Live, Live, Live

A couple months ago I posted a status on Twitter/Facebook stating that I loved live albums and asking people for their favorites.  I got a great response.  Lots of classics.  So I decided to follow that up with a list of my favorites in no particular order…

James Taylor – Live – Great musicianship and, of course, songs.  No overdubs!

Coldplay – LeftRightLeftRightLeft – The enthusiasm of the crowd is amazing.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Live in New York City – The energy of this band is unparalleled.

Simon and Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park (1981) – Great harmonies and great fun.

David Wilcox – East Asheville Hardware – Funny, poignant, real.

Darrell Scott – Live in NC – Mix country, bluegrass, southern rock, jam band, and a voice like no other.

John Mayer – Where the Light Is – Comprehensive.  The acoustic set is my favorite by far.

Darrell Evans – Let the River Flow – Taught me so much about worship.

Hillsong – Shout to the Lord – Classic.  Nothing else to say.

U2 – Rattle and Hum – Not a complete live album but the closest I had in the 8th grade.  I loved the passion on this…I wanted to sing like Bono so bad (Part of me still does:)!

How about you?…

Unopened

“Another issue is the fact we don’t have many record stores left. The experience we all grew up with of spending the afternoon browsing music in a record store, doesn’t exist anymore. So let’s wake up. Yeah, sales are down. But how many stores do we have? I wouldn’t be surprised if some smart young business person finds a way to open 25 or 30 wildly successful new CD stores. Because there is an audience for them.” – Scott Borchetta, President/CEO Big Machine Records, Think Tank: A Music Row Special Report, August 2007

Record/CD stores drove me crazy.  Because I love music, I always wanted to go to them (when they existed) and check out the selection.  But, it never failed, I left disappointed.  Maybe it was cooler before when vinyl was the thing – at least you could see real cover art.  But, looking through a bunch of CD cases to see what was new?  You could listen to a few CDs through greasy headphones that had been on who-knows-who’s head before you and usually never the one you wanted. 

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of the record store, but not much more. 

Even when the stores started to get digital sampling stations where you scanned the barcode and heard the music, it was always a few seconds and, knowing the record company it was the intro or instrumental section, not anything helpful like the chorus (this still drives me crazy on the iTunes store – think about what you want people to hear!!).

The one exception to this was Blockbuster Music’s (remember?) short-lived program to let people listen to any CD in the store.  They opened the package for you and you listened and then they sealed it back up in their own plastic.  This was amazing!  I would go up almost every night and listen to all kinds of albums.  I discovered David Wilcox and listened to his entire catalog.  I bought several of his CDs.   I always went back to the rack, though and bought the unopened copy.  Thus, this was the fatal flaw in Blockbuster’s strategy: people listened and then didn’t buy.

People talk about the “scene” at record stores.  But, as a kid (and even an adult) breaking into that scene can be quite intimidating.  But most of the music stores I knew were chains where the “scene” never existed.

What kills me about Scott Borchetta’s quote above is that it is so off-the-mark.  So many people running record companies are so out of touch.  It has been this way and continues.  When will the new generation of leaders take over the music business with new ideas and exciting visions?  When will they choose to make music rather than computers and software?

So, I’m all for retail music stores and digital music stores.  Just don’t make people walk or surf into a store and leave without the experience of amazing music.  If we do, the music and  the wallets will stay unopened.

Guest Blogger Stephen Simpson!

This week, for the review, I asked Stephen Simpson if I could reprint the following review.  He is benwardmusic.com’s first guest blogger!

poythress

“WASH AWAY” (Integrity Music, 2009)
Don Poythress
5 Stars out of 5

The long-awaited major label debut from singer/songwriter Don Poythress arrives in the form of a fresh – and refreshing – praise and worship expression entitled “Wash Away”. Don is known and loved among many of our One-to-One readers as the leader of the annual Gatlinburg Conference worship team; but he is also highly respected among some of the most prominent music artists in America.

Over the past decade, Don has quietly built an exceptional collection of songs – classics that have been recorded by artists such as Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Jr., Travis Tritt, Jaci Velasquez, Sir Cliff Richard,and The Martins (the Dove Award-winning song “The Promise”).

With “Wash Away,” Don presents an exceptional blend of his original songs, along with two much-loved hymns. As a lyricist, Don Poythress has few peers … he has an uncanny knack for presenting timeless truth with an unvarnished biblical perspective that is devoid of clichés or pat answers; these songs are deeply personal, yet can touch something unique in the heart of every listener. Strong and memorable melodies are offered in a Modern Country style, played by some of the best musicians in Nashville.

The worship experience begins with the chiming “Expectation,” which is the perfect invitation to go up together into the presence of God. Don’s leadership and the song selection throughout is a study in how to flow in the Spirit, soaring into “I Will Call Upon Your Name” and then, a thrilling vocal collaboration with Paul Baloche on “Brand New Day” – definitely two of the many songs here that your congregation will want to sing. The poetic, gently flowing “Fill Me Up” makes room for the searingly honest and moving heartcry, “Wash Away.”

The modern hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” is the natural response to the deep repentance and cleansing of “Wash Away,” followed by the peace-imparting “I Will Bless the Lord.” On “The Faithful Love of Jesus,” Don is joined by the incomparable bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs on vocals and mandolin… “I pray you’ll know the love of God, the love that never leaves us, the height the depth, the width the breadth, the faithful love of Jesus.” Just hearing this song is an answer to that prayer.

Don again displays his poetic gift with “Lord of All” which leads into a powerful promise-filled proclamation: “A Thousand Generations”. The simple eloquence of the “Doxology” closes out the time of congregational worship. But Don isn’t finished yet: he offers one of those signature Poythress real-life stories – as only Don can tell them – about “Joseph,” the human father of Jesus. It’s a masterful and moving portrait of the man God chose and tested and used to care for His own Son.

TO SUM UP …

A fresh – and deeply refreshing – collection of songs that flows perfectly in the presence of God. Those who love and seek truth will find this authentic expression a welcome respite from market-driven artiface. Those who enjoy Modern Country music will enjoy the excellence of the singing and musicianship offered. Brilliantly produced, but thankfully not over-produced, by Paul Mills, this is one of the warmest and best-sounding music releases of the year.

Don is the worship leader at Abundant Life Church in Mt. Juliet, TN (Pastor Larry Grainger), along with Jim LaVerde (of Barren Cross) and a stellar team of musicians, singers, and tech support.

“Wash Away” is available in music stores and iTunes June 23, and through:
http://integritymusic.com
http://amazon.com

Music Matters

IPods now have video, games, audio books and podcasts. Will iPods always be about the music?
Who knows? But it’s hard to imagine that music is not the epicenter of the iPod, for a long, long, long, long, long time.  I was very lucky to grow up in a time when music really mattered.  It wasn’t just something in the background; it really mattered to a generation of kids growing up. It really changed the world. I think that music faded in importance for a while, and the iPod has helped to bring music back into people’s lives in a really meaningful way. Music is so deep within all of us, but it’s easy to go for a day or a week or a month or a year without really listening to music. And the iPod has changed that for tens of millions of people, and that makes me really happy, because I think music is good for the soul. – Steve Jobs, Newsweek 2003

Music has taken a backseat in today’s culture.  Some would say it’s been relegated to the trunk rather than the backseat.  The Industry has so contained it and controlled it, that it has become safe, predictable, and gives you a shadow of the emotional impact it used to.  Now I’m not one to keep harkening back to the “glory days” when everything was better, but these are not the days of a musical renaissance.  We need them now more than ever!  Music can do things no other art form can: penetrate a place in people that words can’t do alone.  This is true for all genres and stripes of music:  Rock, Pop, Country, Gospel, etc., etc., etc.

It’s interesting how computers and computer companies get all the buzz in society today.  The quote from Steve Jobs above is so ironic, because he is probably the biggest “rock star” in the world today.  What used to define rock musicians – cutting edge, mystery, impact – now are best seen in a corporate CEO.  That’s weird.  But, as you can see from his quote, he understands what makes culture click and he’s used some of the elements of the power of music to thrust Apple’s products into the cultural consciousness.

The only problem with this (and believe me I’m into Macs:) is that we’re now celebrating the method of delivery instead of what’s being delivered.  That’s like being so excited about the envelope but just ho-hum about the check inside it.  How crazy would that be?  Instead of focusing intently on the quality and power of the artists, songs, musicianship, we’re focused on the type of computer, or iPhone, or iTunes, or streaming.  These things are fun to talk about if you’re interested in computers, but they are not as important as the art being delivered.  That’s the product that can change hearts and change the world.

So, may there be a new renaissance: a renaissance of music, a renaissance of making the important things important again.

 (And it goes not just for music, but, as I wrote last week, the American Church is doing the same things by stressing production and venue over the content of services and the spiritual experiences of people.  How can the setting and the method of delivery be more important than what you’re delivering?)

New Week. New Song.

youtube sessions

This is the fourth song in the YouTube Sessions. I’m proud to bring you a brand spanking new song that took me forever to record (hard guitar parts take some time:)…I hope you like it!!!

Please comment and let me know what you think.

Download the MP3 here.