Monday, April 30, 2018

RECORD REVIEW: Fozzy "Judas"

(Century Media / Sony)

A spill over from 2017,
the latest from FOZZY
remains a personal rock
obsession in 2018. 

Produced by AOR go-to guru, Johnny Andrews, the seventh studio effort from FOZZY proves that, although certainly flatlining (for years), rock is far from dead. And throughout this super-charged crunch-fest, it becomes clear as crystal that the Atlanta-birthed brigade possesses exactly what most of their contemporaries lack. And that's songs  fist-pounding, blood-pumping, rib-cracking, arena-sized sing-alongs.

Leading off with the record's guitar-driven, nut-busting first three singles, "Judas," "Drinkin' with Jesus" and "Painless," Judas is an impressive 11-track tour de force — one brimming with such additional highlights as the infectious, techno-tinged "Weight of My World" and "Burn Me Out."

Despite oozing overall authenticity, the record's rock / metal cred can be compromised occasionally by modern-day, pop-flavored wizardry. Residing stylistically somewhere between Linkin Park and Lady Gaga, "Three Days in Jail" represents one of the less compelling "square peg" moments while the seemingly "Dope Show"-inspired "Elevator" and equally appealing "Running with the Bulls" each survive the production shellacking more successfully.

In sum, Judas is a glorious treasure — a collection so powerful, you just might feel led to call your mom and thank her for forgetting to take her pill that one night in Louisville.

-Christopher Long
(April 2018)



C'MON! -

Monday, April 9, 2018

"NOTHIN' BUT A GHOUL TIME!" — Spooky Empire Horror Convention (April 6-8, 2018 / Orlando, FL)

Spooky Empire
Horror Convention
(April 6-8, 2018 / Orlando, FL)

After hearing all sorts of
hoo-ha for the last few
years, I felt compelled
to venture out this past
weekend and finally
experience the famed
horror event for myself.

Growing up in the Midwest during the '70s, I was riveted by late night horror movies. I possessed a particular passion for black and white classics starring such iconic actors as Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. My poor, sweet mother absolutely was riddled with concern over my unbridled pre-pube obsession with the afternoon T.V. show, Dark Shadows. And I won't even get into how much Count Chocula and Franken Berry I consumed back in those days. As a teenage rock music freak, I was mesmerized further by the likes of KISS and Alice Cooper. As a result of my insatiable adolescent ghoulish appetite, the Spooky Empire horror convention had been on my radar for quite a while.

Spooky Empire 2018 offered fans
a menagerie ghoulish goodies. 
A gloriously haunting celebration of all things frightening and creepy, the Central Florida-based event is billed as "The Dark Side of Comic Con." Produced biannually by the husband and wife team of Petey and Gina Mongelli, the spring 2018 edition of Spooky Empire played out at the fabulous Wyndham Orlando Resort on April 6-8. Over the course of three action-packed days and fun-filled nights, the all-ages extravaganza oozed WOW-factor — from an array of one-on-one celebrity meet-and-greet and Q&A sessions to near-endless groovy vendor booths to seemingly countless skilled master artists demonstrating their craft in the enormous tattoo area to the sea of amazing-looking, costumed characters roaming about the venue.

All dressed in the iconic circa 1983 garb of former
KISS guitarist, Vinnie Vincent, these kabuki-faced
characters were my personal Spooky Empire faves.
Based on our numerous chaotic personal past experiences with various other similar-type events over the years, my girlfriend, Diana, and I expected Spooky Empire to present us with yet another frustrating "cluster"-style scenario. We were wrong. In fact, the first thing we noticed upon entering the Wyndham Resort was how well-organized Spooky Empire was. Which says a lot, given what an unbelievably sprawling production it was. We also were impressed equally by the event and venue staff — professional and friendly, to be sure.

What's cooler than getting photo bombed

by the guys from Animal House?
As a talented artist and acknowledged superhero / comic book aficionado, Diana was fascinated by the incredible related artwork displayed throughout the event. As an admitted, drooling rock music fanboy, I was most thrilled about meeting the hosts of the wildly popular Three Sides of the Coin  KISS podcast, as well as attending the Q&A session featuring former KISS guitarist, Vinnie Vincent. In short, Diana and I both went home more than satisfied.

Three Sides of the Coin co-hosts Michael Brandvold,
Tommy Sommers and Mark Cicchini did a fantastic
job leading the spirited Vinnie Vincent Q&A session.
I actually wet myself at Spooky Empire when
meeting my superhero - Three Sides of the Coin
co-host, Michael Brandvold. TMI?
In a day when so many events promise so much and deliver so little, Spooky Empire succeeded in delivering "more bang for the buck." And I look forward to attending the 2018 Halloween edition of the convention at the Caribe Royale Orlando on October 26-28.

-Christopher Long
(April 2018)



C'MON! -

Friday, April 6, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW: Paul, Apostle of Christ

Apostle of Christ
Affirm Films
(PG-13 / 1 hr 48 min)

We expected to have the joint all
to ourselves — just me and my gal,
with our econo-sized concession
comboin-hand. I mean, c'mon
now, how many people in today's
super-sophisticated iUniverse are
really gonna flock to a flick that
 depicts the final days in the life
of a withering, imprisoned biblical
figure? But oh crap, dude — the
theater was packed — on a week-
night  and during Spring Break!

The older I get, the shorter it becomes — the list of mortals who I truly admire. Let's see, there's Ronald Reagan, Alice Cooper, my cousin Dorothy, the "special needs" kid down the street and   Apostle Paul. I'm sure there are a few others, but I think you get where I'm going here.

So, what is it about Paul that makes him so fascinating and inspiring that his life warrants a big-screen production nearly 2,000 years following his death? Well, allow me to break it down.

Next to Jesus, Paul's story arguably is the most compelling of any biblical figure. He wasn't God. He wasn't even an earthly king. He was an Everyman of his day — sorta. As Saul of Tarsus (his birth name), he was known (and feared) far and wide during the first half of his life as a powerful, ruthless Jewish kingpin with a notorious reputation for persecuting and even murdering Christians.

But one day, as Saul traveled with his cronies from Jerusalem while on a mission to arrest and / or kill Christians in Damascus, he was struck down by a light from heaven. At that point he heard the voice of Jesus, calling him out. “Why are you persecuting me?” Now blinded, Saul was led to Damascus by his motley crew, where he remained — blind for three days. To cut to the chase, when his sight finally was restored by a fellow named Ananias, Saul experienced one of, if not THE most amazing spiritual transformations ever recorded. 

Jim Caviezel (L) and James Faulkner (R) deliver
impressive performances as Luke and Paul.
Following three years of prayerful study, Saul reemerged as Paul. No longer an enemy to believers, Paul dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the land. But oddly, Paul soon experienced the same persecution that he once dealt to others — imprisonment, beatings and the like. Yet he remained diligent in "fighting the good fight" until his dying day.

And that's what makes his story so inspiring. If a despicable character like Saul was worthy of grace and forgiveness, and he could be transformed into "Paul" — a dedicated Christ-follower filled with love and compassion, how much hope is there for the rest of us? Listen, I've done A LOT of regrettable, filthy stuff in my life, but I never killed anybody. Get it?

Hmm — a former cruel villain who suddenly peddles and practices grace, forgiveness, kindness, love and compassion. Heck, even for the "smart" people who dismiss the Bible as a mere fairy tale, that's not just good stuff, that's GREAT stuff! And as a staunch, Bible-believing Jesus-follower, I was "all in" when I heard that part of Paul's story now was playing out at my local cineplex. "Two adult tickets to Paul, Apostle of Christ, please!" SPOILER ALERT: I don't cast spoilers.

Oliver Martinez as Roman jailer, Mauritius.
Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, the film picks up during Paul's final days while being held in a Roman prison. No stranger to persecution by this point in his life, Paul had been sentenced to death by Emperor Nero. His crime? A bogus charge of being a threat to the Roman Empire.

Simply put, in 67 AD, Rome was a tough place to be if you were a Christian. In fact, Christ-followers were forced to live in secrecy. Upon hearing of Paul's imprisonment, he's visited frequently by Luke, his longtime confidant and skilled Greek physician. And it was during those covert late-night meetings when Paul dictated his final words to Luke — writings that ultimately would be revealed throughout the New Testament.

Portrayed famously by James Faulkner, Paul appears much as many might expect — broken down, weary and soft-spoken. Played convincingly by Jim Caviezel, the younger and more virile Luke also soon finds himself as a guest of the Roman penal system. During their joint incarceration experience, we get a glimpse of the unique bond of friendship between the two men. Paul further reveals a dry sense of humor as well as an ongoing battle with his own inner demons. But even as the young Christians begin to take up arms in an effort to avenge the crimes committed against their people by the Romans, Paul remains resolute, calling for peace, love and grace.

As a theology graduate, I give Paul, Apostle of Christ high marks for what I consider biblical accuracy. However, I could easily have sat through an additional hour's worth of the various character's backstories. And as a guy who simply likes to "keep it real," I also offer the film mad props for feeling legit — world-class performances from an impeccable cast, realistic-looking sets, authentic wardrobe and no detectable silly wigs.

In sum, Paul, Apostle of Christ is a riveting, epic piece of work — one that I recommend, highly.

-Christopher Long
(April 2018)



C'MON! -

Thursday, April 5, 2018

CUT THE CAKE! (My Website Turns Eight)

My Website Turns Eight

Eight years, gone in a flash. And
after hundreds of features, reviews
and short stories, my little 1.2 acre
of cyber real estate now has been
visited half-million times. As I
reflected recently on this milestone,
I was reminded of all the amazing
people I've met and the incredible
places I've been along the way.
Dig these fun photo highlights.

As "The Show Biz Guru," I've reviewed
near countless live music events since
first launching this site back in 2010 
from rock and pop to country and blues.
And occasionally, I've had the pleasure
of connecting one-on-one with a few of
the artists whose concerts I've attended.

My 2013 encounter with the Jersey-
based RockNRoll Chorus a cappella
troupe was truly memorable.
Discover the group HERE.

And then there was that time in 2015 when I
found myself onstage with Mick Fleetwood.

Find my concert review HERE.
I had the privilege of spending some time with
Canadian combo, Courage My Love, following
their March 2018 Orlando concert performance.

Brimming with WOW-factor, my
site has become more about sharing
unique personal experiences than
merely dishing-up entertainment-
related reviews. And over the years,
I've met some fascinating people. 

Gaining new publishing insights from
children's author, Amy Sweezey, in 2015.

Read about it HERE.
Despite my waning personal political passion,
I found future U.S. President, Marco Rubio,
to be completely legit when we met up while

out on the campaign trail in 2016.
It's a universal perspective - EVERYBODY loves
ice cream. And my 2017 discovery of Jesse Long's
line of frozen treats was simply life-changing.
Get the full scoop HERE.

While I certainly continue to enjoy an
array of show biz exploits, my most
rewarding recent experiences have
 played out via my faith-based efforts.

I've discovered my true "comfort zone"
and a genuine love for people while
traveling on global missionary trips.
These days, my favorite "rock stars"
are the inspiring kids with whom I
"do life" in the field of youth ministry.

I remain grateful to everyone who has
taken the time to read not only my
stuff, but also the work of the many
"Guest Writers" who have contributed
compelling content to this site over
the years. And I'm eager to see what
lies ahead in the future. Stay tuned!

-Christopher Long
(April 2018)



C'MON! -