Steven Norman Long (Message for the Masses) (CD)


Steven Norman Long (Message for the Masses) (CD)

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I cannot believe how long it’s been since I heard a good rock n’ soul record. Let me repeat that – “good rock n’ soul.” I review a lot of music day in and day out, and looking back over the last 5 years at what’s landed in my in-box I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Music seems to be steering away from a guitar driven primary to more of an electronic based primary. Music also seems to be delivered much louder these days than it used to be – not in a good way either. I guess many feel you are not capable of turning up your volume knob so guess what – they’ve done it for you. Check my pulse maybe I’m dead. I want to hear and  feel something well powerful.

So enter a blues based artist who goes by the name of Steven Norman Long based out of San Francisco, CA who just released his latest and greatest CD “Message for the Masses”. Available on iTunes, and Rhapsody. Long to me is a late 60’s influenced blues/rock band with a contemporary feel. He may have been influenced by Freddie King, Hendrix, Clarence Carter, William Bell, Arthur Alexander, Howard Tate and Wilson Pickett. In an ambitious move this latest release finds him collaborating, musically, with a beat sampler on some tracks.

Right from the start Long provides some interesting sounds for this classic yet distinctive style of music. By the way it’s guitar and electronic piano driven. The result is perfect setting for Long’s raspy yet smooth as silk voice. Make no bones about it, some tracks provide an unplugged setting. With fading rock based influences over the years, there’s possibly a nod in the direction here from Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band. Do I dare say I can hear a bit of Tyrone Davis and Otis Clay?

My favorite track “Panhandler” describes that feeling of excitement as one journey’s into the unknown. “Change my Ways” is another engaging song and, lyrically, spot on and emotionally engaging music about love, loss, distraction, and trying to stay fully present in a rapidly paced and changing world. There’s an almost 70’s sound to the title track. I’m not sure that I’ve got this right, but it sounds as if Long is singing about life on the grind, but with a positive outlook about the road ahead. He’s trying to keep it positive despite some not so bright moments.  It’s definitely more blues-based rock than traditional rock, but I liked it despite the somewhat flashback sound.

A guy like Long will get good draws at places like House of Blues of even The Hard Rock Café. ‘Innocence” is pretty marketable to Smooth Jazz and “Peace like a River” is a solid finale. This track comes at you full board and wraps up a strong 9 track album. All song present mainly acoustic guitar, drums, organ and syncopated electro-rhythm section round out the overall accompaniment.

Long could use an upgrade to his sound ,at times I can barely hear some of the instruments. The mix lacks continuity track to track and sounds very amateurish to me. No drummer?

Long is a good solo, rhythm player in his own right and has the prefect voice for this style. Laid back and perfectly comfortable in his skin he draws out his words with a dramatic quality that is almost Robert Johnson-like while the band plays around him.

Like I had previously mentioned I cannot believe how long it’s been since I heard a good pure soul record – until today. When all is said and done this is a classic return of Classic Blues Based Soul and it’s long overdue. Long has strong X-Factor and that component is severely lacking these days – regardless of the sound quality.

There’s a quote from Blind Lemmon Jefferson that really hits home for me ‘This aint’ dancing music, its listening music.” Steven Norman Long’s latest, Message for the Masses has both. This is straight forward music in which the glue that binds it sometimes seems to be made of opposing forces, yet it comes together to form a perfect bit of symmetry. Bottom line: Sometimes it your destiny to walk with into the unknown, not sure of the outcome, but with your head held high and a guitar slung across the back – good things can happen. I also get the feeling Long is not afraid to be himself in a modern world. I think that’s why, like so many others I look forward to hearing more of his music in the future and maybe catching him live. Who knows where the future will lead? But one thing is for sure. When one listens to the music of Steven Norman Long – it just makes you feel something powerful.

Score: 8/10

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A.W. Murdoch. Approved by Janne Zawa

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