Radio Hymns #4: By the Rivers of Babylon

boney_m_-_rivers_of_babylon_1978_single In our now time-honoured Sunday tradition, we turn to music. This week in my new series Hymns from the Radio Dial, we get political with a call for social justice from Psalm 137. It is most likely that we all remember Rivers of Babylon as a late-70s song by German disco group Boney M. In fact, the song was written and recorded in 1972 by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians (1965-73), a Jamaican group in Kingston, the birthplace of reggae.

“Rivers of Babylon” was recorded for reggae record producer Leslie Kong (Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley) and became an anthem of the Rastafarian movement which, among other religious convictions, rejects western society as entirely corrupt, referring to it as “Babylon”, which is considered to have been in rebellion against “Earth’s Rightful Ruler” since the days of the King Nimrod. Rastas avow that “Zion” (to them Africa, especially Ethiopia) is a land promised to them.

Radio Hymns #3: 40 (How Long)

u2-40-single.jpg Following on their first two albums dealing with adolescence (Boy) and spirituality (October), U2’s third studio album turned political in 1983 with War. Besides the album title, songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” issue their comment on the world at the time, when Bono said, “War seemed to be the motif for 1982. Everywhere you looked, from the Falklands to the Middle East and South Africa, there was war. By calling the album War we’re giving people a slap in the face and at the same time getting away from the cozy image a lot of people have of U2.”

Radio Hymns #2: Lord is it Mine

breakfastinamerica.jpg When Roger Hodgson departed Supertramp in 1983, someone commented that the remaining group was reduced to being just “Tramp”. It was the end of an era for the band after releasing a number of very successful albums. Among them was the classic 1979 release, Breakfast in America. The album included four hit singles (“The Logical Song”, “Goodbye Stranger”, “Take the Long Way Home” and the title cut, “Breakfast in America”).

Hodgson was known for writing songs with spiritual or philosophical themes. Though the songwriting credit on Supertramp’s songs was commonly given jointly to Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, though they wrote alone. They had different styles, and the one who actually wrote the song sings the vocal on it. The two composers have different styles, and in the case of this week’s addition to my new series, Hymns from the Radio Dial, it is Hodgson’s voice we hear singing the lyrics to “Lord, is it Mine.”

Streams of White Light into Darkened Corners

streamswhitelight_norman.jpg I have in my record collection (yes, kids, it’s made of vinyl, and it plays on a turntable without any forward-backward interference so as to produce music instead of senseless garbled noises, thank you very much) a 1974 collector’s album by Larry Norman called Streams of White Light into Darkened Corners. I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to find out just what I might possibly replace my long-running Sunday hymn series with, and this is it. And I’m really looking forward to digging into it… after this week’s series introduction. Oddly enough, I had the idea for the series a couple of months back, and sat down to list some 50+ songs that fit the bill, and titled my list “Hymns from the Byways.” Then a few weeks later, I was thumbing through my record collection to find something nostalgic and landed on this forgotten LP. The idea is this — convinced that secular:sacred is most likely a false dichotomy, I’m compiling a list of songs which are (a) “Christian”-oriented but scored on the pop charts or (b) spiritual songs recorded by “secular” artists. I’m looking at that crossover space where we find spiritual truth on the radio. “Hymns from the Radio”? Not sure yet what to call the series, but don’t touch that dial.

For This?

jesus-avignon.jpg He gave up all He had
everything at his command
He gave up all He had
for this

— from a song by Mike Koop

Do you ever wonder if Jesus looks down on this mess and asks himself if he really stepped out of Heaven and went through all that trouble down here… for this? Or does he look down fondly and say that this is what he went to all the trouble for?

Oh, I know, we all know the answer… the question is thus somewhat rhetorical. But still, how does it strike you?

CD Review: Songs for a Revolution of Hope

songs-revolution-hope.jpg I received a CD a while back as part of the stream of books I get from time to time for review. I confess to not being the best music reviewer, though for some reason I happen to know a lot of musicians — and musicians with genuine talent. I listened to the CD a couple of times through and then foisted it upon a couple of musician-friends (let’s call them Mike and Karla), both of whom have reviewed books here before. My take on it was that some of the songs had some good lyrics, though not all of them really “grabbed” me. It reminded me a little of some of the Worship Circle stuff. Anyway, another review follows… with a video of Brian McLaren discussing the project tossed in for good measure.

A Midsummer Night’s Update

Sunrise Ducks I’ve been plugging away at everything and nothing lately, but it’s time for a midsummer update of a few of the things that have been in the miscellany queue recently. I mentioned on Saturday that I had been blogging “in absentia,” which means that the blog was being updated automatically with prescheduled posts. At the time we were visiting with friends at their lakeside retreat (more of a camp or “complex” than a cottage, the sort of place which has “grounds” instead of a yard or lot). It was wonderful and restful, as usual, and I even found a few hours to inject into a fledgling novel manuscript that I haven’t touched for almost a year. The image of the duck and ducklings is a reward for being awake at 5:00AM when I snapped it and a few other pics before reading for a while, grabbing a cup of coffee, and eventually going back to bed. The pace of leisure.