Archives For Music Reviews

Regardless of how musicologists might try to placate pro-abortion political group-think, they would find it extremely difficult to deny that many of the best Cold War protest songs ever written share a ferociously pro-life theme.

Like Tolstoy, who, once describing a dream, said that when he found himself ‘hanging over a bottomless abyss’, his ‘heart contracted, experiencing horror’. If he looked down into the abyss, he felt himself slipping. Overwhelmed with a tremendous fear of losing his grip, he noted that the vastness below repelled and frightened him, yet the vastness above attracted and strengthened him.

Tolstoy said that he was ‘saved from fear by looking upwards.’ The more he looked into the ‘infinite that was above him, the calmer he became’; stating, ‘I remember seeing a support under me, in a position of secured balance, that it alone gave me support. It was then as if someone had said to me: “see that you remember.”

Cold War protest songs share Tolstoy’s tense awareness of being caught between a yawning abyss and the calming awareness of the grip of the Infinite. Through nuanced prose these songs reach for the Infinite. Their very existence is proof of this. Without it, we’d hear utter despair, not pro-life defiance.

They are a protest against mass murder, a protest against industrial scale slaughter. They are a veritable “no” to the disorder of the Abyss and its violence.

Their “no” moves us, like Tolstoy to look to the Infinite above. To see as Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw, ‘that grace is what holds humanity above the abyss of nothingness’ [ii]; that we are ‘held over the abyss by the infinite.’ [iii]

These Cold War protest songs are pro-life protest songs. They reject Me-culture, and its murderous detachment of the, I and thou, in favour of the – me, myself and I – I.am.it.

Me-culture threatens to sever humanity from this grace over the abyss. It is the cheapening of grace, and the crass dismissal of the sanctity of ALL human life. It is the end of hope. To quote Pink Floyd, it ‘unleashes the dogs of war…signed, sealed they deliver oblivion.’ (Dogs of War, 1987)

These reasons show how fifteen unique songs which challenged the threat of Cold War also challenge abortion. Granted there are differences. Rather than lessening the impact of the message, these differences should make us shudder with horror even more. Where bunkers and a four minute civil defence warning exist for us, there is no such warning, defence, or even refuge, for victims whose life is violently terminated in the womb. Where the military industrial complex sells arms to prevent an apocalypse, the abortion industrial complex sells arms in the fulfilment of one.

15. Gimme Shelter – (Holy Soldier, 1992; Rolling Stones, 1969)

This cover of a much earlier Rolling Stones song is self-explanatory:

Oh, a storm is threat’ning my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away. War, children, it’s just a shot away…”

14. Eve of Destruction – (Barry McGuire, 1965; P.F. Sloan, 1964)

It’s cliché, and dated, but McGuire’s memorable cover of E.O.D joins, his ‘Don’t Blame God as two of the most powerful songs he ever performed in regards to Western attitudes to life. Both speak to all ages about abortion. In E.O.D, the word gun can easily be interchanged with forceps: “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’, / You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’,”

13. Peace Sells, but who’s buying? – (Megadeath, 1986)

While the song is celebrated as a Cold War protest anthem, lead singer (and Christian – see also here & here), Dave Mustaine says he wrote the lyrics to protest the ‘mocking and stereotyping of metal, and fans of the genre.’ Since the song is widely accepted as part of Cold War protest song history, as an anti-abortion theme it speaks to those who take financial and political profit from stereotyping the child in the womb as a parasite, waste of space, or sexually transmitted disease.

12. Burning Heart – (Survivor, 1985)

Outside ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Burning Heart’ is one of Survivor’s best known songs. It featured in ‘Rocky IV’ and takes up a common theme in Cold War protest songs which replaces an “Us vs. Them” dichotomy with the more accurate “human vs. human.” Its relevance to the Cold War and therefore abortion is highlighted by the phrases “man against man’ and ‘know it’s you against you.”

11. Blackened – (Metallica, 1988)

Metallica’s songs are laced with protest, some even address theological themes. Their 1991, Black album took the band more mainstream. From it, one could rightly argue that songs such as ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Unforgiven’ & ‘Don’t Tread on me’ fall into the category of Cold War era protest songs. Though melancholic, as pro-life protest songs, each strongly support an anti-abortion message. ‘Blackened’ is from ‘And Justice for All…’ and falls easily into the Cold War category, lyrics such as ‘terminate its worth’ (among others), express anger at the cheapening of not just human life, but creation itself.

10. Seconds – (U2, 1983)

Seconds’ has a pro-life message, lyrics like “It takes a second to say goodbye / Lightning flashes across the sky / East to west, do or die / Like a thief in the night”, speak of an impending, but avoidable doom. Like most U2 protest songs, ‘Seconds’ draws on a specific context. In the case of abortion, it’s one that as stated above, is not that far removed from being aborted into oblivion by thermonuclear war.

9. 2 Minutes to Midnight – (Iron Maiden, 1984)

As surprising as it seems, Iron Maiden are one of the blatant in the list.

So much so, that the Cold War pro-life message and anti-abortion implications are self-evident: “Two minutes to midnight / the hands that threaten doom … / to kill the unborn in the womb.”

8. Red Skies – The Fixx

This one’s a little vague, but still applicable. ‘Red Skies’ plays on the old fisherman axiom, “red skies in the morning, sailors warning”. Hence the words, “People ignoring / Should have taken warning, it’s just / People mourning / Running, hiding, lost / You can’t find, find a place to go…” In essence, though there are clear signs of a cheapening of the value of human life, those red flags are being ignored.

7. It’s a Mistake – (Men at Work, 1983)

The song uses humour to get its pro-life message across. The lyrics, “tell us commander, what do you think? / Cause we know that you love all that power’ to ‘Is it on then, are we on the brink? / We wish you’d all throw in the towel”, speak of an arrogant hierarchy treating soldiers as dispensable pawns; much like unborn children powerless in the womb.

6. Russians – (Sting, 1985)

Russians’ is one of the most balanced in the Cold War protest song catalogue. Questions like, “How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy? to sentences like, “There is no monopoly on common sense / We share the same biology, regardless of ideology / I hope the Russians love their children too” all argue from a father’s heart, for an end to violent divisions, based on an appeal to an universal understanding of the value of human life.

5. Two Tribes – (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984)

The pro-life message here criticises the ‘new gods of sex and horror’ stating that ‘two tribes may go to war’, but in a nuclear exchange no one wins. An abortion holocaust may be promoted as win for the mother, but the long line of victims would, if they had a voice, surely argue otherwise. Kids should not be treated as the collateral damage of irresponsible parents.

4. Gods of War – (Def Leppard, 1987)

Next to ‘Russians’, ‘Gods of War’ is probably the most recognizable of all the Cold War era protest songs. Add in the epic harmonies, and remove the now dated, anti-Thatcher and Reagan sound bites, the song has an eerie timelessness to it. The Cold War pro-life message is one of reasoned defiance. Lyrics like, “When we walk into silence / When we shadow the sun / When we surrender to violence / Oh, then the damage is done”, give weight to the fight against increasing legislation which seeks to impose a gag order on criticism the multi-million dollar abortion industry.

3. The Great American Novel – (Larry Norman, 1972)

Norman was a pioneer in the Jesus music movement of the ‘70s.

The song is filled with hard hitting lyrics like, “You say we beat the Russians to the moon / And I say you starved your children to do it…” All of which lend themselves to the pro-life message.

2. Civil War – Guns n’ Roses, 1991

Civil War doesn’t quite make it into the Cold War era protest songs. Nevertheless the song stems from it. Like Metallica’s Black album, it is one of the great signal fire songs from the pro-life Cold War protest songs. Lyrics like, “all are washed away by genocide / history hides the lies of our civil wars… / with no love of God, or human rights/ Cause all these dreams are swept aside / by bloody hands of the hypnotised…” and “Your power hungry sellin’ soldiers / In a human grocery store”, all point to indiscriminate, unemotional, and clinical industrial scale mass murder.

1. Military Man – (Rez Band, 1984)

Military Man speaks of how militant ideological allegiances can be changed. A soldier, ‘considering chances in the nuclear zone’, ‘he caught sight of the future shock’, ‘defences crushed beneath the Risen Rock,’ reveal a pro-life message of perseverance fused with faith-dependent hope.

Though sometimes subtle, the Cold War pro-life message found in these songs lends itself to an anti-abortion platform.

As Johann Goethe once wrote:

‘It is not always needful for truth to take a definite shape; sometimes it hovers about us. Sometimes it is wafted through the air like the sound of a bell, grave and kindly.’ [iv]

Like Tolstoy, may we never fail to hear the past whisper into the present and say, “see that you don’t forget!”

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – (Colossians 3:2, ESV)


References:

[i] Tolstoy, L. A Confession

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3: Creation & Fall

[iii] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV:I (p.411)

[iv] Goethe, J.W.V, Maxims & Reflections, (#14)

©Rod Lampard, 2019.

 

The best and brightest of those registered with the American Gospel Music Association recently celebrated the 50th annual GMA, Dove Awards.

The Gospel Music Association began in 1964, with the purpose of ‘serving as the face and voice of the Gospel/Christian music community, dedicating itself to exposing, promoting and celebrating the Gospel through music of all styles.’

The first Dove Awards ceremony was held in 1969. The awards showcase G.M.A talent and provide a window into the world of Christian music for the broader culture. There are 5 divisions catering for 38 categories, all helping G.M.A ‘accomplish its mission by publicly honouring those persons who have demonstrated excellence or significant accomplishment in the field of Christian/Gospel music.’

Over the years categories have merged, been revised or eliminated, presumably because of style changes or lack of admissions from a particular genre.

For a 50th Anniversary event, things were for the most part uneventful. There were replays of bloopers from previous presenters in between breaks, but the only tribute was a quasi-quartet performance which included a sampling of work from MercyMe, Shirley Caesar, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Ce Ce Winans and Amy Grant.

Despite applause on the night for its wide diversity, some categories from previous years were noticeably absent. “Hard Music” and “Modern Rock/Alternative Song of the Year” were nowhere to be seen. Neither were any performances to mark previous winners who fell into those categories. Such as, in-the-world-not-of-it heavy weight’s P.O.D., who won Hard Music Recorded Song of the Year for Satellite, from their album of the same name.

The lack of any hard rock, alternative or heavy metal categories was compounded by how contemporary “worship” music dominated the night. Showing that feel-good, polished worship, sells far better, than hardened lyrics from a broken heart, vomiting out a sigh towards God, by Spirit-led convicted individuals. I now better understand why Audio Adrenaline decided to ditch alternative rock for the contemporary worship bubble, and why Kevin Max parted ways with them over creative differences.

Now before I get accused of being an organ loving, grumpy curmudgeon, nostalgic for the 90’s Jesus Freak revolutionary era, hear me out. I like Kari Jobe, I’m a fan of Crowder, and I was among the first to predict how huge Lauren Daigle’s album was going to be (just ask my wife).

My problem isn’t with contemporary worship songs, even if that part of the art-commerce-ministry industry, is now largely dominated by cliché sounds, repetitive lyrics, visible tattoos and skinny jeans. The problem is a lack of depth in the diversity of music considered worthy of a Christian’s heartfelt attention.

As Kanye West proved with the content and straight-up release of his latest album, Jesus is King’, depth and raw, well thought out lyrics win.

Carefully placed tattoos or all the right buzzwords in lyrics, skinny jeans, and a safe cliché sound, are no guarantee of authenticity or theological legitimacy. It sells, and as such may help you win a Dove Award.

The absence of metal, alternative and hard rock categories undermine the diversity of the awards. Bands may have rejected invitations, but if the excuse is that artists who could fill these categories couldn’t be found, I’d say the G.M.A organisers didn’t look hard enough, and I’d question if they’d bothered to look at all.

Back in the late nineties my coming-of-age, Guns n’ Roses, loving self would have seen the Dove Awards as a sanitised, narcissistic celebration of privileged talent, and tuned out. By all appearances, the awards lend themselves to a theology of glory, a world away from the grit and sweat in what Lutherans rightly call a theology of the Cross.

There was little to no sanctis cry de profundis which screams through the darkness, a holy cry up from the depths.

The kind of music Charles Spurgeon called startling and stimulating, saying, ‘my heart, be not thou always craving soft music…life is a conflict, and thou needest battle music to thee up to fighting pitch.’ For there is a ‘time for the trumpet and the pipe!’[i]

One of the only exceptions to this was Toby Mac and Ledger, who kicked off the ceremony with the Neon Feather, remixed, collaborative version of T.M.’s song ‘The Elements’.

Where were Narnia, Skillet, Lacey Sturm, Stryper, Guardian, Jars of Clay, Kevin Max, Sleeping Giant, Thousand Foot Krutch, Theocracy, or Decipher Down, among others?

Despite the applause for diversity, the Dove Awards wasn’t as musically diverse as it could have been.

Asked why Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Alternative and Progressive Rock categories are absent or never have been, Director of Sanctuary International, a vibrant multi-platform Christian ministry to the Metal Community, Pastor Bob Beeman, said,

  “The Christian Industry stopped being about real ministry a long time ago. Somewhere along the line we replaced the real hard-core ministry aspect of it with “feel good” lyrics and musical style. Christian Metal doesn’t sell as well either. Not in Christian Book Stores anyway. It is difficult to promote there. Many Mom and Pop Christian Book Stores still have a problem with it. It is the same thing we have dealt with since the beginning in the 80’s. But honestly, I am happy we are not included in GMA. I have always felt our strongest ministry is OUTSIDE of the Christian Industry. That is why we have fought so hard all of these years to work with secular record companies to take the music where it really needs to go!”

The same “ethic of niceness”, its smiles, hi-fives and its polished bumper sticker version of Christianity, that I rejected in Churches as a teen, who showed no care or interest in me because my baggage didn’t fit the profitable profile, seems dismally alive and well. The kind of Churches where putting on a good show, is more important than follow through or theological substance.

As for diversity, there was a lot it, both ethnically and musically. However, I walked away with the impression that G.M.A could have done better.

As if to make my point, Dove award winner and long-time member, Kirk Franklin, was angered when the televised version ‘cut out his outspoken remarks on Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old who was shot and killed in her home by a Fort Worth police officer.’

Franklin is now said to be boycotting the event over the decision. For which, GMA President and Executive Director Jackie Patillo, ‘apologized’, even though she made it clear that the edit wasn’t racially motivated. The decision was ‘due to an attempt to fit everything into a 2 hour broadcast window.’

The 50th anniversary of the Dove Awards was a diverse city, just not musically diverse enough. I like the Dove’s, I always have. The sad fact is that this year’s anniversary in no way showcased the wide range of musical talent the Church has had to offer over the year or since the creation of the G.M.A. With the absence of artists to fill key categories, it’s fair to say that this year’s awards didn’t reach the full potential of its own mission statement.

The 50th Dove Awards can be streamed for free from the Trinity Broadcasting Network app, upon signing up for a free account.

(Special note, acknowledging the tragic loss of Toby Mac’s son, Truett, and Mary Stampley, daughter of Gospel singer, Micah, and Heidi Stampley. Caldron Pool staff extend heartfelt sorrow to them, and stand in solidarity and prayer with them during their time of grieving).

 “For a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17, ESV


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883. ‘Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden: The Trumpet & the Pipe.’

First published on Caldron Pool, 31st October, 2019

Photo by Dark Rider on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

As it goes with the internet, “anything you do, and say, can, and will be used against you” in the court of social media opinion. This is of course only if the wolves which fill the ranks of online lynch mobs, smell blood. This rule applies to everyone regardless of status.

Although desperate, anti-Trump Leftists have Brett Kavanaugh now back in the top spot on hash tag algorithms, one of the latest social media meltdowns concern Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr’s support for Brexit.

The meltdown was triggered by a Stephen Smith interview Starr did for the BBC back in 2017.

Ringo Starr’s alleged great crime against humanity?

He said, had he been in Britain at the time of the Brexit referendum, he would’ve voted for it and that the government needs to make Brexit happen:

“The people voted and they have to get on with it, but suddenly, it’s like, we don’t like that vote. And I’m like, what do you mean you don’t like that vote? You had the vote. This is what won. Let’s get on with it. I would have voted for Brexit. I would have voted to get out…”

Starr, who now lives in America also said,

“Brexit was a great move. To be in control of your own country is a good move.”

RT.com headlined the melodramatic hash tag meltdown as “Ringo Get’s Cancelled: Ex-Beatle Starr savaged online for calling Brexit a ‘great move’ in 2017.

The Guardian didn’t seem to have anything new to add. However, Harriett Gibsone’s article from 2017 mentioning Starr’s interview did add that Paul McCartney hadn’t voted because of a US tour at the time, but had said “even if I had been able to, I was so confused. You were hearing what seemed to be good arguments on both sides.”

If I was a complete cynic I’d immediately link the timing of the social media meltdown with news of Ringo Starr’s soon to be released new album called ‘What’s My Name’. I’d start to wonder if his genuine views on Brexit, in 2017, were brilliantly used as a catapult for free publicity.

If true, it shows how docile and empty minded people easily offended have become; easy enough for publicists to manipulate so as to generate (stir?) interest under the “any publicity is good publicity” banner, via the 24 hour outrage cycle, driven largely by the Leftist propaganda machine we call Twitter.

The internet meltdown, which included hate from Remainers (anti-Brexit voters) and a fierce defence from Brexiteers, provided free online publicity for the new album. For Starr the temporary irrational heat generated over his Brexit comments in 2017 is a win. The Beatles drummer and Narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine, gets the last laugh. From a marketing point of view, it’s pure genius. Whether intended or not, Ringo Starr’s support for Brexit won the internet this week and hardly anyone noticed why.


First published on Caldron Pool, 18th September, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

The film, ‘Reign Over Me’ (2007), written and directed by Mike Binder, is, without a doubt Adam Sandler’s best movie to date. I’ve seen most of his films, the most recent being ‘Sandy Wexler’ (2017) and ‘The Week Of…‘ (2018). By comparison the only other films that might come close are, ‘The Wedding Singer‘ (1998), his remake of ‘Mr. Deeds‘ (2002), ‘Bedtime Stories‘ (2008) and ‘Pixels‘ (2015); but even those don’t achieve what ‘Reign Over Me’ does, or go where it goes.

Sandler’s character, Charlie Fineman, is a widower who looks a lot like Bob Dylan in his early days. Fineman is a dentist by trade, and an apartment dwelling hermit, living in isolation within New York City, who suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression. Sandler’s signature, unpredictable outbursts, are reminiscent of  ‘Happy Gilmore‘ and ‘Anger Management’, though this behavioural similarity exists, it fits perfectly with the circumstances, making Sandler’s portrayal of the grief-stricken Fineman, not only believable, but in my opinion, Oscar worthy.

At the centre of the story-line line are events that took place during September 11, 2001.The film approaches this subject with sensitivity. Avoiding the politics the screenwriters look past conspiracy theories, however, what is glaringly absent is any discussion about Islamism or Islamic terrorism. In a lot of ways this is assumed.

On balance, the film does dedicate a scene to some news articles, albeit ones that are discussing America’s response. I have no real issue with this, for the following reason: The screenwriters are respecting their audience by not spelling out the obvious. I have huge respect for directors and writers who do this. Within the context of ‘Reign Over Me‘, the strategy is understandable. It keeps the focus of the audience on Charlie Fineman’s journey.

In addition to Sandler’s brilliant portrayal of a forgotten victim of September 11, both Don Cheadle (of Hotel Rwanda fame) and Liv Tyler, add their own style and bring to the film a warmth, juxtaposed with contrasts. Cheadle is Sandler’s college room-mate; also a dentist and extremely successful in his own right. Cheadle’s character (Alan Johnson) is aware of Fineman’s tragic past, but had lost contact with him over the years. Johnson has his own issues, which all start to come to bare, after randomly crossing paths with Fineman in the street. Johnson seeks to reconnect with Fineman.

Not completely aware of Fineman’s suffering, Johnson quickly recognises the pain his friend is suffering with. He begins to try to help Fineman. This creates tension between Johnson and his wife, and a series of misunderstandings with an ever suspicious Fineman.

Fineman wants no help, only later choosing to see Johnson’s long-term friend and pyschologist, Angela Oakhurst (played by Liv Tyler). Oakhurst works to bring Fineman to a place where he can address the past and his own brokenness, in his own time. Cheadle’s performance keeps the film moving along, perfectly complementing Sandler’s. Liv Tyler compliments Cheadle. The perfect casting circle is made complete when Donald Sutherland turns up in the role of Judge Rains.

The film comes to a close with Fineman’s in-laws trying to speak with him. Fineman breaks downs, becomes violent, and as a result is held in custody for psychological evaluation. As Rains becomes aware of Fineman’s emotional and psychological state, he sees straight through the opportunistic lawyer representing Fineman’s in-laws. With Solomon-esk wisdom Rains outmanoeuvres the lawyer, making it clear that what he has in Fineman is a forgotten victim of September 11, 2001, who deserves a chance to be heard, helped and respected.

Reign Over Me‘, does have some unnecessary language and some interesting sub plots. Those side plots wind up coming together in the end. Though they seem to detract from the film at first, as the story progress, the genius of their inclusion in the film  becomes clear. The sub plots are used to fortify the audiences cheering in the end, through their desire to see Fineman heal and overcome the obstacles forced upon him.

The film isn’t complete without the impressive soundtrack, of which the stand out song is Eddie Vedder’s cover of The Who’s, ‘Love, Reign O’er Me‘ and The Fray’s, ‘How to Save a Life’.  The live and studio versions included; Vedder’s performance, as far as I have heard, is his best vocal work in a song.

As far as art and theology goes, ‘Reign Over Me’ is rich in metaphor. What I see in ‘Reign Over Me‘ is God’s redemptive love – displayed in the film by Cheadle, Tyler and Sutherland’s characters. They fight for Fineman, yet still place an emphasis on him taking responsibility for his own actions. Fineman was empowered, but he still had to decide to respond to the love and help (salvation – grace) he was given.

Since the theme of God’s redemptive love is part of a lot of current discussion, the metaphors are worth noting. The freedom we find in God’s redemptive love is not a “freedom” that is said to be found in human love. For Fineman, human love was not to be trusted. Such love is at best optimism, at worst morbid existential navel gazing and/or veiled self-centred ambition. God’s love draws us out of ourselves in the form of His gracious Word spoken to humanity, which is both invitation and command (Jesus Christ and Covenant). We are drawn out of ourselves to be free for God and our neighbour. Such freedom comes with limitations.

I seem to be on a roll with recommending and reviewing art that, to me, is written, for the broken, from the broken, to the broken. ‘Reign Over Me‘, in my opinion, fits this category like no other film I’ve seen.  It hits at our grief, the lies we tell ourselves and the traps we fall into because we fall under the radar of complacent and dismissive family members, who, in overlooking the complexities of our brokenness, can seem to demand more than we are ready to give; simply because we don’t know how, or don’t yet have the strength to give it. ‘Reign Over Me‘ is an honest prayer-filled, heart-wrenching scream that meets with what Lacey Strum wrote, when summing up her reasons for screaming in songs:

‘Like ‘emotional vomit’, lyrics about ‘horrible abuse, if sung honestly, must be screamed…Screaming was my natural response to injustice… When I started writing music with screaming in it, the point was to hit someone back… After God rescued me, however, I found a purpose for my screaming: to speak truth over the lies in people’s hearts. Lies like the ones I believed about myself when I wanted to die.’ – (Lacey Sturm, 2014 The Reason, pp.77-82)

Let there be light. Inhaled grace ignites.

 


Disclaimer:

I did not receive any remuneration for this review, in any form.

No doubt you’ve seen this ”share ten albums that had a big impact on you” going around social media. I received a nomination on Facebook from an old friend. Rather than spam my social media walls, I decided to post, and share the list here. This list isn’t definitive, but if I was to give a quick answer as to what were my top ten albums, these would feature heavy in that kind of a discussion.

So, here goes:

“Ten of my all time favourite albums. What really made an impact, and is still on my rotation list, even if only now and then. Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same.” I nominate, guitarist, and talented illustrator extraordinaire, Mr. Frank Grau.

1. Guardian – ‘Miracle Mile’, 1993

2. Guns N’ Roses – ‘Use Your Illusion I & II‘, 1991

3. Metallica – ‘Metallica (Black Album)‘, 1991

4. John Denver – ‘An Evening With John Denver (Live), 1975

5. Aerosmith – ‘Get A Grip‘, 1993

6. Led Zepplin – ‘Led Zepplin IV‘, 1971

7. DC Talk, ‘Jesus Freak‘, 1995

8. Barry McGuire, ‘Lighten’ Up‘, 1975

9. Simon & Garfunkel – ‘The Definitive Simon & Garfunkel‘, 1992

10. Third Day – ‘Conspiracy No.5‘, 1997.

*Close winners for tenth place:

* Jon Bon Jovi – ‘Blaze of Glory (Young Guns II)‘, 1990

** Top Gun  – ‘Soundtrack‘, 1985 

*** Steve Joblansky – ‘Transformers’: The Score, 2007

**** Need to Breath – ‘Hard Love‘, 2016

***** Forrest Gump – ‘Forrest Gump Soundtrack’, (especially “Forrest Gump Suite” composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri)

Special mentions:

P.O.D – ‘Satellite‘, 2001

Paul Wilbur – ‘Jerusalem Arise!‘, 1999

Chuck Berry – ‘The Blues Collection’, 1993.


Thanks for the nomination.

It was fun thinking it through.

As the great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘Life is a conflict, & thou needest battle music’ [i]. In addition to this, I recently came across a fitting quote from John Calvin in his commentary on Exodus:

calvin-quote

So, with these words in mind, here’s the top November additions to my high rotation, “A-List” on Spotify.

1. ‘Song of Deliverance’, Zac Williams

Zac Williams is more country-rock than cliché CCM. That’s why ‘Song of Deliverance’ stands out. I haven’t had the chance to listen closer to Zac’s other work, but if that reflects the huge effort found here, then it’s worth a closer look. The lyrical content alone, pushes this song above and beyond any mainstream contemporary country. I’m fond of the ‘Chain Breaker’ theme, the slide guitar and the careful placement of the harmonica.

“Get behind me satan; no more fear and no more shame; My debts been paid I am no longer your slave” – Amen..

2. ‘Great Night’, Need To Breathe

As I strongly implied in October’s A-list, outside Lacey Sturm and Toby Mac, Need to Breathe take the standard for Christians in the music industry higher. I’m still listening to ‘Hard Love’ and consider tracks 2,3,7,9,10,11,12. on the album to be some of the best work I’ve heard from a band born in the wilds of the Christian Contemporary Music scene. ‘Great Night’ is a fun song. It has a great riff, has a beat that would pass off as electronic; rides a solid melody and sits on the back of guitar work (that in my biased opinion) makes listening to this like watching a fireworks spectacular. There’s not much more to it than that.

.

3.’Lazarus’, Bellarive

Bellarive were a surprise find. There’s something unique in the mix and it’s the uniqueness that gives me reason to add it to the November A-List. I’ve listened to some of their other work, but consider ‘Lazarus’ to be their best. In all fairness, I haven’t had the time to give them the full attention they deserve. The list of qualities in ‘Lazarus’ hinge on its dynamics. Starting with the piano, rising with the lyrics and finishing with the full rock compliment, the song is carried to it’s quiet conclusion with precision. I’m a fan of the video work. What really wins me, though, is the depth of theology at work in the simplicity of the song. I hear myself praying the words and only wish I had room to link all of them.

.

“So, take a breath and break the night
Stranger to the Light
Wind of God, dig up the graves
And breathe into the slain”

.

 

4. ‘Lunatics & Slaves’, Sin Shake Sin

Sin Shake Sin drive thoughtfulness. The whole album exploits this artistic edge with pointed lyrics matched by a catchy melody. They aren’t from the CCM scene and I doubt that they’d share the same perspective as many who are. Sin Shake Sin is a band that I’d expect to hear playing as a musical bed for TV shows like Chuck or Suits. There’s a crisp coolness to the blunt challenge in each song that, lyrically anyway, reminds me of Guns n’ Roses. ‘Lunatics & Slaves’ showcases what this band is about and what this band is capable of.

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5. ‘Heroes’, Zayde WØlf

Surprisingly, some of the best music of recent years comes from the video game and TV/movie soundtrack scene. Assassins Creed, Halo and Skyrim stand out as quintessential examples of this. ‘Ezio’s Theme’ or ‘Past to Present‘ have engraved a standard that is tough to beat. ‘Heroes’ meets this. The song has a strong presence. Like Lazarus, the real strength of ‘Heroes’ is in its dynamics. From quiet to loud; verse to chorus each line is complimented with inspiring lyrics that follow a clear theme. In addition, the cinematic soundtrack feel that echoes a Hans Zimmer, Steve Jablonsky-esk orchestra and electronic baritone minor adds some real weight.

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Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden

[ii] Calvin. J Commentary on Exodus

Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I did not receive payment of any kind to review or post these songs.

As the great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘Life is a conflict, & thou needest battle music’ [i]. In addition to this, I recently came across a fitting quote from Ludwig Von Mises:

‘a [creative] genius is precisely a man or a woman who defies all schools and rules, who deviates from the traditional roads of routine and opens up new paths through land inaccessible before.’ [ii]

So, with these words in mind, here’s the top October additions to my high rotation, “A-List” on Spotify.

1. ‘Hard Love’, Need to Breathe

Need to Breathe hadn’t really caught me ear beyond a song or two. Hard Love did. The song, also the album’s namesake, overtakes most tunes in the CCM market at the moment. Toby Mac’s album, ‘This is Not a Test’ still holds first place and if that’s the new standard by which artists within the Christian contemporary music arena are measured, then Need To Breathe nail it.

2. ‘Rot’, Lacey Sturm

Lacey and her husband, Josh, team up on an album that makes my top five albums of 2016. Lacey has the ability to communicate God’s message of grace through an art filled with scars, mostly visible only to those who wear the same, or similar. What’s important about this is that the past doesn’t dominate. Jesus is Victor and that’s exactly what is pierced into each well-considered lyric. For those who just hear and rock to the music, the guitar work is mostly rhythmic, the bass line strong and the drums consistent. What I like about ‘Rot’ (and the album in general) is that Josh’s guitar work is on par with Lacey’s vocals. The former compliments the latter.

(Related post: Review: ‘The Reason’, Lacey Sturm)

3. ‘Die Tezte Fahrt (The Last Ride)’, Santiano

I’ve listened to some European folk bands before, but among them German band, Santiano rules all. My German is rudimentary and needs improving. What better way to do that than with one of the coolest songs of the genre. The Last Ride reminds me of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s weighty, reflective and melodic. The violin solo, baritone harmonies and solid chorus make this song. Of special note is the chorus and it’s final two sentences:

“Die letzte Fahrt Du bleibst uns Freund und Kamerad”
(The last ride. You will stay with us friend and comrade)

4. ‘Phoenix’ – Unikron Remix, We Are Leo

We Are Leo seem to have a better run with remixes than they do with their conventional songs. Two things make this song and the band itself appealing. First, the lyrics, melody and depth of imagery. Second, is the fact that the band isn’t afraid to expand on what they’ve already created. The remix of Phoenix is reminiscent of the synth keys used by Styx and Rush. The song itself lends to the early Christian use of the Phoenix as a symbol of the resurrection and future hope that the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings.

5. ‘The River’,  Jordan Feliz

For a Gospel song, or Gospel music in general, it’s difficult to break free from the standard Christian Radio friendly status quo that streams out from CCM (Christian Contemporary Music). Worship music is blurred together in sound and repetitive lyrics are wrapped in bad theology with a beat. Jordan Feliz clears that Charybdis. Following in the footsteps of Crowder, vocally, Feliz stands out. The style could easily find an ear on mainstream secular radio as it would in a church. In that light, Feliz stands among the many who cross borders with their art. I like everything about this song.

6. ‘Karate’,  Baby Metal

Rock/metal opera is a genre that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream airplay, if any. It’s likely that you haven’t heard of Baby Metal, outside social media. That the band comes from Japan makes their art and music all the more intriguing, it also adds a great deal to their appeal. The music is outstanding, highly professional, and not overly produced. One of the stands outs are the vocals. Lyrically, the theme of ‘Karate’ is played out in the video, and has my vote. This said, as for the rest of the album, I’m still trying to figure it out.

7. ‘Higher’,  Unspoken

This isn’t in my usual taste, as far a musical style goes, but I like the rhythm. Musically, the bass is alive. The harmonies are okay, and the keys light everything else up. Lyrically it’s full of hope and points to a far greater source of hope than anything we as humans can conjure up or invent. I’m a fan of lyrics that speak of this as a lived reality.

8. ‘Bizzare’, Michael Sweet

Quite simply, the vocals, lyrics, tempo, and bass-line are spectacular. All those good things, though, pale in comparison to the precision of the lead guitar. Along side some of Oz Fox’s recent work on the newer Stryper albums, Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, gives one of the best melodic lead parts for guitar I’ve heard in recent years. All we need now is a Slash and Sweet collaboration.


Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden

[ii] Mises, L. 1945, Bureaucracy Stellar Books, 2014

Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I did not receive payment of any kind to review or present these songs.