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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Wide Open – Michael McDonald

Wide Open is 65-year old Michael McDonald’s (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan), first new studio album in more than nine years, and first album of original material in seventeen years, following Blue Obsession in 2000. It follows three R&B/Soul cover albums for Motown, the most recent being Soul Speak, released in 2008. He has also released a few Christmas albums during this time.
The 71-minute album of keyboard-heavy soul and blues ballads was written over several years and recorded at McDonald’s Nashville studio, along with drummer Shannon Forrest (Toto), and session players from Nashville. The album features collaborations with guitarist-singer Warren Haynes, guitarist Robben Ford, bassist Marcus Miller and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
McDonald has said that most of the songs on the album have to do with sobriety, the journey in his life of getting sober, which he has been since 1986. It is a kind of wide open conversation of many different subjects, both musically and lyrically.
McDonald’s signature voice still sounds great. If I had any criticism of the album, it would just be that a few of the songs go too long, with only one song coming in at under four minutes.

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Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:
Hail Mary – Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, the opening song features McDonald’s wife Amy Holland on backing vocals. It’s driven by a bass beat and keyboards. Key lyric: Does the sound of my voice still carry any kind of message still important to you?
Just Strong Enough – This is a slow blues number featuring guitar, piano, horns and strings.
Find It In Your Heart – This was the first single released from the album. It will most remind you of McDonald’s 70’s funk groove, led by Marcus Miller’s bass. It has an old soul sound and wah-wah guitar. Key lyric: Love’s the truth that sets us free. A highlight.
Half Truth –  This song is written by McDonald’s son Dylan. It opens with a harmonica and is driven by drums and some excellent guitar work. It’s a sad song, slower in pace. Key lyric: It’s just one of those times, when a half truth, becomes a whole lie.  
Ain’t No Good – This song is about a relationship gone wrong and is driven by strong drumming and some excellent guitar. Key lyric: I ain’t looking for the key to heaven, just open the gates to hell enough to let me out.
Honest Emotion – McDonald has said that this is the most personal song for him on the album. It is about the kind of autopilot we go through life operating on, avoiding any real feelings that you might be feeling, and trying to just deal with the ones that are comfortable. It features acoustic guitar and strings. Key lyric: Would honest emotion even know me if I walk through this door?  
Blessing in Disguise – This song is driven by some strong drumming and excellent saxophone from Branford Marsalis. Key lyric: The highs and lows can only point to in between, but time will show a blessing in disguise.
Dark Side – This ballad starts slowly with acoustic guitar, and then builds with a good drum beat, horns, piano and strings. Key lyric:  We all know love is blind, we only see what we want, you’re bound to learn somehow love has a dark side.
If You Wanted to Hurt Me – this upbeat song is driven by drums, keyboards, guitar, piano and horns. She’s leaving him and running to another. McDonald lets loose on this song, which will sound great in concert.
Beautiful Child – This ballad starts slowly with drums and acoustic guitar and then builds. Key lyric: You can search this world over, and still be a prisoner in a cage.
Too Short – This song features the stories of three characters. Musically it has an upbeat breezy drum-driven pop beat with guitar, horn and backing vocals. Key lyric: This life, it was too short to give up.
Free a Man – This upbeat song is written by Richard Stekol. It has political lyrics, and musically is driven by drums, guitar, horns and a keyboard solo. This is another one I would like to see McDonald perform in concert. Key lyrics: Free a man and love will follow and Religion has not failed man, no, it’s the other way around.      

  • Vertigo. Watch Bono and The Edge from U2 play a stripped-down version of “Vertigo” recently on the Ellen Also check out “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” from the same program.
  • Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way. Check out U2 and Cheat Codes on this new version of U2’s “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way”. Here’s is Beck’s remix version of the song.
  • Gotta Live. Check out the new song from Tedashii, “Gotta Live”, featuring Jordan Feliz.
  • Family Photo. Watch the video for “Family Photo” from Andy Mineo’s new EP I: The Arrow.
  • Remember to Remember. Enjoy the video for Steven Curtis Chapman’s new song “Remember to Remember”.
  • New Lecrae Music. Lecrae will return on June 22 with a collaboration with producer Zaytoven. The album will be titled Let The Trap Say Amen.
  • You. Enjoy “You” from Switchfoot’s first album Legend of Chin. This is the first video in the Switchfoot Throwback Series.
  • Should We Sing of God’s “Reckless Love”? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question about the popular song “Reckless Love” “Is this a biblically and theologically correct way to describe God’s love? Is the term ‘reckless’ too reckless?”
  • Lamentations. Check out the video for Jackie Hill Perry’s song “Lamentations”.
  • Get Back Right. Check out “Get Back Right”, the first song from the new album by Lecrae and Zaytoven, Let the Trap Say Amen, which releases June 22.
  • Joy. Check out the video for For King & Country’s new single “Joy”.
  • Bullets. Check out “Bullets” from NEEDTOBREATHE’s upcoming EP Forever On Your Side (Niles City Sessions), to be released July 13.
  • Not a Hillsong to Die On. Writing about Hillsong’s popular song “So Will I (100 Billion X)”, David Mathis states “It’s difficult to read “evolving” here, in the context of nature and science, as anything other than an affirmation of what we might call “theistic evolution” — that God governed and guided the process modern science has called “evolution.”

  • Worship, unlike any other act, reminds us of who God is—the one who was and is and is to come! Chris Tomlin
  • The role of silence is to create the space where we encounter the silent Presence. Michael Card
  • In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you’re pretending or putting on. It’s got to be an overflow of your heart…Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God. Matt Redman
  • To follow Jesus doesn’t remove us from the stuff of life. It is not resolution. It is tension and journey. Crowder

  Face to Face by Mat Kearney

This week’s song of the week is Mat Kearney’s “Face to Face” from his new album CRAZYTALK.  Watch the video for the song here.
How many miles must it take to, breakthrough
And how many hours must we wait through, to hear the truth
How many moments did I trade in, for a fake kiss
How many chances did I forfeit, too afraid to miss

I feel Your thunder pourin’ like rain
Down on the mountains of all my mistakes
Rolling like rivers, running with grace
Into the ocean of Your embrace
Your hand on my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn’t pull me away
I hear the music Heaven has made
Oh when we’re standing, standing
Face to face
Face to face

How many nights with regret do I swear through

How many lives in the rear view, do I compare to

Hand on my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn’t pull me away
I hear the music Heaven has made
Oh when we’re standing, standing
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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