Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Best of Fernando Ortega: Live in St. Paul
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I was introduced to Fernando Ortega years ago when he opened for Michael Card. He has since become one of my favorite artists. This concert recording was originally available only as a DVD, but is now fortunately also available as an audio recording.  Including 19 songs, this concert was recorded in 2004 at Northwestern College’s Maranatha Hall as Fernando was on tour supporting his 2004 album Fernando Ortega.  He plays 7 of that album’s 12 songs here, including the touching and humorous “Mildred Madalyn Johnson”. The recording features Ortega and band, including an accordion, but the focus is on Ortega’s gentle vocals over his piano.
If you’ve seen Ortega in concert you know that one of the best things is often times humorous introductions to his songs, which are not included here, the focus being solely on the music. In addition to the songs from Fernando Ortega, he includes many of his most-loved songs, such as “Creation Song”, “Lord of Eternity”, “Children of the Living God”, “This Good Day”, “Sing to Jesus” and “Our Great God”. This is Ortega’s only live album and it’s a gem.

Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney
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This 2-CD “Special Edition” (the release comes in a number of different configurations), of McCartney’s excellent 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt features a remastered version of the original 13-song album (plus Où Est Le Soleil?, which wasn’t on the original album), on one disc, and nine previously unreleased demos McCartney recorded with Elvis Costello on the second disc. The demos are what really got my attention on this release, the 10th installment of McCartney’s Archive Collection, all of which have been personally supervised by McCartney. This album has special significance for me as well. It was the album McCartney toured on for his 1989-90 World Tour, on which I saw three of the shows, the first of now twelve concerts I’ve seen of the former Beatle.
Listeners will be pleased with the remastered version of the original album. It features such strong songs as “My Brave Face” (his last Billboard solo Top 40 hit), “This One”, “Put it There” and the 89-90 World Tour opener “Figure of Eight”. The original demos with Costello are: Continue reading

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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 Review for Saints and Sinners

Saints and Sinners – Matt Maher (Deluxe Edition)
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I was only vaguely familiar with Maher before seeing him open for Toby Mac last December. It was at that concert that I first heard “Because He Lives (Amen)”, which has been one of my favorite songs since that time. The original studio version of the song, as well as an unplugged version, appear on this new album.

It was years after I first enjoyed Chris Tomlin’s versions of “Your Grace is Enough” and “Lord, I Need You” that I found out that they had been written by Maher, who is a Roman Catholic, a rarity in contemporary Christian music. I much enjoyed last year’s All the People Said Amen, a live album of some of his most popular songs live with a few new ones mixed in.

The album title comes from an Oscar Wilde quote: “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”. This is somewhat of a concept album. I picked up the phrase “saints and sinners” in the lyrics of a few of the songs. Many of the songs were inspired by saints and sinners such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, St. Therese of Lisieux, Bill Gaither, Mother Theresa, Maher’s grandmother and St. Francis. The album was produced by Paul Moak.

The deluxe edition of this new album includes nineteen songs. Here are a few comments or lyrics about each of them:

“The Field of Stars” – a less than a minute opener which features the album’s title in the lyrics.

“Future Not My Own” – features a heavy drum and bass sound. It was inspired by martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero.

This is a great unknown
Love is a long and narrow road
Come chase this heart of stone
I need a future not my own

“Deliverer” – co-written with Bo and Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE. An upbeat song with interesting vocal inflections from Maher.

My God, from the flood and from the fire
You brought me out, I am alive
With a faith, just like a child
I’m not afraid, I’m running wildSaints and Sinners by Matt Maher
For everything that will be done
I am yours and you are my
Deliverer

“Glory Bound” – an upbeat modern country hand-clapper that is sure to be a favorite in concert.

Well I don’t know which way you’re going
And I don’t know if you’re lost or found
All that I know is you’ve been forgiven
I tell you this train is glory bound

So come on make some room in your heart for mercy
Come on make some room for a little grace
Come on make some room for the sinners and the saints

“Land of My Father” – upbeat and joyous. Another one that will be a good one to sing along with in concert, especially the chorus:

Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
We sing Holy, Holy, my eyes have seen the glory
Of the great God Almighty

“Everything is Grace” – drums are dominant on this song. Maher pours out his grateful heart to the Lord on this song which features the words of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Whatever comes my way
I will walk through the flames
You’re turning my fear to faith
My doubt to praise
And everything is grace

“The Invocation” – a short prayer featuring piano and strings. Mentions “sons and daughters”, which is the title of the next song.

“Sons and Daughters” – portions of speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are featured on this song which Maher wrote with Jason Ingram and Ike Ndolo, the latter of which lived in Missouri during the Civil Rights movement.

All my brothers help each other
All my sisters walk together
No one is a stranger
We’re all sons and daughters

“Firelight” – this has a bit of a bluegrass feel, featuring excellent drums. It was inspired by words from Mother Teresa to be lights in the darkness.

If anyone remembers my name
If I’m ever known for anything
Let it be I ran into the night
Running with a firelight, firelight

“Instrument” – co-written with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. I enjoyed the piano and strings. It begins as an intimate song; the drum beat kicks and leads to a powerful prayerful chorus and then back to an intimate ending.

To the Father and the Son
And the Holy Spirit, three in One
I offer you myself, though I’m broken and spent
Let me be Your instrument
Let me be Your instrument

“Abide with Me” – one of our pastors is leading a study on abiding, so this song is timely for me especially as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. It’s a beautiful piano driven prayerful song.

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

“The Waiting” – a short piano driven meditation. Maher again mentions sinners and the saints in the lyrics.

Because He Lives (Amen) – the first single. One of my favorite songs of the past few months, it is inspired by Bill Gaither’s classic song “Because He Lives”.

Amen, Amen
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

“Rest” – an acoustic guitar driven song. It features background vocals from the Vespers and is based on Psalm 23. It was written during a time when Maher’s grandmother’s health was failing.

You restore my soul and You give me rest

“Borrowed Time” – an upbeat song featuring piano and drums about the urgency to start living because we are living on borrowed time. Another that will sound good in concert.

“Because of You” – a prayer to the Lord saying that everything we have is because of the Lord. Excellent drums and bass on this song.

If I shine it’s because of You
If I love it’s because of You
If I’m strong it’s because of You
It’s all because of You

“Garden” – recorded live. Starts with just an acoustic guitar and then builds; it showcases Maher’s piano playing.

And You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making my heart a garden

Because He Lives (Amen) – an unplugged version of a wonderful song featuring his excellent piano playing.

This is an excellent album, with excellent lyrics and diverse and creative musical arrangements. It will be one of my top albums for 2015.