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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Here are reviews from four brand-new albums:

Jesus is King – Kanye West

Jesus is King is the highly anticipated and publicized new album, and the first gospel music album, from the controversial Kanye West. I’ll admit that I’ve not previously heard any music from West, who has won an amazing 21 Grammy Awards.
This year, West began attending Placerita Bible Church in Newhall, California. The church is a non-denominational congregation, led by senior pastor, Adam Tyson, a graduate of the respected Master’s Seminary, which was founded by John MacArthur. Tyson has been instrumental in guiding Kanye West’s spiritual journey, including consulting on the lyrics of this album.
West uses a lot of collaborators on the writing and producing of these songs. This album, his ninth studio project, clocks in at only 27 minutes, and topped the charts upon release.
My overall assessment is that while inconsistent, this is a solid effort and worth consideration from those who enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music. Here are a few comments about each song:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and reviews of~
  • Three Cords & The Truth – Van Morrison
  • Western Stars – Songs from the Film – Bruce Springsteen
  • What’s My Name – Ringo Starr
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

Every Hour – This song was written and produced by Budgie Beats, Federico Vindver and West. The song doesn’t include West, but instead features the Sunday Service Choir, from West’s weekly Sunday Service that he has been holding in 2019. Backed by piano, the choir sings that we should sing every hour till the power of the Lord comes down.
Selah – This song was written by Sean Leon, CyHi The Prynce, Rennard East, A. Jeffrey LaValley, Pusha T, No Malice, Federico Vindver, Dexter Raymond Mills Jr., Ant Clemons and West. It was produced by Boogz, Francis Farewell Starlite, Vindver, E*Vax and Benny Blanco. “Selah” is a Hebrew word used often in the Psalms, that tells us to pause, stop and consider. West raps over synth and drum beat. The Sunday Service Choir handles the chorus, comprised almost entirely of the word “Hallelujah”.
Key lyric:
To whom the son set free is free indeed
He saved a wretch like me. 
Follow God – This song was written by Xcelence, Boogz, Bryant Bell, Curtis Eubanks, Calvin Eubanks and West. It was produced by Xcelence, West and Boogz. The song samples Whole Truth’s 1974 “Can You Lose by Following God”. West raps about trying to live his life for Christ, sharing his struggles, having to respond to people pushing his buttons, especially those who really know you, such as his Dad telling him things he is doing and saying aren’t Christ-like.
Closed On Sunday – This song was written by A$AP Bari, Ab-Liva, Timbaland, Victory Elyse Boyd, Timothy Mosley, Pusha T, No Malice, Federico Vindver, Chango, Farias Gomez, Brian “All Day” Miller, Angel Lopez and West. The song was produced by Vindver, West, Timbaland, Miller and Lopez. In this song, West addresses resting on Sunday, referencing the popular quick service restaurant
Chick-fil-A, which is closed on Sunday. The pace of the song is slow, with West’s spoken word vocals over synth and light acoustic guitar. He says to hold the selfies and put away Instagram on Sunday, leading your family in prayer instead.
Key lyric:
I bow down to the King upon the throne
My life is His, I’m no longer my own
On God – This song was written by CAMEone, Boogz, CyHi The Prynce, Pi-erre Bourne, Federico Vindver and West. It was produced by CAMEone, Bourne, Boogz and West. Over a heavy bass beat and synth West raps biographically about his comments about the thirteenth amendment (which abolished slavery), the IRS, the Grammys etc.
Everything We Need – This song was written by Finatik, Boogz, CyHi The Prynce, Ronny J, Mike Dean, Zac, Federico Vindver, Bradford Lewis, Ant Clemons, Ty Dolla $ign and West. It was produced by FnZ, Ronny J and West. The song is driven by a good percussion beat and features acapella vocals on the chorus from Clemons and Ty Dolla $ign indicating that we have everything we need.
Water – This song is written by Boogz, Timbaland, Jahmal Gwin, Bruce Haack, Angel Lopez, Victory Elyse Boyd, Alexander Nelson Klein, Federico Vindver, Ant Clemons and West. It was produced by Boogz and West and features Clemons on vocals. The song is a prayer to Jesus, asking that he cleanse, heal, forgive, reveal, grace, etc.
God Is
– This song was written by Robert Fryson, Labrinth, Victory Boyd, Angel Lopez, Federico, Vindver, Warryn Campbell and West. It was produced by Labrinth, Campbell and West.  The song features a sample of “God Is” by James Cleveland’s Southern California Community Choir, and is a clear expression of West’s faith. He sings that God is alive and has opened up his vision, giving him a revelation. This isn’t a show, but a mission.
Hands On – This song was written by Xcelence, Timbaland, Federico Vindver, Fred Hammond and West. It was produced by Timbaland, Angel Lopez, Vindver and West. The song features Fred Hammond on some distorted vocals. On his spoken word vocal, West tells the devil, who he has been working for all his life, that he’s going on strike. He states that Christians will be the first to judge him when they find out that he has made a gospel album. He asks for prayer, and that hands be laid on him.
Use The Gospel – This song is written by Sean Leon, Boogz, Fonzworth Bentley, Ab-Liva, Timbaland, Pi’erre Bourne, Federico Vindver, Angel Lopez, Kenny G, West, Pusha T and No Malice. It was produced by Bourne, Lopez, Vindver, Timbaland and DRTWRK. The song features raps from the reunited Clipse (Pusha T and No Malice) on the verses, West sings the chorus and Kenny G provides a sax solo. Use the Gospel for protection, because it’s a hard road to Heaven. He puts his faith in the Father. 
Jesus Is Lord
– This song was written by Sean Leon, Timbaland, Federico Vindver, Claude Leveillee, Brian “All Day” Miller and West. It was produced by Miller, Angel Lopez, Timbaland, Vindver and West. The less than one-minute beautiful song has West singing lyrics adapted from Philippians 2: 10-11 over horns (trumpet, sax, tuba, French horn).
Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord 

Best Songs:
God Is
Use the Gospel
Jesus is Lord

West has announced that his next album will be Jesus is Born, to be released on Christmas day.

Three Cords & The Truth – Van Morrison

The legendary Van Morrison returns with the excellent Three Cords & The Truth, featuring nearly 70 minutes of music. It’s his sixth new album in the past four years, first of all new material since 2016’s Keep Me Singing, and one of the best of 2019. The album title is from a quote by Harlan Howard describing country music. Morrison produced the album and wrote all of the songs, with the exception of “If We Wait for Mountains”, which he co-wrote with Don Black. Morrison, who sounds great here, is backed by his road band and joined on six songs by guitarist Jay Berlinger, who played on Morrison’s classic Astral Weeks.

Here are a few brief comments about each song:
March Winds In February – This song features light drums, some excellent acoustic guitar from Berlinger, organ and a strong vocal from Morrison. He sings about the March winds in February on the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera).
Fame Will Eat The Soul – This song features a duet with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. The two teamed up after Morrison went to see Medley’s show in Las Vegas while he was recording there. Their voices blend well. The song is driven by electric guitar, light drums, piano and organ. Fame will eat the soul until you just can’t take it anymore.
Dark Night Of The Soul – This song features guitar, light drums, organ and piano.
He’s on his way to understanding things that he might not yet know. He’s looking for a brand-new day. A highlight.
Key lyrics:
Meditate on this and it will be revealed
Meditate on this and you will get healed
Meditate on this and you will whole
Get the vision of the ghost, again
In Search Of Grace – This song features drums, guitar, organ, guitar solo. The song is about a woman named Grace who disappeared and went off the radar back in 1967 or 1968.
Nobody In Charge – This is a toe-tapping blues song, that features organ, guitar and sax and includes Morrison’s commentary about politicians, the media and the police.
Key lyrics:
Speculation across the nation
Media implantation rules the day
Brainwash is easy, if everybody’s lazy
And everything always just looks grey

You Don’t Understand – This slow blues song features drums, bass, organ, piano and guitar. Morrison bites lyrics that state that you don’t understand how hard it can be for one man, and how evil people can be. Human nature can’t be trusted, it can’t be true, because it’s only human through and through. You don’t understand how mad, bad and dangerous some people can be.
Read Between The Lines – This upbeat song features drums, guitar and some excellent organ work. He had to read between the lines to keep staying in the game and to get back in the know.
Does Love Conquer All? – This mid-temp song features drums, guitar and a nice organ solo. Does it make any difference, or does love conquer all? Probably my least favorite song on the album.
Early Days – This upbeat rockabilly song features drums, guitar, piano and sax solos, and a spirited vocal from Morrison. He has to go back to the beginning, the early days of rock and roll to get back in touch with his memories and feelings. A highlight.
If We Wait For Mountains – This song was co-written with Don Black. It features piano, bass, light drums and some excellent organ work. It’s classic Morrison. A highlight.
Key lyrics:
Wonders all around us
And life is all we’ve got
If you wait for mountains then you’re
Gonna miss a lot

Up On Broadway – This is a slower easy-going song that features guitar, light drums, bass and some nice organ work. He’s up on Broadway, far away from trouble where the night is quiet and still. It’s where he wants to go. It’s far away from trouble.
Three Chords And The Truth – This toe-tapper features organ, piano, percussion and guitar. The song showcases the band with a good vocal by Morrison. He woke up in the morning and heard the good news. Three chords and the truth, a shot of rhythm and blues. A highlight.
Bags Under My Eyes – This song has an old time country music sound. It features light drums, guitar, bass, piano and a harmonica solo. He’s singing about being on the road and has bags under his eyes. When is he going to get wise?
Days Gone By – This song, which stretches to almost eight minutes, features, light drums, piano, bass, organ and guitar. The song references and samples “Auld Lang Syne”. Morrison provides a passionate vocal. He wants to drink a cup of kindness with her for the sake of the days gone by. Everything he’s doing, he had to fight for it in the days gone by.

Best songs:
Dark Night Of The Soul
Early Days
If We Wait For Mountains
Three Chords And The Truth

Western Stars – Songs from the Film – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Western Stars – Songs from The Film, is the soundtrack album to the film Western Stars, Springsteen’s directorial debut (co-directed by Thom Zimny). The album features each of the live performances from the film that were recorded in front of a small audience of friends in a 100-year-old barn on Springsteen’s Stone Hill Farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey. The album includes live versions of each of the fourteen songs on Western Stars – which was his first studio album of all new, original material since his 2012’s Wrecking Ball – plus a spirited cover of Glen Campbell’s 1975 hit “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Read my review of the Western Stars studio album here.
Springsteen is backed by a band, a 30-piece orchestra, backing singers and his wife Patti Scialfa on guitar and vocals. There is basically no interaction with the audience, with the focus being on the intimate performance of the songs. The performances here are good, but not different enough from the studio versions released just four and a half months earlier to warrant purchasing this album. Die- hard Springsteen fans should just consider downloading “Rhinestone Cowboy”.
Here is the official trailer from the film Western Stars.

What’s My Name – Ringo Starr
** ½

The Beatles broke up nearly 50 years ago. Only Paul McCartney and 79-year-old Ringo Starr survive. What’s Your Name is Ringo’s 20th studio album. It’s about what you would expect from Ringo – a lot of “peace and love”, Beatles references and guest artists (Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Dave Stewart and a number of past and current All-Star Band members). The lyrics aren’t deep, oftentimes the song’s title will tell you all you need to know about the song’s content. But What’s My Name is also a lot of fun, and his happiness and positive outlook is infectious.
The album, which clocks in at just under 35 minutes, was recorded at Ringo’s home studio Roccabella West. It was produced by Ringo who played drums, and recorded and mixed by Bruce Sugar. Here are a few brief comments about each song:
Gotta Get Up To Get Down – This song was written by Ringo and brother in law Joe Walsh after they heard Klaus Voorman (who designed the Beatles 1966 Revolver album cover) say “Well, you’ve got to get up to get down”. Walsh plays guitar and adds vocals to this quirky, but entertaining rocker that features Edgar Winter on clavinet.
It’s Not Love That You Want – This upbeat song was written by Ringo and Dave Stewart. Stewart plays guitar and Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) plays clavinet. It’s not love that you want, but it’s love that you need.
Grow Old With Me – This is the song from the album that most people will be interested in. It was written by John Lennon shortly before he was murdered in 1980. On the demo of the song, Lennon indicated that the song would be a good one for Ringo to sing, something Ringo wasn’t aware of until recently. The song features Paul McCartney on bass and backing vocals. It also features a good vocal from Ringo, piano and Joe Walsh on guitar. The string arrangement is by former Lennon producer Jack Douglas and Daniel Cole. Watch the lyric video here.
Magic – This upbeat song was written by Ringo and Steve Lukather (Toto). It features Lukather on piano and guitar and some good backing vocals.
Money (That’s What I Want) – This song was written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and was covered by the Beatles (with John Lennon on lead vocals), on their 1963 With the Beatles album. Steve Lukather plays guitar and there are some good backing vocals from Maxine Waters and sister Julie Waters on this fun remake.
Better Days – This song was written and co-produced by Sam Hollander, based on comments Ringo made in a magazine interview. The song is excellent musically with organ, piano, guitar solos, horns and features a good vocal by Ringo.
Life Is Good – This song was written by Ringo and Garry Burr. The song is catchy but has simplistic lyrics. It includes some nice guitar work by Steve Lukather and backing vocals.
Thank God For Music – This song was written by Ringo and Sam Hollander. It includes keys, guitar from Steve Lukather and backing vocals by Maxine Waters and Julia Waters. It’s catchy but has some almost embarrassing lyrics.
Send Love Spread Peace – This song was written by Ringo and Gary Nicholson. It features Benmont Tench on organ and piano, backing vocals, and a guitar solo by Steve Dudas. The song title pretty much explains what the song is about.
What’s My Name – This fun rocker was written by Colin Hay (Men at Work), and features piano, harmonica, backing vocals from Maxine Waters and Julie Waters, and a guitar solo by Steve Lukather. The title comes from Ringo’s question to his concert audiences.
Nothing stays the same
But I’m still in the game
What’s my name? (Ringo!)

A highlight. Watch the lyric video here.

Best songs:
Gotta Get Up To Get Down
Grow Old With Me
What’s My Name

  • Don’t Hold Back. Watch this video of Phil Keaggy and Rex Schnelle performing “Time” from their album Illumination.
  • The Best Christian Albums of the 2010s. Brett McCracken writes “The list includes familiar and unfamiliar names, new artists this decade and veterans who keep churning out exceptional work. The descriptions below—contributed by 11 Christian music makers, critics, or appreciators—include selections of four standout tracks for each listed album.”
  • Because He Lives (Amen). Watch the live video for the song “Because He Lives” by Matt Maher, recorded live across multiple venues in the spring of 2019.
  • Andrew Peterson on Why Artists Aren’t Better Than Everyone Else. Ivan Mesa interviews Andrew Peterson about how we’re all creative, the most helpful writing advice he’s received, what he wishes every Christian knew about artists, how the annual Behold of Lamb of God tour has affected him, and more.
  • 10 Worship Artists with Albums Based on the Psalms. Kevin Halloran writes “I’m thankful that many modern songwriters see the value of singing the Psalms and have recorded music based on them. For your listening and worshipping pleasure, I’ve gathered several contemporary worship albums based on the psalms, some of them even word-for-word renditions. My hope is that these songs would stir your hearts to worship and set your gaze heavenward.
  • New and Upcoming Albums. In case you missed this article, here are 11 new and upcoming albums you might be interested in.

The Same Jesus by Matt Redman
This week’s song of the week is from Matt Redman, from his forthcoming album Let There Be Wonder. Watch the lyric video here.

Whoa, whoa

[Verse 1]
This Jesus
Who carried our shame
This Jesus
Who rose from the grave
The same Jesus
We worship today, we worship today

[Verse 2]
He came to us
In grace and in truth
He’s still with us
And still on the move
The same Jesus
He is making us new, He is making us new

I know that my Redeemer lives
I know that my Redeemer lives
He’s still keeping all His promises
The same Jesus, the same Jesus
Whoa, whoa

[Verse 3]
He’s commanding
The wind and the waves
His kingdom
Forever shall reign
And we know that
He is coming again, He is coming again

O, I know that my Redeemer lives
I know that my Redeemer lives
He’s still keeping all His promises
The same Jesus, the same Jesus
Whoa, whoa

O, He’s the First and the Last
The Beginning and End
At the sound of His cry
All the world came alive
And He formed us from dust
Put His breath in our lungs
We were made for His love
But we ran from the light
But He wouldn’t give up
On His daughters and sons
So He took up the cross
And He laid down His life
Then He did what He said
When He rose from the dead
And He’s coming back again

I know that my Redeemer lives
I know that my Redeemer lives
He’s still keeping all His promises
The same Jesus, the same Jesus
I know that my Redeemer lives
I know that my Redeemer lives
He’s still keeping all His promises
The same Jesus, the same Jesus
(Whoa) O, forever the same
(Whoa) Forever the same
(Whoa) He’s still keeping all His promises
(Whoa) The same Jesus, the same Jesus

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.

One thought on “MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

  1. I hadn’t listened to West before either, and just as well judging by Spotify’s verdict on the bad language of his previous stuff. I must say I enjoy Jesus is King, although I think 3/5 *s is a fair assessment. He’s a baby Christian so hopefully he can only get better as a gospel artist.

    I hope Matt Redman’s song grows on me because I do tend to enjoy his music, and look forward to his latest album.

    Thanks brother, God bless 🙂

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