Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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New and Upcoming Albums I’m Excited About

I love music in a number of different genres, including contemporary Christian music, Christian hip-hop/rap, worship and classic rock. Here are 8 new and upcoming albums that I’m excited about.

 

A Great Adventure – Steven Curtis Chapman  
The latest project from Steven Curtis Chapman, arriving less than two months after his Deeper Roots: Where the Bluegrass Grows album, comes in both a DVD and audio recording format, filmed and recorded at the Gaither Studios in Alexandria, Indiana. The album chronicles Chapman’s life in song through live solo acoustic performances of some of his most popular songs, but no between song comments. Chapman has toured extensively performing solo concerts the past few years, and is very comfortable performing his songs backed only with his acoustic guitar. Listening to these songs, originally released between 1987 and 2018, reminds the listener of the blessing his music has been for more than thirty years now. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Crooked – Propaganda
****

Propaganda’s first album since 2014’s Crimson Cord is hard-hitting and challenging, with excellent vocal (spoken word and hip hop) delivery, musical backing and production. Much has happened in America since Crimson Cord and some of the lyrics are right out of the news.

Below are a few thoughts about each of the songs:

Crooked Way featuring Terence F. Clark – This is a powerful opening track, produced by Braille and written with Terence F. Clark. There is much to take in here, which will require multiple listenings. He covers a history of racism from Native Americans and the Confederate flag. Interjects humor about skinny jeans and Dickies. Says he is not a leader, just a hippie with daddy issues, crooked with halos balanced on the tip of his horns.

It’s Complicated – He has zipped up his emotions into a dusty duffel bag that he’s named poetry. He speaks of transgender issues, that we are a laundry list of identity issues and that sometimes our plumbing doesn’t match our urges. It’s complicated.

Bear With Me featuring Marz Gerrer – Produced by Ohmega Watts. This track is about the ups and downs of being in love. Love is not love if it’s never been tested.

Cynical featuring Aaron Marsh & Sho Baraka – This powerful track is produced by Beautiful Eulogy. It hits on several items out of the news – Trump rallies, refugees, immigration – but he’s concerned that Christians are arguing about bathrooms. He addresses being lied to, intolerance and fear.

Slow Cook – This track is produced by Courtney Orlando and Steele, and it’s about his musical influences. “That’s the hip hop I fell in love with”.

Do Know Wrong featuring Macho – Produced by Wert and co-written with Macho. His love letter to California (Cali), with numerous references (earthquake, smog, Poly High, palm trees, traffic, lack of water, ocean, Fatburger, King Taco).

Gentrify – Produced by DJ Efechto. This upbeat sounding track with Odd Thomas on keyboards, addresses a serious subject, gentrification. “And when you see them billboards yelling “cash for homes” Gentrify.”

I Hate Cats – This is a very creative spoken word piece on racism and stereotyping, substituting cats and dogs for Blacks and Whites. Funny and serious. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Newsboys Love RiotMusic Review:  Love Riot – Newsboys
****

The Newsboys follow Hallelujah For The Cross, their 2014 somewhat disappointing and relatively (for them) poorly selling take on classic hymns, with a return to form with Love Riot. Ten songs in the style that we have come to expect – simple, bold Christ-centered lyrics, excellent musicianship, and strong vocals from Michael Tait – in this 5th full-length studio album (plus a Christmas EP), in the Michael Tait-led Newsboys era. The album features a variety of styles – from full-out rockers such as “Crazy”, worship songs such as “You Hold it All (Every Mountain)”, and CCM radio friendly songs such as “Guilty”, “Family of God” and “Committed”. Although we could have asked for more than ten songs (2013’s Restart Deluxe Edition had 16 songs, for example), and from a pacing standpoint things get a little slow in the middle (“No Longer Slaves”, “Family of God” and “Committed”), these bold and encouraging songs will sound great in concert and Love Riot is a good addition to the band’s overall canon.

The Newsboys were formed 31 years ago. Currently comprised of lead vocalist Tait, guitarist Jody Davis, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein and drummer Duncan Phillips, the band, riding the popularity of the two God’s Not Dead films, may be more popular than ever. In their career they have sold more than 8 million albums, had an amazing 33 number #1 radio hits, four Grammy nominations and won multiple Dove Awards. Love Riot was produced by Mark Needham as well as Seth Mosey and Mike O’Connor and has an excellent sound.

Below are a few brief thoughts about each song on the new album:

Continue reading


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Music News and Reviews 11.12.14

Record PlayerMUSIC NEWS:

Hilarious Video from Steve Taylor. Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil’s (featuring Peter Furler on drums) new album Goliath will be released on November 18. This week I’ve been enjoying some of Steve’s music from the 80’s and 90’s, which still sound great. Enjoy “The Future of the Music Industry” video from Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil.

Real Music about Real Change. Petra front man John Schlitt and up-and-coming hip-hop artist KB come from different eras, but both experienced Christ’s deliverance from a life of darkness and found themselves in the spotlight of the Christian music industry.

Rend Collective to appear in Clinton, IL. Rend will be in concert at First Christian Church in Clinton on February 7.

New TobyMac album. TobyMac has been in the studio working on new songs for his sixth full album, with a planned release in May 2015.

Get to Know Trip Lee. Check out this brief overview of Trip from Trevin Wax.

D.C. rapper Trip Lee withstands disease, while pastoring at church, releasing album. Good article about Trip in the Washington Times.

New Worship Album from Third Day. Third Day will release their third worship album, and first in more than a decade, Lead Us Back, on March 3.

U2 to Play The Tonight Show for an Entire Week. My favorite band will play on The Tonight Show each night the week of November 17. Can’t wait!

MUSIC REVIEWS:

Bob Seger AlbumRide Out – Bob Seger
*** ½

This is 69 year old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Seger’s seventeenth album and first since 2006’s Face the Promise (and only his second since 1995), and it’s a very good one at that. Christians will be excited about “Gates of Eden” his song about coming to faith. He also shares his strong feelings about political issues and the environment.

We saw Seger at the Silver Bullet Band in their prime in the early 1980’s at the Poplar Creek Music Theatre (which was torn down in 1994) in Hoffman Estates. For those not familiar with his body of work I would recommend Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets.

Below are brief comments and/or lyrics from each song on the new album which I really enjoyed. It was great to hear some new Seger music. His voice is in great shape and he’s hinted that this could be his final studio album. One critical comment – the standard version of the album is just too short at 10 songs and 34 minutes. The Deluxe version, contains three additional songs.

The album starts out strong with four upbeat songs before the pace settles down. Spacing the rockers out may have helped give the album better pacing.

Detroit Made – This is a great version of one of my favorite John Hiatt songs, which sounds like it was written for Seger (though it wasn’t).
She’s a Detroit made
Deuce and a quarter, babe

Hey Gypsy – A Chicago blues song written by Seger and one of the best songs on the album featuring a blistering guitar solo from Kenny Greenberg (who is married to Ashley Cleveland). It is a flat-out Stevie Ray Vaughan shuffle. Seger states “I was such a huge fan of his. I called the players in Nashville, and I said, ‘I want you to play as close to Stevie Ray as you can.’ The guitarist Kenny Greenberg, whom I was working with at the time, he brought a special amp in that made him sound exactly like Stevie Ray! We even got Stevie Ray’s old organ player, Reese Wynans. That’s the first time I used him, and he’s on everything (on the album) now.”

Hey Gypsy, where we gonna be
The hard love livin’
It’s getting too much for me

Seger recently performed “Hey Gypsy” on the Ellen show. Check it out here: http://www.ellentv.com/videos/0-v21sxmz1/

The Devil’s Right Hand – Seger covers the gun-violence parable written by Steve Earle. It’s a song Seger has liked ever since he first heard it in the 1988 film “Betrayed,” featuring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger.

The devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand
Momma said the pistol was the devil’s right hand

Ride Out – A rocker about getting away from things and enjoying God’s creation:
Ride out to a bold new horizon
Where the sun me be shinin’
On a place you’ve never seen

Ride out lift your soul and your spirit
Take a chance and get near it
Everybody needs a dream

Ride out where the hills meet the valleys
Far from campaigns and rallies
And the things we do for oil

Adam and Eve – This song was written by Kasey Chamber and features a duet with Laura Creamer, who has been singing backup for him since “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” in the ’60s, and features a fiddle, Seger on banjo and mandolin. It’s a slower folk/acoustic that is an interpretation of the sin of Adam and Eve, though I have concern with this line where Adam sings that he was misled:
I can remember, I do recall
There were no weeds here, no thorns at all
I was misguided, I was misled
I asked for good, but got evil instead
I also take exception to this line about God being on their trail:
Come on, we’re leaving, no time to waste
Garden of Eden’s no longer safe
Throw down that apple, that ship has sailed
We’re on the run with God on our trail

The pace of the song and the simple lyrics reminded me of Dylan’s “God Gave Names to All the Animals” from Slow Train Running (which isn’t necessarily a good thing).

California Stars – This is Seger’s take on Woody Guthrie lyrics put to song by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett and recorded by Wilco. The song builds and features some horns and effective background vocals.
I’d like to dream my troubles all away
On our bed of California stars
Jump up from my star bed make another day
Underneath my California stars

It’s Your World – This rocker finds a defiant Seger calling out the things he is concerned about – environmentally, financially, etc. It’s interesting musically and features some good background vocals.
Let’s talk about mining in Wisconsin
Let’s talk about breathing in Beijing
Let’s talk about chemicals in rivers
Let’s talk about cash as king

All of the Roads – This mid-tempo song with a fiddle and effective femaile background vocals finds the rocker in reflective mood.
I’ve done it all before
And I have gone through every door
And I’ve been right down on the floor and more

All of the roads I’ve run
All of the years have fallen away
Light from a distant star
Crossing the void and arriving one day
Oceans of space defending the great unknown
Sooner or later all of us head for home

You Take Me In – A somber acoustic ballad which could be written to a woman or God.
I search for the meaning and keep on believing
Because in the end you take me in
Through all of these reasons that change like the seasons
I’ve got a friend, you take me in

Gates of Eden – This song starts slowly and builds appropriately as Seger sings about his conversion. I’ve included the complete lyrics to the song below:
I was in the tender mercies of the breaking down
I was somehow in a place that made me want to go along
I remember thinking all of this must have a reason
I remember thinking maybe I should look beyond

The night came on like thunder lightning split the purple skies
My whole day had been a journey sorting through the truth and lies
I remember searching longing for a deeper meaning
And it hit me like a diamond bullet right between the eyes

And I believed everything You said
Every paragraph and every work I read
Calling into question everything that I believe in
Huddled with the masses
Stranded at the gates of Eden
I was huddled with the masses
Stranded at the gates of Eden

Seger will bring his tour to the United Center in Chicago on December 11 and the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 13. Check out his official site at www.bobseger.com

Newsboys AlbumHallelujah for the Cross – Newsboys
***

This has been an incredible year for the Newsboys. The release of the film God’s Not Dead, which they appeared in, propelled their album of the same name back to the top of the Christian charts. Then, their single “We Believe” from their latest album Restart became a big Christian radio hit. I was a little surprised that they were releasing new music at this time, but still excited that for the first time in the band’s history, the Newsboys have recorded a collection of classic hymns (they have released three previous albums of worship songs). The new album features the group’s take on nine classic hymns and one new selection, the title song and first single, written by Ross King and Todd Wright.

Doing your version of classic hymns is a risky proposition as these songs are dear to many. There is a fine line between being faithful to the traditional rendering and showing creativity as an artist. The best I saw at creativity was Jars of Clay’s excellent Redemption Songs.  The Newsboys play it pretty safe with Hallelujah to the Cross, making a few tweaks to the songs and using a sound similar to their current radio hit “We Believe”.

Lead singer Michael Tait stated “Hymns are important to me. We picked through songs that went way, way, way back into my past and my dad’s Baptist church. I love modern worship but I just love that old stuff because they were written in such desperate and perilous times, and out of great pain comes great resolve, I think. When I sing them, they go deeper in ways to me than a lot of things I reach out for when I’m in that spiritual drought.”

The album is produced by Seth Mosley, who also produced the Newsboys’ past two albums, God’s Not Dead and Restart. Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:
All Creatures of our God and King – The end of the song includes a new modern worship chorus. 

Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Medley) – This is an updated (more upbeat) version of the medley that appeared on the band’s 1995 Not Ashamed album.

His Eye Is On The Sparrow – This song rocks harder than the traditional hymn.
Hallelujah For The Cross – This is the first single released from the project and the only newly written song on the album.
It Is Well – This version rocks harder is has a faster pace than the traditional hymn.
Jesus Paid It All – This song was released on last year’s Jesus Firm Foundation: Hymns of Worship. The end of the song includes a new modern worship chorus.
I Surrender All – The band keeps the pace about the same as the traditional hymn.
What A Friend We Have In Jesus – Michael Tait’s vocal here is less full-throated than usual. Some additional features that add to the song.
Holy Holy Holy – The band slows down the pace for one of my favorite hymns. They add some additional lyrics to the chorus: “You are holy, holy, holy”.
All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name – The band ends the album with a beautiful a Capella version of the song showcasing the voices of the entire band, not just Tait. This is perhaps my favorite song on the album.

This is a solid effort from the Newsboys, which will hopefully introduce these classic hymns to a new generation.