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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Resurrection Letters, Volume 1 – Andrew Peterson
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Ten years ago, Andrew Peterson, one of our most respected singer/songwriters, was working on an album that he says was more or less on the resurrection of Jesus. As he started working on the songs, he realized that they actually were more about the way Jesus’ resurrection plays out in our lives rather than the resurrection itself. So, the album was creatively titled Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2.
This year, Peterson finally began work on Vol. 1 with producer Ben Shive, who also produced Vol. 2, ten years ago. But Peterson felt it would be odd to write about Jesus’s victory over death without spending time writing about his death itself. That led to an EP, Resurrection Letters: Prologue. See my review here.
Now it is time for Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1. And it has been worth the wait. A Deluxe Edition version includes Resurrection Letters: Prologue. Below are a few brief comments about each song on this wonderful collection from one of our best songwriters.

His Heart Beats –  This joyful song is about our Lord waking up, coming back to life in the grave. It begins with a drum beat that sounds like a heartbeat. It includes piano, drum, acoustic guitar and backing vocals. The Lamb of God slain for us is a lion ready to roar. His work is already done, he has defeated death, the final enemy, and the grave. Death no long has dominion over him. He took one breath and put death to death. The song includes the chorus of the much-loved Matthew Bridges 1851 hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns”.
Key lyric: The blood that brought us peace with God is racing through his veins.
Risen Indeed – This is a song that Peterson wrote in 2009 on the Resurrection Letters Volume 2 tour and was saving to record for Resurrection Letters Vol. 1. The song begins with piano and builds with base and drum. He sings of Peter racing to the tomb and then of Jesus speaking Mary’s name. Abraham could not have dreamed of how all of those promises would be fulfilled in Jesus.
Key lyric: He is not dead; he is risen, risen indeed.
Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

A Million Lights – Michael W. Smith
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A Million Lights is one of two new albums the 60-year-old Contemporary Christian Music legend Michael W. Smith released in February. And the two albums could not be any more different. While Surrounded is a live worship album of originals and covers similar to his other three live worship albums, A Million Lights is an album of all new pop songs. The first nine songs reflect a new sound, leaning on synthesizers and electronic dance beats, giving the album a fresh, modern toe-tapping sound. Think of Michael W. Smith meets Toby Mac. Smith used multi-platinum producer and songwriter Bryan Todd and songwriter Kyle Lee to help flesh out his vision for the new songs. Three of the final four songs will sound more familiar to Smith fans. I would have preferred that he continue with the new sound all the way through the album, but I give him a lot of credit for experimenting and taking chances with a more current sound for most of the album. While at first, the new sound was hard to adjust to (as I heard Surrounded first), the songs on A Million Lights grew on me with each repeated listen. So, if the album’s new sound puts you off at first, give it a chance. The theme of the album is on unity and reconciliation in our divided society, so the uplifting lyrics are filled with hope.

Below are a few comments about each song:
A Million Lights – This song is written by Kyle Lee and Smith and was the album’s first single. The song is musically interesting, opening with piano and building with backing vocals and synths. It is a celebration of God’s creation, as all of the stars are singing for Him. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


I Knew You When – Bob Seger (Deluxe Edition)
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This is 72-year old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Seger’s eighteenth studio album. It was self-produced and recorded in Detroit and Nashville and dedicated to longtime friend Glenn Frey, who died in 2016. The album cover features a mid-60’s photo of Seger. Some of the songs were written and originally recorded several years ago.
I saw Seger in concert with the Silver Bullet Band back at the now defunct Poplar Creek Music Theatre near Chicago in the summer of 1980 and have enjoyed his music ever since. Here are a few brief comments about each of the songs:
Gracile –  The album opens strong with this rocker, featuring excellent guitar, including a nice solo, bass, drums and backing vocals. This song is a about a woman. She’s a winner, her body is gracile (slender, thin, graceful), and she’s in control.  
Busload Of Faith
–  This song was written by Lou Reed and appeared on his 1989 album New York. It was the first single released from the new album.  Seger changed some of the lyrics, substituting “You can’t depend on the President” for Reed’s “You can’t depend on the churches”. It’s an upbeat song with horns, a guitar solo and gospel-like backing vocals.
The Highway – This rocker is driven by guitar and a drum beat. It features a strong vocal by Seger, backing vocals, some of which sounds like an uncredited Bruce Springsteen, and a guitar solo. In a world of phony prophets, he’s packing up his gear, getting out of here and heading for the highway.    Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Resurrection Letters: Prologue
****

Ten years ago, Andrew Peterson, one of our most respected singer/songwriters, was working on an album that he says was more or less on the resurrection of Jesus. As he started working on the songs, he realized that they actually were more about the way Jesus’s resurrection plays out in our lives rather than the resurrection itself. So, the album was creatively titled Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2.
This year, Peterson finally began work on Vol. 1 with producer Ben Shive, who also produced Vol. 2, ten years ago. But Peterson felt it would be odd to write about Jesus’s victory over death without writing about his death itself. That led to this recording, which he humorously has called the prequel to the prequel. Got all that?
Volume 1 will be out soon. For this release, Peterson has written ““The five songs on Prologue are meant to be a sort of fast, opening with the last words of Jesus on the cross and ending with his interment in the tomb. May they’ll be a good reminder of the hard road Jesus walked in order to make the world new.”

Let’s look at the excellent EP, Resurrection Letters: Prologue, which is superbly written and performed:
Last Words (Tenebrae) – This beautiful song driven by piano, light percussion and backing vocals, focuses on Jesus’s last words on the cross, beginning with, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. The vocals are layered and build powerfully throughout the song. Ending with “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”.
Well Done, Good and Faithful – This song features piano and light percussion. It takes the listener through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, through his cries and groans when his Father turned away from him. The chorus is based on Hebrews 12:2 which reads in part “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus finished his work, well, good and faithful, reminding us of the servant in Matthew 25:23.
The Ninth Hour – This is a beautiful instrumental featuring strings and piano. Mark 15:33 states “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
Always Good – This intimate song to Jesus is driven by acoustic guitar and backing vocals. Jesus, who laid down his life and suffered for us, knows what we are feeling. Somehow His sorrow is shaping our hearts like it should, as we try to believe what is not meant to be understood. It’s hard to know what He is doing. Help us to trust that His intentions for us are still good. Maybe the answer surrounds us, but we don’t have the eyes to see that He’s always good.
God Rested – The EP ends with this song about Jesus’s body being taken down from the cross and being buried in the tomb of a rich man. Pilate had no peace during this time. Peterson creatively connects God’s work in creation with Jesus’s work. “Six days shall you labor, the seventh is the Lord’s. In six He made the earth and all the heavens, but He rested on the seventh.” He worked till it was finished (Matthew 19:30). God blessed the seventh day. The song is driven by piano, drums, synth and backing vocals.

Peterson has stated that his hope is that the listener would use these five songs during Lent and Holy Week to dwell on the terrible road Jesus had to walk in order to conquer not just sin, but the grave.
Meditate on these songs as you prepare your heart to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.
Andrew will be one of the speakers at the Sing! 2018 Conference September 10-12 in Nashville. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

musicnewsAndy Mineo: Rappers Are Missionaries, Too. Andy Mineo talks to Christianity Today about Christian hip-hop, the role of creators and entertainers in the church, and how he feels God pushing him out of his own comfort zone.

    • 2016 Grammy Award Nominations. The Grammy Awards nominees were announced last week. Among those receiving nominations were Matt Maher, Toby Mac, James Taylor, Don Henley and Bob Dylan.
  • The Year in Christian & Gospel 2015: Hillsong United and Tasha Cobbs Triumph. Jim Asker of Billboard Magazine writes “Australian worship music collective Hillsong United finishes 2015 as the top Christian artist, repeating from 2014.”
  • Worship Night in America. Chris Tomlin presents five Worship Night In America dates with Louie Giglio, Max Lucado, Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Israel Houghton, and Phil Wickham and Tomlin. Closest one in the Midwest is in the Chicago area July 16.
  • Adore Exclusive Edition. Target is caring a special edition of Chris Tomlin’s Adore: Worship Songs of Christmas featuring two additional songs
  • Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat – Take 8. Listen to this song from Bob Dylan’s new The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12.

Song of the Week 

The Power of a Great Affection by Andrew Peterson

 

This week we continue our countdown to our annual “My Favorites” listing with our #2 song of the year, “The Power of a Great Affection” by Andrew Peterson, from his excellent album The Burning Edge of Dawn. Listen to the song here.

I cannot explain the ways of love
Life cannot explain the grace of kindness
There’s no reason that can satisfy enough
The healing of this blindness

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

And even in the days when I was young
There seemed to be a song beyond the silence
The feeling in my bones was much too strong
To just deny it. I can’t deny this

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection

Now this is the theme of my song
Now I must forgive as I am forgivenThe Burning Edge of Dawn
And even when the shadows are long
I will sing about the Son that’s risen

That His kingdom has no end
And His kingdom has no end

I will praise Him for the fields of green and gold
I will praise Him for the roar of many waters
I will praise Him that the secret things of old
Are now revealed to sons and daughters

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

So Father I will give You thanks and praise
The Son has opened wide the gate of glory
He declared your mighty love and gave His grace
And I will tell his story
It is my story

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection

Now this is the theme of my song
Now I will forgive as I’m forgiven
And even when the shadows are long
I will sing about the Son that’s risen

That his kingdom has no end
His kingdom has no end
His kingdom has no end
His kingdom has no end
His kingdom has no end

music quote 2


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Behold the Lamb of GodMusic Review:  Behold the Lamb of God 10th Anniversary 2-Disc Set – Andrew Peterson
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I have to admit that I’m late to appreciate the music of Andrew Peterson. However, since seeing him in concert a few months ago I’m trying to make up for lost time by picking up After All These Years, his latest The Burning Edge of Dawn and this, his Christmas album Behold the Lamb of God.

This 10th Anniversary 2-disc set released in 2009, celebrates ten years that Peterson and friends have been performing the music on this album (recorded in 2004) live in annual Christmas concerts. This edition includes the original album remastered, plus the complete Behold the Lamb of God concert recorded live on the 2008 tour. See the dates for the 2015 tour on Peterson’s website.

Peterson has written that the album is a musical about the birth of Christ; an album that tells a story. The songs have the purpose of telling the true tale of the coming of God into the world.  Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition, writes “Here are some YouTube videos for Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb album and live performance–a sort of biblical theology set to song by a talented musician and songwriter.”

He states: “What makes this bunch of songs unique is that I wanted to remind (or teach) the audience that the story of Christmas doesn’t begin with the birth of Jesus. Many people tend to forget or have never even learned that the entire Bible is about Jesus, not just the New Testament.

So the musical begins with Moses and the symbolic story of the Passover (Passover Us) and works its way through the kings and the prophets with their many prophecies about the coming Messiah (So Long, Moses) to the awful four hundred years of silence before God told Mary she’d be having a baby (Deliver Us). After the song called Matthew’s Begats, which lists the genealogy of Jesus, the story picks up in more familiar territory with Mary and Joseph and the actual birth (It Came To Pass, Labor of Love). The final song is called Behold, the Lamb of God, which ties together the Passover and the beauty and scope of the story.”

You may recognize some of the singers and musicians who contribute to this album, including Andrew Osenga, Ben Shive, Sandra McCracken, Phil Madeira, Derek Webb, Steve Hindalong (of The Choir), Laura Story and Fernando Ortega. The quality of the music (including a few instrumentals) and singing is excellent.

This is not your typical Christmas album. I look forward to enjoying this album for many Christmas seasons to come.

musicnews

·       Manola. Watch Trip Lee’s new video of his song “Manola”, featuring Lecrae.

·       What Would People Think If They Knew That I’m a ‘Jesus Freak’ Freak? Joel Heng Hartse looks back at DC Talk’s Jesus Freak album, which he calls “the most important Christian pop album of all time”, released 20 years ago.

·       Sara Groves Interview – Floodplain. Read this interview with Sara Groves about her new album Floodplain.

·       Chick Fil-A (to the tune of the Beatles’ Yesterday). Enjoy this humorous song. I can only say a big “Amen” to this.

·       Jeremy Camp Ups ‘Power’ to No. 1 on Christian Airplay Chart. Jeremy Camp topped Billboard‘s Christian Airplay chart on November 21, “Same Power”. The song is Camp’s eighth No. 1, lifting him into a solo share for the third-most No. 1s in the chart’s 12-year history. MercyMe leads with 13 toppers, followed by Casting Crowns (9). Camp passes Chris Tomlin and Third Day, each with seven number ones.

·       Adore. Watch this video of Adore, the title song from Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas album.

·       Mr. Blue Sky. Jeff Lynn of the Electric Light Orchestra, is back with a new album Alone in the Universe. He recently performed the ELO song “My Blue Sky” on The Tonight Show.

·       Hello. Adele sings “Hello” from her new album 25 (already the top-selling album of 2015) with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots on The Tonight Show.

·       Presidential Medal of Freedom. Congratulations to James Taylor, who will receive the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, at a ceremony at the White House.

·       You Can Close Your Eyes. Watch Stephen Colbert sing “You Can Close Your Eyes” with James Taylor.

·       Party Lights. Watch this lyric video of “Party Lights” from The Ties That Bind: The River Collection by Bruce Springsteen.

Music Quotes:

  • Love people. Use things. Never vice versa. Lecrae
  • The world is over. Adele just dropped. My wife is losing it right now. I’ve already heard HELLO 5093498273 times. I ain’t even mad tho. Andy Mineo
  • Many worship song writers use what I call “Yoda-speak”. Eg. “Son of God, you are” or “His righteousness, I am” – Drives me nuts, it does! Fernando Ortega

M. Card Quote

Song of the WeekGood Good Father
by Chris Tomlin

This week we continue our countdown to our annual “My Favorites” listing with our #4 song of the year, “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin. Listen to the song here.

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you can provide
Cause you know just what we need
Before we, we say a word

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father
And I’m loved by you

You are perfect in all of your ways
Perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, It’s who I am

You are perfect in all of your ways

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Don HenleyMusic Review: Cass County (Deluxe Edition) by Don Henley
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The first album in 15 years (and fifth overall) from the 68 year-old founding member, drummer and co-lead vocalist of the Eagles, recently debuted at #1 on Billboard magazine’s Country Charts, his first solo album to top the charts. The album is co-produced by Henley and Stan Lynch (former drummer with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and features guest appearances from Mick Jagger, Merle Haggard, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Ashley Monroe and others.

The album was recorded in Nashville and also in Dallas where Henley lives, and took several years to complete. While many are calling it Henley’s “country album”, he says much of it fits better into the Americana format. The album title refers to the underpopulated area of east Texas near the borders of Arkansas and Louisiana, where Henley was born in 1947 and grew up in the 1950’s. The deluxe edition includes 16 songs, eleven of which were written by Henley and Lynch with others, and is solid from the opening cover of alternative country artist Tift Merritt’s “Bramble Rose”, featuring Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger (who actually does country quite well), to the closing rocker “Where I Am Now”. Henley’s ballads include themes of the passage of time, looking at the past and also to the future, regret, acceptance and love, present and in the past.

McBride joins Henley for a duet on “That Old Flame”, as well as singing on the closing “Where I Am Now”. “That Old Flame” is a song about long-lost friends who were once lovers. “Where I Am Now” is a confident song in which Henley reflects on his life, liking where he is now.

I been east, west, north and south
But I made it through somehow
And I like where I am now

“Take a Picture of This” portrays the end of a marriage. Dolly Parton joins him on the Louvin Brothers’ hit from sixty years ago “When I Stop Dreaming”.

“A Younger Man” is about a younger woman falling for an older man, but he sings:

If you believe in better days ahead
For this crazy human race
That we will somehow be delivered
By goodness and by grace
And if you’re lookin’ for believers
In faith and hope and charity
Then, you’re you’re lookin’ for a younger man – not me

“Train in the Distance” is the album’s most autobiographical song as Henley reflects back on his childhood when life was simple and now the responsibilities of an adult as he sings:

You better make friends with your angels and your demons
They will be riding with you wherever you go

“The Cost of Living” with Merle Haggard is about dealing with getting older, but not regretting a single day as they sing: It’s the cost of living and everyone pays.

“Waiting Tables” is the story of a young girl who grew up in a small town, married a reckless fool, and is now a single mother waiting tables. She sighs: Dear Lord above, there must be more than this.

“Praying for Rain” is about farmers dealing with drought conditions and praying for rain soon:

I’m praying for rain
I’m praying for rain
Lord, I ain’t never asked for much
And I don’t mean to complain
But I’m praying for rain

In singing about pride in “Too Much Pride”, which features some tasty piano from Mike Rojas, he sings:

Some people tell you it’s a good thing
Some people tell you it’s a sin
Just like a weed in the garden
You’re askin’ for trouble if you let it in

I’m a longtime Eagles fan who saw them in concert more than 35 years ago in their prime. I’ve listened to this album several times, and it sounds better with each succeeding listen. I’ve always loved Henley’s voice and it is still excellent here. The songwriting and instrumentation are strong and the album benefits from the guest artists and their contributions. I found it to be one of the top releases of the year.

musicnews

Music Quotes:

  • I don’t want to sacrifice who I am for the sake of acceptance. Andy Mineo
  • There is no humility I can manufacture, no penitence I can create that can move the heart of God. True brokenness is a gift from Him alone. Fernando Ortega
  • There is grace today for yesterday’s failures. Lecrae

Song of the Week

The Burning Edge of DawnBe Kind to Yourself by Andrew Peterson

This week’s song of the week is a song that Andrew Peterson wrote for his daughter Skye, who deals with self-condemnation. He performed this song when we saw him in concert on August 29 when he was accompanied on drums by his 15 year-old son Asher. He sings that he loves Skye just the way she is, and the way the Lord is shaping her heart. Watch the video here.

You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean
And you’re drowning in a deep, dark well
I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice
You would rather be anyone else

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He made your precious heart

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can’t believe your Father knows best

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He’s shaping your heart

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

How does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too