Archives For Popular Music


[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”0801039096″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Personal Jesus” ]Listening More Carefully.

A Feature Review of

Personal Jesus: How Popular Music Shapes our Souls.
Clive Marsh and Vaughan Roberts

Paperback: Baker, 2013.
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Reviewed by Todd Edmondson

If my own adolescence is at all typical, for a certain subset of kids growing up in Christian households in the latter decades of the twentieth century the conversation between religious faith and popular music could be neatly divided into four pivotal moments:
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Broken Hallelujahs by Christian ScharenThe Life that Comes from God.

A Review of

Broken Hallelujahs:

Why Popular Music Matters

to Those Seeking God

Christian Scharen.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2011.
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin

There is a dark chasm between the sacred and the secular within culture, or did you not know? The Christian sub-culture insists it must exist, because culture is full of evil and we are not to associate; and the secular culture is content with that assertion, because Christian popular culture is usually terrible anyway. However, a full 78 percent of Americans at this point in history identify as Christian[1]. If popular culture – the secular kind, that is – can rightly be called “popular,” then a fair sample of these American Christians, a massive majority of the population, are immersing themselves on the other side of the chasm.

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“Toward a Constructive Conversation

A Review of
Two New Books on the Church and Hip-Hop

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.

hiphop redemption -WatkinsHip-Hop Redemption:
Finding God
in the Rhythm and the Rhyme
Ralph Basui Watkins
Paperback: Baker Books, 2011
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Beyond the Four Walls:
The Rising Ministry and
Spirituality of Hip-Hop

Walter Hidalgo
Paperback: AuthorHouse, 2011.
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Beyond the Four Walls - HidalgoI am a white male in his early 30’s. I listen to lots of hip-hop. I am a follower of Christ who is part of an Episcopal church in Houston, Texas. It might surprise you to learn that those three statements are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’m rather proud of my seemingly contradictory stature in each of those three communities, as I feel it gives me a bit of particular insight into the arguments, cases, and claims that these two authors make in their respective books about hip-hop and the Church. Do I claim to be any sort of authority on hip-hop culture? Far from it, but I do know what it’s like to feel misunderstood and marginalized by a community because you represent the vaguely tolerated “other.

Both of these books seek to discuss why hip-hop is disdained by the greater whole of Christendom, yet present different ideas and cases for why it shouldn’t ignored any longer, especially by serious men and women of faith. With Watkins, we hear the tale of an accomplished theologian and professor (who also happens to be a DJ in his free time) speak clearly about plumbing the spiritual depths of hip-hop. And with Hidalgo, we read the story of a passionate youth minister seeking out cogent ways to integrate hip-hop culture with how the Church reaches out to urban communities.

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“Not the Other Kind

A review of

The Gospel According to Bob Dylan:
The Old, Old Story for Modern Times .
By Michael J. Gilmour.

Review by Warren Hicks.

Gospel According to Bob Dylan - Michael GilmourThe Gospel According to Bob Dylan:
The Old, Old Story for Modern Times .
Michael J. Gilmour.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2011.

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“There are only two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind”
-Duke Ellington

“All of these songs added together don’t even come close to my whole vision of life”
-Bob Dylan (quoted, 94)

As a child of the 1960’s and one who engaged the charismatic renewal of the 70’s as a teenager, I was very intrigued when this title came up for review.  I remember hearing the murmurings about Bob Dylan around my house, I even remember my dad and his friends playing Bob Dylan tunes on the guitar around campfires.  That didn’t seem so odd to me then, except that in looking back I know my dad and Dylan didn’t see eye to eye politically in those highly charged times of the 60’s.  Apparently, however, my dad, his friends and I recognized good music when we heard it.

Bob Dylan, with The Band, Chicago c. 1972 (Bob Kinney)

Bob Dylan, w/The Band, Chicago c.1972(Bob Kinney)

In The Gospel According to Bob Dylan, Michael Gilmour, associate professor of New Testament and English at Providence College in Manitoba, makes a persuasive case for Bob Dylan being a purveyor of the Gospel, that is ‘good news,’ even if today he doesn’t claim publicly the same sort of Christian fervor that he did during his Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love period of publicly espousing his ‘born-again’ Christianity.

Gilmour takes a long hard look at the body of Dylan’s work, spanning some 50 years and more then 30 albums, films, poetry and the 2004 publication of Dylan’s autobiography Chronicles: Vol. 1.

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“Van Morrison Has a Lot of
The Holy Ghost in Him”

A Review of
When That Rough God Goes Riding:
Listening To Van Morrison

By Greil Marcus.

Reviewed by Ken Carter.

When That Rough God Goes Riding:
Listening To Van Morrison

Greil Marcus.

Hardback: Public Affairs, 2010.
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WHEN THAT ROUGH GOD... Greil MarcusThis is someone who can abandon himself,” Elvis Costello once observed;  “for a Protestant from East Belfast, Van Morrison has a lot of the Holy Ghost in him.”   Greil Marcus, one of our more astute and unconventional cultural critics, has written a reflection on Morrison’s abandonment to this art,   a journey that  has at times been astonishingly successful, and at others, Marcus insists,  utterly forgettable.  The title When That Rough God Goes Riding is taken from the first selection on Morrison’s The Healing Game (1997, and also based on a line from W. B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” Less a biography than a deeply personal guide to listening, or an extensive set of liner notes, a medium that matched the album but not the mp3,  Marcus  first succeeds by simply moving the reader to discover again the tapes, albums and compact discs that span thirty plus recorded works over forty years.

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Tobias Winright Reviews
Two Recent Books on Criminal Justice

As an undergraduate student 25 years ago, I found myself behind bars—not as an inmate but as a correctional officer. One of the youngest members of a large metropolitan sheriff’s department on the west coast of Florida, I worked full-time at the maximum-security jail in order to pay for college. Those four years working in the slammer schooled me, and they raised a number of questions for me as a Christian, especially about the death penalty and the use of force. I am continuing to unlearn certain attitudes and assumptions I held then, including some about punishment itself.

By vividly putting into words much of what I have personally pondered about prisons and punishment, these two books should help American readers—Christian or not, possessing firsthand experience with incarceration or not—to step back and take an honest look at what is happening in our current practice of large-scale imprisonment. Each book also asks why we insist on continuing down this punitive path.

Read the full review:

Good Punishment?
Christian Moral Practice and U.S. Imprisonment

James Samuel Logan

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2008.
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Changing Paradigms:
Punishment and Restorative Discipline

Paul Redekop

Paperback: Herald Press, 2007.
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BookForum Reviews

Millions heard the sound of freedom in the Beatles’ music. Elijah Wald hears a death knell. In the songs of the Fab Four, he argues, pop music completed its decades-long transformation from a kingdom of democratic dance and authorless song to a lonesome land of private pleasures and isolated audiences. The result was segregation along lines of race as well as taste: In the late ’60s, as white rock sought introspection in albums and black pop chased good times on singles, an “increasing divide between rock and soul, listening music and dance music,” developed. Wald writes that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll by leading “their audience off the dance floor, separating rock from its rhythmic and cultural roots,” and “point[ing] the way toward a future in which there need be no unifying styles.”

Read the full review:

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll:
An Alternative History of American Popular Music

by Elijah Wald

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2009.
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Julie Clawson Reviews Will Samson’s ENOUGH
For Next-Wave Magazine.

I recently read Will Samson’s latest book Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess. When I first started the book, I half-expected it to be a diatribe against modern culture, focusing on the sins of our excess. While the book does mention those excesses, what I found instead was a call to live into true church community. Will encourages us to say “enough” to the consumeristic tendencies that have overtaken our personal lives, our churches, or friendships, and our theology and return to a Christ-centered practice instead.

Read the full review:

Enough: Contentment in An Age of Excess.
Will Samson.

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2009.
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