Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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American Standard – James Taylor
****

American Standard is James Taylor’s 19th studio album, and first new album since 2015’s Before This World. The songs on the album are songs he has always known. He writes in the liner notes that most were part of his family’s record collection, the first music he heard as a kid growing up in North Carolina.
Work on the album began a little over two years ago when John Pizzarelli joined Taylor at the Barn, his recording studio in Massachusetts to work on a few songs. Taylor loved the sound of their two guitars together, and that forms the basic sound of these songs, giving it the feel of Taylor’s early recordings. As he reinterprets these songs, he is supported by his regular family of players who tour and record with him, as well as contributions from Viktor Krauss (upright bass), Stuart Duncan (violin) and Jerry Douglas (dobro). The album is produced by Taylor, along with Dave O’Donnell and John Pizzarelli.
Below are a few comments about each of the songs on the album:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and reviews of
    • More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 – Bob Dylan
    • Live from the NATIVE TONGUE Tour – Switchfoot
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

My Blue Heaven. This song was written by Walter Donaldson and George A. Whiting in 1924. The song was used in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. The upbeat song is driven by acoustic guitar and features violin and bass and a nice violin solo mid-song.
Moon River. This song was written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer in 1960. It was originally performed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. Later it would become Andy Williams’ theme song. This song is driven by acoustic guitar and features what sounds like a harmonica solo mid-song.
Teach Me Tonight. This song was written by Gene De Paul and Sammy Cahn in 1953. The song is driven by acoustic guitar and features light percussion, bass, and features a nice horn solo mid-song.
As Easy as Rolling Off a Log. This song was written by M.K. Jerome and Jack Scholl, a song featured in Katnip Kollege, a 1938 Merrie Melodies cartoon that Taylor first discovered as a child. The upbeat song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, a nice horn solo mid-song and closes with some whistling.
Almost Like Being in Love. This song was written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner in 1947 for their musical Brigadoon. This easy-going song is driven by acoustic guitar and features backing vocals, and a horn solo mid-song.
Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat. This song was written by Frank Loesser in 1950, and was introduced in the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. This upbeat song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, light percussion, and backing vocals.
The Nearness of You. This song was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington in 1938. The song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, horns, including a nice horn solo mid-song.
You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught. This song was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1949 for the musical South Pacific. The song is driven by acoustic guitar and features violin.
God Bless the Child. This song was written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. in 1941. It is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, light percussion, and features a nice guitar solo mid-song.
Pennies from Heaven. This song was written by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke in 1936, appearing in the film of the same name. The upbeat song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, horn and some nice Hammond B3 organ.
My Heart Stood Still. This song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1927. It was written for the Charles Cochran review One Dam Thing After Another. The song is driven by acoustic guitar and features violin, light percussion and bass.
Ol’ Man River. This song was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927, and appeared in the musical Show Boat. The slow-paced song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass, with Taylor offering an expressive vocal.
It’s Only a Paper Moon. This song was written by Harold Arlen, Yip Hardburg and Billy Rose in 1932. The song was originally written for the unsuccessful Broadway play The Great Magoo. This easy-going song is driven by acoustic guitar and features bass and backing vocals.
The Surrey with the Fringe on Top. This song was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1943 and appeared in the musical Oklahoma!  The song is driven by acoustic guitar, and features vocals Taylor’s wife Caroline.

Best songs:
Teach Me Tonight
As Easy as Rolling Off a Log
It’s Only a Paper Moon
Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat
Pennies from Heaven

More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 – Bob Dylan
****

Blood on the Tracks was the first Bob Dylan album I bought new. I had the iconic album cover on the wall of my basement apartment my Dad had built for me to live in during college. Little did I know then that the album had quite the recording history. The songs were primarily written by Dylan on his farm in Minnesota while his marriage to Sara was disintegrating. He started the recording process by working solo with engineer Phil Ramone in New York City in September, 1974. Ramone then brought in the band Deliverance to back Dylan, but that collaboration didn’t work well. Dylan chose to record the rest of the material over the four days of recording in NYC with Deliverance bassist Tony Brown. Still not satisfied, and with only a month to go before the album was to be released, in December Dylan’s brother set up two days of recordings in Minnesota with local musicians while Dylan was still tweaking lyrics. The original Blood on the Tracks album contained five songs from the NYC sessions and five from the Minnesota sessions.
Something I wasn’t aware of was that Dylan had asked Ramone to speed up the mix 3%. Ramone also added a bit of a studio echo. The songs on More Blood, More Tracks removes the accelerated mix and echo.
Like most of the Bootleg Series, this fourteenth volume comes in different configurations, including a 6 CD, 87 tracks limited edition version. I purchased the single CD compilation of alternate versions of the album’s 10 songs plus one that wasn’t included, “Up to Me” from the NYC sessions. The recordings are acoustic and intimate and will be enjoyed by Dylan fans. “Up to Me” fits well with the rest of the originally released songs on the album. Dylan has always included biblical imagery in his songs. “Up to Me” includes the interesting verse:
We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex
It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects

When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty
Somebody’s got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me

Live from the NATIVE TONGUE Tour – Switchfoot
***

This six-song EP, from Switchfoot was recorded live at the Tabernacle in Atlanta on the band’s Native Tongue tour. It once again proves that Switchfoot is an excellent live band. Here are a few comments about each song.
Native Tongue – This song was written by Tim Foreman, Jon Foreman and Brent Kutzle. It starts with Jon telling the crowd that rather than fear, hatred, and retaliation, love is our native tongue. The song has a great beat, beginning with Jon singing over hand claps and light drums before a driving drum comes in. The song includes some effective backing vocals. I really appreciated the Chad Butler’s drums on the song. Tim Foreman’s bass comes through on this version more so than it did on the studio version. There is also a nice guitar solo on the song. Where did we go wrong, we forgot our song? He wants the world to sing in her native tongue and use our lungs for love.
Voices – This song was written by Brent Kutzle, Jon Foreman, Ryan Tedder, Tim Foreman and Tyler Spry. The song, which was inspired by a homeless man at the beach, begins with some excellent electric guitar, before Jon’s vocal kicks in. Butler’s drums drive an excellent beat, which features Jerome Fontamillas’ keys. In the catchy chorus, Jon sings of having an army of voices in his head. Each moment is crowded with choices, which speak to him and drown out the voices. There are also some good backing vocals on the song.
Let it Happen – This song was written by Jon Foreman. The song features crashing guitars and driving drums, over Jon’s lead vocal. Backing vocals join him for the chorus and there is a nice guitar solo mid-song. This life seems hollow and mostly borrowed. He doesn’t know the meaning and his body is aching. He doesn’t know what is going to happen tomorrow but he trusts God with his future. Excellent song and performance.
Take My Fire – This song was written by Tim Foreman and Jon Foreman. The song begins with drums, then distorted guitar.  Satan is never going to take his fire, his love for God. The defiant, guitar-driven rocker features a brief guitar solo and slows down mid-song before a powerful ending.
All I Need – This song was written by Tim Foreman and Jon Foreman. The band sings the song around one microphone to bring it back to where it all began. You can hear the crowd singing along. The love song begins with acoustic guitar, before keys, bass and drums are added later in the song. The chorus is memorable as he sings that all he needs is the air he breathes, the time they share and the ground beneath his feet.  He wants to know if she believes in him.
Native Tongue – This is another version of the first song on the EP. Chad Butler’s drum work really stands out on this song. It is a bit of a different version of the song, but I question why the band would include two versions of the same song on a six-song EP.

  • Set Me Free. Check out the video for “Set Me Free”, the new song from Lecrae and YK Osiris, the first song released from Lecrae’s forthcoming album Restoration.
  • 25 Hymns to Sing in Troubled Times. Matt Merker writes “Here are 25 songs to sing in trying times. Though there’s a ton of relevant Christian music out there, I’ve limited myself to hymns suited for congregational singing, recognizing that many Christians won’t be able to sing with their churches this month. These songs may help soothe the wound of missing out on fellowship.”

Recently, Getty Music released their Easter hymn for 2020: “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.” Performed by Matt Papa, this song represents the first major collaboration among their entire team of hymn writers – Matt Boswell, Keith Getty, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker and Matt Papa – and is a reminder to us in troubled times that our hope comes from Christ alone. Watch the lyric video for the song, performed by Matt Papa. Watch the song’s writers in this “Behind the Song” video and read this article from Keith Getty about the song.

Verse 1
What is our hope in life and death?
Christ alone, Christ alone
What is our only confidence?
That our souls to him belong
Who holds our days within his hand?
What comes apart from his command?
And what will keep us to the end?
The love of Christ in which we stand

Chorus 1
O sing hallelujah! Our hope springs eternal
O sing hallelujah! Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death

Verse 2
What truth can calm the troubled soul?
God is good, God is good
Where is his grace and goodness known?
In our great Redeemer’s blood
Who holds our faith when fears arise?
Who stands above the stormy trial?
Who sends the waves that bring us nigh unto the shore
The rock of Christ

Verse 3
Unto the grave, what shall we sing?
Christ, He lives! Christ, he lives!
And what reward will heaven bring?
Everlasting life with him
There we will rise to meet the Lord
Then sin and death will be destroyed
And we will feast in endless joy
When Christ is ours forevermore

Chorus 2
O sing hallelujah! Our hope springs eternal
O sing hallelujah! Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death

Chorus 3
O sing hallelujah! Our hope springs eternal
O sing hallelujah! Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death

Tag
Now and ever we confess
Christ our hope in life and death

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 39 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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