Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

CompassionArt

Okay so is it just me or does anyone else feel the drought in new worship music releases?  The “latest” worship albums I have been spinning are all from last year.  So do yourselves a favor, stop what you are doing right now and go out and get the newly released CD “CompassionArt.”  This CD was totally an unexpected pleasure to acquire.  To give you a framework for it, this project is the vision of Martin and Anna Smith (Martin being of delirious? notoriety).  The idea is to get some of the best worship songwriters in the world together (Martin, Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, Matt Redman to name just a few), link people up in two’s and three’s and see if they could whip up some righteous new worship songs (my verdict is they succeeded).  Secondly, get in the studio and have a bunch of these same songwriters and some cool guests (Kirk Franklin, Leeland, Any Grant, etc.) record a full blown album that sounds great (again, my verdict is they succeeded) and have all proceeds go to charity (and yes, this means ALL proceeds including an agreement with CCLI to not bank off of church play).  This album was a pleasant surprise and I recommend it to anyone.  Go get it!

On another note, the aforementioned delirious? just released a live CD/DVD project recorded on their tour stop in Columbia.  Just watching and listening to these guys I always am amazed at their humility and talent and how much they have paved the way for all modern worship over the past 15 years.  If you have never truly experienced d: this is certainly a good starting point.  That said, it’s a bittersweet offering since it’s likely their last.  Martin and Stu have decided to focus their efforts on future CompassionArt projects and so they have announced the band will shut er’ down at the end of this year.  Sniff sniff.

17
Mar
09

We Need More Holy Spirit!

Just today as I was listening to one of my favorite worship CD’s a thought popped into my head.  I don’t hear modern worship songs sing about the Holy Spirit anymore.  I haven’t done any real research on this, but in my recollection of popular songs about the third part of the Trinity I can only think of “Holy Spirit Rain Down” by Russell Fragar out at Hillsong, and that’s from 1997!  That was 12 years ago!  I did a search on the word “spirit” in my iTunes to see if I was mistaken (or just had short term memory loss) and here’s what I came up with:

Holy Spirit Rain Down – Hillsong

Spirit in the Sky – The Blind Boys of Alabama (don’t be fooled, this is a secular song from 1969 by Norman Greenbaum)

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Spirits in the Material World – The Police

The Spirit of Radio – Rush

A seminar by Tim Hughes called “Spirit-Led Worship”

Dance of the Blessed Spirits – Christoph Gluck (Baroque music from mid-1700’s)

Okay so why is the Spirit absent from most modern day worship lyrics?  I taught about the personhood of the Holy Spirit at a songwriting event and the bottom line is that scripture clearly shows that the Holy Spirit is God, God is the Holy Spirit.  We can refer to the Spirit as “He” in our songs, prayers, and conversation.  The Holy Spirit is our “counselor” and “helper,” the very Spirit of God that dwells within each believer, yes I’m referring to the third person of the trinitarian God we believe in (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  So I just wonder what about the Holy Spirit is causing the modern-day worship movement to avoid Him?  I don’t have an answer since I haven’t fully developed this thought.  But I will suggest that Christians in general are afraid of Holy Spirit.  I mean, the Spirit has done some things in church history that cause us to scratch our heads at times (not the least of which is speaking in tongues, ergo “They’re drunk on cheap wine!” Acts 2:13).  Fear of the Holy Spirit and what He will do and has done through man has caused denominations to split, judgements to happen, excesses to occur, and in the absence of the Spirit we find dry, dead Christians and churches.  So has fear, and fear of not being politically correct, driven Christians to avoid the Holy Spirit? Some have called the dilemma of the modern church the “de-Christianization” of the world.  So here’s a huge leap, could it be that we are not properly honoring the personhood of God that Jesus came to earth to leave us and now God is withholding His favor?  Do not fall into this trap.  Not worshipping the Holy Spirit means we are not worshipping God!  I am guilty of this same thing in my songwriting in that I only have a few songs where I mention the Spirit (“You poured Your Spirit out on us, a Father’s love displayed in grace” from ‘Song of Living Praise’ comes to mind).  God please forgive us.  We need more Holy Spirit!

09
Mar
09

U2 “No Line on the Horizon” Album Review

Okay so today I went to R&R Coffee here in the Black Forest and got a cup of Forest Mist Dark Roast (a signature blend…mmm), then I went next door to the Post Office and mailed back a washing machine part we didn’t need, I went to PetCo and bought some fish for my tropical tank, and I went to Target and bought the new album by U2 on CD.  Not a bad set of errands.  PetCo’s doing 5 for $5 tropical fish, R&R Coffee has a self service on drip that is less expensive and better than anyone around, and Target had the CD on sale.  The only thing I didn’t get a deal on was the washer pump (waste of shipping $!).  Can’t win em’ all, but in the process I got the new offering from one of rock’s most enduring bands.

First I will say that listening to Bono sing is worth the price of admission alone no matter the quality of the album.  What is that price you ask?  iTunes carries it for $9.99 album only or $17.99 which includes an hour-long movie featuring the music of the band as a part of the download (by Anton Corbjin who is the band’s favorite photographer).  Not bad.  If you prefer hard copy (and for those who lament the lost pleasure of album artwork who doesn’t?) Target has it on sale this week: album alone is $9.99 as well or you can get a cool deluxe edition for $21.99 which includes the album plus a poster, a mini book, and finally a download of aforementioned movie.  If you really want to go crazy you can get the whole thing bundled with DVD version of the movie for $64.99.  $9.99 seemed like the right choice for me although I will admit I had the deluxe edition in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Okay so with a 30+ year history behind them, who doesn’t like U2?  It used to be if someone said U2 was lame folks would give them the luxury of personal opinion, but today saying U2 is lame is like calling Bob Dylan a two-bit horseshoe farrier. Yeah, you would be called crazy.  Here’s my overarching assessment of their output over the years: they consistently outshine every other alternative band in history but they run out of gas 75% through almost every release.  It’s true.  I mean, you really have to be a major fan of their creative muse to like “Mothers of the Disappeared” for example (from “Joshua Tree”).  But 75% of U2 is 100% better than 99% of the artists in the world so who’s complaining?  If we have to suffer “Please” we still get “Do You Feel Love” (from “Pop”) or if we have to endure “Peace on Earth” we still get to revel in “Kite” (from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  All that to say I always expect to enjoy most of a new U2 album, but plan to be bored or let down by a chunk of it (kind of like a new Hillsong release or the skillets at Village Inn).

For this effort they ran through a series of producers (big names like Rick Rubin) and finally landed with three guys who have consistently delivered for them over the years: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and a few by Steve Lillywhite.  So expect the album to have some sounds that hearken your favorite U2 stuff from previous years.

I scanned a review that said something about U2 getting criticism for their last album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” because they didn’t risk enough on it and this album was theoretically a response to that critique but I don’t hear it.  It sounds very much like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” era U2 which is not to say it’s bad, I just don’t get the whole exploring-new-territory thing.  U2 on this album sounds like we would expect U2 to sound.  Anthemic, bluesy, and pulsating (all that’s missing from early U2 is the passion).  That’s why we listen to them over and over right?  U2 is a sonic soundtrack for our lives.  Our lives in the car, in the kitchen, on the bike, at work, on TV, gosh you can place U2 just about anywhere and it plays well.  So expect the familiar and that’s okay, well better than okay, it’s downright good.

“Get on Your Boots” was the first single released (to mixed reviews) and I was excited because it sounded like a band that was in fact looking to reinvent.  But as track #6 it sounds oddly out of character with the album up until that point.  The new fresh sound comes only after familiar territory.  Funny, as I listened the first time as each track came on it sounded like a different U2 album from the past.  I wonder if this was intentional by the band. Almost a retrospective without being retrospective.  I actually spent a little time linking each song to a previous U2 work, but I will spare you the list due to the length of this post.  Try it yourself, it’s fun.

As a leadoff cut “No Line on the Horizon” is a dud.  The title suggests that the band is looking forward with no boundaries which implies uncharted waters.  Can anyone else hear the blatant nod to “Until the End of the World” in the guitar riff?  That’s from 1990 and it’s funny because that song was written for a movie soundtrack where they were supposed to try and write in a style of where music would be 10 years from the writing.  They should have started the album with “Magnificent” which really shines as a classic U2 groove and overarching melodies.  Still, like a good road trip, this album gets better as it travels further and explores more.  That’s a first for U2 with me: I enjoyed the 2nd half more (One exception is “FEZ-being Born” which is out of place and belongs at the end of the album or somewhere else).  “Unknown Caller” has a rare Edge guitar solo, which was very refreshing to hear.  “White as Snow” is hauntingly beautiful (and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that the melody line to “O Come Emmanuel”?).  Bono is in good form with his wink-of-the-eye one-liner lyrics (“gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy”) and the album just sounds great sonically.

So in summary, if you like U2 you will like this CD; I do and I did.  It doesn’t break new ground but it’s everything we want in U2.  Not bad for $9.99.  I can listen to it over and over again too and probably will (can’t recycle that coffee and get the same bank for the buck now can I?).

On a final, Christian worldview note, I will say that it was refreshing and nice to have Bono singing about his faith so positively on the last album, but unfortunately there’s not a ton of that going on here.  We get that old 90’s style of faith from Mr. Vox.  It’s a sardonic and slightly jaded religiosity that filters though.  I recall seeing him wearing one of those “COEXIST” hats on TV last year at an AIDS rally.  Is Jesus still the only true way to salvation for Bono or does he now espouse the ever so popular one-world religion that prevails these days?  In “Breathe” he sings, “St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine.”  Seems he hates religion, but then again don’t we? At one time Bono and the Edge wanted to abandon their careers in music and become pastors, but that was over 20 years ago. It’s almost as if when he says “stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” in “Stand up Comedy” he’s singing to himself, the Bono-Christ.  I am happy that my faith remains unshaken.  Why don’t you all pray for Bono when you finish reading this, okay?

07
Mar
09

Coldplay a Guitar Influence?

Okay so I was casually listening to the album “Parachutes” by Coldplay and something jumped out at me that I never really noticed before.  The main riff and guitar solo in “Yellow” seems to be the template for almost every single contemporary worship guitar solo that has happened ever since.  Now when one thinks of guitar influences, most especially in the last 10 years, certainly Coldplay doesn’t jump to mind.  (In fact, I wonder if there has even been a major guitar influence in the last 20 years.  A friend of mine was explaining that Matthew Bellamy from Muse is a big deal but unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the major leap I think that all electric guitarists are secretly hoping for.  But that’s just me.)  Nevertheless in “Yellow” that solo is the style that every electric guitarist in the modern church has had to either a) learn or b) doesn’t know anything else exists.  It’s the 8th note, two tone (think 2 strings), all downstrokes, just north of broken sound, with delay on it.  Yeah you could say that came from the Edge, and it’s pretty obvious that Coldplay’s biggest influence is U2 (by admission from the band, but then again they also claim Delirious? is an influence.  But hey, Delirious? is most influenced by, you guessed it, U2).  I have heard “Yellow” many times and never put 2 and 2 together until this last listen.  It was released in 2000 and became a bona fide hit (#5 in UK) and it broke the band to a worldwide audience that embraced a new fresh sound (that sounded like u2 and Delirious? but that’s a niggling detail for anyone under 18 at the time).  Okay so to wrap up:

1) Most Christian guitarists and Christian artists I know listen to and love Coldplay

2) “Yellow” is one the band’s most popular songs and has this guitar solo/riff in it

3) Since 2000 most modern worship has guitar solos that sound like “Yellow.”  

You listen to the song and tell me what you think.  But prior to 2000 if modern worship even had a guitar solo, it certainly didn’t sound like everything coming out of Hillsong and the Passion guys.  Weigh in!

04
Mar
09

Fire Ants

Sorry for the huge gap in posts.  February has been crazy busy looking for a job and building the studio.  Anyhow, I like laughing and “Kids Rock” really made me roll.  It’s by a Christian comedian named Tim Hawkins.  I do not know why this particular video and song by him is so funny, but I couldn’t help but share it.  Enjoy.




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