CD REVIEW: Steven Norman Long - Message for the Masses
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Steven Norman Long
CD: Message for the Masses
Label: WBR Productions
Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Soul, Blues, Folk
Sounds Like: Ray Charles, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Ottis Redding, Donny Hathaway
Technical Grade: 6/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Weakness: Short Sided CD, Live Drummer, More Instrumentation, Winded Songs. Engineering Aspects
(SAN FRANCISCO) Born  and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, Steven Norman Long, the youngest of three siblings, first recognized his interest in music at Parker Elementary School. As a boy selling sodas and shining shoes in his dad’s barbershop, Stevens ears were drawn to the catchy tunes coming from the radio. He thus began to gravitate toward the singers in his church and glean soulful influence and technique from their music. His latest 9 Track CD is called "Message For the Masses" (2014).
The CD kicks things off with melodic “Message for the Masses” a hooky, catchy, passionate Electronic Piano driven intro groove with methodical musical build, hooky chorus and emotionally charged vocal performance from Long. Track 2 “Heart of the Matter” serves up another impressive piece with amazing message painted against melodic musical flow coupled with impassioned melody from Long that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 3 “Change My Ways” serves up melodic musical flow coupled with earthy melody, and impressive jazz ambience.. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of Ray Charles, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Ottis Redding and Donny Hathaway. Right from the start you will notice Long feels quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. Long has more than enough Soul to go around. The overall musical vibe has a nice, melodic jazzy-poppy, soulful feel to it. The musicianship is rock solid across the board as Long and company dish out impressive R&B guitar licks and solos, rock solid rhythm guitar playing, impressive harmonies and well placed keyboard accents. Longs' got solid vocal timber and is full of passion and recklessness abandon. He’s got a good look for this style of music and good vocal instincts behind the mic. Within each movement he displays an impressive falsetto, good power and an inviting timber throughout. He’s a very capable singer. His vocal style reminds me of a cross between Ray Charles and Al Green. The musicianship from all the other members in the band has everything you would expect from a standard 4 piece. Also present are Electric Organ, Electronic beats and rhythms, inviting Horns, Accordion, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo and soulful harmonies. Kudos goes out to the amazing Electric Piano work by Justin Houge. The songs themselves are consistent musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair and signature groove. By track 4 the CD hits solid stride delivering several amazing tracks back to back. From impassioned “Believe” to methodical “Silver and Gold” and grand slam “Innocence” release has something for just about everyone. He CD ends with Track 9 “Peace Like a River” the perfect finale statement for a CD like this.
Track 4 feels like an incomplete statement to me. Some songs would benefit from a live drummer no doubt and perhaps a bit more instrumentation here and there like Jazz Guitar, Trumpet, Saxophone, and even Harmonica. CD is a bit short with 9 songs, perhaps 3-4 more tracks would make this a fully loaded CD release. All tracks over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. The mix though adequate is not as refined as some of the state of the art mixes I’ve heard within this genera. Its 2014 so the bar is set really high for artists like Long. Typically you want each phase of the Production process handled by 3 separate engineers (Recording, Mixing, Mastering) so your sound reaches its fullest potential.
In close this latest release by Steven Norman Long entitled “Message for the Masses” delivers everything the tile implies. It's an impressive, passionate, jazzy, soulful, 9 song release. If Long has a slam dunk live presentation then that would be a deadly combination no doubt around the Bay area. The songs are extremely melodic, passionate and highly entertaining – and clearly proves SNL is something special. At the end of the day he is a soulful singer/songwriter possessing an infectious singer/songwriter personality clearly worthy of worldwide recognition. One would be wise to keep a watchful on him over the years to come.
Cyrus Rhodes Rhodes