What happens when a rut of writers block happens – lists!
After the last 5 songs from Worship I started thinking about different albums I have always enjoyed and the experience of listening to them. Here a few I really dig:
The Beatles’ Revolver. The Beatles‟ was some of the first music I remember listening to as a child and thinking, “Wow, I like this.” It was a tape of their greatest hits and I really remember listening to it over and over again. Those songs seemed to much better than the ones from “The Right Stuff.” Revolver is fantastic for artistic and technical reasons. Technically, the Beatles began expanding their ideas with the multi-tracking capabilities of the time. But musically, every song is awesome, especially the B-side!
Gungor, Beautiful Things. This album has been described as liturgical post-rock; I would simply describe it as awesome! Musically, it is rich and deeply layered; yet it is at times decidedly simple in presentation while still maintaining a rich canvas. The themes of Beautiful Things speak to how God makes beautiful things out of all we know. It is intended to be a worship experience and when we sing songs from this album in The Journey, it is clear there is a Spirit in the air.
The Great Ladies Sing Gershwin. This is a compilation of several great jazz female vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington and more singing the Gershwin standards. I mention this as one of my favorite albums because it contains the most powerful recorded song I have ever listened to, Nina Simone‟s I Loves You, Porgy. It is a live recording and Simone‟s voice just pours out full of emotion and longing. When I heard it for the first time, I wept with sorrow for Bess. I must have listened to that track 30 times in a row, then a buddy of mine showed up to the dorm and I made him sit through it a half dozen times (fortunately he is a kindred spirit and got it). Still to this day it puts me almost out of shape to hear it.
Puccini’s La Boheme. The 1972 recording featuring Pavarotti & Mirella Freni. Opera has always been a love of mine. As a voice major, I developed a great love for opera and La Boheme is just so beautiful. When I was teaching elementary music, I would always do a unit on opera for the 5th Graders. And I will never forget the last class I taught in Atlanta. As we learned about the different aspects of opera, they learned the story of Boheme. As we listened to different songs, I spoke the translation and when Rodolfo cried, “Mimi,” these students were visibly moved, some even to tears. It was really amazing, these kids who want you to believe they are straight thuggin just got all emotional. I would love to talk to them in a decade and see if they have any sort of appreciation for the opera.
Rich Mullins’ The Jesus Record. This is a different kind of album. It is a double album, featuring songs Mullins was working on soon before his untimely death and songs finished by his peers in the music industry. While it contains many great songs such as That Where I Am, You Did Not Have a Home, Heaven in His Eyes and more, the striking thing about this album for me is the demos. These are simple prayers and ideas Mullins was laying down; we can never know what edits would have been made in time. We are left with the raw performances full of shaky vocals, tempo shifts, and background noise. But what plays the loudest is Mullins‟ prayers and praises to the Lord.
Are these my Top 4 albums of all time? No, not really. But, they are four albums that I find to be authentic expressions of emotions performed with excellence. And those two things, authenticity and excellence, are very important, not just for an album, but for our faith as well. After all, Psalm 33 asks us to, Play beautiful music and worship and honor the Lord, or something like that.