saturday, January 26, 2019

FLASHBACK MUSIC REVIEW: Captain & Tennille - "Song of Joy" (A&M Records - 1976)

FLASHBACK MUSIC REVIEW
Captain & Tennille
Song of Joy
(A&M Records - 1976)
__________

I've said it before, but
it's a sentiment worth
repeating. As a music-
crazed kid growing up
in the '70s, Song of Joy
was my "Abbey Road."
__________

Dismissing Captain & Tennille based solely on their perceived saccharine factor, would be to reveal one's own naiveté regarding the duo's authentic roots. It would suggest further one's own lack of familiarity with Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille's work beyond their signature-style, chart-busting pop hits and toothy publicity pics.

Captain & Tennille enjoyed an impressive string
of irresistible pop hits. However, the duo's best
work is reflected in their non-single album cuts.
Cracking with pop / rock crunch, while dripping with soulful, bluesy passion, Captain & Tennille's platinum-selling sophomore set, Song of Joy, has been one of my personal favorites since it was released back in February 1976. In fact, I've owned six different copies of the album in various formats over the years.

From the heart-stopping, soaring beauty of the Billy Preston-penned opening title track to the sax / organ-driven, R&B-flavor of "Mind Your Love" to the Gospel-tinged charm of "Smile For Me One More Time" to the infectious hookiness of Smokey Robinson's classic, "Shop Around" to the delicate, honey-soaked splendor of "Thank You, Baby" to the undeniable funkiness of the record-closing "1954 Boogie Blues," Song Of Joy remains a timeless, tasty treasure  as crisp and vital as ever.

Produced by Daryl Dragon, Song of Joy
remains a crisp and vital record.
Much thanks to my new bestie, Mandy Herndon, at Beachside Retro in Satellite Beach, FL for reconnecting me recently with an LP copy of this classic — the third LP copy I've owned. Oddly (to some), the personal listening experience actually is enhanced by the warm, rich crackle of the aged vinyl. Now, if I only could relocate my 8-track copy. CAH-CHINK!

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)


SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
2012

Saturday, January 19, 2019

BEACHSIDE RETRO: Revisiting the Vinyl Frontier

BEACHSIDE RETRO
Revisiting the Vinyl Frontier 
__________

I wish I could revisit those days
— that magical time long ago,
before music was reduced to
a disposable digital Twinkie. 
__________

During the mid and late '70s, local record shops were sorta like rock and roll churches where kids like me went to “praise and worship.” I could spend hours on end in any record shop, flipping through bins of countless LPs — studying each band, album cover, track listing and production credit. Straw mats covered the floors, while the sweet fragrance of wild cherry incense permeated the air and posters of my rock, pop, R&B and country music heroes covered every inch of wall space (and sometimes the ceilings).

Record shop employees became my best friends and closest confidants. They seemingly understood me better than my parents, siblings, preachers, teachers or schoolmates. And I always could count on an engaging, in-depth personal dialogue with any of them at any time — especially when that cool guy with the ponytail was on the clock.

Simply put, REAL men DON'T "stream!"
It was a magical time when popular music was still valued art — polished poetry soaked with mystique, produced by people oozing pure passion. And you had to discover it, seek it and — pay for it. Consuming music in those days was a physical and deeply personal experience — an often inconvenient, yet romantically rewarding process that involved slicing open the cellophane seal, removing the glorious black slab from its eye-catching cardboard jacket, placing it delicately onto the turntable platter and dropping the needle gently into the groove, as the warm crackle from the spinning vinyl kissed your soul.

My love affair with record shops — that unique, personal connection to people and music continued through the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s. In fact, from my mid teens through my late 20s, I worked at several Mom & Pop record shops throughout Florida'a Space Coast. I even opened my own ill-fated shop in 1996. The experience offered me a crash course in how to flush $100,000 down the toilet in 18 months. Oh sure, the definition of music was changing, and the Internet clearly was revving up at the time. But I never could have dreamed back then how those cool computers that were entering all of our homes would ultimately lead to the total extermination of the record business. And in the blink of an eye, that once romantic era had all but come to an end (cue the fat lady). Today, sadly, record stores have become a thing of the past — um, not so fast...

For music purists, Beachside Retro
is Heaven on earth.
Long story short, I re-entered the vinyl dimension during the recent holiday season. My once massive record collection had (for various reasons) all but vanished over the years. As a result, I now was visiting hometown thrift stores and flea market vendors, in a desperate effort to rebuild my vinyl library. Based on my zealous related social media posts, I received a private message from my dear high school friend, Cheri, apprising me of an amazing new shop. "You've GOTTA check this place out," she informed me just before New Years. "I'M ON MY WAY," I replied in short order.

Located at 230 Highway A1A in Satellite Beach, Florida, Beachside Retro is an authentic, old school record shop. Owned and operated by my new dear friend, Mandy, Beachside Retro offers primarily used and some new LPs, along with a few CDs and an array of band posters and T-shirts.

Hanging out and talking music
with Beachside Retro owner, Mandy.
(She was at Woodstock - ask her!)
The shop's wall-to-wall record bins are packed. The selection — impressive. Although they're still getting "settled," this newly-opened outlet is surprisingly well organized — aside from the two copies of Melissa Manchester's 1975 pop album, Melissa, that I spotted in the country section — OOPS! The prices run the gamut, based on the rarity and condition of the record. When I couldn't find the Captain & Tennille record I was looking for, Mandy offered to check their massive warehouse. And it's that commitment to customer service that makes shopping at Beachside Retro so special. "We're bringing back customer service and bell bottoms," Mandy offered with a sunny smile as I perused the shop's equally fun selection of thrift clothing and super-groovy shoes.

My first visit to Beachside Retro was a simply fabulous experience. But did I actually buy any records? You betcha  The Bee Gees Here at Last... Live and Olivia Newton-John If Love Me, Let Me Know. And you better believe, I'll be back soon. I still gotta pick up my Captain & Tennille special order!

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)
__________

__________



SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
2012

Friday, January 11, 2019

HOORAY — MY NEW DRUM KIT IS HERE!

HOORAY — MY NEW
DRUM KIT IS HERE!
__________

Truth be told, after playing for
40 years, I still barely possess
the skill to even hold sticks and
chew gum at the same time. But
I thrive on engaging with other
drummers  especially sharing
insights and talking kits. FYI,
for like-minded enthusiasts,
today, I got my brand new kit!
__________

After being retired from playing drums for the last several years, I was offered an unexpected recent opportunity to join a developing new music project — a Florida-based "outlaw" country combo called the Blue Diamond Band. Honestly, at age 55, I simply no longer had any interest in joining any band — especially given my alarming array of escalating physical limitations. Heck, my arms barely even work anymore. And the often frequent numbing and trembling in my hands only enhances my already erratic meter. My kick foot remains reasonably solid, it's just the rest of my body that's disintegrating. As a result, I informed Blue Diamond's founding frontman / guitarist, Thomas Tritt, that while I was flattered by his offer, I definitely wasn't the guy for the gig. But bless his heart, ol' Thomas just wouldn't take "no" for an answer and I caved. "Alright," I conceded finally. "Send me a song list and a rehearsal schedule."

Playing a warm-up showcase with
the Blue Diamond Band in October 2018.
Clearly, the old dusty "knock around" kit stashed out in my garage wasn't gonna cut it for long with the Blue Diamond Band. In fact, with our official full-length debut performance on January 30th rolling up quickly, Thomas called me recently and gave it to me straight. "Dude, you gotta step it up and get a new kit. PRONTO!"

Bye bye "knock around" kit!
(You served me well.)
In short order, I began perusing area music stores and gear-related websites, pondering which "proper" new kit I would purchase — cymbals, hardware etc. I've played several different sets over the years — impressive-looking kits created by leading drum manufacturers, as well as a couple of amazing boutique companies. But when my son approached me several years ago regarding his own drumming aspirations, I sold off ALL of my gear in order to get him his own personal kit. It's just the sorta thing parents do you for their kids. So, with Thomas now putting me on notice, I was pretty much starting from scratch in terms of assembling a quality new kit.

Although I do like Evans and Aquarian, I've
returned to the tried and true Remo brand.
Since joining Blue Diamond, I've discussed possible endorsement opportunities with reps from various drum companies. Opting instead to buy my new kit, I went with the legendary brand I had used in the past — the brand I truly wanted to play once again. I chose Ludwig. The Element Evolution series provides Ludwig's renown craftsmanship at an affordable price. And the classic chrome lugs and rims pop beautifully off the spectacular-looking white sparkle wrap.

Welcome home Ludwig.
I've missed you.
My personal configuration of choice  9" x 12" rack tom, 16" x 16" floor tom, 18" x 22" kick and a 5" x 14" snare. I've used Ludwig hardware exclusively for nearly 20 years. Hence, all the hardware on the new kit is Ludwig. Consisting of a combination of Zildjian and Sabian, my cymbal arsenal includes 14" hi-hats, (2) 16" crashes and a 20" ride.

I've been mocked by "good" drummers frequently in recent years about my rather unorthodox stick modification. The reality is, my decrepit hands and frail arms require the lightest sticks possible, so my weapon of choice is the 7A. I compensate for the lightness of the stick by playing with the butt ends. However, standard sticks are typically so long, when I turn them around, I get poked in the wrists by the tip end. To remedy this problem, I measure and hack off each stick at precisely 13", then I use half-inch gaffer tape to create an effective grip that minimizes my stick dropping. Say what you will, it works excellently — for me. I call my unique design the "Long Short-Stick."

13" is plenty of wood for anybody.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess openly that I likely would not have said "yes" to Thomas' offer in 2018 had I not been inspired by seeing Mark Chesnutt drummer, Darla Rae Perlozzi, play live in 2017. Described best (by me) as a "whole package" performer, Perlozzi hits 'em hard, with bad-ass precision and urgency, while "playing for the song" like few others. And with her groovy-looking shades, fabulous fashion-forward threads and shaggy blond coif blowing in the electric fan-generated breeze, she looks like a bona fide superstar while doing it. Although she plays a different brand, with a slightly different finish, my current drum presentation was inspired almost entirely by Perlozzi. "What would Darla do?," I asked myself when choosing my new kit.

DARLA RAE PERLOZZI
(See what I mean?)
Another of my current favorite players is 17-year-old Payton Taylor, drummer for the Dallas-based duo, Sweet Chaos. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Taylor perform live with Sweet Chaos in Orlando over this past holiday season and I was knocked out completely by her youthful, rock-ribbed passion and undeniable personal cool factor. Equally proficient in both rock and jazz, Taylor is a world-class musician who inspires me to stay in the game, while prompting me simultaneously to throw my sticks in the trash and burn my kit — she's just that freaking good.

PAYTON TAYLOR
So, back to my shiny new Ludwigs — it's the first new drum kit I've owned in nearly a decade. And as you might have surmised, I'm pretty darn psyched. I just hope they sparkle as intensely onstage with the Blue Diamond Band as they do perched upon my riser in our rehearsal studio.

The OFFICIAL Blue Diamond debut.
Come on out and see us, if you can.
(Just don't laugh at me - please!)
Okay, now it's your turn. What are some of your favorite drummers and or drum-related brands? Have you ever been drop dead giddy over getting a new kit? Feel free to share your personal stories and insights in the "Comment" section below.

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)


SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
2012

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

RECORD REVIEW: The Smithereens - "B-Sides The Beatles" (2018 Reissue)

RECORD REVIEW
The Smithereens
B-Sides The Beatles
(2018 Reissue)
eOne Music
__________

Brimming with artistic
passion, this recent
reissue is a real treat.
__________

Since first forming back in 1980, the New Jersey-based alterno pop / rock combo, The Smithereens have become endeared to fans almost as much for recreating classics as for their own chart-busting hits, including "A Girl Like You" and "Too Much Passion."

A super-fun sequel to the group's first Beatles tribute album, Meet The Smithereens! (2007), B-Sides The Beatles was released originally in 2008 and focuses fully on the Fab Four's B-side treasures from '64 - '65. And thanks to the fine folks at eOne Music, this cozy feel-good has been reissued for the first time as a stand-alone LP on groovy-looking 180 gram yellow and orange marble vinyl — just in time for the recent 2018 Record Store Day "Black Friday" festivities.

The yellow and orange marble vinyl
reissue of B-Sides The Beatles further
enhances the record's fun factor.
What makes this package so compelling, beyond the colored vinyl format, insightful liner notes and eye-catching cover art from legendary cartoonist, Jack Davis, is it delivers more than merely "predictable" Beatles staples. While the 12-song set does offer several iconic tracks, such as "I'll Get You," "You Can't Do That," "P.S. I Love You," "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" and "If I Fell," B-Sides The Beatles also features arguably lesser known numbers, including "There's a Place," "Cry for a Shadow" and "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" — all performed with equal artistic passion and produced to authentic perfection.

The free full-length record download coupon enclosed inside the LP cover is an additional sweet treat  offering a "best of both worlds" scenario for those still stuck in the prehistoric digital age.

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)


SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
2012

Saturday, January 5, 2019

DARYL DRAGON: A Personal Tribute to a Music Legend

DARYL DRAGON
A Personal Tribute
to a Music Legend
__________

His look was iconic.
His talent was incomparable.
And his music — timeless.
__________

The sound was fresh and exciting — the infectious debut single by the new pop duo with a name I couldn't initially pronounce properly. It was May 1975 — I was just 12 years old. While the honey-soaked female lead vocal was simply irresistible, it was the crisp-sounding keyboards that captivated me most. Entitled "Love Will Keep Us Together," the Neil Sedaka-penned song blowing up my AM radio headset soon would be racing to the top of the charts and go on to become the biggest record of the year. And by the time their second hit, "The Way I Want To Touch You" landed on Casey's Top 10 in the fall of '75, the husband and wife team of Captain & Tennille was a bona fide household name.

Oozing authentic girl-next-door appeal — a porcelain-perfect smile, a delightful down-home drawl and the voice of an angel, singer / songwriter Toni Tennille became America's favorite new sweetheart over night — and I'll confess to crushing hard on the blond Alabama native. But the other half of the duo — the "Captain" possessed undeniable mystique. From behind his massive wall of keyboards, Daryl Dragon, hid behind dark shades, tucked into his soon-to-be iconic captain's hat. This guy had to have a story. And he did.

The first two albums from Captain & Tennile
both were Top 10 smashes.
A man of few words, Dragon already had enjoyed an impressive, decade-long career as an accomplished composer, producer and musician by the time he and Tennille scored their second chart-busting album, Song Of Joy in 1976. In fact, it was during his tenure as a touring / session member of the Beach Boys from 1967-1972 when the group's legendary frontman, Mike Love named Dragon, "Captain Keyboard." It stuck.

From 1975-1980 Captain & Tennille racked up and impressive string of nine Billboard Top 40 singles— seven of which cracked the Top Ten. The duo also released six studio albums  four of which achieved either gold or platinum status. And ALL six were produced to pure perfection by Dragon.

Albums three and four from Captain & Tennille
were equally magically delicious offerings.
What made Captain & Tennille particularly appealing to me was their unique ability to "scratch" all of my eclectic "itches" — combining pop and rock with gospel, R&B and an occasional dash of Americana.

While their debut 1975 set, Love Will Keep Us Together is arguably their best-known work, and their third release, 1977's Come In From The Rain was a near-flawless effort, Song Of Joy was my personal "Abbey Road" as a music-crazed teen. From the soaring beauty of the Billy Preston-penned title track to the engaging hookiness of the Smokey Robinson classic, "Shop Around" to the funkiness of "1954 Boogie Blues" to the heart-stopping splendor of "Smile For Me One More Time," Song Of Joy remains one of my all-time favorite records. In fact, in the last 43 years, I've gone through two copies on vinyl, one 8-track and a CD.

To this day, I still cherish my (fourth) copy of Song Of Joy.
Although he maintained a rather low profile following the duo's heyday, Dragon still remained somewhat active as a session cat, playing on several records, including the self-titled 1997 debut from LA-based power pop combo, Size 14.

Sadly, Dragon recently had been in failing health. And his well-publicized 2014 divorce from Tennille after their 39-year marriage also put him back in the headlines. Yet despite Dragon's reported health issues, his death on January 2nd at age 76 still came as a shock to many — myself included.

Fortunately for countless fervent fans worldwide — myself included, we always will have his magical, timeless music to treasure. Songs of joy, to be sure!

-Christopher Long
(January 2019)


SUPERSTAR -
__________

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

C'MON! -
2012