Saturday, November 29, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Fate Breaks Dawn "EP"


This NYC combo is truly 
a band on a mission  
to lure recruits into its 
movement  to fight the 
good fight for heavy metal.

Produced by Anthony Lopardo and Raymond Marte, the debut EP from Fate Breaks Dawn is a bona fide sweet slab of old school metal from start to finish.

Amid a barrage of ferocious, neck-breaking fire power, "Crusader" kicks off the record immediately with impeccable Maiden-meets-Overkill skill and precision  let the shredfest begin.

Packing plenty-o-Flotsam and Jetsam-style punch, "Apocalypse" and "Judgment of Anubis," both serve as exciting highlights. However, with its mammoth breakdown, "Brink of Paranoia," is perhaps the best of this five-song batch.

Rounding out the set, "Translucent Eyes" sounds as if it could have been ripped straight from the pages of the Spreading the Disease playbook. Possessing tasty riffage courtesy of Juan Ortiz and Lance Barnewold, this tune also provides Mike Cotoia's most engaging vocal performance of the record.

The fact that the members are all in their early 20s makes the band's songwriting, musicianship and authenticity all the more impressive. And the production is absolutely top notch.

Five enthusiastic, gold sets of "metal horns," for sure!

-Christopher Long
(November 2014)

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Tom Sharpe "Lifting the World"

Lifting the World
Marathon Records 

Blending a progressive 
rock sensibility with 
intricate percussion and 
an undeniable choral 
majesty, the latest from 
Tom Sharpe is a symphony 
of world music — truly 
a breath of "fresh aire."

Through his longtime work with the platinum-selling New Age ensemble Mannheim Steamroller and iconic former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoungTom Sharpe has earned an impeccable reputation over the years as an in-demand multi-instrumentalist and composer. In 2002, his debut solo record, Like Setting Myself on Fire, met with considerable critical acclaim. And in 2014, the award-winning Chicago-based musician returns with his sophomore effort.

"Music to me is pure 
passion and emotion."
-Tom Sharpe

Produced by Bryan Robb, Lifting the World is "lifting," indeed. Throughout the record, Sharpe's intricate drum and percussion work is at times reminiscent of Bill Bruford's with King Crimson major bonus points, for sure. Additionally, his piano and keyboard performances and arrangements are equally superb. Violinist Jennifer Page and cellist Amanda Nelson are also due huge kudos for their amazing and often chilling contributions  BRAVO!

Of its many highlights, certain selections pop out consistently with each listen. Possessing a distinctive tribal vibe, "World Speak" is an all-drum and percussion composition and makes for a perfect opening track.

"It seems that 
Lifting the World 
is reaching listeners 
right at their hearts, 
which is great to hear." 
-Tom Sharpe

"Lifting the World Pt. I" is a compelling eight-minute opus. The powerful drum work combined with mighty orchestral and choral arrangements makes for one of the record's most impressive highlights. In fact, I've personally chosen this particular composition as the official intro track for my own band's upcoming 30th anniversary concert run.

Multi-instrumentalist and 
composer, Tom Sharpe
Clocking in at seven minutes, "Three Stories" is a majestic aural roller coaster ride. The track opens with a delicate string and piano section, then transports listeners briefly to the Orient  only to build suddenly to a crashing orchestral crescendo. Then, with one's blood pumping and heart racing, Sharpe delivers the listener gently back to the beginning  amid an equally delicate piano outro.

Another of the record's brightest highlights, "The Cathedral Is Where You Are" delivers a brilliantly tear-jerking string intro that segues seamlessly into lush orchestration, peppered with epic Enigma-style vocals.

Organic, emotional and captivating, Lifting the World serves as a beautiful and engaging personal soundtrack to the listener's own private movie.

-Christopher Long
(November 2014)

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Heart - 11.12.14 (Guest Post)

Maxwell C. King Center
Melbourne, FL / 11.12.14

Guest writer Michelle Wilson 
and I rarely see eye to eye 
when it comes to rock and 
roll. Michelle has a passion 
for whiskey-soaked, down 
and dirty blues, while I 
live for crunchy, guitar-
driven, pop. But there is 
ONE thing on which we 
do agree. We're completely 
nuts about Heart.

Many bands from the 1970s are still out there rockin’ and bringin’ the house down, while others, not so much. Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, the rock chick sisters born in California and raised in Seattle, definitely fall into the first category. I had never seen Heart in concert, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ann’s voice live. But not only are her vocals still pristine, they are better than ever. And I would be remiss not to mention Nancy, who still looks years younger than her 60, yes I said 60, years old, and still plays like a bad-ass and sings like an angel. What I found most remarkable about the Wilson sisters, and particularly Ann, is their comfortable, easy stage pres-ence. From my third row seat, I could readily observe the way in which Ann looked directly at people and genuinely enjoyed it, even after all these years. It’s hard to explain, but it’s not often that I’ve seen an entertainer engage in this manner. It felt as if we were all her bffs and just hanging out in her living room listening to her sing.

Opening the show at 8pm and playing an incredible 30-minute set was Nashville-based up-and-coming singer Brynn Marie. Keep your eye on this one and remember her name, because her star is rising fast. There was nothing about her that I didn’t love   gorgeous, talented and genuine, she is the real deal. Accompanied by Josh Roberts on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, it was a pleasure to hear and watch this young woman whose on-stage presence and off-the-chain vocals were that of a seasoned pro. She has traveled overseas to dazzle American troops and has a single out entitled “Bandaid on a Bullet Hole” off her 6-track collection, Things Change. It is always re- freshing when a little-known opening act starts a show in stellar fashion, and that is just what Brynn Marie did.


Taking the stage at 8:50, Heart launched directly into “Barracuda” and kicked off their portion of the night with a high-energy, action-packed per- formance that had the crowd on its feet for much of the evening. Fans even stood up against the stage, a rare exception for the generally strict King Center. Rounding out the rest of the band are lead guitarist Craig Bartock, bassist Dan Rothchild, drummer Ben Smith and Debbie Shair on keys. Hit upon hit had the audience loving every moment, including “Heartless,” “What About Love,” “Magic Man,” “Even It Up,” “Kick It Out,” “Straight On” and “Crazy on You.” Other aural treats included “Dreamboat Annie,” with Nancy on acoustic guitar and Ann on flute, a lovely, slower acoustic version of “Alone,” “These Dreams” featuring Nancy on mandolin and Ann on acoustic guitar and “Heaven,” with Ann on autoharp / dulcimer and Nancy sitting and playing acoustic guitar with a bow. The other real gems (as if everything wasn’t a gem) were covers of Robin Trower’s “Day of the Eagle” from 1974’s Bridge of Sighs and Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It” from 1973’s iconic Band on the Run. The McCartney cover featured Nancy on guitar and vocals, and was an unexpected yet thrilling addition. 

As is their signature encore set these days, the band returned to the stage to wrap things up by 10:30 with three Led Zeppelin covers: "Immigrant Song" off 1970's Led Zeppelin III, "No Quarter" from 1973's Houses of the Holy and finally "Misty Mountain Hop," which appears on 1971's Led Zeppelin IV. Being a huge Zep fan myself, I had moved up and was plastered to the front of the stage, singin' along and lovin' every minute of it. I did think that "No Quarter" was an oddly mellow song choice, however, they absolutely slayed it. I walked out of this show filled with the euphoria of a music lover who had just experienced one of the greatest concerts ever. My only regret is that I had never seen them sooner. My friend Mark Miller mentioned that his 27-year-old niece recently had seen Heart, and he nailed the core of this band with these few words: "their sound transcends ages." Indeed it does, Mark.

-Michelle Wilson
(November 2014)

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Life Is In The Blood" by Larry Ollison

Life is in the Blood
- Larry Ollison -
I discovered this 2001
faith guide as a part of my
Bible College curriculum.
Powerful, compelling and
effective. Ah yes, the truth
will set you free, indeed.

Author Larry Ollison is the founder and Senior Pastor of Walk on the Water Faith Church in Osage Beach, Missouri. And through the pages of Life Is In The Blood, he breaks down the walls of religious doctrine to reveal beautiful, honest and simple truths — nailing down his key points — the power in the name of Jesus, the power of His blood and the power of the Word — all in an engaging, no-nonsense, conversational style. 

"We need to know the Word, but
we also need to understand that
it takes the blood of the Lamb
and the Word to overcome." 
-Larry Ollison

Ollison tackles such fascinating topics as old covenant promises vs. new covenant promises, atonement vs. remittance and overcoming the enemy by "speaking the blood" and speaking the name of Jesus over our lives, families and homes. In fact, recognizing the power in the tongue is perhaps the book's "golden nugget."

"Out of the abundance of 
the heart, the mouth speaks. 
It is a spiritual principle."
-Larry Ollison

Yet despite his bold "blood message," what really zapped me personally, was Ollison's encouraging commentary regarding character. "You may seem peculiar in the eyes of the world, but still have character," he writes. "Never, never throw away your character. It is one of your best witnessing tools." B-I-N-G-O, Larry!

"Too many Christians push their
Christianity in such way that
they become obnoxious and
appear arrogant. Because of
this, they shut themselves
off from having any influence
on the world."
-Larry Ollison

Even as a Christian Living author and a fourth-year Bible College student, I found Life Is In The Blood to be a bona fide game-changer. A highly recommended read.

-Christopher Long
(November 2014)




C'MON! -

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PAWS FOR VETERANS: A Tremendous Cause for America's Heroes!


Just in time for Veterans Day, 
I want to share a wonderful 
cause that benefits the selfless, 
brave men and women who
have served our great country.

Saturday November 8, 2014 saw bikers, Vets and their supporters from around the area converge upon American Veteran Post #34 in Palm Bay, Florida for the annual Paws for Veterans "Paws Run and BBQ" fundraiser. As the longtime drummer of Burnt Toast — a good-time, golden oldies band that believes in, appreciates, respects and supports our American service men and women, I was honored and humbled for us to have been invited to perform at the event. Alright, "Blue Suede Shoes" — ah-one, ah-two, ah-one, two, three, four!

A tremendous cause, indeed!
For more than 20 years, Paws for Veterans has been dedicated and committed to providing our true national heroes with the medical help that they so desperately need (and greatly deserve) while simultaneously saving the lives of dogs that would otherwise face euthanasia. Simply put, this mighty mission rescues animals from "Doggie Deathrow" and unites them with Veterans — loving new owners who will care for them properly, and will use them for a variety of valuable purposes.

AmVets Riders Chapter #34 in 
Palm Bay, Florida - November 8, 2014.

It was heartwarming to see the enormous crowd that showed up for this year's event — kids, parents, musicians, bikers, Vets and vendors galore — all enjoying a day of fun, games, give-aways and delicious barbecue, while supporting a worthwhile cause. A runaway success, to be sure.

I invite, welcome, and encourage my readers everywhere to visit Paws for Veterans online and to take a look at and support their wonderful work and the beautiful service that they provide.

Much thanks to these fabulous 
local Paws for Veterans sponsors.
In closing, I just want to take a moment on this very special day and offer my heartfelt thanks to ALL past and present members of the American Armed Forces for their unequaled service, dedication and sacrifice. YOU ARE MY HEROES!

-Christopher Long
(November 2014)

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Friday, November 7, 2014

"LADY BUG: ACTION HERO" (High-Energy Youth Production Comes to Florida's King Center)

King Center / Melbourne, FL
Thursday / Nov. 13, 2014 / 10:30am

The King Center's current 
Theatre for Youth season 
is packed with must-see 
productions. And this 
one looks to be epic!

Based on the popular children’s book by Kim Tuttle and Catherine Goldman Bloomfield, Lady Bug: Action Hero tells the incredible story of Lady Bug and her madcap crew  Betsy the ditsy blond butterfly, wise old Mr. Turtle, Jeremy the hip-hopping frog and an outrageous tap-dancing caterpillar. 

But it's not always fun and games in the 'forest of forever.' And as the story unfolds, Lady Bug must use her awesome karate skills in order to protect her friends from the "ferocious fire ants." Uh, wait a second. "Awesome karate skills?" Wow, this is sounding pretty cool!

This world-class fantasy production seems to have it all — a fun story, compelling characters, a dazzling set and amazing costumes — combined with meticulously crafted choreography performed by a professional international dance troupe — capped off with engaging narration.
"Our commitment to fostering 
a positive experience for youth 
remains a priority through the 
programs offered each year."
-Karen Wilson (Theatre for Youth Director)

More than merely a great show, Lady Bug: Action Hero is also a great first story ballet and theatrical experience for young theatre patrons. As a rough-and-tumble, super-macho kind of guy, I know that many of my legendary football heroes and all-time favorite rock stars actually have taken ballet in order to perfect their performance. Hence, this production will appeal to girls and boys of all ages. And I will certainly be loading up the ol' minivan with many of my soccer mom besties and elementary school-aged cronies, as none of my peeps plan to miss this production.

BTW, to say "thanks" for the community's support, The King Center will be donating a copy of the Lady Bug: Action Hero book to the library of the top three schools that bring the most students. A sweet deal, to be sure!

-Christopher Long
(November 2014) 

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Dennis DeYoung "And the Music of Styx - Live in Los Angeles"

Dennis DeYoung 
And the Music of Styx -
Live in Los Angeles
 (Frontiers Records)

The voice is iconic.
The songs are timeless.
The band is impeccable.
The performance is stellar.
And the record — 
simply fabulous!

The latest release from legendary singer / songwriter, Dennis DeYoung is a bona fide treat for fans everywhere. Recorded live last spring in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, the subsequent 90-plus-minute, 17-song collection arrived on October 21st via Frontiers Records. The audio version is available as a 2-CD package and digital download — the home video version is out on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Oozing non-stop rock classics, the record serves as a tremendous testimony to the power and timelessness of great songs. And along with his world-class, six-member band, DeYoung dishes up (as the title suggests) the crème de la crème from his tenure as frontman, keyboardist and chief songwriter for the chart-busting band Styx

The set kicks off with a bang  the DeYoung-penned powerhouse title track from the 1977 Styx blockbuster, The Grand Illusion — and the crowd goes wildEarlier classics ensue quickly, including the 1975 hits, "Lady" and "Lorelei," as well as the title track from what's arguably the band's finest effort — the 1976 album, Crystal Ball.

Of the record's many highlights, "Suite Madame Blue" shines the brightest. Guitarist Jimmy Leahey's recreation of the late John Curulewsk's acoustic "Prelude 12" intro is spot-on, while DeYoung's death-defying, 22-second-long vocal note, at the 3:45 mark, is absolutely stupendous.  

Guitarists August Zadra (L) and Jimmy Leahey (R) 
onstage with Dennis DeYoung.
But the record is titled "And the Music of Styx," hence it also boasts a buttload of Tommy Shaw-penned biggies, including "Blue Collar Man," "Renegade(featuring a masterful vocal performance from guitarist August Zadra), "Foolin’ Yourself" and "Too Much Time on My Hands" — as well as the aforementioned "Crystal Ball."

DeYoung proves engaging and charismatic throughout — offering personal insights to such fan faves as the 1979 #1 smash, "Babe," and 1990 Top Five hit, "Show Me The Way."

Other aural gemstones include the stripped-down acoustic version of the 1983 Styx treasure, "Don't Let It End" and the guitar-driven, nine-minute version of DeYoung's 1984 Top Ten solo hit, "Desert Moon." Another impressive power point is the participation of Tom Sharpe. The award-winning Mannheim Steamroller drummer adds a particular punch to the performance. 

The set ends up right where it started out  with "Come Sail Away— another iconic DeYoung track from The Grand Illusion. With its anthemic message and passion-filled crowd sing-along, this classic makes for a fabulous finale to a fabulous production.

-Christopher Long

(November 2014)

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