Sunday, November 20, 2016



It's gonna get so crazy
all up in here next month
on The Show Biz Guru,
I've gotta run with my
year-end "Top Records"
list just a smidge early.
Spoiler alert: My personal
taste is rather eclectic.

Discovering, and then writing about new music  it's what I do (from time to time). And in 2016, I was subjected to such a gawdawful bumper crop of aural crap, I've taken to jamming tampons into my ear canals as a means of managing the now incessant hemorrhaging caused by prolonged excessive abuse. But even in a year when the production of synthetic, soulless, computer-generated, lowest common denominator, syncopated nonsense seemingly has hit an all-time high, I still managed to spot a few sparking diamonds lurking in the rough.

Cheap Trick
Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello

Fresh and fun, snappy and happy, this 11-song collection represents Cheap Trick's strongest work since Busted in 1990. Straight-up and in your face, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson deliver some of their all-time crispiest audio snapshots — while Robin Zander once again channels the charming, yet pissed-off 20-something powerhouse that we've not seen much of since One on One. It may not be Heaven Tonight Pt. II, but thank goodness, it ain't Special One Pt.II either. Read my full original review HERE.

Clean Your Clock

The untimely death of founding frontman / bassist, Lemmy Kilmister in December 2015, not only was shocking and tragic, the loss has left a void that won't likely be filled — ever. Given Motörhead's unparalleled reputation from decades of relentless touring, it's only fitting that the band's first release following Lemmy's death is a career-spanning live set. This blistering 16-tracker showcases a musical "burn" factor, searing hotter than ever. Read my full original review HERE.

Butch Walker
Stay Gold

Singer / songwriter / multi instrumentalist / producer / best-selling author, Butch Walker, can seemingly do no wrong in my book. Following the release of his darker 2015 record, Afraid of Ghosts, Walker returned in 2016 to offer his eighth solo effort, Stay Gold — a 10-song collection that (for the most part) points stylistically to his more high-energy, rock / pop-tinged past. While the Ryan-Cougar-Adamscamp-sounding title track and the Pretenders-flavored "East Coast Girl" make for tasty highlights, it's the record-closing acoustic ballad, "Record Store," that stands out (to me) as the most engaging of the batch.

Palaye Royale
Boom Boom Room

Before they even played a single note, I knew instinctively that Palaye Royale was gonna be something special, from the very moment they walked onto last summer's Warped Tour stage in Orlando. As it turned out, I was right. In a vein similar to The Stones' Sticky Fingers, the band's groovy 2016 debut delivers, in spades. Simply put, if "Don't Feel Quite Right" and "How Do You Do?" don't absolutely rock your soul, you might want to have an EMT check your pulse. But despite the record's undeniably traditional rock cred, as a guy who possesses a penchant for pop, "Ma Chérie" is my personal pick of the litter.

Green Day
Revolution Radio

Packing two fists full-o-fun, Revolution Radio is simply a solid rock record — an honest, natural-sounding slab — as if three old friends came together (with a huge budget) merely to make some great music without pretense. Read my full original review HERE.

21 to Burn
Two to the Chest

If only more AOR entrees today tasted as good as this one, I'd probably be able to choke more of it down. Simply put, 21 to Burn has what most of their contemporaries lack — quality songs. While much of their competitors' content sounds (to me) as if it was created from the neck up, this Florida-based combo oozes from the heart. And their gunky, chunky guitar work actually sounds like guitars — created by humans, as opposed to being stamped out by a machine. Highlights include the title track, along with the lead-off single, "Wait & See" and the heartbreak ballad, "Head Games."

Fit for Rivals
Freak Machine

Boasting ALL thriller, and NO filler, this crunchy new 10-track collection from Jacksonville's Fit for Rivals kicked me where it counts. In fact, Freak Machine is such an irresistible seduction, it's become my current go-to dirty pleasure — now living full-time in my car hi-fi, in my iTunes library, and in my mobile cellular phone device.

The Struts
Everybody Wants

I personally crave music that beams golden sunshine into my life — music that inspires me to seek intimacy with my girlfriend, as opposed to inspiring me to bury a body. I want songs that make me feel glad to be alive. I want songs that make me wanna sing and dance. Simply put, I want The Struts! (Doesn't everybody?) Read my full original review HERE.

Black Eyed Soul
Season of Self-Loathing

Knoxville's roots rock kingpin Black Eyed Soul returned in 2016 after an extended break to (finally) release album #6. Remaining true to the duo's impeccable Americana-style reputation, Andrew and Misty Marcus wrote, performed and produced Season of Self-Loathing entirely free of outsider fingerprints. And in the process, they've created what is arguably their finest work to date.

Loretta Lynn
Full Circle

Simply put, Loretta Lynn is a master storyteller — an artist whose compelling songs offer consistent, streak-free, mirror reflections of her personal real life experiences. Hence, her music is only enhanced as the years pass by. In fact, while some iconic artists flounder in their 30s and 40s, Lynn's work flourishes — in her 80's. Produced by her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash (Johnny and June's boy), Full Circle is an epic showcase for a truly authentic artist who remains as relevant as ever — and one who can still wup the tar outta any of today's "new country" posers or modern-day "pop tarts." Highlights include, "Whispering Sea," "In the Pines" and "Everything it Takes" — the chilling duet with Elvis Costello. Songs so honest, vocals so pure, and fiddles, banjos and mandolins so sweet — Full Circle is easily THE record of 2016. And along with the Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose (2004), it's one of Lynn's two all-time best.

I hope you had fun with my little annual year-end wrap-up. And I hope that perhaps I've turned you on to some cool new music. Feel free to offer your top picks in the Comment Section below.

-Christopher Long
(November 2016)

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