Category Archives: Great Music

Nearer, My God, To Thee

The other day we had friends over to our house to sing hymns together, and someone requested this hymn. Someone else pointed out that we were coming up on the anniversary of  the Titanic sinking (April 15), and that the ship’s string quartet played the hymn while they went down. While there are a couple of contradictory accounts, we do know that  a number of survivors reported this. From Wikipedia:

George Orrell, the bandmaster of the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, who spoke with survivors, related: “The ship’s band in any emergency is expected to play to calm the passengers. After the Titanic struck the iceberg the band began to play bright music, dance music, comic songs – anything that would prevent the passengers from becoming panic-stricken… various awe-stricken passengers began to think of the death that faced them and asked the bandmaster to play hymns. The one which appealed to all was “Nearer My God to Thee.”

I’m not a fan of James Cameron’s (in)famous film adaptation of the tragedy, but this is one scene he got right:

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Youtube Find: Vintage Cathedrals Music

Some of us don’t have the space to amass a vinyl collection or the vinyl players to enjoy it on, but we still love vintage music. The other day, I found a goldmine of Cathedrals music on Youtube, including albums from the 60s/70s/80s that you still can’t purchase digitally. The music has been digitized from the user’s collection, and while the quality varies from record to record, it’s better than a through-the-air recording like some other vintage Cats uploads. The user hasn’t gathered most of them into playlists, but if you go to his channel and click “See more” enough times, from a certain point on it’s nothing but vintage Cathedrals records. Better yet, here’s a link to all the songs at once, generated by searching “Cathedrals” on the channel, though this doesn’t group songs from the same album all together. Also, it appears that the videos for Climbing Higher and Higher were accidentally uploaded with no sound. Otherwise, full albums all told include:

With Brass, 1966

Focus on Glen Payne, 1968 (full playlist here)

Welcome to Our World, 1972 (full playlist here)

You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet, 1979

Featuring George Younce, 1983

Individually, 1983

Voices in Praise Acappella, 1984

The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet, 1984

An Old Convention Song, 1985

Worship His Glory in Acappella Praise, 1993

Some of Their Finest Moments, 1994 (best-of collection, middling quality)

Radio Days, 1996

Acapella Favorites, 2000 (best-of collection)

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I haven’t even scratched the surface of it all yet, but one album I do have in my collection already that’s uploaded here in excellent quality is 1984’s Prestigious Cathedral Quartet. Recorded with tenor Danny Funderburk, baritone Mark Trammell, and pianist Roger Bennett, this album featured a few of the Cathedrals’ signature songs and a few forgotten gems. It includes one of my absolute favorite Cathedrals songs ever, which to my knowledge has never been recorded by anyone else. It should be. It’s called “Next Time We Meet,” and it’s absolutely haunting. Somebody please bring this one back. Thank you:

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Passion Week Playlist #2: Songs For a Groaning Creation

Tonight I rose up with the moon, and looking down from high above,
I saw a world carved and confused into valleys deep in need of love.
And falling down, all thick with grace, Heaven’s cloud of mystery
Was filling every empty space, down to the depth of human need.

— Bebo Norman, “Deeper Still”

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In previous years, I’ve posted a hymn or classical piece per day to commemorate Passion week. This year, I decided to do something a little different. So yesterday, I put together a few contemporary songs that, intentionally or not, throw our world’s need for a Savior into sharp relief. In the spirit of my “Questions & Answers” series, I’m sharing six more songs that have been arranged to complement yesterday’s playlist from an explicitly Christian perspective. (Hopefully this will make you do a double take on some of those lyrics!) If you are a Christian and a music fan, I encourage you to try this as an exercise for yourself. It’s good for your musical appreciation and your spiritual health.

The usual suspects are here: Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, and a couple of younger upstarts like Audrey Assad and Bebo Norman, whose great lyric for “Deeper Still” is quoted above. I’m particularly moved by how Steven Curtis Chapman’s heart-wrenchingly hopeful song “February 20th” complements Phil Collins’s “Since I Lost You.” (Note that February 20th is not the day Chapman’s daughter died, but the day she accepted Christ. She would die later that same year.)

I am hoping and planning to share more thoughts on some of these, but for now, just be still and enjoy them. And have a blessed Easter.

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Passion Week Playlist #1: Songs Of a Groaning Creation

Whiskey and gun

What do a damaged Vietnam veteran, a heartbroken father, and a motherless child all have in common? All of their stories have been told in song form, and all of them are true. And there are thousands more just like them.

Most people listen to music because it makes them feel good, and I am certainly no exception. We are naturally drawn to music with lyrics that will uplift and encourage us. That’s why we all come back to the grand old hymns and gospel songs about heaven. (What a day that will be! Oh what shouting on that hallelujah morning!)

But sometimes, I need to hear what a groaning creation sounds like. Because it’s the reason Jesus had to die.

How do you respond to a lyric like this, written for the death of a child?

It’s all too easy to take so much for granted

But it’s oh, so hard to find the words to say

Like a castle in the sand the water takes away

Now how can life ever be the same?

Cause my heart is broken in pieces

Since I lost you.

Or this, for the death of a mother?

Some trains, they leave in the morning.

Some leave in the afternoon.

Some trains, they leave here right on time.

Some, they just leave too soon.

One thing is certain—cliches and platitudes will never do.

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Filed under Great Music, Theological Ramblings

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Have some Irish music.

Well, I was going to publish a CD review today, but it didn’t happen. So on this Saint Paddy’s Day, enjoy this fine live performance of a love letter to Dublin: “Rare Auld Times.” Brian Dunphy of the High Kings dedicates it to his father, who had passed away recently at the time of this recording. It’s a stellar vocal, and I love the way they just strum away with abandon on the guitar and banjo sorry, not a banjo as I’m looking more closely at it. Stringed something-something. Anyway, this is the kind of spirited, rough-hewn music-making I love. I love the guy in blue just grinning and leaning back behind them in the background like, “Yep. Way to do it!”

Ring a ring a rosy

As the light declines

I remember Dublin City

In the rare auld times…

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In Chains For a Higher Call

In memory of the 21:

 

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My Top 5 Underrated Love Songs

You’ve danced with your spouse to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “I Will Be Here.” You’ve sniffled and reached for the tissues at “Bless the Broken Road.”  You’ve sworn to throw random objects at the radio if they spin “I Will Always Love You” one more time. Now Valentine’s Day has rolled around once more, and you’re in the perfect mood to enjoy a romantic musical something. Or maybe not. Either way, I would like to shine a spotlight on five songs that you won’t see on most any Top 100 lists when people rank their favorite ditties about “luuuv.” In fact, I guarantee that half if not all of them will be new to you. Further, I guarantee that they are much deeper and more thought-provoking than what often passes for a love song in today’s cultural milieu. Think of it as my heart-shaped candy gift box to you, dear readers. Go on. Open it up and savor my Top Five Underrated Love Songs.

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My Definitive Andrae Crouch Mix

Here’s the post I was going to publish this Monday, before the death of Lari Goss shoved it down in urgency.

Last week, the great gospel music legend Andrae Crouch went on to his reward. Overcoming the handicap of severe dyslexia, Crouch wrote many classic songs and also became a sought-after arranger/producer across genres. Perhaps his best-loved song is “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” which he wrote in a white heat of inspiration at the age of 14. Few of us can hope to write one great song in our lives. Practically none of us can claim to have written our greatest before finishing high school. I was fortunate to stumble across this great home video of Crouch sharing with an old friend a little bit about how the song was written. It was taken a few years ago when his voice had already been ravaged by various illnesses, so you might have to prick your ears up to catch what he’s saying:

I greatly enjoyed spending some time with the music of Andrae Crouch over the last weekend, and I thought it only fitting to make a little playlist of some of my favorite versions of some of his best songs. From Andrae himself to Selah, to the Jessy Dixon Singers, to Gordon Mote, to Kim Collingsworth, to Cece Winans, these artists give some definitive renditions.

Another version of “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” that I also love is this one, from a Gaither Homecoming. Cece Winans is featured again. I think Selah is still my favorite, but this version had both me and Andrae wondering who was cutting onions in the room.

 

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Remembering the Work of Lari Goss

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Last known picture taken of Lari Goss, second from right. On the left, Wayne Haun.

We’re barely out of the first week of 2015, and already music legends are leaving us one after the other. First, it was Little Jimmy Dickens in country music. Next, Andrae Crouch just last week, about whom I was going to post this morning until Lari Goss passed away two days ago. Now my recent reflections on life and the passage of time are, eerily, doubly appropriate.

Lari Goss had a hand in a lot of the work that has formed my appreciation of southern gospel music. His involved orchestrations may not be every classical music purist’s cup of tea, but I’ve always taken the Monty Python approach: I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. And I know that Lari Goss’s orchestrations have made already great songs stick in my memory, no doubt many without my knowing it. His talents as an acappella producer should also be recognized. We have him to thank for the outstanding work of the Martins, among others.

While recognizing that this playlist barely scratches the surface, I present a few songs I’ve loved in no small part because of the Lari Goss touch. He will be missed. Feel free to name any other favorites that I forgot. I realize, for example, that I could have included the Martins’ entire A Cappella Collection, or practically the Cathedrals’ entire Symphony of Praise album. Though I resolutely refuse to add “Champion of Love,” because I hatehate that song, through no fault of Lari Goss’s production.

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Filed under Great Music, Southern Gospel News

Finals Week: A Playlist

I got all my finals out of the way in one fell swoop this week (graph theory in the [early] morning, advanced calculus at noon, advanced linear algebra in the afternoon, yeah baby), and it sure feels good! Here are a few inspiring tunes that got me through this trying time. They’ve spoken to my heart. May they speak to yours.

The Morning Of

“Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac

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One Down, Two to Go

“Stayin’ Alive,” the Bee Gees

Oh yes, I did so do an epic walk between buildings to this one. Thanks Mom.

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Decompressing

“Sanity’s Side,” Little River Band

(But seriously now folks, this one is a GREAT tune. File under “most underrated pop gems ever.”):

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Afterwards

“Roll With the Changes,” REO Speedwagon

“Gentlemen, shall we attempt this one?”

*Note: Studio track mixed with crowd roars. Still awesome.

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