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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert – Bob Dylan
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The album’s rather strange title is based on the fact that for decades a famous Bob Dylan bootleg known as The Royal Albert Hall Concert was incorrectly labelled, having actually been a performance at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966.  That performance was officially released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall Concert”. This is actually the recording of the Royal Albert Hall concert, recorded May 26, 1966, and originally recorded by Dylan’s CBS label for a live album. This is the 2-CD version, which is also included in the massive 36-CD 1966 Live Recordings box set.
From a historical context, Dylan was fresh off of the release of his classic Blonde on Blonde double album just ten days prior to the concert. His set included material from his incredible trio of albums from that period Bringing It All Back Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.
The first CD is the acoustic set and contains seven songs, including an epic version of “Desolation Row”. Dylan’s voice sounds great, and he is backed only by his acoustic guitar and harmonica. The sound quality is excellent, and you hear the crowd’s appreciative but somewhat restrained applause.
The second CD is the electric set and has Dylan backed by the Hawks, who would become better known as The Band. The sound quality is not as a good as the acoustic set for some reason. The set begins with Dylan and the Hawks ripping into “Tell Me Momma”, a song he would never release a studio version of, and would play only 15 times on the 1966 tour, the final time being the concert after this one at the Royal Albert Hall. The music is raw and intense, led by Robbie Robertson’s guitar, and Dylan’s expressive vocals, spitting out the lyrics, quite a difference from the acoustic set. The crowd is energized and you hear Dylan interacting with them, stating before the start of a blistering “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”, “Are you talking to me?  Come on up here and say that”. The blistering eight-song electric set ends with “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone”.
Recommended for Dylan fans and music fans who might not already have heard the earlier The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall Concert”. Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Triplicate – Bob Dylan
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You can never put Bob Dylan in a box. He will always surprise you. After 2015’s Shadows in the Night, he followed up with 2016’s Fallen Angels, a similar album of his unique interpretation of standards that had been recorded by Frank Sinatra. His last album of newly written material was 2012’s Tempest. So after winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, what does the 75-year old legend follow Fallen Angels up with, just over 10 months following that album? One might expect a stunning new album of songs about the state of our nation (racial tension, election of Trump, etc.). But Dylan rarely does what we expect him to do.  Instead he returns with the excellent Triplicate, his 38th studio album, a 30-song, three-album (his first triple album), project of newly recorded covers of mostly pre-World War II/rock and roll music songs known as the Great American Songbook.
Dylan, his touring band – guitarists Charlie Sexton and Dean Parks, bassist Tony Garnier, drummer George Recile and steel guitarist Donnie Herron – and arranger James Harper, went to Hollywood’s Capitol studios to record live (vocals recorded with instrumentation) hand-chosen songs from American songwriters such as Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Harold Hupfield, and Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. The project is thematically-arranged in three 10-song albums titled “’Til the Sun Goes Down,” “Devil Dolls” and “Comin’ Home Late”, each 32 minutes in length, which Dylan has said is the number of completion, a lucky number, and symbolic of light.  Dylan has stated that the albums came out at the same time because thematically they are interconnected, one being the sequel to the other and each one resolving the previous one.
Interestingly, Sinatra released Trilogy in 1980, a three-album which too had a different theme for each album, “The Past,” “The Present” and “The Future.” The new project was produced by Dylan, under his usual pseudonym Jack Frost.
The 30 songs on Triplicate include classics such as “Stardust”, “As Time Goes By,” “September of My Years,” “Stormy Weather” and “Sentimental Journey” as well as less well-known songs such as Alec Wilder and Edwin Finckel’s “Where Is the One” and Jack Lawrence’s “It’s Funny to Everyone But Me.”
While many of the songs are slow ballads, often solemn and about loss, there are also a handful of more upbeat songs here as well. Dylan’s now road-weary voice, always an incredible instrument in itself, and which sounded really rough on Tempest, seems perfectly fitted for these songs and arrangements. He delivers vocal performances on these last three standards albums that I never thought I would hear from him again. Listen to his vocal and phrasing on “My One and Only Love”, for example. His touring band never gets in the way of Dylan’s heart-felt vocals within Harper’s intimate arrangements. Herron’s steel guitar is a highlight throughout. Horns are used sparingly, but effectively on songs such as “The Best is Yet to Come”, “Sentimental Journey”, and “My One and Only Love”.
I preferred the more upbeat songs on the album, with some of my favorites being “The Best is Yet to Come”, “Stardust”, “Day in and Day Out”, “It’s Funny to Everyone But Me”, “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans” and “That Old Feeling”. Dylan ends the album with “Why Was I Born?” written by Kern and Hammerstein in 1929. It includes the introspective lyrics “Why was I born? Why am I living? What do I get? What am I giving?”
While I would prefer new music from Dylan, I enjoyed and appreciated Triplicate, songs that Dylan says are meant for “the man on the street, the common man, the everyday person”. Will you enjoy it? My assessment is that if you enjoyed Shadows in the Night and Fallen Angels, you’ll enjoy Triplicate. If you didn’t, you’ll probably want to pass on this one, though I would encourage you give it a listen before immediately dismissing it. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Dylan -Fallen AngelsFallen Angels – Bob Dylan
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Bob Dylan’s 37th studio album is his second volume of songs that he has recorded that have been mostly sung by Frank Sinatra. In fact, of the twelve songs here that were personally picked by Dylan, only “Skylark” was not recorded by Sinatra.

The album was primarily recorded at the same time and with the same core band as 2015’s acclaimed Shadows in the Night, which reached the top ten in seventeen countries and debuted at number one in the U.K. So Shadows could have been a double album. Should we consider Fallen Angels an album of songs not good enough to be included on Shadows and only released because of the success of the initial release? Are these the leftovers? No, this album is a triumph, a masterpiece, from an artist that never fails to surprise.  Dylan, who will turn 75 four days after this album is released, has done something like this before with two albums of folk covers, 1992’s Good As I Been to You and 1993’s World Gone Wrong.

The low-key arrangements of the songs, with Dylan being backed by his excellent touring band, with great work by Donny Herron on pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar and light drum, puts Dylan’s weathered but effective voice up front and center. It was self-produced by Dylan using his Jack Frost pseudonym. As with Shadows, his voice sounds the best it has in years.  If you enjoyed Shadows you’ll enjoy this excellent new album.

Here are a few thoughts about each of the twelve songs:

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MY MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Dylan The Best of the Cutting EdgeMusic Review: The Best of The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 by Bob Dylan.
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In 1991 Bob Dylan released the first three volumes of The Bootleg Series, most of which I have in my collection. The Cutting Edge is the twelfth volume in the well-done series. It includes alternate versions, outtakes and some studio banter from an incredible fourteen month creative stretch from January 1965 to March 1966, when Dylan moved from folk to electric and recorded three extraordinary albums Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the double album Blonde on Blonde with producers Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston.

There are three configurations of The Cutting Edge that have been released. The Best of The Cutting Edge is a two-disc, thirty-six track collection. There are also six and a massive eighteen disc versions available.

The production of these songs from fifty some years ago is amazingly clear. I loved hearing the organ coming through so clearly. We get an inside look into Dylan’s creative process during this period. Longtime Dylan fans will easily discern these versions from original album versions we have been familiar with all these years. Arrangements vary, such as up-tempo versions of “Visions of Johanna” and “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Take 8, Alternate Take)” or a very different take of “Just Like a Woman”. At times the lyrics differ from the original album version such as the rocking “Tombstone Blues Take 1”. This doesn’t surprise, as those of us who have seen him in concert several times know he often changes up the lyrics to songs.

Many of the songs will be very familiar to Dylan fans – “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man” (which ends abruptly with Dylan complaining about the drums), “Highway 61”, “Positively 4th Street” and “I Want You”, while others will be less known – “She’s Your Lover Now” and “Can You Please Crawl Out of Your Window?”.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this release, giving us glimpses into the genius of Dylan during arguably his most creative period. As a result, this is my favorite volume in The Bootleg Series. This version also comes with a 60-page booklet, with photos and liner notes. Highly recommended for all Dylan fans.

musicnews

  • Artists and Poets: Lecrae. Lecrae inspires us all to see the magic inside a personal story put to poetry and a poem put to song.
  • “Hellurrrr!!!” Adele may have a worldwide hit with “Hello”, but Madea knocks it out of the park with her version.
  • Restored “Hey Jude” Video. Hey Jude topped the charts in Britain for two weeks and for 9 weeks in America, where it became The Beatles longest-running No.1 in the US singles chart as well as the single with the longest running time. This video was first broadcast on David Frost’s Frost On Sunday show, four days after it was filmed. To help with the filming an audience of around 300 local people, as well as some of the fans that gathered regularly outside Abbey Road Studios were brought in for the song’s finale. I remember watching it as a 12 year-old Beatles fan when it was first aired in America a month later on 6 October 6, 1968 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
  • Hymns in the Spotlight. Laura McClellan writes “Season 9 of the popular NBC vocal competition show The Voice (which concluded on December 15) brought several young artists into the spotlight with one thing in common: their faith in Christ. Roberts, pop hopeful Jordan Smith, and youthful crooner Braiden Sunshine each chose to use their moment on national television to exalt Christ in a bold way—singing hymns.”

Favorite Music Quotes of the Week:

Matt Maher QuoteChange begins at the end of your comfort zone. Lecrae

A distorted view of grace is taking the LOVE of Christ seriously without taking the Lordship of Christ seriously. Andy Mineo

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money for all that Acme stuff, why didn’t he just buy dinner? Crowder

song-of-the-year 

Abide with Me by Matt Maher and Matt Redman

This week we complete our countdown to my annual “My Favorites” listing with my #1 song of the year, “Abide in Me”, written and recorded by both Matt Maher and Matt Redman. It was included on Maher’s album Saints and Sinners and Redman’s album Unbroken Praise.

You can listen to their respective versions here:

Matt Maher

Matt Redman

I have a home, eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first, You know our pain
But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane
Before the cross, before the nails
Overwhelmed, alone You prayed
You met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with meMatt Maher and Matt Redman
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

Oh love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
Oh You never let us go

And up ahead, eternity
We’ll weep no more, we’ll sing for joy, abide with me


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Uncomfortable - Andy MineoMusic Review: Uncomfortable by Andy Mineo
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27 year-old Andy Mineo follows up his 2014 Never Land EP with a very strong effort, one of my favorite albums of the year. It is an effort that has a variety of music styles with mature, transparent, serious, and at times, painfully honest lyrics. The album debuted at #4 on iTunes overall chart and #2 on the Hip-Hop/Rap chart. Mineo includes some special guests on the album, but surprisingly no Reach Records label mates (such as Lecrae, Trip Lee or KB). Ramon “Illmind” Ibanga serve as executive producer of the effort. Below are a few thoughts and key lyrics for each song:

Uncomfortable – Right off the bat, Andy sings that if you want live a comfortable life you should be sure not to love anyone, be selfish and never sacrifice. Key lyrics are:

My own people owned people, but they don’t own that
They say racism dead, man our president is black
Two terms in the White House, that don’t mean jack
If we still believe our present ain’t affected by our past

I apologize for Christians with pickets sayin’, “God hates fags”
I promise Jesus wouldn’t act like that

Uptown – I first listened to this Latin- flavored song while on vacation last week in New York City. It is a song about Mineo’s Washington Heights neighborhood located in uptown New York City. Key lyrics are:

Ain’t no other city make me feel this way
I been all around the world baby, but I’m here to stay

Now I Know – This song has a great beat, but it’s also about some serious things. Andy sings that the older he gets the more he realizes that almost everything he believed was a lie. This is the first of the less than positive references to his father. Although he feels jaded, he sings that he somehow still believes in God. Key lyrics are:

All that glitters ain’t made of gold
It’s the thing you’ve heard a million times before
It took a little time, now I realize
Now I know better, it’s better late than never
Now I know

Desperados – with guest Mali Music who handles the hook. Key lyrics are:

I’m sick and tired of songs that don’t dignify a lady

I gotta speak on my peace
Man, I can’t keep it a secret
The only way that you get acceptance is when you know you don’t need it, yeah

Hear My Heart – In this song Andy apologies to his sister Grace, who was born deaf, for never learning sign language. Key lyrics are:

My big sister Grace, I’m sorry I never learned to sign
And even though you were born deaf
I pray you forgive me for the years I lived blind

David’s Roof – This is a brief interlude sung in Spanish with soft horns. Translated it reads:

Prepare me for the war
Because comfort is the fall of kings
Is the fall of kings

The lyrics refer to King David on his roof looking at Bathsheba.

Rat Race – This song features Jon Bellion, known for his production on Eminem’s “The Monster”. Key lyrics are:

Tell ’em we don’t wanna play, yeah, yeah
We’re so okay with last place
We already won the game, yeah, yeah
No, we won’t run your rat race

And I ain’t tryna be another one of fame’s victims
Make a name for myself but never make a difference

Know That’s Right – Andy sings of knowing where he is going (Heaven). He also brings some of his humor here. Key lyrics are:

My Savior is Jewish, my lawyer is Jewish
My stomach is Buddhist
I’m trying to lose it, but I need to chill on Fig Newtons, I swear

There’s nothin’ left to say
I know where I’m goin’
We’re startin’ here today
And you know, you know that’s right

Vendetta – This song includes another reference to his father (and mother). It’s hard-hitting and features some of the best lyrics on the album. Andy includes part of the hook from 2 Pac’s song “Hail Mary”. Key lyrics are:

You wanna know the real problem in America?
Always has been and it always will be, me

Cause Pac did a lot more for me than Barack

I wanna snatch my generation out this apathy

Ghost – This song is about a close friendship that dissolved. You can feel Andy’s sadness as he tells us about it. Key lyrics include:

A thug changes and love changes
And them best friends become strangers (from “The Message” by Nas)

Love – Andy sings about what he’s learned about love, with references to his recent marriage. Key lyrics include:

Watch a man real close, what he choose to do with his money
That’ll tell you the truth about what he really (love)

Strange Motions – On this song, Andy states that that he taps into a psychedelic rock vibe trying some new stuff with Willow Stephens. Key lyrics include:

When these strange motions
They tell me don’t get lost in heaven

Make Me a Believer – This song features the incredible vocals of Third Day lead singer Mac Powell and addresses King David’s repentance after being confronted of his sin by the prophet Nathan. Key lyrics include:

Make me a believer
Cause all I’ve ever seen is pain
Make me a believer
Promise me I’m not the same
Make me a believer

I’ve listened to this album several times since its release. Each time I hear something new. Give this album multiple listens, it deserves it and you will hear something new and exciting with each succeeding listen as you experience Mineo’s growth as an artist.

Song of the Week
Pressing On by Bob Dylan

Perhaps the best thing about the disappointing film Captive was the version of Bob Dylan’s song “Pressing On” by Judith Hill. Listen to Dylan’s live version of the song from 1980.
Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Shake the dust off of your feet, don’t look back
Nothing now can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation’s not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord