Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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Versatile – Van Morrison
****

The 72-year old Morrison follows his excellent September, 2017 blues album Roll with the Punches with the self-produced Versatile, his 38th studio album. The appropriately titled Versatile focuses on his interpretation of nine of the 20th century’s greatest vocal jazz standards, as well as 3 new jazz-influenced originals, three new versions of songs he’s previously recorded, “I Forgot That Love Existed,” “Only A Dream” and “Start All Over Again”, and an arrangement of the Scottish traditional “Skye Boat Song.” I thoroughly enjoyed this album, especially the more upbeat arrangements. It’s hard to go wrong with Morrison’s singing, excellent musicians and some great songs.
Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:

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  • More of this review and a review of You’re Driving Me Crazy by Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

Broken Record – This is a new song written by Morrison. The instantly likeable tune features piano and horns, including a couple of solos. Yes, his repeating of “broken record” may make you think that the record is stuck. The song is better musically than lyrically.
A Foggy Day – This song was written by George and Ira Gershwin and was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress. It has been covered by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Morrison’s version features horns and a nice piano solo.
Let’s Get Lost – This song was written by Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh and appeared in the 1943 film Happy Go Lucky. It has been recorded by Chet Baker and others. Morrison’s version features horns, piano, organ and a nice sax solo.
Bye-Bye Blackbird – This song was written by Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon in 1926. Morrison’s version features piano and horn, flute and piano solos, as well as a good vocal performance.
Skye Boat Song – This Scottish folk song was arranged by Morrison. The instrumental features several solos (horn, sax, piano).
Take It Easy Baby – This is a new song written by Morrison. It has an extended instrumental introduction with horns, piano and a sax solo and includes a good vocal by Morrison. It fits in well with the standards he’s recorded on the album.
Makin’ Whoopee – This song was written by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn, and was sung by Eddie Cantor in the 1928 musical Whoopee! Van gives the song a laid-back arrangement featuring horns and piano, with sax and guitar solos.
I Get a Kick Out of You – This song was written by Cole Porter and first appeared in the 1934 Broadway musical Anything Goes. Van gives the song a breezy arrangement featuring horns, light percussion and piano.
I Forgot That Love Existed (Live) – This song was written by Van Morrison and originally appeared on his 1987 album Poetic Champions Compose. The song features horns, piano and a sax solo. Key lyric: I forgot that love existed, then I saw the light, everyone around me make everything alright.
Unchained Melody – This song was written in 1955 by Alex North and Hy Zaret, and was a hit for the Righteous Brothers. You would not recognize Morrison’s slow version as “Unchained Melody”. Perhaps the one misstep on the album.
Start All Over Again – This song was written by Van Morrison. This upbeat song previously appeared on Morrison’s 1990 album Enlightenment. The song features horns and piano and is a highlight.
Only A Dream (Live) – This song was written by Van Morrison and originally appeared on his 2002 album Down the Road.  It features horns, piano, drums and a spirited vocal. There is a nice instrumental break midway through the song and sax solo towards the end. A highlight.
Affirmation – This is a new song written by Morrison and features Sir James Galway on flute.  It is primarily a contemplative instrumental, with Morrison proving some scatting.
The Party’s Over – This song was written by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne. It was introduced by Judy Holliday in the 1956 musical comedy Bells Are Ringing. This bouncy song features some excellent organ, horns and vocal from Morrison.
I Left My Heart in San Francisco – This song was written by George Cory and Douglass Cross in 1953 and is the signature song for Tony Bennett. Morrison delivers a slow version that gradually builds. The song features good sax, organ and guitar solos.
They Can’t Take That Away from Me – This song was written by George and Ira Gershwin and was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film Shall We Dance. Morrison’s version swings with an extended instrumental break in the middle, and a spirited vocal, giving the album a strong finish.

You’re Driving Me Crazy – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
****

This excellent new studio collaboration between Van Morrison and legendary Hammond organ/trumpet virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco is the 72-year-old Morrison’s 39th studio project and third in the past seven months. The album features new versions of jazz and blues standards as well as eight of Morrison’s previously released songs from 1968 to 2015. The album was recorded live with the musicians all located in the same room. The playing was spontaneous and the musicians improvised throughout with some incredible solos. The album was recorded all in one take over two days and it appears that the musicians had a great time making the album. DeFrancesco and his band – guitarist Dan Wilson, drummer Michael Ode and tenor saxophone player Troy Roberts – wonderfully accompany Morrison’s excellent vocals. I hope this is the first of multiple collaborations between DeFrancesco and Morrison.
Below are a few comments about each song from this excellent project:
Miss Otis Regrets – This song was written by Cole Porter in 1934. The song has a slow groove, featuring some nice saxophone, and Van doing some singing at a lower register. It also includes an excellent horn solo.
Hold It Right There – This song was written by Clark Terry, Grey and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. This song has a great beat from the beginning.  It features excellent organ and saxophone solos and some nice female backing vocals from Van’s daughter Shana.
All Saints Day – This song was written by Morrison and was first included on his 1991 album Hymns to the Silence. The song has an excellent beat driven by saxophone and organ. It features a wonderful organ solo.
The Way Young Lovers Do – This song was written by Morrison and was first included on Astral Weeks, his second album, released in 1968. The song is driven by horns and an extended organ solo.
The Things I Used to Do – This song was recorded by Eddie Jones in 1954. This upbeat song driven by some nice drums features a great vocal by Van and excellent organ, saxophone, guitar and harmonica solos.
Travelin’ Light – This song was written by Johnny Mercer, James Mundy and James Young in 1942.  It has a slower groove and is driven by horns and an expressive vocal by Van.  It features an excellent saxophone and organ solos.
Close Enough for Jazz – This song was written by Morrison and was first included on his 1993 album Too Long in Exile. The song features organ, including a great solo, and sax with a strong vocal from Van.
Goldfish Bowl – This song was written by Morrison and was first included on his 2003 album What’s Wrong with This Picture? This song has a slower groove driven by horns and organ and a great vocal from Van.  It includes excellent organ, guitar and saxophone solos.
Evening Shadows – This song was written by Morrison and Acker Bilk and was first included on his 2002 album Down the Road.  It has a punchy beat driven by saxophone, organ and drums. It features an excellent organ solo.
Magic Time – This song was written by Morrison and was first included on his 2005 album Magic Time. This song has a slow groove, driven by saxophone and organ, with a beautiful vocal from Van. It features an excellent saxophone solo.
You’re Driving Me Crazy – This song was written by Walter Donaldson in 1930 and opens with horns and features horn, guitar solos and an incredible organ solo.
Every Day I Have the Blues – This blues song was written by Peter Chatman. It features horns and a great organ, sax and guitar solos.
Have I Told You Lately – This is one of my favorite songs from Morrison, which was first included on his 1989 album Avalon Sunset. It features a much more upbeat groove than the original driven by organ and female backing vocals from Van’s daughter Shana. It features saxophone and organ solos.
Sticks and Stones – This song was written by Titus Turner. This song has a great beat from the very beginning. It features saxophone, keyboards, backing vocals and a great vocal from Van. It also includes keyboard and saxophone solos.
Celtic Swing – The closing instrumental was written by Morrison and was first included on his 1983 album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. It features an easy-going groove that showcases the excellent band.

  • Mini Beatles Reunion. Ringo Starr, along with Rolling Stone Ron Wood, joined Paul McCartney at his December 16 concert in London for the Beatles “Get Back”.
  • Hymns Live. Shane and Shane recently recorded a live version of their Hymns Vol. 1 You can watch the live concert here.
  • All I Need. Check out the video for “All I Need” from Switchfoot.
  • Reckless Love. Watch this live performance video of “Reckless Love” from Michael W. Smith’s recent Surrounded event in Nashville.
  • One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor. Watch Paul Simon perform my favorite song from his latest album Into The Blue Light.
  • Is He Worthy? Check out Chris Tomlin’s new live performance video of Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive’s song “Is He Worthy?”, which was my top song of 2018.

  • The words we sing should include thoughts that stir us to action and challenge us with the call of Christ in our lives. Keith Getty
  • The biggest difference between the Psalms and much of our modern music today is not (as many think) the length of songs, or the lack of repetition, or of the lesser use of the “I” pronoun – it is the breadth and depth of the character of God and how we as His creation humbly find our place within that. Keith Getty
  • We sing because we’re created to, commanded to, and compelled to. Keith Getty
  • Being vague and gospel-lite in congregational songs is not the way to be “seeker friendly.” Communicating the gospel in a way that informs the mind and engages the emotions is. The gospel is the church’s central lyrical distinctive. Keith Getty

 Is He Worthy? by Chris Tomlin & Shane and Shane

“Is He Worthy?” written by Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive and recorded by Peterson was my top song of 2018. Chris Tomlin later recorded the song for his Holy Roar album, and recently released a live version of the song performed in a small church in Nashville. You can watch the performance here. In addition, Shane and Shane recently recorded a live version on their Hymns Vol. 1 album. You can watch the live concert here. “Is He Worthy”? is the first song.

Do you feel the world is broken?
(We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen?
(We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through?
(We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new?
(We do)

Is all creation groaning?
(It is)
Is a new creation coming?
(It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst?
(It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?
(It is)

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us?
(He does)
Does the Spirit move among us?
(He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves?
(He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us?
(He does)

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

Is He worthy?  Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy?  Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy?  Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 38 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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