Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of BELFAST

Belfast, rated PG-13

Belfast is a well-made film about a family living happily in a mixed (Protestant and Catholic) working class neighborhood in Belfast, Ireland during the late 1960’s. When a violent Protestant mob attempts to drive the Catholics out of the neighborhood, it threatens the family’s peaceful existence.
The film was written and directed by five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Henry V, Hamlet and Swan Song), and depicts a coming-of-age story based on his own life in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. His childhood coincided with the beginning of a violent period known as the Troubles, which lasted for decades.
The film is beautifully shot in black and white by cinematographer Haris Zambarlouskos, and features an excellent cast. The film captures the working-class neighborhood where children could once safely play in the streets. At the center of the film is family struggling financially, due in part to Pa having to pay significant back taxes, and trying to decide whether they should leave the country amidst the conflict.

At the center of the film is the likeable nine-year-old Buddy, played by Jude Hill. Buddy lives with his older brother Will, played by Lewis McAskie. We see Buddy playing in the street, watching television, going to the movies and church, and having a crush on a pretty Catholic girl in his class that he plans to marry one day. Buddy’s parents Ma and Pa are played by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey). Pa works in England as a carpenter, and only comes home every few weekends, while Ma raises Buddy and Will, and tries to make ends meet. Buddy’s grandparents are wonderfully played by Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).
Hanging over the film is the big question the family is facing. Do they remain in this increasingly dangerous neighborhood where they’ve lived their entire lives, where extended family lives, where everyone knows everyone, or do they move somewhere safer, like England, Sydney or Vancouver, where nobody knows them, and start all over?
The musical soundtrack by Belfast native Van Morrison is a treat, and features several of his songs. The film does include some adult language and violence.
Belfast is a well-made film based on a true story.

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Here are reviews from four brand-new albums:

Jesus is King – Kanye West

Jesus is King is the highly anticipated and publicized new album, and the first gospel music album, from the controversial Kanye West. I’ll admit that I’ve not previously heard any music from West, who has won an amazing 21 Grammy Awards.
This year, West began attending Placerita Bible Church in Newhall, California. The church is a non-denominational congregation, led by senior pastor, Adam Tyson, a graduate of the respected Master’s Seminary, which was founded by John MacArthur. Tyson has been instrumental in guiding Kanye West’s spiritual journey, including consulting on the lyrics of this album.
West uses a lot of collaborators on the writing and producing of these songs. This album, his ninth studio project, clocks in at only 27 minutes, and topped the charts upon release.
My overall assessment is that while inconsistent, this is a solid effort and worth consideration from those who enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music. Here are a few comments about each song:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and reviews of~
  • Three Cords & The Truth – Van Morrison
  • Western Stars – Songs from the Film – Bruce Springsteen
  • What’s My Name – Ringo Starr
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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11 New and Upcoming Albums You Might Be Interested In

There are a number of new and upcoming albums, in a variety of genres, that I would like to share with you that you may be interested in.

Abbey Road (Super Deluxe Edition – Beatles

Just as he did with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles (The White Album), Giles Martin, son of the long-time Beatles producer George Martin, has given us a remixed anniversary project on the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road. The Super Deluxe Anniversary Edition includes a new mix of the original album, which was produced by George Martin, which includes the famous closing suite on side 2, John Lennon’s “Come Together” and two of George Harrison’s best songs – “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”. In addition, this edition includes 23 outtakes and demos, which was what I was most excited about. Continue reading

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Versatile – Van Morrison

The 72-year old Morrison follows his excellent September, 2017 blues album Roll with the Punches with the self-produced Versatile, his 38th studio album. The appropriately titled Versatile focuses on his interpretation of nine of the 20th century’s greatest vocal jazz standards, as well as 3 new jazz-influenced originals, three new versions of songs he’s previously recorded, “I Forgot That Love Existed,” “Only A Dream” and “Start All Over Again”, and an arrangement of the Scottish traditional “Skye Boat Song.” I thoroughly enjoyed this album, especially the more upbeat arrangements. It’s hard to go wrong with Morrison’s singing, excellent musicians and some great songs.
Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and a review of You’re Driving Me Crazy by Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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Roll with the Punches – Van Morrison

Anytime you have the great Van Morrison covering strong material with excellent musicians you know you’re in for a treat. Morrison follows up 2016’s strong release Keep Me Singing with his 37th studio album, which he self-produced. The album contains ten covers of old blues and soul classics along with five songs written by Morrison.  Van’s voice is still an incredible instrument, and he brings passion to these blues songs, whether cover or original. Morrison has stated that from a very early age he connected with the blues. A strong group of collaborators join him on the album including Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame, Jeff Beck (who contributes to seven of the songs), Paul Jones and Jason Rebello.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Below are a few comments about each song:

Roll with the Punches – This song was written by Morrison and Don Black. While an original, this sounds like a classic blues song.  It features some excellent piano, guitar, keyboard. It’s an excellent opener.
Transformation – This ballad was written by Morrison. It features organ, an excellent guitar solo by Jeff Beck and backing vocals by Chris Farlowe. Key lyric: Get used to righteousness ’cause it makes you feel whole, gonna be a transformation right down in your soul
I Can Tell – This song was written by Bo Diddley and Samuel Bernard Smith in 1962. It has an instantly infectious beat, featuring keys, backing vocals, guitar solo and harmonica solo from Morrison.
Stormy Monday/Lonely Avenue – These songs were written by T-Bone Walker (in 1947), and Doc Pomus, the latter of which was a hit for Ray Charles in 1956. The songs previously had appeared on Morrison’s 1994 live album A Night in San Francisco. The song features vocals from Chris Farlowe, a guitar and harmonica solo from Morrison along with backing vocals.
Goin’ To Chicago – This song was written by Count Basie and Jimmy Rushing in 1941. It’s a slow blues number featuring a duet with Georgie Fame, harmonica by Morrison, and Chris Hill on double bass.
Fame – This song was written by Morrison. It had originally been included on Morrison’s 2002 What’s Wrong with this Picture? album. This version features backing vocals, a great blues beat, guitar and harmonica from Morrison. Key lyric: Oh no don’t believe all that old Andy Warhol guff. It takes a lot more than 10 or 15 minutes.  
Too Much Trouble – This song was written by Morrison.  The band really shines on this breezy blues song featuring guitar, horns, piano and Morrison on sax. He wants the trouble in his life stopped.
Bring It on Home to Me – This song was written by Sam Cooke in 1962. It appeared earlier on Morrison’s live album “…It’s Too Late to Stop Now…” Volume 1.  The new version features a strong vocal from Morrison, organ, piano, backing vocals and a great guitar solo by Jeff Beck.
Ordinary People – This song was written by Morrison and originally appeared on his 1998 album Philosopher’s Stone. It features some excellent guitar by Jeff Beck, piano, keys, and backing vocals. Key lyric: Ordinary people, they just don’t seem to comprehend.   
How Far From God – This song was written by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1946. The toe-tapping arrangement is led by some excellent piano, along with organ, guitar and a passionate vocal from Morrison. A highlight.
Teardrops From My Eyes – This song was written by Rudy Toombs in 1950. This breezy arrangement features piano, guitar, keys, backing vocals, and a great sax solo from Morrison.
Automobile Blues – This song was written by Lightnin’ Hopkins in 1949. Morrison’s sax playing is the highlight of this song, which also features piano and guitar.
Benediction –  This song was written by Mose Allison in 1971. It was originally included on Morrison’s 1996 collaborative album Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison. It features piano, backing vocals, organ and sax from Morrison. Key lyric: Wherever you wander, whatever your breed, there’s just one thing baby, that comes from above. When push comes to shove, thank God for self-love.   
Mean Old World – This song was written by Little Walter in 1951. It’s a slow blues number featuring, some excellent piano, a guitar solo, and harmonica solo by Morrison.
Ride On Josephine – This song was written by Bo Diddley in 1960. This upbeat track features Morrison on harmonica, along with good backing vocals and guitar. It would be a great song for Morrison and band to tackle in concert. A highlight. Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEW ~ Keep Me Singing by Van Morrison
MUSIC NEWS   ~ Links to Interesting Articles
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 News and Reviews

Postcards from Paradise by Ringo StarrPostcards from Paradise – Ringo Starr

From the time I was eight years old I’ve loved the Beatles’ music, both as a band, and as solo artists. Ringo was the Beatles drummer from 1962 to 1970. This is his eighteenth solo studio album, along with several live albums and compilations. Last year I finally got to see Ringo and His All Starr Band in concert. It was a great evening as Ringo and the band really seemed to enjoy each other and performing for their fans.

This album features eleven new songs, and arrives just a few months before Ringo turns 75 years old on July 7. Ringo will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, appropriately by Paul McCartney, the only other surviving Beatle.

The album was produced by Ringo, engineered by longtime collaborator Bruce Sugar, and recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles. As on his previous albums, he is joined by a number of guest stars, such as Joe Walsh, Benmont Tench, Dave Stewart, Richard Marx, Peter Frampton, Nathan East and Glen Ballard. The album features the first song that Ringo has written and recorded with the members of his All Starr Band “Islands in the Sun” – Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie, Richard Page, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette, who plays percussion, trumpet and steel drums on the song.

Below are a few comments about each song:

“Rory and the Hurricanes” – another of Ringo’s songs about the past, which I particularly enjoy. Those songs actually date way back to “Early 1970”, the b-side of an early single. This song, co-written with Dave Stewart, pays tribute to the band Ringo was in prior to joining the Beatles in 1962 when he replaced Pete Best on drums. It is a rocker featuring a pounding piano and doo-wop girl-group backing vocals. The song begins in Liverpool and takes in an early visit to Soho’s Denmark Street with the band he refers to as “you know who”.

We were sleeping on the floor living on bread and jam
Because we thought we’d hit the big time
We didn’t give a d***
We were Rory and the Hurricanes

 “You Bring the Party Down” – co-written with Toto’s Steve Lukather. In this song, which includes a sitar, Ringo goes back and forth between a reggae-like feel and a driving rock beat. This has an uncharacteristically dark streak to it. It makes you wonder who he is singing about.

Still living off your memories of when you were in the band
When you’re around you bring the party down

 “Bridges” – features brother-in-law Joe Walsh on a guitar solo.
Down every road we come to bridges.
Crossing bridges is the best way to grow.

“Postcards from Paradise” – co-written with Todd Rundgren, this song creatively uses Beatle and solo song titles in the song lyrics with a George Harrison sound-alike guitar solo thrown in for good measure. Ringo also plays keyboards on this song. Here’s an example, with the song title in italics:

 It’s all too much my little child.
If you would be my honey pie
Eight days a week you will be mine
And getting better all the time

“Right Side of the Road” – is a positive, upbeat, feel-good song. Features guitar work from Ringo and Peter Frampton. Ringo encourages the listener to choose another direction and “try it on the right side on the right side of the road. “

“Not Looking Back” – a loving tribute to Barbara, his wife of nearly 34 years. Features violin work from Ann Marie Simpson.

“Bamboula” – co-written with Van Dyke Parks. Ringo has said that they were trying to create the impression of a marching band, so he played every drum that he had in the studio, including three huge, hundred-year-old drums that Joe Walsh sent him from Africa. The title comes from the bamboula, a drum that Africans were playing 200 years ago. Ringo plays a syncopated New Orleans–inspired snare/tom rhythm, and the song includes some horns and background vocals.

“Island in the Sun” – the first song written by the entire All-Starr Band. Features some good sax work and background vocals with a Caribbean groove.

Don’t worry about the future
Don’t forget about the past
Don’t really matter where I’ve been or what I’ve done
I keep searching for the island in the sun

“Touch and Go” – the closest to an early Beatles sound on the album. Ringo wrote the song with his longtime collaborator Gary Burr. The song is an upbeat song with an effective guitar solo, in which Ringo sings about new love:

I knew from the moment we said hello
It had to be more than touch and go.

“Confirmation” – features guitar work by Steve Dudas, who has been contributing to Ringo’s albums for several years. It’s a positive song that features a laid-back Motown groove, with an effective use of horns and background vocals. This could be another song about wife Barbara.

If I knew then what I know now
I do it all again with you anyhow

“Let Love Lead” – features Frampton and Gary Nicolson on guitars. Was reportedly considered as the title song for album. A strong closing song with the simple positive message of “let love lead”.

Ringo’s effective drumming is mixed prominently throughout this release and his vocals sound as good as ever. Several of these songs will sound good live. I thoroughly enjoyed this album.

 Van Morrison DuetsDuets: Reworking the Catalogue – Van Morrison

I was first attracted to the now 69 year-old Van Morrison’s music when I heard his song “Whenever God Shines His Light” with Cliff Richard on Christian radio in 1989. That song, as well as “When Will I Learn to Live in God”? were included on Morrison’s excellent album Avalon Sunset. Although his later albums haven’t had the same spiritual flavor, I’ve enjoyed each of his albums since, and have seen him perform in one of his rare U.S. concerts.

In general, I’m not a fan of duet albums, live albums or “Greatest Hits” albums, instead preferring all new music from the artists I like. As a result, I wasn’t overly excited when I first heard about this new album. But it is a very good album which reminds me of John Fogerty’s 2013 I Wrote a Song for Everyone in concept, though Fogerty tended to focus on his most popular songs, while Morrison’s album focuses on some of his lesser known songs.

The 16 song album got its start when Morrison, the late Bobby Womack (whose appearance on “Some Peace of Mind” is one of his final studio recordings), Mavis Staples and Natalie Cole played the BluesFest at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2013. Morrison recorded songs with each of them, and completed songs with the other guests over the next year. The album is produced by Morrison, Don Was and Bob Rock. In some cases Morrison had songs in mind for the guest artists and in other cases, such as Michael Buble with “Real, Real Gone”, the album’s first single, the artist had a particular song they wanted to record from the 360 songs in his catalog.

The songs date from 1970’s “If I Ever Needed Someone” with Mavis Staples to 2012’s Born to Sing” with Chris Farlowe. Most of the songs come from Morrison’s 1980’s and 1990’s albums. He has said that the project was about both the fun of singing with artists he admires and also going back to songs that aren’t so well known.

Other artists who joined Morrison for the project include Stevie Winwood, Mark Knopfler, Georgie Fame, Morrison’s daughter Shana Morrison, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, Taj Mahal, Clare Teal, PJ Proby (who joins Morrison for “Whatever Happened to PJ Proby”), Gregory Porter, George Benson (who Morrison recorded “Higher Than the World” live with Bensons’ band) and Joss Stone. Some of the artists I was very familiar with and a few I had not heard of before this album.

The album features the superb vocals of Morrison and his hand-picked guests, is well produced and the musicianship stellar. Since this album has come out I’ve been going back to listen to a lot of Morrison’s earlier music. I hope the new album results in others doing the same.


  • “Ima Just Do It” from KB. Listen to KB’s new song from his upcoming album, featuring two times Masters champion golfer Bubba Watson. KB’s new album Tomorrow We Live will be released April 21. You can listen to it in its entirety this week on iTunes Radio First Play. Check it out!
  • Matt Redman Unbroken PraiseNew Matt Redman Album. Unbroken Praise, which was recently recorded live in the Abbey Road studios in London, will be released June 16.
  • Famous Irish Sons Pay Tribute to Their Amazing Dads. U2’s Bono is among the men who have paid tribute to their fathers for the Irish Hospice Foundation. They have all contributed a photo of themselves with their dads, and a piece of writing about their relationship, for the Irish Hospice Foundation book, Sons and Fathers.
  • Paul’s Letter to the Romans Set to Music. Trevin Wax interviews Cody Curtis, a composer and the Worship Arts Director at Union University. Curtis has completed a new album based on Paul’s letter to the Romans.
  • Millennials and Reconciliation. Here is the video of Trip Lee’s talk from the ERLC Summit on the Gospel and Racial Reconciliation. The transcript from the message is also included.
  • Lecrae on GMA. Did you see Lecrae perform “All I Need is You” recently on Good Morning America?
  • “Welcome to America” Video. Here’s Lecrae’s video for “Welcome to America” from his Anomaly album.
  • Before This World - James TaylorNew James Taylor Album. James Taylor returns with Before This World on June 16. This is first album of new songs since October Road, released in 2002 – yes, 13 years ago! Recorded primarily at The Barn in Western Massachusetts, the 10-track album will feature James’s legendary Band: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Gadd, Michael Landau, Larry Goldings, Luis Conte, Andrea Zonn, Arnold McCuller, David Lasley and Kate Markowitz, as well as special guests Yo-Yo Ma and Sting. If you pre-order the album, you get the download for the first single “Today, Today, Today”. Taylor played that song, as well as three others from the new album when we saw him in a June 27, 2014 concert at the Ravinia Festival. Can’t wait for the new album.
  • Rory and the Hurricanes Ringo Starr talks about the new song from his album Postcards from Paradise in which he sings about the band he was in before he joined the Beatles.
  • Ethan Hawke and Jimmy Fallon do Bob Dylan Lullabies. Did you see this recently on The Tonight Show?


  • You can try to kill my hope and place it in a grave but it won’t stay there. Jesus lives. Lecrae
  • The resurrection doesn’t just give us hope because it’s a nice story. It gives us life because it really happened. Trip Lee
  • Sometimes racism may be more subtle than it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less sinful. Trip Lee