Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Music from the Soundtrack of My Life


On Tuesday, June 11, my wife Tammy and I and my brother Mike and his wife Julie made our way to the Taxslayer Center in Moline, Illinois for a stop on Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up tour. This would be the thirteenth time I had seen McCartney in concert, with the first being at the Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) with my brother-in-law Al in December, 1989. In addition to the recent concert in Moline, I have seen him in Chicago six times (Rosemont Horizon, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and three times at the United Center), Indianapolis (at the old Market Square Arena and twice at Conseco Fieldhouse, now known as Banker’s Life Fieldhouse), Milwaukee (the old Country Stadium) and Summerfest, and St. Louis (the old Busch Memorial Stadium).  Five of the concerts have been held in outdoor stadiums, with the remaining in indoor arenas. None of them have been in as intimate a setting as the 12,000 seat Taxslayer Center.
It’s hard to over-emphasize how much of a part of my life that the music of the Beatles, and in particular McCartney, has been. Many of their songs take me back to great memories in my life. McCartney concerts always stir emotions in me that no other concerts can, as the songs are really from the soundtrack of my life. For example – I can remember my Aunt Linda screaming at the television in her parents’ (my grandparents) living room as the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Later in that same home, my brother Mike and I first saw the Beatles Rubber Soul album in our Aunt Cindy’s room. Linda and Cindy both saw the Beatles in concert at Chicago’s Comiskey Park! My first single was the early 1964 Beatles’ two-sided hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand”/”I Saw Her Standing There”, with its black & white cover sleeve with the boys in their “Beatles suits” and McCartney holding a cigarette. (see below). Continue reading


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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

Hymns Vol. 1 – Shane and Shane
****

Shane and Shane are a contemporary worship duo comprised of Shane Barnard and Shane Everett. I recently got to enjoy their music at the Sing 2018 conference in Nashville. Prior to that, what I knew about the duo was primarily through the ministry of Desiring God.

Hymns Vol. 1 is a new album featuring new arrangements of ten modern and traditional hymns, totaling in excess of 57 minutes of music.  This is an album that I thoroughly enjoyed. At first listen, it can appear like a simple and basic covering of these wonderful hymns. However, each repeated listening brings out something new about these extended arrangements, which are connected, with no breaks between the songs. The lead and harmony vocals are excellent throughout, as is the musical accompaniment, which never gets in the way of the words of these wonderful hymns. I can’t wait for Vol. 2.

Below are a few brief comments about each song:

Tis So Sweet – The lyrics to this hymn were written by Louisa M.R. Stead in 1882, and the music by William J. Kirkpatrick. This version, which clocks in just under seven minutes, features guitar, light percussion, and violin, and builds powerfully.

How Great Thou Art – This hymn, which is my favorite, was based on a poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885. It was translated into English by the missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two additional verses. The hymn was set to a Russian melody. The song features guitar, piano, drums and builds powerfully.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review
  • A review of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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NEW AND UPCOMING ALBUMS

Below are a few new and upcoming albums that I’m looking forward to:

Forever On Your Side Niles City Sound Sessions – NEEDTOBREATHE  

This four-song EP will be released on July 13. The band has already released three of the songs – “Bridges Burn”, “Darling” and “Bullets”.

Noble Ape – Jim Gaffigan
This album will be released on July 13. The film will be available on that date in select cities. I’m looking forward to this release as I saw a concert on this tour that this album was recorded on.
From the artist’s website: “In his all new Noble Ape stand up special, Jim Gaffigan gets personal as he discusses the medical crisis that befell his wife and family this year, which almost led to his retirement”.

My New Moon – Amos Lee
This album will be released August 31. It is Lee’s follow-up to 2016’s Spirit.
From the Amazon description: “Singer/songwriter Amos Lee says his seventh studio album My New Moon is “a dedication…it’s an offering – an altar of sorts to those who have shared their sorrows with me.” It is a product of profound human experiences; loss, grief, hope, healing, love, sorrow, and rejuvenation. Each track on My New Moon takes a journey through these intense and personal experiences. Opening track “No More Darkness, No More Light” was rewritten entirely after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and speaks to the hope for change that lies in amongst tragic situations and challenges. “Little Light,” written for a young girl who beat cancer, is a positive message of spreading light for the world to see, even if you’re facing hardship. “Hang On, Hang On” reflects the helplessness that comes after the loss of a loved one, “Crooked” brings to light the difficult and confusing times we’ve faced throughout history in America, and “I Get Weak” is a beautifully dark love song to something that might kill you, but you need it to go on living. The album as a whole reflects the darkness and the light that we all both experience and bring into the world, and how through these personal experiences and hard times, we grow more connected to one another.” Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Best of Fernando Ortega: Live in St. Paul
****

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
****
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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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews
Pure McCartney
by Paul McCartney
****

I grew up as a huge Beatles fan and have followed the band members solo careers as well, by far the most commercially successful and prolific being Paul McCartney.  That’s not to say that there haven’t been some pretty uneven albums along the way (Pure McCartneythink of 1971’s Wild Life by Wings, for example).  Recently I saw McCartney on tour for the twelfth time. One of the things I always look forward to is what songs he will pull from his impressive Beatles, Wings and solo career to play on the tour. Several songs from his compilation show up on his new “One on One” tour set list. This compilation, his fourth, after 1978’s Wings Greatest, 1987’s All the Best and 2001 Wingspan, includes songs from his 1970 debut McCartney to his 2014 single “Hope for the Future” and his 2015 remix of “Say Say Say”, a hit with Michael Jackson.

The collection comes in multiple formats, with the deluxe edition including 67 (25 of which have been newly mastered), solo, Wings and Fireman songs, more than 40 of which were Top 40 hits. McCartney had more than 300 songs to choose from – from 17 solo, 7 Wings and 2 Fireman studio albums.   McCartney and his team came up with the idea of putting together the collection “with nothing else in mind than having something fun to listen to”.

There will always be songs left off that you would like to see on an artist’s compilation project. I was surprised that no tracks from his fine 1989 Flowers in the Dirt album or 2001’s Driving Rain were included, for example.  On the other hand, 8 songs were included from his 1997 Flaming Pie album and 5 from his latest, 2013’s New, were included. I would also have liked to see some more rarities, such as “Girl’s School” and “Spies Like Us”.  One rarity does show up, the children’s song “We All Stand Together”, as well as several “deep cuts” from McCartney solo, Wings and Fireman albums, a particular favorite of mine is “Warm and Beautiful” from the mostly forgettable but best-selling 1976 Wings at the Speed of Sound, where McCartney let all band members take a turn at lead vocals.

Despite the above minor concerns, I enjoyed listening to these songs, all but “We All Stand Together” I once had, but many of which I didn’t have in a CD or digital format. Sit back and enjoy these songs covering McCartney’s amazing now 46-year post-Beatles career.

Note: Pure McCartney gave me the idea to make my own McCartney mixtape, using my favorite Beatles songs he sang lead on as well as my favorites from his solo career. Although I still am adding to the mixtape/playlist, it currently has 233 songs on it.

A good companion to this compilation for McCartney fans would be Philip Norman’s new biography Paul McCartney: The Life.
Stranger to Stranger by Paul SimonStranger to Stranger by Paul Simon
****

Never one to rest on his impressive laurels, 74 year-old Paul Simon returns with Stranger to Stranger, his thirteenth solo album, five years in the making, and his first studio album since 2011’s excellent So Beautiful or So What. The album is produced by Andy Smith and 81 year-old Roy Halee, a longtime collaborator whose relationship with Simon goes back to the original Simon and Garfunkel days in 1964.

This risk-taking album takes many listens to fully appreciate. It includes two instrumentals and is in many ways experimental, pushing boundaries and featuring a wide variety of instruments, electronic beats, loops, samples, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers.  The album is heavy in percussion, with four of the album’s first six songs not even using a guitar. Simon was influenced by the works of Harry Partch, an American composer, music theorist, and creator of musical instruments. Partch experimented with microtonal tunings. In fact, Simon has said that there is not a lyrical theme to the album, but rather a sound theme, though like his last album, God and the afterlife are recurring themes here.

Here are a few brief comments on each of the songs on the standard edition of the album:

The Werewolf The opening song is about a werewolf, an angel of death. She is looking for other victims to kill. It’s the end of the rainbow, midnight, and she really has the appetite. It is the first of three songs that Simon collaborates with the Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap! A good beat plays behind Simon’s vocal.

Wristband This also features Clap! Clap! It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, about a musician who goes out for a smoke, and then is unable to get back into the venue he is playing at because he doesn’t have the required wristband.  The song then pivots about the homeless and lowly who can never get through the door. Again, an infectious beat behind Simon’s vocal along with some good horns.

The Clock A short instrumental, the first of two instrumentals on the album that were originally written for John Patrick Shanley’s play Prodigal Son. Simon said that he decided to insert them in the album to give a little space after songs.

Street Angel The third song that features Clap! Clap! The central character from this song also appears in “In a Parade”, the first time a Simon character appears on two songs of the same album.  Simon samples 1939 gospel vocals from The Golden Gate Quartet, a favorite of his.  An interesting verse that doesn’t seem to go along with the rest of the song is:

If God goes fishing
And we are the fishes
He baits his lines
With prayers and wishes
They sparkle in the shallows
They catch the falling light
We hide our hearts like holy hostages
We’re hungry for the love, and so we bite

 Stranger to Stranger Simon slows it down on what could be a song to musician wife Edie Brickell. He asks that if they met for the first time could they imagine falling in love again. He is jittery, it’s his way of dealing with his joy. Features some effective horns.

In a Parade The singer may be in an ER, which tonight feels like every wounded soul, or in a parade and can’t talk now. Street Angel reappears, as does the line from the song “Street Angel”, “I write my verse for the universe”.  Features an infectious percussion beat.

Proof of Love This song was inspired by Simon’s visit to a spiritual healer in Brazil when he was suffering from reoccurring violent nightmares. He asks the Lord for proof of love, and hears a voice telling him not to be afraid that his days won’t end with night.

In the Garden of Edie This song is about Simon’s wife Edie, and is the second instrumental included that was originally written for Prodigal Son.

The Riverbank The mostly upbeat sound contrasts with the subject matter here. The song was inspired by a teacher that Simon knew who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, 2012 and also depicts the funeral of a veteran who committed suicide.

Cool Papa Bell A favorite, this song is partially about a center fielder in the Negro league baseball from 1922 to 1950. He is considered to have been one of the fastest players ever to play the game. Simon sings that most will get to Heaven someday, but not the person he is singing to. They will have to stay and explain the suffering and pain they caused. The song, which has a Graceland vibe to it, includes some adult language.

Insomniac’s Lullaby This acoustic song features the use of instruments created by Harry Partch. It has a melancholy feel to it as he sings for the Lord not to keep him up all night with questions he can’t understand, such as how the builder of bridges will deliver us all to the faraway shore.

music news

  • Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God Tour. Andrew Peterson just released his 2016 Behold the Lamb of God (Christmas) Tour. We plan to get to one of the dates. Hope you can as well.
  • Bruce Springsteen to Release Chapter and Verse Companion Album with Autobiography Launch. Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run will be published September 23. At the same time, an 18 track album Chapter and Verse will also be released.
  • “Money & Fame” Acoustic Version. Watch NEEDTOBREATHE’s acoustic version of “Money & Fame” as a part of “Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Warehouse Acoustic Sessions,” a series of performance videos and interviews shot inside the company’s Décor Warehouse.
  • New Michael W. Smith Song. Michael W. Smith recently spent some time in the land of Israel and filmed a new video for his song “He Will Never End” while there, featuring many ancient locations from biblical times.
  • Tempo.  Watch the video for the new song “Tempo” from KB.
  • Misconceptions 3. Watch this video of Misconceptions 3 by Lecrae featuring John Givez, Jgivens and Jackie Hill Perry from Lecrae’s Church Clothes 3.

Lecrae QuoteMusic Quotes:

  • Worship doesn’t start with you. It begins and ends with a merciful, majestic and powerful God. ― Matt Redman

  • Don’t chase accomplishments, people or positions to find your worth. You’re already loved, just as you are, by the Father. ― Chris Tomlin

  • “Music is the great unifier. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” ― Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

 

Song of the Week Looking for America (featuring Lecrae) by Switchfoot

Switchfoot has long been one of my favorite bands and Lecrae has become one of my favorite artists over the past few years. Put the two together, and are you kidding me? You get a powerful song. Great beat and powerful lyrics. Listen to it here, from my favorite album of the year thus far, Where The Light Shines Through.

Here are the lyrics to the song:Where The Light Shines Through

Land of the free, home of the brave
But Lord knows that we need plenty change
‘Cause plenty chains in the past leaving deep scars
But when the sun come down we gonna be stars

The doors are locked where they once stood open
A wound of fear where we once stood hoping
The shattered glass where the bullets broke in
I’m looking for the place that I was born
I’m looking for a way to fix what’s torn
I’m looking for America

I’m looking for America

Yeah, you know
Beaten red white and blue for the green we pursue
I’m still looking for you

America who are you?
Underneath the red blue and white?
America who are you?
I wonder who you are tonight
America who are you?
Is God still on your side?
I want to see a nation rise above the fear and fight that haunts these streets tonight

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

I’m looking for America
Headlines that I can’t believe in
But I’m still holding on to hope
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for America

America who are you?
Am I asking for too much
America who are you?
Has your dream become out of touch
America who are you?
Do you get what you deserve
Between the violence and entitlements
Which nation do you serve?

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

I’m looking for America
Headlines that I can’t believe in
But I’m still holding on to hope
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for America

I’m singing
Farewell my utopia
Farewell my euphoria
Fare thee well my suburban day-dream
Farewell my utopia

America you so pretty
But you not perfect
Confession of guilt is worth it
These people hurting deserve it
Blood on your hands I saw
When there’s blood on this nations floor
But it’s blood on the upper post of your door
If you need to know

I’m looking for your honesty in skeletons
Do away with your ignorance and arrogance
America the land of immigrants
Check the green card and pedigree
Bless the Choctaw and the Cherokee
That we’ll never see

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

I’m looking for America
Headlines that I can’t believe in
But I’m still holding on to hope
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for a miracle
I’m looking for America

The land of the free, home of the brave
But Lord knows we need plenty change
I’m looking for America
Plenty chains in the past left deep scars
But when the sun come down we gonna be stars
And may the stripes heal when it’s through
Beaten red white blue for the green that we pursue

I’m looking for America


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Good Summer Reads

good summer reads

If You Can Keep ItIf You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas. Viking. 272 pages. 2016
***

The author, one of my favorites, writes of the promise of liberty for the new nation as was laid out in the Constitution. He states that although the current situation in America is grave (more about that at the end of my review), much of the promise has already been fulfilled.

The book title comes from a quote from Benjamin Franklin. In response to a woman about what kind of nation the Founders had given the American people, he replied “A republic, if you can keep it”.  Metaxas asks if we can keep it and if so, how?

He writes that America was founded on the idea of liberty, and that America exists for others. Its mission is to the rest of the world.  Our exceptionalism is for others. He writes that the concept of self-government was a new idea.

Metaxas writes of the “Golden Triangle of Freedom”, a concept that Os Guinness (to whom the book is dedicated), developed in his book A Free People’s Suicide. This is the concept that Freedom requires Virtue; Virtue requires Faith; and Faith requires Freedom.

Metaxas writes that America’s Founders knew that communities that took their faith seriously tended to be virtuous in the way that self-government required.  Faith in turn requires freedom, because unless people are free to practice whatever faith they choose, that faith is coerced by the state, and therefore not real faith at all. He writes that unfortunately, as a nation, we have largely forgotten the ideas on which our country was founded upon.

He writes about what it means to be an American, and that most people wrongly understand the concept known as the separation of church and state, and also believe that it is in the Constitution, which it is not.

He writes about the role of British preacher/evangelist George Whitefield in forming America,  a fact that was new to me. He indicates that Whitefield showed that different denominations could co-exist in the new country. Whitefield taught that each person was equal in the sight of God, and that each person could have a direct relationship with God through the new birth. Metaxas writes that some call Whitefield the “Spiritual Father of the United States”.

Throughout the book Metaxas writes of heroes such as Paul Revere, George Washington, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln.  He states that in the past fifty years, we have moved to the veneration of heroes in America to the suspicion of them.

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