I'm a little past halfway through the brilliant new Beatles book Can't Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould. I wrote about it before I started reading it and it is every bit as good as many of the reviews say it is. It does a great job of not only talking about the lives of the Beatles but it also puts that and their music in the context of the times and the political social and artistic changes that were happening in the world. On top of that there is a song by song discussion of each of their recordings. It really is special and, while it is a bit too in-depth to be anyone's first book about the Beatles, for someone like me who has read lots of books on the Beatles, I'm enjoying it immensely.
I have, for the past couple of years, participated in the Calvin Theological Seminary book of the quarter reading group and this quarter we're reading Elizabeth Strout's Abide With Me, a fascinating look at the life of a small town preacher who's wife's death has brought him, his young daughter and their community personal turmoil. It is only through allowing his church to see him broken and in need of help that he can once again effectively lead them. We'll get together three times to discuss the book, once with the author who is visiting Calvin for the Festival of Faith and Writing! It's a good book and I enjoyed it a lot.
Because I have tickets to the Switchfoot and the Police/Elvis Costello concerts coming up soon I've gotten back into their music lately and, while I've already expressed my love for Jon Foreman's EPs I have mostly lately listened to a lot of Elvis Costello and, I must say, that his gift for melody and for inventive song and chordal structure is really extraordinary. I have long thought "Couldn't Call it Unexpected" from Mighty Like a Rose was a prime example of this but I just lately came to love the album All This Useless Beauty. It is just packed with beautiful songs. And if you haven't heard For the Stars, his duet album with opera singer Anne-Sophie Von Otter, you're missing something truly special.
I have also enjoyed Bethany Dillon and Matt Hammitt's worship album In Christ Alone. Meant to be more a modern hymns album than a praise and worship album it takes a number of songs by Keith Getty and others and puts them in a more modern setting and does a credible job with them. Some of the tracks come across as sub-standard versions of very popular songs (the title cut, or "How Deep the Father's Love" for example) but others, most notably Getty's "Jesus is Lord" which is transformed to a hip, new uptempo version, work really well and gives me a new appreciation for the song.
Finally, in the flurry of new and old music that I've been enjoying, I'm ashamed to say that it took me a couple of years to finally pick up the amazing Before the Daylight's Shot by Ashley Cleveland. I should have known better since her previous album, the live You Are There, is one of my all-time favorites. It's just that she doesn't release albums' very often and so I forget just how good she (and her guitarist/husband Kenny Greenberg) is. Amazing stuff. Meant to be played loud.
I continue to work through DVDs and I'm getting near the end of both Season 6 of 24 (which is much better than I was lead to believe based on the "24 is losing it" buzz that I heard last season) and Season One of Veronica Mars which also I'm enjoying quite a bit. I must also admit to watching American Idol and I have to say that, while David Archuletta got off to a strong start, David Cook is really bringing it lately … dawg.
I also watched the film Enchanted last weekend and it was wonderful. It dragged only the slightest bit near the end but, as a send up of Disney animated classics it is really great. The songs are catchy and the effects are quite impressive. And Amy Adams is just too likeable as the soon-to-be princess. Even if there are no kids in your house, this one is too much fun to miss.