Saturday, August 25, 2007

Too much new music?

I've had a great summer from a music appreciation standpoint. I went back in my collection and pulled out a couple of old albums that I haven't listened to in a while and, just over the last month, I've picked up way too may new recordings. Part of this is because things I've ordered in the mail came at about the same time and part of it is that Best Buy has had some good stuff for $7.99 lately. I've also been intrigued by some new artists and I've taken a chance on them. I have also found that the Paste Magazine samplers and the iTunes free downloads of the week have made me aware of some artists that I would not have noticed. It's been fun.

I may write reviews of each of these albums in time but for right now, here is a list of what I've added to my iPod lately in no particular order.

Old albums I got out again:

  • Crimson and Blue – Phil Keaggy
  • Open Sky – Iona
  • Woven Cord - Iona
  • The Story of the Ghost – Phish
  • Farmhouse – Phish
  • Europe '72 – Grateful Dead
  • Good Feeling to Know – Poco
  • In My Father's House – Richie Furay
  • Working Class Hero – John Lennon (see my post about this.)
  • The Friendship and the Fear – Matt Redman
  • Wingspan – Paul McCartney and Wings
  • Coming to Life – The Normals


New albums:

  • The Fragile Army – the Polyphonic Spree
  • Under the Blacklight – Rilo Kiley
  • One Cell in the Sea – A Fine Frenzy
  • The Silence of Everything Yearned For – Ric Hordinski
  • The Trumpet Child – Over the Rhine
  • iTunes Festival London – Paul McCartney
  • Arrivals and Departures – the Icicles
  • Singularity – Mae
  • Letters from the Editor, Vol. 1 – Andrew Osenga


I've added all these (plus some Paste Samplers and free iTunes downloads) since July 13. All of the brand new music has come since July 29. So I have a lot to digest and I've been having a great time doing that. Plus, I continue to listen to things that I haven't listened to on my iTunes in the lat three months – they naturally come up in my playlist – and that often gives me a "hey, this is cool stuff" moment. Hopefully I'll give a full review of many of these at some point.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bad exegesis

I often ask my students if they can think of examples of bad biblical exegesis* that they have heard and I sometimes get some good examples. Ben Witherington (professor at Asbury Theological Seminary) points us to a good one in his blog post about a pastor who asks his congregation to pray for his critics to die. See this article in the LA Times. Here is an excerpt:

Drake said Wednesday he was "simply doing what God told me to do" by targeting Americans United officials Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, whom he calls the "enemies of God."

"God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church," he said. "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God's people, David said this is what will happen to them. . . . Children will become orphans and wives will become widows."

Imprecatory prayers are alternately defined as praying for someone's misfortune, or an appeal to God for justice.

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office," the prayer reads. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."
Make sure you read Witherington's response.

* "Exegesis" is determining what the original readers of a passage of scripture understood the passage to mean to them. "Hermeneutics" is applying that message to us today. Hermeneutics without good exegesis is problematic at best.

Desert Island Discs Part Nine - Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full

I know it just came out but I'm going to add Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full to my list. See my recent review here. I still like it and I still find new things in it. I almost picked Chaos and Creation or Flaming Pie but all this just goes to show that McCartney has been on a roll lately!

Since I just recently reviewed it I'll just let you read what I wrote there.

There are four friends joining me on my Desert Island journey. Check their lists:

My Complete Desert Island List (so far):

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Working Class Hero

The release of the Instant Karma collection, which I reviewed here, got me thinking about Lennon's solo music and I continue to enjoy listening to what new artists have done to reinterpret Lennon's songs. With the release this week of Lennon's catalog on iTunes I noticed a best-of collection called Working Class Hero, the Definitive Lennon and, as I looked at it, I found myself thinking that this was a great collection of songs. Now I already have most of the Lennon stuff, having bought both the original boxed set, called Lennon, and the John Lennon's Anthology, which did for Lennon's solo music what The Beatles' Anthology did for the group's music – present out-takes and alternate versions along with a few unreleased gems. As I looked at Working Class Hero I realized that I had every one of the 38 songs on the collection so I made my own version of it using the discs I had and iTunes.

Listening to this collection a couple of times made me realize that this is, perhaps, the best way to listen to Lennon's solo music. First of all, this is a long collection, thirty-eight tracks, so there is a lot of music here. It takes more than two-and-a-half hours to listen to it all. Second, while a few of Lennon's albums are classics, most notably Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, the rest of his releases have quite a bit of stuff on them that is less than stellar. And I can only listen to Plastic Ono Band when I'm in a certain mood because that album is really intense. Plus, Lennon's singles were really good. "Give Peace a Chance," "Instant Karma," and "Happy Xmas" are among his best work and they don't live on any regular albums. That's why I enjoyed Shaved Fish, Lennon's first greatest hits collection, so much in the old album days.

All the expected songs are here. You'll be hard pressed (or at the very least a hard-core fan) to be able to name any significant song that has been left off. And this collection includes the Lennon-only demo of "Real Love" and, as an added bonus, the George Martin orchestrated version of "Grow Old With Me" closes out the album. I'm generally not a "greatest hits" kind of guy, preferring to think that albums are conceived and created as units and therefore ought to be listened to as such, but Working Class Hero is one case where pulling out the best songs works out really well.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Two conferences in three weeks

It's been a little while since I've written anything about my actual life here so I thought I'd reflect for a minute about the two conferences that I attended and spoke for over the last three weeks. In late July I attended the Christian Schools International annual leadership conference. I did a day-long pre-convention workshop about helping children grow in faith. There were a couple of cool things about this convention. First of all Laura got to come along to Boyne Highlands, a beautiful spot near the northern tip of lower Michigan. While we were there we went a little further north the Big Mac Bridge. Here I am in this picture recreating the cover for my less-than-incredibly-successful Math Textbook, Precalculus: A Study of Functions and their Applications. The actual book cover doesn't have me on it but except for that it's the same. See?

The conference itself was fun too. I got to spend a day with some school administrators and church workers and talk with them about some of the new ideas that I've been working on this summer as a follow up to my forthcoming book about nurturing faith.

Then this weekend Laura and I both spoke at the conference put on by Faith Alive Resources, who publishes our Christmas plays, curricula and other things for churches. We always enjoy hanging out with the staff and editors and we had fun meeting the people who came to the conference. It was held in Grand Rapids and, while it wasn't a particularly exotic locale, at least not for those who work there, we stayed in a nice hotel with a waterslide, which was too much fun.

We spoke three times at the conference. I did the overview of the six principles which I discuss in Helping our Children Grow in Faith and Laura and I two sessions together: one on summer programs and another on using drama. For the drama session we brought five kids from our church with us to demonstrate three short dramas that we had written. They did a great job and we had fun but now we're pretty tired. It's time for a few days of kicking back and then time to gear up for a new semester!.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Desert Island Discs, part Eight – Europe ’72 by the Grateful Dead

I got to see the Grateful Dead three times while I lived in Denver, in '79, '80 and '81 and I really got to enjoy their songs and the improvisational nature of their shows. (That might be why, a few years later I was intrigued by Phish.) And as every Dead fan knows it's really all about the shows and tapes of their concerts, not about their albums. Now I really like their albums (especially Workingman's Dead and American Beauty) but their three-album, two-disc live collection from that era, Europe '72 is perhaps an even better record of those years. The recording is crystal clear and the band, who recently added Keith and Donna Godchaux to the mix, was in fine form. This was the last tour with Ron "Pigpen" McKernon, who was dying from liver failure, and he's pretty quiet throughout. In fact, his organ parts were replaced in the studio later by Merl Saunders. But even with that studio trickery (which is really foreign to what the Dead are all about) this album is a wonderful collection of songs played well and recorded beautifully.

I have a clear memory of working on a crew mowing lawns on my second summer in Denver singing these songs to myself. "Cumberland Blues," "Ramble on Rose," and "Jack Straw" are among the highlights for me but the song that really caught my ear as a college student was "China Cat Sunflower." This performance absolutely sparkles and the interesting counterpoint between Bob Wier's running guitar figure and Jerry Garcia's vocal is always entertaining. I have LOTS of live Dead on my shelf but this version of "China Cat," and the wonderful collection of songs here puts Europe '72 at the top of the pile.

There are four friends joining me on my Desert Island journey. Check their lists:

My Complete Desert Island List (so far):

Friday, August 03, 2007

Desert Island Discs, Part Seven – So by Peter Gabriel

Today, for my desert Island Disc, I pick a CD that does not come from one of my all time favorite artists. Instead, this is an album that is one of the few I own by this artist but one which has stood out for me for many years and I keep coming back to as one of my favorite albums of all time – So by Peter Gabriel.

I got this album as a present for Father's Day, way back in 1986. The songs that were on the radio, "Sledgehammer" and "In Your Eyes," made me want to get this album and when I did I was absolutely floored by the whole thing. The funk of "Sledgehammer" and the ethereal quality of "In Your Eyes," "Red Rain," "That Voice Again," and what may be my favorite of all, the wonderful duet with Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up."

This is an album for the ages, one that doesn't sound dated and one where the writing playing and Gabriel's emotional singing all come together in a way that I don't think they have before or since.

There are four friends joining me on my Desert Island journey. Check their developing stagnant lists: [EDIT 8/4/07 - as my friend Jim K points out, his list is NOT stagnant. Apologies to Jim. But not to the other slackers :) ]

My Complete Desert Island List (so far):

Now playing: Peter Gabriel - Red Rain
via FoxyTunes