Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

All Things Work Together – Lecrae
****

This highly anticipated major label debut from Lecrae is his first album since January 2016’s mixtape Church Clothes 3, and it doesn’t disappoint. Beginning in October, 2016, six songs were released in advance of the album’s release, building excitement. The album title is taken from Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Lecrae has stated that the idea of the album is that the dark times have worked together for him to become the person he is today.
This hard-hitting and honest album is strong from start to finish and features Lecrae collaborating with many different artists. It is a mature work, Lecrae’s best album, and my top album of the year thus far.
Here are a few brief comments about each song on this strong release:

Always Knew – This song was produced by Ramon “REO” Owen and written by Owen and Lecrae. He dedicates it to those, especially the Lord, who have helped him through the highs and lows. Key lyric: Listen, I know God did it, can’t take the credit, paid off all of my debts, but I still feel so indebted.   
Facts
– This song was produced by Dem Jointz and written by Jointz and Lecrae. In hard-hitting lyrics, he states that he’s been waiting for the right time to tell us how he feels. He loves God and Jesus, who died for the world, not just the USA. Key lyric: I ain’t really changed, it’s the same rebel.  
Broke
– This song was produced by Boi-1da and T-Minus, written by Perfekt, Nikhil “Kromatik” Seetharam, Boi-1da, T-Minus and Lecrae and features Perfekt. The song looks at how money may have made him richer, but the struggle got him richer than he’s ever been. Key lyric: Being broke made me rich
Blessings
– This song is produced by Pluss and features Ty Dolla $ign. It was written by Pluss, Verse Simmonds, Swoope, Ty Dolla $ign and Lecrae. The song is about gratefulness and appreciating the little things in life. It features a slow beat that sounds better every time you hear it. Key lyric: If you woke up this morning it’s a blessing.  
Watchu Mean
– This song is produced by the Go Grizzly. It features Reach Records newest signee Aha Gazelle, and is written by Gazelle and Lecrae. This song has a great vibe as Lecrae and Gazelle go back and forth lots of sports and musical references.
Hammer Time – This song is produced by Metro Boomin and features 1k Phew. It is written by Boomin, 1k Phew and Lecrae. The song samples MC Hammer’s 1990 song “U Can’t Touch This”.  The song has an infectious beat. Key lyric: I ain’t perfect, I’m just purchased.  
Come and Get Me –  This song is produced by DJ Dahl and Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II and they write it with Lecrae. It features a great beat throughout. He knows the devil is trying to stop him. He states confidently he’s not scared of the haters, he only fears the IRS and God. What he’s saying is nothing new. Key lyric: Look, I’ve been trying to tell them since 04’-05’ (that’s Real Talk). Still, you know these people doubt me every time.  
Lucked Up –  This song is produced by Tariq Beats and DJ Khalil and they write it with Nija Aisha-Alayia Charles, John Groover, Michael R. Cook Jr. and Lecrae. This is a love song for his wife, and features vocals from Nija Aisha-Alayia Charles. Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Revival – Third Day (Deluxe Edition)
****

As Third Day looked to celebrate their 25th anniversary as a band, they fulfilled a long-time plan to record a project at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The band (lead vocalist Mac Powell, guitarist Mark Lee and drummer David Carr), recorded with members of their touring band (keyboardist Scotty Wilbanks, mandolin/banjo/guitarist Trevor Morgan and bassist Tim Gibson). For this “back to their roots” album, the band reunited with producer Monroe Jones, who had worked with Third Day on six previous albums. Jones invited percussionist Ken Lewis to join the sessions and recruited Vance Powell to engineer the album.
The album has an almost “live” feel to it. The songs are simple lyrically, with about half of the songs being written before the band went into the studio and the other half just ideas that principal songwriter Mac Powell had.
On this album, Third Day brings it all together. Mac Powell has one of the best voices in music. Here the musical backing is worthy of his strong baritone, with strong guitars, drums, Hammond organ, horns, backing vocals, and crystal-clear production. Throw in some harmonica, tambourine, finger snaps and hand claps and this is truly a gem. It’s a multi-genre album – combining rock, southern rock, blues, soul, worship and gospel. I loved it from start to finish, and it’s my top album of the year thus far.
Here are a few brief comments on each song:

Revival – This was the first single released from the album and it is instantly likeable. It features a great vocal from Powell, plus piano, horns and backing vocals. It’s just a great overall song. Key lyric: God is gonna move and there ain’t no doubt.   

Gonna Be There With Me – This joyful song finds Powell singing over piano, guitar, backing vocals, steel guitar and horns. It features brief piano and guitar solos.  Key lyric: Lord, it’s always good to know that You’re gonna be there with me.  Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Triplicate – Bob Dylan
****

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

IN THIS ISSUE:
MUSIC REVIEW ~ Keep Me Singing by Van Morrison
MUSIC NEWS   ~ Links to Interesting Articles
MUSIC QUOTES
SONG OF THE WEEK ~ His Name Shall Be by Matt Redman

Keep Me Singing - Van MorrisonMusic Review:
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison
****

This is the 71-year old Morrison’s 36th studio album and his first for Caroline Records. He produces the album, his first of new material since 2012’s Born to Sing: No Plan B, which I really enjoyed. The album includes 12 new original songs, as well as a cover of the blues song “Share Your Love with Me”. Many of the songs show him in a reflective mood, looking back at his life. The musicianship is excellent and Van’s one of a kind voice sounds great here.  I really enjoyed this album and you can tell that Van loves making music. Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the album, one of my favorites of the year:

Let it Rhyme – The opening song has an easygoing tempo. It features some light horns, drums, piano, organ, backing vocals and excellent harmonica.  He sings that in time, you’ll be mine.

Every Time I See a River – This song has Morrison collaborating with lyricist Don Black. Every time he sees a river, hears a train or a sad song, it reminds him of a past love and he feels like he is back in love again. There are good horns and nice guitar and organ solos here. Van delivers a great vocal.

Keep Me Singing – This song is about his joy in singing. He references a few Sam Cooke songs. He wants to be singing when the day is done. He’s doing just what he knows what to do. The song features a nice harmonica solo.

Out in the Cold Again – This song features piano, strings, light percussion, and a nice guitar solo. He was “Mr. Nice Guy” for too long, playing the losing role. Now he’s standing all alone, out in a cold black night in this “dog eat dog world”. The focus is on Van’s expressive vocal.

Memory Lane – This song features strings, light guitar and percussion as Van is looking back at his past. He’s stuck here back again on memory lane, where it’s getting dark. He’s back with questions and answers standing in the pouring rain.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword – This blues songs is driven by guitar (including a nice solo), organ, light drums, some good backing vocals and Van’s strong lead vocal. Van’s vocal reminded me somewhat of Dylan from his Slow Training Coming album. He can’t tell you what you’re supposed to do, but he’s gotta live by his pen because it’s mightier than the sword.

Holy Guardian Angel – This song features strings, light drums, good backing vocals, and nice piano and guitar solos. He was born in the midnight hour.  He quotes the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – nobody knows the trouble he’s seen. Nobody knows his sorrow, nobody but him. He prays to his holy guardian angel in the witching hour (midnight to 2:00 am), long before the break of day. Van gives a strong vocal in this song that has a gospel sound.

Share Your Love with Me – This is a cover, and a tribute to Bobby Bland, who did the original recording of the song. The song was made popular by Aretha Franklin in 1970. It features a nice organ solo, light horns and drums. It features a great vocal from Van as he stretches his voice here more than on most of the songs on the album. It’s a shame if you don’t wanna share your love with me.

In Tiburon – The fog is lifting and he’s in Tiburon, a town across the bay, just north of San Francisco. Over piano, he sings about memories of places and people he likes there, including a place that Chet Baker used to play his horn. He wants to go back to Frisco. They need each other more than ever to lean on.  Features a nice sax solo.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

music-reviews-tape
Never Lose Sight - Chris TomlinNever Lose Sight – Chris Tomlin (Deluxe Edition)
****

Chris Tomlin is one of my favorite artists. We get the benefit of his music on the annual Passion releases as well as his solo albums. His worship songs are sung by an estimated 30 million people in churches around the world each week, leading some to refer to him as America’s worship Leader. This highly anticipated release is his eleventh studio album and first album of all new non-Christmas songs since 2014’s excellent Love Ran Red.  Tomlin has stated that joy is at the heart of the album because of what Jesus has done for us.

Every well-crafted and performed song on this album is excellent, resulting in what most artists would be proud to have as a “Greatest Hits” collection. It will most likely (short of an unexpected release), be my favorite album of the year.

Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the Deluxe Edition of the album:

Good Good Father – This song was written by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown, and has been recorded by a number of artists, including Housefires. It is probably the most popular song that Tomlin has ever recorded, winning the 2016 Dove Award for song of the year. The single was released a year ago and is still near the top of the Christian charts. The song was also the inspiration for the children’s picture book of the same name co-written with Pat Barrett. 
Jesus
– Written with Ed Cash, this was the second single released from the album. This is a straight forward worship song about our Savior:
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus

Impossible Things – Danny Gokey, a third place finalist on the eighth season of American Idol, joins Tomlin on this song. He recently won the Dove Award for Christmas album of the year for his album Christmas is Here. The songs starts an infectious beat with Tomlin singing over acoustic guitar and drum. Gokey joins him on verse 2 which is from Psalm 23. Our God is with us, we will fear no evil because He does impossible things. This joyful song will be wonderful to sing in a worship service.
Home – Written with Ed Cash and Scott Cash, this song is about longing for Heaven, our ultimate home and where we belong. This is an upbeat, joyful song that opens with hand claps and is instantly likeable. It is based on Revelation 21 and will sound great in concert or a worship service.  
God Of Calvary
– Written by Tomlin, Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman, this is Tomlin’s favorite song on the album. The song takes us from the cross to the resurrection. It begins with what takes place on the cross at Calvary and then moves into a triumphant chorus. We are set free by His wounds and redeemed by His blood. Christ crossed the great divide for us. Redman provided the bridge, from which Tomlin takes the title of the album. He will never lose sight of the cross and Christ. The song then moves to Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

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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.
****

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

The Wonderlands: Shadows by Jon Foreman


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

The Wonderlands: Shadows by Jon ForemanMusic Review ~ The Wonderlands: Shadows by Jon Foreman
****

This is the second of four Wonderlands EPs from Switchfoot (my second favorite band, just behind U2), frontman Jon Foreman, and follows Sunlight released in late May. See my Amazon review of Sunlight here.

The four “hourly” EPs will each feature six songs, in total one song for each hour of the day. Each song on the project that has been 10 years in the making will produced by someone different. So there will be 24 songs and 24 producers, certainly a unique approach from the always creative Foreman.

Shadows is darker, both musically and lyrically, than most of Foreman’s work. I’ve only listened to each song a few times. To get the full impact of these songs will take many listens. Below are my initial thoughts on each of the six songs:

Ghost Machine Produced by Jeremy Edwardson. Foreman sings of the ghost machine, referring to it as “she”. This song has a regretful feel. It is somber and features an acoustic guitar. What is the ghost machine he’s singing about? It’s sucking the life out of him. It’ a drug, in his blood and he can’t give her up.

My Coffin Produced by Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping At Last. Foreman wonders early in the song:

Is there someone buried
Beneath this skin?
And is he free when I am lost
In my coffin

The song finishes with:

Resurrection comes
But death comes first

And when I lose myself I’m safe
In my coffin

Fake Your Own Death Produced by Darren King. Features an interesting musical backdrop. With some strings, jazz instrumentation, and light drums I felt it had almost a Sgt. Pepper-like sound at times.

What would you live like if you had died
And been reborn with a second chance to live
Would you lose your fear of being dead?
And be afraid of something else instead?
Maybe you’d be more concerned with living it like you mean

Good For Me Produced by Andrew Wessen and Charlie Peacock (who has a long-time relationship with Foreman and Switchfoot).

This was the most musically interesting song on Shadows. Featuring guitar, drums, horns, it has a great beat to it. That doesn’t surprise me with the creative Peacock’s involvement.

Lyrically Foreman wonders if what he puts in his soul is taking a toll on him. Is it good for him? Does it keep him on his knees? Does it set him free?

Your Love is Enough Produced by Foreman and Seth Mosley. Foreman sings that only God can help him in times of doubt, longing, darkness. His love is enough. In a recent interview Foreman said “It’s a song that chronicles my lifelong battles with doubt and fear. Our roads in life can be painful at times – lonely, dark, and discouraging. But we are not alone.”

Siren’s Song Produced by Eric Owyoung from Future of Forestry.

This song features a nice orchestral arrangement. His love is at the edge of the ocean, wrapped in greens and blues.

Come to the sea
come and have me
my arms are open wide
come to the sea
come and cross me
we’ll reach the other side
come to the sea
come and take me
and have me for your bride
come to the sea
come and listen to the sailor’s lullaby

Again, give this release several listens to get to the full depth that Foreman intends. The final two EPs in the Wonderlands series are Darkness, due out September 4, and Dawn, set for release on October 23.

Song of the Week Unbroken Praise by Matt Redman

This song, from Redman’s new live worship album Unbroken Praise, is one of my favorites of the year. Watch the lyric video of this song.

Praise unbroken
Matt Redman Unbroken PraisePraise unending
Be yours, be yours forevermore

Praise untainted
Praise unfading
Be yours, be yours forevermore
Be yours, be yours forevermore

[Chorus]
Unbroken praise be yours, God, forever
All my praise be yours, God, forever
Lord, take this life, let it become your throne
Unbroken praise be yours

My surrender
My devotion
Be yours, be yours forevermore
Be yours, be yours forevermore

So let my deeds outrun my words

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musicnews

 Brother. Congratulations to NEEDTOBREATHE for topping Billboard’s Christians songs chart with their song Brother, featuring Gavin DeGraw.

Outcry Tour. Trip Lee and Crowder are a few of the artists on this new tour, which stops in Chicago on July 24 and St. Louis on August 4.

Your Love is Enough. Here’s a video of an acoustic version of Jon Foreman’s new song “Your Love is Enough” from his Wonderlands: Shadows EP.