Saturday, 10 December 2016

Song for Advent #14: Mary Did You Know? - CeeLo Green

There are various versions of this song around but I've gone for CeeLo Green's version of Mary Did You Know? because his voice is so rich and soulful.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

 Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am
Oh Mary did you know?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Song for Advent #13: I believe in Father Christmas - Greg Lake

Yesterday came the sad news that Greg Lake had died. That's two members of the mighty ELP we've said goodbye to in 2016. Greg Lake wrote many great songs and then there was the ubiquitous I Believe In Father Christmas his rather jaundiced take on the Christmas season. Interesting to note that when the film About A Boy came out in 2005, with the premise of a central character who lives off the royalties of his father's Christmas hit, someone wrote to The Guardian asking if it was possible to live off the royalties of such a song. Lake penned the following reply:

In the film About a Boy, the man played by Hugh Grant never has to work another day in his life because of the proceeds he receives from a Christmas single his father released. Could one really make a living in this way?
In 1975, I wrote and recorded a song called I Believe in Father Christmas, which some Guardian readers may remember and may even own. It was a big hit and it still gets played on the radio every year around December, and it appears on more or less every Christmas compilation going. So I can tell you from experience that it’s lovely to get the old royalty cheque around September every year, but on its own, the Christmas song money isn’t quite enough to buy my own island in the Caribbean.
I’m on tour at the moment and the Christmas song is as well received now as it was 30 years ago – maybe even more so. If Guardian readers could all please request it be played by their local radio stations, maybe that Caribbean island wouldn’t be so far away – and if I get there, you’re all invited.
U2 did a cover of the song a few years ago and tweaked the lyrics, changing the song into a more positive affirmation of faith by altering a couple of lines. You can hear their version here. On hearing the cover Greg Lake approved commenting

In some ways, “I Believe in Father Christmas” is a very quirky song. It was never written with the intention of it becoming a hit single but was written, rather, as an album track making quite a serious comment about how Christmas had changed from being a celebration of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, into one huge and disgusting shopping orgy.
Although the basic song is very simple, the internal musical structure is actually quite complex and contains elements of classical music and folk music, and just about everything else in-between. It is not an easy song to cover without sounding either as if you were vamping out the original version but not quite as well, or doing some kind of “out there” arrangement purely for the sake of being different. In a way you are sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
The clever thing about the U2 version is that it manages to capture both elements, the original and the inventive without really falling on one side or the other and in this way it is definitely unique. The guitar part is very clever and the vocal, as always with Bono, sounds sincere. That is the mark of a great singer.
Well done chaps! It is great to see the song serving such a worthy cause.
Here are the original lyrics with the U2 changes alongside in italics:

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite (But I believe in the Israelite)
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise (I saw him through his disguise)
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

Here's Greg Lake performing the song with Ian Anderson accompanying on flute around 2006.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Song for Advent #12: People Get Ready - Beck & Stewart

This is Curtis Mayfield's classic People Get Ready performed by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart. I've gone for this version because of Beck's virtuoso guitar playing and also because of his reaction when Stewart joins him on stage. Again there's the Advent call to get ready and Mayfield described his inspiration for the song in the following words:
"That was taken from my church or from the upbringing of messages from the church. Like there's no hiding place and get on board, and images of that sort. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song."
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket you just thank the Lord

So people get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner image:
Whom would hurt all mankind just to save his own, believe me now
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there is no hiding place against the kingdom's throne

So people get ready there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Song for Advent #11: Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth - Ambrose of Milan

I'm grateful to Revd Richard Coles for drawing my attention to this beautiful piece of music 'Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth'. The words are from St Ambrose of Milan who we remember today in the Church's calendar. This setting is by Praetorius and sung by King's College Choir.
Come, Thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest Thy virgin birth:
Let every age adoring fall;
Such birth befits the God of all. 
Begotten of no human will,
But of the Spirit,
Thou art still The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.  
The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.  
Forth from His chamber goeth He,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now His course to run.  
From God the Father He proceeds,
To God the Father back He speeds;
His course He runs to death and hell,
Returning on God’s throne to dwell. 
O equal to the Father, Thou! Gird on
Thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.  
Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.  
All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Song for Advent #10: I still haven't found what I'm looking for - U2

At Advent we look back to the coming of Christ and all that he has done for us but we also look forward in longing and anticipation for what is to come. U2 capture something of the 'now and not yet' of Advent in 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' from the classic Joshua Tree album.
I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you.
I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you. 
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for. 
I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
(I was) burning inside her.
 I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone. 
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for. 
I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I'm still running.
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it. 
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Song for Advent #9: When He Returns - John Lee Sanders

This is one of my favourite covers of a Dylan song, When He Returns by John Lee Sanders. A great voice and beautifully judged piano playing delivering Dylan's anticipation of the return of Christ from Slow Train Coming. Interviewed in the mid 80s Dylan spoke about his faith in the following terms:
'What I learned in Bible school was just ... an extension of the same thing I believed in all along, but just couldn't verbalize or articulate ... People who believe in the coming of the Messiah live their lives right now, as if He was here. That's my idea of it, anyway.'

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Song for Advent #8: Waiting in Silence - Carey Landry

Another Advent song on the theme of waiting. Waiting in Silence  by Carey Landrey. This is one I'm using in our Meditative Advent Service at St. Mary's. I particularly like the images of waiting in the video accompanying the song. An important reminder that while for some waiting is in joyful anticipation for others it means waiting in desperation and with a sense of hopelessness. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.