God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Robbie bootleg video strangeness

Posted by Martin on July 5, 2007

Ok – so this is a bit weird – a video clip has appeared on youtube, which features British pop megastar Robbie Williams – just out of rehab, showcasing a new song which appears to be pretty much in-your-face Jesus-advocating in places. He says at the end of the clip – which also includes the f-word, so you have been warned – that this is a new song called ‘Bodies’ which he’s written with his friend Brandon. Have a listen to the lyrics – which include the repeated line ‘Jesus really died for me’ – and judge for yourself: is it genuine or a wind-up?

LANGUAGE WARNING! THIS CLIP CONTAINS SOME SWEARING!

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This is why I love THE MAN Lee Mead

Posted by Martin on July 4, 2007

And Andrew Lloyd Webber… and Jesus Christ Superstar. But not really the Scottish fella who sings first. Not so much.

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Andrew Lloyd, Superstar

Posted by Martin on June 21, 2007

Having been completely switched on to the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber by the BBC’s recent Any Dream Will Do? hunt for a lead actor to play Joseph in Joseph, I’ve been reintroduced to the greatness that is Jesus Christ Superstar. Anyone who was on flight BA0279 from London to LAX last week will testify to how annoyingly vocal my obsession with it has quickly become. If you were on the flight, sorry.

Anyway – Lloyd Webber himself seems like quite an amiable chap. For anyone interested in the theology behind the music, there’s a fascinating article – written in 1987 – here. If you happen to know if the great man’s view of God has changed in the 20 years that have passed since he gave this interview, please post below – I’d be genuinely fascinated.

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Tim Hughes gives it the kitchen sink

Posted by Martin on February 26, 2007

Or rather, is Holding Nothing Back according to the title of his new album. Britain’s joint-biggest worship leader and Christian song-writer returns with a third CD next month, and I’ve managed to steal a rough cut from the studio using my cat-burglar skills. Alright, the nice lady from his record company sent me a preview copy, but it doesn’t sound as cool.

Tim is one of the world’s most gifted congregational song writers, and so many people will have very high hopes for the album. The great news is that, having listened to it about thirty times now (which I suppose is a good sign), I can confirm that the album is fantastic. In fact, I’d go as far as to stick my neck out and say that this is going to be the best British worship album since Delirious released Glo – and that was practically back in the sixties.

The standout track – and the one I’m predicting will win a Dove award (American music award; nothing to do with the British soap products) – is ‘Everything’. If you’ve been at a festival in the last twelve months, you may well have heard it, but you certainly haven’t heard it like this… Based on a celtic prayer, it is one of the most rousing, moving, get-under-your-skin pieces of music I’ve ever, ever heard.

There’s also God of Justice – an unusually-focussed track about social action; Happy Day, which is a suitably upbeat intro to the album and the most instantly sing-able offering on there; and a fantastic duet with New Zealand chart star Brooke Fraser, ‘Clinging to the Cross.’

Albums from major worship leaders can go two ways: a) pedestrian, going-through-the-motions and cynically average, or b) innovative and exciting. Very pleased to report that in this case, it’s the latter all the way.

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U2 – Window in the skies

Posted by Martin on December 11, 2006

How I love this band. This song comes from the U2’s new greatest hits album 18 Songs – it is utterly wonderful, and the lyrics are so powerful it hurts. I love you Bono, and I don’t care who knows it.

Window in the skies 

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat thats in the sun
Will keep us when there’s none

The rule has been disproved
The stone has been moved
The grain is now a groove
All debts are removed, ooh

Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
What it’s doing to me

Love makes strange enemies
Makes love when love may please
Soul in a strip tease
Hate brought to its knees

Sky over our head
Can reach it from our bed
If you let me in your heart
And out of my head

Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
What it’s doing to me

Oh oh oh hhhhhhhhhhh
Oh oh oh hhhhhhhhhhh
Please don’t ever let me out of here

I’ve got no shame
oh no oh no

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

Oh I know I hurt you and I made you cry
Did everything but murder but you and I
But love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see what love has done to every broken heart
Oh can’t you see what love has done for every heart that cries
Love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see?

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Cherry Blackstone

Posted by Martin on December 4, 2006

A heads up about a new band emerging on the London circuit right now – in my humble opinion they have the potential to make it pretty big. If there’s any justice, they’ll get somewhere just through their willingness to be a bit creative. They’re called Cherry Blackstone, and I got sent their promo EP by their promoters. The blurb says they sound a bit like the Black Eyed Peas, but that’s completely inaccurate. They are a pretty innovative funk/rock fusion band, and very radio-friendly songrwriters. Have a listen for yourself on their website: 

www.cherryblackstone.co.uk

Three of the band are Christians, but they’re not a ‘Christian band’. I was really chuffed today to hear this great examples of Christian musicians taking risks (see my previous rant for why). I hope they do really well.

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‘Christian’ music: I have a dream

Posted by Martin on December 1, 2006

I’m no musician. I’m a music fan, and I’ve written about the subject a little. But I can’t play more than the first few notes of Mull of Kintyre on a piano. So take this all with a pinch of salt. But if I had the chance to address the ‘Christian music’ industry, this is what I would say:

I’ve been consistently impressed, surprised and inspired by some of the albums created by British ‘pop’ musicians over the last couple of years. From Hard-Fi’s Stars of CCTV to Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open and Final Straw, bands have time and again been prepared to innovate, take musical risks, and most significantly, create albums that are more than just a selection of songs. More and more, the great bands and artists are seeing the album as a whole – as a complete piece of art, made up of contributing elements. Just as a play is made up of scenes which work together as a whole, these albums aren’t just a collection of disparate songs, but a plotted course through complimentary elements which make up an artistic experience. Perhaps the pop album started out as the thing you released when you’d written ten good songs, but we’ve moved on from there.

Well, at least in the real world we have. Take Coldplay’s X&Y, widely regarded as a masterpiece, and incidentally packed with as much spiritual content as your average Christian worship album. Here is an album which truly works as a complete piece of art. From the opening question of ‘Square One’: “You’re in control, is there anywhere you want to go?”, the band take the listener on a journey through highs and lows of enjoyment and emotion; pose some huge questions about the nature of life itself, and engage both brain and heart throughout. By the final bars of last track ‘Kingdom Come’, you are exhausted and uplifted – the way you might feel after a particularly cathartic theatre visit.

The songs themselves demonstrate similar innovation and songwriting effort – and consistently so. Many of the tracks go exactly where you don’t expect them to – such as ‘What if’, which ends up by suddenly changing course and musically referencing The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece ‘A Day in the Life’. There’s variation, there’s lucid writing; there’s at least five or six truly classic songs. That’s what makes it – in the real sense of the word – great.

So as a Christian, and a music fan, I look at the so-called ‘Christian music’ industry (in quotes because as Rob Bell says, “Christian makes a great noun but a lousy adjective”), and wonder why the same degree of creativity isn’t present. Why is it that I so rarely come across a contemporary Christian album which embraces the new understanding of the format? Why is it so unusual to hear a CCM or worship track which takes musical risks? Surely we represent the guy who created creativity?

That’s not to say that the Christian music scene is devoid of imagination. The recent albums from David Crowder Band (particularly the experimental B Collision), and Mat Kearney (see recent post), buck the trend, but for the most part Christian musicians seem happy to tow the line of their predecessors – being the band that tries to sound like U2, or the band that tries to sound like the band that tries to sound like U2, or… you get the picture.

So what am I saying? I’m honestly not just wanting to be critical for the sake of it. But if as Christians we truly want to be at the forefront of the Arts, we need to be able to say ‘this isn’t good enough,’ and look for answers. So here’s my challenge – before they record or write anything else, I’d like every musician in the Christian recording industry to sit down and take a long listen to some of the truly innovative albums of the last few years. Those I’ve listed above, plus Gnarls Barkley’s St Elsewhere, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, and Demon Days by Gorillaz. Whatever else they find interesting in their genre.

Then I’d like them to look long and hard at how those albums are structured, and at how the songs look to break new ground and innovate. Then, after a long period of listening and reflecting, I’d ask them to try to apply the same degree of creativity (and not just the same ideas!) to their own songwriting and musical arrangement.

And if that happened, I honestly believe we’d start seeing some ‘Christian’ albums that are up there with the stuff in the charts. I have high hopes, for instance, for Tim Hughes new worship album. Some of the songs which he’s already showcased, which will appear on the album, are certainly at the more creative end of the scale. I really hope he doesn’t settle for middle-of-the-road production values on what could be some really amazing tracks. Similarly, I believe Delirious still have it within them to write a truly innovative pop album. Perhaps then they’ll stumble into the kind of mainstream success they chased for so long in the middle stages of their career.

As I say – I’m no musician, so maybe I know nothing. My hope is that there might be a grain of wheat in all this chaff that might help someone.

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Listen to this

Posted by Martin on November 27, 2006

Nothing left to loseThis is what’s stuck on repeat play on my iPod right now – Mat Kearney’s Nothing Left to Lose. I was given a copy by my friend Annie who works for his record label, and I’m usually suspicious when someone like that says – ‘this guy’s great, really original’. It often means – ‘we’ve pressed 100,000 of these blasted tablemats – help me!’

Anyway – this is no tablemat. It is particularly original – Mat both sings and slow-raps to good effect, and there’s a flow to the album which is often missing from Christian music. I’m really enjoying it – but plug over – go and download some for yourself, or visit his website at www.matkearney.com

I shall write something on the issue of album misflow in CCM in a forthcoming post. I have something interesting to say about it, honest.

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