Saturday, April 29, 2017

PARAMORE: Pop / Rock Stalwart Drops Infectious New Single

PARAMORE
Pop / Rock Stalwart Drops
Infectious New Single
________________________

I don't typically create entire
feature stories based on just a
single. However, for this one,
I had to make an exception.
________________________

In the ever-fickle, unpredictable, topsy–turvy, world of pop / rock, a four-year gap between records is an eternity. However, when the brand is as strong as Paramore, rebounding from an extended break can be a snap — with the right song, the right producer and the right video, of course.

Led by fashion-forward frontchick / matriarch, Hayley Williams, the latest configuration of Paramore dropped their latest single, "Hard Times" on April 19th. Written by Williams and perennial guitarist Taylor York, this super-catchy lead-off track from the upcoming album, After Laughter, caused quite a cyber stir, immediately upon the video's YouTube debut.

Watch "Hard Times"
(NOW on YouTube)

Overseen by current golden boy producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, "Hard Times" sounds like cotton candy — as if Alanis Morissette is fronting Maroon 5 on a track produced by El Debarge. The video is equally amazing — an eye-catching treasure that looks like a magical bowl of electrified Skittles.

Much of the online hoo-ha seems to stem from the track's gloriously over-the-top poppiness — clearly troubling longtime fans still clinging to the band's long-lost signature-style punkiness. As a mere casual admirer, even I can recognize that the train heading from Hot Topic to mega-stardom left the station a long time ago. And if "Hard Times" is any indication of the new record's overall direction, Paramore will soon close the deal on total global domination.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Friday, April 28, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Anthrax - "For All Kings"

RECORD REVIEW
Anthrax
For All Kings
(Megaforce / Nuclear Blast)
_________________________

Is the latest from Anthrax
really the band's all-time
best? Let's have a looksie.
_________________________

For a kid like me who came of age during the late '70s, addicted to the catchy sounds of such power-pop purveyors as KISS, Angel and Starz, the thrash metal craze of the early '80s was a bit hard to swallow — at first. While many of these brash up-and-coming bands certainly looked cool and packed plenty-o-punch, I thought they fell short in terms of delivering songs. Plus, I had difficulty embracing such angst-filled messages. I mean, I'd enjoyed a wholesome, Leave it to Beaver-type upbringing — what did I have be pissed about?

Anthrax live onstage in Orlando,
promoting For All Kings - 2017.
Of that original thrash era, there was "The Big Four" — Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and... Anthrax. Possessing as much street cred as any of their contemporaries, Anthrax brilliantly combined authentic nut-crushing metal with a colorful, comic book-style image. Simply put, I totally "got" Anthrax — and they became my band in short order. I saw them perform many times during the "golden era," and every day that brought a new Anthrax record felt a bit like Christmas in my world. For me, Joey Belladonna IS the voice of Anthrax. And when he bailed in the early '90s, the band lost its luster. As a result, over the years, Anthrax faded from my radar.

Joey Belladonna onstage in Orlando - 2017.
I remember receiving a call offering me an opportunity to interview drummer Charlie Benante while he was doing press, promoting the 2010 Anthrax tour. I was intrigued, and I accepted the assignment immediately. Since first seeing him perform live back in '86, I've considered Benante to be one of rock's truly great drummers and our conversation was a memorable one. You can read that interview HERE.

Although I was blown away completely upon attending their subsequent 2010 show in Miami, and reasonably impressed with the 2011 album, Worship Music, Anthrax still hadn't popped back fully onto my radar until I attended their recent Orlando show with Killswitch Engage.

As I researched my review of the April 2017 concert for Ink19.com, I discovered that I'd somehow missed the band's latest, For All Kings, which had been released a year earlier. So, I got my hands on a copy of the record, posthaste, and realized quickly that it's the band's strongest work to date.

Jonathan Donais delivers a superb
studio debut on For All Kings.
Produced to pure perfection by Jay RustonFor All Kings is the first Anthrax release to feature the blistering lead work of Shadows Fall guitarist, Jonathan Donais. And from "You Gotta Believe" through "Zero Tolerance," it just sounds absolutely gorgeous. But what makes the record such an epic achievement is not merely the band's legendary overall shred factor or the individual components of Scott Ian's signature Jackson crunch or Benante's beefy, mouth-watering drum tracks or Frank Bello's punched-up bass mix or even Belladonna's glorious vocal gloss. What makes For All Kings the best-ever Anthrax effort is the impeccably well-crafted songs. Need proof? If "Breathing Lightning" doesn't prompt you to wet yourself, it's time to call an EMT.

Scott Ian onstage in Orlando - 2017.
Remember when Metallica first went Journey-O-Styx-Wagon? Truly embarrassing. And how about that one year when KISS went grunge? Ridiculous, indeed. My point — while some critics have pooh-poohed For All Kings for not breaking new musical ground, I contend that's another reason why it's so amazing, so freaking perfect it's 60 blistering minutes of Anthrax simply being Anthrax, with their best songs ever. Note to self: Find Jay Ruston and kiss him on the mouth!

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 JR. - Florida Teens Recreate a Modern Classic (4.20-22.17)

HIGH SCHOOL
MUSICAL 2 JR.
Florida Teens Recreate
Modern Classic
(4.20-22.17)
__________________________

I hadn't had the chance to
take in a live stage show in
quite some time. And this
one was a whole lotta fun!
__________________________

It hardly seems possible, but the second film in Disney's wildly popular High School Musical series debuted a full decade ago, this summer. Where does the time go? However, hundreds of Palm Bay, Florida fans recently relived the musical's magic — like it was 2007 all over again.

Under the careful direction of Jennifer Rock and musical direction of Brady Boardman, Heritage High School's Musical Theatre class recreated the modern classic before enthusiastic crowds that filled the air-conditioned, state-of-the-art Heritage auditorium.

(L to R) Whitfill, Coliflower and Zill
Telling the engaging tale of spirited high school kids coming of age while working part-time summer jobs at the local country club, the energetic production played four times during the April 20-22 run and featured various actors in numerous roles, depending on the particular showing.

Bonely Paul as Troy Bolton (L)
Jordan Jarrett as Zeke Baylor (R)
With so many young and talented singers, dancers and actors playing so many roles, it would be darn near impossible for an outsider such as myself to not overlook a valuable contribution. Hence, I'll offer a heartfelt apology on the front end to those who I fail to acknowledge. 

The cast of High School Musical 2.
However, it would be remiss of me to not offer-up mad props to a few actors who caught my attention in particular — cast members including Bonely Paul as BMOC Troy Bolton, Johanna Whitfill as Troy's love interest Gabriella Montez, Kelly Price as the egocentric Sharpay Evans, Aspen Coliflower as the attention-starved Ryan Evans, Jordan Jarrett as Troy's buddy Zeke Baylor, Veronica LaCroix as the hyperactive Jack Scott and Dex Dawson as the stressed-out assistant country club manager Mr. Fulton. Brimming with contagious energy and boasting a fabulous hot pink coif, Kaitlyn Zill popped out nicely from the ensemble pack, while singer / pianist Caitlin Lenti sparkled like a diamond in her role as the delicate musical prodigy Kelsi Nielsen.

Kudos to cast and crew on a job well done!

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Southview - "Sunny Places for Shady People"

RECORD REVIEW
Southview
Sunny Places for Shady People
(Standby Records)
_________________________

Based out of Tampa, FL,
Southview is one of the
hardest-working young
rock bands in America.
_________________________

Driven by founding singer / songwriter / guitarist, Cody Travis, Southview personified the title of their debut record, Whatever it Takes, by touring relentlessly in 2015. In its stripped-down configuration, Cody and company toured again in support of its acoustic single, "Sunny Places For Shady People" throughout 2016. In 2017, the band has included the aforementioned single on the newly released "unplugged" EP of the same name. And along with the new record has come — you guessed it, more touring.

SOUTHVIEW
Released by Standby Records earlier this spring, Sunny Places for Shady People offers three engaging, acoustic-style tracks sure to tickle the inner Taking Back Sunday fan in all of us.

While the title track exhibits authentic, old school Good Charlotte-inspired phrasing, "What Did You Expect?" possesses more of a Plain White T's feel. Wrapping up the EP beautifully, "Interstate 75" resides exactly "where you want to be."

Revving on all cylinders, Southview shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. In fact, the band's full-length debut record is expected to arrive later this year.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

OH THANK HEAVEN - THE "GURU" TURNS SEVEN!

OH THANK HEAVEN
The "Guru" Turns Seven!
________________________

In the immortal words
of Frosty the Snowman,
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
Yes, my little "Guru"
is sure growing up fast.
________________________

It's a story I've shared before — so many times, in fact, most of my longtime readers can probably recite it themselves. But for those who have only recently discovered this groovy little piece of cyber real estate, let me start from the beginning...

I was still living in the mid 1990s during the early 2000s — writing entertainment features for various print publications and developing a few different potential book projects. Even in 2009, I still hadn't grasped the full concept of building an online audience. But by 2010 I'd finally signed my first book deal, and both my agent and publisher were encouraging me to step up my Internet marketing efforts. As a result, The Show Biz Guru was soon born.

My first book signing
appearance in 2010.
Given my lack of savvy in those days, this site was initially little more than an extension of my existing social media platforms — offering links to my reviews, personal appearance updates and details on what I might be doing in my personal life on any particular weekend. In fact, I was so out of touch, I didn't even consider a catchy or concise name for my site. I just threw out what was an inside joke at the time between me and a business colleague.

I hadn't given much thought to my lack of compelling content. My website was lame and boring, but so what  I didn't think anyone actually was coming here — the "Guru" existed only as a means of appeasing "my people." However, after about six months, I figured out how to determine the site's traffic stats. Apparently people from all around the world were, in fact, visiting — and the further I stretched to create quality content, the more my audience grew — and grew and grew. 

Teenage writer Bryce Willey is a favorite
frequent Show Biz Guru contributor.
From a smorgasbord of entertainment-related reviews to an array of faith and family-focused features, The Show Biz Guru now boasts a cavalcade of cultural commentary created by not only myself, but also from a proverbial rogues' gallery of guest contributors. And as we now move into year #8, I want to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by over the years and taken the time to read our work, leave occasional comments and has helped to spread the word.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Monday, April 17, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Belmont "Between You & Me"

RECORD REVIEW
Belmont
Between You & Me
(Mutant League Records)
________________________

There I was, chillin' and watchin'
some tube, when my14-year-old
compadre bursts into the room.
"You gotta check out this band!"
he wailed. "Why, do they suck?"
inquired. "No, dude!" he fired
back. "They're called Belmont
and they're freakin' amazing!"
________________________

With the release of their latest EP, Chicago's very own Belmont has served-up quite a tasty little entrée — one of the most exciting new records to come down the pike in recent months.

Tearing several pages from the Taking Back Sunday playbook, Between You & Me oozes endless DGD-style shredding pinned to engaging vocals, peppered with just enough "dirts" as to not cost 'em their "man card." Lyrically deep and musically cutting, guitarist Sam Patt suggested recently that the songs, "echo the sentiments of youth."

BELMONT
Kicking it off and knocking it down in just two minutes and change, "731" truly delivers the goods and makes for a spirited video. However, I would argue that it's the record's even more nut-busting second track, "Solitude," that should have been positioned as the opener — first impressions, yo.

"Shackles" is the type of tune that sets the big boys apart from the wannabes, and it's undoubtedly one of the most powerfully moving songs I've heard since Blue October first gripped me back in 2006. Simply put, "Shackles" serves a tremendous testament to Belmont's superb songwriting skills

Despite taking a full minute to "get to it," the tune "Overstepping" is a gloriously guitar-driven, Yellow Card-flavored gem, while "Minuscule" brings the EP to a rock-solid, bone-crushing conclusion.

A Five-Star effort, to be sure.

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)
_________________________

BELMONT ONLINE
- Twitter
- Email -
_________________________


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Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE FANTASTIC PLASTICS: New Wave Messiahs Teleport to 2017 Vans Warped Tour

THE FANTASTIC
PLASTICS
New Wave Messiahs Teleport
to 2017 Vans Warped Tour
________________________

I'm a simple guy. I like playing
obsolete video games. I also
enjoy watching TV. And when
it comes to pop music, I only
listen to duos from the future
that create authentic, electro-
style New Wave from the past.
________________________

Over the last 20+ years, many of my greatest musical discoveries have first popped onto my personal radar via the Vans Warped Tour. During the '90s, the annual traveling summer festival introduced me to such exciting bands as 311, Blink-182 and Less Than Jake. In recent years, I've stumbled across several super-squads, including Palaye Royale, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and Jule Vera. all while bouncing about between the various Warped Tour stages. This year, as a result of extensive, pre-tour research, I've spotted another treasure — weeks before twisting through the turnstile.

Sparkling like a genuine diamond placed among the counterfeit gemstones crammed into today's pop culture showcase, electro-retro darlings, The Fantastic Plastics is the first authentic synth siren to seduce me since the original New Wave glory daze of yore. In fact, Miranda Plastic and fellow Fantastic time traveler, Tyson Plastic ooze such an irresistibly engaging vibe and create music so uniquely fresh and exciting, I cited them recently as one of the "12 coolest, must-see" acts on this summer's Vans Warped Tour.

The Fantastic Plastics - "Troublemaker"
(Watch it NOW!)

Their back story  seemingly straightforward. After forming in Chicago back in 2009, the soon-to-be sensation relocated to Brooklyn in 2012. Along with the studio assistance of Dylan Plastic, the duo produced and dropped the groundbreaking debut EP Outsiders in 2014. Featuring such fan favorites as "Obsolete," "It's All Plastic," "Troublemaker" and "Assimilate," their acclaimed full-length follow-up, Devolver arrived in 2015. Released in 2016, their latest record, Invasion, is as appealing as pulling a Nintendo all-nighter. And we all know how appealing that is!

Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess to being addicted completely to the Fantastic Plastics' infectious grooves, hypnotic melodies and snappy fashion sensibility — a grip that's almost as crippling as my addiction to Skittles and Red Bull. But I'm totally in control here. I'm still able to function. Well, at least I can still accomplish my homework and my workwork. And chances are, that might be me, pressed against the security barricade, sobbing hysterically, Beatlemania-style during their set when the Warped Tour stops in Denver on June 25th. 

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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Monday, April 10, 2017

RECALCULATING: Navigating Purposefully Along Life's Cluttered Highway

RECALCULATING!
Navigating Purposefully Along
Life's Cluttered Highway
_____________________________

I remember the old GPS units 
the modern-day Mother Mary-
type dashboard ornaments that
became the rage prior to smart
phone technology. Every time I
made a wrong turn, a calm, yet
confident voice announced 
Recalculating. Recalculating.
I occasionally still need to hear
that voice when I get off track.
_____________________________

It should have been glorious — that day back in 2010 when the UPS guy knocked on my door with a package from my publisher, containing the first dozen copies of my debut memoir. In short order, I cut open the box with a handy kitchen knife and immediately removed one of the pristine promos. As I flipped through what I recognized suddenly as 240 pages worth of poorly-written, F-bomb-drenched drivel, I became sick to my stomach. In pursuit of professional success, I had worked my entire life establishing myself within the entertainment biz. But when I finally got my big break, the product I offered the world was complete crap. Clearly, I needed to reassess my priorities. I needed to get my life on track. Then, I heard that voice Recalculating. Recalculating.

My 2010 debut memoir straight-up sucked!
Recalculating. Recalculating.
Fast-forward — 2017. To say that I'm a different guy now than I was in 2010 would be an understatement. And I'm thrilled to have just released the expanded new 5th Anniversary Edition of my second book — the faith-focused autobiography, C'MON! During the exhaustive (and reflective) four-month editing process, it dawned on me how several years have also passed since my third book, the Christian-themed release, Shout it Out Loud arrived in 2014. Hmm — even my last missionary excursion is now more than two years in the rear-view. I remain active with Youth Ministry and Life Groups, but the time I spend dedicated to those endeavors seems to also be getting squeezed out by life's ever-escalating busyness. There's that voice again Recalculating. Recalculating.

Connecting with my friends in Nicaragua.
(2014)
Yes, I often feel like I'm struggling to stay on course. But at 54, I don't have time to be veering off   oblivious to the cleverly disguised distractions along life's cluttered highway. Recalculating. Recalculating.

What I really desire is to be focusing more fully on others — leaning in and loving on people. But why is a personal connection to others so important, even at such a seemingly late stage in my life? Well, in recent years, I've been inspired by a truly selfless role model. Jesus Christ responded to ALL things consistently — offering love, kindness and compassion, 24/7. Even as he was being beaten, mocked, spit on and nailed to a cross, Jesus stayed on course, speaking forgiveness over his transgressors. That's a mighty bold and truly selfless road map — one that I want to follow.

TOTALLY ON TRACK!
I was blessed to witness and cheer on the
baptism of my two besties in April 2017.
Life is short, and at the end of the day, "we can't take it with us" — not our money, not our careers, not our political positions — nothing. As a result, I'd rather spend my remaining time investing into the lives of others. Can I ever live up to Jesus' perfect example? No way, dude. As I've mentioned, I still get caught up in my own stupid stuff every day. But at least I've got a great "GPS" on the ol' dashboard to help keep me "recalculating." 

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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