Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


Leave a comment

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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

Continue reading


1 Comment

New and Upcoming Music I’m Excited About….and You May Be Too

As we settle into 2020, there are a number of new and upcoming albums, in a variety of genres, that I’m excited about, and you may be as well. Let’s get started….

Let There Be Wonder – Matt Redman

Let There Be Wonder is worship leader, singer/songwriter Matt Redman’s fourteenth album, and first since 2017’s Glory Song. Redman has given us worship classics like “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” “The Heart of Worship” and “Blessed Be Your Name”. The new album was produced by Jacob Sooter and Joshua Silverberg, and was recorded live in front of more than 1,000 people at a California church. Redman wrote all of the songs with a variety of collaborators. This is the first really good album that I’ve heard of 2020, and is sure to make it onto my “Favorites” list for the year.

Click on ‘Continue Reading’ to find more new tunes.  Enjoy! Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Eagles and James Taylor Concert in Washington D.C.

The Eagles and James Taylor at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. (June 26)
****

This concert was actually my wife and my Christmas gift to each other. It was the most (by far) we had ever spent on a concert ticket, and it wasn’t nearly the highest price ticket for the concert. And it turned out to be one of the best concerts we have ever been to – and we’ve been to a lot of them over the years.  Back in the late 1970’s we saw Fleetwood Mac and were stunned at the ticket prices – at the time they were $20 each.  My oh my how times have changed.
James Taylor is one of our favorite artists. We have seen him in concert several times, and he’s always outstanding. He was the “opening act” on this warm and humid night at the packed home of the baseball Nationals in our nation’s capital. “JT” was backed by his “All-Star Band”, and they all got an opportunity to show off their many talents. Taylor and the band were clearly having a great time during their 90-minute set (as an opening act, somewhat shorter than his usual set). The only disappointment was that surprisingly, Taylor didn’t play any songs from his 2015 comeback album Before This World.  Instead, he focused on his more popular songs from his catalog, beginning with “Something in the Way She Moves”, from his 1968 debut album on the Beatles’ Apple Records.
Taylor started his set precisely on time at 7:00 pm, as the music on this evening would not end until 4 and a half hours later. Check out Taylor’s setlist here.
I had last seen the Eagles more than 38 years ago when they played the Alpine Valley Music Theatre about 45 minutes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June 1980, with Christopher Cross as the opening act. I had just started my career the month before, and that concert was on a weeknight. Despite the three-hour drive home (after getting out of the parking lot), I still went to work as scheduled the next morning. Oh, to be young!
After the death of Glenn Frey in 2016, I doubted that the Eagles would tour again. But with country artist Vince Gill and Frey’s son Deacon joining the band, the Eagles have returned, and they are at the top of their game.
After about 35 minutes to change the stage, the Eagles opened with a pitch perfect ‘Seven Bridges Road’. With five different vocalists – Frey, Gill, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh – taking leads, the band would play for two and a half hours without a break. Unfortunately, some fans had to leave before the end of the show in order to catch the last Metro ride from the Navy Yards station.
The band’s vocals sounded great throughout, and their harmonies in particular were incredible. Gill tended to take care of the high notes that needed to be hit and Frey did a great job singing some of his Dad’s most popular songs, such as “Take it Easy”. Joe Walsh, a fan favorite, took over the last part of the concert, with James Gang favorites “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” and the sing along “Life’s Been Good” and “Rocky Mountain Way”, one of three encores with “Hotel California” and Don Henley’s closing “Desperado”. Check out the Eagles setlist here.  The Eagles and JT gave us the Christmas gift to remember.


1 Comment

BOOKS and MUSIC

The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Series Book 1) by Steven J. LawsonBook Review ~

The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Series Book 1) by Steven J. Lawson. Reformation Trust. 133 pages. 2007.
****

On a recent trip to Europe we stopped in Geneva for the afternoon and visited St. Peter’s Cathedral (Cathedrale St-Pierre) in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, where John Calvin served for 25 years. Over the next two days in Paris I read this book, including a wonderful afternoon spent on a bench along the Seine River.

This book was the first in a series that examines the varied ministries of noted men from church history. Lawson states that Calvin “was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor.”

Lawson writes that apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands today as the most influential minister of the Word of God the world has ever seen. He states that by overwhelming consent, he remains the greatest biblical commentator of all time.

Lawson begins the book with a brief biography of Calvin, whose father, a financial administrator for the Catholic bishop of the Noyon diocese, raised his son to enter the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. When his father died, the 21-year-old Calvin moved back to Paris to pursue his first love, the study of literature, especially the classics. He later returned to Bourges, where he completed his legal studies and received his doctor of laws degree. It was while he was studying at Bourges that Calvin came in direct contact with the biblical truths of the Reformation.

Calvin went to Basel, Switzerland (1534-1536), and began writing his magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin’s Institutes would become the defining masterpiece of Protestant theology, according to Lawson the single most important book to be written during the Reformation.

Calvin was first appointed professor of sacred Scripture in Geneva, then, four months later, pastor of Saint Pierre Cathedral. Calvin and Farel immediately began working to reform the church in Geneva. Their attempts to fence the Lord’s Table by excommunication resulted in their banishment from the city in 1538.

Calvin went into exile to Strasbourg where he pastored a congregation of some five hundred French-speaking refugees in Strasbourg. He also taught the New Testament in the local theological institute, wrote his first commentary (on Romans), and published the second edition of the Institutes.

During these years in Strasbourg, Calvin also found a wife, Idelette Stordeur, a member of his congregation. An Anabaptist widow, she had a son and a daughter from her first marriage. They married in 1540, when Calvin was 31. Idelette would die of tuberculosis in 1549.

Meanwhile, the City Council of Geneva found itself in much struggle, and called for Calvin to return as the city’s pastor. Calvin re-entered the city on September 13, 1541, never to relocate again. In Geneva, he made his mark as the Reformed church leader and the Reformation’s brightest light.

Upon his return, Calvin hit the town preaching, reassuming his pulpit ministry precisely where he had left off three years earlier-in the very next verse of his earlier exposition.

The rest of the book has Lawson reviewing the distinctives of Calvin’s preaching. They are:

  1. Biblical authorityCathedrale St-Pierre
  2. Divine Presence
  3. Pulpit priority
  4. Sequential Exposition
  5. Diligent Mind
  6. Devoted heart
  7. Relentless will
  8. Direct beginning
  9. Extemporaneous delivery
  10. Scriptural context
  11. Stated theme
  12. Specific text
  13. Exegetical precision
  14. Literal interpretation
  15. Cross-references
  16. Persuasive reasoning
  17. Reasonable deductions
  18. Familiar wordsIMG_0096
  19. Vivid expressions
  20. Provocative questions.
  21. Simple Restatements
  22. Limited quotations
  23. Unspoken outline
  24. Seamless transitions
  25. Focused intensity
  26. Pastoral exhortation
  27. Personal examination
  28. Loving rebuke
  29. Polemic confrontation
  30. Succinct summation
  31. Pressing appeal
  32. Climatic prayer

The book concludes with two appendices:

Appendix A: John Calvin’s Verse Distribution for Sermon Series

Appendix B: John Calvin’s Unspoken Outline of Job 21:13-15 Organized by T. H. L. Parker

I have read several of the books in this series of short biographies (Luther, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon), and plan to read books on Tyndale, Knox, Watts and Edwards. I enjoyed this look at Calvin’s expository preaching, which will be most appreciated by those who preach the Word.

BOOKS AND OTHER RESOURCES:

Song of the WeekWatchin’ Over Me by James Taylor

“Watchin’ Over Me” is from James Taylor’s new chart topping album Before This World, his first album of new material since 2002’s October Road. It is one of my favorite songs on the album as Taylor sings of appreciation for those who helped him during his times of drug addiction.
Watchin’ over me when I was high
Holdin’ my hand and wipin’ my eye
Watchin’ me cheat, watchin’ me lie
Oh watchin’ over me
Lookin’ back over on the damage I done
Made no kind of plan to be carryin’ on
Thought I might ought to been dead and gone
I said oh the damage done

How’m I gonna pay that debt I oweBefore This World - James Taylor
Big red Jesus on the radio
Down on my knees after the show
I said oh the debt I owe

I learned my lesson again
Well, I learned my lesson again
Only one way to surrender
Learned my lesson again
Got to return it to sender
Leave a little light in the window
Got to remember my friend

Guess I got to say it’s a lovely day
Nice enough to know it could ever be so
Ready man, steady man, here I’m gonna go
I said, oh, the lovely day
line-divider

musicnewsHymns We Should Sing More Often: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Kevin DeYoung continues his series which “aims to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon.”

Brother. NEEDTOBREATHE recently appeared on Good Morning America to perform their song “Brother” with Gavin DeGraw.

No One Like Our God. Here’s a video of an acoustic version of Matt Redman’s song from Abbey Road.

Uncomfortable. Andy Mineo’s new album Uncomfortable is scheduled to be released September 18. Definitely one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

  • U2 Short Film “Song for Someone” With Woody Harrelson. Directed by Vincent Haycock, cinematography by Steve Annis and produced by Pete Vitale & Park Pictures, “Song for Someone” features Woody Harrelson as a man being released from prison after years of incarceration and features his daughter Zoe Harrelson. The piece thematically links to RECTIFY, SundanceTV’s Peabody award-winning series that follows the story of Daniel Holden and his family as they struggle to move forward after Daniel’s release from 19 years on death row.

music quoteQuotes from Musicians:

  • There are more animal shelters than there are shelters for women and children who need refuge from abuse. Andy Mineo
  • No, they did not take his life–he laid it down. And the chains of death could never hope to hold him, so in the night my hope lives on. Andrew Peterson
  • Worship helps us let the ‘throne set the tone’ for our lives – a declaration and a reminder that Jesus is Lord, and everything is in His hands. Matt Redman


1 Comment

MUSIC REVIEWS AND NEWS

music-reviews-tape
Before This World - James TaylorBefore This World – James Taylor
****

This is “JT’s” first album of new material in thirteen years since October Road, which was released in August, 2002. The 67 year old member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hasn’t been idle during this time, regularly touring and releasing a Christmas album, two albums of covers, two live albums and a greatest hits compilation. The album was recorded primarily at the Barn, his recording studio just down the hill from his home in the woods in western Massachusetts, with his longtime touring band featuring Steve Gadd on drums and Jimmy Johnson on bass. The album is produced by Dave O’Donnell.

By pre-ordering the album, I’ve been able to listen to “Today, Today, Today”, “Angels of Fenway”, and “Montana” for several weeks now. Last week, the album was streamed in its entirety by The New York Times, so I’ve been able to listen to the entire album several times now. In addition, last June in his wonderful concert at the Ravinia Festival in the Chicago area, he debuted “Today, Today, Today”, “Stretch of the Highway”, “You and I Again”, and “Wild Mountain Thyme”, all included here.

So what can I tell you about the long-awaited album? Well, it will remind you of the best songs of Taylor’s early 1970’s catalog. JT’s signature storytelling skills are matched with his signature vocals surrounded by a mostly mellow mix of folk, light rock, and acoustic blues. It’s like hearing from an old friend who has been gone for a long time.

Before This World is an intimate, largely autobiographical album of nine new Taylor songs, plus the classic Scottish folk tune “Wild Mountain Thyme”. Close friends Sting and Yo-Yo Ma guest on the album. So, put on some coffee and take a listen. Here are a few brief thoughts on each song:

Today, Today, Today – was the first single released from the album. Taylor’s friend and collaborator Don Grolnick, a jazz and pop pianist who died in 1996, inadvertently helped inspire the song title years ago during a car trip out of Manhattan. Taylor states “One day, driving out of the city, he held up traffic at the Triborough Bridge toll booth, looking for quarters. Behind him, a cabby rolled down his window and yelled at him, ‘Today, TODAY!’ Grolnick would say that whenever he grew impatient: ‘TODAY!’”

You and I Again – is a beautiful tender piano ballad about his wife Kim that features some wonderful accompanying strings.

Angels of Fenway – is a tribute to his Boston Red Sox and his grandmother who was a big Red Sox fan as well. After 86 years of frustration, the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004. Unfortunately, it was against my St. Louis Cardinals, and I was at the clinching game in St. Louis as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals. It features harmony vocals from wife Kim and son Henry. Even though I’m not a Red Sox fan, I’m a baseball fan and I love this song, which is one of my favorites on the album.

Stretch of the Highway – this song features light horns, some effective backing vocals and has a bluesy feel to it. It is a road song. The song references Chicago, the President and GMC. Taylor describes the song as “a theme I keep coming back to, the pull of home and the pull of the highway, a big part of my life, the ‘Dad Loves His Work’ theme, the tug of war between your family and going out to work. It’s a split life in a way, something every touring musician, merchant seaman, soldier, traveling salesman and oil-rig worker experiences.”

Montana – is a beautiful song of contentment as Taylor sings of the slower life of being in his cabin high upon a mountain in Montana.

Who can imagine the scale of the forces
That pushed this old mountain range up in the sky?
Tectonic creation, erosion, mutation;
Somethin’ to pleasure God’s eye.

Watchin’ Over Me – is an upbeat tune which features a fiddle. JT sings of his thankfulness for those who have watched over him on his path to recovery from depression and addiction. He is grateful for a second chance. He realizes the damage he has done and the debt he owes. He has learned his lesson again and that there is only way one to surrender. Although dealing with difficult subject matter, this is a celebration and one of my favorite of the new songs.

SnowTime – has a tropic feel to it. Taylor describes the song as being about people who are economic exiles to Canada in the midst of a freezing Canadian winter who are trying to re-ignite this flame. A frozen Yankee comes across this and is transformed. Taylor states that ultimately the song is about the power of music. The guitars on the chorus reminded me of his classic “Mexico”.

Before This World/Jolly Springtime – Taylor describes this as a spiritual agnostic song. It features beautiful cello work from Yo-Yo Ma.

Before this world was as we know it now
Before the land and sea were formed at all
Before the stars were made to burn and shine
Little love of mine, darling one
Who can pretend to understand at all
No one can both inside and outside be
Who can suppose he knows the way this goes
Little lamb, never mind

Sadly, he sings that the world is old, will never last and that our share of joy is in this moment past.

Jolly Springtime – contrasting the music and pessimistic lyrics of “Before This World” is this upbeat and happy song, celebrating spring in the merry month of May with effective backing vocals.

Far Afghanistan – Taylor describes this song as an “out-of-my-experience fiction piece,” dealing with a soldier leaving for the war. This is the one song that doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, and is my least favorite of the collection.

Wild Mountain Thyme – a beautiful cover of a classic Scottish folk song. Wife Kim and son Henry contribute harmony vocals.

Although Taylor may not profess to be a Christian, he offers an album full of Christian themes as God and Jesus are mentioned and themes of love of family, thankfulness for those who have helped him, appreciation for creation, etc. resonate from these songs. I can’t tell you how good it is to finally have some excellent new music from JT. Welcome back JT. Can’t wait to hear some of these new songs in concert.

Live at Red Rocks – Amos Lee with the Colorado SymphonyLive at Red Rocks – Amos Lee with the Colorado Symphony
****

I had never heard of Amos Lee until he appeared locally in 2007, opening for Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. Between Costello’s and Dylan’s sets we ran into Lee in the foyer, where we visited briefly and he signed an autograph for us. A friend lent me Lee’s first two albums and I was hooked. I picked up Last Days at the Lodge when it came out in 2008, and I’ve picked up everything he’s released since that time.

Last August 1, Lee appeared with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in a sold out concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, about 15 miles from Denver. At that time, he had been on tour for almost a year in support of his fifth studio album Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song. In the concert, he performed some of his most popular songs from his five studio albums, along with one new song, in a 14 song career spanning set, with five songs from his former #1 album Mission Bell and four from his debut Amos Lee. The album’s track list, and the original album they were included on is listed below:

Windows are Rolled Down – from his 2011 Mission Bell.

Jesus – Mission Bell

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight – from his 2005 debut Amos Lee

El Camino – Mission Bell

Violin – Mission Bell

Colors – Amos Lee

Trickster, Hucksters, Scamps – from his 2013 Mountains of Sorrow, Rives of Song

Flower – Mission Bell

Won’t Let Me Go – from his 2008 Last Days at the Lodge

Sweet Pea – from his 2007 Supply and Demand

Street Corner Preacher – Last Days at the Lodge

Game of Thrones Theme – Not previously available on an Amos Lee album

Encores:

Black River – Amos Lee

Arms of a Woman – Amos Lee

While the addition of the Colorado Symphony makes this recording special, it’s Lee’s incredible and versatile voice that is the real highlight here (check out his vocals on “Sweet Pea” as an example). If you are not familiar with Amos Lee, this is an excellent introduction to his music. If you are familiar with him, sit back and enjoy these incredible versions of some of his best songs. I hope this recording propels Lee to the level of popularity that he deserves.

 Song of the Week

One of my favorite new songs is “Abide with Me”, co-written by Matt Maher and Matt Redman. It is included on Maher’s Saints and Sinners album and Redman’s Unbroken Praise album. Here’s a video of Maher performing the song, a prayer really, in a recent concert. Follow along with the lyrics below.

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 me
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

musicnewsMusic News

    • You can now pre-order Toby Mac’s This is Not a Test album on iTunes and receive the download for the song “Backseat Driver”.
    • “Abide with Me”. Matt Redman’s new Unbroken Praise album releases this week. Last week, those who pre-ordered the album received the download of Redman’s version of Matt Maher’s excellent “Abide with Me”, which was included on his Saints and Sinners album, my top release of the year, thus far. Watch the lyric video here.
  • Matt Maher Covering Crowder’s “Come as You Are”. Watch the video here.

music quoteMusic Quotes

We should be careful about the words of the music we sing and ensure that those words communicate truth. R.C. Sproul

Older doesn’t always mean wiser. Sometimes older means more cynical & stuck in our false ways. Andy Mineo

The system didn’t plan for this. Lecrae

Grace, it’s a name for a girl, it’s also a thought that changed the world. U2


Leave a comment

Tomorrow’s July already? The days are starting to get shorter? Nah.

For the past several years I’ve gone to a Milwaukee Brewers game with my brother and a few of his friends. It’s always a nice time. This past week on our annual trip we saw the Brewers beat up on the Washington Nationals. Of course, since the Brewers are in first place ahead of my Cardinals, I had to cheer for the Nationals (but to no avail). Here’s a picture I took from just behind the foul pole before the game, which gives you a good idea of what Miller Park looks like:Miller Park

RaviniaLogoHave you ever been to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL? What a wonderful venue for a music concert! We recently went to hear James Taylor, and you can see some photos and read more about it at https://coramdeotheblog.com/albumandconcert-reviews/.

~ THIS AND THAT ~

PCA NEWS:

MUSIC NEWS:

  • Singer/songwriter John Hiatt will release Terms of Surrender on July 15. The title song can be purchased now at iTunes.
  • Michael Card has a song included on the new album Uncle Donald’s Niagra Brand Tonic Elixer. The song is “Lo! and Behold!” Here’s a link to the album on Amazon.com.
  • I recently saw that Trip Lee, Reach Records rapper is serving as a Pastoral Assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is Senior Pastor. Trip is in the process of recording his follow-up to 2012’s The Good Life.

IN THE NEWS:

World Magazine Cartoon

PRACTICE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS:

  • The MLJ Trust announces a daily sermon podcast of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. You can sign up for the Podcast by either clicking on the following link MLJ Podcast, or going to the lower right section of the sermons page on the website: MLJ Sermons. They will be starting with Romans, and one of the best MLJ sermons on the Apostle Paul, called, simply, “A Man Called Paul”.
  • Dr. Don Kistler recently returned from northern California where he preached five messages on the doctrine of the church. The messages are: 1. Why Is the Church Important? 2. Christ’s Faithfulness to His Church 3. Mutual Ministry 4. Protecting the Flock 5. Church Growth, God’s Way The messages are available at the website of Christ the Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Eureka, California at: http://www.christtheredeemerrpc.com/sermons.htm

TOLLE LEGE ~ TAKE UP AND READ!

GREAT ARTICLES AND RESOURCES:

PROBING QUESTIONS:

~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~

BOOK REVIEW:

 

INTEGRATING FAITH AND WORK:

 

ALBUM AND CONCERT REVIEWS:

 

Quotable
There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than the fact that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this–that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do, that you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will abound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.   -D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (listen to 1,600 sermons from Lloyd-Jones at http://www.mljtrust.org/)

Quotable -Tweeted by Dr. Albert Mohler
“Mr. Whitefield, don’t flatter them, I fear that half of them are going to hell with their eyes open.”–said by a pastor to George Whitefield

Quotable
God doesn’t invite people to be saved. He commands them. -RC Sproul

Quotable
The reason God knows the future is because he plans the future and accomplishes it. -John Piper