Friday, August 21, 2015

RECORD REVIEW: Lynch Mob "Rebel"

Lynch Mob
(Frontiers Music)

With a quarter century now
smoldering in the rear view,
Lynch Mob returns with a
blistering new full-length set.

Lynch Mob's second Frontiers Music release, Rebel, delivers exactly what longtime fans have come to expect — super-charged, crunchy guitar riffage colliding with powerhouse vocals, poured into high-intensity fist-pumpers.

Rebel also represents a couple of long-awaited reunions, as celebrated guitarist and Lynch Mob founder, George Lynch, once again teams up with his former Dokken colleague, bassist, Jeff Pilson, original Lynch Mob frontman, Oni Logan, and veteran go-to drummer, Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol), to create one of 2015's most anticipated hard rock records.

Lynch performs masterfully throughout — serving up non-stop gloriously gunky gobs of signature-style guitar gymnastics, while Logan's Coverdale-meets-Cornell-meets-Gillen vocal contributions remain as fresh-sounding and exciting as ever. Taking a temporary break from his current gig in Mick Jones' latest Foreigner tribute configuration, Pilson adds more than enough umph to Tichy's Nicko-flavored drum work — making for a hurricane-strength rhythm section.

Logan and Lynch
Soon-to-be-released singles, "Automatic Fix" and "Testify" both pack plenty of rib-cracking, old school punch, while "Sanctuary" and "War" also will likely fill that void many fans have been feeling since the last Lynch Mob record.

Oozing enough nitty gritty, down and dirty blues-based authenticity to compel most any rock dude's chick to climb atop the bar (or maybe mount a pole) and get down, "Pine Tree Avenue" and "Jelly Roll" are both stand-outs among the other nuggets offered in this 11-song set. But it's the Seattle-style "The Hollow Queen" that proves to be one of the shiniest gemstones.

However, the record's biggest payoff is "The Ledge." Possessing magical melody and engaging lyrics combined with vintage Lynch stylings this particular track succeeds best at bridging the gap between past and present musical words — further enhancing the band's impressive legacy.

-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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Monday, August 10, 2015

RECORD REVIEW: Candy Hearts "All the Ways You Let Me Down"

Candy Hearts
All the Ways You
Let Me Down
(Bridge 9 Records)

One of my favorite pop / rock
classics is "'C' is for Cookie"
— the iconic 1971 hit from
vocal powerhouse, Cookie
MonsterAnd it occurred to
me recently that not only does
cookie start with the letter "C,"
but also many of my other
favorite things — particularly
when it comes to music. I love
crunchy riffs, clever lyrics
and catchy melodies — all
woven into concise earworms.

Singer, guitarist and Candy Hearts frontchick Mariel Loveland possesses an unbridled passion for coffee and considerable disdain for "stupid boys." She also writes incredibly crunchy, clever, catchy, and concise pop / rock songs...

Produced by New Found Glory guitarist, Chad Gilbert, All the Ways You Let Me Down met with high praise from such prestigious publications as Billboard and Spin when it first arrived in stores and online during the summer of 2014. Regrettably, the New Jersey-based combo didn't pop up on my personal radar until I discovered the band performing among 90+ other sweat-soaked acts on the Vans Warped Tour during the summer of 2015. A textbook example of "better late than never," Candy Hearts impressed me thoroughly as one of the three best bands that I saw at this year's day-long, outdoor rock festival. In fact, I was so captivated by their songs, I made my way to the Candy Hearts merch tent, posthaste, following the band's set to purchase their now year-old sophomore record.

I had only one thing to say
to Mariel Loveland following
Candy Hearts' performance
last month in Orlando, FL 
"You write great songs!"
Along with bassist John Clifford and drummer Matthew Ferraro, Loveland reflects the best and brightest aspects of the '90s pop / rock era throughout this spirited 11-song collection. But although one certainly can't help recognizing the influence of such golden oldies acts as Veruca Salt, The Cranberries and Lisa Loeb, All the Ways You Let Me Down ain't gonna take ya on a nostalgia trip. The music is refreshingly crisp, and the lyrics — uniquely personal. Enhanced further by Gilbert's production and co-songwriting contribution, the record is as "now" as an iPhone 10. In fact, the Loveland / Gilbert-penned lead off track, "I Miss You," was touted in the press as being one of last year's best songs. 
The latest from Candy Hearts sounds
like a magical Skittles shower.
As an admitted die-hard Josie and the Pussycats fan, All the Ways You Let Me Down oozes non-stop payoff. Engaging and energetic, this collection is so cohesive that acknowledging a particular track or specific highlight would be, for me, about as easy as choosing a favorite episode of Full House. No joke this record is that strong. But if held at gunpoint and forced to offer a recommendation, I'd likely lean toward "The Dream's Not Dead" or maybe "The One to Get Me Out." But then again, "Michigan" is SO darn snappy — ugh, I never could keep a secret, ;-) 

In sum, I get kinda excited about discovering a new band with a slew of super-fun songs. And in 2015 I was searching desperately for that one great "summer jam" record. With All the Ways You Let Me Down, Candy Hearts delivered exactly that. I just wish I hadn't been a year late arriving at the party.

-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

"MY ROOMMATE" by Bryce Willey (Guest Post)

by Bryce Willey
(Guest Post)

16-year-old "Guest
Contributor," Bryce
Willey, returns this
month to "The Show
Biz Guru" to offer
up his latest work.
Uh, WOW!


I have a roommate — I spend every day
with him. He eats all my food, wears all my
clothes and never picks up after himself. 

He doesn't like me writing or drawing. 
He left just now, but he'll be back soon
— so lets make this quick, shall we?

My roommate loves sharp things 
knifes, razors... his own finger nails.
He doesn't love me but he sticks around
because he knows I'll end up paying his
share of the rent at the end of the month.

I've tried kicking him out, but he
enjoys the hate he indulges in.

I've tried killing him, but it never works.
I've stabbed him. I've drowned him.
I've tried burning the house down,
but he just laughs, only to return in
a couple days to rinse and repeat.

So I tired reasoning with him.
He agreed we should go see a
therapist. The doctor told us he
was the problem. He dragged me
out of the building, back to my bed. 
My mother is crying.

My roommate's name
is Bryce Willey. 
He's the other me 
the fake me.

I think he's planing a mutiny.
He's making me hate me.
He's making me love pain.
He's making me, not me.
Hes at the door — gotta go

-Bryce Willey
(August 2015)


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Saturday, August 8, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Gift" (2015)

The Gift
(STX Entertainment - 2015)

It's being called, "the
summer's best surprise"
and "the best psychological
thriller in years." Simply
put, believe the hype.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are an attractive young married couple. Yet despite Robyn's seemingly troubled past, back in Chicago, their future now appears bright, as Simon's super-successful corporate gig has provided them a fresh start on the West Coast. But as they begin settling into their exquisite new home in the hills of California, Simon's former high school classmate, Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) re-enters his life — causing considerable disruption. It soon becomes crystal clear why Simon recalls Mosley as being known as "Gordo the Weirdo" all those years ago. The "old friend" quickly turns Simon and Robyn's world upside down, in true stalker fashion — making numerous unannounced (and unwelcome) visits to the couple's new home and offering a slew of random "gifts." But at least the audience has comfort in knowing from the beginning exactly who the bad guy is and that they'll all live happily ever after. Uh, don't be so sure.

Bateman and Hall as the seemingly
happy couple, Simon and Robyn.
Joel Edgerton as Gordon Mosley
Written, produced and directed by Edgerton, this late-summer sensation boasts zero nudity, only implied sexuality and minimal adult language. SAY WHAT? So, how on earth can a film possibly deliver the goods in today's super-savvy show biz world without salacious smoke and mirrors? It's simple. The Gift is incredibly well-written, well directed and well-cast. Packed with so many tension-filled twists and turns that it nearly melted my iPhone GPS, The Gift kept me riveted — literally on the edge of my seat — from the initial creepy encounter 'til the closing credits.


-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

UNBREAKABLE BLOODLINE: Rock-Hop Hybrid Drops Red Hot Sophomore Set

Rock-Hop Hybrid Drops
Red Hot Sophomore Set

As a longtime enthusiast
who keeps an ever-watchful
eye on the underground music
scene, I recently spotted an
intriguing young collective
that popped up on my radar.

Coming together rather unexpectedly a couple of years ago as the result of a creative collision involving two pre-existing groups, Unbreakable Bloodline (UBL) has risen quickly to preeminent status on the southern U.S. indie scene. Hailing from Albany, Georgia, this exciting six-piece combo fuses guitar-driven rock with streetwise hip hop — seasoned to perfection with pinches-n-dashes of tasty reggae, jazz and blues spices.

Since its inception, the band has ascended from sweaty rehearsal spaces to opening for such national heavyweights as George Clinton and Lakeside to headlining their own wildly popular concert dates. In 2013, UBL was named "Best Hip Hop Band" at the annual Georgia Music Awards ceremony. And on August 15, 2015, they seem destined to take home that same honor once again.

This past May, UBL unveiled their long-awaited sophomore record, Anti-Gravity, at their sold-out hometown release concert, held at the famed State Theater in Albany. Simply put, the record is generating considerable buzz, including being ranked consistently as the top new release on

Featuring vocalists Vernon "Chief H" Cruz, Jay "O-Z" Osborne and Tiffany "O'She-Tyght" Thomas, the UBL line-up is rounded out by drummer Chad Basko, bassist Ryan Myers and guitarist Jon Smith. And together, they've created a superb new record that's packed with noteworthy highlights.

The opening track, "Unbreakable," is a guitar-driven anthem that oozes melody and authentic street rhymes, while "Mid-Dayz Drift" is lacquered beautifully with blues-flavored guitar work and pinned against super-groovy Doggystyle vocals. However, for my money, it's the smooth-groovin' "Marley Cash" that makes for the most engaging track of the set.

In addition to their growing list of impressive music accolades and achievements, UBL made a cameo appearance in the 2013 Joseph Lavender (Blackflight Studios) indie horror film, The Legend of Seven Toe Maggie, in which the band also contributes two songs to the movie soundtrack. And on the small screen, the official video for Anti-Gravity's "Mid-Dayz Drift" is already in production.

In sum, Unbreakable Bloodline is undeniably one of America's premier up-and-coming bands, one that warrants a listen, and is certainly worth keeping an ever-watchful eye on.

-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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Monday, August 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Being a Christian Without Being an Idiot" by Brad Stine

Being a Christian 
Without Being an Idiot:
10 Assumed Truths That
Make Us Look Stupid 
- Brad Stine -

Mmm, D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!
I discovered a super-tasty
treat this summer — one
that offered a full-bodied
faith flavor without any
bitter religious aftertaste. 

Brad Stine is NOT a Christian comedian. He's a Christian, and a comedian yes there's a difference. He's also an engaging author who knows how to entertain readers without compromising his message.

As "they" say, "you can't judge a book by its cover." However, in this case you can most certainly judge it based on the title. In fact, the title alone says it all, and it hooked me immediately.

Stine conveys his bold faith and impressive knowledge of Scripture convincingly throughout the book's 150+ pages. But what makes Stine's work more compelling (to me) than that of many other authors currently cramping the Christian book market is his common sense, laugh-out-loud approach. 

"I don't want a God I can
understand! If the Creator
of the universe's intellect
is equal to mine, we're
all in a world of hurt!"
-Brad Stine


"God has left clues to His
existence throughout our
world, and atheists literally
have to rip out their own
eyes and self-administer
lobotomies not see it."
-Brad Stine

For a Christian author who is also the leader of a renown church or fledgling ministry, the literary "pulpit" can often be as confining as the driver's seat of a Yugo. 'Cuz we all know how open-minded those religious people can be. However, a Christian author who is also a comedian has the freedom, and I dare say, the responsibility to get real — even if it means occasionally stepping playfully on the toes of religious hardliners, atheists, Liberals — and even a few fellow members of  his own show biz community. OUCH! Stine accomplishes this objective masterfully.

I used to take offense when readers or reviewers would refer to my books as "easy" or "quick" reads. Hey, back off! I've got TWO FULL WEEKS of community college credits under my belt! But I now recognize that in today's fast-paced, ADHD iUniverse, the ability to capture the reader's attention and then get to the point, post haste, is actually a pretty valuable skill. And in that regard, Stine carves out his faith-based message in short order, while simultaneously entertaining readers along the way. 

Yet, despite his undeniable comedic chops and street cred, Stine's humor can, from time to time, distract a bit from his "big picture" points. Hence, he's most effective when simply sharing his message and unique personal perspectives without jamming a punchline into each paragraph. However, that's merely a gentle observation, as I thoroughly enjoyed devouring his book (quickly) from cover-to-cover during a couple of my recent summertime Starbucks excursions. 

-Christopher Long
(July 2015)

Brad Stine's
Being a Christian
Without Being an Idiot



C'MON! -

Sunday, August 2, 2015

STAGE REVIEW: "Swing!" - King Center / Melbourne, FL (July 17-19, 2015)

(Photo courtesy of Tim Short, Florida Today)
King Center / Melbourne, FL 
July 17-19, 2015

For enthusiasts here on Florida's Space Coast, it's now become a summertime tradition. And for the fourth consecutive year, Melbourne's King Center for the Performing Arts partnered with The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse to present a world-class Summer Musical Theatre Project production.

A host of ambitious and talented young actors and actresses, along with a dedicated team of musicians, stage techs and coaches all came together recently to re-create the Tony-nominated,  SWING! Held over three days (July 17-19), it proved to be an incredibly successful three-show run — even the Sunday matinee performance that I attended looked to be sold-out. 

Unlike such previous SMTP productions as Oklahoma! and Hairspray, this show offered no plot or dialog. But what it did offer was two hours of non-stop, high-energy singing and dancing recapturing the timeless music and authentic look from America's golden World War II era. And speaking of the show's iconic music, the full ONSTAGE live band added significant "WOW" factor — major kudos to Orchestra Conductor and keyboardist, Daniel Klintworth.

Although there were no starring roles, the entire troupe delivered superb star-caliber performances. In fact, the overall production was simply spectacular. But at the certain risk of leaving out many top-notch performances, I did manage to scribble down a few noteworthy highlights...

The cast of SWING!
(Photo courtesy of Tim Short, Florida Today)
Possessing undeniable angelic vocal ability, Ashley Secrest offered a delicate, yet engaging rendition of "Skylark," while singers, Katie Davis, Kelly DeKlerk, Kellie Lynn Jensen, Victoria Narvaez, Ali Spinelli and Secrest all delivered "G.I. Jive" famously. Other highlights included Davis' performance on "The Blues in the Night" and the talented Emily Deruelle on "Stompin' at the Savoy."

SWING! also featured more than a few dynamic duets. Hannah Crytzer and Nathaniel Knepper-Quijano were delightful to hear and watch on "Dancers in Love," while Narvaez and John Dudley proved to be an outstanding combo on "All of Me."

Hope Goodman and Noah Southwick came together to create another magical moment on "Two and Four" a number in which Goodman delivered what was for me, THE vocal highlight of the show.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge the selfless dedication of Executive Producer Steve Janicki, Artistic Director Dr. Anastacia Hawkins-Smith and Theatre for Youth Director Karen Wilson. Bravo!

Despite what I'm sure was an amazing experience for the actors, and what I know first-hand was a first-class experience for the audience, the primary pay-off of the Summer Musical Theatre Project is always the all-important education factor. What the cast and crew learn about the performing arts and how the project prepares them for potential industry careers, is immeasurable. But regardless of whether or not they pursue the arts professionally in the future, I'm sure that none of these young people will ever forget the magical summers performing onstage at The King Center.

-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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