Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Songs of Experience – U2 (Deluxe Edition)
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U2 has always been more than just a band. With Songs of Experience, they show their maturity, while still taking chances. The band’s 14th studio album – incredibly with no band member changes – is their follow-up to 2014’s companion Songs of Innocence. Thematically, the album is a collection of letters written by Bono to people and places closest to his heart. The album is influenced by Bono’s “recent brush with death”, and inspired by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly’s advice to him to “write as if you’re dead”. The band worked with nine different producers and 15 engineers on the album. There is much to digest here, and it will best be appreciated after multiple listenings.

The album was ready to be released in late 2016, but after the shift of global politics in a conservative direction, the band decided to delay it and reassess the tone of the album. The album included nine different producers and 15 engineers, so there is a lot of variety included. The album cover features a photo of Bono’s son Eli and the Edge’s daughter Sian holding hands, taken by the band’s long-time photographer Anton Corbijn.

Here are a few brief comments about each song:

Love Is All We Have LeftThis song was produced by Andy Barlow. It’s a slow, quiet song, with Bono singing with synth backing. Bono uses some falsetto, as he duets with his own electronically modified voice. A rather underwhelming track to start the album, which repeats the song title often.

Lights Of HomeThis song was produced by Brent Kutzle, Ryan Tedder, Jacknife Lee and Jolyon Thomas, and co-written by the Haim sisters from the alternative pop-rock band HAIM, who sing back-up vocals. This song references Bono’s brush with death “Shouldn’t be here ’cause I should be dead”, and has him looking toward Heaven (the lights of home). The song features a nice guitar solo from the Edge.

You’re The Best Thing About MeThis song was produced by Ryan Tedder, Steve Lillywhite and Jacknife Lee. It was the first single released from the album. It opens with some excellent guitar from the Edge and continues with a driving beat led by drummer Larry Mullen. The song could very well be about Bono’s wife Ali. It includes some humor “Shooting off my mouth, that’s another great thing about me”. Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews
Hard Cuts: Songs from the H A R D L O V E Sessions (EP) – NEEDTOBREATHE
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NEEDTOBREATHE has stated that one of the hardest parts about finishing their chart-topping 2016 album H A R D L O V E was determining which songs had to be cut to get down to the twelve songs for the album. This new EP contains six songs, two of them alternate versions of “Hard Love”, along with four songs that were cut from the original album.
The EP contains two new versions of “Hard Love”, one featuring Serena Ryder and one featuring Andra Day. Along with the version featuring Lauren Daigle from The Shack: Music From and Inspired By, this makes three versions of the song released since the album was released last year, which seems to be a bit of an overkill.
Below are brief comments on the other four songs:
Waiting – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It is a keyboard driven song with a strong drum beat, backing vocals and a good guitar solo. He is haunted by a woman, who keeps him waiting, shaking, trembling, and chasing mistakes that he made. It’s my least favorite of the new songs.
Count on Me – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Tozer, Bear and Bo Rinehart. This song features a strong drum beat, keys and some backing vocals. Thematically it is similar to “Brother” from their excellent Rivers in the Wasteland album. It features encouraging lyrics.
Everybody needs a pick me up
You can count on me
 
Walking on Water – The last two songs of the four new ones were my favorites, starting with “Walking on Water”. This song will appeal to the band’s Christian fan base as it will remind them of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14. It starts slowly and then builds powerfully and joyfully on the chorus with a with a strong drum beat and backing vocals. There’s no turning back.
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water

Cages – This song was produced by Ed Cash and NEEDTOBREATHE and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It’s another song that the band’s Christian fan base will resonate with. It starts as a piano-driven song, with light drums. He was looking for attention, was needing redemption but all he got was cages. It then builds powerfully with drums and guitar. They reference their 2009 album The Outsiders, stating that they’re a band of outsiders.
I’m in a prison for a man gone wrong
But I’ve found a future, this is not my home     
Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Beatles (Deluxe Edition) 
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Has it really been 50 years ago that we first heard Paul McCartney sing that opening line “It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play?” Yes, believe it or not, the Beatles classic album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which many (including me), consider the greatest rock album of all time, was released in the U.S. 50 years ago on June 2, 1967 (having been released the previous day in England).
Back then there was no Internet, Twitter or iTunes. I bought my albums at the local K-Mart, where mono albums sold for $3.44 and stereo for $3.77. I remember looking at the albums on this particular night and only realizing that this strange looking album, with the band sporting facial hair for the first time and colorful uniforms, was a Beatles album, by seeing “BEATLES” spelled out along the bottom in funeral flowers.
My Mom worked evenings at the IAA building at that time. As we picked her up from work, from the back seat I excitedly said to her, “Mom, there’s a new Beatles album out!” I can remember her response like it was yesterday. She replied “I was afraid you’d find out about it”.
Much has changed in those 50 years. Mom is gone, K-Mart is gone, and so are two of the Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison. And I’ve since heard most of these songs performed live in concert by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. And the soon to be 75-year old McCartney was only 25 years old when he released “When I’m 64”.
For the 50th anniversary celebration, the remaining Beatles and their representatives turned to Giles Martin, the son of their long-time producer George, who died in 2016. Giles had assisted his father, then 80, on the excellent 2006 Beatles’ release Love. Giles worked with Abbey Road audio engineer Sam Okell on the new project. Continue reading


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My Review of U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour and Album

 Last Friday, U2, my favorite band, marked the 30th anniversary of their 5th studio album, 1987’s The Joshua Tree, with the release of a reissue, available in several formats. I picked up the digital version of the Super Deluxe edition, containing 49 tracks. Incredibly, The Joshua Tree was listed as the top album of 1987 by two publications as diverse as CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) magazine, and Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone ranked it #27 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
The following evening on Saturday, June 3, we attended The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, my 8th U2 concert; a sold-out show in Chicago at Soldier Field along Lake Michigan with 60,000 of our closest friends. The average age of the crowd was about 45.  My nephew saw the Houston show on an earlier tour stop and called it, “a religious experience”. U2 has always been so much more than just a band. After all, it was how U2 brought their faith to their music that attracted me to them in the first place. And of course the band, particularly front man Bono, is very active and outspoken on social and political issues.
My love affair with the band began when as a new believer, I bought their 1983 War album, featuring songs such as “New Year’s Day”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “40”, a musical version of Psalm 40. The first time I saw U2 in concert was on their 1992 Zoo TV Tour at the then World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. Fast forward 25 years on a beautiful warm June evening in downtown Chicago, the band played The Joshua Tree in its entirety, bookended by some of the most beloved songs, for a total set of 21 songs.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

There were many highlights for me, beginning with Larry Mullen Jr. pounding out the first beats to the opening song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on a small stage at the end of a runway built in the shape of a Joshua tree. Watch them perform the song here.  After the opening set, they moved to the main stage to perform The Joshua Tree album in song sequence order, beginning with “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Watch them perform the song here.  Throughout the concert, video images would be projected on the large screen behind the band, with the band occasionally portrayed on the screen as well. I was surprised that, given the large stadium that the concert was being held in, the band didn’t provide constant video of the band.
After completing The Joshua Tree, the band came back for a six-song encore. Here is the complete setlist. My two favorite songs were “Elevation” and the closing “I Will Follow”.
The band is still going strong more than 37 years since their 1980 album Boy. Incredibly, they have had no band member changes in all that time. Bono is still an incredible performer, on vocals, harmonica and band spokesman, at age 57, and he is backed by perhaps the world’s tightest band, with Edge on guitar and keyboards, Adam Clayton on bass and Larry Mullen on drums.
Throughout the evening Bono, sensing the divide in our country, tried to bring people together, saying it didn’t matter who you voted for, all were welcome at the show. The band took a not so funny shot at President Trump, using what looked like an old western film. After all, it was U2, who after completing their Songs of Experience album, said in January that they were delaying it and reconsidering it in light of Trump’s election.
During the encore, Bono used the song “Miss Sarajevo” to highlight the Syrian refugee crisis and dedicated “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” to women, with images of many women portrayed on the large screen behind the main stage. Why Angela Davis was among those women I can’t tell you. During this time Bono asked pastors not to be judgmental, perhaps due to his open support of two women he recognized that had just gotten married. It was about that time that I heard someone say, “Just shut up and sing Bono”. But that’s just what you get from Bono. He’s not just a rock star, but an activist. You may not agree with all of his views, and I don’t, but that’s who he is, love him or not.
This wasn’t the best of the eight U2 shows I’ve seen, and it wasn’t the worst. After a very strong start, the show lost some momentum during the performance of “side two” of The Joshua Tree, and in my opinion when Bono “got political”. But it was still an excellent concert. And a nice unexpected addition to the evening was seeing a long fireworks show from nearby Navy Pier near the end of U2’s main set.
I’ve read Greg Kot’s music reviews in the Chicago Tribune for many years. Check out his review of the concert.
The show was opened by the Lumineers, who came on stage more than a half an hour late. I wasn’t familiar with their music, which reminded me a bit of NEEDTOBREATHE, but I enjoyed their set, especially their more upbeat songs. My favorites were “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love”. Here is their setlist.
For U2 fans who already have the 2007 remastered Deluxe edition of The Joshua Tree (which I do), purchasing the 2017 Super Deluxe edition will present a decision. Knowing that we would be going to the concert the following day, I decided to purchase it.
The Super Deluxe edition contains the original 11-song 1987 album, outtakes and B-sides, using the same versions from the 2007 Deluxe edition. Of the 49 tracks on the Super Deluxe edition, the only thing that will be “new” for those who have the 2007 Deluxe edition will be an excellent 17-song 1987 concert recorded at Madison Square Garden, six new remixes and two previously unreleased songs – Steve Lillywhite’s alternate version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Brian Eno’s 2017 “One Tree Hill Reprise”. The other 24 tracks have been previously available. 
Now, I’m not a huge fan of remixes, or live albums for that matter. To me they are kind of like seeing a movie in 3D; usually not worth the cost. The six songs here are new mixes by producers familiar to U2 fans, such as Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Flood. One remix that really stood out for me was Lillywhite’s “Red Hill Mining Town”, which I thought was outstanding in how it effectively brings horns into the mix. The band used that version in their June 3 concert in Chicago.
Picking up The Joshua Tree in one of these available formats and catching them on this tour is a great way to celebrate one of the greatest rock bands and their timeless album.


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Music Reviews and News

Gloria. U2 performed their 1981 song “Gloria” for the first time in ten years recently during the third show of their five night residency at the United Center in Chicago. Here are the lyrics to the song:

I try to sing this songU2 at the UC
I…I try to stand up
But I can’t find my feet
I try, I try to speak up
But only in you I’m complete

Gloria…in te domine
Gloria…exultate
Gloria…Gloria
Oh Lord, loosen my lips

I try to sing this song
I…I try to get in
But I can’t find the door
The door is open
You’re standing there
You let me in

Gloria…in te domine
Gloria…exultate
Oh Lord, if I had anything
Anything at all
I’d give it to you
I’d give it to you

Gloria…Gloria…

musicnewsConcert Video: Bono and Costa Rica Woman Video. We attended U2’s concert at the United Center on June 25. Bono pulled Marcela, a young woman from Costa Rica out of the crowd. Watch it here.

  • Abide with Me. Check out this video of an acoustic version of my favorite song of 2015, “Abide with Me” performed by Matt Redman.
  • Your Love is Enough. Watch this video of Jon Foreman performing an acoustic version of this song from his The Wonderlands: Shadows EP, to be released July 17.
  • Amazing Grace. Watch former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on piano accompanying Utah violinist Jenny Oaks Baker in a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Music speaks quoteMUSIC QUOTES:

The only thing harder than waiting on God, is wishing you had. KB

Dear Lord, thank you, I haven’t been angry, mean, or selfish today. But I’m about to get out of bed and I’m gonna need some help. Lecrae

Is there anything better than a child experiencing her first sparkler? I think not. Charlie Peacock

Song of the Week

Moment of Surrender by U2

This song was included in U2’s 2009 album No Line on the Horizon. They played pieces of it before and after “Bad” in their second of five shows at Chicago’s United Center recently.

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses run free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too cool to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It’s not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pentecost

At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I write modern worship choruses


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Music Reviews and News

Concert Review:  U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour at the United Center in Chicago – June 25, 2015

U2The first U2 album I bought was 1983’s War. I was a relatively new Christian at the time and had read about this mainstream band in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine in which some of the members were Christians. (Note: Bono mentioned in 2005’s Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas that all were now believers, with bassist Adam Clayton being the last to come to faith). Among the songs on War was “40”, which contains the words of Psalm 40, and is a song that the band has closed their shows with often over the years. I’ve been a fan of U2 ever since, especially enjoying the spiritual aspects of their music.

Thursday’s concert at Chicago’s United Center was the second of five at the venue on their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, featuring seven songs from their latest album Songs of Innocence, which Rolling Stone magazine named as the top album of 2014. The album, their first since 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, was also my top album of 2014, narrowly edging out Lecrae’s excellent Anomaly. This was the seventh time I’ve seen my favorite band in concert and the first in an arena setting since the 2005 Vertigo tour, with outdoor stadium shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium since that time.

U2 often does unique things with their stage. This time, the stage had two large locations at each end of the arena, with a long walkway across the United Center floor connecting them, where just a few nights before the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup Championship. Our seats were supposed to be in the lower section at the end of the main stage. Due to a mix-up (either the wrong floor map was posted when we purchased tickets through the band’s fan club, or the stage was flipped) our seats were actually behind the stage. Those sitting around us were all very disappointed with this, but as it turned out there were some benefits to sitting only about 25 feet from drummer Larry Mullen. It was amazing to watch him working (behind the scenes) throughout the show. The close proximity to the band was a stark contrast to my last U2 concert, when we were more than three hundred feet away from the U2 360 stage placed in center field at Busch Stadium.

The two and a half hour concert started with Bono in his trademark black leather jacket and sunglasses appearing alone on the far end of the arena. As he walked toward the main stage he began singing “Oh, Oh, Oh…” from “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” as the rest of the band (Edge, guitar and keyboards; Adam Clayton, bass; and Larry Mullen) took their places on stage. The concert did not include an opening act and had only a short intermission of Johnny Cash singing “The Wanderer” from Zooropa on the video screen; it featured twenty four songs, including three during the encore. Here is the complete setlist, which changes a bit each night as the band plays multiple dates in each city on the tour.

Although the concert featured seven songs from Songs of Innocence – which sounded even better in concert than on the too perfectly produced album – the band did a nice job of playing songs from throughout their thirty-five year career. Here are the albums that the songs originally appeared on:

Boy (1980) – Out of Control, I Will Follow

War (1983) – Sunday Bloody Sunday

Unforgettable Fire (1984) – Pride (In the Name of Love), Bad

The Joshua Tree (1987) – With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, Where the Streets Have No Name

Rattle and Hum (1988) – Angel of Harlem

Achtung Baby (1991) – Even Better Than the Real Thing, One, Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – Beautiful Day

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) – Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights

No Line on the Horizon (2009) – Moment of Surrender (portions performed before and after “Bad”).

Invisible 2014 single (not available on an album)

Songs of Innocence (2014) – The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone); Iris (Hold Me Close), Cedarwood Road, Song for Someone, Raised by Wolves, Every Breaking Wave, Volcano

The band’s main stage was directly in front of us at one end of the United Center. A long catwalk/walkway with a huge see-through video screen above it, added much to the experience, but also created some challenges as only those on the sides of the arena could fully see the band when they were inside the screen. That’s right, the band would enter the screen and be part of the video experience. The screen would move up and down throughout the concert. However, when it was down, it made it difficult for people seated at the ends of the arena to see the band.

The band also set up at the far end of the arena for a few songs. By moving around and playing at a number of different places on their stage they added variety and gave everyone unique views of the band.

The show featured a few themes. The first half of the show featured many of the new songs from Songs of Innocence, so growing up was a theme – much as it was with Lecrae on his recent Anomaly tour – as Bono sang about his mother Iris (“Iris (Hold Me Close)” and his neighborhood growing up “Cedarwood Road”. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Larry playing a sobering snare drum effectively led into “Raised by Wolves”. Later, Bono would say that after grief comes anger as he led the band into “Volcano”. With songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” there were references to “I can’t breathe”, Ferguson, MO and Charleston SC. Later, the theme of surrender came up with parts of “Moment of Surrender” sung before and after “Bad”.

A few other thoughts:

  • The couple in front of us were from nearby (to Chicago) Grayslake, Illinois. This was her thirteenth U2 concert. When Bono introduced their second song “Out of Control” as their first single, she was completely overcome emotionally, with tears streaming down her face during the entire song. I’ll never forget how the song impacted her.
  • “Every Breaking Wave” is my favorite song on the new album. I actually prefer the alternate version released on the deluxe edition, so Bono performing it with only Edge on piano at the far end of the stage was a highlight.
  • Bono pulled a young woman from Costa Rica out of the crowd to help him film “Mysterious Ways” and “Angel of Harlem” around the world as Twitter comments from literally around the world were projected up on the large video screens above us.
  • My favorite song was “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which was followed by “Beautiful Day”. The energy in the building during those two songs was incredible.

Though Bono seemed less energetic than past tours (could be due to his recent bike accident, or what the Chicago Tribune referred to as his bout with “nagging bronchitis”), it would not have been noticeable to those who hadn’t seen him on previous tours when he would sprint around the stage.

Thirty-five years after their first album U2 is still relevant and going strong. Incredibly there have been no band member changes during that time. I hope to see them on the next leg of the tour with songs from the rumored Songs of Experience album.

 Song of the Week

Jubilee by Michael Card

Michael’s Card’s ministry (music, books, teaching) has had a profound impact on my life for thirty years. This is one of my favorite songs of his. I particularly enjoy the line:

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
The word provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so His chosen one could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness
He longed to see their liberty
And His yearning was embodied in the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time His deep desire to give a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Watch Michael perform this wonderful song in concert here.

musicnewsMusic News

  • Angels of Fenway. Watch James Taylor perform this song (about his Red Sox defeating my Cardinals in the 2004 World Series) from his excellent new album Before the World on Late Night with Seth Myers.
  • Charleston Shooting Comes From Deeply Rooted Racism & Injustice. Lecrae writes “We don’t need a cliché and a proof-text for every social issue. We need hands and feet in the cities, institutions, and infrastructures. The same gospel that frees the soul, frees us to live selflessly toward others with genuine compassion.”

4th-Of-July