Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Thursday, November 15, 2018

MARTERIE = THUMBS UP / AIRHEADZONANS = THUMBS DOWN

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[Originally posted at Amazon.com on 2005, July 18.]
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THE BEST OF RALPH MARTERIE: The Mercury Years
Ralph Marterie
released: 1996
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Ralph Marterie is one of those musicians / arrangers who have been largely and unjustly forgotten by the public. In Marterie's case, I think it can be partially attributed to the time period in which most of his best known music was cut.
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The 25 tracks collected here span the years 1951 through 1958, with most of them falling into the first half of that decade. This puts him right on the cusp where the dog days of the Big Band Swing era had significantly given way to Rock 'N' Roll's infancy. You can hear that transition occurring in many of Marterie's numbers. And it makes for some interesting listening.
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Due to some imaginative playing from myriad instruments that swing easily, much of this material manages to present the illusion of an improvisational approach confined within tightly arranged structures (only one track makes it all the way to the three minute mark). But there's plenty here that should be appreciated by both Jazz fans and early Rock 'N' Roll devotees. Marterie's sound is unique in that he combines Swing components (trumpet and multiple saxophones) with classical instrumentation (strings) and also employs a front and center electric guitar at times. And he occasionally pulls it all together over drumming that exhibits a nearly R&B rhythmic style. (Of course, as Rock 'N' Roll took shape, the strings would get the heave-ho, the reeds would be pared down to a single sax, and the guitar would gain prominence.) It was that pronounced beat on several numbers (CARAVAN; SKOKIAAN; DRY MARTERIE; IN A PERSIAN MARKET; and TRICKY) that undoubtedly endeared Marterie to my Mom and others from her generation who stayed in shape via the dance floor.
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This is not to say that everything on THE BEST OF RALPH MARTERIE falls into this upbeat, danceable category. There is also some "sweet" Swing; some Harry James-like trumpet workouts; a few melancholic, sentimental ballads; and a couple of feisty, baritone sax rumblers. All in all, a nice mix of some good stuffs. I don't play this album often, but every time I do, I wind up asking myself why I don't.
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It occurs to me that it's been quite a few reviews since I've poked fun at Arizonans. So, if you'll indulge me here - although it's entirely irrelevant to this review - I'd like to correct that oversight now:
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I kid you not, these folks is D-U-U-U-MB! Case in point: The day before yesterday, I was driving to a wide spot in the road called Rock Springs to pick up some pies. A lady up there is famous for her pies (we like the Tennessee Lemon and the Jack Daniels Pecan) which they advertise as being "WORTH THE DRIVE FROM ANYWHERE." This was probably true before gas went above $2. a gallon, but if you hail from East of the muddy Mississippi, you may want to settle for something baked closer to home. But I digress from my digression...
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So, I'm going North out of Phoenix on I-17 when traffic slows to a crawl. For a couple of miles I'm constantly shifting back and forth between 2nd and 3rd gears, and expecting to find a brush fire or an accident up ahead. But no, the disturbance was caused by an electronic highway sign stating, "Extreme Fire Conditions - See
www.azfireprevention.com" or some such nonsense. The Airheadzonans were slowing down to read this sign (visible for more than half of a mile) with its earthshaking news. Well, duh! It's July and we live in the middle of a desert where it's only 114 degrees in the shade every day!
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I'm convinced that when I moved to Airheadzona, the state's collective I.Q. was doubled. And keep in mind that I ain't none too bright my-damn-self! (I mean, I DID move here, didn't I?) I'm sure that my anti-Arizona comments are responsible for some of my "Unhelpful" votes, but if they think that's going to stop me, then they're just plain... well... you know.
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Thanks for tolerating my tangent, and enjoy the tunes!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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RAZING RAISING ARIZONA

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RAISING ARIZONA
directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
released: 1987
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Now, don’t y'all get me wrong, I enjoys me an offbeat comedy as much as the next person. Heck, I myself am as “offbeat” as it gets this side o’ the cuckoo’s nest. And, yeah, I chuckled two, maybe three times during the course of this 90-minute movie. But that ain’t a good laughs-to-minutes ratio, boys ‘n’ girls. Problem is, I prefer my offbeat comedies to be funny. ...Yeah, I’m funny that way.
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I s’pose I can see why some o' the people of Airheadzona might think this is a great comedy. After all, Airheadzona's collective I.Q. rating is commensurate with its average temperature during the dog days of Summer. But what excuse does the rest o’ yous have?
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Not to worry - I’m a-gonna buy each and every one o’ yous a REAL, fully-developed Sense O’Humor for Christmas this year. (Provided The Comedy Store has ‘em on sale. I doesn't like to pay me full price!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WHORRIBLY HUMOROUS!

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PARLIAMENT OF WHORES
by P.J. O'Rourke
published: 1991
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“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”

~ P.J. O’Rourke
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Once upon a time, oh, about a year ago, I was on the john, with my P.J. bottoms loitering around my ankles, and minding my own “business.” I had one of my Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers in my lap (Uncle John and the john were just made for each other) and I was reading a page that contained a lot of funny remarks related to politics. I noticed that the several excerpts that had been penned by one P.J. O’ROURKE elicited the greatest laughs from me, so I determined to find out just who this P.J. was and where he’d been my whole life. After a little Ammyland surfing, I purchased his book PARLIAMENT OF WHORES.
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Just last week, I was on an America West flight to Northern Nevada. At the airport, after taking everything from me that one could never commandeer an airplane with, and making me remove my belt and shoes and self-respect, the powers that be somehow let me waltz onto the plane with PARLIAMENT OF WHORES -- a very dangerous book. I mean, had I begun reading aloud, I could have convulsed the pilots, the flight crew, and the air marshal with laughter and taken control of Flight #522.
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Instead, I read silently to myself, and laughed out loud every thirty seconds or so. This aroused the curiosity of the woman sitting next to me who asked what I was reading. I said, “Parliament Of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke” but somehow what she heard was, “Will you tell me your life story?” So she proceeded to tell me how she had gotten married at Lake Tahoe and bred dogs for a living. Or maybe it was that she earned her bread at Lake Tahoe and had married a dog. To be honest, I wasn’t paying that much attention, but merely trying to nod and smile when I thought it was appropriate, and stealing another sentence or two from O’Rourke’s book every time she paused between chapters in her oral autobiography. (She did offer me her little bag of pretzels, so at least I got something from her besides an earache.)
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PALIAMENT OF WHORES is P.J.’s 1991 account of a journalist’s inside look at politics and how it affects American Life. And trust me, it’s no laughing matter, which is exactly why we must laught at it. It’s laugh or go postal, but since the postal service is tied to the federal government, it’s better that we laugh.

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P.J. says, “I have tried to present a factual – data-filled, at any rate – account of how this government works. Which is complicated by the fact that it doesn’t.” But if you think a journalist should instead be writing about things that are more relevant and of greater interest to most Americans, P.J. did promise in the Acknowledgments that his next book was going to be about “Madonna’s Illegitimate UFO Diet To Cure AIDS And Find Elvis.”
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On page 103, O’Rourke confesses that he is “a real Republican” but then adds, “unlike some current presidents of the United States I could name.” That unnamed “presidents” he referred to was, of course, George H. W. Bush. Now it’s his equally un-Republican son, George W. Bush, who occupies The White House, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the Bush.
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But don’t let the fact that P.J. is a Republican dissuade you from reading PARLIAMENT OF WHORES if you happen to be a Democrat because Ol’ P.J. absolutely grills EVERYONE in this laugh-out-loud book. And why not? The federal government has taken it upon itself to warn the nation that undercooked eggs and meat are unhealthy. And is raw government any better for us? It too deserves a good grilling, and P.J. is just the chef to do it!
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Now, I can’t say that P.J. never misses the nail’s head and hits his own thumb. For example, on page 78 he states that the Supreme Court opening a session with “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is surprisingly sloppy reporting coming from a man who makes his living with words. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And that’s what the Constitution, in its entirety, has to say about religion. So, when did the Supreme Court become Congress? And since when is stating, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” the establishment of a law? (And has anybody informed God that He is now bound by law to do these things?)
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On page 119, P.J. questions the wisdom of the illegality of recreational drugs. I think keeping these chemicals out of the hands (and arms, and lungs) of as many people as possible is indeed wise. The only exception being those funny smelling “cigarettes” which my buddy at work, The Great L.C., and I agree should be treated in like manner as alcohol, for they have, if anything, even less potential for harm: Put 10 guys into a room with loud music and bottles and bottles of booze, and it’s a sure  bet that before the evening is over, one (or more) of those guys will get roughed up. But put the same 10 guys into the same room with the same loud music, and replace the booze with “wacky weed” and the only things that are gonna get roughed up are bags of potato chips.
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But other than these rare disagreements, I found PALIAMENT OF WHORES to be wickedly accurate and whorribly humorous. Wait’ll you read the suggestions the author makes for reducing federal expenditures ('O’Rourke’s Circumcision and Budget Liposuction'), and the way he dissects the Special Interest Groups ('The Original Barrel Of Monkeys That Nothing Is More Fun Than'). This thing is simply a howl from one end to the other; the funniest book I’ve read in a very long time. Heck, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read at ANY time! It’s “seriously funny” like Mark Twain. And I am no more ashamed to have PARLIAMENT OF WHORES standing in my bookcase between The Declaration Of Independence and 'The Heritage Guide To The Constitution' than I am to have Twain’s 'ROUGHING IT' standing between 'Saloons Of The Old West' and 'I Married Wyatt Earp'. Aw, well, you know what I mean.
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In the final analysis – after his study of how our government works [sic] – O’Rourke concludes that what we suspected all along is true: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Nevertheless, watching P.J. T.P. the U.S. is the best cry you’ll ever laugh. I’ll be voting P.J. for President in 2008, even though he’s too smart to run... except away.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Friday, October 26, 2018

THE UNDISCOVERED INDIGO SOUL

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ON THE BLUE SIDE
by Hank Crawford & Jimmy McGriff
released: 1990
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I'm shocked and disappointed to find that here in late 2004, I'm the first person to submit a review [*at Amazon.com*] for this excellent album. I bought ON THE BLUE SIDE shortly after its release and I've probably heard it well over a hundred times. This wasn't the first collaboration between HANK CRAWFORD & JIMMY McGriff -- just the best!
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I'm an inveterate whistler. I catch myself unconsciously whistling all the time, and almost always it's either 'Sunshine Of Your Love', 'Keep On Loving You', 'Bumpin' On Sunset', 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', or 'ANY DAY NOW' from this collection. My gosh, I've been whistling 'Any Day Now' for 14 years!
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This is an exciting and soulful 4-piece band which features the Bluesy but always swinging alto sax of CRAWFORD, which dances over McGRIFF's thick washes of Hammond B-3 Organ chords - chords which suddenly and frequently transform into popping, red-hot, electrically-charged riffing! It is McGRIFF who keeps this music grooving with an addictive, stylistically Jazzy R&B mood. He's a vastly talented musician whose keyboard technique makes him a peer of other notable B-3 masters such as Jimmy Smith, Bill Doggett, and Booker T. Jones.
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Not to be overlooked, however, is the much employed Wes Montgomery-influenced guitar work of JIMMY PONDER, whose imaginative playing punctuates the undulating, snake-like rhythms with purple, pinpoint notes that both heighten and release the musical tension. Man, this is great stuffs! It gets under the skin and just COMPELS the body to move! It seems that some people don't have an aural affinity for the organ sound. That's a real puzzlement to me because I don't just HEAR the B-3, I FEEL it!
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These instrumental pieces that make up ON THE BLUE SIDE are rhythmically-structured pieces that are danceable, and yet they contain plenty of space for the exciting, improvisational interplay that Jazz fans listen for.
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ON THE BLUE SIDE may be one of my more frequently spun discs, but you know, I didn't have to share this treasure with ya. I could-a kept Hank's and 'Jimmy's Groove' thang all to myself. I could-a taken the attitude that if you don't already know, that's 'Tuff' for you! I could-a said to myself, "Stephen" (that's what I occasionally call myself), "only one person is lucky enough to listen to ON THE BLUE SIDE, and 'You're The One'!" But I couldn't act so selfishly. Instead, I brought you on board with me. I hope you appreciate this review. 'Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You'?
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

1959: Frankie Would Say, “IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR!”

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NOVA BOSSA: Red Hot On Verve
by Assorted Artists
released: 1996
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If you have read my review for the album [link> 'Bossa Nova For Lovers' then you know that I’ve only just recently discovered that I’ve been in love with Bossa Nova for pretty much my entire life without ever knowing it. (And if you haven’t read that review, I’d like to know why not! I mean, if you’re not hanging on my every word, then I’m just going to stop nailing them up there. ;o)
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I purchased two Bossa Nova collections as soon as I realized that “Bossa Nova” was the name of the musical genre that my heart has been carrying around for the past 43 years. (I do catch on, but slowly.) I acquired the aforementioned set because I’m a real “lover” -- yeah, bring it on ladies! (But I’m a “fighter”, too, so watch yer step, dude!) And I simultaneously bought “NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE”, and danged if I can tell ya which one I like best, because they’re both Boss! I might prefer this collection overall, only by the slimmest margin, but “For Lovers” includes Astrud Gilberto’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile”, and without that song in my collection, my smile would be turned upside down. :o(
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I found John Carlin’s liner notes included with this compact disc to be very informative, so I’m copying them below:
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“Brazilian music is American music. It comes from the same multicultural fusion that spawned blues, jazz, salsa, reggae and rock. In Brazil it is called samba. Samba fused three sounds that thrived in Rio de Janeiro at the end of the 19th century: West African polyrhythms, Portuguese melodies, and Native American chants. [*By chants were you aware that I’m part Mohawk Indian? I want 40 acres of land and a jackass! Oh wait, I’M the jackass.*]

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"This potent combination was turned into a classic myth by the poet Vinicius de Moraes, whose play [link> “Black Orpheus” brought Afrocentric Brazilian culture and samba to international attention. In the well-known film version, Orpheus dies for love, but his artistic spirit lives on in a young boy who picks up Orpheus’ guitar and plays his song to make the sun rise. The beauty of the music makes the film’s heavy-handed theme credible. Orpheus’ song, “A Felicidade”, composed by a young Antonio Carlos Jobim, comes out of samba culture while effortlessly introducing something new and even more beautiful to the world. That sound later became known as bossa nova, the new wave. It was created by Jobim and de Moraes along with the great singer/guitarist Joao Gilberto. Inspired by samba, along with the sophistication of Debussy and Cole Porter, Jobim began writing simple, beautiful songs that suggested, but were never burdened by their eccentric harmonies, asymmetrical structures and abstract thoughts.
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“Within a few years, American jazz musicians like Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz began to sample these new exotic songs. By 1962, Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” performed by Getz with Joao Gilberto and his wife Astrud, on the Verve label, became the biggest hit in the U.S., the year before the Beatles arrived. [*According to my Billboard book, it was '64.*] The success of the song and the bossa beat created a pop formula capitalized upon by Astrud, Sergio Mendes, Walter Wanderley and others throughout the mid-Sixties. At the same time, Jobim and Gilberto – as well as musicians like the Tamba Trio, Edu Lobo, Baden Powell and Marcos Valle – continued to refine bossa and samba into one of the finest means of expression in the world of pop music.
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“By the late ‘60s, a new generation of artists began to emerge in Brazil from the Afrocentric northeastern state of Bahia. Led by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, they merged bossa with rock by adding more aggressive beats and avoiding romantic lyrics. This new movement, called tropicalismo, demonstrated the continued vitality of Brazilian music and that samba, like the blues, grew from the multicultural character of the Americas to become one of the great art forms of the 20th century.”
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~ John Carlin
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I saw the movie “BLACK ORPHEUS” in the late ‘80s because I tremendously enjoyed Vince Guaraldi’s song “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, which I knew had first appeared on his album titled, “Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus.” I don’t recall being much impressed with the movie back then, but seeing it a second time is suddenly a priority for me. (“NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE” begins with Jobim’s “A Felicidade” taken directly from the 1959 “BLACK ORPHEUS” soundtrack. I feel it’s spoiled a bit by the voices and various other audio portions of the film’s soundtrack, but historically, it’s still the perfect opening for a Bossa Nova set. And I can’t tell you how cool I think it is that Bossa Nova was introduced to the world at large in the same year that I entered into it.)
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The so-called “Interludes” on this set are merely 15-30 second snippets of drums, ocean and street sounds, etc. I’m not sure what their purpose is, and I could have done without them, thank you very much. But they don’t diminish my listening pleasure because the tunes are simply Mmmm-Mmmm Good! I swear, I love Bossa Nova. My only wish is that some of the tracks were extended: it seems that no sooner has a particular rhythm and melody enveloped me and begun carving grooves into my heart and soul than it comes to an end and we’re off to the next delicious slice of Bossa Nova. Oh well, “Leave ‘em wanting more” is the old entertainment maxim.
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I dig every song on “NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE”, although Caetano Veloso’s “Superbacana” is pretty goofy. Why do I see The Brady Bunch in my mind when that one plays? No, seriously, why? But this is a funky Fun Fiesta; less Saudade than the 'Bossa Nova For Lovers' disc, which is perfectly fine with me because now I have a Bossa Nova concert for both moods. If you too have a heart for Bossa Nova, I can guarantee your satisfaction with this first-class set.

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And speaking of the heart, always remember what that great Brazilian pianist Yoey O’Dogherty once said to a group of budding Bossa Nova musicians in 1963: “Listen with your heart, speak with your fingers, and love with your -- HEY! Who took my beer?”
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

I'm NOT SHY Now . . .

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NOT SHY
by Walter Egan
released: 1978
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I'm NOT SHY now . . . but I'm still rather attached to my body. I graduated from high school in 1977, and at the Theatre Arts Department's year-end banquet, I received two awards: 'SHYEST' and 'BEST BODY.' That said a lot for my acting ability, didn't it? And you wouldn't expect the guy with the best bod to also be the shyest, would you?
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Well, take a look through some of my online reviews and you'll see that I'm no longer shy (some might even call me an opinionated, loudmouthed jerk). And, yes, I did have the best formed male body in the Theatre Department, but that's because I was also on the wrestling team -- pumping iron all the time -- and my competition in the Theatre Department was a bunch of prancing sissies singing 'Westside Story' tunes. Not much competition there, ya know?
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One summer after graduation, my friend Eric and I were hitting all of the Rock 'N' Roll clubs and seldom missed the free Noontime Friday concerts at Santa Monica City College. One Friday we caught this dude named Walter Egan playing great Summer beach town tunes on that diminutive stage, and I liked his catchy Pop so much that I went right out and bought his just-released album, 'NOT SHY'. Within weeks, I heard his song 'Magnet And Steel' on the radio and listened as that July and August it steadily climbed the charts all the way up to #8, making Egan yet another One-Hit Wonder. I felt like I was an "insider"; I was on the bandwagon before there WAS a bandwagon.
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What's surprising is that the album 'NOT SHY' contains at least half a dozen other cuts that could have just as easily cracked Billboard's Top Ten chart, being (to my ears) much better than the "one hit", but they got no radio airplay. Who can explain that stuff? But if you want an authentic slice of that late '70s Pop Pie, you could do much worse than Egan's second release, 'NOT SHY'. It was recorded in L.A. in '77 and contains 36 minutes of music that includes Fleetwood Mac icon Stevie Nicks singing backup on 5 tracks, and bandmates Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood on 2 each, along with Dean Torrance (of Jan & Dean fame) on 1 other.
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As I write this, 'NOT SHY' (out-of-print as a single release) is currently available in a "Two-Fer-One" package along with Egan's debut album, 'Fundamental Roll'. It would be a better buy (more music, less money, and brand new). But I also bought 'Fundamental Roll' way back when and wasn't crazy about it. A little older now (OK, a lot older), and wiser, and more mature, I couldn't bring myself to play that one at this point, as it contains a song called 'Tunnel O' Love' which is about a certain part of a woman's anatomy. Yeah, it's a little too lewd and crude for me at (nearly) 47 years of age. I think women should be considered in their totality, not examined part by part. So let's look at 'NOT SHY' alone:
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SWEET SOUTH BREEZE is a real toe-tapper that opens with Egan's twangy guitar. This had Top Ten hit potential.
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MAGNET AND STEEL is the big hit. A ballad which includes a very Beach Boys-like guitar break. "Hey baby, ya wanna camp out on the beach tonight and build a bonfire and... uh... OK, well maybe next weekend?"
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FINALLY FIND A GIRLFRIEND with Stevie Nicks featured rather prominently in the background had "hit" written all over it. After years of being the loneliest guy with a good body, I finally found a girlfriend. But the minute I began joyfully singing this song... she dumped me! And the search began again.
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THE BLONDE IN THE BLUE T-BIRD is another one that shoulda been a hit. Who can hear this one without thinking of the movie 'American Graffiti'?
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STAR IN THE DUST contains the lyric, "I recall what somebody once told me: Only the lucky in love survive." Here Egan cleverly references his debut album which kicked off with the song 'Only The Lucky (In Love Survive)'. So now you know who the "somebody" was who told him.
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I WANNIT is the weak link on the album. Not offensive but not a standout track either.
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MAKE IT ALONE contains some angst-driven guitar playing from our boy which gives the song the edge it requires -- really his best work on the album. And, yes, you can make it alone! Just look at me -- I've made it alone. But it IS kinda lonely to be a lone kinda guy. But you CAN make it... alone... and lonely... very lonely... desperately lonely. OK, that's all I have to say about that because it's starting to depress me.
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UNLOVED. Ah, yes, here's another one about being alone, lonely, unloved. It's about a girl who can't be contacted because she's "unlisted" her phone. But hey, the singer's gonna make it alone even though he may be a bit lonely, a bit unloved... REALLY unloved. Oh man, here we go again. "Hey baby, let's get together and... oh, I see. OK, well maybe next weekend?"
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JUST THE WANTING. No, this brooding ballad is not about wanting a girl when you're unloved and trying to make it alone. Desperately, pathetically alone. This one is about the wanting to attain something in life... something a little BIGGER than a girlfriend... unless of course, your girlfriend is named Bertha, or something like that. There's a line in this song that says, "I remember when I was seventeen and my life had just begun." That's funny because I was seventeen when I first saw Walter playing on that little college stage, and I too felt that my life was full of pristine promise. Little did I know back then that the best I'd ever do in life was to write semi-appreciated reviews for a then unimaginable Internet shopping site while trying to... make it alone... so alone.
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HOT SUMMER NIGHTS. Yeah, I know all about hot summer nights (today's high here in Phoenix was about 115 degrees and it's still about 100 at 2 AM), but somehow I get the feeling that Egan has a different kind of "hot" in mind. This may be my favorite track. Here's another one with tremendous hit potential that inexplicably never got played over our radios in the summer of '78.
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"A-Woo-ooo-ooo-OO-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo, hot summer nights."
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There's nothing fancy on 'NOT SHY'. It's just simple but catchy commercial Pop, warm, Summery and tasty.

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Alright listen, I gotta go now. No, you can't go with me, and don't let me catch you trying to follow me, either. I'm gonna MAKE IT ALONE, gosh darn it, and I can't do that if you're following after me like a lost little puppy dog! "Alone" means alone and I can make it that way... I can... I just know I can. Of course, if you're blonde and female... you think maybe I could catch a lift with you in your blue T-bird? Perhaps we could MAKE IT ALONE together. ...OK, well maybe next weekend?
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

BUT CAN HE PITCH?

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JUBILANT
by Jubilant Sykes
released: 1998
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There's no question about it: this cat's got a "SINGular" voice! The few people in this world who have a REALLY remarkable gift are invariably recognized at a young age. I was in Boys Chorus with Jubilant Sykes at John Adams Junior High School in Santa Monica, California, in 1972, and our vocal coach, Linda Anderson, ascertained that she had found a world-class singer in Jubilant in no-time flat! In her ears, there was "him", and then there was "all the other children". (Teacher's pet!)

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I'll never forget auditioning at Anderson's piano. She gave me this funny look. "With Jubilant?" I queried, hopefully. "No", she answered. "With all the other kids?", I asked dejectedly. "No", she shook her head again, "with all the other whining dogs at the kennel."
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My music aspirations had come to an ignoble end. But Jubilant was headed for big things and we all knew that.
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I still have the LP recording from the Santa Monica Unified School District's, 1972, STAIRWAY OF THE STARS concert, which included Jubilant (with hair) as the featured soloist.
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(*AN ASIDE: This 1972 public school district-sanctioned performance included the Judeo-Christian musical compositions, 'In The Beginning Of Creation' [a choral "portrayal of the Lord's creation of order out of chaos."]; 'When I Was Sinkin' Down'; 'Great God A'mighty'; 'Sit Down, Servant'; and 'Alleluia'. Obviously the A.C.L.U. and other Communist front organizations had not yet discovered that with the help of Liberal revisionist judges, they could banish such public religious expression under the completely bogus, NON-EXISTENT principle of "Separation Of Church And State". Try to find it in the Constitution! And be sure to read David Barton's great book, 'ORIGNAL INTENT: The Courst, The Constitution, & Religion'.)
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'JUBILANT' is an excellent showcase for its singer's God-given gift. The simple Jazz-inflected arrangements are the perfect complement to Jubilant's soulful, Good News-inspired voice. Watch those tear ducts when, in 'MARY, DID YOU KNOW?', he sings:
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DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR BABY BOY HAS COME TO MAKE YOU NEW?
THIS CHILD THAT YOU DELIVERED
HE WILL SOON DELIVER YOU...
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?

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I've been listening to Jubilant since 1972, and to 'JUBILANT' since 1998. My only complaint with this excellent collection of "Good News" songs is that I've always had a difficult time finding the proper volume in which to play it. His voice rises and falls considerably as a natural result of his vocal style and phrasing, and if I play this CD loud enough to discern the quieter moments, it becomes too loud when he goes to the rafters. But any lower and I can't hear some passages well enough. Still, this is a small price to pay for music this glorious. Don't let it cause you to hesitate in making this purchase if the idea of hearing great Gospel painted by a certifiably great voice appeals to you!
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Sure, Jubilant has ALWAYS been a tremendous singer; in that, there can be NO argument! He surely deserves all of the accolades he's received. But I'll tell ya what: not in a million tries could he have beaten me in a game of Wiffle Ball out on the playground and, after all, which is more important, music or Wiffle Ball?
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(*Jubilant, I'm proud of you, and God must be pleased with the way you're handling His gift; thanks for sharing it with us, Brother!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

MY FRIEND$, MY FRIEND$, It’s Worth The MONEY!

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NO CONTROL
by Eddie Money
released: 1982
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Alright now, I’m doing a little stepping back in time reviewing NO CONTROL, Eddie Money’s sharp, 1982, pink ‘n’ black album which found his slim frame in a suit and tie and looking so... ”money.”
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When Eddie’s debut album came to my attention in 1978 due to the radio airplay of “Baby Hold On” [#11 in Billboard], I bought it but didn’t spin it often. I thought most of the songs were too spare and unadventurous musically and that his voice was nondescript.

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I never purchased another Money collection until 1982’s NO CONTROL, though I scarcely remember acquiring it because I was drunk that year. And the next. In truth, those first 4 years of that decade were the height of my partying life. I was living in a house (it’s now a condominium) at 824 Bay Street in Santa Monica (just seven blocks from the skateboarding Z-Boys former surf shop hangout). At that time, 824 must have been the most consistently rowdy house in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. John Belushi and National Lampoon’s 'ANIMAL HOUSE'? Pish 'n' Pshaw! That was us when we were BEHAVING ourselves!
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We were THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS, and as Pooh said, “We drank. We drank a lot. We drank more than we did not.” And yeah, you might have heard some of these hard-rocking Eddie Money tunes blasting from 824 back in the day... and the night. (Our neighbors loved us so much that the entire street signed a petition to send us packing. I guess they enjoyed our act to such a degree that they wanted to see us take it on the road.)
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By 1982, Money had learned how to write a solid, head-banging Hard Rock tune, and how to use that slight croak in his voice to maximum effect. The rockers on this set, starting with the great road tune SHAKIN’, are all fiercely guitar-propelled and rhythmically driving songs that had all of us liquidated bad boys breaking out the air guitars nearly twenty-five years ago. We eventually grew up and changed.
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And that’s something else I liked about NO CONTROL: Five years after that other Eddie had revolutionized the electric guitar and had every player emulating him with Van Halenesque “tapping”, here we had Jimmy Lyon and Marty Walsh playing in the old Rock style -- more sustain and distortion -- and it suddenly sounded fresh and exciting again. And on DRIVIN’ ME CRAZY, Tony Brock is the guest drummer behind the kit. Tony Brock? C’mon, dude! He was the stickman for The Babys and, for my “money”, one of Rock’s more formidable and underrated drummers. In ANY BAND not named 'The Babys', Tony Brock would have received the attention he deserved.
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I don’t listen to Rock a great deal anymore; I graduated to the upper I.Q. of Jazz long ago. But every once in awhile (and especially after all my beloved Christmas songs at the conclusion of the Holiday season) I need to hear some fast tunes with loud guitars, and Eddie’s NO CONTROL is right on the money.
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Interspersed between the 80 mile-an-hour road runs on NO CONTROL, Eddie has some "school zone" ballads that drop us back down into first gear. Necessary I suppose for balance, but they suffer by comparison, seeming a little droopy. But the one great exception for me is [link> MY FRIENDS, MY FRIENDS, which is really the principal reason I reacquired this album on compact disc. It’s a wistful look back at the friends who made our old times so special and so memorable. It’s a sad song made sadder by some truly mournful harmonica playing beautifully rendered by the Moneyman himself:
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“My memories are happy / My memories are sad / But I love to take my pictures out / And see the things I had... / My friends, my friends / We never got together again / But I really do miss my friends”
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THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS: Torch, Pooh, Twinkie, Cranium, Napoleon -- hey, you guys, it’s me, Mr. Intense. I want you guys to know that I still take my pictures out and remember what we had. And I still love you guys... wherever you are*.
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*Actually, I do know where my brother, Napoleon, is. He’s outside beating up the biker and his pit bull again. I can tell by the dog’s whining and the biker’s crying. I guess it’s nice that one of us never grew up and changed.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

“ROPE” THAT “CAMEL” AND LET’S GET IT STRAIGHT FROM THE DROMEDARY’S MOUTH

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NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN
by George M. Lamsa
published: 1976
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The first real Bible I ever owned was the New King James Version, given to me as a gift, and it served me well for several years. But as my understanding improved and my thirst for water drawn from the deeper parts of the Spiritual well drove me into more scholarly directions, I eventually came to realize that the English version of [link> THE HOLY BIBLE FROM THE ANCIENT EASTERN TEXT translated from the Aramaic language by George M. Lamsa represented the most accurate and trustworthy rendering of God’s Holy Spirit-inspired Word.
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Lamsa’s native tongue was Aramaic and having grown up in the Near East with the ancient customs, and using some idiomatic phrases known since the time of Jesus, he was eminently qualified for his chosen life work of giving the world an English version of The Bible from the original Aramaic (the same language that Christ spoke).
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NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN by George M. Lamsa is a small exposition that presents the author’s basic argument that “no portion of [the New Testament] was originally written in Greek”, but rather in Aramaic, the language of the common man in The Holy Land during the first century. If true, this means of course that the many Christian “scholars” who slave over the subtle shades of meaning of Greek words in order to gain greater insight into Biblical passages are sweating over foreign language copies of the original scrolls.
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My copy of this book is the 1976 edition with the bright green cover. While the NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN is written in a very plain, straightforward and persuasive manner, my only complaint is that it could have been expanded with additional material. I know that this material exists as some of it appears in the Introduction to Lamsa’s Holy Bible translation, as well as in his 'IDIOMS OF THE BIBLE EXPLAINED AND A KEY TO THE ORIGINAL GOSPELS', which I also own.
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Lamsa explains his position with the use of sound logic and reasonable assumptions and the accumulated force in his thesis is bound to surprise many who are willing to put aside their dogmatic assertion that the New Testament was originally written in Greek long enough to weigh the evidence with an open mind. Lamsa writes that “Aramaic and Hebrew are the two closely related Semitic languages in which all sacred Jewish literature is written” and that the Gospel, written to sway and enlighten the Jews first, would have been written in the language commonly spoken by them at that time, makes perfect sense.
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Lamsa points out that “The Greek version contains many Aramaic phrases and passages directly transliterated from Aramaic documents, such as Talita Komi, Eli Eli lmana skabachtani, Raca, Rabuni, Abba and Maraeta.”
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In Chapter XXII he utilizes several examples of where the Greek translator’s limited understanding of the Aramaic originals he was working from created errors that become apparent only when compared with the words used in the Aramaic texts from the Eastern churches. Although I found some of the examples used to illustrate this same point in the Introductin to his translation of The Holy Bible to be more compelling, Lamsa does make one especially potent cultural point in NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN: Acts 18:3, in the Bibles that are based upon the Greek scrolls, tells us that Saint Paul earned his livelihood as a “tentmaker”. According to Lamsa, that was improperly translated from the Aramaic word “lawlarey” which means “saddlemaker”, and furthermore that “there is no such occupation as tentmaker in the Near East. The tents are made by women in their own homes. There are, however, many expert saddlemakers who travel from town to town making saddles and leather goods.” Well, Lamsa was certainly the one Bible translator who would know!
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In 'The Holy Bible: From the Ancient Eastern Text', there are some startling differences between some verses based on the Greek manuscripts and those based on the Aramaic. I highlight a few of them in my review of that publication on this website. But if there is a real “smoking gun”, I would say that it comes in the form of the confusion over the Aramaic word “gamla” which can mean either “camel” or “rope” depending upon the context. Bibles based upon the Greek tell us in Matthew 19:24 that Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” A camel to a needle is a “non sequitur” to say the least, but a rope to a needle is in keeping with the imagery and displays a very obvious and organic relationship. Is it mere coincidence that “gamla” means both “camel” AND “rope” in the Aramaic, yet Greek-based Bibles conjoin a camel and a needle, creating a wildly nonsensical match? Is it not pretty evident that the Greek manuscripts were first copied from Aramaic originals by a translator not sufficiently knowledgeable with the latter language to avoid making such a contextual mistake? (Surprisingly, Lamsa did not include this example in his NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN, though perhaps it does appear in the later version of it.)
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The following may not be of interest to everyone, but I feel it worth mentioning that in the book [link> 'Bible Code Bombshell' -- the most current of the academic publications I have found on the Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS) code believed to be contained in The Bible -- the question appears: “Do Bible Codes Show Up Only In The Old Testament?” and author R. Edwin Sherman answers, “Highly improbable ELS groupings have been discovered in preliminary research of the Aramaic New Testament. Since Aramaic uses Hebrew letters, available code search software can be used to research the ... Aramaic New Testament. More work needs to be done ... before conclusive results can be presented.” How odd that an ELS code has never been found within the Greek version of the New Testament, but that it may be present in the Aramaic Bible.
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I enthusiastically recommend NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN by George M. Lamsa to anyone seeking to expand their knowledge about the language of Scripture. I own The Holy Bible in the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard version (largely considered to be the most “literal” translation from the Greek), and the George M. Lamsa translation, and while I do occasionally compare verses from these four texts, I long ago came to accept that when it comes to The Holy Bible, the version derived from the ancient Aramaic represents “the final word” in God’s Word.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

THE REAL "SUMMER OF LOVE"

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JOY IN THE JOURNEY: 10 Years Of Greatest Hits
by Michael Card
released: 1994
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Michael Card's Greatest Hits compilation was released in 1994 -- one of the best years of my life. I recall hearing the song 'WHY?' for the first time in my (then) girlfriend's car, just as we were entering the Eastbound I-10 onramp at Sepulveda Boulevard. Only a couple of months earlier, on April 6th, while alone in an apartment in a grungy area of Los Angeles, I was quite unexpectedly driven to my knees, where Jesus Baptized me with The Holy Spirit. I didn't exactly know what had happened to me, or why. I only knew that I was suddenly changed somehow.

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Obviously, that was a special year for this reviewer, and when I heard Michael Card sing, "WHY DID THEY NAIL HIS FEET AND HANDS WHEN HIS LOVE WOULD HAVE HELD HIM THERE?" it perfectly described the Fire I felt inside me and the Love that I knew Jesus has for us! I asked my girlfriend to replay that song several times. For me, that remains one of the greatest lines ever written about my Savior King. And although I don't play it often, 'JOY IN THE JOURNEY' always takes me back to that magical year of rebirth.
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Michael Card does not have a particularly great voice, but it adequately conveys the obviously heartfelt convictions of his nicely crafted Gospel songs. What makes Card special is his lyrics; he is Christian Rock's premier wordsmith, able to create songs around deep theological concepts. He overreaches at times ("...the universe fell from His Fingertips"; "...He sent His only Son and so became a Holy Embryo"), but that's the cost of creating fresh, unique expressions and attempting to translate the Mystery into song. There may be an occasional misstep, but there's no doggerel verse here -- just first class Christian poetry sung with sincerity, and sometimes backed by surprisingly powerful "electric" passion ('Known By The Scars'; 'Scandalon'; 'So Many Books'; and my favorite track, 'Know You In The Now'). I'm rarely impressed by the lyrics of most songwriters, but consider these lines:
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HE CANNOT LOVE MORE AND WILL NOT LOVE LESS
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WE IN OUR WEAKNESS BELIEVED WE WERE STRONG / HE BECAME HELPLESS TO SHOW WE WERE WRONG...
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FOR THE POWER OF PARADOX OPENS YOUR EYES / AND BLINDS THOSE WHO SAY THEY CAN SEE
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THAT IS THE MYSTERY, MORE THAN YOU CAN SEE / GIVE UP YOUR PONDERING AND FALL DOWN ON YOUR KNEES
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NO FICTION AS FANTASTIC AND WILD / A MOTHER MADE BY HER OWN CHILD
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TO HEAR WITH MY HEART, TO SEE WITH MY SOUL / TO BE GUIDED BY A HAND I CANNOT HOLD
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TO TRUST IN A WAY THAT I CANNOT SEE / THAT'S WHAT FAITH MUST BE
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THERE IS A JOY IN THE JOURNEY, THERE'S A LIGHT WE CAN LOVE ON THE WAY

THERE IS A WONDER AND WILDNESS TO LIFE, AND FREEDOM FOR THOSE WHO OBEY
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TO BE SO COMPLETELY GUILTY, GIVEN OVER TO DESPAIR
TO LOOK INTO YOUR JUDGE'S FACE AND SEE A SAVIOR THERE

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Now THAT'S what I call "writing!" Most of these tracks are enthusiastic and catchy. If they played this stuff more often on Christian radio I'd tune in once in awhile.
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Michael Card's 'JOY IN THE JOURNEY' puts joy in my journey, and it calls to mind my personal "Summer Of Love." And when this world douses my spirit, 'JOY IN THE JOURNEY' can fan my embers into a Divine Flame again. Brothers and Sisters, I think you'll like it too.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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