Tuesday, November 21, 2017

THANKSGIVING 2017: The Top 10 Things for Which I'm Most Thankful This Year

THANKSGIVING 2017
The Top 10 Things for Which
I'm Most Thankful This Year
_________________________

My awesome son, my amazing
chick, people who hate me the
list of things for which I'm always
thankful is endless. However, I'm
particularly thankful for these ten
super-sized blessings in 2017.
_________________________

10
DANA LOESCH

Despite dropping ALL of my personal
political perspectives this year, I still
adore "The Conservative Alternative,"
Dana Loesch. I continue tuning in to
her wildly popular daily radio show
because the mere sound of her voice
beams sunshine into my soul. Plus, her
"Florida Man" and "Mailbag of Hate"
segments are freaking hilarious.

__________________________

9
PUMPKIN MAPLE FRITTERS
(AND COFFEE)

It's how I start EVERY day.
(Thanks, Cumberland Farms.)
__________________________

8
EMMA STONE

C'mon now — do I really have to
explain this one? Okay, Emma Stone
is a breathtaking delight to look at,
her talent is immeasurable and she
starred in two of 2017's best films
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7
CAULIFLOWER

When prepared properly, 
it's better than ice cream.
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6
GOOD BONES

After launching its second season,
I became hooked on Good Bones
in 2017. While the creative energy
between Karen and Mina is unique
and compelling, the mother/daughter
factor is super-fun and contagious.
__________________________

5
DEAD SERIOS

My award-winning troupe DEAD SERIOS
— we've (almost) done it all over the last
30-some years. We've played countless
shows together, created some amazing
music together, traveled together, done
drugs together, drank together — Ugh, I'm
SO glad that's NOT who we are anymore.
And after an extended hiatus, I'm thrilled
to have reconnected with these clowns
this year. 2018 will have no boundaries.
__________________________

4
BRENT JENSEN

Host of the acclaimed No Sleep Til Sudbury
podcast, Brent Jensen is a celebrated author,
music critic and speaker. He's also one of my
dearest friends. The value of our relationship
sunk in a little deeper this year as it dawned
on me how everything I know about being
cool and projecting mystique, I owe to Paul 
StanleyRuth Gordon and Brent Jensen.
__________________________

3
JESSE TANNER LONG'S
AMAZING ICE CREAM

Unique and delicious, this kid's
original concoctions will soon
revolutionized the ice cream biz.
Read all about it HERE.
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2
BAD COP / BAD COP

One of the last truly great, truly
authentic American rock bands,
I discovered this crunchy So-Cal
combo last spring. Simply put, I
love them as much as Skittles.
Thanks Jesus for Bad Cop/Bad Cop.
__________________________

1
CENTRAL LIFE
CHURCH

Central Life has been my (non-
denominational) church home
since 2014. And it's a blessing for
which I'm incredibly thankful.
__________________________

Okay, so I've shown you mine. Now it's your turn. What are YOU thankful for this year? Feel free to share in the "Comments" section below.

-Christopher Long
(November 2017)

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE TOP TEN BEST RECORDS OF 2017

THE TOP TEN BEST
RECORDS OF 2017
_________________________

The "best" records of the year
is a subjective topic, to be sure.
Hence, this fun year-end wrap-
up reflects merely my personal
picks from the last 12 months.
_________________________

From rock, punk and various "core" sub genres to pop, country and all points in between, 2017 was truly a banner year for music. And as someone who is consumed by listening to music 24/7   particularly new music, determining my personal Top Ten this year was a daunting task, indeed. But after intense, careful consideration, I've accomplished my mission masterfully. Spoiler alert — I have extremely eclectic tastes.

10
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER
Echo Papa

I was crushed completely by the
2017 set from this indie darling.
You will be too.

Read my official review HERE.
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9
JOHN 5
AND THE CREATURES
Season of the Witch

One of rock's most innovative artists
of the last two decades, guitar ace
John 5 dropped a doozie last spring.

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

8
SAVE FERRIS
Checkered Past

 Perennial ska poster chick Monique Powell
returned to Vans Warped Tour in 2017.
And along with the latest configuration of
her famed troupe, she also delivered a crisp,
concise and totally irresistible new EP.

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

7
GRETA VAN FLEET
Black Smoke Rising

Simply put, this Michigan-based
powerhouse is the "Led Zeppelin"
for today's deprived young rock
crowd. And their debut EP was
truly an epic offering.

Read my official review HERE.
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6
KELLEY RYAN
Telescope

The latest from Kelley Ryan was a
surprise seduction when it arrived
a few months ago. And it's a "must"
for singer / songwriter aficionados.

Read my official review HERE.
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5
FASTBALL
Step Into Light

One of my all-time favorites,
Fastball knocked it clean out
of the park with their latest
batch of contagious ear worms.

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

4
DOLL SKIN
Manic Pixie Dream Girl

When I say this scrappy combo is
the greatest American rock band
since Guns N' Roses, I mean it.

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

3
BAD COP / BAD COP
Warriors

I love this band so much, I vomit
just thinking about them. Hmm,
I sure hope that's love. Anyway,
this is THE strongest straight-up,
pissed-off rock record of 2017.

 Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

2
LILLY MAE
Forever and Then Some

Forget about genres — Lillie Mae
is an artist of the highest order.
And her 2017 debut effort is
packed with impeccable songs.

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

1
JULE VERA
Waiting on the Sun

A superb band whose super-sweet
sophomore set did NOT disappoint.
ALL HAIL JULE VERA!

Read my official review HERE.
_________________________

So there you have it — my official 2017 Top Ten. I realize your results may vary. Hence, feel free to offer your personal thoughts in the "Comments" section below.

-Christopher Long
(November 2017)

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Chicago "Chicago" - aka "Chicago II" (Steven Wilson Remix)

RECORD REVIEW
Chicago
Chicago - aka Chicago II
(Steven Wilson Remix)
Rhino Records
_________________________

Released earlier this year, I'd
remained ambivalent about
taking a chance on this remix.
However, based on the slew of
positive reviews it's received, I
finally took the plunge. And
I was pleasantly surprised.
__________________________

Overseen originally by famed producer, James William Guercio, Chicago's second record is an impressive effort, indeed. Featuring the Top 40 hits, "Make Me Smile," "25 or 6 to 4" and "Colour My World," the exhaustive double-album set was a Top Ten smash when it arrived in stores back in 1970.

From the authentic jazz-driven grit of the opening track, "Movin' In" to the undeniable charm of "In the Country" to the timeless pop flavor of "Wake Up Sunshine" to the complexities of the 13-minute opus, "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" to the delicate arrangements of "A.M. Mourning" and "P.M. Mourning" to the irresistible appeal of "Make Me Smile" to the hard core metal riffs of "25 or 6 to 4," Chicago II is one of the shiniest jewels found in the band's impeccable treasure chest.

So, a reasonable question might be — why on earth, after all this time, would anybody go back and fiddle around with such a bona fide classic? Well, simply put, the record sounded lousy — possessing all the audio warmth of an AM radio blaring in a cardboard box. And that's not a shocking or defamatory assessment. In fact, for nearly 50 years, it's been a well-known opinion among many of Chicago's most ardent fans that, production-wise, Chicago II is a peculiar pockmark on the face of an otherwise blemish-free catalog.

Chicago - circa 1970
Enter Steven Wilson, the acclaimed British producer who bravely would accept the daunting task of "fixing it in the mix." More than a mere remastering effort, Wilson revisited the original 2" 16-track master tape and recreated this gem from the ground up. The result — a delightfully delicious listening experience.

An Amazon reviewer offered a spot-on observation when he stated how Peter Cetera's tracks are now so vibrant, it sounds as if the legendary bassist is right in the guy's face, bustin' out badass grooves. Likewise, contributions from guitarist Terry Kath and keyboardist Robert Lamm also enjoy fresh new identities. As for Lee Loughnane, Jimmy Pankow and Walter Parazaider — the iconic horn section sounds simply superb. However, the biggest winner is Danny Seraphine whose world-class drum work FINALLY sounds as spectacular as his performance deserves.

In sum, there's no "funny business" going on here. Wilson has done a brilliant job of recreating this record respectfully and authentically. And it's truly a must-have for casual fans and diehards alike.

-Christopher Long
(November 2017)
_________________________

ADDITIONAL CHICAGO-
RELATED FEATURES FROM
CHRISTOPHER LONG

Interview

Concert Review

Record Review

DVD Review

Record Review
_________________________



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Friday, November 3, 2017

ANNIE O'MALLEY: Teenage Indie Artist Scores Impressive National Gig

ANNIE O'MALLEY
Teenage Indie Artist Scores
Impressive National Gig
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It's a real life dream come
true — story that should
encourage young, aspiring
music artists everywhere.
_________________________

When Annie O'Malley walked onstage recently at the famed Riverbend Music Center, it marked a rather unlikely dream come true for the 17-year-old singer / songwriter / musician. Upon reaching out to, then auditioning for, management agents representing the rock band, Chicago, the Illinois-based high school senior found her career suddenly on a fast track. And her subsequent slot opening for the legendary, platinum-selling group at the aforementioned 20,000-seat Cincinnati amphitheater soon led to an ongoing touring opportunity.

Singing and dancing for as long as anyone can remember, O'Malley began writing her own songs at just age ten. Trained professionally in both singing and ukulele, the aspiring actress / model points to an eclectic list of influences — a musical menagerie of such varied artists as Bob Marley, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

Annie O'Malley live in Melbourne, FL
(October 26, 2017)
O'Malley was received warmly at Melbourne, Florida's King Center for the Performing Arts while touring the "Sunshine State" with Chicago this past October. Exuding soft-spoken confidence, she delivered an engaging five-song set — singing to pre-recorded backing tracks on two of her tunes, while providing her own acoustic guitar and ukulele accompaniment on the others. A noteworthy highlight, her show-closing number, "Waiting," is a collaborative songwriting effort with DJ Lune — a track that has received an enormous number of plays on Soundcloud.

Looking to the future, O'Malley hopes that her current relationship with Chicago will lead to additional opportunities, as the yet-unsigned artist welcomes the chance to hit the studio and produce a proper major label record.

-Christopher Long
(November 2017)

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Amy Sweezey "Let's Talk Weather"

BOOK REVIEW
Amy Sweezey
LET'S TALK WEATHER:
TV Forecasting
Behind the Scenes
__________________________

With the launch of her second
release, Florida children's author
Amy Sweezey delivers a crisp,
concise book for elementary
school-age readers  one that's
entertaining and educational.
__________________________

Since 2002, families throughout Central Florida have kick-started their weekday mornings by tuning in to Orlando's NBC affiliate WESH 2 for accurate, up-to-the-minute weather updates and forecasts from Amy Sweezey. Simply put, as an award-winning meteorologist, Sweezey KNOWS weather. And her longstanding commitment to young people has led Sweezey to share the fascinating world of weather and TV forecasting with countless students in various area schools over the years. Hence, her weather-related children's books have become quite a hit.

The latest from Amy Sweezey is
highly entertaining and 
educational.
_________________________

FROM THE BACK COVER
Have you ever wondered how forecasters
on TV can tell what the weather will be?
In Let’s Talk Weather, you’ll find answers
to these questions and more, from the
science behind the weather, to the tools
and instruments used to measure it.
_________________________

An illustrated storybook, Sweezey's 2015 debut, It Never, Ever Snows in Florida spoke to a primarily K-2 audience. However, packed with eye-catching relevant photos and brimming with insightful scientific info, her newly-released sophomore effort, LET'S TALK WEATHER: TV Forecasting Behind the Scenes likely will appeal to slightly older inquiring minds.

As a fellow author who also possesses a personal passion for young people and education, I enjoyed Sweezey's latest thoroughly, and I recommend it highly  to "kids" of ALL ages.

-Christopher Long
(October 2017)
_________________________

_________________________



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Sunday, October 8, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: Battle of the Sexes

MOVIE REVIEW
Battle of the Sexes
Decibel Films / Cloud Eight Films
(Running time 1:21 minutes)
__________________________

Arriving officially at theaters
(in limited release) on 9/22,
the highly-anticipated, all-
star tour de force made its
way finally to my town this
weekend. Jubilant, for sure!
"One 'senior' matinee ticket to
Battle of the Sexes, please!"
__________________________

Playing out for the first hour as a seemingly, tennis-tinged LBGTQ recruitment film, Battle of the Sexes rebounds nicely in the second half — ultimately recounting the compelling, Rocky-caliber story I actually had paid to see.

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris succeed in recreating (with amazing accuracy), the story of the iconic 1973 tennis match-up between reigning women's champ, Billie Jean King and former men's champ, Bobby Riggs — an event that changed forever how professional sporting events would be packaged, produced and promoted — while simultaneously blowing the lid off the era's social / sexual revolution. You've come a long way, babyindeed.

An authentic, tension-filled
scene from Battle of the Sexes
(The Houston Astrodome / 9.20.73)
Simply put, moviegoers can absolutely believe the hype, as Battle of the Sexes is truly one of the year's very best films. Emma Stone and Steve Carell each serve Oscar-worthy performances in their respective lead roles portraying King and Riggs, while kudos are also owed to Sarah Silverman as the savvy businesswoman, Gladys Heldman and Jessica McNamee as the vilified conservative women's tennis champ, Margaret Court.

Although a few creative liberties are taken in retelling the legendary tale, Battle of the Sexes scores high marks over all for authenticity — from the era-specific clothing, coiffs and cars to the actual old school video footage of such prominent newscasters as Howard K. Smith and sportscasters, including Howard Cosell. Featuring classic cuts from the likes of Elton John, George Harrison and Aerosmith, even the film's music soundtrack is a spot-on, gloriously shag-covered treat.

-Christopher Long
(October 2017)

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

JOHN DENVER: A Personal "Rocky Mountain" Tribute

JOHN DENVER
A Personal "Rocky
Mountain" Tribute
__________________________

One my life's biggest
bummers is that I never
had an opportunity to
hug John Denver and
say, "Thanks, dude."
__________________________

Monday, October 13, 1997 — 20 years this month — gone in a flash. But I still can recall with vivid clarity the day the music really died. Like most folks, I was moved personally by the tragic deaths of Keith MoonJohn Bonham and John Lennon. The more recent losses of such music icons as Frank ZappaFreddie Mercury and Eric Carr also had rocked my world. However, it was the shocking news reports of John Denver's untimely death in a plane crash on the previous day that literally knocked the breath from my lungs and brought me to my knees.

Honest and pure, John Denver's work was one of my earliest and most profound musical influences — gloriously appealing vocals pinned to (seemingly) simple acoustic guitar parts, woven into delightfully irresistible melodies and poured over compelling personal stories of life, love and nature. "FAR OUT," to be sure! Yet, despite his super-sized, superstar heyday status, Denver's brilliant artistry tended to get glossed over by his "goody-two-shoes" persona — the boy-next-door bowl cut, the studious-looking wire-rimmed specs and his authentic made-for-primetime charisma.

My personal passport to peace.
A well-documented "troubled soul" in his personal life, Denver's music (ironically) was happy and uplifting. In fact, nearly every warm-feeling, sweet-smelling childhood memory I have of growing up in Springfield, Missouri and Orlando, Florida during the mid '70's is attached somehow to John Denver's music. No other artist has created music capable of transporting me to such beautiful places — even beautifully painful places.

When Denver introduced fans to his uncle in the lyrics of the 1974 album track, "Matthew," you couldn't help but be moved by the poignant family story of love and loss. His slew of signature love songs, including "Annie's Song," "My Sweet Lady" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" remain truly timeless classics, while such staples as "Rocky Mountain High," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Sunshine on My Shoulders" and my personal favorite, "Poems, Prayers and Promises," feel as fresh today as when they first were recorded.

Still fresh. Still sweet.
Denver's TV specials were ratings winners. His 1977 feature film, Oh, God! — a bona fide blockbuster. Along with Francis Scott Key, he also has the distinction of being one of only two songwriters to have penned two different state songs — impressive, indeed! And in his 1985 testimony before the U.S. Senate, Denver "jammed it" right down Tipper Gore's throat during the PMRC hearings — truly epic performance!

John Denver was a humanitarian with whom I agreed some of the time. And he was a political activist with whom I agreed (almost) none of the time. But at the end of the day, WHO CARES? It's supposed to be "all about the music," right?

Truth be told, as a Christian, even I can get (extremely) "overwhelmed" once in a while. And at those particularly dark times — those moments when the voices are getting to me most, I often still seek solace in the songs of John Denver — even after 45 years. "Thanks, dude." (JohnDenver.com)

-Christopher Long
(October 2017)

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