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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

In the process of encouraging my kids through some tough moments in our homeschooling music practice today, I came across these videos on YouTube.

My goal was to teach the kids how every honest musician knows that even the best guitarists struggle if they don’t practice, or refuse to really hear what they’re playing, and sing it back, no matter how horrible they think their voice is.

I liked the Ace Frehley (KISS lead guitarist) vid. when he half seriously confessed, “You know, no one ever taught me how to play, so I really don’t know what I’m doing. Even to this day, I’m still like; I’m just winging it.” I literally laughed out loud at this, with my kids looking at me wondering what they’d missed. This was the honesty part of the lesson. Frehley introduces his signature “dinosaur bend”, gives some tips on palm muting, and shows that he doesn’t take himself, or his fame too seriously.

Next up was Ken Tamplin’s analysis of Skid Row’s live performance of ‘I Remember You’, when they still had Sebastian Bach at the helm. Tamplin is a legend in the Christian metal scene. The big surprise here was me finding out that has a Youtube channel. However, I wasn’t all that surprised with his conclusion on Bach’s vocals, the FX Bach uses, or the ego issues some of the great rock vocalists have. This was the, even-the-best-need-help; so be confident in your abilities, but remember not to be too confident in your abilities, part of the lesson.

Finally, and probably the best of the three, was Nikki Sixx’s (Motlery Crue’s bassist) interview Phil Collen, giving a quick rundown of some of his guitar work with Def Leppard. Collen’s creative use of sound with guitar track layering are second to none. He even admits that the way the band recorded ‘Love Bites’ made it hard to pull off live on stage.

Collen reinforced some of my teaching points about practice, and vocalising riffs, stating, “I think we guitar solos and riffs, you gotta to be able to sing them, even with drum parts, you know Phil Collins, ‘In the Air Tonight’, we all air drum it, that’s what got me hooked.” He also gives props to the difficulty of ‘Every Breath you Take’ (The Police). Collen played it well, but stumbled through the intro, saying, “I wouldn’t want to play that live, it’s a struggle”, showing that even the best in the music industry have their limits. This was the no-one-has-it-all-down-perfectly part of the lesson.

The bottom line: There’s no such thing as a perfect musician, but practice, and humility, can perfect musical ability.

‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ – Luke 14:11, ESV


 

Six Strings

September 13, 2018 — Leave a comment

.

Rhythm Shoes

Broken blues

Wooden floors

Blackened halls

Five notes

Minor stairs

Strings and wood

Fred Astaire.

Fret board

Dancing

Fender,

Gibson

Debonair.

Octave jumping

Big band

Bouncing

It’s Jazz, man!

Climbing Chords

Inverted forms

Progression lords

Marshal stack

Leads unraveled

Fold back.

High hats

Brass cats

Tactical hits

Discordance

Rhyming scat;

this and that.

Bass walking

like it’s a living thing.

 water on a tin roof.

Eclectic,

smooth and hectic.

It’s jazz, man!


©Rod Lampard, 2018

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.

Twenty years ago Michael W. Smith released (what I regard to be) his best album. Before the release of Live the Life, if I’d have been asked about MWS, I would have fired back with mockery. I didn’t give him the credit that he deserved.

I never liked ‘Friends[i]’, and outside the song ’Breakdown[ii]’ I couldn’t have told you (off by heart) a whole lot about any of his albums prior to 1995.For me, his music was dated, far too “early 90’s Christian”, and too in line with mainstream C.C.M (Christian Contemporary Music).

In 1998 this all changed. ‘Live the Life’ entered the MWS discography. While retaining Smith’s reliance on keyboards, keys don’t feature in every song. Each song on ‘Live the life’ is unique.

The set list is carefully ordered. The artwork design is free from cliché colours and formatting. It’s sober, fresh, somewhat steam-punk inspired and is absent of the 1980’s pop gloss.

As a work of art and theology, ‘Live the Life’, gave MWS a seat at the table of the mid to late ‘90s Jesus music revival. Easily putting him in the same line-up as (post-Jesus Freak) D.C Talk, Third Day, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay.

Dealing with loss and tragedy permeates ‘Live the Life’. ‘Hello, Goodbye’ (T12) was written for friends who lost their new born child, Noah. The‘Song for Rich’ (T11) was an instrumental written in response to the tragic passing of Rich Mullins; and ‘In My Arms Again’ (T10) was written for the movie Titanic.

The remaining songs encourage faith in the midst of doubt, despair and brokenness. ‘Missing Person’ (T 1) and ‘Don’t Give Up’ (T6), speaks to the emptiness of routine; numbness in the face of the mundane. ‘Love me Good’ (T2), ‘Never Been Unloved’ (T4) and ‘I Know Your Name’ (T8) speak about fear, rejection and the danger of basing the truth of Christianity on feelings or achievements, instead of God’s love. ‘Matter of time’ (T9) celebrates the hope of reunion. ‘Let me Show you the Way’ (T7) and ‘Live the Life’ (T3) speak of inviting God into our decisions; that the Christian faith is to be lived, not left on a shelf – reminiscent of Swiss theologian, Karl Barth’s statement that ‘grace must be lived out, or it is not grace’[iii].

Live the Life’ was not a creative safe space, it was a sigh offered up as both prayer and witness. The album illustrates what it means to pray through existential cracks that appear in the armour of human pretence.

Breaking the chains of super-spiritual and superficial, positive-optimism, Smith carried us along as he broke free from his CCM roots, reached through the fog of conformity, doubt and loss; past Christian culture, and entered into the gutsy, joy drenched glory of the redemptive light of Christ.

Few could legitimately argue that ‘Live the Life’ was not a watershed moment for Michael W. Smith. Most albums since 1998, share a similar gravitas, they show a breakaway artist, who, by the grace of God had his faith and art reinvent him. Smith hasn’t had to fade from the limelight quietly, lean on gimmicks or acquire cheap tunes to prove that he is what he’s always been: a talented musician with an authentic heart for Jesus Christ.

Without ‘Live the Life’, the same depth of presence, which is found in all the albums which descend from it, wouldn’t exist. ‘Live the Life’ testifies not just to Smith’s renewed commitment to Christ in the midst of darkness, but to the instructive love of God, free from the constrictive routine of empty ritual.

Live the Life’ is written for the broken, from the broken, to the broken. Twenty years on, I still cannot walk away from this album, without being challenged, or moved by it.

‘It is asked, whether anyone can be a servant of Christ, that has not been tried with so many evils, perils, and vexations? I answer, that all these things are not indispensably required, but where these things are seen, there is, undoubtedly, a greater and more illustrious testimony afforded. That man, therefore, who is signalised by so many marks of distinction, will not despise those who are less illustrious, and less thoroughly tried, nor will he on that account be elated with pride; but still, whenever there is occasion for it, will be prepared, after Paul’s example, to exult with a holy triumph, in opposition to pretenders, provided he has an eye to Christ, not to himself. For the main thing is – that we serve Christ with a pure conscience. All others things are, as it were, additional.’
(John Calvin)[iv]

de Vivre Selon Dieu.


References:

[i] I still don’t.

[ii] From his 1995 album, ‘I’ll Lead You Home’.

[iii] CD. 2/2 p.695

[iv] Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:25